“Butoh…plays with perspective. If we, humans, learn to see things from the perspective of an animal, an insect, or even inanimate objects, the road trodden everyday is alive…we should value everything.” – Tatsumi Hijikata¹
Qualia can be thought of as the root of every segment of experience, connected with sensory interpretation. Items in nature, for instance, a stick or a rock, will feel very different from each other. True or not, qualia can be thought of as the inherent properties of experience that can be accessed through introspection alone. Because butoh often works with introspection and uncovering the hidden or deep, the concept of qualia is of great interest to the subbody method founded by Rhizome Lee. Subbody butoh strives to resonate with the subtle essences of the varying life differentiations.
Qualias are images, but not just any images, multi-dimensional images that go beyond the visual channel, and imply all sensory fields such as audio, touch, feeling, etc. (see the 8 channels below). Hence I say qualialization instead of visualization. Qualias are multidimensional image-worlds.
Tatsumi Hijikata’s choreographic units (CUs) are basically the same thing as qualias. Kayo Mikami said of Hijikata’s CUs, “[they] are ‘realization of inevitability’ or ‘what make things exist that could be found after an enduring and deliberate observation.”5 The definition is strikingly close to the idea of qualia.
When a qualia enters into the body, the result is an affect, which contains feeling, sensation, and movement-potential. Persons, places, things, or ideas are all qualias we can resonate/transform with. Qualias are the fuel to the becoming. Qualias are something to become. Qualias are also the fuel of the mind-body. In Antonio Demasio’s theory of mind (and he defines “mind” as the symbiotic brain-body-environment conversation), he claims, “Image is the currency of the mind.”16
Similarly, in Andre Bernard’s note on ideokinesis, the image is the bait and the fish is the central nervous system. The central nervous system will send the signal to a specific set of muscles to engage in movement and efficiency of movement will be the natural tendency. The movement will happen automatically when the image is the facilitator of the movement. The movements will tend to be richer than if we engaged movement voluntarily.17 This is idea behind the butoh motif of being moved. Qualias move us.
Via qualias, we transcode/translate the environment to the body. We embody the environment. Because qualias are endless, any and everything can be embodied. Philosophy, business, chores, smell. This is body transcoding or becoming-a-qualia. Once something is transcoded, then can begin the further development of fermenting/editing/remixing.
There is also something important to note about becoming-a-qualia. Let us say that we enter into a becoming-earthworm. It is not that we will superficially look like an earthworm, but what would the spirit of the earthworm do if its body were expanded to that of a human’s?
Furthermore, when we transform, there is always a Reduction and Regeneration is connected to qualia because there is always a loss or gain from the starting qualia whether we, for instance, begin with human walking, talking, or emoting. Human walking to crab walking may imply a level and human reduction, yet a gain in agility.
We must break free from our human conditioning (our domestication). Every time we engage in social conduct limiting our body, we reinforce that very qualia. We must feel more qualias outside of the limited scope of the modern human. We must allow ourselves to slip into the world of anomaly.
All qualias are by nature multi-dimensional and rhizomes. Rhizomes are networks like the roots of bamboo or grass. It’s a vastly connected entity that has endless connections. Cutting any one part of the connection only allows for re-routings. Qualias and signifiars work in the same manner. One qualia breeds endless other qualias that interlink into an endless rhizome of associations.
Similarly, qualias are haecceities, an individuation that is always multiple like a haiku or any excerpt of an endless pile/rhizome that gets labelled under one thing.
When the butoh dancer allows a qualia to enter the body (qualialization as opposed to visualization), it’s not that there is mimicry of literal form, but the listening of as many associations of the qualia as possible (memories, similarities to something else, dreams, etc.) If, for instance, we go into the qualia of feather (Figure 1), there are so many other secondary qualias that may flush into scene. These may link together as well. The play of qualias within a qualia is to be allowed. Tatsumi Hijikata expresses this with a line in his butoh-fu entitled Flower Nerves: “When you express a flower, it is based on its smell, the pollen and its entire atmosphere.”14
Don’t get lost in the shell. Go underneath (to the other shells/signifiers). Though one can shape one’s physical body into the image immediately, that may serve as a beginning spot till there is actual imagination or fermentation. Consider, too, not starting there. Consider that the generally-associated form is incidental, happening only by accident after following the play of qualias underneath one chosen qualia.
Pick any physical object as your new dance partner. Experiment with interactions. For instance, if I choose to resonate with a large stone, I will resonate with its texture, temperature, and weight distribution as I carry it around different areas of my body. I may discover new tricks or ways my body compensates. For a very detailed list of visual object resonance, see perception.
Rhizome Lee’s 8 Channel Model
Rhizome Lee breaks down varying qualias into 8 channels (each very general qualias themselves), which all have an extrovert and introvert quality to them. The introvert (deeper) qualities of a channel are always the subbody with the possible exception of the thinking channel. Thinking serves to take somebody away from the subbody, unless it turns against itself like an autoimmune disease and becomes fuzzy, dream, or absurdist logic.11
Of course, one can imagine other channels such as smell, taste, body’s sense of where it is in space (proprioception), and sense of balance (equilibrioception). One channel may also provoke another channel, and the contents of one channel can bleed over into another channel, e.g. sharp pain (body channel) can be visualized (visual channel). This happens because each part of the channel is already multi-resonant and dimensional.
Movement — Various movement patterns such as line, circle & figure 8, sway, vibration, shock/shakes, and collapse. An example of deterritorialized movement is when the body appears frozen, but the imagination, emotion, audio, etc. is moving. Or any specific form of movement can be deterritorialized, e.g. a line will have noise and have wiggles.
Visual — With eyes open, various sizes, colors, and shapes are experienced in the environment. For a complete list of varying ways of seeing, see Perception. The deterritorialized visual channel is when your eyes no longer see but they implant themselves somewhere else, e.g. within the body, above you, or transforming into another sense such audio, e.g. the visual qualia residual that is a bat’s echolocation.
Audio — All those things heard or spoken, voiced, or sang. See section on audio here. An example of deterritorialized audio is the silent scream or a talking foot.
Emotion — See section on emotions. An example of deterritorialized emotions are corrupt or inappropriate emotions. For instance, one will feel tremendously depressed as one engages in jumps of excitement.
Human Relationship — Relationship of another human activated through visual, audio, movement, or feeling of another. This channel is also opened with co-body. A deterritorialized human relationship channel may link two characters (chimera, see below), into one’s own body and experience the interaction, essentially playing with the idea of a cobody within the individual subbody.
World = Self — Where the “who” and the “where” are unified as one. Rhizome Lee explains:
“When you are at home, your self image is as a family member – father, mother, daughter or son. When you go abroad, the world becomes a foreign country, and your self image shifts to that of a foreigner. When you meet a girlfriend your self image becomes that of a boyfriend.”12
An example of a deterritorialized world = self channel is when you turn into a fish when you’re supposed to be a father taking care of his son.
Thinking — World of thought, logic, and judgement. An example of a deterritorialized thinking channel is when logic feeds into itself and collapses (such as is the case with cognitive dissonance). Thinking is koans (see below) is deterritorialized thinking.
Note: One could take each channel further and create a meta-8 channel under it.
Exercise: Channel Contradiction
This is a stacked body/2 channel dissonance where we pick two channels that contradict each other. For instance, let us say that we enter into the qualia of inflated balloon. We might enter through the audio channel and make the sound of something full, but then this might be contradicted by entering into a collapsed movement channel.
“Be immersed in existence . . . as a bird enters the air.” – Jerzy Grotowski9
Create a multi-qualia scenery of which a subbody or cobody is to fill. For instance, if we are to open up a camp fire scenery with cobody, then one or more individuals are the logs, another the fire, and another the smoke. The same is possible with the subbody, explained in the following part, Chimera.
To Deleuze and Guattari, a segment of haecceity (experience, individuation) in life can be noted when space and circumstance are inseparable from the thing, animal, or person. “This should be read without a pause: the animal-stalks-at-five-o’clock. The becoming-evening, becoming-night of animal, blood nuptials. Five o’clock is this animal! This animal is this place!”10
The chimera takes on more than one qualia within different parts of the body. For instance, the arms can be tree limbs while the legs are rooster legs. Chimera is often associated with the grotesque. Chimeras make use of deterritorialization of one or more body part.
Exercise: Body Relationship Chimera
This exercise is utilized in Body Weather, an offshoot of butoh from Min Tanaka. One body part forms a relationship with another, and acts accordingly. Examples:
1. The left thigh is a frying pan and the right elbow is a vegetable. You fry this vegetable.
2. The left leg is a cat that is chasing the right leg, a mouse.
3. The right wrist is a man in a parachute that gets caught in tree, which is your hair.
The stacked body will have one qualia base and a secondary or tertiary on top of it. For instance, we might take on the qualia of zombie, which will serve as the foundation, but on top of this, we might add yogi. If a mask were to stand for embodiment, we can think of one mask on top of another.
These are qualias/qualia sceneries that naturally follow each other. For instance, if we have a camp fire, the fire will eventually burn out. The subbody part or cobody individual who was playing smoke may transform into air while the logs may transform into ash followed by enriched soil then a germinating flower seed, etc. It is important to place special emphasis on transition.
These are qualias/qualia sceneries that may not naturally follow each other. For instance, if we have a camp fire, the fire transitions into a baboon perched at the head of a courtroom in court dress and then transitions to ravioli. This idea is connected to abstracting/non-sequituring.
This in-between transition from qualia to qualia (which is highly recommended to stretch and ferment) can be associated with ma.
Exercise: Poem Recitation
Multi-Qualia Forced Connection
Exercise: Qualia Connection
This exercise calls for at least 3 people. A qualia is called out by one individual, and immediately after, another calls out another qualia. Then a third person tries to come up with a scenery/story/character that connects those two qualias. The more different these two qualias are from each other, the more interesting will be the outcome. Example:
Participant 1: Balloon
Participant 2: Giraffe
Participant 3: A giraffe crashes into your birthday party and eats your cake.
If participant 1 and 2 call out a qualia that are too similar to each other such as “shaman” and “drum” (a real in-class example), then the third participant has to work extra hard to create a connection that is unexpected. Connection a student made was, “a feather trying to hit a drum.”
When Tatsumi Hijikata performed the weakened body in his last performance called Quiet House, he was in reality performing the vaporized body. Vaporization is the potential, invisible world body, which is of endless qualias. In the vaporized body performance, there are two things taking place: (1) The 3d world body that appears weak or in ash body, dead body or statue/freeze. (2) The multidimensional invisible world or Subbody.
Hijikata was fond of Antonin Artaud of the Theater of Cruelty, and a term known as the body without organs (BwO) mirrors that of the vaporized body. Deleuze and Guattari were also fond of Artaud and make extensive use of the term as well. D & G say of the BwO: “The body without organs is not a dead body but a living body all the more alive and teeming once it has blown apart the organism and its organization.”² It is thus “alive and teeming” because it is in the multidimensional world.
The dead (Hijikata’s Shisha) or frozen body in butoh theater is a means to an end. D & G say, “You invent self-destructions that have nothing to do with the death drive. Dismantling the organism has never meant killing yourself, but rather opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage, circuits, conjunctions, levels and thresholds, passages and distributions of intensity, and territories and deterritorializations measured with the craft of a surveyor.”³ In other words, the dead or frozen body is means to an ultimate novelty and inner-creator.
Metaphor & ‘Pataphor
Qualias can breed metaphors and ‘pataphors because of their association with images. The metaphor is a comparison between an object and something unrelated, but the ‘pataphor gets lost in the metaphor, creating a world from it. Here, ideas or concepts take on a life of their own.² Let us use a simple example:
Non-Figurative: Your head tilts to the side.
Metaphorical: Your head tilts the side as if there is water coming out of your ear.
‘Pataphorical: Your head tilts to the side as if there is water coming out of your ear. The water attracts a thirsty raccoon, which happens to thank you with an English accent.
This degree of taking a metaphor further is enacting the ‘pataphor. This is your world. You can always extend your metaphor just as you can always extend your qualias. ‘Pataphors can of course be used in your choreography or butoh-fu. The following section Fermentation & Distillation is a good example of these figures put into place.
An important note to mention is that Butoh has a tendency to go beyond metaphor. Metaphor will turn straight into metamorphosis. With the case of the example above, when the head is tilting to the side, there IS water coming out. It is not as if it’s the case. It really is the case. Adjust everything in the world accordingly. This is also how Stanislavsky’s If works.15 ‘Pataphor is also already a metamorphosis.
In terms of butoh-fu, Hijikata’s words were not meant to be metaphors, but something beyond, something more open. If each of Hijikata’s butoh-fu words had an exact meaning, it would defeat the purpose of his notational system. In Michael Hornblow’s words, “The metaphor is a mould, ‘carrying’ linguistic resemblances and codifications, so it can never be truly vacant.” So, he suggests the word metaplasm instead, which “involves processes of modulation and transformation rather than the moulds or forms themselves.”18
Fermentation & Distillation
The following butoh concept/imagery was inspired by Rhizome Lee: (1) Juice; (2) Wine; (3) Brandy. These three states will denote forms/levels of transformation and/or depth that we can enact upon a qualia. Let us take the example of the facial expression. The general facial expression, for instance, of sadness, is something everyone can easily identify. What happens when we go underneath and refine or sublimate the general association? If we swallow the juice, can we turn the juice into wine? Can we then turn the wine into brandy? What happens when we swallow sadness? What comes of it? Can we create wine? Can we create aged wine? Brandy? Aged brandy?
Fermentation is cultivating ma or opening up a portal to the subbody. Christine Bellerose states, “When a choreographer asks a dancer for “more ma,” the dancer is asked to perform alchemy. A dancer who yields ma brings to movement the quality of aliveness to an otherwise neutral, or unborn space-time.”8 Neutral or unborn space-time here can mean the everyday world. Alchemy is fermenation. We want more magic. Let juice be the ordinary facial expression (or Maro’s teburi), e.g. an eye rub for disbelief. We then take this expression and swallow it so that it can ferment (become more miburi).
This concept is also connected to the idea of reduction, a reduction that makes the qualia richer.
“Butoh is about the impossibility of becoming nothing; it’s a Zen koan. The effort needed to negate [oneself] is what creates the point of realization.” – Marie-Gabrielle Rotie13
Koans are riddles meant to be pondered or felt, which make great use of paradox and reading between the lines. Though koans are generally meant to be read and meditated upon intellectually, there is no reason why these cannot be transformed to incorporate the body. The koans below are transformed into butoh-fu (see above). The term “butoh koan” is a bit redundant because butoh itself is a bit of a koan already. Regardless, here are some very-koan butoh-fus.
1. Hanging by the Teeth
You are hanging up in a tree by only the teeth. Your hands are tied to your back. It gets harder and harder to hold on. You get so weak that you can already feel your impending death. You are almost at the point of letting go when somebody comes along and asks, “say the one thing that can save your life.”
2. Not the Wind, Not the Flag
What is moving the flag? You are a flag moving. No, you are the wind moving. No, you are the mind moving.
3. The Buffalo
You are a buffalo walking to the enclosure. The horns pass the enclosure. The head passes. The front legs pass. The torso passes. The back legs pass. But the tail does not pass. Why can’t the tail pass?
4. The Strawberry
You are at the edge of a cliff holding onto a vine with both hands. There is a tiger above you sniffing at you. Below, there is another tiger waiting for you. Two mice gnaw at the vine. You eye a strawberry. You pick it. How sweet it tastes!
5. Face Koan
What was your original face before you were born?
We can certainly grab qualias from within our memories. There are certainly moments of our lives that are the most memorable. To Hijikata, Can Factory represented a memory with very rich associations/qualias. For me, perhaps its building sand castles in summer camp when I was a little boy. There is also a memory of extreme excitement/great impression, which Hijikata called Peacock, after the rare moment of encountering a peacock in the yard of his friend, Mr. Yanagida.7 Hijikata pulls much from childhood memories as can be seen heavily in his stream of consciousness writing which makes good butoh scores entitled Sick Dancing Princess (also known as Ailing Dancer).
We can draw vast inspiration from our dreams (such as Salvador Dali did) for our butoh. Hence, it is recommended to keep a dream journal.