This is an excerpt. To order the full film, visit choreographersgallery.com
In this solo project I wanted to research if it was possible to ‘map a choreographic ecology’. I failed.
With Maria Ramos, I looked at the question, “Is it possible that active and aware kinesis is engaged in recognising and mapping inner landscapes and the relationship between awareness, memory, thought and movement, using ecological principles?” Can we map the shape we are in?
The key node of evolution is complexity, the need of all systems to reach maximum form and then, through ecotonal engagement, become porous to the pressures that
will evolve into the next evolutionary step. This induces some of the most subjective states any energy system will express those of withdrawal in order to attempt survival, of aggression and of functioning through survival strategies. Welcome home artists!
It was these pressures, these forms of afferent and efferent influence and energy that I applied to a solo Maria had made for me 10 years ago in a large group piece in San Francisco. We dug it out of her body and mind and tried to reshape this archaeology into the present again.
Our biggest problem as artists is that we operate in constant states of flux, or in ecological terms, within a matrix of ecotonal engagements. There is a need to engage with a model of ecology (of “art-ecology”), from understanding patterns of primal energies, to the forms that shape to contain them. From the “external” forces that form the stable strata, which manage this multiplex amount of evolving forms, to the minute deviations that begin when change is the key to another evolutionary step.
The key to art and its creative importance within any form or definition of ecology is held between two forces, that of the processes of the artist, and that of the processes of the culture they operate in. As form is only a by-product of process, the bridging between these two forces is formed by an understanding of the dynamic flux of both.
We are shape. Forming and unforming. Static, programmed, reflexive and chaotic. We are a tension between what is embodied and what becomes embedded.
An action involves many combinations: those of body, muscle, tissue; those of instance, recognition and response. Composition is a way of designing action, dealing with motion and activity, investigating levels of energy and interactive systems, which affect the physical, perceptual and thinking body. Choreography can occasionally re-language perceptual grammar, and re-shape patterns of movement and meaning into an active gestalt. We move towards language.
This project was an investigation into how movement travels through the body, and how memory affects this. By layering the ‘environment’ around the body with patterns and disruptions of afferent and efferent energy, could we map inner body patterns which offer a transparency to how thought and emotion move? Does this offer a kind of cartography in the multiple curves and patterns that create a bridge between an inner and outer dance? Can it be perceived in more intuitive ways rather than in external, formal ways, or does it need to be shaped choreographically to make it readable?
I love maps. I read them like novels. There is information in one dimension that offers imaginative reading, choice and movement in others. The choreographic process is a question of finding and forming movements and arranging them into a whole, a gestalt. Dancers are both the mapper, in the map, and drawing the map, all at the same time. How is the map then read?
How we ‘read’ space and action is a dialogue between constructing ways of leading attention through, and working with, the perceptual field and both the instinctive and the choices we have already made in the visual ‘reading’ of events. It is a poem of present, past and future. Can we choreograph the codes, the route-maps, of embodiment?
If, through moving, we deal with the formed layers of expression that are before language, then what is their relationship to performance? By seeing how the eyes are led from image to image and how encrypted and physical timing creates transitional or reflexive space, we work between image and language, allowing composition to be read through combinations of perceptual systems.
Perhaps the crux of analyzing choreographic practice is now less in traditional elements of its actual physics, and more in negotiating activity in relation to how visual and sensorial ‘reading’ has emerged into a vastly more complex field, allowing choreographers to relate their praxis more to the possibilities of how audience will engage in a process of ‘multiple reading’. This does not negate elements of overall form, of design and organisation, rather it relates to how input is perceptually received, and then translated. As Ramachandran posits, perhaps “We are close to finding the figurative primitives of our perceptual grammar”.
The separation of ontology and epistemology is based on the separation of human and environment. If the organisation of our activities is solely cultural, we are removed into the urban confines of post-modern thought, into forms of symbolic definition that reflect only our own linguistic detritus. But if we consider the redefinition of our sensory and perceptual systems as active and intelligent fields of organisation, both as subjective body and as objective identity, we then offer ourselves back to ourselves and to the world, as ongoing patterns of articulate existence. We are truly in the alive mind. We are truly choreographic. We are out mapping again.
The solo exists because it was forced back out into time and space. It was shaped and re-shaped by imposing an “ecological layering of afferent and efferent perceptual systems and readings” that took time to begin, become and believe. It took itself out into space and became both something “in itself” and yet never left the body as it shaped itself into a form of dynamic code.
It was shaped and re-shaped by a cloud of surrounding improvisers, whose role was to impose afferent and efferent energy systems that mirrored principles of ecological and ecotonal complexity. Like I said, I failed, but in failing I achieved the one of the few states of grace a human can in ecological terms, I moved beyond survival and environmental immediacy into the poetics of space. Into external space made visible.
Angus Balbernie, 2009
Angus Balbernie is an artist working in dance and performance. He has created and directed over 60 pieces in Europe, the USA, South America, Canada and Asia. He is currently on the staff at Artez Arnhem (Dancemakers Department), an Associate Lecturer at The Scottish School Of Contemporary Dance and Dartington College of Arts, and a visiting lecturer in choreography at KNUA, Seoul.