My body alone does not have the social or political power to stop catastrophic global events from happening. My body is a small nothing being perpetually pressed into a molten rock that’s hurtling through space around a massive ball of fire. And yet, my body can render imperfect imperceptable impossibility, and through attempting and failing at that actualization I expand the bounds of possiblity in my body. I nudge the infinite universe and, though the change is small and immediately decays, I exact some change. My power may be small, but it is infiinitely greater than no power at all.
I used to dance with a philadelphia artist named Gregory Holt. His process was initially very alien to me, and I approached his ideas in rehearsal with healthy amounts of generosity and skepticism. Greg had a skillful way of helping me find my own metaphor to get at the physicalities he would propose. I used to think of this process as breaking in through a window on the side of your own house (more metaphors). In his 2011 work making claims we engaged with an improvisation score that he referred to as “Topology” but what I continue to refer to as “Impossible Topology”.
The way I understand Greg’s “Topology” is that the surface of your body can change shape and size with incredible articulation through infinite space. Your arm pit can bulge out and expand to fill the room. The underneath of your eyeballs can spill down and into the hollow of your ribcage. The space between your fingers can lurch forward across the planet, tugging your body with it. For me this improvisation mode usually activates interior surfaces of my body, surfaces that face other ones. Towards the end of this semester, “Topology” just started to come up a lot in my body. Maybe, subconsciously, I wanted to sensualize impossibility. Maybe by imagining actualized impossbility on and through my body I could exorcise feelings of powerlessness in relation to our the current global political climate.
Back to Greg
In an interview with Nicholas Gilewicz of Fringe Arts, Greg descriped Topology saying that “we are trying to occupy our own bodies, but it continually fails because the way attention is spread, you can only inhabit so much.” Greg’s work was politically driven, which wasn’t always explicit because of [GREG WORDS]. Meg Stuart’s work reminds me of Greg’s, and I imagine Stuart’s audiences might share feelings with those of Greg’s. I imagine if you walked into a room expecting to watch dance and saw bodies spread across the floor lying still for ten minutes, you might feel frustrated or cheated. If you hear the score for “Looking at your own body as if you were dead” the signification of bodies strewn across the floor multiplies. There’s more to what’s happening than what is immediately observed, always.
So, “Topology” relates in many ways to the three scores I’ve chosen. Here, I will include Meg Stuart’s description of the scores and my anticipation of how they relate to “Topology”.
How queer everything is today
Standing or sitting observe the room. being to slowly imagine that the space is shifting around you. the walls become wavy, the floor tilts, the distances between things are changing. You are like Alice in Wonderland. The place and its conditions are not what they are. In relation to this your body has unusual proportions, as if you are hallucinating. Fascinated you suspend every impulse to move or show your imagination. Don’t give the experience away, realise it without moving. (Stuart 60)
Similar to “How queer everything is today”Topology demands that you imagine with almost overwhelming intensity the space and surfaces of your body.
Moving very slowly, start a gesture or a movement that is already dissolving into something else, never fully completing an image. You are never arriving but instead simultaneously coming and going. You are constantly becoming and unbecoming. (Stuart 60)
Like “Morphing,” movements in “Topology” tend to dissolve into others, but you could hang out in one particular topology state. Though, there is always a dissonance between the imagined surface of the body and the actual surface, so in that way the topology is in constant flux as it slides, vibrates, and dissolves within the dichotomous pull between actual and imagined.
I’m not there
Move your body with your look pointedly away from your action. Reach with your arms while dissociating rom the action by looking in the opposite direction. Try moving your legs, hips or shoulders, but without your face and gaze participating. It is as if you don’t know or refuse to know what your body is doing. Your body is present but you are empty, absent, detached. (Stuart 56)
This “I’m not there” mode also tries, like Topology, to spread attention beyond its comfortable bounds. Performing this mode could bring some new information to “topology” for me regarding attention. My gaze tends to melt into an alternate engagement that is unrelated to the emerging choreography, so directing my focus intentionally “away” from my actions or “towards disegagement” may change it.
Practice Makes Imperfect
During my practice sessions, “How queer…” moved into and merged easily with “Morphing”. The scores felt like an external version of “Impossible Topology”. So, the window panes of the space I was in became teeth that mashed my body into a chunky soup that spilled into the churning liquid floor, which was stirred by the pounding ceiling beams and my body stuck like molten cheese and stretched beyond breaking gathered by the soft grey noise cancelling panels that pressed my amorphous body into the wall. I went on like that for a while. My imagination of the space morphed constantly, falling into and out of my body constantly. This lead gradually into Stuart’s “I’m not there” score. The actions I performed during “not there” emerged from my “impossible topology”, so that as the left side of my underbelly protuded forward, my gaze would pull actively away. I tried noticing and then immediately disengaging my attention to the direction of my actions, but that inevitably manifested as a contradiction of the direction (i.e. move left, notice moving left, try not to attend to that, inevitably look right). As that cycle of attention and disengagemtn settled, my body came to a stillness, as if caught in the eye of a tornado. The three modes came together then in an almost frightening visualization. In my mind, the earth unfolded and wrapped around me, like an inverted sphere. The impossible opposite of my current position on the earth was then just directly above me, not close enough to grab but impossibly visible. My body felt shortened and spread sickeningly wider. Then the world, constantly shifting, morphed back around to it’s normal shape but shrank to the size of small car that I was standing on like a giant. As I tilted my support around, I could reach around the gravitational field of this imposible planet and spill my limbs around its pull.
Direction: I have more questions and I want to keep trying these scores.
Intersectionality: I want to look at the ways that the scores relate to each other and to other things.
Interpersonal: I want to get back in touch with Greg and ask him about Topology.
Communal: I want to research this material with my Improvisation class next semester.
Personal: I want to attend to the pull between what is real and imagined, because I want to actualize a truth that exists beyond what I know to be true. I want there to be more than what there seems to be, and the practice of that starts in my body.
Gilewicz, Nicholas. “Gregory Holt Talks LAB (and His Fringe Show Opens Tonight!)” fringearts. fringearts.com/2011/09/09/gregory-holt-talks-lab-and-his-fringe-show-opens-tonight/. Accessed 14 December 2016.
Stuart, Meg, and Jeroen Peeters. Are We Here Yet? Dijon: Presses du réel, 2010. Print.