Perception (Updated: 07/18/18)

In the section, we investigate various ways in which to interpret our immediate world.

Object Resonance

“To consider your limbs and parts of your body as separate objects and tools, and in reverse to love objects as if they were your own body; here lies the great secret of the origin of Butoh.” – Tatsumi Hijikata¹

The following list comes from an Australian butoh artist and good friend Michael Maso Ellis (his website is also a wealth of information).² A few additional terms/commentary were also added.

This first list set involves simply noticing and is more passive.

Sweeping – When we first enter an experience, the phenomena/objects that we are first aware of (this could be external or internal).

Sensing– This is the first time we notice a specific object or phenomena.

Focusing – This is really focusing our attention, giving it enough time to take effect.

Attuning – Imprinting the phenomena, or object in the neural map (memory).

Remembering – Recalling the phenomena/object and making it present.

Spacing – Focusing specifically on the space between objects and others in proximity, the negative spaces.

Sizing – Noticing how big or small a thing is compared to it’s neighbors (or oneself or anything else)

Volumeizing – The space the object takes up.

Detailing – Focusing on particular details.

Tracing – Following lines and edges.

Coloring – Noticing particular colors or contrasts in a field.

Lighting – Noticing the way light reflects.

Shading – Noticing the absence of light and shadows cast.

Relating – Comparing and relating one or more objects or phenomena.

Weighting – Noticing/feeling the weight of object/materiality.

Materiality – Noticing what the material is made of.

Histrionic Kinesis – Feeling the kinetic sense of the actions required to arrange/build/manipulate the objects and materials.

This second list is more active and involves shifting/altering perception or space-bending.

Scaling – Shifting the scale of the object/space, experiencing it as an enormous landscape or very tiny.

Dimensioning – Shifting the object to 1d, 2d, 5d, or other dimension other than its usual one.

Timing – Related to scaling, we can alter the time of the object by noting that human time is purely conceptual: the object exists in eternity.

Physical Imagination – Placing oneself in, on, near or holding the object/phenomena. (Shadowbody Note: This can also be viewed as a form of vaporizing.)

Object Manipulation – Manipulation of the object using the body. Sensing weight/size/temperature/texture. (Shadowbody Note: For the purposes of this section, utilize with physical vision, else, open up the other vision–the third eye. This will help cultivate synesthesia.)

Disappearing – Resonating with the object or phenomenon so heavily that it disappears. Think of when you repeat a word over and over and it loses significance.

This third list opens up the thinking or psychic channel, and allows more of judging or discerning.

Enchantment – Engaging with sense of intrigue and mystery.

Significance – The object or phenomena has specific meaning or associated narrative to the context.

Personalizing – The element is associated with a person, entity or character, or has its own autonomous personality.

Emotionalizing – Association, catalyzing with a felt emotion.

Figure 1: Object Resonance at Whidbey Island, Washington; Photo by Sophia Dagher

Autonomizing – The object/pheonomena is making itself known to the senses of its own accord: an omen or a messenger. (Shadowbody Note: This can also be the realm of synchronicity, coincidence, and/or serendipity or all together, synchroincidipity.)

Blessing – Full acceptance and cherishing of the phenomena/space or object.

Deifying – Treating as Sacred or Divine with the awareness.

Attachment – Admitting or assigning importance to the phenomena/object, to an identity.

Identification – Identifying with the object/phenomena: identity in some way defined by the existence or condition or character of the object.

Naming – Classifying, labeling. Also the reverse is practicable (removing labels).

Unification – The object(s)/phenomena are one and the same with the psyche/identity, to a greater or lesser degree.

Disassociation – The object/phenomena means nothing and the psyche is not resonant.

Exercise 1: Child Vision

With any object, go into its every dimension without passing any judgment. Forget even its use or title, unless you are creating a new name or title for it. Lose yourself in the object. Become the object. The object can be the center of your world. In a hologram, any part has within it the information of the whole. If you stare hard enough, the item may disappear. Resonate deep enough and a dance of the totality of The All might emerge.

Exercise 2: Everyday Mundane Object Ritual
This is an exercise to do everyday or for a period of time and cultivates resonance with the mundane. It is also connected to deifying. Each day, find one mundane object, e.g. paper clip, rock, bubble gum wrapper, or a coin, and place this object on an altar or area of reverence. The exercise can also provoke any of the other various object resonances above.

Subconscious Qualias

We can utilize ink blots on paper (Rorschach tests), clouds, and a number of readily available sceneries to take a glimpse of what the subconscious is currently curious about or fixated upon. Once we see the patterns or visual interpretations, we dance the qualias.

Figure 2, Old Lady/Young Lady

Exercise 1: Shifting Optical Illusion Perspectives

This is a prerequisite to the next exercise. Once we learn to shift from the perspectives of two or more images from an optical illusion or visual pun, we can expand our shifting.

1. First shift from one image of the visual pun to the other.

2. Then shift from seeing both simultaneously as if it were a chimera. For instance, in Figure 2, we can force both images to become one, so the young woman’s necklace will automatically also be the mouth. It’s a mouth-bracelet. A mouth-bracelet is one solid thing just like the ear-eye. This will create a new (or child) image of the two images in the visual pun.

3. Now shift between the two images in the visual pun to the chimera image. We are now shifting between three different images.

Exercise 2: Jumping Wild Vaporizing

This is a pattern recognition exercise, and is not easy likely for most. Once we find an image that the subconscious mapped out, then shift to the next image. This requires a massive amount of focus and allowing information to enter.

Third Eye/Blindfold

By limiting the two usual eyes, we exercise the third eye (doorway to the subbody), which is the pineal gland. Any number of activities and obstacle courses especially, will exercise the third eye as well as sense of body equilibrium.

Exercise: Tracing

Figure 4, Hans Bellmer drawing

Find any various edges to trace such as ropes or small tubes. If you have several hula hoops, align them on the ground forming a line of hula hoops. Blindfolded, you can travel along the hula hoops making a sine curve, but you can also circle around the hula hoop as much as you wish. What feelings or qualias came about when engaged in this exercise?


We can always use art to inspire a dance. According to Kayo Mikami, Hijikata was very inspired by the following European painters: Goya, Moreau, Munch, Redon, Bosch, Bacon, Turner, Bresdin, Beardsley, Michaux, Vermeer(?), Delvaux, Volce(?), and, Fautrier. Some of these artists are literally named in many of his butoh-fu (butoh scores).³


¹ Haerdter, Michael, and Sumie Kawai. Butoh. Berlin: Alexander Verlag. Lecture from first Butoh Festival of Japan. 1986.
² Ellis, Michael Maso, “A Vocabulary of Perception,”
³ Mikami, Kayo. “Tatsumi Hijikata: An Analysis of Ankoko Butoh Techniques” 1997. Tokyo. Page 104.