Manning & Massumi together offered two classes with us, “Emergent Space(-times)” and “The Choreographic Object – or, How movement moves us.” They were taught together and it created a fantastic experience for me.
William Forsythe from Synchronous Objects Media Site
"Propositions for the Verge - William Forsythe's Choreographic Objects"
Erin Manning (2008) Inflexions, Vol. 2
Even within the same discipline there are different technicities, styles of thought that can be employed to approach a problem.
Forsythe starts with propositions and the effect achieved is similar to the ways in which algorithms operate - these are iterative, randomized algorithms incorporate some element of chance and so they become evolutionary. They are generative acts.
For example, consider Forsythe's "Counterpoint algorithm" from Eidos:Telos, part 3 (1995):
Proposition: Effect an orientation shift. Shift the relationship of your torso to the floor by 90 degrees moving through plié. Take the shape or path of the movement and translate it through your body so that it happens in another area of your body.Forsythe calls these propositions "time machines" that generate movement.
Proposition: Drop a Curve. Take any point on your body and, guided by the skeletal-muscular mechanics inherent in the body’s position, drop that point to its logical conclusion following a curved path. Reconfigure the body or set it in motion in a way that varies from the original sequence.
Proposition: Unfold with Inclination Extension. Create a line between elbow and hand. Extend that line by leaving your forearm where it is in space and manoevering your body to create a straight line between shoulder and hand.
Note: we went outside and tried a few of these propositions:
Here is a link to the Times Literary Supplement and Siobhan Peiffer's brief introduction to this dance piece.
Also of immense value is Ann Nugent's Doctoral thesis (2000) The Architexts of Eidos:Telos. A critical study through intertextuality of the dance text conceived by William Forsythe, at the University of Surrey.
Forsythe is a distributive node - he's generating propositions with a strong Whiteheadian vocabulary.
Movement in space is not a movement in a pre-defined space but an unfolding of space with movement, an emergent activity.
Forsythe claims that choreography and dance are not the same, these exist in the world separated all the time: dance without choreography, and choreography without dance. He asks, "is it possible to generate autonomous expressions of its principals, a choreographic object, without the body?" (in Manning, pg. 2)
The figure-ground relation (Zidane) is the nodal point, the minimal organization from which generative movement can occur. Where does movement start and where does it stop? It's a relation between a model of transition. "The choreographic object: a model of potential transition from one state to another in any space imaginable." (Manning, 2)
Choreography transforms what a body can do.
Improvisation as incipient choreography - what would we consider the object to be? what moves these bodies?
Waking-up is the threshold between waking and sleeping; in these thresholds there is this turning point and we decide whether to follow habitual action or improvise.
The object is the tending toward, a tendency.
Forsythes’s choreographic process creates conditions for events. When an object becomes the attractor for the event, it in-gathers the event toward the object’s dynamic capacity for reconfiguring spacetimes of composition. [...] These “objects” are always part of an evolving ecosystem in Forsythe’s work. They extend beyond their objectness to become ecologies for complex environments that propose dynamic constellations of space, time and movement. These “objects” are in fact propositions co-constituted by the environments they make possible. They urge participation. [...] The object becomes a missile for experience that inflects a given spacetime with a spirit of experimentation. [...] The object has to be immanent to the event and active in its unfolding. [...] Choreographic objects are an affordance that provokes a singular taking-form: the conjunctive force for the activity of relation. (Manning, 3)The difference between an object and a choreographic object is the potential activity, the affordances, that the context offers. The object does not allow all movements to be reproduced in the same ways all the time.
What are the conditions necessary to avoid the insistence that the spectator be imposed upon with a predetermined, idealized, choreography?
[This question directly relates to a conversation I had with Manning and Massumi the previous day as we discussed Victor Burgin's evening lecture and the frustration of video installations in galleries]Dance, music, language -- these are articulatory, but at what level? We look to Guattari and schizoanalysis as metamodeling; modeling with, not onto.
|The White Bouncy Castle. Dana Casperson, William Forsythe and Joel Ryan. Co-production with Group.ie (1997)|
The White Bouncy Castle is more than a large platform for jumping: it effects a microperceptible change in the feeling of time, shifting the everydayness of time passing from the foregrounded measured time of habitual movement toward the durational time of play. (Manning, 4)There is the question of time: experiencial time vs. measured time.
Choreographic objects provoke this time-slip in large part because they bring to the fore the role objects play in experience. Objects always resonate with pastness. The everyday objects Forsythe proposes for experimentation exist in an ecology of previous experience. [...] Experience is drawn forth by a pastness of the present. This pastness of the present is specious: it feels like the present even though it is already passing. When we actually perceive this pastness as the present in experience, Alfred North Whitehead calls it non-sensuous perception. [...] We perceive not from sense to sense, but from relation to relation. “The present moment is constituted by the influx of the other into that self-identity which is the continued life of the immediate past within the immediacy of the present” (Whitehead, 1933: 181). It is not the past as such or the object as such we perceive in the here-and-now. It is the activity of relation between different thresholds of spacetime. It is the object from the past in the configuration of the present. The then-with.(Manning, 4-5)The immediate past is overlapping with the unfolding present; the calling of the future is to a deeper past into the present. This is why routine/habit occurs.
This is how the choreographic object works. [...] You half turn your attention to the quality of ‘having fun’ and before you know it, your posture has shifted. You’re tending toward the fun. This movement-with becomes the initiating gesture toward the time of the event the choreographic object proposes. [...] When an object no longer seems to be quite what you thought it was and the experience of time no longer feels as linear, it’s because the event is beginning to take over. No longer as concerned with your ‘self’, you are now experiencing the potential of the future mixed in with the resonance of the past: a futurity of pastness in the present. Play. (Manning, 5)
This experience is specious: it takes us into the time-slip of the event. This speciousness has a quality of fabulation: it enervates us toward the paradox of time and incites us to invent with time.  Choreographic objects draw us into this speciousness by infiltrating our experience with the verge of this doubling [....] they exist in the between of a proposition and its eventness, inciting the participant to invent through them, to move with [....] Choreographic objects draw out this paradox of the linearity of measured time versus the duration of experiential time. “The practically cognized present is no knife-edge, but a saddle-back, with a certain breadth of its own on which we sit perched, and from which we look in two directions into time” (James, 1890: 609). (Manning, 6)This leads us to Whithead's discussion of the proposition. These are lures that brings into activity certain potentialities. The proposition builds a bridging across; the activation of the potential.
|Nostalgia do Corpo: Corpo Coletivo. Lygia Clark (1986)|
[NOTE TO SELF: The problem of psychastenia in spectacular agency is that there is this absence of model - by reducing the horizon of potentiality in promoting standardized commodity production]
The proposition is not the same here as in linguistics; the proposition as thought here allows the event to unfold itself in its relationality.
Whitehead’s concept of the proposition does not find its voice in an already-conceived language. “Spoken language,” Whitehead warns, “is merely a series of squeaks” (Whitehead, 1978: 264). Language by itself means little. “The vagueness of verbal statement is such that the same form of words is taken to represent a whole set of allied propositions of various grades of abstractness” (1978: 193). When language moves us, it is because it operates in relation, becoming-propositional. A proposition can unfold in language, but not as an additive to an already-stable matrix of denotation. Propositions alter the ground of active relations between language, affect and gesture (to name a few), intensifying, attenuating, inhibiting, transmuting not meaning as such, but the affective force of the time-slip of experience. (Manning, 7)There can be many propositions, but artistically it's best to keep it simple.
The proposition provokes but cannot predetermine. Whitehead uses this word because it is usually synonymous with judgment and he wants to forground the ability to create an affective tonality.
Every conception of the new is the actualisation of a contrast. For Whitehead, contrast is a conduit to creativity. What the proposition calls for is not a newness as something never before invented, but a set of conditions that tweak experience in the making. Propositions are lures. [...] Propositions that incite creativity lure difference into the pact of their unfolding through the tweaking of the occasion. This tweaking brings about the resolution of potentiality and actuality while leaving a trace of the virtual nonetheless. This is the subtraction in the addition, the more-than less-than of experience. (Manning, 6)Manning and Massumi characterize their work as "creating emerging attunements." They stress, "relations as event and not as communication." The point is that we have to invent our own languages and give that a texture.
Tarkovsky described his film making style as "sculpting in time" which is the translated name, also, of his book in which he discusses his film making. But note that this is the translation into English of the title in Russian Запечатлённое время (literally, "Depicted Time") His films are now freely available online from Open Culture.
Also consider Chris Marker's Sans Soleil and La Jetee for a visualization of time.
(Both films are available if you follow the links.)
An event hospitality - where the context itself allows for much.
Given the folding of the text and deformation of forms, we get this topology; the object here is in motion, yeah? thus the objectile - playing on the word "projectile." Objectile, as in "object-ish."
Rhythm is a central concept in this text, distinct from "beat." A beat is formalized and we're searching for the potentialized, rather than the formalized.
Rhythm is not added to movement from outside its taking form. Rhythm is its taking form. Because each rhythm is itself a duration, rhythm is what gives time to incipient movement, characterizing that singular movement’s in-timeness. This in-timeness is not a beat or a measure but a quality of becoming that is co-terminous with the incipiency of the movement’s preacceleration and the elasticity of its unfolding. (Manning, 18-9)Here we can also consider Deleuze's discussion of Bergson's thinking on duration. Corry Shores has an excellent blog for reading Bergsonism over at Pirates & Revolutionaries. Here I am linking to the site directory for the 4th chapter from Bergsonism called, "One or Many Durations." Also look to the fine blog Lectures by Gilles Deleuze and specifically this entry "Theory of Multiplicities in Bergson"
[Forsythe says that a body is that which folds. Deleuze says that anything can be a body - a concept can be a body." Could time be a body (that folds)? Without animating time with an event it's simply an abstract thought.]
Think of the cover song: each cover has its own rhythm, they apprehend the time signatures that potentially could have been deployed. It's incipient in the original and brought forward in the cover.
Choreography’s ecology is rhythmical. Choreography is composed of an infinity of slightly varying velocities, vibrations, sensations. These qualities are in and of matter, active in the transduction from force to form. These individuating qualities give specificity to the environment, inflecting the ways bodies move with and through it. The movement in turn creates time-volumes that populate the co-configuring atmosphere. Choreography, as Forsythe emphasizes, is not strictly about human bodies. It is about the creation of spacetimes of experience. (Manning,19)You can't dance a movement in time - it's too fast. Of course the dance is done in time, but dance is unlike movement which is the "sounding of rhythm."
When we develop technicities, perhaps we background rhythm and we take time for granted -- we might feel responsible for the occurrence of an event, producing an "event" or making a scene, but the event has its own time.
[Xunzi (荀子)'s "proper naming would, then, be understanding when the naming is appropriate or not.]
"Forms of Process"
A.N. Whitehead, from Modes of Thought (1938)
Whitehead's "eternal object" (see Steven Shaviro's entry over at Pinocchio Theory) is neither eternal not is it an object. We don't see "green" out the window, we see a green - an exhibit of green in the world. Green is real but what is its mode of reality across seasons? across existence?
It's eternal because it can always come back. It's always there potentially to ingress into the world. The green happens in the relation between our bodies, the photons, and the grass. His theory of God is the exploration of this eternality.
The green-ness, the gerunding of qualities as events. Physical prehensions are objects coming into the world, in the flourishing of the event. Autists live in the -ness and unfortunately for them the social world demands that they live outside of -ness.
The essence of life is to be found in the frustrations of established order. The Universe refuses the deadening influence of complete conformity. And yet in its refusal, it passes towards novel order as a primary requisite for important experience. We have to explain the aim at forms of order, and the aim at novelty of order, and the measure of success, and the measure of failure. Apart from some understanding, however dim, of these characteristics of the historic process, we enjoy no rationality of experience. (119)Whitehead sees that rationality is really successful when it's capable of establishing novelty. An event generates a cloud of propositions.
This unit of process is the 'specious present' of the actuality in question. It is a process of composition, of gradation, and of elimination. Every detail in the process of being actual involves its own gradation in reference to the other details. The effectiveness of any one such factor involves the elimination of elements in the data not to be reconciled with that detail playing that part in the process. Now elimination is a positive fact, so that the background of discarded data adds a tone of feeling to the whole pulsation. No fact of history, personal or social; is understood until we know what it has escaped and the narrowness of the escape. You cannot fully understand the history of the European races in North America, without reference to the double failure of Spanish domination over California in the nineteenth century, and over England in the sixteenth century. (122)Whitehead asks us to think of the worst events, those that reconstruct our world also brought with them a host of potential outcomes that could have been and also continue to await activation under conditions amenable to their becoming.
We become artists of occasions.
Events will never happen again, they are singular, the conditions might be such that something similar occurs but it is nonetheless unique.
[END OF CLASS]