[-empyre-] on the so-called everyday

Ashley Ferro-Murray aferromurray at berkeley.edu
Thu May 7 05:33:05 EST 2009

It is interesting to consider Renate's proposed intersections within a
larger art context or the everyday. Of course, in dance practice and
choreography we consider the everyday both practically and
phenomenologically. First and perhaps most obviously we have periods
of choreography within certain dance communities where artists
introduce postmodernity to the stage with the direct intersection of
art, everyday practice and dance. I am thinking most specifically of
1960s Judson Dance Theater in downtown Manhattan and artists like
Yvonne Rainer and Lucinda Childs and Bruce Nauman. Both Erin and
Stamatia also refer to Forsythe's conception of choreography. Stamatia
explains, "if we mean by choreography (as Forsythe does, and as
Cunningham also does) the setting of parameters that make the body's
techniques 'tend' towards outcomes that will in the end always be new
and surprising, rather than the mere description of a body already
positioned in space-time." In this case we consider how our body
movement regardless of when or where (be it a stage space or everyday
place) can push toward the new and/or exciting and open a possibility.
Whether in technical and analogue repetitions like the 0 to 1 binary,
or in daily choreographed repetitions using digital devise like Renate
mentions I think we move consistently toward the virtual.

Allow me to explore the limitations and openness in considering
devices like the iPhone as choreography. The iPhone user learns and
perform a gesture-based vocabulary that is specific to the device.
Interactions, then, promote a form of movement-based communication.
Using an iPhone to navigate a city is an experience based on the
content that the device provides. Rather than walking and looking
around to take in sites and sounds, one walks looking down at the
bubble that represents your GPS location. Use applications on the
iPhone to choose which restaurant to go to, again relying on the
device to decide your next destination. Based on these experiences, an
iPhone user perceives her environment based on physical transcription,
but one that takes place between the mover and the device as the
intermediary, as opposed to the mover and her immediate surroundings.

Though this is a movement-based and, according to Apple an embodied
experience, using an iPhone can encourage a closing off of the body.
We can crunch our physicality to peer into an iPhone, imagining a
reality within the device. In this sense, our movements are confined
to the touch of a finger and the body is immobilized, or disembodied.
Not only does our body become less present in itself, but also
companies like Apple commodify the movements that we enact with our
fingers. The iPhone is even programmed to anticipate and auto correct
gestural ambiguities with “smart” functionality, therefore
preemptively deciding what we want to say based on corporate
programming. The body then becomes indicative of a projected figure.
Whose presence are we representing and what movement do we engage when
we interact with devices like the iPhone?

However, it is precisely this competition between the digital and the
physical that is indicative of our everyday interactions with
contemporary society. If we experience the world through the touch of
a finger as opposed to constituting our space by walking around a
city, quotidian movement does become reduced to digital exploration
for technology’s sake. The digital visual aid becomes a visual
impairment as the body disappears and acts only as a support to the
digital device, as opposed to the interactions between the two as
mutual prostheses. A closing off of the rest of that body then
subsumes any embodied movement vocabulary that a device engages. As we
become more wary of our own objectification as a digital presence, the
materialization of this experience and these human-computer
interactions in dance performance is insightful. The duality of iPhone
interactions and the way that they can simultaneously embody and
disembody signifies a situation that is implicit not only in the
politics of performance, but also the process of engaging with digital
presence in general. If we acknowledge and become self-critical of our
bodies using prosthetics like the iPhone, we can challenge
objectification with micro-movement and micro-attentions. Stamatia
asks, "Can the limitations of actual displacement (such as often
happen with Motion captured performances or choreographic software)
work as productive constraints?" Here I think that they can.

Allow me to return to an earlier emphasis on the in-between to locate
new thought and therefore work within the limitations of displacement
as a productive constraint.
Erin makes the incredibly rich point, "To move with movement moving is
a proposition toward the development of techniques that create modes
of capture that seek not to identify movement’s having-passed but that
move-with movement’s own incipience. How to do this technologically
requires, I think, a different approach to technology, where
technology is less a tool than an active assemblage of potential
techniques that feed from and move with a becoming-body." We apply
this very point to both the artistic process and the everyday
experience to consider Erin's call to use technology not as a tool,
but as "active assemblage" amidst others including texture and
movement in "art," which both Erin and Renate emphasize. It is
interesting though to add art to the list of movement, technology and
texture and consider all of these processes under an everyday
experience. It seems that we can reach a virtual space by moving
in-between these processes where technology can act as an "active
assemblage"and as one quality among others within the affect of my
performance. I find this place within the virtual as an in-between
space amidst immanent repetitions in movement, technology, etc.

I must admit, though, that I have trouble pin pointing exactly what
that virtual is is my experience and art practice. The virtual is a
figural quality that I intuitively perceive. Perhaps this is where we
turn to Erin's situation of philosophy. Maybe it would be helpful to
consider presence and perception here. I think of philosopher Alva Noe
who works with dancers on action, presence and perception and who
argues that consciousness is dance.  Thoughts?


Ashley Ferro-Murray
MA/PhD Student
Dept. Theater, Dance & Performance Studies
University of California, Berkeley

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