Of Limb & Language… we begin…

Of Limb & Language… we begin…


This afternoon, a group of 5 experimental dance&performance people will begin rehearsals for Of Limb and Language, a 2012/13 ARC project. For my part, as the director, today marks the end of months of solo reading, dreaming, planning, and procrastinating. Thankyou CounterPULSE!!!

Some tumbled thoughts I walk into the studio with…


#1 “ I’ve got your back, buddy.”

Language requires trust, and sense of community.

The trust required is challenged by physical reality. If you trust your buddy to protect you, you run a risk. For instance, he might decide to bash your head in with a rock. That was probably a common worry in the early days of symbolic communication.

Of course, today we don’t have the time, energy or resources it would take to consider each leap of faith we make each time word is heard or a symbol used — most agreements about the meanings of things are necessarily subsumed in the general floating morass of layered symbolism that we call civilization.

Our lives are terrifically abstracted. A coin, for example: we do not, cannot pause each time we use one to consider the risks we run in trusting its meaning. The quarter in my pocket has an approximate meaning of being the federal government of the United States of America’s legal tender for a certain amount of debt.  The number of symbols that last statement referred to, the leaps of faith taken, implicit agreements present… well— as the coin itself says, I guess: “In God we trust.” What other choice? Keep peering over your shoulder to see if Uncle Sam is sneaking up on you with a big fat boulder?

…And I haven’t even said “credit default swap” yet.


#2 Talk is cheap

We are so dependent on networks of abstractions (language, logos, money, etc.) that at times it’s difficult to extricate actual experience from its description or symbolic representation… if you hear a tree fall, but it was really an impeccable electronic rendering of what a tree falling sounds like, did you hear a tree fall?

In this kind of conversation, I often hear that words are overused to the point of becoming ‘void of meaning’. Is it true? For as much as we may question or even despise some of the agreements that a concept such as money depends on, it would be cruel to deny that it has an effect on our lives… the meaning of “cash” is readily apparent when you’re out on the streets without it, no?

But talk is cheap, because as the meaning of words expands, they become less precise. I like to tell my friends I love them. In another historical context, that would have meant I intended to marry them and/or be financially responsible for them, which, I don’t. So: is the love of a friend who is very casual about the meaning of the word love, really love? Is this a world of mistrust, alienation and deception?  Or one of liberal acceptance of diversity? Is it ok for “love” to just mean: “See ya later, buddy!” (It’s time to go sharpen my rocks…)


#3 More than words / Somebody to lean on

So modes of communication multiply and become increasingly complex, and need for trust and sense of community are still there. We keep inventing new rituals, new forms that we hope will be “meaningful in our times”. New ways to say I love you, new ways to connect to trees in empty forests. I appreciate media, please don’t get me wrong, but I often wonder: what’s the point of inventing new forms we are already entangled in such a broad dragnet of signifiers?

In my own search for things to trust, I look for that which is least representative of something else, and I find the body.

“The sensations from your skin and body — touch, temperature, pain, and a few others— are your mind’s true foundation… The brains of people born deaf don’t develop auditory maps, and the brains of congenitally blind people never form visual maps, but even deaf-blind people have body maps.  Vision or hearing without a body to relate sights and sounds to would be nothing but empty patterns of information.  Meaning is rooted in agency, and agency depends on embodiment.”                                                 —Blakeslee & Blakeslee, “The Body Has a Mind of its Own”

“Protect” still means something to the extent that our heads can still be bashed with rocks. Body is actual. It is dangerous. It can bleed, feed, and defecate. Certainly, it falls apart into its component aspects, is contingent on this and that, and, in the grander scheme of things, it is pretty insignificant.  And yet, if I lean and my support gives way, I fall. I like that.  Which brings me to contact improvisation…. more on that later.

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