Reggio’s corpus

In corpus, Jean-Luc Nancy articulates a complex, post-phenomenological account of the body. For my present purposes, it will suffice to say that Nancy’s corpus (not the body, corps) is not “the” body belonging to a particular individual or subject— nor for that matter, the order of signification. It resists such meaning in order to make sense, sense that does not quite make sense.

In one passage, Nancy describes corpus as a collection of singularities: many features that do not add up into a meaningful whole.

An other is a body because only a body is an other. It has this nose, that skin color, this texture, that size, this fold, tightness. It weighs this weight. It smells that way. Why is this body thus, and not otherwise? Because it is other— and alterity consists in being-thus [l’être-tel], in being the thus and thus and thus of this body, exposed all the way into its extremities. The inexhaustible corpus of a body’s features. (31)

I think it’s the first definition of corpus as such in corpus. He continues

The other will have come first, from the farthest, most displaced place, a corpus of features finally identified with “him”— yet remaining in itself unidentifiable: because these features are all foreign to each other, this arm and that chin, those hair and these hips, and this voice, and this……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What an ellipsis! (There may be much to think of there…)

This arm, that chin, those hair, and these hips: we witness these singular features in Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors, a film of faces.


Nancy’s corpus is probably not a perfect match for Visitors. Reggio uses a score by Philip Glass that keeps the film squarely located in a the language of late modernist lyricism, at once both humanist and theological. I haven’t reviewed the film closely in some time, but it definitely bears traces of a nostalgic yearning for face-to-face contact in a pre-modern world free from alienation– certainly, that’s in keeping with his previous films.



The world stripped of people.

And yet… there is also something potentially interesting about the indefinite, ongoing taxonomy of faces presented in Visitors. These are not faces to be known, but merely visitors, passing by among others in an infinite succession of features, which Nancy describes as “all coming together [faisant corps] and being dislocated at the same time [ensemble]” (31)

There are other such facial projects– taxonomies, not portraits. (Nancy also has interesting things to say about portraits in The Ground of the Image.) August Sander, perhaps:




There is a lot to say here: features, clothes, light, stone, the many stones that bind and separate this body from other bodies, whose accumulation constitutes a corpus.

Would the Bernd and Hila Becher (whose work has never appealed to me) then be working on, towards the taxonomy of non-human features?



Nancy on the Medium in Dance

Si je reviens par ce chemin au bord de la question propre de la danse, je serai porté à dire que le propre de cet art est de produire son sens en retrain de tout médium et par là  d’effacer le plus possible l’effet de signification que produit un médium. Ce dernier, en effet, comme son nom l’indique, opère une médiation, un renvoi vers un autre ordre. La peinture (au sens de pigment ou de pâte), le crayon, l’instrument (fût-il la voix), la pierre, la capture photographique ou cinématographique des événements lumineux, etc., semblent d’abord nous proposer un moyen pur une fin qui serait le dégagement de quelque signification (expression, présentation, comme on voudra).


An image from Allitérations. The im-mediate?

Mais lorsque ce moyen est le corps propre de l’artiste […] on est d’emblée porté au moins à soupçonner un autre configuration. Le moyen et la fin se rapprochent, voire se recouvrent. C’est aussi pourquoi la danse est un art que son spectateur ne regarde pas seulement, ni même surtout: son regard se fait geste intérieur, tension discrète de ses propres muscles, mouvement inchoatif. D’où, sans doute, le fait que la vision d’un danseur (d’une danseuse), out d’un(e) acrobate, ait été un exemple fréquent de ce que l’on cherchait à mettre en évidence sous le nom d’empathie. Mais de là, peut-être, aussi […] le fait que le danseur (la danseuse) soit un(e) artist particulièrement “autoréférencié(e),” si je peux le dire ainsi. Je veux dire ni narcissique, ni autistique, ni égocentrique, mais dans un rapport immédiat à soi: im-médiat, sans médiation par un médium et pourtant pas non plus simplement immanent au sens strict du terme (comme l’eau dans l’eau…), mais se prenant comme médium de soi.

Ce qui, d’ailleurs, aussitôt me ramène, sans que je l’aie vu venir, au plus près de l’exercice de la pensée… Du même coup, se lève une question ou un thème décisif: comment l’être en rapport à soi est aussi bien entièrement tourné vers le dehors, car il ne cultive pas un “soi” donné, il interroge un “soi,” une “ipséité” qui précisément n’est jamais donné…

– Jean-Luc Nancy in correspondence with Mathilde Monnier in Alliterations: conversations sur la danse (2005), p. 29-30

Vers Mathilde, Claire Denis (2004)

bare life (eiko) on wall street

Marx called money a “general equivalent.” It is this equivalence that is being discussed here. Not to think about it by itself, but to reflect that the regime of general equivalence henceforth virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of human existence, and along with them all things that exist.

Jean-Luc Nancy, After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes

Eiko Otake, A Body on Wall Street on June 20, 2016

(Aside: Eiko and Nancy are not a 100% match, but that’s not the point here.)

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016_DSC6922 Photo by Wm Johnston

I like this next shot.

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016 No_0196

And the same thing here.

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016 No_1228

Eiko teaches here (Colorado) in the fall.

The Most Naive Philosopher

[Foucault] may perhaps have meant that I was the most naive philosopher of our generation. In all of us you find themes like multiplicity, difference, repetition. But I put forward almost raw concepts of these, while others work with more meditations. I’ve never worried about going beyond metaphysics…I’ve never renounced a kind of empiricism…Maybe that’s what Foucault meant: I wasn’t better than others, but more naive, producing a kind of art brut, so to speak, not the most profound but the most innocent. 

(Deleuze, Negotiations 88-90) via Paul Patton via Vibrant Matter, 128

Ornamentality in Post-Minimalist Choreography: A Sketch for a Category

A friend recently returned from NYC brought this performance by Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey to my attention. Our discussion led us to think about the possiblity of thinking about ornamentality as trend in post-minimalist veins of contemporary choreography. Ornamentality would relate to a return to the beautiful, or at least, to trained awkwardness as a reference to the loss of beauty. This position relates to minimalism because minimalist dance traces the disappearance of visual forms, but in doing so paradoxically retains the visual. Installation and gallery-based works might be particularly predisposed to falling into this category, given that they cease to deal with temporal constraints and narrative framing.

Post-mininalist ornamentality? I didn’t see it, so this is all in theory.

Addendum: I’ve been reading a lot of Jean-Luc Nancy. He has a great quote about this issue— disappearance, transcendence, and the beautiful— in his essay, “The Vestige of Art.”

all of modernity that speaks of the invisible or the unrepresentable is always on the verge of renewing this motif… what makes for the beautiful, ever since Plato… for whom, in the access to beauty, it is a question of becoming oneself pure light and vision

At the limit…there remains nothing more than the Idea of art itself, like a pure gesture of presentation folded back on itself. But this residue still functions as Idea, and even as pure Idea of pure sense, or like an ideal visibility wihtou any other content than light itself (89-90)

(Hmm… I think this line of criticism may apply to my banner image from Deborah Hay…)


Annette Peacock: Spacing (not space)

A friend of mine who traffics in esoteric and avant-garde sounds has been dropping off loads of back issues of The Wire at my house. I came across this interesting observation in an article about by Daniel Shea about Annette Peacock:

Peacock’s early pieces often completely dispensed with chordal harmony, focusing instead on intervals between single notes. She had in mind an approach emphasizing slowness and space, partly in response to the frenetic pace and fireworks of free jazz. “Free music was very exciting, very intense, very male and energizing, but as a female I wanted to carve chunks of space out of it… you have to play waves 


Peacock has often described her pieces as environments, a term that… echoes composers such as Morton Feldman… [and his] preoccupation with decay, what he called “this departing landscape,” which “expresses where the sound exists in our hearing, leaving us rather than coming towards us.”