Dancing on Occam's razor: expressive movement in/and place

Norman, Sally-Jane (2016) Dancing on Occam's razor: expressive movement in/and place. In: Fernandes, Carla (ed.) Multimodality and performance. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne. ISBN 9781443894654

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The adoption of normative approaches to expressive human movement spawns paradoxes throughout a domain that spans sometimes irreconcilable artistic and scientific theories and practices. In studies of corporeal motion, simplification and generalisation underpin the consensus on which any conventional exchange depends; in contrast, the poetic dimensions of artistically oriented expression are characterised by wilful ambivalence and singularity. The ensuing differences and tensions are impossible to fully circumscribe, let alone resolve, but sidestepping them rules out possibly useful discussion. This text attempts to identify some of the quandaries encountered when we try to comprehend expressive human movement as an art form. These differ considerably as a function of one’s starting point, which in the present case is anchored in scenographic and performing arts history and practice, focussing on the ostensible materially deployed features of embodied live art, manifest in, and in negotiation with, physical environments.

More broadly, this paper looks at how we construe the contexts in which movements are deemed expressive, to propose that in performing arts as much as in analytical systems – hence in their infinitely varied combinations – renderings of movement are obtained by idealising or abstracting these same contexts. In other words, the effectiveness of our different renderings of a given movement requires simplification to select features of that movement that another rendering might well retain or discard in keeping with a different set of criteria. The simplification that goes along with generating a perspective is as essential to artistic projections as to scientific analyses, including those that conjure up new forms of complexity by deconstructing the dichotomies on which existing vantage points are built. To adopt a vantage point requires positioning, thus choice: trying to integrate potentially boundless parameters into a projection or representation is tantamount to trying to turn the map into the territory. Dealing with artistic movement and place consequently demands a delicate strategy, allowing for selection – and as a corollary, elimination – of assumptions without which a critical position cannot be attained, and acknowledgement of the singularity and complexity of poetic modes of expression. In short, a strategy dubbed “dancing on Occam’s razor.”

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Music
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Humanities Lab
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship The Humanities
Depositing User: Sally-Jane Norman
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2016 15:49
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2017 20:22
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61381

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