Re: de-corporalize me

Doug Rosenberg (
Tue, 03 Aug 1999 12:43:53 -0500

The discussion around what is or is not dance seems to me to be
irrelevant at best. This issue has been raised and answered at length
throughout the history of contemporary art. And as we all know,
language more often than not fails us in situations such as this. The
simple answer to the question is this: If the maker inserts a work
into an arena, then we as respondents must critique it within that
arena. It is disingenuous to critique the maker's placement of the
work, as well as it often harmful to any cunstructive discourse. The
problem lies in not whether it is or is not dance, but rather in our
inability to critique its success or failure as a work of art. It is
also beyond time to cease using the argument that if one does not
understand the technology one can not adequately critique the work.
This is an argument that would preclude Einstein or Plato from
engaging in a discussion about cooking, (to exagerate the logic). In
my manifesto at IDAT, I called for a new form of engagement, one that
is less about advocacy and more about placing dance and technology
work within the arc of contemporary art and its evolving history. To
critique the critique, as some have done in the case of the response
to Marilyn Jackson, is to ignore the larger issue at hand. That is,
it is time to begin to critique dance and technology work in terms of
good or bad art. The grace period for "newness" as a strategy for the
denial of criticsim is over. Below is an excerpt from my manifesto.

"Here we sit in a ghetto which privileges form over content, tools
over practice, a modernist construct in a post modern era. Engaging
sophisticated tools to make crude marks, more often than not less
compelling than a child's finger-painting. We congratulate ourselves
on each new successful interface, without stopping to formulate new
theory or to contextualize the interface in regard to contemporary
culture. We speak in an elite privileged code about ram and megahertz
and often dismiss valid criticism with the excuse that in order to
understand the work, one must be versed in the technospeak that
accompanies it. Or worse, we pass off the failure of a piece by
blaming the malfunctioning technology. Or even worse still, we do not
critique the work at all and buoy the makers spirits by congratulating
him/her on a great new success. We are caught up in the allure of
technology, in the utter sexual seduction of it, much like a fish is
entranced by a shiny spinning lure and bites down hard permanently
attaching himself to the object of his desire.

Plato said tell me about it.. Aristotle said tell me about it,
but also show me the thing itself. Honoring Aristotle's position, I
call for the end of technological rhetoric, an end to the language of
privilege, an end to obfuscation, an end to dogma, an end to the
gendered, dogmatic and hierarchical division of cyberspace that lurks
beneath the veneer of egalitarianism and technological democracy. The
gurus, such as they are, bear false witness to us by recycling old
modernist theses into seemingly contemporary philosophy. And we quote
them as if they were transcendent.

Let us be honest, it has, much of it been done before simply
and with other, perhaps less sophisticated tools. Old models, new
tools. There is nothing radical about that. The rhetoric surrounding
the "Information Superhighway" (do you know who coined that co-opted
term?) is curiously familiar and rings hollow. Do not cease to
question the messenger, for it may be a Trojan horse.

Dance and technology is a misnomer. It is really more often,
Technology and dance. Let us again be honest. It is still a
gendered, hierarchical structure in which it must name itself by first
naming its other, or that which it is not. This intentionality of
naming perpetuates the ghettoization of a genre of work that is mired
in its own lack of historical contextualization. And no one wants to
rock the boat. Where is the critical discourse? Who will stand up
and say about a work, this is a fraud, or this is simply a tired
reworking of an old idea? Who will say that this work is less than
the sum of its parts? Who will say that this work is part of an
historical continuum which has not been recognized or artfully
acknowledged by the Dance and Technology Community? I will say it
here and now.
Undoubtedly I will alienate many among you and open myself up
for criticism as well. Be that as it may, I welcome the opportunity
to engage in a dialog which is honest, rigorous and passionate. Where
are the points of resistance in this revolution? It is a revolution
which is entirely too civil, too passive in its use of the
acoutremonts (sp?) of battle. It is time to create a forum for
critical evaluation of the landscape of dance and technology that does
not simply perpetuate an advocacy style of textuality, but asks, "what
is the social significance of this work and what is its contribution
to the culture?" The dance and technology pendulum has swung
dangerously away from the art of dance and toward technocracy. This
is a call for balance.

It is time to begin to inscribe a canon that is inclusive of
all that is screen dance and furthermore, it is time for a
re-integration of form and content and time to put an end to the
cognitive dissonance that surrounds technologically mediated art work
and obfuscates its failure to communicate on a plane which is relevant
and meaningful. It is time for a recorporealization of dance and
technology, time to reinscribe the body on the corpus of technology.

Douglas Rosenberg