monadologie – week 2

A rather crazy five days for me, dramas with friends far away and then Lily, Bonnie’s sister coming into the project. Today then was another morning of working on improvisation systems out in the black box (now with grey floor) of the Temperance Hall in South Melbourne (where apparently you can’t drink inside…).

A question of is this process of generating movement dehumanising, does it create dancers who are just interchangeable blobs, or does it lend itself to some radical apprehension of self through movement? Personally, the more I think about this approach to both generating movement and improvising, the more I find in each concept, an endless unfolding brought about by considering what a body is doing when it’s in a particular modality.

We were doing a bunch of 9-point stuff today, which is both rather basic, in the sense of being an exersise or task that intensifies specific understanding of a body or parts of a body in space, and also fiendishly complex for exactly the same reasons. I came to think the term ‘point’ is slightly misleading in that it implies an infinitesimally small dot of only one dimension and as such does not engender a intuitive visualisation of it having a front, back, sides, top, and bottom. So I described it instead as a small box that you could approach with a limb from any path or direction and then with whatever surface of that limb describe one surface of this box. This immediately lends itself to the idea of, say, describing one side of the box while approaching it from another, creating much more complex paths.

Back in Temperance Hall then, and talking about yesterday when Bonnie came out to the Centre with me to be shown around and also to see the VR Theatre. She was really quite awestruck by some of the visualisations of galaxies colliding and 3-D maps of the large scale structure of the universe, and just … I think that’s what’s important for me in this, or really in all my work, to make people feel something and want to know more, and to have that kind of reaction when seeing the visualisations in very convincing 3-D after talking about all this stuff for the past few days was really satisfying.

The previous night I’d been restless with thoughts, trying to deal with concepts that are far beyond my ability to grasp … I was thinking it’s like when you’re really fit from dancing and then go for a run for the first time in ages, and all the muscles are really strong in a particular way, but in running coordination they are so unfamiliar … the next day is pain. This is mostly my brain these two weeks. So I was thinking about Bonnie coming to the centre, and really agonising over where to start everything and the large monsters of ideas that I couldn’t reconcile when I thought it might be rather fun to try mapping the 3-D visualisations onto our bodies while in the VR Theatre.

Watching the animations with Bonnie it was so obvious this was a good idea.

So after two weeks, things are coalescing into … something. There’s a number of … ideas, things, areas, vaguely defined concepts that could become something, and simultaneously an idea of what it could look like when we get into Temperance Hall in late-February.

Firstly there is the literal data mapping, how to get various groups and clumps of data that can be represented in various 2- and 3-dimensional forms onto the rather inaccurate and prone to infirmity sack of bones and goo that is a body. This entails for me at least an endless plummet through research where one three-letter acronym like, say, SPH (that’s Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics) leads all the way back to Kepler and 2- and 3- body problems. mmm … elliptical orbits and eccentricities. That is to say, fun holiday reading.

Then simultaneous with this is the incomprehensibility of these papers and the research here. At best trying to read a paper can be an aesthetic experience where the mathematical symbols are the equivalent of calligraphy and there’s some kind of beauty in the whorls of glyphs and surrounding white space. This led me, circuitously, back to Forsythe and how ALIE/N A(C)TION was assembled. I think here, the interest lies not simply in the mechanisms invoked, but rather the process as alluding to ways to think of how choreography might be generated.

Veering off from this was a couple of days spent re-reading Leibniz’s Monadologie (the – duh – eponymous name of this piece) and being quite stunned by the logical genius necessitated in attributing a mechanical (of some description) universe to a divine creator. Which, via stalking Chris on the internet caused me to remember he also is rather fond of the history and philosophy of science. So there is this third thread that somehow manages to make sense of this, which was I suppose the original conceptual starting point of this piece.

Through this I have rather masses to read on the history of constellations, their mythology, changing cartography, and … Cartography. I suppose the fourth thread that is entwined with the third and also the first simply because in very real terms what is done here is a mapping of the universe on myriad scales, from large structure stretching over billions of light years where there is an explicit temporal duration in the map, to almost humanly apprehensible scales in mapping the barely attained structures of distant solar systems.

Finally there is something of the human in this, sort of like the anthropic principle, that is to say the universe is here because we’re here to observe it to be here. This is both something of the wonder and awe present in looking up and trying to make sense of what we see in the night sky that over millennia has led to astrophysics as it is now, and also the people who work here, who despite their interests that are so far from the mundane as to appear close to witchcraft nonetheless are human.

And with this then is trying to make all this somehow human, something that exists within the realm of what it means to be a person and … I guess this is one of my concerns in all my work.

Yesterday Bonnie was sitting here with me and I played her a video from the Hinode Observatory Satellite showing chromospheric loops on the sun, and had sunn0))) playing It took the night to remember from Black 1 and photos of them in concert …

Kinda good, no?