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justin hall
18 december 1997
technology self and society
ken gergen


assigned a final project to explore "technology self and society" i decided to dance rather than make a web page; i didn't want to use media, per se, to explore technology. i think the body has an inherent, difficult intimacy that i have probably avoided through so much time with technology.

so i started designing my dance with music making - i spent upwards of eleven or twelve hours working pieces of music and media into an extended cacaphony. i thought of myself as "programming myself with music."

when i tried to dance to it, i found it extremely inhibiting. though i had built the soundtrack, the space inhabited by that noise encumbered me with movement/music matching: a confining literality.

i watched a video of jiri kylian, a scandinavian choreographer fascinated with aboriginal dance. he said, a choreographer is most often a secondary creator - reacting to music; that's why i choreograph in silence.

so i shut the tape off and forced myself to spent two hours or so moving around in circles, in squares, across the room, on the floor, in small spaces, in large spaces. thinking about technology, thinking about dinner, thinking about my girlfriend.

i didn't have the vocabulary for this - it's about struggling for pieces of movement that i remember or instinctually connect with the music.

in other words, having seen student dance concerts, i could remember these folks using specific dance vocabularies. my limited training and mostly spectating observance of particular traditions left me aping pieces of these steps, and incorporating them into the frenzied gyrations i enjoy in my own recreational dance. i had no solid tradition or training upon which to draw - only pieces of traditions that i wasn't even always aware of.

now reflecting,
putting it together out of improvisations i did and redid was a liberating way to construct dance without training.

as i moved in this way, unattached to lines of reasoning, or particular musical motivation, i could observe a few movements that seemed resonant, and even compatible. i could put an interpretation behind them in my head that allowed me to rereherse them with my mind fully engaged, but since they had originated in my body, i could be taken over by them.

then i put back on the sound track and tried to synchronize the two. due to poor timing, and extended time spent separately on each of the dance and music sections, i was only able to practice synchronization in chunks - never all the way through integrated.

in terms of costume, i was originally going to use a blue underwear suit i had that made me feel like a superhero, as it felt like a body sheath. i watched a jiri kylian video, road to the stomping ground, and i admired the way the aboriginals's loinclothes made their legs look extremely long (and strange), and i admired the way jiri kylian's dancers' slapped their bare legs to create a score. i decided to try dancing in my boxers, a my closest loincloth approximation - when i did, i felt my body better than when i was encumbered and sweating in clothes. also, having bare skin accessible allowed me to slap, to create a more immediate personal sub-soundtrack.

i wore band aids on my nipples because it seemed to me as i observed myself semi-nude that the nipples stood out of the chest. without going too far into it, the nipples connote sexuality, arousal, nourishment. i wanted to play with those things, being human things, in part by removing them, and thusly hosting their absence. without nipples, and thanks to the fact that band-aids are my skin colour, my chest had a uniform, unnatural appearance (until they became loose and were hanging off - sexuality revealed?).

the first performance of this piece, at john tull's house, went well, thanks largely to an engaged audience. there was one sustained weirdness, noted below.

some part of me protests this writing - while i think i might provide some useful insight into the thinking behind the dance, i think it likely serves to drain some of the energy out of the narrative. for example, i wonder if i would like to perform the piece for anyone who had read this beforehand. it seems too deliberate - a large part of the reason for moving, and not talking, is the lack of certainty, the mystery involved.

i used parts or wholes of these songs, in roughly this order (with some repeats):

kurt vonnegut reading from cat's cradle
oh a sleeping drunkard up in central park
and a lion hunter in the jungle dark
and a chinese dentist and a british queen
all fit together in the same machine.

nice nice, very nice,
nice nice, very nice,
nice nice, very nice,
so many different people in the same device.

prokofiev played by vengerov

steve be zet, "closed eye view"

the police, "too much information"

denki groove, "happy birthday"

the police, "rehumanize yourself"

wesley willis, "hootie and the blowfish"

art tatum, "elegie"

the last poets, "mean machine"
automatic, pushbutton, remote control,
snythetic genetics command your soul.

walter/wendy carlos, beethovan's 9th: "suicide scherzo"

allen ginsberg, "pacific high mantras"

"ancient japanese harmonies"

denki groove, "disco union"

allen ginsberg, "moloch"
moloch! whose mind is pure machinery!

ministry, "diety"

music of java, "monkey chant"

swan silvertones, "my rock"
callin' jesus

jane's addiction, "ted just admit it"
sex is violent

geinoh yamashirogumi, "dolls polyphony"

de la soul, "transmitting live from mars"

liz phair, "help me mary"

jimi hendrix, "bold as love"

langston hughes, "a negro speaks of rivers"
i've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins
my soul has grown deep like the rivers.

geinoh yamashirogumi, requiem

if i was to compose a more brief, mystery inclusive idea framing my movement, it could be:

reaction to pace.

these are the movements i came up with, largely separate from music. the details of these forms explained below may have been more explicit in my head or in practice than they turned out in the initial performance.

much of what i say below comes from what people related to me after seeing these steps enacted. i made a deliberate effort to keep silent, or unthunk, my thoughts in relation to the movements prior to connecting them performed.

how does one greet an audience?

wiggling my eyeballs, como catatonic said carew,
an immediate reaction to the stimulation of the audience and a early physical tone-setter for the piece - quiet yet frenzied.

exaggerated steps, sort of funky but over-compelled. today one can act cool, but it is so easily over compelling and leads to jerky behaviour. i tried to be a little bit james brown here, a little bit robotic. mucha energia.

the coolwalk evolves, and the energy overtakes me and i begin to move accelerated in my cool state until i am trying to be energy in vibration-twitch. i still feel cool, or feel like acting cool, but the determination of direction is gradually escaping me.
the stuff that was robotic in this case evolves into uneven pacing - there is no relation to the music except cohabitational frantic pacing.

in the midst of some maddening movement, developing your own rhythm is key. it is calming.

this is why i wore no clothes - bare skin makes the best slapping sound.

i was told that my slapping left a large red spot on my chest, so there appears to be some price for keeping time with yourself.

eventually, the slapping evolved into a kind of promenade -

promenading with slapping - your own rhythm can be seductive. so i walked in a flirtacious/salacious/sexual manner, keeping gradual time slapping my legs, feeling saucy and confident.

drop roll
but this kind of behaviour can be troublesome - in the midst of strutting i find myself called to the floor. once, and it breaks my confident stride and makes me aware of the grid.
(more on the floor later)

my girlfriend amy and her best friend eve often evoke "grids" - the form of intersecting parallel and perpendicular lines. this structure is frequently used as a basis for three dimensional computer projections - often cyberspace is visualized starting with a grid.

i wondered how a body might move in a grid structure. i elected to try to evoke the forms with my arms, sketching in the air with stiff hands the collision of lines. i did little with my lower body, except squarish movements with my hips and stepping around in a box pattern on the floor.

hand reach
when the gridliness reaches an uncomfortable point of gyration and compulsion, a smile spread across my face as i reached around me, with my feet planted, legs stiff, and reached out for stimulae, whatever, reaching all around me and moving my hands in the air quickly.

reluctant move
there were times when in the midst of the reaching hands interfacing and feeling good, one must shift positions. so i became acutely uncomfortable and shifted reluctantly nearby, and then immediately reentered the state of reaching thereafter.

this movement evolved out of the reaching hands - somehow the motion of going back and forth, and some things pulled in, encourage a diplacing evolution.

the quaking in the body coming from the place of technological tranquility, the quaking makes it impossible to relax or stand or stay in one place. it is utterly disrupting and jarring.

hopi hop
what happens when the pace finally picks up and you've moved past the reaching stage and the promenading stage? and, you've been overtaken by technological fallout.

perhaps a reversion to older means of flight - dancing to evoke a bird, or in this day and age, dancing to evoke a native american evoking a bird.

this could be spiritually significant as well - evoking a shaman, or shaman-bird spirit.

this movement is contagious so the movement and personal agression and intensity of the dance increases until the dancer has expelled their energy.

drop roll
and finds themselves worn down by the pacing of the hopping until they are no longer flying but just trying to remain above the floor, the earth -

going down and coming back up,

love the floor
and then you are there, the floor, your face in it and you have to learn to love it you reach out to it and find the things you find are just as close to the earth as you are your face in it and even pushing as hard as you can you are just

the floor

i was thinking of the floor here as below the maddening technological sublime

it holds its own attraction and solace - one can learn to love it,
make love to it, in a sense, lay with it

and so after some loving and being in that state, one sucks up enough from the floor and through this sucking motion and inhaling and inheriting bits of earth and dirt and reality-chunks the vacuumer begins to rise and come up and expand

rise exhale
being at this state of regained height with the floor within,
the body becomes approachable to the audience again by a process of exhaling. before during and after this process, the performer is performing drama - a kung fu movie pose, with all its pomp and seriousness -

the exhaling is loud


until they have exhaled it all and stand opened up before the audience and

they surf; they assume a forward leaning position

(during the performance, the other sequence of moves was finished far before i had intended - i had been driven too fast by my own pacing, so i surfed like this for more than 50 seconds.)

the posture of arms outstretched, slightly crouched, evokes the hopi dance some, and the gridly postures secondly.

my friend wayne, and my brother colin asked if i'd seen "butoh" - japanese dance - they both thought i'd my performance was similar. i hadn't seen butoh to the best of my knowledge. "it's one of the most profound forms in the world," colin sez, "very hard to access."

the following is exerpted from notes/reactions the day after the performance (december 19):

19 december

for my technology self and society class final project, i did an interpretive dance

you know, get offline, away from textuality and all this words stuff

after 12 hours making 11 minutes of 8 layered sound
and 5 hours choreographing myself
and ten minutes of practice merging the two,

i performed it last night
i think it turned out good:
i repelled and scared some people
wilson accuses me of getting an erection during the performance
(my costume was boxer shorts
so i could do body percussion
with band-aids over my nipples
so i'd have a visually smooth chest

i had first tried to dance with the music, and then i shut it off.
i moved independent of but maddened by the noise
i twitched and rolled and walked and slapped my thighs and pushed lewdly against the floor and made my face and chest turn red as i gnashed my teeth,
i wiggled my eyes a lot
i finished my steps too quickly -
i stood like a surfer-forward for 60 seconds

i didn't introduce it, i didn't follow it up,
no verbiage.
i saw it on video today, probably too long for quicktime,
it looked improvised and unpolished but parts were thoughtful, the whole was.

eve and wayne were both here, hallelujah. what kindness, visitors.

mary gergen said i looked right through her during the dance,

like i was trying to convert her

thanks to ayla yavin, sharon friedler, charlie mayer, ken gergen and the technology self and society class for putting up with me, john tull for giving me a place to perform, and wayne and eve for coming to see me shake.

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