Re: transdance IV

Johannes H. Birringer (
Fri, 09 May 1997 19:22:20 -0500

>Part 4/ transdance/ethnography series


Science chose an uneasy compromise, subjugating itself both to the discourse
of work
(politics and industry) and the discourse of value (ethics and aesthetics),
but since politics and industry controlled the means of play and could
always threaten to withhold funds on which the game depended, science
succumbed more and more to limitations on play
imposed in the interests of its masters.


Enlisted first as the propaganda arm of science, asserting the lie of theory
and basic
research as the source of practice and technological innovation, the
discourse of value
eventually became the ideological means for the justification of work, and
all talk of value was linked inseparably to objects and to performance
relative to objects - the reality fictions of work.

What had originally presented itself as the context of practical reality
within wich the
aesthetics of the play of science would find its meaning and justification
became the
condition of a bureaucratic unreality establishing the limits of reality
through the exercise of power disguised as reason. All discourse was reduced
to the rhetoric of work. But, at this moment of its triumph of total
control, do we sense the first tremors of the eruption of the controllable?

[ This is the tale of the postmodern world, the framing story for a
postmodern ethnography, for transdance]

Free Voice/Extended Bodies/Experimental Ethnography:

A postmodern ethnography is a cooperatively evolved text consisting of
fragments of
discourse intended to evoke in the minds of both reader and writer an
emergent fantasy of a possble world of commonsense reality, and thus to
provoke an aesthetic integration that will have a therapeutic effect.

It is, in a word, poetry or dance - not in its textual form, but in its
return to the original context and function of poetry, which, by means of
its performative break with everyday speech, evoked memories of the ethos of
community and thereby provoked hearers to act ethically.

Postmodern ethnography attempts to recreate this spiral of poetic and ritual
performance. Like them, it defamiliarizes common-sense reality in a
bracketed context of
performance, evokes a fantasy whole abducted from fragments, and then returns
participants to the world of common sense - transformed, renewed, and
sacralized. It has
the allegorical import, though not the narrative form, of a vision quest or
religious parable.

The break with everyday reality is a journey apart into strange lands with
occult practices, where fragments of the fantastic whirl about in the vortex
of the quester's disoriented consciousness, until, arrived at the
maelstrom's center, s/he loses consciousness at the very moment of the
miraculous, restorative vision, and then, unconscious, is cast up onto the
familiar, but forever transformed, shores of the commpnplace world.


Dear colleagues, if you have read along, can you imagine a response to a
question, say,
"is dance/technology performance an "occult practice" in the poetic sense of
transformation mentioned above?

[to be continued]

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

Johannes Birringer
DDA Studio, Houston