Tuesday, May 11, 2010

FINAL study group notes.

Thinking Out Loud
Tuesday May 11th, 2010

- If we begin to think about the material of the body as being informed or constructed by regulatory norms then what is ‘at stake’:
o Power can affect the matter of bodies (i.e. dance teacher pressing on your back when you’re bent over affects your flexibility)
o Performance acts out those things that norms already
o Sex is not the object on which performance is placed, but is in fact at the mercy of norms itself
o Process is not something that happens to me, it is something that I am part of (I assume it, I don’t undergo it) and I am not me until that process has happened
o Assuming a sex is a process influenced by discourse, and discourse of the heterosexual imperative favours certain possibilities (straight male and female) and which excludes a bunch of other possibilities

Other things that came out:
- Next year: similar syllabus but find better articles and a better approach
- May also be a secondary study group that covers one text over the course of the year
- “I gotta use words when I talk to you” – there is a problem in speaking in that you are going to end up saying something (when we speak out against or mock stereotypes, we in some way give them credence simply by speaking them)
- How subtle a regulatory norm can have an affect on a baby? If boy and girl babies were left alone in a room to develop, does the material of their anatomy affect the way they learn to move (would they develop the same way or differently)?
- We can’t know … there’s no possible human without the social – there is no blank slate, there is only social construct
- Evolutionary biologists and constructionists (like her) don’t seem to see eye-to-eye
- If we can learn new languages when we are adults (construct a new language as opposed to the one we learn first as mother tongue), what about learning a new gender?
- Perhaps the complexity of the idea of assuming a new gender late in life (in late adulthood, for example) speaks to the extent to which these gender
- Football player who changes gender can’t walk in high heels and muscles must change in order to allow him to do it (material of the body can and does actually change)
- Idea that we need to exclude and create other/abnormal/abject so that it can circumscribe what is normal; and idea that otherness is always within me because I need it to help me define how I am different from you
Thinking about next year’s study group…
- Might be nice to do more reading aloud next year? Helps you to hear it. Nice equalizer. Even if we all have different subjective experiences, at least we have this paper in common!
- Is there a benefit to having some kind of a guiding question that we examine in conjuction with the articles (for example, along with just working to uncover Butler’s ideas, we also having a leading question like “what is my opinion about the way that dance reinforces the gendering of bodies”
- Better: One article per topic. Spreading articles out over two sessions. Primary articles.
- Weren’t successful at introducing a practitioner or an art piece or an art process
- Context for the articles ahead of time would be helpful to situate reading
- Favourites? What is the contemporary? (Agamben) and Emancipated Spectator (Ranciere) were Jacob and Leora’s favourites.
- High hopes for the Dave Hickey article but we strayed too far into just talking about our thoughts about the topic that the author is writing on. Close readings are nice because they always literally bring us back to the actual text. Only so far off we can go before we can be gently nudged back to the page.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Notes on Butler from April 13th.

Judith Butler (Introduction to Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”)

Definitions of Sex, Gender, and Material

- Materiality of the body – the physical substance of my body

- “Sex” as something different than both material and gender – so where does it fit in?

- “Sex is between the legs, gender is between the ears” (she is saying it is more complicated than this because material is between the legs, gender is between the ears, sex is somewhere in between)

- Perhaps also, that this sex is what I choose to present but society won’t let me perform that gender

- Runner in South Africa who’s gender is materially questionable (if she isn’t performing it, and we still can’t locate her

FINAL study group for the year: May 11th!

Spring has sprung and we are nearing the end of the 2009-2010 season here at Dancemakers. The time has come for our last Thinking Out Loud study group for the year.

For the first half of study group we will be revisiting the dense but exciting world of Judith Butler by discussing the introduction in her book Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex which you can get by clicking here. Just read the introduction (up to page 12 in the "book", which is really page 12-23 of the word document). We're then going to back to the very first article we looked at, Paulo Freire's Act of Study which you can get here. Aaaarg has changed their website around a bit, so if you get confused with the downloading process, and would rather just have a hard copy, we have them available here at the Dancemakers office.

The idea is that - by returning to Freire - we will have a chance to revisit the impetus for the study group, evaluate our inaugural year, and think about how we might want to shape next year's study group to keep us all interested and excited.

Study group meets at 6:30 at Dancemakers. We’ll be in the office - for a cozy, intimate last night together for the season. Snacks and beer/wine as per usual. Maybe more beer/wine since it will be a so long of sorts, and a celebration of a year of being together while we think about challenging ideas and talk on the fly.

Join us! And please RSVP if you can.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 30th POSTPONED!

Hi all,

Unfortunately, for a whole slew of reasons (ranging from new babies to Passover to room booking problems) we have to postpone the next Thinking Out Loud session. So instead of meeting this Tuesday, we will meet on Tuesday April 13th at 6:30pm at Dancemakers. We will be in the Baker studio just down the hall from where normally are - but don't worry, there will be signs up.

The topics/readings will stay the same as what we had planned, which means we'll all just get some more time to read and reread and analyze.

Sorry for the last minute change, everyone!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time to Prep for March 30 Study Group!

For the first half of study group, we'll return to An anthropological introduction to YouTube and Margaux Williamson's video Dance Dance Revolutions Co. / Tomboyfriend's End of Poverty and continue our discussion of amateurism and aesthetics.

After the break, we’re moving on to discuss gender. We’re going to try and do a close reading of the introduction to Judith Butler’s book Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex which you can get by clicking here. Read just until halfway through page 12. Alternatively, hard copies of the article are available in the Dancemakers office.

If you’re interested, I also came across this article entitled Techno Bodies: Muscling with Gender in Contemporary Dance from a book called Choreographing Difference. It might inform your thinking and reflecting.

Study group meets at 6:30 at Dancemakers. We’ll be in the studio. Snacks and beer/wine will be a feature as always.

March 2nd: YouTube and Ideas of Amateurism

Excuse the fact that my computer ran out of batteries and thus, the notes get sparse and are mostly quotes or concepts that made a strong impression. Maybe this is what notes should always be done? ...

80% of youtube videos have under 100 views
(interesting because ones we tend to know about are the more popular ones)

(Sidenote: can you sort by viewcount? Least relevant?)

We also don’t know how the ones that are there on the opening page, how they come to be there.

Rules of youtube?
Interest when amateur performance line is blurred with professional performance.
Idea of context collapse (when you remove home video status there becomes moral question – like cute kids in rural towns driving becomes front page stories)

What were the rules that emerged when watching videos of teenagers dancing in their basements?
- they all have to be crappy quality (she missed it when an editor brightened it up)
- they last as long as the song

She was excited by the new palate in the world (naturalistic)
Took videos of teenagers dancing off youtube, made something else with it, set it to new song, etc.
On the day she displayed it at Harbourfront, she posted it on Youtube and contacted all the participants.

Interesting intersection with Rogoff article – by pulling them together, it becomes about “collectivity”
Loves idea that all over the world teenagers were dancing in their basement in a similar way (not about monoculture … but what is that similarity about?)
Some people seem to think it’s a bad thing. Some don't.

Are you hopeful that there is some kind of universality? Is that what part of your joy in people doing things in the similar ways?

Yes. Growing up, moving around, Margeaux always thought “wow, we could do things in so many ways, why do we all build houses in the same way, all over the world. Oh, wait, it’s because we all innately start to do things the same way.” Relief in the idea that we all bring a certain internal order to the way we organize things.

Steven Pinker.

Even when kids are being made fun of, it is not one kid. It is in groups.

What does this kind of amateur culture and dance in public space, do to the “legitimate” field?

Used to be “filter then publish” … now it’s “publish then filter”

“I make art that is accessible in medium, not necessarily in message”.

Is the body as a medium inaccessible? (compared to internet)

March 2nd: Revisiting the idea of "WE" (Rogoff)

I was drawn to this article because my assumption that “collectivity is positive in art practice” was sort of rattled by the Ranciere article (Emancipated Spectator).

Is everything just a failure to be a collective?
(this article does seem to argue that collectivity is an ideal)

To argue against any kind of isolation seems a bit unnecessary now that art has become so participatory.

In the making of the thing, you have to deal with other people (and the audience) – even if you are a director with a whip, a dictator, not interested in creating collectively.

Isn’t there always a tension between individual and collective (monkeys – if they have strong physical relationship with the mother, they go exploring. If not, they are less adventurous.) Important to have people with different amounts of interest in collective.

‘Seems to be quite a move towards individualization right now.’
‘Really? I thought we were coming out of it.’

People are fearful of “being the director” and of being authoritative. But it is useful to have someone who is in charge, is an expert.

Power of participation and mutuality (mob mentality of post-gold medal game).
Yes, we have history to prove that collectivity can produce scary things, but there is also the flipside:
Emergent care in group situations (power of collectivity) … also at Olympics.

Usefulness of rules. Structure enables creativity. Rules breed freedom.

‘There are always rules, so if you don’t say what they are, people are left out’

Does an orchestra need an conductor?

Creating a valuable feedback loop – the usefulness of the outside eye, just because they are outside me. Importance of sharing as part of process.

Dynamic system that is always at play. Rehearsal as way of being where contribution is from many directions. Giving authority to participants (giving permission to people that don’t necessarily have expertise).

Difference between collectivity (in performance setting) and collaboration (in rehearsal setting).

Collaboration allows you to learn to communicate more, allows other people to help you define yourself in a way.

‘Seems like I can forget that working in isolation is also important‘

Difference between working collaboratively (having someone to push against) and working in isolation ... and constraints/rules as an artist individually versus an artist working within a group

Developing understanding of my rules with different people.

Fatigue of collaboration?

Edward de Bono: more Noble Prize winners per capita in Britain because they work alone (can sit with ideas and not have to translate them into some kind of vague/common language).

Isolation as a way to concentrate and distill your thoughts/style/artistic choices without coming into contact with limiting thoughts/assumptions/etc of others.

When you do have essential moment of contact after this isolated bout, it is very important that it is something helpful.

Improvisation as common tool in dance.

Mathematicians: when you solve a problem, ‘what do I do now’?

Is improvisation a means or an end?

Misha’s birthday party? What is difference between process and performance if collectivity is just coming together for arbitrary event?

Movement towards art as event (where there are two groups with different characteristics)?

Word arbitrary is difficult! Does I just like rules, but what the rules actually are is irrelevant?
(I just like temporary arbitrary rules like “no talking” for no reason)

Jacob: arbitrary = “without instruction”

Arendt quote:
"What keeps people together after the fleeting moment of actions has passed (what we today call 'organisation'), and what at the same time they keep alive through remaining together, is power".

What is my presence/practice as a spectator, as an artist?

Question: when there is no one to tell you what to see, how do you know what to go to?
(is it generational? Older people were used to having some kind of sense from somewhere of what there was to see, and what to see … )

DO we experience collectivity (like we do with the Olympics) at the theatre?

“To speak of collectivities is to de-nativise community, to argue it away from the numerous essential roots of place and race and kinship structures that have for so long been the glue that has held it together.”

So collectivity is not about a native community (my essentiality/origin/expertise is not what bring me into contact/conversation with other people) … but about my choice to arbitrarily come to this artistic event.

What’s wrong with fatigue?
It sometimes starts to feel like it would just be easier to go with someone’s rules, or to do it yourself … not to have to negotiate shared rules.

Without collaboration, I won’t get out of bed. I’m too lazy all by myself.

Is a committee a collaboration?

Everything is power (even your ability to speak in public)

Everything should be done at the appropriate level (if they can be done on a certain rung of the ladder, it shouldn’t be made/done higher up on the food chain).

People tend to delegate upwards (here are the problems, let someone above me fix it).

‘Resources and people become the laws’.

Things can fall apart when people don’t know the rules (people don’t know in what capacity they are being invited to participate if it’s not communicated) – citing “relational aesthetic piece gone wrong” at the power plant.

Artist in Vienna who ended up killing himself after trying to do collaborative work with a bunch of prostitutes (no one talks about the ethics)!