Re: polyphony without permission

Johannes H. Birringer (
Fri, 16 May 1997 02:14:25 -0500

Hello everyone, I am sobered up after my house-warming. So I'll respond to
Richard, Scott and Mark and others who have joined or shifted the lines of talk.
Richard, seemingly upset, argued that:
>I think attempts to control usage of content of this or any other list are
>potentially chilling, and certainly counterproductive. Let us revel in
>each others words without the burden of ownership or commerce.
>Now, can someone enlighten me whence this thread emerged? Hope I haven't
>missed the point entirely.
I find it immensely interesting and gratifying that our netdialogues run
into such moments of stumblings in our rehearsal, and as in dance, we may
have to do that section/movement again. Not necessarily though.

It's good that Richard does point to his entering at some point, perhaps
missing annother point in the on-going rehearsal, and so what does he hear?
[Scott's entering and leaving, on the other side of walls.......]

Mark's post on "polyphony", in response to my question about whether the
debate within contemporary anthropology (and ethnographic practice) may have
a bearing on DTZ, veers into another direction altogether, and I am
scrambling to catch up, since I was not really at all speaking about
composition (however pragmatic) nor about reception (of how one hears/see
multiple media in performance).

May I backtrack. a) My dance with Amanda was purely a little ironic
conceptual move.
Why is everyone so literal?

I have no issue with permissions and controls and stuff, Richard, although
that may
a l w a y s be an issue if we work or perform or create CD Roms for a
living, posting them also netwise.

[I recently asked for a videocopy of a dance by Bill T Jones which had
already been shown on PBS, and I still needed to ask the company and
choreographer specifically for permission to view it or "quote" from it
(e.g. the speech he quotes from his survival workshop participants that he
and the dancers "used" to compose "STILL/HERE" - now there's ethnographic
dance process rendered as aesthetic object, if I may propose so....)]. He
used speech but also worked with these others to create the gestures and the
speech and the movement, struggling with survival and death and
illness.Complex mess.]

Aside from this, my punning with Amanda was consistent in the spirit with
which I have been reporting to you the debate and practice from my Cuban and
North American colleagues of the "Artists in Trance" ethnography/art
project, where the issue was not merely "permission" (the observer or
ethnographer compiling the fieldnotes and "writing" up [composing] the
text/work, but - more ethically and creatively challenging - the radicalized
position of not having the position (from which to note, compile, create the
representation). The self = not at issue. My report: falsifying the actual
complexity, therefore perhaps inpermissible.

I was only asking whether our meandering netdialogue, like a dance or like
research, could be quoted, printed out, synthesized, observed and leaked.

I doubt it, and (yes Richard, I am compiling for sake of testing the
impossibility of this linear method) our growing file of contact
improvisations cannot be used as it is, it's not exactly a text, that was my

It [the process] could be evoked otherwise..

b). Let me repeat from "Transdance V:"

>In fact, the new ethnography rejects the ideology of "observer-observed," there
>being n o t h i n g observed and n o o n e who is observer.

>There is instead the mutual, dialogical production of a discourse, of a
>story of sorts. We better understand the ethnographic context as one of
>cooperative story-making that, in one of its ideal forms, would result in a
>polyphonic text, none of whose participants would have the final word in the
>form of a framing story or encompassing synthesis -

I am sharing this discussion from my friends because things are changing in
"their" "field" and in the field (with the others), and in the here/there
relation and the inside/outside or subject/object power relations, and I
asked to consider that radicality as a limit situation, where movement and
evocation (with or without bodies, voices, technological interfaces,
projections, multiples etc) go further than the "thing" displayed or
texted/choreographed. The evocation does not happen in/with the

In other words, and I include my collaboration-work in progress also, which
is in rehearsal and goes on, I am for the time being not talking about
aesthetic objects (the performed). I am not interested in the modernist,
even classical compositional grammar Mark enlists.

c) I was asking whether we feel, in our dialogue and all of our on-going
rehearsals, interfaces, and face-to face meetings, whether we feel that
something else might be at stake, a shared compositional endeavor that
touches our lives, moves us, moves others, as we are moved, and whether this
enables us to work between/beyond the parameters that were given (science,
anthropology, dance, aesthetics). As we are already communicating in our
contact improvisation on virtual (as well as real/concrete) levels and
translocally, may we also consider this intersubjective polyphonic process a
kind of working with others that has not an aesthetic (objectified) goal?

The transdance discussion, as I propose it, is about working with others
(and along with technological, performance, and quotidian strategies of
evocation, as Susan so beautifully confirmed). It therefore is not really
about multiple media and what an audience can read. The audience always
reads. But on the level of our fieldwork and production, I am asking whether
DTZ has been changing the parameters ( w h a t has shifted? What would
interactivity mean, socially, spiritually, pragmatically, if it were not
geared towards an object (the performed), nor an author/designer, and here
I'd like to add that I find Brenda Laurel's book on computer interface
design rather regressive (Aristotelian), her notion of theatre is based on
a concept of drama that is entirely classical, I think.

My point is: interactivity cannot be designed.

thank you
good night