Re: validity grids

Johannes H. Birringer (
Sat, 03 May 1997 00:35:42 -0500

Thanks, Scott and Dawn, for the responses. I think Dawn's comment on who
(and how) gets invited to "academic" conferences is rather a important
political comment, and adds to what I said about playing the clown to an
institutional agenda. Perhaps, as you imply, performing artists quite often
find themselves in unpleasant situations of having to wait for/depend on
invitations to spaces/festivals/conferences, and especially in the
independent scene this has created some strange experiences, but also there
are other options and efforts, in that independent scene. I attended a dance
concert in Houston tonight in someone's converted duplex, they call it "The
Duplex," and they use the downstairs as studio and for performances, and it
was packed tonight all 35 seats. Now Scott may be right, that was an
audience of people who love dance and support young dancers. No need to play
the clown. If one extends the outreach (to whom? to what generalized fiction
of "the public"?), the capitalist mechanisms and power relations are
instantly in play, and yet those can be utilized/converted, strange
attractors, perhaps, and here Amanda and others are pressing ahead, I think.


As I announced, I am interested currently in the theoretical and practical
relations between choreography and the "transart" project of ethnography.
Here's my first ethnographic post:

"Post-Modern Ethnography: From Document of the Occult to Occult Document"
(1986, Stephen Tyler)

1. Context

"Ethnography's" relation to the other fields of discourse and rhetoric, to
science and politics:

Ethno-graphy: the rhetoric of ethnography is neither scientific nor political.
It is ethical.

As the suffix -"graphy" implies, ethnography itself is contextualized by a
technology of
written communication.

(cf. "choreo-graphy": the writing of the dance)

Neither part of the search for universal knowledge, nor an instrument for the
suppression/emancipation of peoples, nor just another mode of discourse on
par with
those of science and politics, ethnography is instead a specific discourse
to which all
other discourses are relativized and in which they find their meaning and

Ethnography's position is the consequence of its "imperfection." Neither self-
perfecting in the manner of scientific discourse, nor totalizing in the
manner of political discourse, it is defined neither by a reflexive
attention to its own rules nor by the performative instrumentality of those

Defined neither by form nor by relation to an external object, it produces
no idealization of form and performance, no fictionalized realities or
realities fictionalized. Its transcendence is not that of a meta-language - of a
language superior by means of its greater perfection of form - nor that of
a unity created by synthesis and sublation, nor of praxis and practical
application. Transcendent, then, neither by theory nor by practice, nor by
their synthesis, it describes no knowledge and produces no action.

It transcends instead by evoking what cannot be known discursively or performed
perfectly, though all know it as if discursively and perform it as if perfectly.


(to be continued)

Johannes Birringer