michael j. morris

Re-Membering the Mountains
3 November, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: creative process, Dance | Tags:

This weekend I will be performing in Annie M. Sprinkle and Elizabeth M. Stephens Purple Wedding to the Mountains. You can view the event invitation here. It is an ecosexual wedding centered around the themes of the third eye chakra (ajna), intuition, the Moon, the Mountains, and water. I am performing a Butoh solo entitled “Re-Membering the Mountains” (the title and much of the inspiration is taken from an excellent article by Theresa May). The intention of the piece is a public ritual for the in-corporation of environmental melancholy, mourning, and re-membering in/as the body. The piece was also greatly inspired by the writings of Catriona Sandilands, specifically her article “Eco Homo: Queering the Ecological Body Politic” and “Melancholy Natures, Queer Ecologies.” The piece, along with the Purple Wedding as a whole, is partially in response to the violence of mountain top removal and environmental exploitation. However, consistent with much of the writing I have done about Sexecology and Ecosexuality, I also correlate a queer ecofeminist affinity between the exploitation/degradation/oppression of the environment with the oppressions of gender, sexuality, class, etc., recognizing that systems of oppression are mutually reinforcing, especially when the oppressed are inscribed as “other” and thus “less than.” The solo for me starts in a place of melancholy, the ungrievable loss (ungrievable in a society that does not/cannot view nonhuman beings, environments, and ecological reciprocities as appropriate objects for genuine grief–borrowing language here from Sandilands. She writes: “how does one mourn in the midst of a culture that finds it almost impossible to recognize the value of what has been lost?”); it proceeds to a place of mourning, suspended between the press to move forward/let go, and the lingering inability to let go of that which “cannot be lost;” and finally comes to a [Tantric] state of recognizing oneness with all things, letting go but in doing so becoming/recognizing more.

I begin in a deep bow, low to the ground (balasana, child’s pose, vulnerable and turned inward). I roll (am rolled) onto my back, chest splayed, back arched, legs wide, as if held down, as if violated, fists gripped, holding tightly to that which has been/is becoming lossed/lost [a predator/master is on top of me, exploding inside of me, and I am headless/helpless, and blown apart; at the surface of my skin, wildlife scatters, displaced, and I cling to them]. The struggle pushes into another roll, onto all fours, and then there is the crawl: the crawl is a struggle to stand, a struggle to be strong, to survive, to both escape and to push into what it means to be whole [in my ribs are massive stones rolling both down and up the mountainsides, in my groins the deep dark coal that has been exposed and eviscerated; there are explosions under my hands and knees, and earth is tumbling in my joints]. It is also mourning, a leaving behind of that which is lost as lost (while never fully expelling the melancholy of the loss that is ongoing) [behind me is smoke, and pieces of my self; behind me there is chaos and memory, and the trail to what I once was]. Finally, the crawl comes to standing, tadasana, mountain pose, gradually finding the engagement/alignment to stand strong, whole only as I begin to realize that “I am That,” and all things are one [my skin expands and dissolves, and I lose track of my edges; first I am dissolved as the sea, then I am everything, and in that everything, I am a mountain, a landscape of memory]. I mourn the loss of the particular, the mountains dismembered by human violence, the ongoing terrorism against queers and women and “others;” and I try to stand in that place before becoming, as that source which is/as all things is never lost. Rain falls and I sweep my hands through it, extending out to draw back it, finding creative potential in death and loss, coming again to the heart in which all things are One.

There are several quotes from the articles I mentioned above that have come to bear on the piece. Sandilands writes:
“Melanchoia, here, is not a failed or inadequate mourning. Rather, it is a form of socially located embodied memory in which the loss of the beloved constitutes the self, the persistence of which identification acts as an ongoing psychic reminder of the fact of death in the midst of creation” (Mortimer-Sandilands “Melancholy Natures,” 333).

“Particularly in a context in which certain lives are considered ungrievable–here, including both non-heterosexual and more-than-human relationships–melancholia represents a holding-on to loss in defiance of bourgeois (and capitalist) imperatives to forget, to move on, transfer attention to a new relationship/commodity” (Mortimer Sandilands “Melancholy Natures,” 354).

“In 1978 Grotowski himself quashed all attempts to theroise about paratheatre, saying, ‘when there is no division between actor and spectator, when every participant of the process is a person who is doing, then a description ostensibly from the outside, […] one that tries to grasp what is happening and why, [..] can only lead to misunderstandings […] Only a description “from within” is possible here (Kumiega 1985: 86)” (May, 345-346).

“Dolores LaChapelle posits a deep ecological practice in which ritual–a distillation through action of shared story–informs perception and thus shapes values and behaviours, reinforcing a reverent regard for the world . . . Reverence is a product of a consciously experienced and acknowledged reciprocity, a creative act of the ecological imagination” (May, 354).

“Cultivating reverence may be one of the most important personal acts forwarding cultural change. Yet our commercially bombarded lives allow little opportunity to exercise a careful regard for people or place. Theatre [and dance?] has the potential to become a place apart where actors and audience participate in an encounter that gives us pause” (May, 355-356).

“It is time to recuperate metaphor as a function of our material and sensorial embodiedness, the language of our ecological imaginations” (May, 356).

“[quoting Grotowski] The Mountain is something we aim towards, something which demands effort and determination. It is a kind of know, or central point, a point of concentration […] If there are places on earth where something beats like a pulse, or a heart, then one of these terrestrial pulse-spots would be the Mountain” (May 356).


2 Comments so far
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Thanks always for your sharings.
you have again inspired curiousity. Please can you tell me where I can dig more into this:
“It is time to recuperate metaphor as a function of our material and sensorial embodiedness, the language of our ecological imaginations” (May, 356).
Aloha to you. Xt

Comment by tea

It’s taken from Theresa May’s “Re-Membering the Mountain: Grotowski’s Deep Ecology” in the anthology “Performing Nature: Explorations in Ecology and the Arts,” edited by Gabriella Giannachi & Nigel Stewart.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for reading!

Comment by morrismichaelj

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