We investigate various ways in which to interpret our immediate world and especially of props.
Visual Channel/Object/Prop 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
To Richard Schechner, all objects have a performative quality. In Introduction to Performance Studies he states, “To treat any object, work, or product ‘as’ performance – a painting, a novel, a shoe, or anything at all – means to investigate what the object does, how it interacts with other objects or beings, and how it relates to other objects or beings. Performances exist only as actions, interactions, and relationships.”8
In treating objects as performance, we build a stronger resonance with them. Where we can discover an object’s mundane actions, interactions, and relationships, we can also step outside the scope of the object. One object can remind us of other objects (all qualias have this property). This object-shifting skill is what makes prop-based improvisational theater magical.
Grotowski spoke of this prop magic. He said, “Worlds are created with very ordinary objects, as in children’s play and improvised games. We are dealing with a theatre caught in its embryonic stage, in the middle of the creative process when the awakened instant chooses spontaneously the tools of its magic transformation.”9
An object-shifting resonance is very much connected with defamiliarization and child vision (seeing something as if for the first time). Defamiliarization breaks down mundanity. This 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.”5 Kazuo Ohno did just this with his performance “My Mother.” In it, the table was his mother in varying relationships.
The goal of resonating with the visual channel is to leave the visual channel. It is only a starting place. To Yoko Ashikawa, the visual image can be the stumbling block for going deeper (getting caught up in visualization) and can limit internalization. The point is for the visual channel to provoke endless other qualias or channels.7
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. [This can also be viewed as a form of vaporizing.]
Object Manipulation – Manipulation of the object using the body. Sensing weight/size/temperature/texture. [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.
Autonomizing – The object/pheonomena is making itself known to the senses of its own accord: an omen or a messenger. [This can also be the realm of synchronicity, coincidence, and/or serendipity or all together.]
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 3: Diego Piñón’s Object Resonance*
For some of Diego’s exercises, he makes use of props, such as fruits and vegetables. The purpose of the exercises is to enter deeply into the object quality, to have it dance you, instead of you dancing it.
Theory of Embodied Perception
“Art is thinking in images.” – Viktor Shklovsky6
Shannon Rose Riley developed a unique method in which to cultivate perception. The following is a list given at her workshops:4
1. The mind is not just the brain, but comprises brain, body, and environment in an ongoing dialogue, or thought process, that is already coded as image. [This in turn does away with the mind-body dualism, unifying both into one flowing and communicating system.]
2. An image as not merely something (a picture) held in the mind but is embodied, fully sensual, including smells, sounds, etc. [“Image” shares a close resemblance to the idea of qualia. Qualia may also be the ground to these images.]
3. There are two kinds of images, recalled [via memories] and perceptual [via present moment]; and there are three types of perceptual information: (1) proprioceptive: sensation of muscles, joints, bones (2) interoceptive: sensation of breath, organs, heartbreat; (3) exteroceptive: sensation of other people, space, warmth.
4. A somatic marker is a kind of shorthand way to describe a process by which recalled imagery and perceptual imagery become connected, or marked by a feeling about the body (like “a gut feeling”).
5. The basic concepts of dialogue are attention, or listening, and response—rather than expression. This is important because it keeps the actor from a more solipsistic, or purely self-expressive, movement practice.
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.
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.
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.
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?