Space/Motion/Dance: A Brief Sketch
One of the major themes which has crept into my dissertation (largely due to Reza’s influence) is that of space and, by connection, motion. The obvious reason for this is the fascinating work of geometrical-cognitive theorists (Bailly, Longo, Berthoz, Magnani, etc) which argues for geometrical articulations of deep natural processes whether mental, biological, physical or otherwise. By tying motion and space to such concepts, one is able to construct speculative theories which avoid over-emphasizing the discretizing regime (again, borrowing from Reza) as the fundamental explanatory engine.
For myself, space and motion discussed in these ways gives better tools for explaining Schelling’s meontological concept of nature (neither strictly being nor strictly becoming) as a asymmetrical dialectic of the churning of space-time. More specifically, since Schelling is always ungrounding and removing the purported ‘necessary’ conditions of any given thing, thinking in terms of space-time as evolution and involution, as a tension between creation and inhibition, allows one operational (or we might say skeptically epistemological) ways of talking about possible grounds.
This is what Gilles Chatelet emphasizes in the last third of Figuring Space (better translated as The Stake of the Mobile) when he states that Schelling invents a radical concept of the virtual as movement and as diagram. Movement, and the perception of movement, is essential to one of Schelling’s more interesting (and most often dismissed concepts) that of productive intuition. This is because the virtual is not a pure potentiality but a potentiality discovered only when a motion is engaged.
Despite it’s largely physical ambit, productive intuition, for Schelling, begins with the problem of the self (a body) perceiving itself as a body. Schelling argues in the The System of Transcendental Idealism that philosophy has been lost in trying to explain the passage from a purely passive or empirical self to the self of activity or intentional action. Schelling argues that the activity of the self, in order to recognize its passivity or limitation, must inhibit its own activity at some point in order to function. That is, it is only through constraint that any activity (mental or otherwise) is capable of sense. One connection which could be made here, via Metzinger and others, is that a self-model or other functional delusion is necessary in order to think at all.
Intuition, if we can wrestle the concept from an overly simplified parochial version as a kind of immediate knowledge, as well as from its massive inflation at the hands of thinkers like Bergson, becomes a form of thinking rooted, however indirectly, in the pre-model swamp of our brain, but that aspires to something like bodily sympathy. As Alain Berthoz discusses in “Watching Dance,” sympathy can be connected to intuition as a kind of pantomime but one filtered through the subject’s own self-model ie ‘I copy you on my own terms.’ Empathy would be the stronger case, of actually putting onself in the place of the performer or object (whatever form of restricted activity). This removal of limitation itself must be limited as, evidence in the following study, the perception of one’s own movement in relation to external movement is paramount for survival.
This marks a departure, or at least a gap, between phenomenological approaches to dance (as the vague capacity of a pre-packaged body) and the ethnographic Mauss inspired concepts of dance as cultural expression. While there is a notable difference in the way orients their body amongst other people as opposed to objects (the latter due to a resonance between visual and vestibular systems) this does not mean that the dancing body among humans is not deeply rooted in pre-conscious activity, but that certain concerns of the self-model, the functional delusion, may feed back into our motions. Several projects have suggested that the much lauded mirror neuron may be responsible for bridging the gap between the visual, pre-conscious, and conscious response.
It’s here that I find dance a particular interesting means of expressing this uncertain bridge. For instance I find Xavier Le Roy’s “Self Unfinished” particularly interesting (thank you Stefan Holscher for sending this my way).
Le Roy’s piece immediately brings forward the tension between the automatic and the intentional, and appears in the vein of a broken form of artificial intelligence trying to figure out the layout of a mostly uninteresting room. What would be interesting (and it may already exist, I am new to this!) is a combination of this kind of performance with the digital in a way that breaks each other. While some interesting ideas are expressed here and elsewhere, what I think would be interesting in terms of performance would a digitalization of performance which attempts to codify its purportedly unbound expression while, on the other hand, the strange attempts such as Le Roy show how a certain intuitively anti-natural approach actually demonstrates the weirdness of the continuity of pre and post-self model thinking about the body.
These broken down dances, where the body is a curious rag-doll, can be combined with the technologically enhanced routines to mark the oddness of the discrete, the very strangeness of measure, in the realm of the broken body.
Filed under: art, cognitive science, nature, Schelling, Speculative Realism | 5 Comments
Tags: cognitive science, dance, Metzinger, paf, Schelling, vestibular system, xavier le roy