April 1: An Online Forsythe Symposium and the Weblaunch of Synchronous Objects

I can begin this post by saying something positive about Facebook in an academic context– namely, that after discovering a few days ago that The Forsythe Company has a fan group on Facebook, which delighted me in a dull-witted way, I received a message informing me that William Forsythe is to hold an online symposium at 3:00 PM EST as part of the launch of his new interactive project hosted by Ohio State, “Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced.”

Since the readers of this post may not be as informed about The Forsythe Company as I am—I must admit that they are one of the principal subjects of my dissertation “After Aura: Media, Movement, and the Performance of Withdrawal,” and I have been studying their work during my research residency in Germany—it would be best to provide a brief introduction.  Despite the fatuous superfluity of this statement, I would broadly say that William Forsythe is probably the world’s most important living choreographer.  He is American, but has been in Germany since the inception of his career—part of an ongoing leaching of American performing talents by Europe due to the atrocious conditions of arts funding—and currently works in Frankfurt and Dresden.  Forsythe is one of the few choreographers that a theatrically uninitiated public is most likely to know.  As befits the two decades he devoted to developing a self-exhausting, hypercomplex form of ballet, most people associate his work with ravishing cerebral intricacy rendered into a virtuosic display of physical performance.  By the way, a notable development in his ballet was his eventually necessary recourse to custom-designed computer programs in order to keep up with the complexity of the possibilities compacted into his choreographic systems, which has been partially released in a CD-ROM as “Improvisation Technologies.”  Since 2004, when conservative forces in the Frankfurt city government succeeded in pulling the plug on funding for Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, his work has undergone a decisive shift, moving, in his words, from ballet to “dance,” and ultimately integrating a variety of other elements, notably insidiously distopian, technically sophisticated uses of language and electronic sound.  I provide a detailed analysis of these developments in “Forsythe’s Box: On the Afterlife of Choreography,” in the current issue of PAJ.  There is also a brief discussion of his 2006 work, “Heterotopia,” (which is enticingly named after Foucault’s influential essay, which is also available gratis on the web) on this site.

Enough with the introduction.  Aside from the collision of Facebook, a live streaming conference occurring today, and an ambiguous, obligatory reference to electronic sound, or his enterprising collaborations with computer scientists, neuroscience, and supposedly, his planned collaboration with Brian Massumi, whose name is virtually synonymous with Deleuze and the virtual  what does this choreographer have to do with the subject that animates HASTAC’s audience, technology?

As I begin to explore in my essay, Forsythe’s choreography stands at the forefront of emerging efforts to articulate a concept of theatricality that understands itself in relation to media rather than in opposition to technology.  I prefer the term “media” to “technology” because media—although not “the media”—suggests the history of material mediation that has existed as long as there have been techniques of conserving and disseminating language.  In particular, I find that Forsythe’s choreography has begun to surpass theatre’s traditional resistance to technologies of reproduction by seeking out grounds to stage events that no longer conform to the present as predicated by dramatic unity—a heterotopian exposition, which is decidedly not utopian…

If you only can name one living choreographer, it should probably be William Forsythe…

PS

The Synchronous Objects website at OSU just went live.  I will update this post in a few days after having played with it…

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