michael j. morris

brainstorming about research/dissertation

It never ceases to amaze me how just a little time and space (in this case, the first day of the Thanksgiving break) can allow so much development of thought.
I’m beginning (continuing?) to map through how some of these ideas, these various research pursuits, might cohere into concepts and theories, and eventually chapters and a possible dissertation.

The frame I’m beginning to construct (which will certainly go through the process of deconstruction and reconstruction, likely again and again and again) looks something like this:

It begins with the deconstruction of the discontinuous bounded individual/body, the body that stops at the flesh, the human subject that is discrete from the environment in which it occurs and the vast nexus of intersubjective forces by which the subject (and thus the body) comes into being. This could have its roots in phenomenology and the implication of the subject in the perceived life-world, reinforced by studies/philosophies of embodied cognition, perception, and maybe even psychology (I still feel like I need to educate myself on “continuum psychology” and “ecological psychology”). With this as a foundation, there is space to begin to incorporate (pun intended) Tantric philosophy (hopefully as a critical theory), queer theories, relationality, and most recently Georges Bataille (as of this week—this is still a very fresh connection), each one contributing to the destabilization of the fixed edges of the individual subject/body along trajectories of desire and the erotic (among other things). I feel like from there I could begin to establish a theory of ecosexuality, the mobilization of (queer) sexual epistemologies in the destabilization/expansion of the individual and the (anti-colonial) in-corporation of the perceived “other.” It might be necessary (I hope not) to address the subversion/mutation of the symbolic register (Lacan, I think?) as the affect of an ecosexual paradigm and performativity (in an effort to establish how/what things are changed by this altered sense of “self”/body).

This might constitute a first section, possibly with multiple chapters?

The second section is where this theoretical framework could begin to find application in dance practices. Right now (today) I’m framing these practices in three large groups:

1. The incorporation of space as the body: I feel like this is where Laban studies can come to bear, the body never functioning as a body in a vacuum, but a body-in-space whereby both the body and space take on (mobile) definition through their unity with one another. Other movement methodologies might also come into play, things like Viewpoints (of which I know almost nothing), architecture-based scoring systems, and space-based movement scoring. This might also include site-specific work and work that engages with the landscape as participant (like the Love Art Laboratory)

2. The incorporation of the “human-other” as the body-self: this is where I might look more directly at “traditional” body-to-body choreographic practices, whereby seemingly discrete bodies become intermingled and blurred in their clarity through their choreographic participation with one another. Here I am most interested in the intimate exchange between bodies, an intimacy that is based on interdependency and intersubjective corporeal construction, the movement exchange demonstrating the porousness, permeability, and mutability of bodies/selves.

3. The incorporation of the more-than-human “other” as the body-self: This could be the biggest section because is includes practices like Butoh (that involves the incorporation of the landscape, the environment, and imagery derived from that which is “other”) and Karl Cronin’s Somatic Natural History Archive, but also movement/dance/performance methodologies that incorporate artifacts/objects, such as the use of written scores, moving with props/objects (here I would love to look more at “object theater” as a practice), among other practices.

When I write things like this out, I begin to see where I need to focus my attention:

1. Fleshing out my foundation in phenomenology (yes, that means finishing Phenomenology of Perception)

2. Tackling “relationality”

3. Taking some time with continuum psychology and ecological ecology

4. Spend more time with Bataille

5. Go back to Laban’s early writings

6. Choreograph more (as research)

7. Write about Butoh; write about Karl Cronin


3 Comments so far
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Hey. Thanks once again for sharing your process on such interesting areas of enquiry : ) “…. I am most interested in the intimate exchange between bodies, an intimacy that is based on interdependency and intersubjective corporeal construction, the movement exchange demonstrating the porousness, permeability, and mutability of bodies/selves.” I love this sentence. As a dancer engaged in both ‘contemporary’ forms and maintaining traditional Egyptian dance forms (trance, folk and marshal) (through Hilal Dance) I have begun to think of the practice of dance as a means of manifesting and engaging with archetypes, dancing personas, postural forms and indeed cultural meaning in general- IE a dancer is not simply a piece of putty whose job it is to express the vision of a choreographer- A dancer literally embodies the very ‘culture’ of their community- ways of breathing, holding yourself, moving, expressing gender/ sexuality- Not just how you move as an individual but how you move in relation to each other, to the environment, to spirit – A dancer is not simply a canvas, which a choreographer can temporarily mark meaning upon- but a vessel for the continuing emergence and transformation of archetypes and cultural personas- What I am getting at is the idea that “intersubjective corporeal construction” through dance -engages something other than the individuals involved. It also engages postural dance personas which inhabit the ether in the same way that Jung speaks of archetypes. These archetypes can be seen expressed in the sculptures and art of ancient Egypt, of Classical India ( also manifest in the yoga traditions), Classical Rome and Greece and can still be seen in the amazing postures of Islander and indigenous cultures, Eastern marshall dance traditions (tai chi etc ) and those who continue to maintain traditions which span thousands of years….. The idea that these not quite corporeal forms have a visceral and tangible form, perhaps akin to the idea of “etheric” bodies? Intermediary forms- sitting somewhere between corporeality and ideas? Ideas- which have been thought so often they have created a groove in the space/time – body/mind- matter/spirit continuums ? hmmmmmmm This is a tricky idea to articulate. The ‘intimacy’ you speak of is partly born from sharing a persona/spirt/archetype (or a number of them) which at once inhabit each individual while also existing in between and beyond the individual, and indeed between time and space ? hmmmm thanks for the inspiration : )

Comment by Marianthe Loucataris

Thanks for reading and contributing to these ideas!

The reference to the in-corporation of archetypes reminds my of the notion of “nyasa” (a Tantric practice by which the body is becomes sensitized and marked as divine through touch, leaving marks of various goddesses on the physical/energetic form), but maybe even more so the notion of “mudra,” the assumption of gestural forms that invoke (archetypes of) the divine as the Self. Some of my research is dipping into Tantric philosophy at the moment, and these are ritual practices that pursue the destabilization of the individual self in exchange for a more inclusive/expansive Self.

What’s radical about any of these practices within a postmodern/posthuman/postructuralist world (I think) is the (perhaps subtle) recognition that the self is not fixed at its edges, the it has the capacity to take on/become/be “an-other,” whether that be the state of an archetype or embodying culture (beautiful notion), the re-enlivening of a dance from written score, the taking on/in/as movement from a choreographer, etc.

Thanks again for being part of this conversation!

Comment by morrismichaelj

Yes all good further thoughts : ) What continues to amaze me in my dance practice is the way that a conscious effort to effect physical change of our bodies through ‘mudras’ /repetitive physical practices and communion with the associated spiritual/persona forms becomes part of who we are. The more we allow for particular postural forms/personas to inhabit us the more they become part of our ongoing identity. And yes the relationship we have with choreographers or co -creators is powerful and fascinating in the porosity and fluidity of identity. Mirroring postural and energetic forms is such a powerful communicative tool. Dance is a conscious and ritualized form of this process which underlies all human communication. Everyone is mirroring and sharing postural forms/personas (albeit unconsciously) as they walk down the street, sit at their office desks, sit at the dinner table, do their gym work out, practice their soccer or basketball moves etc…… Dance and yoga practices and the like are just a conscious way of entering these realms with an awareness of the cultural, spiritual processes at work as well.. as the ‘physical’ training. ok….. hmmmmm these subjects do get me going …oh and I have been interested in tantric philosophy for some time and have read bits and pieces any suggestions as to your favorite texts on it ?

Comment by Marianthe Loucataris

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