michael j. morris

Body of Knowledge/Knowledge of Body
9 December, 2009, 4:06 pm
Filed under: research | Tags: ,

Several people have asked that I share the paper I just finished here on my blog. It is entitled “Body of Knowledge/Knowledge of Body: An Analysis of the Presence of Embodiment in Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced.” Below is a link to a PDF of the paper. Please respect that this paper is my property. After further revision, I am considering it for publication or presentation, so while I am more than happy to share these ideas with you, please honor that they are my work.

Body of Knowledge/Knowledge of Body


5 Comments so far
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hey sweets
look at http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses
for online copyright ideas.
colleen uses it and so does movement research critical correspondence.
downloading the pdf now to take to the gym for elliptical reading!
love you

Comment by CoCo Loupe

So excited to read this. . . when I finish mine, Michael! Yay for you.

Comment by Mara

ok. so there’s no way for me to respond to the whole paper right now and i want to leave lots of fun stuff to ponder over sunday dinner…..but of the several things that i had an immediate reaction to or that resonated with my own mental/analytical jinglings was the big question…..”Where is the body in this?”

My reaction is only tangentially related to what your paper covers after you ask the question but it’s what i’ve been thinking of for a long time and this question related to technology and dance works pulled some of my thoughts together. so here goes!

oh….as i jotted these notes down on the actual paper i was well aware that my thoughts are probably not “provable” or “theoretically” sound. whatever that means. or it could just be that i don’t have the language or power of critical thinking enough to cleanly elucidate what swirls through my head/imagination. so please pardon the awkwardness of the language and the inevitable gaps in logic.

ok. enough disclaimers.

“Where is the body in this?”

Can this also be asked of “newer” movement styles and languages of choreographers and companies like forsythe, batsheva, kidd pivot, chunky moves, etc? on the surface it seems to almost solely about the body. the human athletic abilities and the immediate evidence that ALL OF THAT INFORMATION had to be embodied in order to be executed/expressed live? BODILY. yes. the body is there and has to be there as the vehicle for the performance of that information. nothing new there. it’s dance afterall. a performing art. BUT. when i watch this “new” stuff, i feel like i’m seeing the digitalization of the body in a way. possibly the digitalization of the form as well.

the Information becomes paramount. it’s so dense and relentless that the human, the dance, the body gets sublimated. consumed. becomes invisible to the absolute importance of the information it holds, processes and delivers.

the flesh is there and it’s glorious, but it’s been repurposed as machine/computer. And just like any piece of hardware, we stop seeing it. we only care about what it holds and what it can compute and give to us. and the more complex the computations, the more enamoured we are of its abilities.

think about it. when we boot up our computers, we don’t think about the housing and infrastructure of the machine. we don’t marvel at the wiring, the physical connection of all of the cards and chips and whatnot to the motherboard. we don’t even consider the beauty of the magical way the pixels come together on the screen in front of our eyes. what ARE we considering? what are we perceiving? we are counting on the ability of this extension of ourselves ( a strange but i’m sure widely covered topic already ) to provide information to us. the object that produces the information becomes invisible to us. we may feel it under our fingers but it’s out of our perceptual world as a hard, tangible piece of our reality.

so when i’m watching the impossible feats occurring on stage, the body is “gone” for me even though, like the computer, it’s the only way the digitized/algorithmic information can reach me from the performance space.

as i write this i notice that i cam both intrigued by the thought and kinesthetically remembering or re-seeing/re-feeling/re-sensing my experiences of the types of dance works that i’m referencing. i am in no way denouncing this trend in the field. i am actually exhilirated by it. i feel continually challenged by it as a viewer to find a foundation for perception. a way to know it. a way to see it. a way to find my way through it. INFO/BODY/HUMAN/PROCESSES/ETC AND BACK AND FORTH THROUGH AND AROUND. what am i seeing? the body sending strings of letters, images, pixels, fields of energy, symbols, encrypted passwords, delayed messages, compressed definitions? the delivery of the history of the dance’s making? the revelation of the instananeous production of sensory packets?

one perception gaining ground over another and then the reverse happening so the other gains prominence. if anything i feel nostalgia for “simpler”, more “analog” dances and dancers. but this “disappearing” body feels like a natural progression toward something else that the human and the dance can illustrate for us.

see? i told you it didn’t make sense? but it’s what came out of my pen.

hope there is some glimmer of “something” in it.

Comment by cocoloupedance

Thank you for your wonderful thoughts, love.
I do think there’s something there . . . ways of thinking, ways of looking, ways of expecting and perceiving that lose sight of the body. And something about how that which is being presented encourages this losing sight. I’m thinking about the potential “analog” or “digital” taxonomies for the body and awareness. I think you raise some fascinating speculations about the “analog body” and the “digital body,” and I wonder about the relationship between these ways of perceiving the performance of the body and the predominant methods of generating/presenting information in culture. I’m thinking something like the more essential nature of the body/dancing body beneath the ways in which we consider it, and the ways our modes of consideration might substantially effect the body itself. For example, does the body operate as a computer/information storage system, and we simply recognize it as such (metaphorically) due to our computer driven culture, or have we somehow cultivated the propensity for the body to function in this way due to our technology culture? I feel like I’m brushing up against my limited knowledge of neuroplasticity, and how ways of thinking literally restructure the neural pathways by which the organism operates.

And I agree when you say: “i am in no way denouncing this trend in the field. i am actually exhilirated by it. i feel continually challenged by it as a viewer to find a foundation for perception. a way to know it. a way to see it. a way to find my way through it.” I think maybe a question that you’re getting to is, “How do we look and still see the body AS the body?” This might be a point of connection between this speculation and my paper. The question on the surface is, “Where is the body?” but beneath the surface there seems to be the acknowledgment that the body, of course, is present, and the true question, the deeper question, seems to be concerned with ways of looking that reveal the presence of the body. For my paper, for looking at Synchronous Objects, it involves recognizing the way in which we are knowing, the way in which the material is legible, is essentially dependent on our embodiment. Perhaps there are similar recognitions for the presence of the body that might bring it to the forefront of seeing “the digitalized dancing body.”

Those are my Saturday afternoon thoughts.
Need to figure out an outfit for John and Vicki’s retirement party.

So excited about dinner tomorrow. I miss you; I need to see your face.

Comment by morrismichaelj

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