Today I am thinking about the relationship between what can be considered founding, constitutive relations of dispossession—the ways in which we are all always already given over to a world of others that form both who we are and the very conditions of our being—and the more willful or desiring ways in which one gives oneself to another or others, as in love. [For anyone familiar with my thinking and writing, it will no doubt be obvious that these thoughts are heavily influenced by the work of Judith Butler.]
The former perhaps—or certainly—prefigures the latter; the former conditions the possibility of the latter. Having been given over to a world already, in ways that constitute who one can or will be, to give of oneself to another will always in part be a citation or reference back to that fundamental dispossession. When there is a one to whom I give myself, surrender myself, or to whom I want to give or surrender myself—in which case I give/surrender myself to desire—how is that event different from or the same as the ways in which I am given over to, say, language, to ecological relations, to kinship systems, to gender norms and racial politics, to legal apparatuses and medical institutions and so on? In all of these ways, I enter a world that already exists, that precedes me, a world I did not make or choose, and I am reliant on this world of others and systems and structures and institutions in ways that not only ensure—and constrain—my living, but also come to define my sense of self. Who I am to myself and to others is shaped by the language I inherit, the family to whom I am born, the gender I am assigned and attributed, the race to which I am taken to belong, the rights I am afforded by systems of power, the healthcare to which I have access, and so on. And that sense of self, as it becomes available to me, is made available through those very words, categories, and ideas that originate beyond myself, in a world of others. Likewise, the sense of myself that I receive from others—how I am seen or recognized or misrecognized, and how that is reflected back to me—becomes enfolded into my sense of who I am, because I am always already in and of this world; who I am to the others of which this world is formed will directly and indirectly shape who I am to and for myself.
In short, I am never fully self-sufficient in my own being. The reliances and dependencies that knot me into this world of others are necessary for my existence, for my survival, and as such, “I” am never merely “my” self. I emerge from these necessary social, ecological, familial, political, juridical, cultural relations. This is what I mean when I ask about founding, constitutive relations of dispossession. These various worldly relations form the foundation of who I can be, they constitute who I am, and as such, “I” am dispossessed of “my” self.
So, dispossession or being given over to others is fundamental to what it means to be the subject or person that I am, and this fundamental dispossession is not of my choosing. I am born, never asked, to quote Laurie Anderson.
And then it happens that I encounter another, someone who it seems that I love or might love. And in this nebulous experience we call love, I want to give myself over to this other. I want to give of myself to them, and be taken by them. This is something that I desire and that I will.
But maybe there is a rupture there: in any number of ways, desire is not something that I will. Desire itself is an experience to which I am given over. In the longing of desire, the reaching for that which is thus far out of reach, I am also dispossessed—or perhaps displaced—from myself. When I desire, I am caught up in the swelling of feeling, that sense of need that may or may not be need, in which it seems that you are what I need; you are both necessary and out of reach, and if only I could reach you, have you, hold you, then I would be complete.
[In writing this, years of studying psychoanalysis—directly, and indirectly by way of feminist philosophy and queer theory—loom up, and I think: of course, to desire, perhaps even to love, is first and foremost a reproduction of the primary attachment to a caretaker, the longing of an infant for the one who will feed me, hold me, care for me. Desire is the excess of need, where those infantile patterns—of reaching out to be held, crying to be fed, twisting and turning to be reassured that I am not alone—resurface, no longer necessarily necessary in the same ways, but fixating on an other who will occupy the promise of fulfillment. Perhaps I am writing and thinking about issues that have been well-worn at this point; perhaps I am thinking and writing nothing new.]
But it is not merely the origins of desire that I am trying to think about…or the origins of love, why it is that we love and desire.
It is this question of dispossession, of being given over, first in ways we do not choose, and later in ways that we perhaps also do not choose—when we desire another—but that we nonetheless desire. When we desire to desire, and perhaps even more when we desire to love, we desire our own dispossession.
Perhaps like the primary caretaker attachments of infancy, dispossession can become associated with (or even identical to?) survival?
If being given over to others is necessary to my constitution, to both my survival and my sense of self, doesn’t it follow that I might become attached to the desire to become dispossessed? That I might desire being given over to another or others, or desire being given over to the desire to be given over to another or others, because that sense of being given over is knotted into what it means to survive and to be the me that I know as my self? Do we not come to love our dispossession when (it seems) our survival is at stake?
I think I am too easily transposing desire for another into being given over to another. Certainly, in desire we are given over to desire, which is a form of dispossession or displacement, but isn’t desire for another also, in some way(s), a desire for possession, for having, for belonging? [I’ll suspend for the moment the many layers of “possession,” and its potential relationship to property and capitalism, although those may be necessary layers to explore.] When I desire you, I desire to have your hand in mine, your lips to kiss, to hear your voice, to smell your scent, to taste you, to feel your flesh against mine. So, inasmuch as I am dispossessed by desire, it is also a longing for possession, for having. Why? For reassurance? Is it a power play? I am given over to a world of others in ways that I did not choose or will at the start, and now I desire to have you, as a way of recuperating a sense of my own power? [This is what the phallus is about, after all: having the phallus, being the phallus.]
But it is not enough usually simply to have you.
To desire you is also to desire your desire, to desire being desired by you. And if I am desired by you and I have you, you have me as well. To whatever extent I come to possess you, you possess me as well, and it is thus a(nother) (dis)possession that I desire. [And again, when I use “possess” here, I am meaning it almost entirely as “having,” in order to parallel my use of “dispossession,” not to suggest anything about property or ownership.] While I may not will myself to be given over to my desire, if I come to be possessed by you while also possessing you, it is because I have chosen to surrender. I have willed some part of this dispossession, and perhaps this is also a constitutive event in the formation of myself as a subject/person: if first I am formed by constitutive relations that I did not choose but of and with which I am formed, and this is necessary for my survival and sense of self, I perhaps then later come to will my own dispossession, my giving myself over to your desire, to my desire for your desire, in order to consolidate dispossession within or beneath my own will. Is this a re-writing or recuperation of sorts? I said at the start that the dispossession of desire will always be a citation or reference of those founding dispossessing relations that constitute one’s being. If this is the case, then to cite or reference those dispossessions now as an effect or result of my will is to enact a kind of restaging with/in a different set of conditions: when I was born and never asked, I was given over to relations in any number of ways that I did not choose; now, in choosing to be given over and dispossessed, even at the moment of dispossession, I consolidate some sense of myself as an agential subject, “in control” of even those experiences in which I have had the least control. In giving myself, I produce for myself a sense that I am in such a position to give, a position from which to choose to act, a position that I did not have at those moments that were fundamental to my formation.
Perhaps this is true of love as well. For now, my working definitions of love are something like: to contribute to the flourishing of another, to act as more than one self, to pursue a view of the world from the perspective of more than one. Love is an activity, not a feeling, although it can be fueled by strong feelings—usually desire. It is, by these definitions, fundamentally altruistic, not necessarily to the detriment of oneself, but to the side of oneself, for and towards others or an other. The surrender of “one self” for a self that is more than one. It is a giving of oneself to and for another or others, for their wellbeing. Is that giving also a kind of dispossession, in that what of oneself is given is no longer entirely or exclusively possessed by the self that is giving? Yes, I think so. Following the above, it seems reasonable that even in love, even when I am choosing to act with and for others, for their flourishing, I am perhaps also providing myself with a sense of my own agency. I consolidate myself as a willful subject (this is not a direct reference to Sara Ahmed, just an accidentally similar phrasing), in a sense “in control,” precisely at those times that I choose to be in less control, to surrender some sense of myself to or for another.
These thoughts are more speculative than conclusive. I don’t think I’ve developed a fully cohesive theory of desire, love, and dispossession here. But I think perhaps where it leads me is to ask: what is it that we are giving to ourselves—through the sense of giving, our sense of being able to give—even at our most loving, our most desiring, our most dispossessed?
Addendum (a few hours later):
While walking in the park, a few more ideas/implications occurred to me. If our authority over ourselves—our capacity to authorize our own giving of ourselves over to another—is something that we assure or reassure ourselves through the act of giving ourselves, then it seems that this authority is in question or uncertain. This is not surprising given that from the start we are not fully in control of ourselves in that we are acted upon by others in ways that we do not will or choose; it is not surprising then that our sense of our own authority over ourselves would be questionable or uncertain, but it seemed necessary to state. Given this uncertainty, if it is true that one provides oneself with a sense of agency or authority through the act of giving oneself in love or giving oneself over to desire or the desires of another, there is a kind of undoing. If I assure myself of my authority to give of myself through the act of giving, then it is precisely at the moment of providing myself with that reassurance that I am no longer entirely containable within my own authority or will. If the supplement of an other to whom one gives oneself is necessary to the self that gives, then that self is undone by that other just as that self has been done up.
This piece of writing began as journaling, partially in response to having read and re-read Judith Butler’s article “Responses: Performative Reflections on Love and Commitment” (Women’s Studies Quarterly 39, No. 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2011), 236-239) this week, partially as a part of my ongoing pursuit of the question, “what is love?” which continues to be situated within the context of my living experiences of loving and being loved. These are rambling thoughts and questions, but they are the start of something that feels worth sharing.
To say “I love you” is to position myself within a particular speech act, a performative with a history of enunciation—a history both personal and in excess of my person—and to bring that history of enunciation to bear on and with/in the present situation in which that declaration is made. It positions the present in relation to that history of enunciation, bringing something of that history into the present, and directing the force of that performative history—the history of “I love you” having been said—into a present constitution of myself, to the degree that something of myself is within what I say.
But to offer this phrase, to say “I love you,” is also to add to this history of enunciation. The occasion on which I am moved to say “I love you” is also it seems to pose a question to this speech act: what of this present situation moves me to say “I love you,” and, having been moved to do so, what of this situation and movement illuminates something of what it is that I mean when I say these words? Indeed, since to say “I love you” positions myself and another as “I” and “you” in a manner of direct address, positions that might be assumed by any number of subjects, the present situation of enunciation might also be an occasion on which to ask why one—not only myself—might be moved to say these words.
To say “I love you,” to identify something that I recognize between you and I as “love,” raises more questions, questions that may not be answerable in the end:
What of this is “love”?
How might my recognition of this as love say something of what I believe or understand love to be?
In that this moment and the perspective it provides can be called new—a new that belongs to now and never before—and in that sense cannot be fully identical to any other occasion on which I have said “I love you”—or on which “I love you” has been said—or on which I have recognized something as love, how might this present present an amendment or modification of what I understand love to be?
More broadly, to the degree that all recognition is only partial recognition, because it relies upon a structure of time in which the present cannot be identical to the memories on which recognition is founded, recognition requires a partial revision of the memory of what came before. For instance, if I have come to recognize same-sex marriage as marriage, I have necessarily revised a certain previous [normative] understanding of what it meant to marry. Even in interpersonal situations, if I recognize you as my parent or sibling, I must in a partial sense overwrite or add to my existing memory of who you have been with who I now see you to be.
Questions about love have led the to questions about time and recognition, memory and language, the ways in which they structure and produce meaning…
Is there a way of thinking the meaning of love outside of these terms? I don’t think so.
So then, to love, or to recognize and identify an experience as love, involves a partial recognition that requires a revision of the terms through which that recognition was extended. To love—in the present and ongoingly—is to add to and in that sense revise some part of what love has meant and what makes love recognizable. Love then must remain open, at least in part, to such revision.
Does speaking in terms of recognition imply the possibility of mis-recognition? And if so, if to love or to call something love—as in the act of saying “I love you”—depends upon a process of recognition, then does it—must it—become necessary to inquire after the possibility of mis-recognizing or mis-identifying love? It seems that it is possible, looking back, to say, “I thought that was love, but I was wrong.”
To mis-recognize love would be to first recognize or believe oneself to recognize love, and then, afterwards, to realize that recognition to be somehow mistaken. But if recognition of love always involves some revision of the terms by which life is recognizable, then even in the case of what might become known as mis-recognition, such a revision of terms must have already taken place. What one might eventually come to no longer recognize as love will have already been added to what one has recognized as love; by what process would one undo such a revision of the terms by which love might be recognized after realizing one’s own mis-recognition?
Or: is it possible that love itself consists of this recognition, such that even when one might say, “I thought that was love, but I was wrong,” this does not negate, erase, or undo that initial recognition, which could then be said to have-been-love while no longer being recognized as love? Is it possible that what one might come to recognize as “not love” might continue to “have been love” if love is in part the experience of recognizing it as such?
Within these questions is also the question or concern regarding the reliability of the memories by which love comes to be recognized: when and how has one known or recognized love? What is the composition or consistency of how one has known love or what has been recognized as love? What were the conditions under which love was first or previously known, and how do those conditions structure what might or must then be recognized as love?
If to love in the present requires that love remain partially open to revision, its correspondence to some previous experience requires that some parts of love remain consistent and made to persist. These stable or consistent parts of what has been known as love, that must persist in order for one to love, to go on loving and recognizing love, are likely highly individual—an individuality that gets obscured as soon as we call it “love,” a term which one neither invents nor to which one has exclusive access or use—and these individual, personal associations with what has been known as love constrain what love can then be.
The previous scenes, situations, and conditions in and through which one has known love must persist in order both for one to recognize love, and for one to retain a sense of having loved and been loved. They must persist in order to enable a possible future for love as well as a retention of a certain version of oneself, a self who has known love. These previous scenes and situations, the characteristics and experiences which one has previously known as love, must be reinscribed, recreated, and reconstituted in the present, in order to recognize this as love, and in order to recognize oneself as loving and being loved, and having loved and having been loved. This means that love requires the individual to reconstitute the past in the present, at least in part, enough so that the present might be called “love.” Where love has previously meant care and affection and support, for instance, this means that care and affection and support must be recreated and made to persist in the present. This also means that where love has meant injury or abuse, where injury or abuse have been previous recognized and identified as love, these conditions must also be recreated and made to persist. For the one who has experienced injury or abuse, and had these experiences called “love,” this one must insist—consciously or unconsciously—on recreating these scenes and conditions in order to go on experiencing what can be called love and in order to maintain a memory of having been loved and the possibility of being loved again. To do otherwise would risk revising one’s own history, one’s own constitution: it would allow for the possibility that one has not known love, that one has been unloved. To do so would mean that one does not know if one can be loved, or how one might recognize love otherwise.
But, again, if love must always remain partially open to revision, then love also becomes a situation in which histories of injury and abuse can be revised: not an erasure of having been, but an amendment of that having been love. This is some of the potential of love perhaps: its necessary partial openness allows that loving in the present might be how we rediscover what love can be, recognize when and how we have not loved or have not been loved, and intervene in patterns of behavior through which we insist on the persistence of injury and abuse in order to secure love. And possibly to heal.
This potential is not the entirety of love, as if one could speak of love’s entirety. While love might be an opportunity to address or revise one’s relation to one’s own past, it is of course also an opportunity to create what might become in one’s future. What we recognize as love in the present conditions what we might then recognize as love in the future. There are any number of ways through which love might be recognized, many of which do not require declaration. But to return to where I began, saying “I love you,” whatever else it might do, could provide an opportunity for intervening in what is recognized as love, what has been recognized as love, and what might then become recognizable as love.
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance | Tags: "love is not a pie", amy bloom, autumn quartet, coco loupe, love, love art lab
This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of seeing my dear friend CoCo. It seems that without fail CoCo has a way of shifting or adding to my perspective of my own work. Saturday evening amidst the revelry of a birthday party, she referred to my documentation/description of the process of “Autumn Quartet” and mentioned her realization that throughout all of what I’ve written, there is no mention of love.
I have to admit, I was a little stunned. I thought of the Love Art Laboratory, and how I hold them as such icons, such inspirations for my work. Their stated purpose is to create work that explore, generates, and celebrates love. Their work served as a significant inspiration for this piece; I am particularly moved by what I perceive to be a sensational integration of life and art in their lives, and as I initiated this piece, I think it was my goal to synthesize or replicate some aspect of that integration. I am not convinced that I succeeded in this intention (I’m not even sure that I know/knew what the realization of that intention would look like), but certainly the piece has become something, something full of content and implications and complexity and contradiction, orbiting around increasingly pronounced topics/themes. I can be pleased with that.
So now there is this question of “love.” Where is love in this composition of implication/explication, violence, sexuality, undressing, power dynamics, etc.? I think my immediate response is that I don’t know how to choreograph love. I’ve figured out ways to choreograph these other elements, but I don’t know if I can compose or orchestrate love. And yet I think that we love each other. I know that I love Erik, Eric, and Amanda, and I know that the process of this piece has been a significant contributor to the cultivation of that love . . . and yet I never set out to make that a goal. I don’t feel responsible for whatever love we feel for one another . . . instead, I feel responsible for creating a space, a situation, in which relationships occur. They could have gone any way . . . this process could have made us despise one another, perhaps. Or maybe not . . . so much of it has been about intimacy and trust, knowing one another in intimate and corporeal ways. Maybe when we dare to engage another person like that, love is inevitable? It that too utopian? Is it even accurate?
When I was talking with Beth and Annie in San Francisco, I remember talking about the space between sex and love, and Annie said, “Well, all sex is love.” Beth responded, “No, it isn’t. Not necessarily. Some sex is just fucking.” I think the conclusion that we came to was that even “just fucking” had the potential to be a kind of love. Love has many forms.
It makes me think of a short story I read last week by Amy Bloom entitled “Love is Not a Pie.” A crucial moment in the story comes when it is revealed that a woman has two loves, her husband and their friend who is also her lover. She explains to her daughter that love is not a pie; it is not something that is sectioned off and dolled out. It is different with each person, for her husband, for her lover, for each of her daughters, etc. Love is big and diverse. “Just fucking” may be a kind of love. Dancing and biting and undressing may be kinds of love.
Maybe love is another implication in the piece that could use explication? Maybe that’s another consideration for the growth/development of the piece. How do we forefront love along with violence and sex and intimacy?
We only have four more “rehearsals” for the piece. We’ll only do it four more times. I entirely expect that it has already changed, already transformed. I expect this consideration of love may shift/change it further. And I fully expect further observations/revelations/recognitions to occur in the process. At the end of the quarter, it will not be the same as it has been.
Filed under: art, creative process, culture, Dance, research | Tags: "About", Alessio Silverstrin, choreographic object, choreography, improvisational technologies, love, monster partitur, nik haffner, osu, pauline oliveros, sexuality, steven halpern, Synchronous Objects, wexner, William Forsythe
Just a reminder for my (local) readership:
I am premiering a new piece this week entitled “About.” It is being included the the OSU Dance Winter Concert. Here are the details:
Thursday, 12 March-Saturday, 14 March
Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for senior citizens, students, and anyone with a Buck ID
This concert is a presentation of student work, ranging from undergrad to grad, coming out of the OSU Department of Dance.
This new piece of mine is for seven dancers and includes sounds by Pauline Oliveros and Steven Halpern.
Also coming up this week is an LGBT film festival at the Wexner. It is the same nights of the Winter Concert, so I will not be able to attend, but if you come to the concert one night and have one or two more evenings free next weekend, I highly recommend this event. I see this sort of programming as an important step in developing a broader awareness of and respect for the LGBT community. By supporting these events, we communicate that sense of value to the Wexner. During a time in our country in which equality is still a question waiting to be answered, it seems increasingly relevant when highly respected, public institutions such as the Wexner issue statements regarding LGBT individuals, couples, artists, and rights in this country.
You can find out the details here.
from Love Songs being shown Friday, 13 February
Other events in which I will be involved a bit farther off are also at the Wexner and revolve around the work of William Forsythe. I have not discussed very much here, but this quarter I am participating in a workshop exploring the studio techniques, ideas, and technologies of William Forsythe, partially through the instruction of Nik Haffner, a former dancer with Forsythe’s company, and an important collaborator on Forsythe’s “Improvisational Technologies.” (“Improvisational Technologies” is a CD-ROM that was developed to illustrate Forsythes methods for improvisation, movement generation, and choreographic devices being employed in his company. Originally for use within the company as a way of educating new company members, the CD-ROM was published in the 1990s and now has become a public resource for informing improvisational and choreographic processes) This workshop, offered through the OSU Department of Dance, is culminating with these Wexner events.
The first is the performance of Monster Partitur delivered by dancer Alessio Silverstrin. Our role in this piece is the construction of sculptural objects and drawings that then serve as the “score” for the piece. You can read more about the piece and details for the performances here. This piece originated from Forsythe’s experience of the illness and death of his wife. In a meeting yesterday, even just hearing the story of how the piece came about became an overwhelming emotional experience. The piece is accompanied by an installation which includes a text written by Forsythe himself describing his wife’s illness. He spoke of her bleeding and of her becoming more and more bent, to the point at which she could no longer dance, set in painful contrast to her remarkable abilities before her illness. This loss of ability,loss of who she once was, and eventually the loss of her entirely, became the source of this piece. After her death, he unwrapped a Christmas present that had been given to her. It was a life-size cardboard skeleton kit. It is from kits such as those that we will create bent, irregular sculptures. It is the shadows of these sculptures that we will trace onto panels. And it will be these traces that will become the “score” for the piece.
from Monster Partitur. In the image you can see a version of the sort of sculptural objects we will be creating.
This performance is part of a larger exhibition entitled “William Forsythe: Transfigurations” that will be on display at the Wexner. Without writing a paper on Forsythian methodologies, I will offer that much of Forsythe’s research has been in the area of the “choreographic object,” (this article is written by Forsythe and offers a brief explanation of how he thinks of “choreographic objects”) and how the intrinsic information/knowledge in choreography might be explored or translated into other forms (apart from but not excluding the dancing body). This exhibition brings a collection of these “objects” into the gallery spaces of the Wexner. It is the first presentation of this significant body of work in the United States. You can read more about the exhibition here.
Finally, on April 1, in conjunction with both of these components relating to Forsythe’s work, the Wexner is holding a symposium entitled, “William Forsythe Symposium: Choreographic Objects.” This symposium is also coordinated with the launch of a long-term collaborative research project between Forsythe, the OSU Department of Dance, and ACCAD at OSU entitled “Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced.” This research is going live online on April 1, and is the demonstration and explication work exploring this concept of “choreographic objects” and how they open new access points into the knowledge/information of choreography. More about the Wexner Symposium can be found here.
Many things coming up. I wish I could offer more critical or analytical analyses of each of these events, but for the moment, simply offering the information is all that time allows. Mark your calendars, and I hope to see you there.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: emergent taxonomy, gender, love, nijinska, same-sex marriage, the body
We have reached the end of the quarter, my first quarter of grad school. I only had a minor postpartum meltdown last night, mourning the absence of so much that has filled my every minute for the last few months. My paper on Nijinsky and Nijinska is complete for now. It’s title is “The Negotiation of Gender in the Work of Nijinsky and Nijinska,” and comes in just over 25 pages. I cannot say that I think it is finished. I hope that I continue to let that material sort itself out in my mind, and that I can revisit the paper with more of my own thoughts/speculations/contributions to the dialogue of Nijinsky and Nijinska, rather than writing a paper that simply agree and disagrees with previous statements made by other scholars. So I see the paper as an ongoing affair, continuing to dance with these ghosts a bit.
One of the things that I was interested in coming out of this blog was new thought sparked by the juxtaposition of other thoughts, which is so evident in my “tag cloud” on the left. The big words are the ones that have been mentioned with more regularity, and so on. Today, the biggest words are Election, Gender, Nijinska, and Research, with Love and Yoga and Dance coming in next. Things I see when I look at the cloud:
-“Election” nestled between “Dance” and “Emergent Taxonomy;” what a beautiful implication, that somehow dance might contribute to the emergent (democratic) process that governs policy in our nation. It makes me think about the role of the body, the presence and intelligence of the body, governance of the body, laws that impose hierarchical concepts on the body (like, in New York, you have to have a permit if three or more people are dancing in a public space; or transfats being banned by the FDA; laws that restrict/prohibit specific sexual activities in certain parts of the country; etc.) The body is so intrinsic to the individual. We so frequently in our culture operate under a Cartesian understanding of the body as a machine which houses the mind or spirit, and yet the body is central to all experience. It is through the body that we are present in the world, it is through the body that we sense, perceive, know, decide. All of our thought processes begin in the body. So what does it say about a society that is supposed to operate out of a consensus of individuals that governing bodies impose restrictions on bodies? It is so much deeper than restricting action. It feels like censorship of the individual experience itself, that from which everything stems. And maybe it seems benign, but I am interested it how it even comes about, and what it might mean that a society allows that sort of governance. . .
-I see the three big words of “Election” “Gender” and “Nijinska.” I could (did?) write a small book on the subject of Nijinska and gender right now . . . but relating it to “election” (which today is representing the democratic process, the process of government coming out of decisions made by masses, people casting votes and their laws and leaders coming up out of that process. . . maybe it’s just because it is right above “emergent taxonomy” but democracy is intended to be emergent) . . . Nijinska’s two most significant works were Les Noches (which you can see videos of in a previous post) and Les Biches (of which only accounts remain). Both were profound social commentaries on gender, the former an examination of the oppression that was (is?) intrinsic to the institution of marriage, specifically in peasant Russia, the latter which protested gender roles by radically reconstructing and redefining them in a vibrant cast of characters that addressed a range of social taboos, including narcissism, voyeurism, lesbianism, gender ambiguity, group sex, etc.
My first thought from this juxtaposition has to do with same-sex marriage in this country. This is an issue that should not get quiet. I think about Prop. 8 and how America is systematically outlawing (but thankfully not without avid resistance) marriage between individuals of the same sex. And I think about Nijinska’s commentary on marriage in Les Noches, how the individuals were simply swept away by the tide of social expectation, in which marriage had nothing to do with love, mutuality of feeling, or even the individuals involved. Instead, marriages were arranged by families in order to provide the groom’s family with a new worker, the bride. So much more severe is the oppression of the bride, who is stripped from her family, her mother, and handed over to her “new” family. But the oppression is no respecter of gender, because desire of the groom is also discounted. he becomes merely the vehicle through which to expand the family, by adding a bride and, by implication in the ballet’s last image, the wedding bed, children.
I can’t help but draw connections between Nijinska’s perception and representation of marriage, and the perception/representation of marriage in America today. Inversely, America seems to say that the ‘oppression’ of marriage is a respecter of gender, because it is an oppression of exclusion based on gender. It somehow maintains a disconnection from love, mutuality of feeling, and the individuals. Likely married heterosexual couples would disagree. They would say that do love one another, that it was by their own election to marry and to consecrate their relationship in this institution. I would ask them to recognize that while that may be true, clearly that is not the reason they are married, because our country is legislatively stating that those factors are not enough to be married. To married you must before all else be a man and a woman; that remains the essential component. You can be married without love, without mutuality of feelings, or likely even without the election to such state by the individuals in involved (I think of couples who get married to please their parents, or out of pressure by their spouse, etc.). In looking at the role of gender in the decisions being made in our country through the lens of Nijinska, I have to say I am a bit startled. Her piece was staged in 1923 in Europe. How bizarre that despite all of our social progress, connections can still be made between the society, marriage, and treatment of gender then to now.
-I see “Love” situated right in the middle of the list . . . and it seems simple to see an ideal portrait of all that surrounds it as an emanation of this central concern. Love in our listening. Love in our research. Love in our art and the appreciation of/participation in the art of others. Love in the Art Lab. Love in our elections, our democracy emerging from love rather than discrimination and hate. Love in our dance, our collaboration, our choreography. Love in our anxiety. Love in our marriage. Love in our technology. In our Yoga.
Clearly that is an ideal. It raises the question from where do all these things emanate? What is situated at “the heart of things,” as it were? What are the underlying values that we are privileging in the work we do, the way we work, the things we research, the kind of nation we are building? As we participate in emergent processes, what is it we bring to that field of potentialities, and from where do our contributions come from?
I think these are good thoughts, good connections here at the end of the quarter. New ideas arising out of the ideas that have been catalogued here.
Lastly, check out the new blogs in my blog role. An array of different voices, mostly my colleagues, each with a different approach to blogging, with spectacular ideas to contribute to your own emergent taxonomy today.
Filed under: cosmology, creative process, yoga | Tags: john friend, listening, love, nita little, softening, Yoga
I have been inspired over the last several days by a familiar concept reframed, re-imaged, re-articulated, from several sources.
The first came in the form of Nita Little who taught a master class and presented her research this week at OSU. She is one of the originators of Contact Improvisation (along with Steve Paxton), and to have the opportunity to experience her was incredibly rewarding for me. Of the many things she offered which found fertile ground in my current thoughts, creative development, and research, she offered this concept of softness in her master class. She asked how we sense, how we feel one another, and her answer was softness. In softening, we become receptive, impressionable, open to information (kinesthetic, emotional,cognitive, etc.), and vulnerable. In C.I., she offered that in softening the musculature, the hold on the skeleton, the gaze, the epidermis, etc., we become receptive, more capable of perceiving and knowing our partner, their weight, their center of gravity, their “small dance,” and it is in this sensing that true connection takes place. I cannot help but also read this as a metaphor, and a macrocosmic theme in my life right now.
Today I began reading the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual by John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. In his overview of Yoga Philosophy, I was again presented with this idea of softening, in a different frame. He articulates Tantric cosmology as all things an emanation of Absolute Consciousness, in which all things are One, and distinction is a construction within a limited reality for the purpose of bliss, the bliss of revelation, of contrast, of beauty, of connecting that which is essentially one, of understanding. He reminds me that “yoga” literally means to unite or yoke, a process of re-integrating that which is already One, part of or an expression of higher Absolute Consciousness or Being. To me, this is a kind of softening. Recognizing our boundaries, our edges, our distinctions, as limited constructions, revealing our true boundless nature to be something beyond our corporeal, temporal form, we soften our concept of distinction or separateness and approach an understanding of ourselves as intrinsically connected by a common substance or Source. Friend calls this commonality “Absolute Consciousness” or “Boundless Goodness” or “Boundless Being”. I think of this as Love, the underlying commonality/connection of our being. . .
I am interested in how these ideas/approaches/philosophies might inform my concept of the Listening Body, listening being a metaphor for awareness, receptivity, Nita Little attributing receptivity to softening, John Friend articulating softening as a realization of boundlessness. I am interested in the synthesis of these ideas.
Filed under: culture | Tags: gender, love, prop. 8, same-sex marriage, sexuality
A friend sent me this video today, a Special Comment segment offered by Keith Olbermann, a sportscaster and news anchor for MSNBC, which aired on November 10th. I found it radically significant and moving.
Ever since the election on November 4th, I have been troubled, saddened, and angered by steps that are continuing to be taken in this country. Again this year states voted to ban same-sex marriage by amending their constitutions to permanently enshrine this discriminatory policy. That makes 28 states who have made it their law that the relationships of homosexual Americans will not be recognized as equal to those of heterosexual Americans. California passing Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, a right that had already been legalized in the state, made history because it not only prevents equality, it retracted equality that had already been awarded. Arkansas passed a bill that prevents single individuals from adopting children, effectively prohibiting families with same-sex parents, who are banned from marrying.
I am conflicted in wake of these decisions. A part of me is ready to engage in conversation and action to see these decisions reversed. A part of me no longer feels as if I can call this my country, a country in which I may never be free to live with equal rights due to my sexual orientation or who I love.
My thoughts are conflicted and scattered, but Keith Olbermann articulates much of what I feel. I was moved by his words and felt compelled to share them with you. I am asking you to take the time to watch this six and a half minute video clip, and listen to what he says. You may already hold a perspective similar to the one Olbermann articulates. Or you may be compelled to explore a new perspective. You may disagree with what he says; you may desire to dialogue further, with me, or with others in your life. I welcome whatever response. I simply ask that you take the time to watch and reflect.