michael j. morris

performance journal: sketches of shame
16 January, 2011, 10:08 am
Filed under: creative process | Tags: ,

I am finally starting the “performance journal” that I was asked to keep as part of the Theorizing Performance course I am taking this quarter. I went through several versions of what this journal might address: it could look at my yoga practice, especially as I am now functioning in the role of student for the quarter (rather than teacher); it could look at this new relationship I’m in and how I perform my self, how I perform “relationship;” I am performing “Re-Membering the Mountains” twice in the next couple of months, and there seems to be content I could generate about how I prepare and perform that process; I also just started re-staging “Sketches of Shame” this week, and I think there is much to be said about the performance of this piece, our selves/my self in the rehearsal process, etc.
It is this last version on which I’ve chosen to embark.

We had our first rehearsal this past Thursday. I taught Daniel the material from “Clara’s solo.” I am always aware of the dynamics fostered between the role of choreographer and the role of dancer. It can sometimes be startling how much control I have in the situation (not that Daniel doesn’t retain his agency; but his complies, so very readily, with whatever action I give him). I’m still fascinated by this process of body-form, body-materialization, whereby my movement becomes enacted through his body, and in doing so, a form of power becomes enacted through his body as well. It leaves traces; his body is different after the rehearsal.

In the actual demonstration of the action, there is a constant sense of measurement, between what I’m doing and what it “really is.” This “really” is primarily in correspondence to Clara’s performance on the video of the piece (itself a performance of what my body taught hers, my movement now remembered through her body . . .), but also corresponds to my notions of  what the movement “really needs.” It’s a curious question, to interrogate my sense of “how it should be done.” I created this movement, so where then does the standard come from? What does it mean to perform with that constant sense of self-determined measurement? Isn’t that what the self-policing of performative identity is all about?

I’m also interested in how I perform openness, ease, playfulness, awkwardness. We are dealing with some fairly intimate choreography, and my mannerisms throughout the evening felt like/were a constant attempt at metabolizing tension.I performed ease (or attempted to perform ease) in order to make the situation easy. I performed certainty and contemplation. I performed intimacy (“this isn’t weird because we know each other so well”). None of these performances were false (that turns out a whole new question of truth/falseness, authenticity, etc.), but they were performed none the less.

Finally, there’s something about what it is the piece is performing, and this is the most ambiguous. On the surface level, we are performing sex then self-violence. The self-violence indicates an external regulatory force (namely religion, but also possibly observation; shame). In the sex, we’re potentially performing homosexual bodies, homosexual desire, but it’s subverted. The male-ness of the bodies comes into question (hopefully), when the sex is legible more as lesbian or trans sex. Are we performing supplementary bodies? Transmutable bodies? Transferable bodies? Queer bodies? Mutually penetrable bodies. We may perform safe-sex (performing the management of bodies, the policing of body fluids). If we don’t use condoms, are we performing danger/violence? If we exchange fluids, we are performing something distinct and potentially profound . . . but latex boundaries perform with equal profundity. Just differently . . .

Do we perform pleasure? This is a lingering question after our last rehearsal. We’ll see how this question might evolve. If we do perform pleasure, what does it mean to situate pleasure “outside” of the body, the pleasure of prosthetic? Does the performance of pleasure become suspect? Or does it become the act by which the prosthetic becomes incorporated in/as the body?

1 Comment so far
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I think it well that a male body be performing that half of the solo; it reminded me of John Shapiro. I thought of him in places when performing it. Particularly the ending.

Comment by Clara

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