michael j. morris

Reflection on a tag cloud: individual humanity
14 February, 2009, 12:38 am
Filed under: creative process, inspiration | Tags: , ,

These are the words that are largest-to-larger-to-large in my tag cloud:


 . . .


Here are words words that I see near one another:







 . . .


So what do I see? What connections are being made? What is it I am thinking about and how might it be related or synthesized into further inquiry/discovery?

I wonder what is between Ann Hamilton and Butoh. I am in a graduate seminar course with Ann right now, seminar based, with a variety of artists coming together to read, discuss, and present work for one another. We sit around three larger wooden tables in the kitchen of she and Michael Mercil’s studio. We drink decaf coffee and eat popcorn and clementine oranges. There is a dog , a black cat, and a couple of rabbits. I went to Yokohama, Japan, to study Butoh at the Kazuo Ohno Studio. I met Kazuo Ohno, and studied Butoh with his son Yoshito Ohno. After each class, we would sit around a low table in the studio and drink green tea and red wine, eat cookies or crackers or sushi or whatever was on hand. What is the common denominator? The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of pilgrimage, of being deeply impacted by the work of these artists, and finding a way to study with them, learn from them, go to them. Then there is the dissolution of “celebrity” with the realization that these profound figures are also simply people, making things and doing their work and living their lives. And nothing is lost in that dissolution; instead something is gained. An even greater perception of the humanity in their work . . . and that seems to be what it is all about anyway, all of this art. Human connection.
I also think about this sitting around tables and talking and eating, the ease and generosity of it. The sharing. The giving. And I think of the others present. In the graduate seminar there are artists of various fields, all grad students, all concerned with making work. In the Butoh classes, there were people from all over the world, dance and theater artists who came to deepen their understanding of this practice. But there were also Japanese people, some dancers, and other who simply made Butoh their personal practice of self expression.
I think these are the ideas that (tonight) are between Ann Hamilton and Butoh.

 I see increments of size, from GENDER to DANCE to ELECTION to NIJINSKA. I am thinking about gender in almost every facet of life right now, especially in the representation/embodiment of dance presentation. I am thinking about how movement contributes to our perception, prescription, assignment, assessment, and reinforcement of gender roles in dance and in culture at large. When I think about the election, about our new president, I think of the potential for change (whether or not it is ever realized). I think of Nijinska and the strong statements she made concerning gender and its role in society, specifically in Les Noces and Les Biches. I think of the potential dance may have in the potential for changing the way we think about gender, and in turn, the individual.
There. I let it slip. I am overtly concerned with the construction of gender, but this concern is in the service of a much larger contemplation: the construction and expression of individual identity, of which gender is only one (large) component. This may even be the direction for my final MFA project: the negotiation of individual identity through movement, awareness of the moving body, the perception of self in the motion, and the perception of others in motion. 

I see EMERGENT TAXONOMY, GAZE, MILK, and NEW YORK TIMES. It makes me think of what we are looking at, in theaters, in newspapers, where those subjects come from, and how looking at these things might further change what we look at and how. What does it mean that we are looking at these things? A story of the struggle for gay rights in America. Today, the way men dress. Of course there are still hierarchical structures deciding what makes it to the silver screen, what is published via the New York Times, but there is also a more emergent sense in which these are the things that are arising from the times in which we live, the individuals with whom we are living. When I think of it that way, I feel more hopeful than I usually do.

When I see THE BODY and YOGA next to one another, I think of the yoga class I am taking right now with Laurel Hodory, and how it is shifting the way in which I think of each of these things. We have discussed ideas such as the “Optimal Blueprint” (an Anusara concept that honors the individual body as unique, and the yoga practice is a negotiation with that unique body, not some formal ideal), muscular and skeletal compression, skeletal proportion, and the “intrinsic intention” of any particular asana (or lack there of). I am coming to a place to which I thought I had already arrived, which honors the uniqueness of the individual body first and foremost. Any given asana is not only going to look different from body to body, but it may even be accomplished differently, with varying degrees of possibility for “improvement.” It raises the question of for what is the practice intended, and how does each individual best serve that intention. It might mean allowing for lumbar extension in pincha mayurasana if the goal is balance, or having an assist if the goal is to maintain complete engagement of the abdominals; it may mean incorporating a prop in utthita trikonasana to facilitate proper alignment. Etc. etc. etc.

So what is the synthesis I am seeing? The privileging of the individual identity and humanity, especially in the service of social progress and change. 

And now as I post these new tags, the cloud will probably shift. That is just another illustration of how this blog serves me as a creative platform, a visual illustration of how reflection (this post, its tags) on the state of things (the tag cloud, my previous ideas) shifts the very things on which I am reflecting, synthesizing into new ideas.

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