[-empyre-] Narrative, and speaking traces

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Thu May 28 16:25:44 EST 2009

Hi Sarah, really interesting posts, I just watched Lezlie's  
performance and I wanted to know more from you (and Lezlie and Seth?)   
about it if possible.

  you write,

> Lezlie, myself and Processing
> programmer Seth Erickson, worked to develop a performance language of
> movement and responsive images, built associatively on this “action”  
> of the
> body as a de-organizing process, a challenge to normative embodiment.

I just wondered if you could be more concrete about 'a challenge to  
normative embodiment.' I sort of get the idea _at least from what  
follows, too-- that there's kind of an anti=movement going on with  
drawings via her explosive repetitive winglike movements with her arms.

you mention also that these are 'counterintuitive"  (see below)

when you talk about normative, or against some kind of norm , are you  
referring to medical physical therapy methods and visualizations?   
what or how  is Lezlie working against something?   Could you be more  
descriptive and literal?  It's hard to tell from the video.

> Accelerometers at her wrists sensed the unequal ranges of her two  
> arms.
> Starting from a critique of the medicalization of dis/abilities and  
> the
> image of the heart monitor signal, she devised an image repertoire  
> with a
> set of constantly spooling graphic lines, using these to draw her  
> gestures,
> like the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon, to explore the
> standardization of bodies, the asymmetry of differently-formed  
> bodies, and
> how the intimate gesture retraces the image of the body.
> One of the texts of her performance is a layering of ways in which  
> she is
> subject to separation from her body, through the medicalization of  
> the body
> with dis/abilities both literally, through surgical reconstruction,  
> and
> through the layering of narratives of weakness and mortality that
> circumscribe dis/ability socially and culturally.  The wearing of  
> sensors
> and the disjunctive, counterintuitive action/reaction between  
> gesture and
> image production also provide another layer of the experience of
> displacement: a foreign, technological mode of behavior to be learned.
> Iconographies include images of the built environment that  
> standardizes,
> speeds up, regulates and denies movement and access and  
> standardization of
> the female body.  I

is this true just for the female 'handicapped' body somehow?  is this  
an important part of the narrative of her piece, or  are you  
mentioning this by way of context?

just trying to get a feelling for the 'story' with /against dis- 
ability using this 'purple crayon' method.  maybe a longer video or  
one with a larger resolution would be super helpful.

thanks Sarah!


On May 27, 2009, at 8:54 PM, sarah drury wrote:

> I heard from Hana Iverson, who tried to post to the list but  
> couldn’t, making me wonder if there’s still something up with the  
> server.  Her questions are below, followed by my answer.
> Hi Sarah,
> I am curious in the idea of counterposing social orders, and if  
> Leslie Frye actually felt that the media traces created by The  
> Walking Project actually "spoke" of a social reframing of her body/ 
> self/identity?  Is there a link somewhere on-line where this can be  
> seen?  And if these media traces "speak," is that what you are  
> referring to by narrative?  It seems to me that narrative within the  
> context of movement, often means "story" as opposed to say, code or  
> coded languages, even in the spirit of bread crumb trails.  And how,  
> and in what way, these trails/traces become political?  In what way  
> are these traces paralleled to Deluezian processes/actions?
> Would love to hear more.
> Hana
> Hi Hana,
> Thanks for your thoughtful questions.  I think that, yes, Lezlie  
> experienced the relationship between her movement and the media  
> traces as a changing figure/ground relationship that spoke of a  
> successive reframing of her body/self against the environment. Her  
> movement at the beginning of the performance built a relationship  
> with interactive iconography (media traces) that explores force,  
> linearity, control, consistency, symmetry. In some sense, her  
> performance enacts the cultural dynamics that produce the “normal”:  
> strength, speed, repetition, health, etc.  You can see video of the  
> performance here:
> http://astro.temple.edu/~sdrury/TheWalkingProject/# <http://astro.temple.edu/~sdrury/TheWalkingProject/ 
> >
> Athletic and rhythmic, this movement produces a line that traces a  
> right-angled, repetitive urban iconography. Within the linearity of  
> her movement also, at times, is emphasized the snag, asymmetry, the  
> glitch, picked up by sensors in the uneven movements of her arms.   
> What I am calling narrative is, as you say, the engagement of coded  
> language (rather than storytelling) in the combination of body,  
> movement and responding image/traces, in that there is a three- 
> layered narrative of the body itself, movement and its responding  
> traces/trails.  Lezlie enacts the production of normalcy even as her  
> sensor-amplified body enacts live and mediated asymmetry.  I suppose  
> it is the non-standard aspects of Lezlie’s physical form that are  
> “unaligned or unalignable components which refuse to conform to the  
> requirements of order and organization”, but more, it is her  
> presentation of an ambivalent embracing/enacting of normative  
> embodiment and simultaneously engaging difference outside the  
> categories assigned to it, engaging difference intimately and  
> playfully.  The media traces simply accentuate this aspect of form  
> and performance, as a third layer.
> To grab a fragment of Laura’s May 21 post:
> “However, I guess part of my interest is in how to make encounters  
> with difference more sustainable (or less painful) and/or to  
> emphasise less extreme and more apparently banal examples of how we  
> might jump onto new planes of perception.”
> I like to think this performance functions this way.  While Lezlie’s  
> charged performance is not banal, it is ‘less extreme’, and I think  
> conditions perception in new ways, on some level through the relay  
> of various planes of narrative: the body and its narrative,  
> performative gesture and live animation.  But I would welcome more  
> questioning and discussion about ideas of narrative in the context  
> of movement.
> Sarah
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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