generic (noun): something so pervasive that we become unable to see its specificity. Ex: brand (of cola), a tool (a traffic cone), a dance movement (the step-touch), an expression (a smile), or an idea (the good life). The objects and ideas that saturate a culture until they become standard, ostensibly unmarked, even invisible—as we remain implicated, attached, choreographed by them.
Though I’ve worked on the Mn Artists editorial program in various roles for several years, most of the time I function as a more or less generic editor. For this series, I am taking on the role of “guest” editor, foregrounding some questions I am busy with in my artistic practice. I have been researching the idea of the generic in choreography, which recently has led me to: gathering enormous piles of everyday objects, keepsakes, used props, old costumes, and trash; writing language-based scores and intuiting scores that come from objects themselves; engaging in movement research that reframes relationships with objects; compiling playlists of the cringiest songs; taking photos of banana peels and otherwise leaning into bad jokes; making operations with found and collage text; building performance bibliographies and live citations; and framing all of this in live situations for encounters with audience.
Generic things are slippery: they circulate as much as possible. So a key aspect of this project is to build a network, move the ideas around, see how far they travel, and notice how they get recombined and repurposed. For this series, I shared some seeds with several writers, and let them run with the proposal in the direction of their choosing. I was struck that many of the of the writers went back to the source: the origin point of language. The etymology of the word “generic” emphasizes that doesn’t only refer to things that are common, but it points to one of the underlying operations of the generic: the division of beings and things into types and categories. Many violences can be traced back to this root.
The word “generic” often means “unoriginal,” but I find that the distinction between the two can be thin. A brand of blue jeans claims itself as the original, but this is only necessary because jeans themselves are ubiquitous, endlessly replicated, which is to say generic. Generic ideas—such as those around gender and race—are treated as fundamental, often given origin stories in order to appear naturalized. Performativity means you recreate your own origin story every day. This series looks past the glossy surface of generic objects, suggesting other ways to be in proximity to them.