What are contemporary ideas?

As part of our 50th anniversary, we explored some of the BIG questions surrounding our artform and our programme.

In this section, we ask 'what are contemporary ideas?', what does 'contemporary' mean in arts and culture and the wider context as well.

Browse our content to explore this question with us:

Bonnie Greer and Eddie Nixon in Conversation -  "Technically on one level, we can’t know what is contemporary, because you can’t know your own time. But practically, there’s something to be said about ‘contemporary experiences.’ I was really lucky to go to New York in 1978, and I got to see Merce Cunningham, Wuppertal Dance Theatre, Urban Bush Women, Robert Wilson … I remember looking at Pina Bausch, and it said something to me that I could use at that moment in my life. If you’re able to receive something and you can use it, that’s contemporaneous, of the time, of the moment – that’s what it all means." Follow the button to read the full conversation:

Bonnie & Eddie Full Conversation 

Siobhan Davies and Richard Alston in Conversation -   "Robin Howard was a hugely energetic, focused, extraordinary individual who was really interested in the avant garde. We don’t use that word anymore, but at the time it meant being interested in things that were ahead of their time. And I think the things that happened here in this building were with the time if not ahead of the time." Follow the button to read the full conversation:

Sue & Richard Full Conversation 

Bakani and Anders Duckworth in Conversation - "I think a contemporary artist should be challenging the establishment. It’s not necessarily the sole reason of what makes work contemporary, but it’s one useful way of sensing if something engages with its time." Follow the button to read the full conversation:

Bakani & Anders Full Conversation 

'What are Contemporary Ideas?' Commissioned Video: In this video we’re taking a look at the history of Contemporary Dance glossing over 5 decades of contemporary influences and asking what that might mean for its future. This video can only begin to scratch the surface of history and knowledge and is not intended to replace academic research but, instead, to spark debate! Watch the full video here:

'What are Contemporary Ideas?' Video 

Here is some further reading surronding the topic of 'what are contemporary ideas?':

‘Contemporariness is, then, a singular relationship with one’s own time, which adheres to it and, at the same time, keeps a distance from it. Those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, are those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands. But precisely through this disconnection and this anachronism, they are more capable than others of perceiving and grasping their time.’ - says Italian Philosopher Giorgio Agambe in his essay What is the Contemporary 

Hans Ulrich Obrist is a Swiss curator and art critic who says "According to common-sense understanding, defining what we mean by the “contemporary” in art presents few problems: anything being produced in the present is always contemporary, and by the same token all art must necessarily have been contemporary at the time of its production and/or initial reception." in his Manifestos for the Future 

Ossi Naukkarinen, Head of Research at University of Art and Design Helsinki, believes "our idea about what is contemporary reveals what we think is relevant and worth focusing on, in our own society, today. Moreover, what we deem important for any reason tends to define what contemporary is for us." in Contemporary Aesthetics: Perspectives on Time, Space, and Content

Video credits

Produced and written by Grace Nicol and The Place
Design and animation by Signature Pictures
Voiceover by Kiera Lane
Music: ‘Tropix’ Written & produced by Matthew Wigton, Performed by Nu Alkemi$t.

Footage and images courtesy of:

London Contemporary Dance Theatre, ‘Eclipse’, Dancers: Robert Cohen and Noemi Lapzeson. Image by Anthony Crickmay, (1969).

Robert Cohan, ‘Cell’. Image by Anthony Crickmay, (1969).

Robert Cohan rehearsing with Bob Smith of London Contemporary Dance Theatre. Image by Anthony Crickmay, (CA 1969).

 ‘Step At A Time’. Image by Anthony Crickmay, (1976).

Robert Cohan, ‘Dances of Love & Death’. Image by Anthony Crickmay, (1981).

London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Dancers Sheron Wray, Elizabeth Fancourt, Peter Dunleavy. Photo by Anthony Crickmay, (1992).

Tavaziva ‘Umdalo Kasisi’, The Place. (2004)

Lucy Suggate ‘Postcard’, The Place . (2006)

Uchenna Dance ‘Hansel & Gretel’, The Place/ Bernie Grant Arts Centre. Image by Foteini Christofilopoulou (2018)

Frauke Requardt & Daniel Oliver ‘Dadderrs’. Image by Zoe Manders (2019)

Kindergarten Cop Universal Pictures (1990)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Writing Credits
Murray Salem: Story and screenplay
Herschel Weingrod: Screen play
Timothy Harris: : Screen play

The Place, image by Benedict Johnson

London Contemporary Dance Theatre tour poster. (1969).

Martha Graham ‘Letter to the World (The Kick)’. (1940).

Jacky Lansley 'Dance Object', X6 Dance Space. (1976).

Jacky Lansley and Sally Potter in Richard Alston’s Strider. (1972).

Mary Prestidge and Madee Dupree in 'By River and Wharf' collectively curated by X6 Dance Space. (1976).

Rose English ‘Quadrille’, Southampton Horse Show. (1975).

Richard Alston and Sally Potter ‘Combines’. (1972).

Found footage ‘Early 1980s Punks in Chelsea, London Home Movies’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_znmHZo1co

Lea Anderson The Cholmondeleys Image by Chris Nash. (1990s).

Lea Anderson The Featherstonehaughs Image by Chris Nash. (1990s).

Michael Clark Image by Steve Pyke/Getty Images. (1985).

DV8 ‘Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men’. (1990).

Vincent Dance Theatre ‘Noli Me Tangere’. (1994).

Shobana Jeyasingh ‘Transtep’. (2004).

Jerome Bel ‘Shirtologie’.  (1997).

‘Strictly pros and Candoco Dance Company perform to 'Life on Mars'- BBC Strictly 2018’ (2018)