Matter Matters

What compels the belief that we have a direct access to cultural representations and their content that we lack toward the things represented?

How did language come to be more trustworthy than matter? [emphasis mine]

Why are language and culture granted their own agency and historicity while matter is figured as passive and immutable, or at best inherits a potential for change derivatively from language and culture?

How does one even go about inquiring after the material conditions that have led us to such a brute reversal of naturalist beliefs when materiality itself is always already figured within a linguistic domain as its condition of possibility?

– Barad, K 2003, ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, Signs, 3, p. 801,

Labor and Dance

the edited phrase 

“Lukács emphasizes that in the course of history, the [critical], [theoretical] understanding of [dance] becomes more and more detached from the labor process, and less and less immediately bound to the immediate material constraints of the [dance].”

the original phrase

“Lukács emphasizes that in the course of history, the abstract, scientific understanding of reality becomes more and more detached from the labor process, and less and less immediately bound to the immediate material constraints of the real.” – Henry Staten

Hell

Hell

Hell or H E double hockey sticks, the place where the devil lives. The red hot stinky place where the bad people go. Dante had different layers of it for different degrees of evil.

But I am not here to talk about evil, brimstone, or Billy Crystal as the Devil in a Woody Allen film.

I am here to talk about the word hell.

In English, it means the bad place.

In German, it means light, bright, clear or pale.

Hellblau is light blue. Ein heller Morgen… a bright morning…

Mir wird mein helles Haar zur Last –Rilke (my pale hair becomes a burden to me)

In English hell is the bad place and in German hell is light. Hölle is the German word for the bad place.

Who lives in hell? Satan, the devil, also known as Lucifer.

Isaiah 14:12 – “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (and what is also associated with morning?!? – Lightness, brightness)

2 Corinthians 11:14 – “… for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

So we have

Hell = Light

Hölle = Hell

Draw your own conclusions

5 new words

infrapresentationologist –  one who studies what lies below the surface of presentation
maltempotude – the condition of having the incorrect temporal relationship with another
anteformology – the study of what comes before a shape comes into existence
heterokinespherism – the state of existing in at least two different shapes
quasicorpologist – one who has seemingly studied the human form and its potentialities

European English

Due to whatever reasons (that I do not wish to go into), English is the dominant language of communication within the arts in Europe.  Maybe this is only true for dance and performance.  I have more exposure to that world than the worlds of painting, sculpture, etc. (I do not want to say visual art as dance, too, is a visual art).

The English used in the dance art world is slowly evolving to become another dialect.  It is neither the bastard English of the United States or the proper Queen’s English of the United Kingdom.  It is becoming its own thing developed by the collective use of non-native speakers and ex-pats.

I became aware, or perhaps more aware, of European English after seeing a performance at HAU 3 in Berlin this past May.  The piece was Pulling Strings by Eva Meyer-Keller.  It is quite an intricate piece, a feat of organization.  Quotidian objects are raised, lowered, and activated, sometimes to comical effects.  My favorite moment was the spinning push-broom.  But I digress.

What caught my mind(eye) was the title – Pulling Strings.  Yes, that is literally what she and her collaborator did.  They pulled strings to activate the objects.  But the phrase pulling strings has a nefarious, manipulative aspect to it.  The phrase conjures up back room political machinations.  I did not see how the piece connected to such an idea.  The description on her website gave no indication that the piece was related to the manipulative meaning of the phrase.  As far as I could tell, Keller was not dealing with that meaning of the phrase, just the literal one.

The use of the phrase pulling strings, in a way, has become pure meaning, a literal phrase.  Does this mean, then, that people who do know that meaning or use of the phrase are saddled with extra context, context or meaning that has nothing to do with the piece?

Another student, who is French, in the SODA program did a piece in which she used several phrases with the word white and several kinds of animals – white rabbit, white horse.  I can’t think of other ones at the moment.  She was unaware of the white rabbit of Alice in Wonderland or in the Jefferson Airplane song(also the same rabbit), White Rabbit.  Whenever I hear the phrase white horse I think of that great song by Laid Back, White Horse.  They’re Danish, by the way.

My larger question is when a language is used by a non-native speaker how aware of the idioms and cultural context of that language should s/he be?  Can the artist ignore all that and use the language as a context-free tool for expression?  I would think that in a scene that is obsessed with context and dramaturgy, artists would have a greater concern for the use of language.

Or has all context been removed from English in continental Europe?