“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 found in Tatsumi Hijikata’s last butoh score Quiet House.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.
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 Essentially, it is a condition of rebellion against a fixed form, a case of metaphor and/or A ≠ A. This is the necessary condition for creativity itself.
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). When we change/deterritorialize a stratrum/code/discrimantory grid, we are automatically breaking down the mundane or defamiliarizing.
Defamiliarization is at the very basis of Viktor Shkovsky’s view of art. Shkovsky notes, “The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.”12
Jersey Grotowski made use of reduction and called it via negativa, a form of inductive technique.16 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.
Example: Reduction & Regeneration Gradient: Flexibility
Clouded Body/Secret & Mystery
“I’ve been brought up with the method of obscuring the body.” – Tatsumi Hijikata 13
The clouded body is a reduction in clarity or recognition. As opposed to modern dance or theater, butoh clouds the body instead of making it easily translatable. Regardless of qualia, anything can be taken further or fermented. Carry the secret. This is the qualia, emotion, or memory, which is not to be expressed in the ordinary sense. Generally, butoh expresses in a language nobody can understand, but it might be felt.
When we carry our secret, we hide or obscure our inner truth or authenticity. It does not mean we are dancing inauthentically, but just the reverse. The secret is something we know, but that is hidden from the audience.
On the other hand, when we carry the mystery, neither the audience nor the dancer knows what is being carried, but it is something.
A reduction/deterritorialization in rationale, normalcy, or familiarity is also to cloud or obscure. Any unexpected change is automatically a deterrritorialization/defamiliarization, which always has some level of A ≠ A.
How abstract/absurd/irrational/arbitrary/unrelated can something become? Can we create degrees of the abstraction of something? This concept, for instance, is what Cuil theory engages in.
A Cuil is a degree of abstraction which one places into a unit of measurement, and can be recognized by the Interrobang symbol (‽). From the Cuil information website, they have divided Cuils into 7, each Cuil being more abstract than the other. They give you their own poetic example.14 But, of course, if we want to deterritorialize/rebel against that structure, we can use however many divisions we desire.
We can play around with this idea so that we may weigh the absurdity/unrelatedness of a given something or situation. For instance, when we deterritorialize the arm and make it a spine, this can represent 1 Cuil. It is only 1 Cuil perhaps because we can gather similarities between spine and arm as they can be made to look like each other (to give one example). The arm and spine still seem to have a bit of relatedness even though an arm ≠ a spine. Any further abstraction can raise the Cuil level, and the degree of understanding/non-sequitur/line of connection can become more obscured, e.g. Cuil 2 can maybe be an arm ≠ a shoe. Cuil 3 maybe an arm ≠ a window. We can continue the abstractions until we reach what is perceived as the most far away or abstract Cuil. We can play around with these degrees of abstraction.
Note: Be aware also that when we think we are raising the Cuil level, we may not in fact be doing so because our subconscious mind has automatically made close connections with the given something or situation. Lastly, what may be a higher Cuil degree to you may be a lower Cuil to another person (each person sees their own degrees of connection from a given something/situation to another).
Exercise: Random Qualia Generator Via Alphabet
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?
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
Similarly, there is a Japanese aesthetics term known as bishu-ichii which means both beautiful and ugly.15