What is CHOREOLOGISTICS? (1)

Tag Eins meiner Forschungs-Installation auf Kampnagel. Nachdem ich mich heute morgen eingerichtet und einige Aufträge rausgegeben habe, folgt hier der Versuch einer ersten, vorläufigen Definition von Choreologistics (unvollständig). Zunächst auf Englisch (zu übersetzen in den nächsten Tagen).

(Mein Mittagessen habe ich mit Stäbchen gegessen. Darauf zu lesen: BAMBOO CHOPSTICKS, PRODUCT OF CHINA. Ich frage mich: Mit welchem Schiff sind die Stäbchen hier hin gekommen. Und: Woher kommt der Bambus? Wurde das Rohmaterial auch in China extrahiert, oder vielleicht doch in Pakistan, um dann wiederum mit dem Schiff nach China transportiert zu werden? Wer hat die Papierhülle gefertigt, wer hat sie bedruckt? Wo wurde sie gefertigt, wo wurde sie bedruckt?)

What is CHOREOLOGISTICS?

Choreologistics is an invented term that hints at the common logics of logistics and choreography. It claims that logistics can be viewed and understood as a large-scale, economic choreography, one that is so big that we cannot fully perceive nor understand it any more.

Yet, logistics, to me, is already more than just an economic sector, it is more than only the distribution or transport of materials or commodities. Rather, choreologistics describes the logic according to which, today, all economic processes are managed and interwoven on a time-critical level. Not only do goods need to be transported over large distances, but, more and more, they need to arrive at the right place exactly at the right time. Any component, including information, needs to be delivered just in time. This is what is called real-time enterprise (for the old-school choreographers: the modern-time, large-scale commercial equivalent of real-time composition). Real-time enterprise produces and distributes its products right in time for the consumers’ demand. It must be able to fulfill orders no sooner or later than at the exact moment that they are needed. Suchlike choreologistical processes allow to minimize shelf time, be it in development, in the production process, or in the shop itself. As Clare Lyster writes in the current issue of Harvard Design Magazine (Fall/Winter 2016): “In the logisticalization of contemporary supply chains, shelf life is planned to be as brief as possible—storage does not accumulate in one place; rather, it flows.“ (Clare Lyster, ‘Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography’, 2016)

Choreologistics is fueled by this imagination of seamless, frictionless circulation of materials, machines, goods, objects, commodities, information, and human labor, desire, subjectivity, and imagination. Everything seems to be submitted to an ultimate command of fluidity. In choreologistics (finally, after all these years we have been reading Deleuze) just about any thing will be considered flow, traveling through more and more smooth spaces, where noisy or costly interfaces or bottlenecks try to be eradicated. “Designing and coordinating systems of flow is the central task of logistics; and in the commercial realm, logistical thinking deploys time-space planning methods to optimize operational flow and to cut costs.“ (Clare Lyster, ‘Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography’, 2016)

All these flows, from the flow of (financial or speculative) capital, the extraction of minerals, the refinement of material, the production of components, the assembly of the final product, including the global transport and circulation that takes place between each of these single steps, and the information flow that is needed for the production and distribution process, to the consumer data that monitors, analyzes and predicts future demands, need to be orchestrated and synchronized so that never will anything rest, or depart from its predicted course, never does it digress or deviate, aberrate, swerve or fall, drift or fail, vary or differ. Any of those transversal movements need to be minimized or at least calculated and insured in detailed risk-management-processes.

Also, one can easily imagine how consumption and expenditure – the consumer side of the business – and the waste that is produced both by business and consumption have already or will soon be included into these algorithmic, mathematic models, so that the choreographed supply chain comes to be interfaced with its counterpart – modeled and managed as the demand chain – to form a full circle. After all, that is what capital may be looking for: fully functioning, cost-efficient, CO2-neutral choreologistic loops, where nothing is wasted, but where value is produced at any step of the loop. In effect, the perfect order, mimicking God-like or natural cycles of production and decay, may then be put in place. Paradise 2.0. And in order to do so, not only does the flow of goods need to be totally managed and adjusted to our demands, but our demand, our desires and subjectivities, too, need to become transparent, to the point where they can be fully predicted and supervised, for them to be matched to whatever is supplied to us, just in time.

Another ultimate fantasy of such choreologistical operations may be 3-D printing. In 3-D printing, anything can stay information flow up until the moment that it is actually needed locally. Only whenever needed for consumption or use will information (the ‘informe’, the formless) have to materialize into concrete objects. “Rather than outsourcing fabrication and assembly to locations around the world, companies would then design and produce locally using 3-D technology to manufacture components and parts for a range of industries as well as commodities, from furniture to toys, for public consumption. That production, distribution, and delivery would no longer be merely integrated but combined into a simultaneous operation would certainly guarantee even faster turnaround times. (Clare Lyster, ‘Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography’, 2016) The question just remains: How can we make products that fully decompose once they are not needed any more?

In ‘The Refusal to Choreograph and its Movement: The Subaltern Path’ choreographer Paz Rojo writes: ‘It seems that we continue living according to movements which guarantee the reproduction of a choreography from which it is impossible to escape the promise of economic value and our potential for sale. On the surface of this situation our affective, cognitive and sensible capacities increasingly adopt the mechanics of a totalizing yet supposedly free choreography which makes us work (move) in a multitude of flexible networks, whose logics such as visibility, accumulation, development, connectivity, self-representation, communicability and constant mobility, not only choreograph our subjectivity, but also tell us that any attempt to work for or against them results in a futile gesture.’ (from: ‘Bodies of Evidence. A Reader’, edited by Sandra Noeth) Now, include the working of infrastructure and the movement of goods and services managed by logistics into the picture, i.e. take into view the material conditions for any such total and free choreography, and you may end up with choreologistics.

Afterwards, Rojo distinguishes two definitions of movement, one being movement that ‘produces exchange value’, the other being movement ‘that is able to trigger transformative experiences and the production of change’. According to her, the second category of movements ‘proposes a process whereby we assume the subordinated condition of our capitalist subjectivity and consequently understand that the refusal to be choreographed or to choreograph others is an active part of movement itself.’ To escape capitalist total choreography, a crucial strategy for Rojo is to let oneself be in ‘the movement of things’ while refusing ‘to choreograph’. In fact, choreologistics takes into views mechanisms in which already things themselves, their movement, production and circulation – at least in as much as they become commodities – is highly choreographed and in constant ex- and interchange with human labor, desire and subjectivity where both of the sides – human and non-human – constantly influence and re-model one-another.

Then, many questions remain. Today, on the first day of my research at K3 – Center for Choreography in Hamburg, mine are:

  • If logistics – as the fantasy of an all-encompassing global choreography of materials and desire that comprises production, distribution, consumption and decay – escapes our imagination, how can it still be felt, how can it be perceived, taken into view, become sensorial or tangible, how can it be grasped, touched,  perforated or cut?

  • In how far does an understanding of logistics as choreography really help us to further explain its ways of working and the logics of what has recently be called ‘the logistical turn’ of capitalism?

  • On the other hand: If logistics speaks of supply chain choreography, or self-terms itself as a choreographed dance, what really are the notions of choreography that are at play in these discourses?

  • How do choreologistical worlds look like, how do their geographies and ecologies feel like?

  • And how, finally, could a ‘refusal to be choreographed or to choreograph other’ look like, in or against choreologistical terms? Can we place the body, the thingly material back into the picture? What does it mean to do so?

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