Experimental Pedagogy Assignment Session: Recording the Body in Motion
For this week a selection of 12 text excerpts (Moten, Rodowick, Sobchack, Gil, etc.) and 12 film/video excerpts (Wu Tsang, Frampton, Brakhage, Deren, etc.) will be provided in advance.
Your task: Please produce a response to this material, which can be creative or just a written response. If creative, please also say a few words about what you did. If written – 1-2 pages; if creative up to 3 minutes. Some suggestions: You may find an additional film or video clip that shows the recording of the body in motion and record a voice-over of yourself reading one of the text excerpts, or you may produce your own video in any format, or sample from the videos provided, or write a reflection. Due March 21st. Please post to canvas in the discussion board.
Carolina Martinez and Lisa Zaher, Performance, March 16, 2022, University of Chicago Center in Paris.
Body – Image – Word: Immersive Meditations into the Void of the Creative Unconscious
–“Some things you only remember, because they don’t have anything to do with anything.”
T.E. Hulme, “Cinders” in Herbert Read, ed. Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art (London and New York: Routledge & Kegal Paul, 1987), 230-234.
Through all the ages, the conversation of ten men sitting together is what holds the world together.
Never think in a book: here are Truth and all the other capital letters; but think in a theatre and watch the audience. Here is the reality, here are human animals. Listen to the words of heroism and then at the crowded husbands who applaud. All philosophies are subordinate to this. It is not a question of the unity of the world and men afterwards put into it, but of human animals, and of philosophies as an elaboration of their appetites. … (230)
The truth is that there are no ultimate principles, upon which the whole of knowledge can be built once and for ever as upon a rock. But there are an infinity of analogues, which help us along, and give us a feeling of power over the chaos when we perceive them. The field is infinite and herein lies the chance for orginality. Here there are some new things under the sun. (Perhaps it would be better to say that there are some new things under the moon, for here is the land preeminently of shadows, fancies and analogies.) (233-34)
T.E. Hulme “Cinders” in Herbert Read, ed. Spectulations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art (London and New York: Routledge & Kegal Paul, 1987), 235-6.
Dancing to express the organisation of cinders, finally emancipated (cf. bird).
I sat before a stage and saw a little girl with her head thrown back, and a smile. I knew her, for she was the daughter of John of Elton.
But she smiled, and her feet were not like feet, but …..[sic].
Though I knew her body.
All these sudden insights (e.g. the great analogy of a woman compared to the world in Brussels)—all of these start a line, which seems about to unite the whole world logically. But the line stops. There is no unity. All logic and life are made up of tangled ends like that.
Always think of the fringe and of the cold walks, of the lines that lead nowhere. (235-36)
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 3
Fred Moten, “Sound in Florescence: Cecil Taylor’s Floating Garden,” from In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), p. 59
“Chinampa—an Aztec word meaning floating garden.” This image moves toward what is made even closer by the conjunction of the image (of the title or name) and the sound (of the saying of what it marks or holds). It signals a suspension that is free or that frees by virtue of the contagion of its movement: when one sees a floating garden or is confronted with the sound that stems from the word-image, one lingers above or below surface and in what is open there. The surface or topography upon which a spatio-temporal mapping depends is displaced by a generative motion. One imagines the possibilities inherent in that floating, the change of a dropping off or an extension of certain of those sounds that require a vibrating surface: the n, m, p are put in motion, deepening and rearranging the sound of the word. This loosening is part of [Cecil] Taylor’s method: of the word from its meaning, of the sounds from the word in the interest of a generative reconstruction, as if all of a sudden one decided to refuse the abandonment of the full resources of language, as if one decided no longer to follow the determining, structuring, reductive force of law.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 4
Vivian Sobchak, “The Passion of the Material,” in Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 295-296.
“Here, then, I want to begin to describe and understand how it is possible that material objects in the world are not only sensible to our own flesh but how they also can make us devoted and responsible to the flesh of the world and others. I would suggest that it is only through the intimate (if often infrequent and always incomplete) subjective recognition of ourselves as material objects that we can share in the full being of the world and –as Ed Weinberger’s experience so richly details–feel not merely a superficial passion for the material (that is always other than ourselves) but feel also the existential passion of the material (that is always also ourselves). It is only by apprehending the unfathomable mystery of our own immanent and egoless “objectness” that we can lose sight of our ecological selves enough to be passionately devoted to and transcendentally moved by the sublimity of a sunset or landscape. It is our existential grounding in the flesh that allows us to feel mimetically the passionate and porous possibilities of those material others and objects that constitute our environment, to be overwhelmed by a sudden recognition and reverence for the “sacredness” of all secular existence, to feel graced by the fleeting facticity of our existence just here and just now at the moment sunlight falls in just such a way on the carpet.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 5
Lucretius, On The Nature of Things, Book IV, trans. Frank O. Copley (New York and London, W.W. Norton & Co, 1977), ll. 877-905.
How is happens now that we can take a step
when we wish, whence comes our power of random movement,
and what force learns to push our heavy mass
or body forward, I’ll tell: you hear my words.
I say that first an image of walking comes to our mind and strikes it, as I said before.
The wish comes second, for no one starts an action before the mind first sees what it desires.
The thing it sees is image of that action.
Thus when the mind, self-moving, wills to walk,
at once it strikes the soul, that power dispersed
throughout the body, through every part and limb—
easily done, since they are held conjoint.
Thereafter, soul strikes body, and bit by bit
The entire mass is pushed and set in motion.
Besides, the body rarefies then, and air
(as must, you know, a thing so mobile ever)
comes flooding in, down through the opened pores,
and scatters thus to every tiny part
of the body. Both these forces, then, are cause
that body is moved, like ship by wind and sail.
Nor, in this matter, should we be surprised
that particles so small can wrench a body
so large, and make our whole mass twist and turn.
Why not? The gentle breeze, so soft of substance,
sets a great ship, great burden and all, to moving;
whatever her speed, one hand controls her helm
And one lone rutter alters her course at will;
the sheave, the tackle, the windlass make light work,
Again and again, of shifting heavy weights.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 6
Michael Thompson, “Naïve Action Theory” pp. 20-21, https://sites.pitt.edu/~mthompso/2ACTION.pdf
If my conjecture is right, and if naïve rationalization is to be taken at face value, then it is not so much by its being caught up in a rationalizing order, or in a “space of reasons,” that behavior becomes intentional action; rather, the rationalizing order, that peculiar etiological structure, is inscribed within every intentional action proper. In any given case, of course, this order might extend beyond the deed—to another deed, to an intention, or to any other sort of act of will. Any intentional action (proper) figures in a space of reasons as a region, not as a point; or equivalently, each of them, whether hand raising or house building, is itself such a space.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 7
Steve Paxton, “Context Improvisation” “Contact Improvisation: Chute (1972), practice session for performance at John Webber Gallery. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1755781206875047829. Accessed November 29, 2011.
The result of so many changes in spatial and kinesthetic orientation in a short time, has caused me to understand space as spherical. The sphere is an accumulated image gathered from several senses, vision being one. As if quickly looking in all directions gives me an image of what it might be like to have a visual surface all over my body instead of skin. But skin is the best source for the image, because it works in all directions at once. If we could turn the skin off we would appreciate it much more. But the skin works most of the time on automatic pilot. The conscious mind is alerted if unusual stimulation appears on the surface of the body. But I don’t notice the touch of my clothes or my weight in a chair most of the time. In Contact Improvisation, however, I find I am hanging by my skin, and relying on its information to protect me, to warn me, to feed back to me the data to which I am responding.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 8
Jose Gil, “Paradoxical Body,” TDR 50: 4 (Winter, 2006), pp. 21-22.
We know that the dancer evolves in a particular space, different from objective space. The dancer does not move in space, rather, the dancer secretes, creates space with his movement.
This is not too different from what happens in theatre, or on other stages, and in other scenes. The actor also transforms the scenic space; the gymnast prolongs the space that surrounds his skin—he weaves with bars, mats, or simply with the ground he steps on relations of complicity as intimate as the ones he has with his own body. In a similar way, the zen archer and his target are one and the same. In all of these cases a new space emerges. We will call it the space of the body.
It is a paradoxical space on many levels; while different from objective space, it is not separated from it. On the contrary, it is imbricated in objective space totally, to the point of being impossible to distinguish one from the other. The transfigured scene where the actor performs—is it not already objective space? Nonetheless, it is a scene invested with affects and new forces—the objects that occupy it gain different emotional values according to the actors’ bodies; and although invisible, the space, the air, acquire a diversity of textures—they become dense or rarified, invigorating or suffocating. It is as if they were enveloping things with a surface similar to the skin. The space of the body is the skin extending itself into space; it is skin becoming space…
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 9
David Rodowick, The Virtual Life of Film, p. 22
[but also see Rodowick What Philosophy Wants from Images]
“The passage in film semiology from the structuralist to the psychoanalytic conception of the signifier pushed Metz towards a redefinition of film as a sensory modality that is also a psychical structuring. Rather than a haptic object or a stable self-identical form, the film viewer is always in pursuit of an absent, indeed absenting, object. In Metz’s elegant description, psychologically the spectator is always in pursuit of a double absence: the hallucinatory projection of an absent referent in space as well as the slipping away of images in time. The inherent virtuality of the image is a fundamental condition of cinema viewing where the ontological insecurity of film as an aesthetic object is posed as both a spatial uncertainty and a temporal instability.
So even the filmophanic definition, which defines the singularity of film as a phenomenological event—the attended film projection—finds itself split by a certain virtuality. Instead of an “aesthetic” analysis, cinematic specificity becomes the location of a variable constant, the instantiation of a certain form of desire that is at once semiologicaly, psychological, technological and cultural
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 10
Hollis Frampton, “Eadweard Muybridge: Fragments of a Tesseract”
His animals, athletes, and subverted painters’ models are nameless and mostly naked, performing their banalities, purged of drama if not of occasional horseplay, before a uniform grid of Cartesian coordinates, a kind of universal, ‘frame of reference,’ ostensibly intended as an aid in reconciling the successive images with chronometry, that also destroys all sense of scale (the figures could be pagan constellations in the sky), and utterly obliterates the tactile particularity that is one of the photograph’s paramount traits, thereby annihilating any possible feeling of place. About all that is left, in each case, is an archetypal fragment of living action potentially subject to incessant reiteration that is one of the most familiar and intolerable features of our dreams.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 11
Bill Seaman, “Recombinant Poetics and Related Database Aesthetics” in Victoria Vesna, ed. Database Aesthetics: Arts in the Age of Information Overflow (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), p. 125.
The metaphor of molecular generation through recombination is central. Participants function in unity with the media through interaction, bringing a history of media relations with them as one particular field of meaning relation. By operating on the media-elements in the works, they derive or better create emergent meaning—intermingling their mind-set with the interpenetrating fields of the media-elements that shift in meaning in relation to constructed context and dynamic interaction. Just as in a molecule, the combination of media-elements takes on a life and new qualities through intermingling—the participant conceptually projects meaning across the entirety of the ongoing experience. Meaning is accretive and functions as an ongoing process of meaning-becoming.”
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 12
Edgar Landgraf, “Improvisation: Form and Even,” in Bruce Clarke and Mark B. N. Hansen, edited, Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 194; 197-98.
[T]o experience a performance as such, one has to experience the logic of the distinctions drawn and the operations performed as one’s won. The point is that such an identification with the performance is not symbolically mediated, as Adorno would have it, but rather results from a (nevertheless cognitive) identification with the self-programming of the form-creating process. In jazz, such forms of embodiment are commonly referred to as “feeling it” or as “getting into the groove,” as states of affectedness that compel artist and audience to identify with the ongoing performance. The experience is intensified—that is, tension is created and attention drawn—by the particular temporal structure of performances. Confronted with forms (the unity of distinctions), time appears to expand: the observer waits for the tension to be resolved, for the play to start, the performance to continue, the melody to reappear, the painting or sculpture to take shape, the program to settle, etc. The observer’s re-tension, where time seems to expand, is opposed to the moment of decision and recognition, which focuses the attention of the observer alone on the here and now. During artistic improvisations, re-tension and decision do not simply follow each other, rather both are simultaneously processed, captivating the observers attention continually between re-tension and decision.” P. 194.
Experimental Pedagogy Assignment TEXT 13
“Drawing upon cybernetic discourse, we can instead acknowledge the high degree of prior knowledge and exposure needed for the creation of an “experience of presence”(even in ritualistic cultures, I would argue, “preparation: for the event is needed) without having to assume that this experience is based (solely0 on conscious calculations and understanding. This is not to overlook the difference between the experience created by a live performance and the experience of reading a book. The difference, however, is perhaps less one of quality than of quantity. In the performing arts and in improvisation, the play with conscious and unconscious expectations will take place on multiple levels simultaneously. Performances not only create an immediate confrontation with forms and force special attention because of the singularity and irreversibility of the process, but they also “surround” the psychic and nervous systems, irritating them on multiple levels. This creates situations that cannot be replicated by books, museums , or lectures or even by virtual realities where eyes, ears, and maybe even our directional senses are stimulated in a predetermined fashion. The role of the body’s presence, then, would be defined and limited by the totality of observations and expectations it can elicit. Systems theory and Spencer-Brown’s form concept could help us analyze in more detail…the complex of possible irritations of the nervous, psychic, and social systems and the embodiment and experiences of presence made possible through their interaction.” P. 197-98.
 Frampton, “Eadweard Muybridge: Fragments of a Tesseract,” in Jenkins, ed., On the Camera Arts, 29. Italics mine.
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