Re: de-corporalize me

Merilyn Jackson (
Sat, 31 Jul 1999 19:31:43 -0400

Clarifications from this writer slash critic.  I use the term for myself in
that way because I am uncomfortable with the term critic.  I write about
dance because it is one of several subjects of abiding life-long interest to
me.  And although I love to criticize (those closest to me would say "live
to") almost everything, I am keenly sensitive to using criticism (or the
title of critic).  I prefer, simply, dance writer because I like to describe
what I think I saw for those who couldn't be there and to frame (you can
read contextualize if you must) or reframe what I saw for those who were.
Unless a work is at the extremes of good or bad, good criticism is a hit or
miss thing in an overnight review, and I am chided by my colleagues
and readers for not having been harsher or more ebullient.  So, until we
find a better term, hence writer/critic.
As for "techno-artist", absolutely no belittling was intended by the
enquoting.  This term is even newer, as Jeff suggests, and for some very
successful integrators of technology and art in many fields, it is and will
become even more so, an honorable title.  Will techno-artists be content
with that?  I suspect Isabel Choiniere will want to be known as a
choreographer and Todd winkler as a composer.  Others will dub themselves.
For instance, photographer, Bill Ravanesi, began calling himself a civic
photographer when his subject matter and multivalanced exhibitions demanded
a new appelation.  I like either Jeff's or Greg's? performance technologist, for some instances.
Yes, unfortunately enquoting sometimes does denote belittling, but sometimes
it merely means to set something off because it is not yet clear that that
is what it is, and so forth.  Ceci n'est pas...

You asked:
of a dancer on a screen, where they can see, for example, facial
expressions, which are responding and "connecting" to the audience, is that
You do seem to realize that it is not merely facial expression with which an
audience member might connect.  If that were so, we would never connect with
Merce's dancers, whom we rarely actually see smile or otherwise emote, but
in whose faces we do often see a kind of sublime inner knowing, that
translates or communicates itself to the other dancers and that I feel
strongly when bodily in their audience.   At Biped, I felt at first as if I
were watching television (the scrim gave me the impression of an undusted
screen) and later, when the images were projected on it, I felt the delight
I experienced as a small child when drawing over the screen on my Rootie
Kazootie plastic sheet.  The size of the venue does in fact matter --
greatly.  In Biped's case (or in any of Bausch, Meryl Tankard's and other
large scale works) the large performance space works because it gives the
audience a chance to view the totality of the work.  Other pieces fail in
such spaces because they really are meant to be viewed intime, or to have
multiple small focuses.
You may try to convince me and others like me that dancing on a  screen is
dance and not a representation of dance.  But I was the only one in my class
the psych teacher couldn't convince that a set of pyrimidical horizontal
lines was in fact a triangle.  The question is, why would anyone working in
these new areas want to use an old term?  Why wouldn't you be looking for
new definitions, or better yet, hoping to be undefinable?

Kent, you wrote that you didn't think the white-bubblelike floating shapes
worked in Biped.  If you are talking about the motion-capture figures, what
I found most intriguiging about them was how they turned into a nearly solid
vertical line when the body was sideways and motionless -- like unstrung DNA
in contrast to the ghostly fractility of the other projected figures.  It
gave this atheist and comically unmathematical person some imagery to think
of when trying to figure out where my cast-off atoms and the atoms of my
loved ones have gone.
For the freedom of your atoms and mine, Merilyn