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Contemporary dance in the age of cultural relativism

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Contemporary dance in the
age of cultural relativism
By Niels Lehmann
Head of the Institute of Aesthetic
Studies, University of Aarhus
Difficulties of orientation 1
пѓ� Globalisation:
Visibilization of ’the other’
and, by consequence, of yourself as an
observer
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
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Contingency (it could have been otherwise)
Relativity of observations
Unsustainability of ethnocentrism
Loss of the authority of tradition
Difficulties of orientation 2
пѓ� Death
of linear history: Exposure of
narratives as (repressive) constructions
пЃ¬
In casu the well-known matrix:
•
•
•
•
classical ballet
modern dance
post-modern dance
New dance?
Cunningham’s claims
(according to Banes)
� ”1)
any material can be material for a
dance; 2) any procedure can be a valid
compositional method; 3) any part or parts
of the body can be used […]; 4) music,
costume, decor, lighting, and dancing have
their own separate logics and identities; 5)
any dancer in the company may be a
soloist; 6) any space might be danced in;
7) dancing can be about anything […].”
The broad scope of postmodernism
пѓ�
Commonplace action
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Childs
Gordon
Improvisation
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пѓ�
King
Ironic platitudes
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Monk
Warm, subjective
expression
пЃ¬
Brown
Virtuosity for the
audience
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Hay
Mathematical control
Explicit theatricality
пЃ¬
Rainer
Sacred solemnity
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Forti
Cool, objective
investigation
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Paxton
Playing with the
spectators
пЃ¬
Dunn
”After” linear history
пѓ� Narration
as construction
пѓ� Asynchronous syncronicity
пѓ� Anything goes
пѓ� The past as a reservoir of possibilities
King’s trans-avantgardist parody of
lineary history
пѓ�
”Dancing was about Moving until moving got in
the Way. The Abstract Expressionists expressed
Everything. Now there is nothing left to express:
not even Alienation and Meaning-in-Life …
That’s why THE MOST PERFERCTLY
IMAGINABLE DANCE would take place in some
sealed-off, empty, white-walled room with
Nothing in it … I think the dance, though, would
have no movement because the movement
would get in the way of its being Original. I mean
movement was invented a long Time ago
already. […]”
Avantgardist expectations
пѓ�
Arts councils: What’s new?
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Critics: What’s new?
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Reason for recommending contemporary art (and sell
some papers)!
Historians: What’s new?
пЃ¬
пѓ�
Reason for funding experimental art!
Reason for studying a topic (and stand a chance of
getting the Nobel prize)!
Audience: What’s new?
пЃ¬
Reason for spending money on a production!
Classicism/Romanticism
Postmodernism
The true
Perspectives
The beautiful
The good
Oneness
><
Tastes
Politics
Multiplicity
Classicism/Romanticism
Avantgardism
Postmodernism
The true
State of insight
Perspectives
The beautiful
Better standards
Tastes
The good
Moral improvement
Politics
Newness
Multiplicity
Oneness
Constructivism as a possible
solution
пѓ�
Distinction
пЃ¬
пѓ�
System/environment
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пѓ�
No indication without a
distinction
пЃ¬
Indicated
Equals/equals not self
reference vs. external
reference
Initial/inaugural difference
Operative closure
пЃ¬
Unmarked space
Systems relative to the
initial distinction
Recursive manoeuvres to
sustain the system
Notindicated
System
Environment
Self
External
reference reference
From deconstruction to
constructivism
Everything depends on an ’original’ difference,
but rather than dissimination the result is a
variety of systems based on different distinctions
пѓ� In principle, every system is deconstructible, but
not everything gets deconstructed
� The job isn’t so much to demonstrate the
deconstructibility; the suggestion is, on the
contrary, that we begin to investigate the forms
of order which the various distinctions make
possible.
пѓ�
Examples of systems within
postmodern dance aesthetics
пѓ�
Deborah Hay
пЃ¬
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Observer as participant
Life as dance
Blurring subject and object
Duration instead of metre
No virtuosity
Flow
Togetherness
Cleavages
пѓ�
David Gordon
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
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Parody also of peers
Metafictionality and wit
The spectacular
Style-oriented
Behaviour instead of
choreography
Deconstruction
Sublimity
Key gains from constructivism
пѓ�
1) Overcoming disorientation by way of thinking
in terms of relative order
пѓ� 2) Giving direction to the production of
choreography by investigating the order
established by particular distinctions and by
considering your own distinctions – in particular
your preferred initial distinction
пѓ� 3) Living up to avantgardist demands by working
with relative newness – relative, that is, to initial
distinctions
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