“...poetic images are imaginings in a distinctive sense: not mere fancies and illusions but imaginings that are visible inclusions of the alien in the sight of the familiar” Martin Heidegger
In my past two articles I spoke about the dissonance between our understanding of linear time and the poetics of personal experience. I proposed the possibility of Nietzsche’s idea of Eternal Recurrence to more completely describe our poetic relationship of time, yet I admitted the shortcomings of any doctrine to completely describe the dance of life. I thought about how the doctrine of eternal recurrence, though not a factually accurate cosmological description of time, may illuminate the significance of dance performance and render its importance as an art form that exists in the present with the past and future choreographies collapsing into one another and informing one another as a vibrant whole, not a linear model. I described the significance of dance to mirror the temporal structure of life, within which we may not repeat or travel back, which happens as a kind of nothingness but also as potent possibility in the nothingness of the present moment.
I have been integrating these studies with creating a new work, or I have longed to express these studies through abstract, interdisciplinary art. The starting point for my work, “Burning As It Runs,” which will premiere at SOAK, began with this research and has become to be about many ideas at once, but always traveling back to a basic concept- being in a situation, whether it is being a part of an understanding of linear time, being alive and alone but also in the world with others, being a part of a specific time and a historical situation, yet always having imagination.
Martin Heidegger’s term for being a person in the world is “Dasein,” which translates from German to English as “being there.” Dasein is very much in the world, interacting with everything around it and with other Daseins, never separate from the world and never having a defined, permanent identity. The structures of Dasein include having facticity, or facts about one’s situation, and projection, or the ability to look forward into the openness of the future and to imagine what could be possible, to have freedom to create and work on one’s projects. Heidegger explains one may enter the mode of being in Bad Faith when focussing too much on one structure while ignoring the other. This usually happens when one takes one’s facticity to be definite and ignores possibilities. I find it too often that we assume labels to be permanent and our common understandings of the world to be definite without exploring our imagination as children are apt to do.
While we understand time to be linear, measured in even increments and our lives going forward in a line, we could imagine time to be different; we could take on the lens of eternal recurrence and see the past and future collapsing into one another and as relative to the present moment, the only moment of active significance. I could imagine an experience to recur infinitely, for time to happen in poetic cycles rather than in consecutive numbers. I think it is a tendency in our society to be in Bad Faith and take this widespread understanding of linear time to be definite and true while ignoring other possibilities for time. We exist in a situation of society understanding time as linear, which has put a burden on how we view the past with regret and the future with anxiety, yet we could imagine the possibility of it being cyclical, and this is a beautiful image.
During the research period for Burning as it Runs, this poem by Arseney Tarkovsky, the father of filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky, was always on my mind:
And I dream of a different soul
Dressed in other clothes
Burning as it runs
From timidity to hope
Spiritous and Shadowless
Like fire it travels the earth
Leaves lilac behind on the table
To be remembered by
The idea for my project started with the idea of a rope tied to my waist to establish linear time, but a dynamic linearity, with my partner tied to other end and controlling the rope from behind the curtain or out of frame. A kind of moving forward and backward evenly with the rope to establish linear time in tension with cyclicality and sometimes bursts of fighting against the pull of the rope in attempt to break out of the linear or in a longing to understand it but always falling short. I wanted to combine this performance with a film that mirrored the linearity of the rope but was spliced with moments of dreams; of running free. In this way, the rope ties me to a situation, or to my understanding, but I am able to dream of possibility, to be free in my imagination, to dream of a different soul who runs on fire and loses its shadow as it travels the earth. I chose to wear a red dress and to use 16mm film in the dream splices, to give a sense of vibrancy. These moments are like memory or dream; an uncanny phenomenon of past and future collapsing into the romance of the present moment that is slipping away.
White Sands New Mexico was a space that was everything and nothing at the same time, a space that was both calming and terrifying. The linearity of the rope existing in a void, the contrast of a concrete line in nothingness, our understanding of existence swallowed by utter misunderstanding.
In the desert, I felt free to run, to do anything at all, but I felt swallowed by the nature that was far larger than me, that was indifferent to all my understandings and to my dreams. This was incredibly sad but also just simply evident. As Albert Camus wrote in his diaries, "The world is beautiful, and this is everything. The great truth which it patiently teaches me is that neither the mind nor even the heart has any importance." The rope suspended in a place of total freedom, our understanding tying us down in nothingness, our dreams tiny and unimportant in comparison to the mountains.
After the production of this film, watching the footage and doing some new work in my rehearsals and workshops, I have become even more fascinated with the human structures of having both situation and imagination, and also both the importance and unimportance of these structures in the face of mountains and seas and sky. There is a scene in my movie where I walk in the red dress slowly across the frame. It is not a familiar human walk, I am not falling forward with each step but rather sustaining the momentum and moving forward as one structure. When I watch this scene I am usually stunned by what I did not realize in the desert. Though the walk is slowed down compared to our every day movements, and must be achieved with training, and I had to use a lot of focus to move in such a sustained way, my shadow moved so fast compared to the shadows of the mountains. It is a quick, wayfaring, unstable, fleeting shadow. While the shadows of the mountains are vast and stable, strong and rooted. My shadow is in the desert for fractions of a seconds compared to the mountains, and I am on the earth for fractions of a second compared to the mountains.
I recognize that I am humbled by the mountains, that my knowledge means nothing in the face of them. However, perhaps I can embrace my relationship with the mountains through longing. By dancing as if I am the shadow of the mountain, I can train to change the frequencies of my human habits and long to become something that so solid and beautiful and essential to the earth, that is not my own, unstable human form. Yet I necessarily remain my human form, it is my situation, and it is in this longing that a beautiful dance could be created.
Since being in New York, I have taken many Butoh workshops and a Noguchi Taiso workshop, as well as participating in the weekly classes and labs at CAVE with Ximena Garnica. In the work I have been doing there is often proposed image and a dancing to become that image. The proposed image is something one may understand and picture. For example, an amoeba. In order to become an amoeba, I can no longer have consciousness only in my head, it is in my entire body, my eyes and hands do not have the same utilitarian functions, and my body moves as if it is water inside of a membrane. I do not have muscles and bones. However, I can not actually imitate the amoeba because I still have thoughts come to me and I do have muscles and bones. Yet the image is not born in me replicating an amoeba through some kind of technology or transcendence, but rather through this understanding of an image we may enter a new space that is unfamiliar, that is not even describable in terms of images or objects. Of course it is tragic that my body remains human and I can never leave my historical situation, yet by means of my imagination I may create art in a new space, a space between, a space of emptiness and nothingness where I long to be what we cannot.