michael j. morris


connections here at an end
11 December, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

We have reached the end of the quarter, my first quarter of grad school. I only had a minor postpartum meltdown last night, mourning the absence of so much that has filled my every minute for the last few months. My paper on Nijinsky and Nijinska is complete for now. It’s title is “The Negotiation of Gender in the Work of Nijinsky and Nijinska,” and comes in just over 25 pages. I cannot say that I think it is finished. I hope that I continue to let that material sort itself out in my mind, and that I can revisit the paper with more of my own thoughts/speculations/contributions to the dialogue of Nijinsky and Nijinska, rather than writing a paper that simply agree and disagrees with previous statements made by other scholars. So I see the paper as an ongoing affair, continuing to dance with these ghosts a bit.

One of the things that I was interested in coming out of this blog was new thought sparked by the juxtaposition of other thoughts, which is so evident in my “tag cloud” on the left. The big words are the ones that have been mentioned with more regularity, and so on. Today, the biggest words are Election, Gender, Nijinska, and Research, with Love and Yoga and Dance coming in next. Things I see when I look at the cloud:

-“Election” nestled between “Dance” and “Emergent Taxonomy;” what a beautiful implication, that somehow dance might contribute to the emergent (democratic) process that governs policy in our nation. It makes me think about the role of the body, the presence and intelligence of the body, governance of the body, laws that impose hierarchical concepts on the body (like, in New York, you have to have a permit if three or more people are dancing in a public space; or transfats being banned by the FDA; laws that restrict/prohibit specific sexual activities in certain parts of the country; etc.) The body is so intrinsic to the individual. We so frequently in our culture operate under a Cartesian understanding of the body as a machine which houses the mind or spirit, and yet the body is central to all experience. It is through the body that we are present in the world, it is through the body that we sense, perceive, know, decide. All of our thought processes begin in the body. So what does it say about a society that is supposed to operate out of a consensus of individuals that governing bodies impose restrictions on bodies? It is so much deeper than restricting action. It feels like censorship of the individual experience itself, that from which everything stems. And maybe it seems benign, but I am interested it how it even comes about, and what it might mean that a society allows that sort of governance. . .

-I see the three big words of “Election” “Gender” and “Nijinska.” I could (did?) write a small book on the subject of Nijinska and gender right now . . . but relating it to “election” (which today is representing the democratic process, the process of government coming out of decisions made by masses, people casting votes and their laws and leaders coming up out of that process. . . maybe it’s just because it is right above “emergent taxonomy” but democracy is intended to be emergent) . . . Nijinska’s two most significant works were Les Noches (which you can see videos of in a previous post) and Les Biches (of which only accounts remain). Both were profound social commentaries on gender, the former an examination of the oppression that was (is?) intrinsic to the institution of marriage, specifically in peasant Russia, the latter which protested gender roles by radically reconstructing and redefining them in a vibrant cast of characters that addressed a range of social taboos, including narcissism, voyeurism, lesbianism, gender ambiguity, group sex, etc. 
My first thought from this juxtaposition has to do with same-sex marriage in this country. This is an issue that should not get quiet. I think about Prop. 8 and how America is systematically outlawing (but thankfully not without avid resistance) marriage between individuals of the same sex. And I think about Nijinska’s commentary on marriage in Les Noches, how the individuals were simply swept away by the tide of social expectation, in which marriage had nothing to do with love, mutuality of feeling, or even the individuals involved. Instead, marriages were arranged by families in order to provide the groom’s family with a new worker, the bride. So much more severe is the oppression of the bride, who is stripped from her family, her mother, and handed over to her “new” family. But the oppression is no respecter of gender, because desire of the groom is also discounted. he becomes merely the vehicle through which to expand the family, by adding a bride and, by implication in the ballet’s last image, the wedding bed, children.
I can’t help but draw connections between Nijinska’s perception and representation of marriage, and the perception/representation of marriage in America today. Inversely, America seems to say that the ‘oppression’ of marriage is a respecter of gender, because it is an oppression of exclusion based on gender. It somehow maintains  a disconnection from love, mutuality of feeling, and the individuals. Likely married heterosexual couples would disagree. They would say that do love one another, that it was by their own election to marry and to consecrate their relationship in this institution. I would ask them to recognize that while that may be true, clearly that is not the reason they are married, because our country is legislatively stating that those factors are not enough to be married. To married you must before all else be a man and a woman; that remains the essential component. You can be married without love, without mutuality of feelings, or likely even without the election to such state by the individuals in involved (I think of couples who get married to please their parents, or out of pressure by their spouse, etc.). In looking at the role of gender in the decisions being made in our country through the lens of Nijinska, I have to say I am a bit startled. Her piece was staged in 1923 in Europe. How bizarre that despite all of our social progress, connections can still be made between the society, marriage, and treatment of gender then to now.

-I see “Love” situated right in the middle of the list . . . and it seems simple to see an ideal portrait of all that surrounds it as an emanation of this central concern. Love in our listening. Love in our research. Love in our art and the appreciation of/participation in the art of others. Love in the Art Lab. Love in our elections, our democracy emerging from love rather than discrimination and hate. Love in our dance, our collaboration, our choreography. Love in our anxiety. Love in our marriage. Love in our technology. In our Yoga.
Clearly that is an ideal. It raises the question from where do all these things emanate? What is situated at “the heart of things,” as it were? What are the underlying values that we are privileging in the work we do, the way we work, the things we research, the kind of nation we are building?  As we participate in emergent processes, what is it we bring to that field of potentialities, and from where do our contributions come from?

 

I think these are good thoughts, good connections here at the end of the quarter. New ideas arising out of the ideas that have been catalogued here.

Lastly, check out the new blogs in my blog role. An array of different voices, mostly my colleagues, each with a different approach to blogging, with spectacular ideas to contribute to your own emergent taxonomy today.

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1 Comment so far
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Hi Michael. How lovely to allow the ideas you spent so much time with to continue to work themselves out–to resist the imposition of the school structure and just live with these “ghosts” as long as they are asking for your attention.

And I love the idea of letting your tag cloud inspire your content. Go with it, lovely.

Comment by Mara




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