monadologie – cosmos magazine

The bubble-quote of my traipsing through a park in Sydney, the endless, vertiginous blackness crisp with infinitesimal points, and there knowing the universe itself is enough, I didn’t elaborate on the minutes prior. Why was I walking through University of Sydney at night, alone? Why was I doing even in Sydney? And why is this memory so often recalled.

In this moment, looking up at the vast emptiness somewhere we are in, I knew absolutely there is no god.

I didn’t want to bring atheism so forthrightly into any discussion about my residency or monadologie, for many perhaps not so justifiable reasons including not-stepping-on-toes etc. I know from growing up very religious that people like to hold onto their faith with determination.

I was at a conference in Sydney, the Queen’s Trust Programme for Young Australians, and after a long day assumed the gathering I was sitting around in was for queers. Somehow I realised it was for Christians. I was already tired and emotional, the point of the structure of the week was to induce this, and sitting there was jolted into remembering just how messed up I’d been because of religion. And also, feeling peculiarly betrayed, suckered in, deceived. I was thinking we were going to talk about being queer and somehow that night I really wanted to… oh it’s elusive to remember…

I left. I said something like, “Oh, I’m in the wrong place”, and felt regarded as, well you know, a not quite as worthy person. I walked out, angry, certainly, upset also, this small gathering reminding me of the great villainy of religion that caused me to see every bad thing that happened as I grew up as god’s punishment for me being a sinner, for being queer.

I walked. It was inky in that way only standing in the midst of an unlit park can be, the horizon dotted by lights. I looked at the sky and god stopped. Gone.

I’d stopped believing years before, and praying, but in this moment if I can say I ever ‘became’ anything, I became an atheist.

I wrote this in the middle of the night, the witching hour, and all to say that for me in science i find an imagination far more worthy and joyous than religion can ever provide.

Tim Thwaites came along to one night of monadologie, stayed around for the discussion and later we spoke on the phone for an hour about the residency. I think it’s a really quite beautiful piece about the whole process that he wrote for Cosmos Magazine, and dance, art collaborating with science, especially for the last sentence:

monadologie is an answer to those who are unable to see how close is the link between the aesthetics of science and the intricate patterns found in art.”

I’m also quite honoured and proud, maybe a little bewildered to be in the middle of a magazine full of scientists talking passionately about their work. Photographed with my camera phone for your blurry enjoyment…

monadologie … last days and finish

The previous week has been on of quite small scale. I’ve been trying to learn everything I can on absorption spectrums and more importantly what electrons and photons do when and how as they get excited or … dwindle. This has led me in the last couple of days to things stars do, like eject vast gouts of corona or have all kinds of magnetic excitement around sunspots.

There is a point to this. I have no idea what it is.

Among the myriad things that never, for equally various reasons into the showing were the sublimely beautiful Hinode (Solar-B) videos of the sun in X-ray or Extreme Ultra-Violet, we’d talked about being projected on a suitably awe-inspiring scale at the end of the piece…

It’s been some weeks of just thinking about what we have done so far and where to go, and so for me the next stage, besides more funding applications is working on this new stuff for a solo. Also editing of the video into a 3D stereoscopic film.

My last days were spent on occasion doing tests for this, as single frames, and then as short bits of video, getting the separation right, working out how to assemble a stereo film in Final Cut, seeing what peculiarities and oddities emerged when the video was played back through the VR Theatre projectors, and repeat.

Aside from some weirdness, like frame rate irregularities, possibly due to how I exported it from Final Cut, and some unwanted up-scaling in the projection process, there’s nothing that doesn’t look atrocious and Chris is quite keen for us to continue. So while he works on the weirdness, I get to do the cutting. I haven’t done much in editing for a while with my old laptop so geriatrically incapable of rendering at a speed measured faster than frames-per-day, and the precarious assemblage to get it to boot in the first place, but with my new new!!! MacBook Pro rendering to m2v almost in real time, I’m all trembling with anticipation at getting fluent in all the fun graphics and processor intensive editing things… mmm excitement.

But… sadness.

Yesterday was my last at Swinburne. I’ve been there since early December when I had so little comprehension beyond nervousness at what I could possibly do, and in these tumultuous months, for so many reasons, personally, artistically, intellectually such a bone-crushing shove into a precipice, and somehow found it much more to my liking than the fear and nausea on its lip, and then yesterday to say goodbye to Chris and walk down beside the railway lines hummocked above, past Max and Alley Tunes and our small French café, the now autumn sun leaking long shadows through denuded trees, this last time.

And to pack, to entomb these months in boxes that, along with me though via different carriers will arrive in Adelaide next week, to finish. My room in Collingwood soon to be vacant, my life again designed around a suitcase. How unexpected and glorious this all has been.

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monadologie photos

I do have much more to write about these last days at the centre, and I’ll make excuses elsewhere. I got some photos yesterday from Chris of the performance, Saturday night, taken by Paul Philipson.

… return

I was up till quite late last night methodically going through installing all of my add-ons, plugins, bits and pieces that make doing things on my laptop so much quicker and often just possible to be done at all. Not a few of these I had to find the latest versions now that I am on 10.5, which is rather nice. I’ve decided to play with some of the new features instead of my usual one-step up from command-line simplicity, to see if they are indeed useful and not just candy.

My biggest moment of terror though was opening ecto and finding around 500 of my blog entires completely not there, and anything I tried to do made things worse. Eventually, things seemed to be normal-er-ish, though all my custom tags had vanished, and while I’m sure I recall seeing them in some .plist, I couldn’t find them and re-entered them by hand.

There is an ecto3 beta out, but if this doesn’t crash when I try and post it, and retains a semblance of order, I’ll stick with this till everything else is ok-ish.

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end … begin

Since mid-December I have been using one of the Centre for Astrophysics white MacBooks, which has been a joy. A proper working laptop, not the Frankenstein monster my beloved old PowerBook had become. Dead battery, dead hard drive, dead optical drive (with Japanese sexploitation film stuck in it).

Today I turned it on for the first time in three months, not even as its own machine, but slaved through FireWire to the MacBook, and then overwrote its disc with two and an half hours of:

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Then I went and bought a new MacBook Pro.

monadologie day 46

For those who count, days 43 through 45 were production days at Napier St and some 23 minutes of performing followed by a discussion with Chris Fluke, myself, the dancers and the audience. More on that non-sequentially, I imagine.

A week in Adelaide. mmm. Oh! I didn’t blog even. Seeing friends, many meetings, some shows and festivals and then a 6am flight back to Melbourne for the remaining three weeks of my residency.

What to say thus far? I have no idea quite what I have made. I can’t really assess it within the context of previous pieces I’ve made which exist in the world of dance theatre, performance, installation rather than pure dance. I do have some clear ideas where it can go in the coming weeks, which mainly will be research for me. I also plan to make this research into a solo while I’m back in Adelaide. I have an idea of what it could look like with a group of dancers, though not sure of the number. I had an idea that a chamber orchestra of brass instruments would be a fine accompaniment. I have lots of ideas I later regard with embarrassed disdain.

I’m quite sure having projection or dressing it up with the usual accouterments of dance is exactly what I don’t want to do. Nor either to engage with any of the devices of theatre. The problem with this is that in refusing to engage with common structural elements, it leaves a gaping void which needs to be addressed with some sort of rigor.

I was reading about a lecture Aubrey de Grey gave at the BIL Conference, where he said, (paraphrasing from …My Heart’s in Accra) “Be right (diligence before oratory). He quotes Sean Carroll: “Being a heretic is hard work”. It’s not enough to disagree with mainstream thinking – you actually have to be correct. “Galileo was a heretic, but understood the reigning orthodoxy at the time better than anyone else.” Very few people work that hard: “Many casual heretics can’t be bothered.”” At another talk, KV Fitz said, “intelligence is a function of passion.”

I think between these two thoughts much of what I am trying to do here is contained.

During my holiday in Adelaide, I showed the video of Friday night to Daniel, Bonnie, a couple of others. The more I watched it, the more I felt I couldn’t say anything about it. I’m not sure even if it’s any good. I can say though that making dance, seriously investing time, not in a personal style of moving or individual technique, but engaging wholeheartedly in the cultural history of western dance as performance and spectacle, all the way from Louis XIV and even before, and considering what choreography as movement is relative to the contemporary world as dance was 300 years ago to the courts, or as dance was to the Modern world of much of last century, to be very specific in analysing these systems of a body moving and to try and conceptualise where it could go, to not reiterate what has been done before, all this which is really choreographing and making dance and nothing else, is really fucking hard.

Also, I think it does not easily fit into being assessed within the sphere of what contemporary dance is at the moment in Australia. Certainly what I’ve seen in Melbourne is drifting far from dance these days, whereas Adelaide is quite fixated on, in various guises, the dancer as technician, and neither of these things are what I am interested in here. It is a problem with ideas, that if they don’t have some dialogue with the existing field from which they emerge and upon which they somehow reflect, it is tricky to be able to say much about what they are.

Not arrogantly pretending I just changed the world of dance, but the line of research I’m following doesn’t have much room for many of contemporary dance’s current tropes.

Then there was the discussion on language and structure with a couple of people, and whether pure dance can indeed say anything. My first thought on this was that if it really can’t say anything without being dressed up, perhaps it shouldn’t try to articulate anything in the first place. What does all this training and attention to corporeal aesthetics count towards? I suppose the answer therein in my continued preference for working only with dancers, and, well, very particular types of dancers at that.

All this to say, there is something in here that counts, but perhaps it is beyond my ability to make sense of.

monadologie day 40, 41 & 42

Oh, so close now and … mmm nervousness and so on.

A peculiar week. I haven’t been too intent on planning for the showing, the idea all along was to continue playing with stuff up till today and then whatever we have, tomorrow we for once stick with. So in a way it is finished but in more ways oh very much not.

Unexpected not-happening. All the Hydrogen shell stuff, based on the absorption lines, didn’t work. I mean didn’t work in one of it’s possible manifestations as a method to shuffle us closer or further from our centre based on the size and shape of various orbital shells. To wonder what I’m talking about and sometimes pictures are good, look at these Hydrogen atom orbitals. So we thought, oh well, save that for me alone for when I return to the centre.

That is to say, will work in a different way, but it was surprising to see the complexity of the piece disturbed and broken by adding just a bit more.

Altogether, it has reached a level of complexity that is pointless to add to as there isn’t time to fold new things into it, though I do have a couple of clear ideas where it will go in the coming weeks after the showing, and need to work this out myself through my favourite rehearsal method, lying down and dozing.

Gideon came in to watch us do a run today. He won’t be here for the showings, and we were, well, ready to be seen, and certainly by the end knew what it’s going to feel like to perform in two days. I need to learn to breathe differently, but it’s far too late for anything else. And remember everything else as well as how to improvise, and the other way too.

I don’t want to get into an analysis of what the work is viz. what I imagined it could be yet, though it now has the feeling I always get around here, a bit of emptiness at what could have been. It has to, at some time collapse from all the myriad possibilities down into the one thing it will be seen as, and watching it on video, I do enjoy, like endless rain in sheets beating the surface of puddles.

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monadologie day 37 & 38 & 39

This is the running order of the work. Or … it describes certain possibilities that if I’m clever enough could unfold in the weeks after the showings into something else. Yes, the phrase names are stupid. No, my notes do make sense to me, when I can read them. Yes, I have quite unnatural levels of nervousness and anxiety about this piece that I am so far unsuccessful in convincing myself is in fact excitement.

I spent Friday afternoon with Chris at the centre on what I was supposing, despite my utter fascination, was not going to make it into the piece. Well, how wrong was I? More on that later.

We were in Napier St again on Saturday, and ripped through most stuff and are vaguely coherent up to the end of phrase 37. Friday we went through the middle section that I decided for sundry reasons needed to be fast. Mostly this was because the movement is quite large and gross, and resists attempts to create fine detail like in the early stuff, and can just not be approached in the same way as those early phrases.

Rather than being a improvisation than once rendered lends itself to further unfolding, the middle section is more of a direct representation of the improvisation itself we did in the VR Theatre.

I have retired the word ‘thrash’ from contemporary dance lexicon. It’s boring after so many years that anything vigorous and slightly uncontrolled gets saddled with such a mediocre word. In response, I say, ‘thesaurus’.

I’m really too tired to type and every second word has mistakes in it so I think I’ll just go to bed and start again tomorrow.

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monadologie

Frances would like to invite you to a showing of the development of monadologie.

“In so far as the concatenation of their perceptions is due to the principle of memory alone, men act like the lower animals, resembling the empirical physicians, whose methods are those of mere practice without theory… For instance, when we expect that there will be daylight to-morrow, we do so empirically, because it has always so happened until now. It is only the astronomer who thinks it on rational grounds.”

— G.W. Leibniz – La Monadologie 1714

monadologie has been:

choreographed and danced by Bonnie Paskas, Frances d’Ath, Lina Limosani
an ANAT/Arts Victoria Arts Innovation Residency (AIR)
at Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
and Maximised by Chunky Move

important things:

when: Friday 22nd February, Saturday 23rd February
what time: 7:30pm
where: Napier St Theatre, cnr Napier and Church Sts, South Melbourne

what else: blogging at supernaut.info and www.anat.org.au/blog/dAth and dance stuff at www.francesdath.info

contact me: frances at francesdath.info or 0419 586 227

Please RSVP by email or SMS

monadologie day 36

Feeling rather stunned after today. Bonnie and I worked out a couple of reiterative sequences that unfold from from the beginning and end of the group of phrases and respectively refer back towards earlier phrases and forward towards later phrases. They also occur with greater frequency at the beginning and end so cause a pile-up of repetitions that causes a rather grueling mental exertion just to remember what comes next, not even what we do with what comes next. And by strange chance, they cross over in the middle, so we can do either the ascending or descending sequences.

Much confusion and anxiety.

Which is to say, we tried to run it all today. 41 phrases unfold to nearly double that and in an instant we have almost half an hour of something that more-or-less is what it will be in another week. I realised that these unfolded phrases could serve as a basis for another set of series that operate on them which we never got to, and then thought about equations, and how through a process of eliminating, swapping around, balancing, it’s possible to make it more simple, which gave me the ghost of a sense of something further away, where pockets of emptiness would appear just from these eliminations.

I suggested this to Bonnie and immediately declared it’s something I’ll work on on my own in the final weeks of the residency.

We still have about a week of useful play time left. Lina returns tomorrow and I hope is not too horrified by what we have done. It’s all lurching into production time now, thinking about more than just making dance, and having to divide my attention elsewhere.

It’s become an extremely intense piece, something I’d imagined, after all my visual aesthetic for this was inspired by black metal and doom … ok … photographs of Sunn0))) playing live. I think also my turbulent personal life has seeped into it too. I wonder if when astrophysicists are having a bad time, they write angry and emotional equations?