Reduction & Regeneration (Updated: 05/31/18)

“This is how it should be done: lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.” – Deleuze and Guattari¹

Reduction & Regeneration are terms coined by Rhizome Lee.² It also plays a major role in Spinoza’s affect: “Affections of the body by which the body’s power of acting is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time, the ideas of these affections.”11 In other words, reduction and regeneration as affect is a means for mind-body change or movement to happen in the first place.

Movements can be modified in a variety of ways. Pick a qualia and expand or decrease it. Or pick general qualities such as speed, size, density, weight, age, fluidity, flexibility, strength, humanness, emotion, craziness/weirdness, beauty, intensity, presence, health, and ego. Maximum reduction can take on the form of maximum downplaying, whereas maximum regeneration can take on maximum exaggeration.

To Deleuze and Guattari, Reduction & Regeneration could be thought of as deterritorialization and/or reterritorialization of the usual or typical (human) attribute of something, which are movements in which one leaves or reengages a territory. Both can also be thought of remaking and/or extending the territory.¹

Refering to the above Deleuze quote, a stratum is something (or territory) already solidified or standardized whether socially or habitually, e.g. typical watching eyes. When these typical watching eyes stratums are deterritorialized to a severe degree, for instance, it may become dysfunctional or rotten eyes. The line of flight is the reduction and/or regeneration used as a tool, your ticket to make new. Continuums of intensities can be endless modifications of intensive differences/properties, e.g., temperature, odor, color, which will certainly change the feel/quality of these eyes.

We can think of the typical stratum or qualia as something we embody, copy or mirror. Stratums are what Geoffrey Galt Harpham call discriminatory grids.10 We can then remix or edit what we see. Within the remix, there will always be something taken away (reduced) or added (re/generated).

Jersey Grotowski made use of reduction and called it via negativa. Peter Brook also made use of via negativa. He notes: “[This] is not a process of building but of destroying obstacles that stand in the way of the latent form.”³ With character development, for instance, Brook states, “Preparing a character is the opposite of building – it is a demolishing, removing brick by brick everything in the actor’s muscles, ideas, and inhibitions that stands between him and the part, until one day, with a great rush of air, the character invades his every pore.4

Exercise 1: 1 to 10

The participants find a movement pattern and one person goes down a list of modifiers (one of the Xs such as speed, strength, humanness). For each one, 1 to 10 is called out. Make 1 the least of the characteristic and 10 the most, e.g. for human, 1 would be least human and 10 the most.

Exercise 2: Duality

By the sound of a stick, the participant switches from the polar opposites of the X in question, essentially utilizing only 1 or 10.

Exercise 3: Reduction by Time (For Entire Piece)

Take 5 or 10 minutes to do a piece, whether it is choreographed or in free resonance or inbetween. Then do the piece again, but reduced to 2 minutes, then reduce to 1 minute, then 30 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 5 seconds.

Gradient System

In a gradient, go between more or less X (flexibility for instance) with your movements/internal state. Don’t get stuck on any one moment of flexibility (or lack thereof), but shift between them.

Example: Reduction & Regeneration Gradient: Flexibility

Reduction as Distillation & Sabi

“The wood is wretched timber, useless for anything; that’s why it’s been able to grow so old.” – Zhuangzi9

To Frances Barbe, distillation implies something that becomes more potent due to reduction. Barbe asks, “When is it captivating and when is it boring? What is the ‘result’ of distillation on stage? What effect can it have?”5 How do we take the ordinary and reduce it to something extraordinary? Lesser often does not have to mean of lesser value.

The following butoh concept 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?

Sabi is a term in Japanese aesthetics that denotes the beauty of the aged or even the ugly. One can even think rusty.6 To Horst Hammitzsche (writer of Zen in the Art of Tea Ceremony), “The concept sabi carries not only the meaning ‘aged’—in the sense of ‘ripe with experience and insight’ as well as ‘infused with the patina that lends old things their beauty’—but also that of tranquility, aloneness, deep solitude.”7

Junichiro Tanizaki further explains: “We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive lustre to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity. . . . We love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them.” 8


¹ Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
² Lee, Rhizome. Behind the Mirror, Butoh Manual For Students. 2010. Print.
³ Smith, Anthony C. Orghast at Persepolis: an Account of the Experiment in Theatre Directed by Peter Brook and Written by Ted Hughes. Methuen, 1975. Page 107.
4 Brook, Peter. The Shifting Point: Forty Years of Theatrical Exploration, 1946-87 (Biography and Autobiography). Methuen Drama. 1989. Page Page 7-8.
5 Barbe, Frances. The Way of Butoh and Contemporary Choreography: Reflective. Writing on Choreographic Research. n.d. Web. 20 April 2010.
6 Parkes, Graham, “Japanese Aesthetics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
7 Hammitzsch, Horst, 1980, Zen in the Art of the Tea Ceremony: A Guide to the Tea Way, New York: St. Martin’s Press. Page 46.
8 Tanizaki, Jun’ichirō, 1977, In Praise of Shadows, trans. Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker, New Haven: Leete’s Island Books. Page 11-12.
9 Zhuangzi, , and A C. Graham. Chuang-tzŭ: The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book Chuang-Tzŭ. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981. Print. Page 73.
10 Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. On the Grotesque. New Jersey. 1982. Print. Page 4.
11 Benedict de Spinoza. The Ethics. III. D3.