Creation (Updated: 01/09/18)

Butoh scholar P Liao breaks down the creative process of butoh into three parts: (1) Emptying; (2) Encountering; (3) Transforming.

1. Emptying/Quieting

“Just as sound is born of silence, calm envelops all movement. The being within the total void allows the body to discover the new strings which will move it.” – Viala J and Masson-Sekine¹

We become a transparent or empty body so that qualias can enter freely. The body grows quiet. The ego grows quiet. There is peace or cremation/surrender. The body without organs (BwO) is the same concept, coined by Antonin Artaud. P Liao notes, “with the metaphor of the cremation of the body, Hijikata implies that the body has to cease being itself, that is, no longer being the dancer’s body, so that other kinds of imagery of the world can use the body to present themselves.”²

This is opening up the set and setting that will allow for creation.

A Cup of Tea is a popular koan directly related to the idea of emptying.

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

2. Encountering/Child Mind

In P. Liao’s words “Encountering is the way in which a dancer initially acquires a perception of the surrounding environment. Ohno explains that to encounter a situation within an environment is to live through the situation at that very moment without being influenced by habits, preconceptions, or any intellectual considerations, thereby exploring the situation afresh and acquiring a perception of the world.”³ In other words, , “encountering is understood as being made through the empty body interacting with stimuli, movement, and memories.”4

To the Zen master Shenxiu, this may be seeing with a clean mirror. When we really see or really listen, it may be as if we as an individual forget we exist. This is what Zhuang-zi calls forgetting and what Nishida Kitarō calls pure experiencing or intuiting.

3. Transforming/Creating

Creation is the goal. With all the conditions being set, we create, (or as Hijikata humbly and/or bouffonesquely mentioned), we generate fake things.

To Liao P, “transforming is understood as being completed through arriving at a state of resonance between the bodily posture, gesture, movement, and the image to be transformed.”4 Take a space, as Liao P notes. In transforming, the body will merge with the space and create a personal space. The natural result are personal images within the space that one can enter into.5

These images can be seen as qualias. With a clean mirror, we can then see what qualias emerge, or, ‘pataphorically speaking, we can turn the mirror around and see what lurks behind.

Transformation is resonance. What is resonance?  In physics, resonance is when a vibrating system or external force drives another system to oscillate with greater amplitude at specific frequencies. The phenomenon happens, for instance, when we match somebody’s tune. Resonance is becoming in-tune.

To Deleuze and Gauttari, resonance is a becoming and there is always something to become. To D & G, “a becoming is not a correspondence between relations. But neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification.”6 In other words, a becoming is not merely miming or imitating a qualia, nor is it identifying as something (I am this or that), but something else altogether. One can perhaps think of a spirit, e.g. a totem entering or possession. The spirit of any and everything is its qualia. Transformation is resonance and becoming-a-qualia.

Transmutation, sublimation, catharsis, recontextualization, ‘pataphorication, reduction and regeneration, remix, and play can all be forms of this transforming. It can also be the “Kyu” to the Jo-Ha-Kyu.


¹ Viala, J. and Masson-Sekine, N. (ed. ) (1988), Butoh-Shades of Darkness, Tokyo: Shufunotomo Co., Ltd. page 152.
² Liao, P. An Inquiry into the Creative Process of Butoh. City University London. 2006. Page 59. Print.
³ Page 54
4 Page 89
5 Page 55
6 Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. P. 238. Print.