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science is the new black metal

I was sitting at Cibo around lunchtime, getting ready to visit some sex shops around Hindley St looking for instruction manuals on Shibari, Japanese rope bondage, and to have a chat with Sally at ACArts about the choreography of ballet curtain calls. I got a call from ANAT, also in Hindley St, and responsible for all kinds of art-science fun.

Waah! I’m still bursting out in laughter at inappropriate moments, and completely, completely amazed they and Arts Victoria decided my lunatic proposal on Leibniz, 17th century science, 20th century astrophysics and dance dance dance was worth funding for an amount I have never come close to receiving before. I’m almost embarrassed to think how much.

I can’t even say any more. I’m sitting down but I need a drink. Absinthe!

I love astronomy so much. (I get to hang out at Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing,)

monadologie – science is the new black metal

A few months ago I got really excited by the Stereo satellites 3-D photographs and videos of the sun, there’s something colossal, menacing and gothic about what we see as a blinding white-ish disc revealed as a seething monster, scabbed and pockmarked, slowly boiling and fringed with an alien halo. It’s not what we imagine the sun god would look like.

So last night when the sun had properly set and Leigh Warren studios were murky, Gala and I tried to remember how to dance. It’s been eight months since we made temperance in Melbourne with Bonnie and there was a gap in our our duo where she should be sitting. For now it is just us, though maybe two more could arrive sometime, if it gets beyond whatever we do in the next couple of weeks. The genesis of monadologie back in February has remained fairly constant to now – Leibniz and his text, boris and Sunn0))), and of course the Stereo videos.

It’s kind of a conversation between people, like chamber music. It’s also … if science now, to observe the universe on any scale is to be understood, it’s only through layers of intermediaries; Mercury as the messenger of the gods. Three hundred years ago, Newton, Hooke, Leibniz observed the universe through tools that only barely stretched our senses beyond their means, and the tools themselves could be understood or manufactured by a person. I was thinking about this when I was applying for the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics residency, that what bodies moving and choreography can’t do is a literal one-to-one representation of data. A body of data being apprehended through a digital interface, can do this, representing it as audio, or light, or … a body can only ever approximate, and never is each iteration the same as the last.

It was … embarrassing last night to realise after the months passed how quickly our ability to improvise on a formal system vanishes, and that before we can even get to the stage of considering how to assemble movement, we have to relearn how to move. It is really pleasurable though to return to dancing, and to all the Forsythe stuff I seem to have accumulated.

The process then is fairly straightforward, in that systems of improvisation build up movement while videoing, then we cut and paste the good bits and try to learn them. Late last night though, I thought, “yeah but that’s just a bunch of steps, isn’t it? Aren’t I trying to get away from that?”

So the continuation of this is to create a bunch of rules that describe what happens if you find yourself in a particular situation, like if my location is very close to the front of gala, then do this set of instructions or else do these other ones. Because it’s all established with really formal improvisation techniques that can also be used to analyse whatever you’re doing while you’re doing it, there’s clear paths to dismantle whatever existing phrase we happen to be in the middle of.

I also thought that to have a film running, kinda as an external source of input, so say it’s Bladerunner, which could be in its entirety or cut up into a string of short pieces, then every time the blimp floats past advertising off-world living, the ‘blimp phrase’ has to be done. Ultimately it’s removing the act of choreographing one step from the ossification of making and setting steps. Step-making is a clear, well-worn and inescapable path that proceeds both spatially and temporally in a fixed manner. I’m trying to do something like a cascade, where whatever starting point there is, the movement keeps branching and bifurcating, cutting back across itself, slowing and speeding up, like a braided river, any path can be taken.

leibniz, monadologie, choreographing and thinking too much

I’ve taken to walking back through Faulkner Park, between the Domain and, I guess you could say, Prahran, though the suburbs are not so important as the linking of sections of a city, scraps of topology. The meandering backwater paths off the automotive and overheated parallel striations of main roads is where a city becomes, if it is fortunate, human. Melbourne I think is one of the less successful cities for this, constantly dissected by blaring highways that delineate the end of walking.

Back to the park though. Ballet this morning, and after yesterday’s over-excitement of discovering the impending tour of Sunn 0))) and Boris, all I have been listening to is Boris. OK, and Sunn 0))). It was Emile who introduced me to much of what constitutes my current listening repertoire, and plenty of that has turned up in my performances since 2005. As much as going to DanceWEB in 2003 changed what I was doing and resulted in extermination, 4.7 gig of mp3s from Emile had much the same effect on hell.

After temperance last year (of which I have just heard a rumour that it might be getting cut some time soon … ish), I’ve had a work fermenting primarily based on Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, inventor of, among other things, calculus and binary numeral system (those of you who’ve seen me count to 1024 in binary using my fingers will appreciate the high geeky adoration I feel for Leibniz). So I’m currently ploughing through his 1714 text Monadologie, and after half a page comparing the English and German translations, decided to go with the original French version, though I really wish he’d written it in whatever dialect of German is spoken in Vienna instead of being clever and writing it in French, my French sucks at this level.

So while the third part of the extermination-hell-pestilence-?-?? cycle is coming along nicely, I have been thinking about Leibniz … and Boris … and dancing, and I suppose in this context Michel Serres, who made the analogy between a calculator and a dancer in Genèse, that I would really like to quote here, but …

Perhaps what intrigues me here is also what I find fascinating in this era when a new system, that of rationalism and science swallowed whole the previous one which to our eyes looked rife with the abysses of the Dark Ages. Though to remember Isaac Newton was as concerned with alchemy as he was with physics, I think is fertile ground for attempting an understanding the eruptions of religious and spiritual insanity in our culture which is supposed to the the heir of that age.

Insofar as this is so, it underlies both the cycle of five works (that I really need a name for) and this current, other, piece. Perhaps though it can be seen as the opposite, or counterpoint to the cycle. If the five works constitute (in part, and being severely reductionist here) a meditation on the eruption of the supernatural into understanding bodies in the world, then this new piece on Leibniz would be, and I’m struggling to find the right words here … in which the capacity for the mind and human imagination allows for the creation of new worlds, and so sets us free from what we have been, what we already are.

Back to Boris then. I have some fairly defined ideas on how this piece should proceed, and I think one of the interesting things for me right now is dance as endurance, in the transcendental sense that shows up in so many cultures, and also that utter sloughing off of the body that occurs in mountaineering. Another is insanely, almost heart-rendingly complicated choreography that was in part where temperance was going, and listening to Boris while walking in the park, I knew I’d found my music. Oh, another thing is that it’s a solo. For me.