Unbecoming Ego: The Choreography of Immanent Space
What affects the organization of being, and what can choreography do?
What affects the present moment of attention, and what can dance do?
I will discuss the intersections of space, dance, attention, and language as they point towards a vanishing horizon of the present moment. I will attempt to prove that the organization of being is in the organization of space, and that refined attention to movement can counter the illusion of a contained self.
II. Personal Space
a. Immanence vs Transcendence
i. ‘Heat Ball’ or Locating the Difference Between Inner and Outer: from a position of stillness, locate a tiny perceptive point in the body, determine its pathway through space, and go
ii. ‘Thrusting from Vague Points of Leadership’: Propel the body faster than your ability to identify its point of origin
i. ‘Schpando’: Up to go down, down to go up
ii. Preparing for the Improvisation
1. Choosing a Space for Being
2. Academia Enters Practice: Follow the indirect pathway of light through an infinitely dense forest
III. Collective Space
a. Choreographic Score as Sensorial Map
i. Reference the Image Bank, Build a Lexicon: Iconic positionaries: when you notice an iconic position or movement, stop and let it register as something absorbed
ii. ‘Creaturing’ and Dismantling Difference: Project an expanded creature self onto another person, who is also doing the same thing
b. An Embodied Network: Rafters, a full-length trio
IV. Virtual Space
a. Technology as Intermediary
i. Talking Space: Identify the present; let the dance produce the words. Capture its emergence with a technological appendage
ii. Editing Space: Edit video and audio into a choreographic collage. Grant agency to your alter ego. Contemplate hindsight from an expanded sensibility
b. Live-ness, Online-ness
i. Dissemination: Use an online venue as a space for live performance
1. The Spectator is Always Active: Audience as Collaborator
2. Dissemination as Documentation as Archive as Pedagogy
V. Conclusion and Future Research
A duality can only exist through negation. Take one thing away, and there is separateness, or a distinction that is ‘other’ than what has been removed. Between something, and another thing, or inside and outside, there is a ‘line of difference’ that can take on multiple forms of identification (shape, size, texture, species, etc). I have been considering what this difference might come to mean in a dance practice, and how the dancing body could explore it. The body, with its habits of perception, maintains an economy of attention whereby what stands out in memory, or doing, is something out of synch with habit. This out-of-synch event registers as unfamiliar to some degree, and new pathways are built through the mechanism of the brain and encoding.
In my practice, I’ve been chasing these moments of unfamiliarity, and attempting to track them as a way of notating an immanent choreography. I am interested in these moments because this ‘line of difference’ between myself and the experience, or myself and another person, or in relation to the room, suddenly ceases to exist as different because there is no longer any weight to the word ‘difference’. Its fissuring quality has been undermined by some other expansive operation.
This is not just about making myself dizzy, but a matter of navigation, and navigation implies a terrain: a terra incognita of yet-to-be visited space: a space that dips into something beyond the familiar signals of habit.
In The Handbook of Inaesthetics, Alain Badiou describes dance as requiring “The obligation of space” (63), whereby the dancer necessarily works within some kind of spatial container, or something to be ‘entered’. This can be understood as a physical container like the rehearsal space, or the set, or even the relationship to the floor, but there are conceptual containers that could also support such ‘entry’ into dance, and the movement towards difference by way of untethering it from familiar experience. What kind of choreographic structures could support this entry?
In my research I have gone towards text in the form of choreographic directives that infer spatiality, or a conceptual terrain that outline an organization of being within a specific event, time, or performance. There is a lot of power in one or two sentences, power that I do not necessarily want as the ‘choreographer’ of this event in the traditional understanding of the word ‘I’, as ‘I’ implies the presence of ego, of intention, and the inferred presence of Other as something binary outside of ‘I’. But, in attempting to blur this learned, or familiar, distinction, what if ‘I’, Andrea Spaziani, could find a way into the Other, and exist only peripherally to the familiar ‘I’, or bear witness to it from a distance? Suddenly Other cannot exist without its comparative reference, ‘I’, or the ego. Other is therefore an expansive mode: not a negation of self, but an expansion towards the fuzzy borders, past the edges of the network that forms identity.
Dipping into the folds of memory, history, and the imagination of Andrea Spaziani (an agent of Toronto, and a colonized, thirty-something female) in order to become the alter ego, the Other ego, the ego that is unfamiliar, perhaps unbecoming, and therefore consorts will all things unfamiliar. This alter ego is from me, and the things I have absorbed in my life, but is incompatible with me. It is an alien, incompatible embodiment, and it attempts to dance with all things expansive and Other. Its only compatibility with anything is the continued production of difference: the rolling change that expands with time. Its name is Schpando (close to scapando which means ‘escaping’ in Italian). It has no form so to speak of. It can perform through the body of A. Spaziani, but is not limited to her ego tether. It is a continual becoming, and an agency outsourced to the unfamiliar.
The following headings, and the body of this text, outline the choreographic directives that emerged through my practice. They are an attempt to source language through movement, and capture it in real-time with technology, in this case using video and audio recorders. They reference choreographic directives that emerged through movement improvisation and meditation made immanently by A. Spaziani, and appropriated by Schpando. All of the directives have been italicized, and the concurrent writing that forms the body of this paper was generated during, or directly after, improvising and working with each directive. This process is an attempt to use dancing as a means to identify the present, to produce genuine thought, and witness its interaction with space.
The headings of personal, collective, and virtual space refer to different considerations of space in the making of each directive. The work in personal space extends the ego towards inhabiting the body differently and the alter ego that is in constant production. The collective space refers to directives used in collaboration with other people, and how the language of scores can be brought into a collective and performative process. Virtual space refers to the embedded, constantly evolving, affect of internet culture, including new performance venues online, and immediate ways of receiving and participating in the live-ness of online artwork. Throughout, I will reference the preparatory readings I have done, and have allowed to impact, or seep into the text. The academic content will be considered as affective material for improvisation. I will then add in citations afterwards. I will also reference the work of other artists, including Jeanine Durning, Maria Jerez, Alice Chauchat, K.G. Guttman, Jared Gradinger and Angela Schubot, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, John Cage, Jonathan Burrows, Barbara Dilly, Fluxus, Michael Klien, Nancy Stark Smith, and Goat Island.
Aranda, Julieta, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle, eds. The Internet Does Not Exist. Berlin: Sternberg, 2015. Print. A collection of essays examining the spatial dimension of the internet, and what travels over its lines in the form of an affect beyond the information traversing its networks, and 'offline'. These networks are discussed as having an ideological structure, and an assumed democratic structure, allowing freedom of movement and flow, but also their own forms of control, language, end points, and stoppages. Articles of interest are by Hito Steyerl (Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?), Bruno Latour (Some Experiments in Art and Politics), and Geert Lovink (What is the Social in Social Media?)
Bachelard, Gaston, M. Jolas, and John R. Stilgoe. The Poetics of Space. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. A phenomenological discussion on encounters with space and poetic language. Chapters of interest include "Intimate Immensity" relating to the expansiveness of the daydream in relation intimate space and the words that surpass an objective worldview, and "The Dialectics of Outside and Inside" discussing how poetic language can open meaning, and blur the line of dualities in relation to being.
Badiou, Alain. Handbook of Inaesthetics. Trans. Alberto Toscano. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2005. Print. Badiou’s essay discusses the relationship between dance, Event, and the emergence of thought. He takes the position that dance mimics a thought ‘remained undecided’ as they are both un-fixed. If an Event is unfixed and pre-linguistic, then dance points towards the moment before the Event, or the emergence of genuine thought, can be inscribed in language. Badiou also unpacks Stephane Mallarme's work, and of interest is his discussion on dance as obligatory to space.
Bishop, Claire. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso, 2012. Kindle file. Claire Bishop discusses social art practices as a trend originating in the 1990’s with post-relational art. She describes an attempt to counter the commoditization of the art object through an alternative preoccupation with participation and collaboration on part of the viewer as ‘co-producer’. Situations have replaced objects, and recent art history may be more aptly seen through a lens of theatre and performance history, which she traces back to Italian Futurism and the Bolshevik Revolution.
Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. Print. Discussion of the dynamic of affect as an atmospheric, transferable substrate that flows between self and other, or social and physical/biological, and how the subject is not entirely contained. References of interest are from chapter six: The Education of the Senses, where affect, as a projected force, operates in self-referencing the ego. Brennan also discusses how connecting expression and language to the senses is learned, expanded upon, and historically connected to religious and cultural codes.
Burrows, Jonathan. A Choreographer's Handbook. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010. Print. A handbook of practical tools, definitions, and approaches to making choreographic work that considers how to navigate the complexities of composition. Using open-ended questions drawn from Burrows’ experience as an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer, he references practical uses of scores, specifically related to time signatures and text, and the semiotic implications of structural elements in performance work.
Cage, John. "Lecture on Nothing." Silence: Lectures and Writings. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1961. N. pag. Print. A collection of lectures and autobiographical stories related to his work in indeterminacy in music composition, and composition for dance (in particular Merce Cunnungham) that incorporate Zen principles of emptiness, and ‘found’ or non-deliberate sound in his compositions. Particular chapters of interest include ‘Lecture on Nothing’ and ‘Four Statements on the Dance’ that reconsider the materials of dance and music, as well as shared rhythmic devices.
Cioran, E. M. A Short History of Decay. New York: Viking, 1975. IBook. An intensely morose meditation on disillusionment, and the hypocrisy and futility of culture and human life, delivered through a text that bends genres, and provides an example of performative writing. Although dark, the vigour of Cioran's writing contains an enthusiasm that is of interest in relation to the passion of the artist, and embracing the artist as an peripheral onlooker of society who fulfills no role, and does not instrumentalize his/her work for the greater cause of social change, effect, or righteousness. Cioran discusses the artist as detached from his/her ego, and the necessity of the artist as an unaffiliated cultural witness, and harbinger of change. Other specific themes of interest include dualities, desire, time, and consciousness.
Diederichsen, Diedrich. "People of Intensity, People of Power: The Nietzsche Economy." Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art. Berlin: Sternberg, 2011. 9-28. Print. An essay discussing 'networking' through the conceptual frame of Nietzschean economy. Of interest is the discussion of networking as an engagement in Western culture: an interconnectivity that is dense, non-committal, and based on a flow of temporal investments and affordances. This mode of being interests me as a cultural phenomenon of intensity, hyperactivity, distraction, and commoditization of time that I experience in my own work relating attention, and focus to my culture of origin.
Dilley, Barbara. This Very Moment: Teaching Thinking Dancing. N.p.: Naropa UP, 2015. Print. An autobiographical memoir by former dancer (for Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, etc) and current teacher who integrates Buddhist thought and meditation into her dance writing and practice. It provides an example of choreographic notation, scores, and a historical archive of her work and pedagogy. Of specific interest is Dilly's attention to sensation, the live-ness of her writing on witnessing the present, and the description of her collaborative process.
Friedman, Ken. Fluxus Performance Workbook. Trondheim, Norway: Guttorm Nordø, 1990. Print. A collection of neo-dada performative scores by the Fluxus group: artists who intersect text and action, either imaginary or real, but in some way incite a departure from the page. My interest in this workbook is the minimalism of its scores, the impossibility of many of its instructions, and the similarity to my own choreographic directives I generate in my practice. It provides an example of how to use an improvisation frame to move away from the text, and initiate an intentionally performative way of being.
Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1988. Print. A historical reference to performing artists who brought the presence of the body into the field of formal and conceptual ideas, and confronted life as subject. Starting from Futurism at the turn of the 20th century and ending with the wave of theatre, dance, and conceptual performance from 1968 to 1986, when performance reflected attitudes towards the institution of the gallery, and an enthusiasm for social change. Topics of interest include instructions and questions (ex, Yoko Ono), the body in space (ex, Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman), and the media generation (ex, Laurie Andrerson).
Hewitt, Andrew. Social Choreography: Ideology as Performance in Dance and Everyday Movement. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. Kindle file. Hewitt discusses social choreography as an aesthetic embedded in social experience, and how these affects could be considered 'material' in the composition of moving bodies. He discusses how artistic form becomes an extension of the conditions of life, and vice versa, in the historical context of modernism. Of particular interest is his writing on Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan, how the organization of cultural movement is intertwined with a choreographic organization, and how dance is a medium that is immanently political, sourcing knowledge from within its own operations in collaborative, dynamic space.
Kholeif, Omar. You Are Here: Art After the Internet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. A collection of essays referencing art's relationship to networked internet culture, its constant renegotiation, and its resulting expression on and offline for both the artist and the viewer. Articles of interest include 'Writers in the Expanded Field' by Lucia Piertroiusti, and 'Post-Internet: What It Is and What It Was' by Michael Conner, where themes of authenticity and sincerity come into discussion regarding the online spaces of performativity and connection, and how artistic production is affected by access to an over-abundance of disparate information.
Klien, Michael, Steve Valk, and Jeffry Gormley. Book of Recommendations: Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance, 2008. Web. A poetic text describing the artists' vision of social choreography as it relates to the kinds of knowledge that dance and movement can potentially generate within collaborative, relational space. It references a choreographic space beyond the historic scope of traditional patterns and precise recreations, where the work of perception, corporeal communication, and other compositional tools can lead to a choreographic way of experiencing the world.
Koteen, David, and Nancy Stark. Smith. Caught Falling: The Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas. Northampton, MA: Distributed by Contact Editions, 2008. Print. Nancy Stark Smith discusses over thirty five years of experience in contact improvisation, and the description and pedagogy of The Underscore: a framework for improvisation that she has been developing since 1990. This framework carries the dancer through a series of moving states, starting from heightened perceptions of the individual body, and moving outward to engagements within a group. It balances collaborative movement with internal sensitivity, it offers a mode of perceptive training, and it is disseminated through language and the choreographic score.
Larsen, Lars Bang, ed. Networks. London: Whitechapel, 2014. Print. A collection of essays and texts contemplating contemporary art in relation to networks, including space, time and the body. Contributions by Marshall McLuhan, Bruno Latour, Deleuze and Guttari, Jane Bennett, Hito Steyerl, Manuel Castells discuss networks as a concept, the trouble with its visual representation, and the production of space that contains and expands upon virtual culture.
Lepecki, André. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement. New York: Routledge, 2006. PDF. Lepecki examines the work of contemporary European and North American choreographers who challenge conventional categorizations of dance, and its bind with movement, arguing that dance’s “relation to movement is being exhausted”. He relates dance’s unity to movement to the epoch of modernity, and how this relationship has been used to legitimize dance, and characterize experimental approaches as insignificant, or non-dance. In addition to movement, he investigates other themes including the materiality of the body, language, stillness, the vertical plane, politics and social justice. Artists mentioned include: Bruce Nauman, Juan Dominguez, Xavier Le Roy, Jerome Bel, Trisha Brown, La Ribot, William Pope.L, and Vera Mantero.
Lepecki, Andre. "From Partaking to Initiating: Leadingfollowing as Dance's (a-personal) Political Singularity." Dance, Politics & Co-immunity. By Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher. Zürich: Diaphanes, 2013. N. pag. Web. An essay relating choreography to the political, active/passive audience dialectics, and how perceptual habits have been conditioned. This relates to work by artists such as Merce Cunningham, whereby 'perceptual freedom' includes freeing oneself from normative perceptual conventions across disciplines of sound, movement, and set. This goes on to include the spectator, whereby granting autonomy to choose when and where to focus attention falls under a political ideology.
Llosa, Mario Vargas. Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society. Trans. John King. New York: FGS, 2012. Print. A text that examines trends in Western culture towards spectacle, and loss of culture, as it was once defined by T.S Eliot in his 1948 essay 'Notes Towards the Definition of Culture'. Of interest is the argument that value has been replaced by entertainment, and fields of criticism have been replaced by advertising, confusing the value of a work with price. His discussion on distraction as a driving force in contemporary society is also of interest in relation to the culture in which I am positioning my project.
Lynch, David. Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2006. Print. Renowned director David Lynch discusses the relationship between his transcendental meditation practice and his work in filmmaking. An ode to instinct, following previously unknowable impulses, and mining for potent content, Lynch's autobiographical writing relates to my interest in improvisation, and unlocking the flows of creativity by expanding the consciousness.
Maoilearca, Laura Cull O. Theatres of Immanence. Place of Publication Not Identified: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Print. A philosophical reading of Gilles Deleuze in relation to theatre and art practices that consider immanence, and process-based approaches to creating work. Of specific interest is the collaborative authorship of Goat Island whereby constraints are used to maintain difference; the voice and language as immanently varying material in reference to artists like Artaud; and the participatory work by Allan Kaprow and Lygia Clark in relation to economies of witnessing and attention.
Massumi, Brian. Politics of Affect. Cambridge: Polity, 2015. Print. A collection of interviews in relation to politics, philosophy, and affect as an encounter in the relational field. Deleuzian scholar Brian Massumi introduces concepts like 'differential affective attunement', and he supports processual concepts such as Whitehead's whereby the presence of life is in the intervals between things. These interviews relate to my interest in the work of perception, habit, and attention, and the consideration of dancing as a mode of 'attunement'.
Rethorst, Susan. A Choreographic Mind: Autobodygraphical Writings. Helsinki: Theatre Academy Helsinki, 2012. Print. A collection of autobiographical texts reflecting Rethorst’s phenomenological approach to the body as an untranslatable archive of knowledge that can be trusted to navigate the choreographic process. She proposes an intuitive methodology to constructing dances, and recognizes the inescapability of a creator’s subjectivity, and authenticity, in determining the emergence of meaning, expression, and content. She works from ‘proposals in action’ and continuous self-reflexive evaluation in order to discover her work through its creative process.
Sabisch, Petra. "Choreographing Participatory Relations. Contamination and Articulation." Dance, Politics & Co-immunity. By Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher. Zürich: Diaphanes, 2013. N. pag. Print. Sabisch's text asks what is shared within a choreographic, or performance, event, and what philosophy can add to the independent knowledge base of choreographic research. She looks at work by Antonia Baehr, Juan Dominguez, Xavier Le Roy, and Ester Salamon, and relates Deleuze and Guitarri to methods of how these artists produced their choreographies, and the ontological question 'what is dance?' and 'who gets to decide?' This relates to my interest in process, and how I am using an immanent methodology to create material.
Suri, Jane Fulton. Thoughtless Acts?: Observations on Intuitive Design. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2005. Print. A booklet of photos from an artist in the field of design, Fulton-Suri captures the ways in which people interact with their surroundings, and the intuitive ways people change these surroundings based on a physical desire, impulse, or unnoticed action. These images are very choreographic to me, in that they capture the everyday person improvising within a social framework of movements, or inscribed behaviour, and they illuminate where the social framework has left a few gaps. In these images, the circumstance, or environment, has a direct influence on the movement of people.
Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awaken Your Life's Purpose. London: Plume, 2005. Print. A meditative discourse that illuminates a conscious perspective of self in relation to other. Chapters of interest relate to projection and the ego, and how it's nuances might be witnessed, become malleable, and managed through practices of attention and embodying the present. Discovering inner space, and how to manage naming the present, also relate to my research methodology of attempting connections between language, movement, and the unconscious.