michael j. morris

Letting go of Autumn Quartet
11 March, 2010, 8:19 am
Filed under: creative process | Tags:

I am already exhausted today and the day has hardly started. I did not sleep well last night; around 4AM I stopped trying. I got out of bed and tried to get my mind off of things by doing household chores. Around 5AM I decided to shower, make coffee and “start” my day.

I can’t seem to get my mind to slow down and stop spinning. In my yoga class this morning my theme is revisiting the idea of “letting go” (the arching theme of the Bhagavad Gita, which we have read from this quarter). It seems apt here on the last day of class, the last week of the quarter, transitioning from one season to the next, winter to spring. It’s personal as well: last night was the last practice for Autumn Quartet. It has been a process for us since September, and now it is over. And as I laid in bed all night unable to sleep, I realize how much I am not ready to let go of it. I feel as if I am only now beginning to fully understand some of what we were doing, the potential significance of what was going on, and I feel torn between the desire to go deeper into those places, investigating their possibilities and implications, and the reality that at least within this project, this process, the unique constellation of the four of us, I will not have that opportunity. I keep feeling sensations similar to the cyclical reprocessing of an argument, when you keep thinking of what you could have said, what you “should” have said. It’s a sensation of, “Oh, but . . .” only to realize that there is no space in which to make such amelioration. It is now passed, “fixed” in memory (as much as memory can be considered fixed), and I find myself in the present, faced now with the work of letting go.

Because so much of how I have thought about this piece has been described here, it feels natural to share the perspectives that are occurring to me now, this week. The first has to do with intimacy, as demonstrated in the stripping and biting, and even in the source material from which those actions were inspired (the stripping coming from the season finale of season 2 of The L Word, the biting inspired by the craze of vampirism in popular media). It has something to do with a kind of situation in which intimacy occurs . . . situations in which we ask/desire others to be responsible for our intimacy. There’s something about the desire to be intimate and the construction of a situation in with the “other” is made responsible for that intimacy. When we strip for one another, it is a response. I have almost exclusively considered my situation in the role of the “angry gestures” which demands for someone else to strip. I’ve considered the dynamics of power of this construction (the person in “angry gestures” being stuck there until someone responds, the shift of power when someone does respond, and the negotiation of how far the person will strip), but I have not been explicit in my explication of the implicit desire in these roles. When I am in “angry gestures,” it is both compulsory (prescribed by the algorithm) but also motivated: I choose to initiate the phrase that brings me to that “terminal position” and at least in part that choice is fueled by desire: I want someone to undress for me.  However, only recently have I become aware of my experience of desire in the other role, the one responding by stripping. On some level, there is the desire to undress, to be undressed by the actions of the person in “angry gestures” (I am the one removing my clothing, but they are the one’s demanding it; I am being undressed by the both of us). This is what I am recognizing as the construction of a situation in which the “other” is made responsible for the intimacy between us: I am undressing, but it is because I have put myself in a situation in which I am being asked (demanded, forcefully) to undress. I have a similar experience in waiting to be bitten. By bringing myself to that “terminal position” I am asking to be bitten. It is a dramatic transference of responsibility for intimacy, an explicit desire/request/demand to be bitten, to be inside someone else’s mouth. Of course, these are partially abstractions of my experience. The emotions involved are rarely as clear and unaffected as this: the piece is (was . . . I keep writing in the present tense, the piece is now over . . .) intrinsically interpersonal, our relationships form the piece (on some level) and the piece has formed our relationships (on some level). There were plenty of times, depending on how I was feeling about the other person (or perhaps more specifically how I was feeling about myself in relation to the other person) that I specifically did not want to strip for someone . . . but even that is not uncomplicated. If I truly didn’t want to engage in that situation, then I would not have; there was nothing in the score that demanded that I respond. If I did so, it was fueled by some degree of desire to do so, whether it was an act of care for the person in the terminal position, an intentional demonstration of doing what I did not want to do, or simply (none of this is simple) a unit in an ongoing dialogue of our relationship.

As with the themes of violence and sexuality that emerged in the piece, I think this dynamic of the transference of responsibility for intimacy has implications as a meta-commentary on dance practice itself, the “tell me what to do so that I can do it” way in which so much of dance training and choreographic process is organized. Again, this is an oversimplification of what is in practice a flowing tide of agency between dancer and choreographer, instructor and student, but still I think it gets at something, something like “enable me to do this thing that I desire to do.” This of course has personal implications as well.

I need you to make it possible for me to do what I desire to do.
I feel as if I am ranging dangerously close to a psychological self-analysis through the analysis of this piece, the structures I put in place and what they may elucidate about either the way in which I construct/conduct relationships or the way in which I want to construct/conduct relationships. An implicit respect for the agency of the other, a need to not overstep that agency, and in desiring, a request for the other to make it possible to act on that desire.

This week I also finally began to understand some of the choices I made regarding the sound score, what it might mean to go from “Poker Face” to “Bad Romance,” how the one might lead to the other (playing games and what playing games get you), and the appropriation of the text of various docu-porns.

But the day is moving on. The sun will be up soon, birds are already chirping (it must be spring after all), and I have to teach yoga. Continue to practice letting go.

1 Comment so far
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts after last night. Incredibly intriguing!

Comment by Maggie Page

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