[-empyre-] R: on the so-called everyday

Erin Manning emanning at alcor.concordia.ca
Thu May 7 12:45:05 EST 2009

A little anecdote on everyday movement and technicity

A group of 10 of us from the SenseLab bikes down to a concrete garden
(Viger Square) in downtown Montreal. It’s 11am and the park feels empty.
Monumental in the park is a blue wall (probably was the backdrop to a
fountain in better times). We congregate around the blue wall and set up
cameras. Children we’ve invited begin to arrive with their parents. In
preparation for this game of blue tag we offer up body parts to blue paint
and provide blue capes. Our plan is to use the wall as a blue-screen. We
film the game. In the editing phase, the blue will be subtracted to create
a vision of body-parts moving in a concrete landscape. No point to this,
really, except the fun of activating a space robbed of the very qualities
a park should have – the potential for gathering.

Everyone is getting into the body painting. I’ve made blue capes for the
kids and they are already playing tag, excited by the wide, open space.
Then the park begins to wake up and we notice a group of teenagers moving
toward us. Their mob-like approach (and one boy’s blue mohawk!) scare the
smaller kids. I take 3-year old Marika in my arms and play with her as the
threatening-looking kids approach other members of the SenseLab. It turns
out they are also excited by the prospect of playing blue tag. We invite
them to paint themselves blue. They quickly become child-like despite
their drunkenness and the gestures they’ve taken on to safeguard
themselves in the street.

We play for an hour and a half. The small kids remark to me that these
strange teenagers don’t move very well. They’re slow and as a result
they’re always “it”. But they do move (however awkwardly) and they do
play. We suddenly shift to slow-motion tag. A conversion has happened – we
are now moving together.

As we now begin editing the film, I am awed by this everyday event. Not
much happened – after all, it was just a game of tag. We didn’t share
names or discuss what we were doing there together. And yet, something did
take place: this was a micropolitical event where movement was the conduit
for a brief meeting that would likely otherwise not have happened. The
park is inhabited (now in a kind of virtual memory) by this event, this
play, that was exactly what the city was trying to avoid when they
transformed the greenspace into a concrete garden.

I raise this example as a form of technicity because I think technology is
as much about techniques as it is about actual machines. Looking through
the other events happening around the world this week as part of Society
of Molecules, it is interesting to note that most of them converge around
this intersection of movement and technicity. It seems interesting to me
that in the quest for the creation of aesthetico-political interventions
at the local level – in the exploration of micropolitics – movement always
seems to be key. It is perhaps less about implanting technology in the
everyday that using movement’s incipiency to make felt the potential of an

SenseLab Event: Society of Molecules (May 1-7 2009)
Molecule: Concrete Garden
Event: Blue Tag


> I very much agree with your thoughts, Ashley, on these points. I am
> perhaps not totally sure about the idea of the body as 'disappearing', not
> being there, in our I-Phone interactions. These interactions are
> definitely (as you suggest) the object of precise commodifying and
> marketing strategies and operations, or programs, and I do think that
> these operations are able to insert themselves and to work directly onto
> that micro-sphere of movements that has been discussed, and which is
> absolutely 'bodily', although maybe in a different sense. If the
> abstractness, or potential, of movement cannot be measure or quantified,
> can the technological (or even already anatomical) limitation of
> displacement refer to a subtraction of bodily potential? In this case, I
> think a juxtaposition between the different concepts of possibility and
> potential is delineating itself, but this could lead the discussion far
> away from the main point: art and the everyday.
> Thank you Renate for your suggestion to re-direct the discussion towards
> this theme. This suggestion makes me think again of the 'amplification' I
> was mentioning in a previous post, this time not as a dramatic
> amplification of the gesture, but as the 'political' amplification of the
> everyday, up to the point of its 'overflowing' into galleries, museums
> etc., establishing a direct reciprocal communication between art and life.
> I certainly do not want to sustain the necessity of clear disciplinary or
> spatial borders here, but the risk the art-life commistion often (not
> always) suggests me is that of establishing a closed, vicious circle, the
> everyday entering the museum-space, the museum becoming commodified and
> returned back to a commodified everyday, with no real novelty introduced
> in either art or life, and a good (or lesser, depends on the 'level' at
> which the commistion is operated) amount of profit often obtained through
> the easily approachable charm
>  of the everyday. My question therefore is: how do we avoid, or open up
> this circuit which, sometimes despite the overt political claims, does
> not really allow so much space-time for a 'molecular attention' towards
> acts and gestures? If it still makes a sense to consider (as Deleuze and
> Guattari did) art as the field of aesthetic sensibility, the total
> disappearance of differences and confines leads to the erasure of one of
> art's main claims: the aesthetic re-direction of the gaze, of perception,
> of sensibility, as a way to counterbalance and implicitly (not
> representationally) denounce the 'ugly' matters of fact of the everyday.
> I think it can be very interesting, in fact, to work with and modulate
> these alliances but also differences (between art and life, art and the
> everyday, art and politics), rather than making them dissolve. Simply and
> directly highlighting the problems is a political fact. Without
> separating art from politics, I think it is very
>  important to remember that an 'aestheticisation' of life could already
> have important political implications in itself. The same consequences, I
> think, can derive from the art-communication equivalence. I do want to
> reiterate here, that my point is not about the essential critique for any
> particular artistic form or genre, but only about the highlighting of
> some potential risks, and maybe discussing how to overcome them.
> I totally share Ashley's sense of an ungraspability, unperceptibility of
> the virtual. It is of course not enough for us to move in the in-between,
> in the interstice, for it to emerge. Something more is needed. The
> question is what?
> Looking forward to continue this discussion with you all
> Stamatia
> --- Mer 6/5/09, Ashley Ferro-Murray <aferromurray at berkeley.edu> ha
> scritto:
>> Da: Ashley Ferro-Murray <aferromurray at berkeley.edu>
>> Oggetto: [-empyre-] on the so-called everyday
>> A: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> Data: Mercoledì 6 maggio 2009, 21:33
>> 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
>> --
>> Ashley Ferro-Murray
>> MA/PhD Student
>> Dept. Theater, Dance & Performance Studies
>> University of California, Berkeley
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Dr. Erin Manning
Studio Art / Film Studies
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve O
Montreal QC H3G1M8


More information about the empyre mailing list