In the context of the summer course: “The New World (Dis) Order and the Challenge of Social Justice: Ethics and the Decolonial Option”, Josh T Franco and Fabián Barba met as participants of the decolonial summer school Middelburg. Below, find abstracts of the interview with Fabián Barba by Josh T. Franco – the full interview can be found here.
Fabián Barba was born in Quito in 1982. He began studying modern dance at the age of 12 in Ecuador. From 2004 to 2008 he studied at PARTS school for Professional Training in Contemporary Dance in Brussels, where he works and resides today.
Interview by Josh T. Franco
We met in the context of the collective Modernity / Coloniality / Decoloniality (MCD). The particular occasion was a two-week Summer course convened by Walter Mignolo in Middelburg, Netherlands. You were searching for company in thinking about particular questions you had of your discipline, dance, that you had not yet found. Did you find what you were looking for in Middelburg?
During the summer course special attention was dedicated to the question of “decolonizing aesthetics,” a conversation that put into my horizon questions I had not even considered and that I could suddenly discuss with artists coming from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. To be immersed in that dialogue was an extremely exciting experience that I haven’t finished assimilating; a very disturbing experience as well, because it further upset the already shaken ground I was and am standing on.
You have spoken repeatedly about the relationship of time and place playing out in the fields of Modern and contemporary dance; how work from non-European, non-metropolitan companies is often relegated to an elsewhere time. You have been struck by comments like “that’s so 80’s” from prominent dance critics in regard to some of this work. Johannes Fabian called this the “denial of coevalness,” when geo-politics are articulated temporally, relegating a group or activity to a primitive status. It’s a way of maintaining legacies of coloniality to the benefit of those in old power centers. But you have argued that if we look to the specificity of experience and production in these sites instead of reading them through the terms of these centers–so that they appear merely dated–we might arrive at very different conclusions and possibilities. What might we achieve through such an examination, specifically?
Modern dance in Quito is not the same as contemporary dance in Brussels. The kind of modern dance I practiced in Quito could be accurately described as modern dance in that its technical, aesthetic and ideological premises filiate it to other modern dance traditions as they have emerged in different parts of the planet. To say that the dance I practiced in Quito is modern is not a problem by itself. The problem is when the contemporaneity of modern dance is denied. The main problem with this, is that if modern dance in Quito is an anachronism, then the only thing left for it to do is to “catch up” to the present exemplified in the work created in the centers. This thinking parallels this sentence by Marx quoted in Chakrabarty’s ProvincializingEurope: “[the] country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” This would annihilate the capacity of dancers in Quito to define their own artistic project, subjugating their practice to the assimilation of a project designed elsewhere: coloniality at its purest!
Read the full interview here.
In 2013 Fabián performed a Mary Wigman Dance Evening as part of the 4th decolonial summer course in Middelburg.