Sondra Fraleigh eastwest at q.com
Tue Nov 1 09:39:52 EST 2011

Thank you for this stimulating critique Scott, and I'm not laughing.

You seems to level what the techno-artists would believe to be new and better, and to take a critical look at what we call art in general. Artists are fascinated with "the new." I can't imagine that new means better. 

Heidegger wrote in one of his later works,  Contributions to Philosophy, that he was more interested in Lack of Art, than in Art-Making per se. He saw that times where there is a lack of art rather than an abundance (And I don't know when that might have been, because he seldom provided any examples; seems philosophers don't think they need to do this.) give us more opportunity to refresh our understanding of what we are doing. We cannot know, he said, how and when we are simply replicating dominant forms of art-making. 

I would say simply that we can get in a rut in any of our forms of art making, including the avant-garde, and also in butoh. Just because I write about and have appreciated butoh doesn't mean that I believe everything that goes under this banner is valuable art. Some of it is uninformed, and some of it just doesn't edify me in any way. Unfortunately, some of those involved in what they call butoh use it as an excuse to go madly raging about like lunatics. We had a phase of this in early modern dance also. We called it "climbing the walls" then. When someone would go on one of these indulgent escapades at the Wigman school (I was there in 1965), Wigman would look about the room and away from the performer, hoping (I'm assuming) like the rest of us, that the episode would come to something more distilled than forward spilling emotion. It is easy enough to use the word "art" to identify an activity, but difficult to say what may be valued as art.

Best to all, Sondra
On Oct 31, 2011, at 9:03 AM, Scott Taylor wrote:

> So, you are wondering what it was I wanted to say in my last posting which was germane to dancing?  Well my point is really rather simple: over the last centuries western culture has moved from a “make-belief” culture to a “make-believe” culture.  Most earlier artistic and creative productions of art and aesthetics were directly and indirectly concerned with coming to terms with spiritual belief and the political-economic support behind such belief.  Today most artistic and creative productions of art and aesthetics are directly and indirectly concerned with coming to terms with political-economic “make believe” structures.  That is, most artistic and creative productions are knowingly or unknowingly propaganda and persuasion often under the guise of so-called “experimental” art forms which work with new media.  I am not proffering this as any sort of insult or attack, but merely as a suggestion regarding the dynamics of techno-culture.  And, fortunately or unfortunately, this comment does not fall far from Adorno and the Frankfurt School, of which we have already heard too much.
> Since I have lectured in literature, particularly in terms of the history of polemical or political literature, that is, in terms of rhetoric, propaganda and persuasion, not to mention general dialectics, whether western or eastern, I am prone to look at art and aesthetics accordingly.  It seems to me that what techno-culture has done to mainstream language (including language rhythms) is the same or similar to what it has done to mainstream dance.  Language and dance have become rap lyrics and music determined to resolve into Janet Jackson’s dance routines. 
> Music perhaps has always had a verbal signature, and, so has dance.  And vice versa. This realization has led to many Canadian dance companies amalgamation with popular singers and song-writers.  The Alberta Ballet Company, for example, is interested in doing works involving k.d. laing and Leonard Cohen.
> Anyway, Michael Taussig in Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of The Senses (1993) opens with a quotation from Walter Benjamin’s rightly famous essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936).  In the body of Taussig’s text Taussig describes how traditional African warrior-dancers would meet with their opponents from a rival tribe and have a “dance out” often instead of all out atrocity war.  One tribe of warrior-dancers would demonstrate a virtuoso performance of co-ordinated left/right dance movements and the rival tribe would be expected to immediately imitate and perform the same dynamic geometry.  This might go on through a number of exchanges. The tribe which was unable to follow the coordination presented by the other tribe would win the contest.
> Similarly, although my research has only garnered reports from the Dark and Middle Ages, when two European armies or hostile groups would meet, each would have a so-called Fool or Joker.  The Fool or Joker would run out in front of his army and roast the opponent with comments and imitative gestures in order to demoralize and humiliate.  Then the opponent group would do the same.  Apparently, sometimes, with smaller groups, this was very effective and the two groups would all begin to laugh together and give up their rancor.
> Levi-Strauss has written that there were two rival tribes living side-by-side along the Amazon or Oronoco.  On alternate “weekends” one tribe or the other would all pile into canoes and either paddle down or paddle up to the banks where the other tribe was habitated.  Once there the tribe in the canoes would simply begin to laugh and laugh and laugh at the preposterous culture and people of the other tribe.  For the most part this exchange managed to hold the two in check and would prevent violent physical hostilities.
> The role of dance has often been to assuage and ameliorate, honor or become entranced the spiritual.  I tend to think of the spiritual component, the psychic component, of humanity and the universe in general as “synergistic.”  And I tend to think that the artist attempts to move into the synergistic in order to become educated, to synthesize and to transcend.  Today, many choreographers and dancers employ digital means as if this will allow them to further comprehension and conquest of the digital spirit and electronic mechanics.  And I think it does allow a certain amount of conciliation and compromise with techno-culture in general.    But this is not the same as the spiritual encounter which was attempted by our ancestors despite what Ray Kurzweil might say about machine or digital spirituality (see: The Age of Spiritual Machines [1999]).
> Okay, okay, okay, I know in my post yesterday I was a little hokey and abstruse, to say the least, but I feel that what we call “love” is our appreciation of synergistic domains of human and universal being.  Love is our leap of faith, it is psychic, and our leap of faith is a dance, that is it is a coordination and orchestration of all mind-brain-body toward higher accord.  By higher, I do not mean something so acutely august and all-mighty that we are not party to it, or something which is supernatural, but a natural realization of what indeed we do accompany in this universe of ours, whether cultural or techno-cultural, whether a bacteria phage or not.
>  Now you can start to laugh.
> Thought experiment: on this Halloween or All Saints Night take Michael Jackson’s choreography for Thriller and slow the dance of the zombies down to Butoh.  It’s not so scary or silly anymore, is it?
> Thank you for persevering with me.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to take part in your discussion.
> Scott (or Scotus Dawgus Telemanicus to my friends) 
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