“From where my body starts and
at which part my body ends?”
(Kus uda 20 08)
A r esearch about
the impli cit and/or e xplici t
ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions
of the body in contem porary chore ographic res earch
Ins titute :
Uni vers iteit Utrecht
Study: Mas ter The aterwete nschap
Diane Els hout
Tutor: Maaike Ble eker
Second re ader:
Lie sbeth Wil dschut
Studentnumber: 312 4401
Date: 10 August 2009
0. Introduction 5
0.1 Framing the choreographers 8
0.2 Danslab 9
0.3 Research question and theoretical context 10
1. Body, mapping, theories 15
1.1 Refiguring bodies 15
1.2 Cartesian dualism 16
1.3 Spinoza’s monism 18
2. The Inside Out 21
2.1 Sigmund Freud 21
2.1.A Introduction 21
2.1.B Freud’s concept(s) of the body 23
2.2 Lacan 26
2.2.A Introduction 26
2.2.B Lacan’s concept of the body 28
2.3 Schilder 30
2.3.A Introduction 30
2.3.B Schilder’s concept(s) of the body 30
2.4 Merleau-Ponty 33
2.4.A Introduction 33
2.4.B Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body 34
3. The Outside In 38
3.1 Nietzsche 39
3.1.A Introduction 39
3.1.B Nietzsche's concept of the body 41
3.2 Foucault 44
3.2.A Introduction 44
3.2.B Foucault’s concept(s) of the body 45
3.3 Deleuze and Guattari 47
3.3.A Introduction to Deleuze and Guattari 47
3.3.B Deleuze's and Guattari's concept(s)of the body 49
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 2
4 The choreographic research of Giulia Mureddu 53
4.0 Introduction 53
4.0.A Research description 53
4.1 Comparison with Grosz 54
4.1.A The body as a homunculus 55
4.1.B The body as a pliable container 57
4.1.C The body as “unknowing” 59
4.1.D The body as itself 62
4.1.E Preliminary conclusion 64
5. The choreographic research of Kenzo Kusuda 69
5.0 Introduction 69
5.0.A Kusuda’s research description 70
5.1 Comparison with Grosz 70
5.1.A The body as hydrodynamic 71
5.1.B The body as tabula rasa 73
5.1.C The body as a mirror 76
5.1.D Preliminary conclusion 77
6. Conclusion 81
A.01 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, June 27th 2008 88
A.02 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, July 12th 2008 95
A.03 Interview with Kenzo Kusuda, May 9th 2008 in OBA 109
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 3
With this the sis I round off a period of study in which I com bined the
knowle dge that I gained as a dancer/ choreographe r with the theory that was offere d
in the Master T heatre Studi es. It has been an intense tim e that gave m e new insight,
ope ned doors and placed my practical knowle dge in a new conte xt. Wi th thi s the sis
I deepene d my i nsight into the im plicit and e xplici t i deas, as sumpti ons and
pre suppos itions about the body in conte mporar y chor eographic re search. I woul d
like to thank those who were involved in thi s process. The Univers ity of Utrecht
that acce pted m e on the bas is of my e xperie nce and made it possible for me to
start thi s new journe y. Maaike Ble eker, my tutor f or her fine under standi ng and
cre ative m ind that challenge d and suppor ted me . Jette Schneider, ar tistic
coordinator of Danslab, the chor eographic re search insti tute where this re search
took place, for her ope nness and opportunities that s he offere d. Giulia Mur eddu and
Kenzo Kus uda, two choreographer s who allowed me to resear ch the ir work and f or
the time they i nvested. I woul d also like to thank my dear fr iend and res earche r
Mir ella Mis i, for her reflections and que stions , and Alis on Fis her for her text
cor rections and stimulating r emarks . It has been a long process , and I thank al l my
fri ends and fam ily for thei r pati ence and support. Above all, I want to thank Noud,
my l ove, who was beside me every day. Hi s pati ence, hum or and loving support were
the beautiful accompaniments of this pr ocess.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 4
Thi s rese arch f lows out of my i nteres t in and fas cinati on with the human
body. A body that is fill ed wi th knowle dge and ques tions, fl exible and re ady to
adapt. An intel ligent and r espons ive body, a sensitive tool that is open to innovation
and change. In the last decades, the interest in the body has increase d, and theories
about the body have gained importance. The “contemporary” body is no longer a
"natural given", but shaped by cultural conditioni ng. It is the protagonis t of both
voluntary and involuntary actions and gestur es, pr oducing language and cul tural
meaning, while at the s ame ti me its elf be ing grasped and define d by i t. Luk Van den
Dri es wri tes in the i ntroduction of the book “Bodycheck“ 1 : “N ever before has the
body been so em pathically present as today. The disciplini ng of the body, its cultural
(trans)for mation, its gene tic codification and the oppos ition agains t thes e
pre determ ined corpore al images through play with se xual i dentities ar e at the
centre of curre nt artistic and theoreti cal di scours e” (Van den Dr ies 20 02:3).
According to He len Thomas i n her book “The Body, Da nce an d Cult ural Theory” 2 , the
increase of attention that van de n Drie s mentions i s due to “the infl uences of
femi nism, postmode rnism, the concern wi th health, the envir onment and
consumeri sm in late m oderni ty” (T homas 2003: 11 ). These influences challenge d old
ass umptions about the body and stimulated ne w corporeal conce pts. In this thesis , I
focus on the body in the pe rformi ng arts, or more specifically in conte mporar y
choreography. Choreogr aphers are “reachi ng for openi ngs in existing schools of
thought and pre vailing concepts by trying out ne w line s of approach through
une xpecte d coll isions ” (Van den Dr ies 20 02:3). In his book Post drama tic Th eatre,
Hans-Thi es Lehmann 3 states the development of the use of the physi cal body within
the performing arts as foll ows: “T he physi cal body, whose ges tic vocabulary in the
eighteenth century could still be read and interpre ted vi rtuall y like text, in post
dramatic theatr e has become its own reality which does not ‘tell’ this or that
emotion but thr ough i ts pre sence manifests itse lf as the si te of inscri ption of
col lective history” (Lehmann 20 06:94) .
Within this constellation, in which the body moved to the centr e of artisti c
and theor etical discourse and new theor ies and conceptual ization of the body
entered the stage, I conducted re search, as both a chor eographer and rese archer, to
know m ore about the way the body is approached in the e nvir onment in which it is
the protagonist: dance and more speci fically choreogr aphy. As chore ography works
pre dominantly with the body, I am intereste d to r esearch how i deas ( new) about the
body are applie d and the be haviour of the body is produced. I want to refer to an
1 V a n d e n . D r i e s , L u k , e . a . B o d y c h e c k , R o d o p i , N e w Yo r k , 2 0 0 2
2 T h o m a s , H e l e n T h e b o d y, D a n c e a n d C u l t u r a l T h e o r y. P a l g r a v e M c M i l l a n , U S A , 2 0 0 3 .
3 L e h m a n n , H a n s - T h i e s , P o s t d r a m a t i c T h e a t r e , R o u t l e d g e , N Y 2 0 0 6
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 5
experience I had as both dancer and choreographer that tr iggere d my curiosi ty and
for ms the basis of this res earch.
In 1995I attended a class by Elisabe th Cor bett, one of the dancers of the
Frankfurt Balle t 4 , a contem porary dance company under the artistic direction of
Wil liam Forsythe. Corbett taught us an aspect of the moveme nt sys tems that
For sythe uses to gene rate m oveme nt material. We were chall enged to incor porate
the structure of the room we were standing in with differe nt par ts of our body
(structur e of the wal l, chairs i n the space, other dancers, etc). Carefull y, she adde d
dif fere nt layers and ways to approach the information that sur rounde d us. As a
res ult, a comple x mix of im pulses found its way i nto my body. At some point, my
body parts were able to move i ndependently, as if manipulated fr om outside. I
rem ember having a fl ash of thought that this feel ing re lated to the way I perce ived
my body in relation to socie ty: A body manipulated by f orces like culture , politics ,
rel igion and other el ements that constr uct my r eality and affect my l ife.
I used this experience in the choreography Nerves: a mental state. It was
bas ed on case s tudies of the neur ologis t Oliver Sacks. We, Els hout/Händele r 5 ,
com bined 4 patients described by Sacks ( who were not “in control of them selves”)
with the questi on of “normality” in a s ocial/ politi cal envir onment of se curity and
control. Al though depar ting f rom a neurol ogical disor der that caused movement to
“happen” to the patie nts (because of their physi cal handicap), the emphasis of the
choreography was to show a body that i s conf used, tr ying to survive i n an unstable
physi cal system on the one si de and manipulated/contr olled by culture , politics and
social surroundings on the other side. We created an envir onment that woul d add
to this feel ing. The centre of the stage was a turning plateau that could start and
stop at unexpected moments, li terall y destabilizing the perf ormers as a direct force
from outs ide, while vi deo cameras surveyed them and projected their “struggle” live
on huge video s creens together wi th the random recordings of the audi ence. 6 The
audience was invited to walk around and observe the whole from differe nt
per specti ves, as if the stage was a display.
Later, I was introduced to the work of the phil osophe r Michel Foucault. For
Foucault the body is a fiel d on which the play of powers (culture, politics , social
4 T h e F r a n k f u r t B a l l e t w a s f o u n d e d b y t h e A m e r i c a n c h o r e o g r a p h e r W i l l i a m F o r s y t h e i n 1 9 8 4 , a n d h e h a s d i r e c t e d i t e v e r
s i n c e . T h e a c c l a i m e d e x p e r i m e n t a l c o m p a n y h a d i t s b a s e i n F r a n k f u r t ( G e r m a n y ) . T h e p o p u l a r t r o u p e t o u r e d g l o b a l l y, a n d
F o r s y t h e a l s o c r e a t e d n e w w o r k s f o r p r e s t i g i o u s c o m p a n i e s a r o u n d t h e w o r l d , i n c l u d i n g t h e N a t i o n a l B a l l e t o f C a n a d a , t h e
P a r i s O p e r a B a l l e t , t h e N e w Yo r k C i t y B a l l e t , t h e S t u t t g a r t B a l l e t a n d t h e J o f f r e y B a l l e t . D u e t o a s u b s i d y c u t f r o m t h e
F r a n k f u r t c i t y g o v e r n m e n t i n 2 0 0 3 , F o r s y t h e c o n c l u d e d t h a t h i s a r t i s t i c f r e e d o m w o u l d b e c o m p r o m i s e d , a n d h e a n n o u n c e d
t h a t 2 0 0 4 w o u l d b e t h e F r a n k f u r t B a l l e t ' s l a s t s e a s o n . T h e n e w F o r s y t h e C o m p a n y w a s f o u n d e d i n J a n u a r y 2 0 0 5 . I t h a s t w o
h o m e s : F r a n k f u r t ' s B o c k e n h e i m e r D e p o t a n d t h e F e s t s p i e l h a u s H e l l e r a u i n D r e s d e n . F i n a n c i a l s u p p o r t c o m e s f r o m t h e s t a t e
g o v e r n m e n t s o f H e s s e a n d S a x o n y. w w w . t h e f o r s y t h e c o m p a n y. c o m
5 I n c l o s e c o o p e r a t i o n w i t h c o - a r t i s t i c d i r e c t o r F r a n k H ä n d e l e r, w e d i r e c t e d t h e f r e e l a n c e c o m p a n y E l s h o u t / H ä n d e l e r,
f o u n d e d i n 1 9 9 6 . w w w . s t e d g e . n l
6 N e r v e s , a m e n t a l s t a t e , C h o r e o g r a p h y E l s h o u t / H ä n d e l e r i n c l o s e c o o p e r a t i o n w i t h t h e d a n c e r s : B e t h B a t h o l o m e w , K e n z o
K u s u d a , K e r e n L e v i , A l f r e d o F e r n a n d e z a n d D a n i e l D r a b e k . P r e m i e r e o n l o c a t i o n i n t h e A t r i u m , T h e H a g u e , d u r i n g t h e
C a d a n s f e s t i v a l 2 0 0 2 .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 6
sur roundi ngs), knowle dge, and resi stance is worked out; the body as a “cultural
construct rathe r than a natural phenome na” (Foucaul t 1977 :79). 7 What I re alized,
with the introduction of Foucault’s ide as, was that my e xplici t ideas about the body
(the envir onment it functions in, the way i t moves in a choreography, and how i nterhum
an rel ations are worked out) seem to be impli ed by the ide as about the body
pre sented in hi s work; a passive bundle of raw f lesh on which power and di scours e
leave their m arker pen. Parallel to this assum ption about the body as a page to be
wri tten on, we r esearched the ‘per sonali ty’ of the patients, their way of deal ing wi th
the worl d, their pre fere nces and avers ions, fear s and desire s. We wanted to reveal
the inner depth and s ubjective e xperie nce of the patients, as if we could bring the ir
ins ide worl d out. I will not elaborate all the other ide as, as sumpti ons and
pre suppos itions that were prese nt, but this example gives an impression of the
alchemy of some times even contradictor y ideas about the body that were impli ed in
thi s particular chore ography. The alchemy of chor eographic ideas was what triggered
my curiosi ty as a chor eographer and as a researcher. I wanted to ge t more insight
into the implicit or explicit ide as about the body that are implied i n the work of
For a choreographer, the body is the very mater ial of artis tic ex pressi on and
com muni cation, an agent that generates and gives form to ideas, a sensitive r eceiver
and trans lator of experiences, cultural codes and new artistic insights. The body we
witness on stage is not a r andom collection of impulses, but a conseque nce of a
sel ection proce ss, based on the artisti c idea(s) that the chore ographer wants to get
acr oss. Choreographic i deas are subjective and peculiar to the individual. It is
ass umed, however, that exposure to a common envir onment plus the customar y
processes of education and social attri tion will ge nerall y lead to a sharing of
concepts and the eventual acquisition of a standard repertoire of concepts and
ide as “he ld in common by virtual ly all membe rs of a given cultur al or lingui stic
group”. 8 Thi s woul d mean that choreographi c choi ces and the way the body moves
as a cons equence are relate d to the cul tural, political and social surroundings of the
choreographer, even without the choreographe r being expl icitly awar e of this (as
evi dent i n the exampl e I us ed from my own practi ce).
Thi s thes is reports on the choreographi c rese arch process es of Kenzo Kus uda and
Giullia Mur eddu, two contemporary freelance choreogr aphers working in the
Netherlands. The aim was to gain more i nsight into the im plicit and/or expl icit
ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body implied i n the choreographi c
7 I n t h e f o l l o w i n g c i t a t i o n f r o m h i s b o o k “ D i s c i p l i n e a n d P u n i s h ” , F o u c a u l t e l a b o r a t e s o n t h e b o d y a s a s o c i a l c o n s t r u c t :
P o w e r e xe r c i s e s o n h u m a n b o d i e s : “ W h a t w a s t h e n b e i n g f o r m e d w a s a p o l i c y o f c o e r c i o n s t h a t a c t o n t h e b o d y, a
c a l c u l a t e d m a n i p u l a t i o n o f i t s e l e m e n t s , i t s g e s t u r e s , i t s b e h a v i o r. T h e h u m a n b o d y w a s e n t e r i n g a m a c h i n e r y o f p o w e r t h a t
e x p l o r e s i t , b r e a k s i t d o w n a n d r e a r r a n g e s i t … T h u s , d i s c i p l i n e p r o d u c e s s u b j e c t e d a n d p r a c t i c e d b o d i e s , ‘ d o c i l e ’ b o d i e s . ”
F o u c a u l t , D i s c i p l i n e a n d P u n i s h 1 9 7 7 : 1 3 8 - 9 .
8 M e ye r, P C o n c e p t s i n P o l i t i c a l S c i e n c e S c a n d i n a v i a n P o l i t i c a l S t u d i e s , B i n d 5 ( N e w S e r i e s ) U n i v e r s i t y o f A a r h u s ( 1 9 8 2 : 4 )
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 7
es earch of the se two choreographer s. To achieve this, I col lected infor mation about
the ir choreographic process . I observed their choreographic research pr ocesse s,
interviewed them i n relation to thei r rese arch s ubject, re ad articles and vi ewed
video material relate d to their r esearch. In this proces s, I tried to ans wer the
fol lowing ques tions: What moti vated the choreogr aphers to work with these ideas
and what kind of m oving body does this “create ”? Whi ch of the body’s possibi lities
were included and/or e xclude d? How do the specific cultur al/his torical ideas about
the body/ mind r elation impl icit i n the choreographi c rese arch of Mur eddu and
Kus uda re late to the ideas of several prom inent philos ophers of Western thinking
after Des cartes that play an important role i n the development of Western thinking
about the body/ mind r elationship?
0.1 Framing the choreographers
Giullia Mur edu and Kenzo Kus uda ar e part of a varied group of independent
choreographers in the Nethe rlands characterized by differe nt cul tural backgr ounds,
dance training and choreogr aphic styles . The Netherlands offers a wide range of
facilitie s to s upport independent artis ts, and this climate is internationally pr aised
for producing wide-ranging and hi gh-quality work (in technical ter ms). As
independe nt choreographers, the ir work is ‘proj ect based’. This means that they do
not work from a cons istent structure that functions all year round but that
par ticipants ar e gathered togethe r when a choreographic project starts (although
mos t of the choreographers work with a “cor e” group of dancer s and other artistic
co- operators), and they leave when the proj ect ends. In the Netherlands, se veral
production hous es for young tale nt as well as more experienced fre elance
choreographers office s are active, taking care of the production, financial direction
and booki ng on a regular basis through cluste r management.
The chore ographic projects are made possible by s ubsidi es generally granted
by the maj or arts funds. Ar tistic quali ty, innovative artisti c concept as well as the
pos ition of the work withi n the contex t of the development of the dance fiel d are
gui ding criteri a. An independent commi ssion of spe cialis ts is responsible for the
sel ection of pr ojects to re ceive grants. An average choreographic creation process
includes two m onths of rehearsal s and one month of performance s. The
per formances are shown in small to me dium-s ized theatr es (known for their
experimental pr ogramm ing), on site- specific locati ons and duri ng festivals. It is not
always possible to generate profess ional activi ty all year round, and the
choreographers develop othe r profess ional activi ties and/or fall back on social
security. Fr eelance chor eographers are qui te vul nerable in the conti nuity of the ir
artistic development. There ar e more chore ographers than the re is money to fund
the ir plans. This is a complex political situation, I will not dis cuss i n this study. I do
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 8
want to m ention that the as pect of time withi n the two-m onth creation process,
dee p and risky experi mentation wi th new conce pts and poss ible failur e is i n conf lict
with the validation of qual ity and rele vance of the ir per formance and their next
grant for work.
For this study, I looked for an envir onment that woul d support
choreographers to explicitl y rese arch their choreographic ideas of the body. I was
introduce d to Danslab, a laboratory that pr ovides space for free and independent
res earch for ex perienced choreogr aphers ; an envir onment where risks can be take n,
and new and challengi ng choreographic i deas and ways of res earchi ng the body can
be developed. In the f ollowing paragraph, I will give an impr ession of the
Danslab i s an organization initiated by f reelance choreographer Dylan
Newcomb and Jette Schneider, ar tistic coordinator and r esearcher. They des cribe
the ir motivation as f ollows: “The conce pt for this initiative arises from the nee d of
choreographers to explore a broad range of ar tistic topics, outside the pr essure s of
continuously cr eating performance s. In Danslab’s vision, ar tistic research is
sur rounde d by r eflexi vity as the method for deepeni ng and widening ar tistic
craftsmanship, and expe rience d chor eographers are see n as the mos t suitable
executers of this thought, be cause of the ir choreographic e xperie nce, their se lfknowle
dge, and abil ity to analyse and refle ct on their profess ion. These capaciti es
are neces sary to conduct ar tistic research. In the curre nt dance pol icy, the
pos sibili ty to conduct rese arch is create d for young chor eographers. Danslab s ees
the se starting choreographe rs taking their firs t step towar d the development of or
looking f or the ir own artistic signature . We could categor ize this mor e as a sea rch
than a res earch.” 9
With thei r initiative, Danslab creates the f avour able situation of artis tic
res earch for the free lance choreographe r, outside the pr essure of cr eation. Wi thin
the chore ographic cre ation proces s, the production situation pushes towar ds a
res ult that wil l be presented to an audience and influences the moments of resear ch
within the cour se of the pr ocess, si nce choreogr aphers are i n need of a free and
fle xible envir onment for their artisti c development. Danslab creates an envir onment
that is i ndependent of production and/or restrictive conditi ons of insti tutes
concerned with production and thus produces a separ ate space for chor eographers
to resear ch and refle ct on their establis hed di stinctive s tyle. Danslab m akes i t
9 T h i s t e x t w a s o n t h e fi r s t w e b s i t e o f D a n s l a b a n d h a s b e e n r e m o v e d i n M a y 2 0 0 9 w i t h t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n o f t h e n e w
w e b s i t e . w w w . d a n s l a b . n l
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 9
pos sible for choreogr aphers to cr eate their own contex t. With a focus on open
exchange, feedback and ref lection, Danslab aims to inspi re the artis tic de velopment
of contem porary dance . The curre nt choreographers connected to Danslab are:
Kar ine Gui zzo, Kenzo Kus uda, Br uno Lis tpad, Giullia Mur edu and Dylan Newcomb.
Within the concept of Danslab, there is a sti mulus to describe the
par ameter s according to whi ch the research takes pl ace. Therefor e, Danslab asks al l
choreographers to com muni cate openly about the ai ms and subjects of the ir
choreographic r esearch. Dur ing the res earch the pr ocess is documente d in a suitable
way. A presentation form is chosen at the end of the research pe riod, and
col league s are present to comment and ask que stions . At the e nd of the pr oces s, a
ref lection on the res earch is writte n. These activiti es cre ate more ins ight i nto the
res earch proces s and build a rese rvoir of im pressi ons, doubts, ne w insi ghts,
knowle dge and methodologies. As a the atre r esearcher, this approach gave m e the
pos sibili ty to captur e the choreographi c rese arch of the two choreographer s I
obs erved from differe nt angles, ranging from s tudio visits , collecti ve viewings,
blogspots, vi deo re gistrations, intervie ws, re search prese ntations and descr iptions
and refle ctions /evaluations .
As is apparent in the descr iption, Danslab is directed towar ds choreographic
res earch without the pressure of a final product. This envir onment allows
choreographers to fre ely ex plore their creati ve questions and provides room to
experiment. It is in thi s “protected” space that chore ographers can try out unknown
ter ritory. In this proces s, they can deepe n or challenge the ir own concepts. In my
convers ations with choreographe rs, these ar guments seem ed to be crucial and often
lacking within “normal” cre ation proces ses (i .e. pr ocesse s dire cted towar ds the
production of a chore ography as a final result) as a res ult of the pressur e of artisti c
success within the ar tist's political arena. It is on the basis of this infor mation that I
see Danslab as a fr uitful envir onment to re search the implicit and ex plicit ideas ,
ass umptions and presuppositions about the body that are i mplied in the
choreographic r esearch that Mur eddu and Kus uda conducte d; a fertile gr ound, where
space and time are cr eated to choreographical ly res earch the body in all its
0.3 Research question and theoretical context
Thi s thes is examines the choreogr aphic resear ch process of two
choreographers connected to Danslab: Giulia Mur eddu 10 and Kenzo Kus uda 11 . Both
were in the process of or recently fini shed a period of choreographic research,
10 w w w . g i u l i a m u r e d d u . c o m
11 w w w . k o r z o . n l / d o . p h p ? a = s h o w _ v i s i t o r _ k o r z o _ c r e a t o r s & b = d e t a i l & p = 3 3 4 & t y p e = c h o r e o g r a f e n & m = 1 1 3
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 10
dur ing the writing of this thesis . The two choreographer s have a substantial amount
of work to their name and have developed their own artistic vis ion over a longer
per iod of time. I believe that this artisti c expe rience allows them to refl ect on their
choreographic development. Fr om thi s posi tion, these choreogr aphers can then
for mulate que stions that are re levant for their artisti c development.
Dur ing this study, Mur eddu and Kus uda acted very di ffere ntly i n the way they
conducted their research and how they conceived of the body within it. Their
res earch did not lead to a final creative product but to a collecti on of insights,
pos sible answers , ne w ques tions, openings and e xperie nces that fed the ir cre ative
In my period at Danslab, I gather ed a s ubstantial amount of inf ormati on. The
choreographers allowed me, each in their own way, to be part of their resear ch
process. I could obs erve, vi deo, question them during their work and r ead their
ref lections. I interviewed the choreogr aphers during thei r rese arch and afterwards,
in order to give them ti me for refle ction. It also allowed me to come up with
pos sible insights about the ir res earch. My aim was to obtain more insight into how
implicit and/or expli cit ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body are
implied i n thei r chor eographic re search and how these i deas are rel ated to the
his tory of thinking about the body. In order to be able to do this, I looked for a
frame, a window through which it woul d be possible to place thi s information in a
spe cific perspe ctive. One that woul d allow m e to categor ize the implicit and ex plicit
ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body and the body/mi nd
rel ations hip that speak from the choreographer s' res earch in a non-dualistic way. I
had been introduced to the writings of the femi nist profess or in critical the ory and
phi losophy, El isabeth Gros z. Wi thin the lar ge amount of infor mation conce rning
dif fere nt the oretical tendencie s about the body, she offers a spe cific perspe ctive on
the body/ mind r elationship that allowed me to categorize the inf ormati on I gathere d
and gave m e more insight into the cultur al/his torical context.
In her book “Vola tile B odies” 12 , Gr osz gi ves a kind of mapping of important
ide as about the body and the specific body/m ind re lationship i n Western thinking
since Des cartes and their i deas, sometime s impl icit, about the body. It also provides
an insight into the i deas, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body of these
thi nkers and the role their ideas still play i n soci al, cultural and psychic life. Gr osz
states that the ir ide as are deepl y engr aved in our way of thinking about the body in
the West, and this is not restricted to theoreti cal di scours e but is integrated into
the gener al ass umptions about the body.
Grosz obs erved that Descartes “succeede d in l inking the m ind/body
opposition to the foundations of knowle dge itself, a link which places the mi nd in a
pos ition of hie rarchal supe riority over and above natur e, including the nature of the
12 G r o s z , E l i s a b e t h Vo l a t i l e B o d i e s To w a r d s a C o r p o r a l F e m i n i s m . I n d i a n a U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , U S A , 1 9 9 4
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 11
ody. Fr om that time , until the pres ent, subject or conscious ness i s separated from
and can r eflect on the worl d of the body, objects, qualitie s”(Grosz 199 4:6). She
states that, as a result of the pr edominance of male the oricians, philosophical
the ories about the body were mainl y written fr om a m ale pe rspective and had
radical consequences for the way we l ook at the body today. 13 In her attempt to
rethink the rel ations between body and mi nd, she departs fr om the idea that body
and mind are not two distinct subs tances (dual ism) or two kinds of attr ibutes of a
single substance (monism), but some thing in between. In her conviction, both
psychic and social di mensions must find their place in reconceptualizi ng the body,
not in oppositi on to each other but as necess arily interactive 14 .
Grosz chose an approach in which both the internal (private, bi ological) and
external (cultural) i nfluences ar e inte grated, pointing out what the infl uence of the
spe cific theore tical approaches i s on the body/mind relati onship. She looked for a
non-duali stic, non-hier archical metaphor and found this in the “Möbius strip” (named
after August Fe rdinand Möbius, a ninete enth-century German mathematician and
astronome r). The Möbius strip is a sci entific model where inside and outside are
twi sted, and this allows Grosz to sur pass the body/mind oppos ition. It gives space
for the body to be re -exami ned in a non-hierarchical metaphor. The Möbius strip, in
her eyes, has the ability to “show the inf liction of m ind i nto body and body into
mind, in which, through a kind of twisting or invers ion, one side becom es another”
(Gr osz 199 4:xi). This model provides Grosz with “a way of problem atizing and
rethinking the relati ons be tween the i nside and the outs ide of the s ubject, its
psychical inter ior and its corpor al exterior” (Gros z 199 4:xii) . She anal yzed the
the ories of a very divers e group of Western thinkers , including Freud, Lacan,
Mer leau-Ponty, Ni etzsche, Foucault, Del euze and Guattari, and divi ded their
som etimes disparate i deas i nto two m ajor categor ies, which she call s the “Inside
Out” and “Outsi de In”.
The theor ies di scusse d in the “Inside O ut” category explain “how e xperie nce
its elf structur es and gives meaning to the ways in whi ch the body is occupied and
lived” (Ibid: 11 5). Gr osz re fers to the ideas of psychoanalysts and phenom enology, of
13 G r o s z s t a t e s : “ T h e b o d y i s c o d e d i n t e r m s t h a t a r e t h e m s e l v e s t r a d i t i o n a l l y d e v a l u e d . M o s t r e l e v a n t h e r e i s t h e
c o r r e l a t i o n a n d a s s o c i a t i o n o f t h e m i n d / b o d y o p p o s i t i o n w i t h t h e o p p o s i t i o n m a l e / f e m a l e , w h e r e m a n i s m i n d a n d f e m a l e i s
b o d y ” ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 : 6 . ) S u c h a c o r r e l a t i o n i s n o t c o n t i n g e n t o r a c c i d e n t a l b u t i s c e n t r a l t o t h e w a y s i n w h i c h p h i l o s o p h y
h i s t o r i c a l l y d e v e l o p e d a n d s t i l l s e e s i t s e l f e v e n t o d a y. P h i l o s o p h y h a s a l w a y s c o n s i d e r e d i t s e l f a d i s c i p l i n e c o n c e r n e d
p r i m a r i l y o r e x c l u s i v e l y w i t h i d e a s , c o n c e p t s , r e a s o n , j u d g m e n t - t h a t i s , w i t h t e r m s c l e a r l y f r a m e d b y t h e c o n c e p t o f m i n d ,
t e r m s w h i c h m a r g i n a l i z e o r e x c l u d e c o n s i d e r a t i o n s o f t h e b o d y. A s s o o n a s k n o w l e d g e i s s e e n a s p u r e l y c o n c e p t u a l , i t s
r e l a t i o n t o b o d i e s , t h e c o r p o r e a l i t y o f b o t h k n o w e r a n d t e x t , a n d t h e w a y s t h e s e i m m a t e r i a l i t i e s i n t e r a c t , m u s t b e c o m e
o b s c u r e . A s a d i s c i p l i n e , p h i l o s o p h y “ h a s s u r r e p t i t i o u s l y e x c l u d e d f e m i n i n i t y , a n d u l t i m a t e l y w o m e n , f r o m i t s p r a c t i c e s
t h r o u g h i t s u s u a l l y i m p l i c i t c o d i n g o f f e m i n i n i t y w i t h t h e u n r e a s o n a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e b o d y. I t c o u l d b e a r g u e d t h a t
p h i l o s o p h y a s w e k n o w i t h a s es t a b l i s he d i t s e l f a s a f o r m o f k n o w i ng , a f o rm o f r a t i o n a l i t y, o n l y t h r o u g h t h e d i s a v o w a l o f t h e
b o d y, s p e c i a l l y t h e m a l e b o d y, a n d t h e c o r r e s p o n d i n g e l e v a t i o n o f t h e m i n d a s a d i s e m b o d i e d t e r m . ” ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 : 7 )
14. G r o s z o b s e r v e s t h a t t h e r e h a s b e e n a s h i f t i n l o o k i n g a t t h e b o d y i n w h i c h s t r u c t u r a l i s m h a s c o m e t o t h e f o r e g r o u n d i n
t h e l a s t d e c e n n i a . I n “ Vo l a t i l e B o d i e s ” s h e s t a t e s t h a t “ i n t h e f a c e o f s t r u c t u r a l i s m , t h e b o d y ’ s t a n g i b i l i t y, i t s m a t t e r, i t s
( q u a s i ) n a t u r e m a y b e r e l i e d o n ; b u t i n o p p o s i t i o n t o e s s e n t i a l i s m , b i o l o g i s m , a n d n a t u r a l i s m , i t i s t h e b o d y a s c u l t u r a l
p r o d u c t t h a t m u s t b e s t r e s s e d ” . ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 : 2 3 )
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 12
whi ch I will el aborate on Freud, Lacan, Schilder and Mer leau-Ponty. Grosz suggests,
that “in psychoanalytic and phenomenological terms, the psychical attitudes and
experiences of the body are neces sary i ngredi ents of the subject’s acquisition of a
uni fied and cohesive body im age and a functional, activity-gener ating, and responsive
body” (ibid. 11 5); in other words, ways in whi ch the psychic interior has made the
body its form of exte riority, as if fr om the inside out. The theoretici ans di scusse d in
the “Outs ide In” cate gory r efer to ways in whi ch “the soci al ins cripti ons of the
sur face of the body generate a ps ychical inte riority” (Ibi d:11 5); it is as sumed that i t
is the body's s ocial exteri or, or at le ast its particular modes of inscription, that
com mands or induces certain kinds of be haviour and practices. In this part, Gr osz
investigates philosophical pos itions that focus on the body as a “social object, as a
tex t to be marked, tr aced, wr itten upon by various regim es of institutional power”
(ibi d:11 6). The inscription of the social surface of the body is the traci ng of
pedagogical, juridical, me dical, and economic texts, laws and pr actice s into the f lesh,
“to carve out a s ocial s ubject capable of labour, of production and manipulation, a
subject capable of acting as a subject and, at the s ame ti me, capable of bei ng
deciphere d, interpre ted, understood” (Ibi d:11 7). I will e laborate on the ideas of
Nie tszche , Foucault, Del euze and Guattari in thi s part.
In her book, Gr osz il lustrates the two m ost oppositi onal i deas of both
categorie s, which gave m e a cl ear insight into her approach that I want to share. She
“To briefly illus trate: or al sex uality can be transcribe d in corpore al ter ms.
Ins tead of describing the oral dr ive i n term s of what it feel s like ,as an endogenously
(having a cause inside the body or s elf) originating psychical representation, striving
for an ex ternal , absent, or lost object (the fantasmatic and ultim ately imposs ible
obj ect of desir e), orality can be unders tood i n term s of what it does: cr eating
linkages with other s urface s, other pl anes, other objects or ass emblages. The chil d’s
lips, for exam ple, form connections (or in Del euzian terms , machines , as semblages)
with the breast, the bottle, possibly accompanied by the hand in j unction with an
ear, each sys tem in perpe tual m otion and in mutual interrelation. Ins tead of seei ng
the obs essional pe rson’s desir e for impene trabil ity as a year ning f or what is absent
and lost (a staving off of the castr ation threat and the expression of the des ire to
occupy the pos ition of the fathe r), the obs essional pe rson’s toe can be seen to
make mechanical conne ctions with sand, wi th rocks, wi th grass, such that thes e
“ex ternal objects” can no l onger be considere d either an internalized part of the
subject or an e xpelle d exte rnal r esidue of the subj ect; rather, they exi st on the same
level as the subje ct’s body parts (i n this case feet), ne ither inside nor outside but
functional alongside of and with the subject’s body”(Ibi d:116).
I view the Insi de Out/Outsi de In categorizati on of Grosz as an adequate
model to give m e more insight into the ideas, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions that
are impli ed in the choreogr aphic resear ch of Mur eddu and Kus uda. He r mode l
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 13
all owed me to analyze and categorize the inf ormati on I gathere d about how the
choreographers concei ve the body in their r esearch, in a non-duali stic way. In the
subsequent chapters, I will e laborate on Grosz's m apping of a dispar ate gr oup of
Western thinkers after Descartes and the ir ide as about the body. Grosz's m ap
ser ves as the theor etical basis to dr aw conclus ions about how the choreographers'
ide as were related to prevailing Western thoughts about the body and as a model
to categorize these i deas and place the m in e ither the Inside O ut and Outsi de In
It is important to me ntion that I depar t from the i dea that all the i mplici t
and explicit ideas, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body of the two
choreographers necess arily fit into only one of the proposed categories of Gros z. In
contempor ary thought, as pects of dif fere nt traditions and theori es are part of a
cre ative process , and in their choices , choreogr aphers may very well have been
inf luence d by m ore than one of the m any theorie s that they have access to. Hi s or
her mix of ideas does not necessarily f orm a cohere nt whole. The alchemy of
dif fere nces m ight be one of the creative conditi ons of conte mporar y chor eographic
res earch proces ses. This the sis gi ves more ins ight i nto the impl icit and explicit ideas,
ass umptions and presuppositions that were impli ed in the choreographic research of
two e xperie nced choreographer s. What moti vated the choreogr aphers and what
kind of m oving body was created? Whi ch of the body’s possibi lities were included
and/or ex cluded and which specific cultur al/his torical ideas were impli ed in their
choreographic r esearch? The refere nce of their ideas about the body to existing
traditions functioned as questions related to chore ographic res earch in a l arger
context and an open discuss ion about the impl icit and/or explicit ide as, as sumpti ons
and presuppositions of the body that ar e impl ied in curre nt choreographic r esearch.
Bef ore I continue, I woul d like to add a short statement concerning “the
body” that I am talki ng about dur ing this res earch. I have hesitated for a long time
about focussing this thesis on the role of the perf ormer within the creation process.
Thi s was motivated by my i nteres t in the beautiful compl exity of the performer ’s
input and prese nce that makes the work of a choreographe r poss ible. In this study
the re is relati vely littl e refere nce to this exchange of energi es that is s o important
within the creation process . What was emphasized are the ideas, as sumpti ons and
suppositi ons about the body that were impli ed in the choreogr apher’s rese arch. This
led to a more abstract, theoreti cal way of deal ing wi th the body, which is not s o
concrete in the creative process . In my work as a choreographe r, I never looked at
the performer i n front of m e as “just” a body; instead, I have great r espect and
gratitude for the ope nness of the person I worked with. I think it is important to
kee p this in mi nd whe n reading the text of this res earch, al so in regard to the two
choreographers and their re search proce ss.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 14
1. Body, mapping, theories
In this chapter, I expose Grosz’s s pecific perspe ctive on the place of the
body in Western thinking that underl ies he r book Vola tile B odies. I will continue with
som e of the key eleme nts of Carte sian dualism and Spinoza’s monism, as a context
to Grosz' non-dualistic Ins ide Out and Outside In categor ies.
1.1 Refiguring bodies
In Vola tile B odies Gr osz is engaged in surpas sing the traditional mind-body
dichotomy and see s a special role f or the body in this pr ocess. In the dualistic
body/mind univers e, Gr osz points out that ther e is a hierarchy that pl aces the mind,
bei ng the objective, male dom ain, “above” the body, be ing the subj ective, female
dom ain. She argues that the body is very often seen as the s ubordi nated
counterpart of the mi nd, be ing non-historical , naturali stic, passive, and subj ective.
The se are inert terms , se eing the body as an intr usion on or interfere nce wi th the
ope ration of the “obj ective” mind. She asks herse lf the following ques tion: What
happens to conceptual frame works if the body stands in place of the mind or
dis places it fr om its privi leged positi on, de fini ng hum anity agains t its various othe rs?
(Gr osz 19 94: 16 0). As an answer she suggests that it is as val id to use corporal
subjectivity as it is to us e cons ciousness or unconscious ness to describe or anal yze
all the s ignificant facets and complexiti es of subjects. Gr osz states that “bodies have
all the e xplanatory power of minds and is convinced that thi s pers pective can bri ng
the body from the per iphery to the centre of analys is.” (Gr osz 19 94: ix ).
In order to bri ng the body to centre stage, the work of a dispar ate gr oup of
the orists is analyzed in Vola tile B odies, ex tracti ng the ir som etimes impli cit
conceptions of the body and the r ole the body plays in social, cultural and psychic
life. By chall enging the permane nce of existing as sumpti ons re garding power, de sire,
and knowle dge, she proposes a change in the pre vailing unde rstanding of bodie s by
transform ing dominant model s. Gros z beli eves that i t is not “si mply that the body is
represented in a vari ety of ways according to historical, social and cul tural
exi gencie s whil e it r emains basically the sam e; these factors actively produce the
body as a body of a determi nate type” ( ibid, p. x) . As this citati on shows, Gr osz is
convinced that the sexually specific body is actively produced by e xternal factors
and has no pure or natural “origi n” outside culture . She is f ascinated by the abi lity
of bodies to al ways extend the frameworks which atte mpt to contain the m (cul ture,
pol itics, ge nder, etc.) and thei r abil ity to seep beyond their domai ns of control.
Although Grosz believes that the body is actively produced by e xternal factors, she
doe s not “abandon ter ms ass ociate d with the s ubject’s psyche or inter ior” (Grosz
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 15
199 4: vi ii). Fr om thi s pers pective, Gr osz questions the way the body is understood
by the natural s cience s, the soci al sci ences and the humanities , es pecial ly the
“pr esumptions r egardi ng its natur alness , its fundamental biol ogi cal and pre- cultur al
status” ( ibi d:x) . By reveal ing the multiplici ty of bodily knowle dge and power (and
que stioni ng the existing hi erarchy of mind over body), she stri ves to recognize the
subject as a “corporal being” and opens up the subj ective univers e of the body. In
her idea, the body has r emaine d a conceptual blind spot in both mai nstream
Western philosophy and contempor ary femi nist theory. According to Grosz,
phi losophy has occupied itself as a discipline primari ly and exclusively with ideas,
concepts, re ason, judgment - that is, wi th ter ms cle arly f ramed by the concept of
mind, te rms which marginal ize or excl ude consider ations of the body. 15 The body is
understood in terms that attempt to minimize or ignore altogethe r its formative
rol e in the production of knowle dge and justice. 16
1.2 Cartesian dualism
In the hi story of phi losophy, “the body has be en regarded as a s ource of
interfere nce in, a danger to, the oper ations of re ason” ( ibi d:5). In the Cratylus
Plato alr eady claims that the word body (som a) was introduced by O rphic priests,
who belie ved that m an was a spi ritual or non-corporal bei ng trapped i n the body as
in a dungeon. In his doctrine of the For ms, Pl ato se es matter itself as a de nigrated
for m of the Ide a. The body is a betrayal of and a prison for the soul , re ason or
mind. For Plato it was evi dent that re ason s hould rule over the body and over the
irr ational or appetitive f unctions of the soul. Only a kind of natur al hie rarchy, a selfevi
dent r uler-ruled re lation, makes harmony possible wi thin the state, the fami ly, and
the individual. Dualism is an assumption that there ar e two distinct, mutually
exclusive and mutually e xhaustive substance s, mi nd and body, each of which inhabi ts
its own self-contained sphere. According to Grosz, the major problem facing dual ism
and all the pos itions aimed at overcoming dualis m has been to expl ain the
interacti on of these two apparently incompatible substances, gi ven that, wi thin the
experience of e veryday l ife, there se ems to be a manifest conne ction between the
two i n wilf ul behaviour and responsive psychic reactions. The matter/for m
dis tincti on is refigured in terms of the distinction between substance and accident
15 I m p o r t a n t f o r t h e c o n c e p t o f G r o s z ' s b o o k t o c o m e t o a c o r p o r e a l f e m i n i s m , I w a n t t o m e n t i o n t h e f o l l o w i n g c i t a t i o n b y
G r o s z i n r e l a t i o n t o p h i l o s o p h y a n d t h e w a y t h e b o d y i s a p p r o a c h e d : “ A s a d i s c i p l i n e , p h i l o s o p h y h a s s e c r e t l y e x c l u d e d
f e m i n i n i t y, a n d u l t i m a t e l y w o m e n , f r o m t h e s e p r a c t i c e s t h r o u g h i t s u s u a l l y i m p l i c i t c o d i n g o f f e m i n i n i t y w i t h u n r e a s o n
a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e b o d y. ” S h e s t a t e s t h a t h i s t o r i c a l l y, “ t h e b o d y h a s b e e n r e g a r d e d a s a s o u r c e o f i n t e r f e r e n c e i n , a n d a
d a n g e r t o , t h e o p e r a t i o n s o f r e a s o n ” ( i b i d . p . 5 ) .
16 G r o s z r e m a r k s t h a t “ t h e r o l e o f t h e s p e c i fi c m a l e b o d y a s t h e b o d y p r o d u c t i v e o f a c e r t a i n k i n d o f k n o w l e d g e
( o b j e c t i v e , v e r i fi a b l e , c a u s a l , q u a n t i fi a b l e ) h a s n e v e r b e e n t h e o r i z e d ” ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 , p . 4 ) .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 16
and between a God-given soul and a m ortal, lustful, si nful carnali ty. Wi thin the
Chr istian tradi tion, the separation of mi nd and body was corre lated with the
dis tincti on between what is imm ortal and what is mortal . As long as the subje ct is
ali ve, mi nd and soul form a unity, which is perhaps exemplified in the figure of
Chr ist. Christ was a m an whose s oul, whose im mortal ity, is derived fr om God, but
whose body and mortal ity ar e human. The livi ng soul is, in fact, a part of the worl d
and, above all, a part of nature. Wi thin the Chr istian doctr ine, it is as an
experiencing, sufferi ng, passionate bei ng that gene ric man exis ts. This is why the
mor al character istics were assigned to various psychological disorde rs and why
punishment and rewards for one’s soul are adm iniste red through corpor al ple asures
and punis hment.
In Grosz's r eading, what Des cartes accom plishe d was not re ally the
separation of m ind fr om body (a s eparation which had alre ady be en long anti cipate d
by the Gre ek phi losophers si nce the time of Pl ato) but “the separation of soul from
nature” ( ibid: 16 ). De scarte s distinguis hed two kinds of substances: a thinki ng
substance (res cogitans, mi nd) fr om an extended substance (res extensa, body); only
the latte r, he belie ved, could be consi dered part of nature, governed by i ts psychic
laws and ontologi cal ex igenci es. The body is a self-m oving machine, a mechanical
device, functioning according to causal laws and the laws of nature. The mind, the
thi nking substance, the soul or consciousness, has no place i n the natural worl d. This
exclusion of the soul from nature , this evacuation of consciousness from the worl d,
is the pr erequi site f or founding knowle dge, or bette r yet a scie nce, of the governing
pri nciple s of nature, a science whi ch excludes and is indif fere nt to considerations of
the subje ct. Scientific discourse as pires to impersonality, which i t take s to be
equivalent to objecti vity. The corr elation of our ide as with the worl d or the reality
the y pres ent is a secondary function, independent of the e xistence of consci ousnes s,
the primary, indubitable self-certainty of the soul. Reality can be attained by the
subject only indirectly by i nfere nce, de duction or projection. De scarte s, in short,
succeeded in li nking the mi nd/body opposition to the foundations of knowle dge
its elf, a link whi ch places the mind in a positi on of hierar chical super iority over and
above nature, including the nature of the body. Fr om that time until the present,
subject or cons ciousness is separ ated f rom and can reflect on the worl d of the
body, objects, qualities .
Grosz dis tingui shes at leas t thre e line s of i nvestigation of the body in
contempor ain thought which may be regarded as the heirs of Car tesianism. Fi rstly,
the body is either understood in terms of organic and ins trumental functioning in
the natur al sci ences or pos ited as merely ex tended, merely ps ychic, an object li ke any
other in the humaniti es and social scie nces. Both, in differe nt ways, ignore the
spe cifici ty of bodies in their re search. The body’s sensations, activiti es and proce sses
become “l ower order” natur al or animal phenomena, part of an interconnected
chain of organi c form s. As a res ult, the Cartesians refus e to s ee that bodi es
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 17
construct and are constructed by an inte rior, a psychi c and signif ying viewpoi nt, a
conscious ness or pers pective ( ibi d:8). Se condly, the body is regarded in terms of the
metaphors that constr uct it. In the l iberal tradition the body is seen as a possess ion,
a property of the subject, a self-m oving automaton. Thirdly, the body is se en as a
signifying medi um, a vehi cle of expre ssion, a m ode of rende ring public and
com muni cable what is essentially private. It is through the body that the subject can
express his or her interior ity, and it i s through the body that he/she can r eceive,
code, and translate the inputs of the “exter nal worl d”. Underlyi ng thi s view is the
bel ief in the f undame ntal passivi ty and trans parency of the body. It is seen as a
car rier, a bearer of information coming f rom el sewher e. The subj ect's corpor ality
must be re duced to a pre dictable, knowable transparency; its cons tituti ve r ole in
for ming thoughts, feel ings, em oti ons, and psychic re presentation must be ignored, as
must its r ole as a thr eshold between the s ocial and the natural.
1.3 Spinoza’s monism
Spi noza r ejects Carte sian dualism through a non-oppositional notion of
dif fere nce. Spinoza’s most fundamental assum ption is the notion of an absolute and
infini te substance , si ngular in both kind and number. If the s ubstance is infini te and
non-divis ible, it cannot be identified with or reduced to fini te substance s or things.
The soul is the corre late i dea of an actually existing body, the degr ee of
sophistication, di ffere ntiati on, and clar ity is exactly appropriate to the state of the
body. “Soul” is grante d to animals , pl ants, and even inorganic matter, al though of
course the type of “s oul” will vary according to the type of complexi ty of the body
(as many s ouls as ther e are bodies ). Spinoza thus i ntroduces the idea of infini te
gradation of “ani matene ss” or soul in accordance with the type of psychic
organization of the body. The mind is the idea of the body “to the ex act de gree that
the body is an extens ion of the m ind” ( ibid, p. 12 ). Not being self -identical, the body
must be se en as a ser ies of becom ing, rather than as a fixed state of bei ng. The
body is both active and productive, al though not ori ginary: its specifici ty is a
function of its degre es and modes of or ganization, which ar e in turn the results or
consequences of its ability to be affected by other bodies. Spinoza’s mode l of the
body is f undame ntally non-m echani stic, non-dual istic and anti-ess ential ist. As monist,
Spi noza i s comm itted to a psychophysi cal parallel ism which cannot e xplain the
causal or other inter actions of mind and body: “T he body cannot determine the
mind to thought, ne ither can the mind deter mine the body to m otion nor re st, not
to anything else , if there be anything el se” (Spinoza, Eth ics, 11 1, Pr op. 2) . As a res ult,
the re is no que stion of interacti on of the two. Spinoza is als o comm itted to a notion
of the body as total and holistic, a comple te and integrated system . He belie ves that
organic bodies are “the resul t of composi te minor totalitie s brought together to
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 18
for m a hi gher l evel integr ation and unifications through vari ous pr ocesse s of
str atification” (Grosz 1 994, p. 13 ).
In the pr evious chapter, I contex tualized Grosz’s s pecific pe rspective of how
the body is concei ved in Western thought. I focuse d on s ome of the key features of
the recei ved histor y that are i nherent in our cur rent conceptions of the body. In the
nex t two chapters I will elaborate on Grosz's I nside Out and the Outside In
categorie s. For the divisi on into the two m ajor categor ies “I nside Out” and “Outside
In”, Gr osz us ed the Möbius strip as a the oretical framework functioning as the
metaphor for the specific way that body and mind are inter twined in the Insi de Out
and Outsi de In categories. The Möbius strip is a topological puzzle, a flat r ibbon,
twi sted once and then attached end to e nd, to form a circular twisted surface. One
can trace the s urface , for exam ple, by i magini ng an ant walking along it. At the
beginning of the circular j ourney, the ant is cle arly on the outside. But as it travers es
the twisted ribbon, wi thout ever lifting its legs f rom the plane, it ends up on the
ins ide surface. Gr osz pr oposed that we think of the body, the brai n, muscles, se x
organs, hor mones as com prising the inside of the Möbius strip. Culture and
experience woul d cons titute the outside surface. Al though both are part of the
sam e twis ted ci rcle, Gr osz el aborated on the concept of the body seen f rom these
“two s ides” of the circl e, in two differe nt par ts.
In this thesis, I followed her di vision. In chapter 2, I elabor ate on the I nside
Out and i n chapter 3 on the Outsi de In category. Each chapter s tarts with a
des cripti on of the ideas connecte d to the par ticular cate gory. I then e laborate on
the various the orists conne cted to either the Inside Out and Outside In category.
Every paragraph s tarts with a short introduction of their l ife, their hi storical
pos ition and their main work. I continue with thei r specific ideas about the body and
the body/ mind r elationship. I want to rem ark that in this thesis, I will e laborate on
onl y a se lection of the seven thinke rs', sometime s contradictory, concepts about the
body and body/m ind re lationship. Wi th Grosz’s Vola tile B odies as a the oretical
context and analytic perspe ctive, I have based my s electi on on specific elements of
the ir ide as that woul d help me to answer my central research question.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 19
The Möbius strip
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 20
2. The Inside Out
The Inside Out category focuses on how e xperie nce its elf structur es and gives
meaning to the ways in whi ch the body is occupied and li ved. It exami nes how the
subject’s psychical i nterior is understood as a for m of i nternalizati on of the body
and its parts ( their meaning and significance), and convers ely, how the body is
constituted thr ough projection as the boundar y or border of subjectivity which
divides the subject i n the firs t instance f rom other subjects and, se cond, fr om
obj ects i n the worl d. The Insi de Out category shows how i n psychoanal ytic and
phe nomenological term s, the psychical attitudes and expe rience s of the body are
necessary ingre dients of the subj ect’s acquis ition of a unified and cohesive body
image and a functional acti vity generating a responsive body. Ps ychoanalyses and
phe nomenology f ocus on the body as it is render ed meaningful, enmeshed in
sys tems of significations. In this category, the body needs to be interpreted, re ad, in
order to grasp its underlyi ng meaning. Se en thi s way, ps ychoanalysis and
phe nomenology are knowle dge systems concer ned wi th the psychical inscri ption and
coding of bodie s, pl easure s, se nsations and exper iences ; a “manifestation or
externali zation of what is private, ps ychological, and ‘dee p’ in the individual” (Grosz
199 4:115) . According to Grosz, this way of thinking about the body marks the insi de
of the Möbius surface. Models of the subject as psychical interior introduce the
dim ension of social r elations and the e xternal worl d through modes of introjection
and incor porati on - the social “e nters” the s ubject through the mediation and
internali zation of social m ores and val ues, a moveme nt from the inside out as it
were . In the f ollowing paragraphs , I elabor ate on the i deas of Freud, Lacan, Schilder
and Mer leau-Ponty concerni ng the ir spe cific concept(s) of the body and the
body/mind relationshi p.
2.1 Sigmund Freud
“The ego is firs t and foremost a bodily ego.”
Fre ud (The Ego a nd the Id 192 4:34)
2.1 .A Introduction
Sigmund Freud (1856 -1939) was born to a Jewish family i n Germ any but
moved to Vie nna where he recei ved his me dical e ducati on, le ading to a degree at
the Univers ity of Vienna. Af ter bei ng awar ded a scholarship, he moved to Pari s and
studied with Je an-Mar tin Chacot at the Sal pêtièr e Hospital. Fr eud was fascinated
with Chacot’s work on hysteria, which he treated as a disease, and his use of
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 21
hypnotism to reproduce symptoms of hysteria i n his patients. Fr om 188 6 he worked
in Vienna as a physi cian until 1 938, when he was forced to flee because of the Nazi
Ans chluss of Austria. He died in 193 9. Underlyi ng Fre ud’s thinking is the assumption
that all vital proces ses could ultimatel y be e xplained in terms of physi cs and
che mistry 17 (thus el iminating re ligious and vitalist concepts from biol ogy). He
rem ained a dete rminis t throughout his l ife, be lieving that all vital phenome na,
including “psychologi cal phenomena like thoughts, feel ings, and fantasies are ri gidly
determine d by the pri nciple of cause and effect” (Aus lander 2008:8).
Fre ud was the f ounder of ps ychoanalysis . He provided thr ee interrelated
defini tions of psychoanalysis: 1) a dis cipline focused on investigating the
unconscious, 2) a the rapeutic method for treating nervous disor ders, and 3) a
growing body of re search data. Fr eud de fine d psychoanal ysis as an academi c
dis cipline whos e “aim is to investigate and analyze otherwis e inaccessible mental
processes , which Fr eud de scribe s as the unconscious” (Aus lander 2008:9), which is ,
mos t simply put, the non- consci ous part of the mi nd that is not accessible for
interpretation and therefor e forced out of consciousness through mechanisms of
repression. The latte r incl ude dr ives and me mories as well as taboo de sires relate d
to the Oe dipus comple x. 18 Al though repre ssed, they ine vitably resurf ace in dream s,
‘Fr eudian slips ’, and othe r form s of e xpress ion and can become the bases f or
neuroses if not addre ssed therape utical ly. Fre ud’s therape utic m ethod is based on
the patie nt who associates freely and the the rapist who s ifts through the patient’s
words to find trace s of the unconscious. By bei ng expressed in language , thought
processes can become perceptual contents avai lable for consciousness 19 . The
pri mary m edium of psychoanalysis is the spoke n word. During therapy, the speaking
hum an is approached as a di vided subject, a site of conf lict between conscious and
unconscious dri ves that do not come togethe r as a singl e, integrated, whole se lf.
Fre ud’s third defini tion of psychoanal ysis as a gr owing body of active s cienti fic
res earch includes cas e studies, re search data on the mind and br ain, and
interpretation of other aspects and works on culture, including theatre 20 .
18 I t r e f e r s t o t h e G r e e k l e g e n d o f O e d i p u s , w h o u n w i t t i n g l y k i l l s h i s f a t h e r, m a r r i e s h i s m o t h e r a n d b l i n d s h i m s e l f w h e n h e
r e a l i z e s w h a t h e h a s d o n e . T h e O e d i p u s c o m p l e x i s p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r t a n t t o F r e u d ’ s u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f h u m a n c o n s c i o u s n e s s
a n d t h e o r i g i n o f n e r v o u s d i s o r d e r s . I t c o n c e r n s t h e yo u n g c h i l d ’ s a t t r a c t i o n t o t h e p a r e n t o f t h e o p p o s i t e s e x a n d t h e
j e a l o u s y o f t h e s a m e s e x p a r e n t . F r e u d s t a t e s t h a t b o y s a n d g i r l s r e s o l v e t h e O e d i p a l c o n f l i c t s d i f f e r e n t l y : c a s t r a t i o n a n x i e t y
( f o r m a l e s ) a n d p e n i s e n v y ( f o r f e m a l e s ) . F r e u d s e e s t h i s c o m p l e x a s a u n i v e r s a l e v e n t , a n d “ t h e f a i l u r e t o n e g o t i a t e t h a t i s
t h e p r i m a r y c a u s e o f n e r v o u s d i s o r d e r s ” ( A u s l a n d e r 2 0 0 8 : 1 0 ) .
19 I n F r e u d ’ s e ye s , i t c a n o n l y b e t h r o u g h t h e m o d e o f e x t e r n a l i z a t i o n t h a t t h e s e t h o u g h t s h a v e a n y “ r e a l i t y ” , t h a t i s a n y
s t a b i l i t y, l o n g e v i t y, o r i d e n t i t y. O t h e r w i s e t h e y r e m a i n f l e e t i n g , m o m e n t a r y e v e n t s .
20 “ O n e a s p e c t i s F r e u d ’ s s e e i n g C h a r c o t ’ s m e d i c a l t h e a t r e d e m o n s t r a t i o n s . C h a r c o t w o u l d t r e a t h y s t e r i c a l p a t i e n c s w i t h
h y p n o s i s ; a s A l i n D i a m o n d s h a s a r g u e d , t h e f e m a l e p a t i e n t s i n t h e s e d e m o n s t r a t i o n s w e r e p r e s e n t e d i n w a y s t h a t r e s e m b l e d
t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f t h e h y s t e r i c a l w o m a n o n t h e m e l o d r a m a t i c s t a g e , “ R e a l i s m a n d H y s t e r i a ” ( 1 4 ) . I n r e f e r e n c e t o
A r i s t o t l e ’ s t h e o r y o f t r a g e d y, F r e u d r e f e r r e d t o h i s e a r l y t h e r a p e u t i c a p p r o a c h a s “ c a t h a r t i c ” w h i l e h i s l a t e r t h o u g h t
r e v o l v e d a r o u n d t h e O e d i p u s c o m p l e x . ” ( A u s l a n d e r 2 0 0 8 : 1 1 )
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 22
Many writers have s uggested that psychoanal ysis and the atre are closely
rel ated and obs erve s trong parall els wi th the proce ss of psychoanalys is. 21 In this
light, Aus lander points to the fact that Freudian ideas “have had many
manifestations , ranging from the profound influe nce of Freudian thought on modern
drama, to the use of psychoanalytical theory to examine e very aspect of theatri cal
per formance, including dram atic texts, acting, theatrical production, stage fr ight, and
the atrical architecture” (Aus lander 2008:12).
2.1 .B Fre ud’s concept(s) of the body
For Freud the body is meani ngful to the subje ct, it has s ignificance, or in
Fre ud’s words: “N o pers on lives his/he r own body m erely as a f unctional
ins trument” (Fr eud 19 32:42) . It is Fr eud’s assumption that behaviour is directed by
mental as well as pe rceptual processes . Perception is a concept that “alre ady ex ists
in the br each between the m ind and the body, be ing the psychical registration of the
effect of ex ternal and i nternal s timuli on the body’s sensory r eceptors” (Grosz
199 4:28). It trans gresse s the binari es of the body/mind spli t. It shows the
interdepe ndence of both the inside and the outside, mi nd and matte r. Gr osz points
out that Freud’s unde rstanding of the r ole of the body in relation to the m ind is “in
contrast to the Carte sian notion of the body and the mind, which as sumes a rift
between the two” (ibi d:29 ). As far as I understand, for Freud, the psychical cannot
be separated fr om the perce ptual, and this notion form s the ess ence of his
body/mind relationshi p. Fr eud makes pe rcepti on the corne rstone of hi s noti on of
the ego and psychical agencies. In On Narcissis ms 22 he descr ibes how perception
for ms the basis of what might be called Freud’s nar cissis tic notion of the ego, which
is the subject's abil ity to take itself or parts of its own body as a love object.
In Freud’s idea, the ego is of primar y importance to understanding human
behaviour, as it de als wi th the exter nal re ality of the subje ct. Fr eud cl aims that the
genesis of the ego is dependent on the constr uction of a psychi cal map of the
body’s li bidinal inte nsitie s. In The Ego a nd the Id 23 , he claim s that the e go is not so
much a sel f-contained entity but m ore li ke an internalized image of the degre es of
the intensity of sens ations in the chil d’s body. Fr eud backed up this claim with a
refere nce to the “cortical homunculus,” an idea that was popular in neurological and
21 I n r e l a t i o n t o t h i s s u b j e c t , I w a n t t o q u o t e R o k e m w h o o b s e r v e s : “ B o t h t h e a t r e a n d p s y c h o a n a l y s i s s e a r c h t h e i n d i v i d u a l ' s
p r i v a t e p s y c h i c l i f e w h i c h b e c o m e s p u b l i c o r r e c e i v e s a p u b l i c f o r m o f e x p r e s s i o n t h r o u g h t h e s e t w o a c t i v i t i e s . W h e n t h e
p r i v a t e i s m a d e p u b l i c , t h e a t r e a n d p s y c h o a n a l ys i s b e c o m e e f f e ct i v e . O r t o p u t i t t h e o t h e r w a y a r o u n d : t h e y a r e b o t h p u b l i c
f o r m s o f p r i v a c y … T h e y b o t h s e e k t o o v e r c o m e t h e o p p o s i t i o n o f p r i v a t e t h r o u g h l a n g u a g e . I n t h e p a t i e n t ' s s p e e c h a n d t h e
a c t o r ' s d i a l o g u e , t h e p r i v a t e r e a l m b e c o m e s r e a l . ” R o k e m , F r e d d i e . A c t i n g a n d P s y c h o a n a l y s i s : S t r e e t S c e n e s , P r i v a t e
S c e n e s , a n d Tr a n s f e r e n c e . T h e a t r e J o u r n a l , 3 9 , n o . 2 ( M a y 1 9 8 7 ) : 1 7 5 - 1 8 4 .
22 F r e u d , S i g m u n d , P r o j e c t f o r a S c i e n t i fi c P s y c h o l o g y, I n J a m e s S t r a c h e y, e d . , T h e S t a n d a r d e d i t i o n o f t h e C o m p l e t e
P s y c h o l o g i c a l W o r k s o f S i g m u n d F r e u d , Vo l u m e 1 0 “ O n N a r c i s s i s m : A n I n t r o d u c t i o n ” , I n s t a n d a r d 1 9 1 4 : 5 6
23 F r e u d , S i g m u n d . T h e E g o a n d t h e I d ( D a s I c h u n d D a s E s ) , 1 9 2 3 . N e w Yo r k : W. W. N o r t o n & C o . , I n c . 1 9 6 2 .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 23
medical circles in the nine teenth century. Fr eud: “T he ego is firs t and foremost a
bodily ego; it is not me rely a surface entity, but itse lf a projection of a sur face. If we
wis h to find an anatomical analogy f or it, we can bes t identify i t with the “cortical
homunculus” of the anatomists, which stands on his head i n the cortex , sticks up his
hee ls, faces backwards and as we know, has its speech-area on the left hand s ide”
(Fr eud 19 32:26) . 24 As evide nt in this citation, Fr eud’s notion of the ego is som ething
like “an internal scr een onto whi ch the illum inated and projected images of the
body’s outer surface are di rected” (Ibi d:37 ). It is al so a m apping of the body’s inner
sur face, the surf ace of sensations, intensities and affects, the “subjective e xperie nce”
of the bodily e xcitations and sensations.
For Freud there is a direct conne ction between the development of the ego
and the perceptual ex periences (child’s ); it is produced and grows only r elative to
the perce ptual surface. As a cons equence, the ego is not the r esult of a preordained
biological orde r but a clear inte raction of the biological and the ps ychical. In this
process, the skin plays a significant rol e. In Freud’s idea the s kin and the various
sensations which are locate d at the sur face of the body are the most primitive,
ess ential and constitutive of all the sources of sensory s timulation and provide a
sur face f or exchange between the i nside and the outs ide of the body. The skin can
be seen as a screen or sieve f or sel ecting and s orting the s ensory infor mation
provided by perception. It is the only sense able to provide the “double sensation”.
Thi s neuro- and physi ological process i s both the precondition and the corr elate of
the ego’s abili ty to distinguish between itsel f and others . The ego, in Freud’s eyes, is
som ething like “psychical callus”, formed by the use of the body. But although
per ception is crucial to the establis hment of the psychical agencie s, Fr eud postulates
that the body i tself, in the s ense of its special posi tion of a pe rson’s own body
among other obj ects, is even more s ignificant. It is in thi s sens e that the e go must be
see n as a “bodi ly ego” (Fre ud, 19 23/195 5: 26 ). The bodi ly ego accor ding to Fre ud, is
not simpl y bounded by the “natural” body. The “natural” body, if there is one, is
continual ly inf luence d by the products of his tory and cul ture, which it incor porate s
into its own intimate space and “define s the significatory ef fects of the body and the
love of the body as the subject lives it” (Gr osz 19 94:39) . Fr eud wr ites that “For
every change in the erogeneti city of libi dinal zone s, there mi ght be a par allel change
in the ego” (Fr eud 19 15a:20 1).
24 T h e “ c o r t i c a l h o m u n c u l u s ” i s d e s c r i b e d b y G o r m a n i n t h i s w a y : T h e h o m u n c u l i … s t i m u l a t e t h e e ye , f o r t h e i r v i s u a l
a p p e a r a n c e i s t h a t o f , w h o s e d e f o r m i t i e s a r e a r r e s t i n g t o t h e s t u d i o u s a s w e l l a s c u r i o u s , d i s t o r t e d l i t t l e m a l e p e r s o n s . T h e
f a c e a n d t h e m o u t h o f t h e h o m u n c u l u s a r e h u g e , h i s f o r e h e a d i s b a r e l y p r e s e n t , h i s h a n d s g a r g a n t u a n a n d h i s g e n i t a l s g r o s s .
H e h a s a r e s p e c t a b l y l a r g e i n t r a - a b d o m i n a l a r e a , b u t h e d o e s n o t p o s s e s s e v e n a t r a c e o f b r a i n … T h o s e p a r t s o f t h e b o d y
t h a t c a n n e i t h e r b e s e e n o r f e l t d o n o t a p p e a r i n t h e m o t o r h o m u n c u l u s , a n d t h o s e p a r t s w h i c h d o n o t y i e l d s e n s a t i o n s o f
p e r c e i v e d t o u c h a r e d e n i e d a p o s i t i o n i n t h e s e n s o r y h o m u n c u l u s ( G o r m a n 1 9 6 9 : 1 9 3 ) . I n Vo l a t i l e B o d i e s , G r o s z b r i n g s
f o r w a r d t h a t t h e h o m u n c u l u s i s u s u a l l y r e g a r d e d a s h i g h l y o v e r d e v e l o p e d i n o r a l , m a n u a l a n d g e n i t a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s , a n d i t
i s s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t t h e h o m u n c u l u s h a s n o b r a i n , b e c a u s e t h e b r a i n i s t h e o b j e c t o f n e i t h e r m o t o r n o r s e n s o r y r e l a t i o n s .
G r o s z a l s o a d d s t h a t t h e h o m u n c u l u s i s “ e x p l i c i t l y d e s c r i b e d a s m a l e , a n d t h e r e i s n o m e n t i o n o f w h a t t h i s m e a n s f o r
w o m a n ” ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 : 3 5 ) .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 24
According to Fr eud, the behaviour of the subject is built in a m oral s tructure
in which the subject’s sexual dri ves do not fit in, ar e sham eful and amoral.
Confrontation of this desir e of the sel f with the m orals of the envir onment, make
the subje ct repress e motions/needs. For Freud, the concept of sexual drives lies
midway between the m ind and the body, ir reduci ble to either. It is the result of
cor poreal signi ficances, the binding of bodil y processes and activiti es to system s of
meaning ( connected to the s tructure of indivi dual and col lective f antasi es). The chil d
must there fore not be seen just as a pass ive victim of the influences of the
projected parental de sire, but also as an active agent trying to find its place i n the
web of me aning in whi ch it is bor n. On the other hand, the chil d’s se xuality, as it is
subjectively exper ienced, is a “re tracing”, a psychi cal tr anscri ption, of biological
processes , or gans and pathways. This inf luence s behaviour and the way the subject
per ceives his/her own body ( in whi ch pas t emotions are of great influe nce). The
subject therefore approache s the worl d with conscious and/or uncons cious ideas,
ass umptions and presuppositions about the sel f, the envir onment and the obj ects
that it consists of. The worl d is r efere ntial, and obje cts ar e symbols of meani ng in
thi s exte rnal worl d. For Freud, the body is quite literally re writte n, tr aced over, by
des ire, and desi re is based on a veri table cartography of the body ( one’s own as
well of that of the other).
At the end of this paragraph I want to summar ize Freud’s main ideas about
the body and the body/mind relati onship: Fre ud’s understanding of the role of the
body in r elation to the mind, in contr ast to the C artesi an notion, the psychical
cannot be separ ated f rom the perceptual . Hi s body/mind relati onship assum es that it
is through perception, which involves both the mental and the psychi cal, that the
subject acquire s a unified and cohesive body im age formed by personal expe rience
and in contact with the social. In his notion of the body, Fr eud focuses on the
exi stenti al fact of having a body and the s pecial relation the subj ect has with it. It
acts as a confine d unity, bordered by the lim its of the s kin. The re is a hier archy i n
the use of the body that re flects the s ubject’s sym bolic relati ons to the s elf, others,
obj ect and space. The subj ect is able to stand back from the worl d by i ts own
eff orts, it can r eflect on its own behaviour and change it, as if it were autonomous.
Fre ud’s i dea, the body’s behaviour can be under stood and made transpare nt. He
ass umes causali ty: This per son is like this, be cause s/he went through that and
the refore s/he will r eact that way. The body functions as a me dium within the chains
of signification; it can be re ndered public and meaningful l ike an exter nalization of
what is e ssenti ally private , ps ychological and de ep in the individual.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 25
“It all happens as if the body-im age had an autonom ous ex istence of i ts own,
and by autonom ous I mean here independent of objective nature.”
Lacan (Some Reflection s on t he Ego 19 53:13)
2.2 .A Introduction
Fre nch ps ychoanalyst Jacque s Lacan (19 01-81) was born in Pari s, earned a
medical degree and tr ained as a psychoanalyst. In 196 3 he f ounded his own École
Fre udienne de Pari s. Se minars for med the prim ary pl atform for s haring his work, the
firs t of which was held in 195 3, and they conti nued until his death in 1981. Lacan’s
rel ation with m ainstr eam ps ychoanalysis in Europe was tense, and he r esigne d from
the Société psychoanalytique de Pari s in 1 953 - the same year that he hel d his
fam ous le cture, “T he Function and Fi eld of Speech and Language”, at the
Internati onal Psychoanalyti c Association in R ome (also re garded as “T he Rom e
Dis course ”).
Lacan constituted a r adical reinterpretation of Fre ud and psychoanalysis. He
focussed on the formation of the subject and the role of the unconsci ous in the
light of structuralis m, cr iticizing the idea that the ego or conscious sel f is
autonomous, sovere ign and biol ogical ly determine d. According to Lacan, the
construction of the e go and unconscious ness i nvolves not just biological
interpretations (libi do, instinct, dr ives, etc.), it depends on the str ucture that the
subject i s born into and has no part in creating (l ike language , culture, family). “For
Lacan, the birth of s ubjectivity is one ’s entry into language, understood as a
synchroni c system of signs and social codes, a cultur ally constructed worl d of
sym bols that ge nerate meani ng, that is the symbolic order. It is this sym bolic order
that locates you, forms you, 's ubjects' you, thereby e nabling you to become an acting
subject” (Aus lander 2008: 11 8). A consequence of thi s thought is that the
str ucturi ng mechanism of the ego is outside the subject, and the ego is subjected to
the pre-e xisting symbolic order and thus is far from autonomous and sovere ign.
In Lacan’s view, the unconscious reveal s the fact that we as subj ects are
always more than our soci al sel ves allow. The unconscious is formed in tandem with
the formation of the ego and requires r epress ion of whate ver does not fit within
the symbolic or der - whatever exceeds. According to Lacan, the unconscious is the
“ce nsored chapter” in the history of ps ychic life. Lacan emphasizes the influence of
the ideol ogical structures that, es pecial ly thr ough language, make the human subje ct
com e to understand hi s or her rel ations hip to himse lf or hersel f and to others.
Although according to Lacan conscious human existence is thus culturally
constructed thr ough l anguage, the subj ect does not recognize i t as such, but
experiences (or rathe r imagines) it to be reality i tself. Lacan use s the term R eal in
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 26
efere nce to what is really “there”, apart fr om the symbolic or der and outs ide its
ordering of thi ngs. 25 According to Lacan, the mome nt of enteri ng into language
coi ncides with the se parati on from the mother. The mother, therefor e, is the child’s
firs t expe rience of lack - which creates the conditi on of desire . The father
intervene s in the mother-child re lationship ( loss of union) at the moment coinciding
with the child’s entr y into the s ymboli c orde r. 26 Ps ychoanalysis has s hown the family,
like language, to be a vital relay between the various terri tories that make up
subjectivity and the larger cultural fiel d. Both Fre ud and Lacan place a heavy
emphasis on those events in the life of the subject which could be grouped under
the Oedipal rubric 27 .
Lacanian psychoanalys is has been influe ntial in per formance studies. The
hypothesis of the mirr or stage has been taken up as an understanding of linking the
concepts of ide ntity, subjecti vity and spe ctator ship. For Lacan, identity formation at
the mirror stage is a proce ss that take s place through interaction (e ven if not only
at the im aginar y level) rathe r than a biological given or som ething that develops
autonomously - in that sens e, subjecti vity is anchor ed in spectatorshi p. Lacan’s
model for the f ormati on of self has bee n used by I rving Gof fman, Judith B utler, Laura
Mul vey, e.a.
25 A c c o r d i n g t o L a c a n , o n e m u s t a l w a y s d i s t i n g u i s h b e t w e e n r e a l i t y ( t h e f a n t a s y w o r l d w e c o n v i n c e o u r s e l v e s i s t h e w o r l d
a r o u n d u s ) a n d t h e r e a l ( a m a t e r i a l i t y o f e x i s t e n c e b e yo n d l a n g u a g e a n d t h u s b e yo n d e x p r e s s i b i l i t y ) . T h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f
t h e s u b j e c t , i n o t h e r w o r d s , i s m a d e p o s s i b l e b y a n e n d l e s s m i s r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e r e a l b e c a u s e o f o u r n e e d t o c o n s t r u c t o u r
s e n s e o f " r e a l i t y " i n a n d t h r o u g h l a n g u a g e . S o m u c h a r e w e r e l i a n t o n o u r l i n g u i s t i c a n d s o c i a l v e r s i o n o f " r e a l i t y " t h a t t h e
e r u p t i o n o f p u r e m a t e r i a l i t y ( o f t h e r e a l ) i n t o o u r l i v e s i s r a d i ca l l y d i s r u p t i v e . A n d ye t , t h e r e a l i s t h e r o c k a g a i n s t w h i c h a l l
o f o u r a r t i fi c i a l l i n g u i s t i c a n d s o c i a l s t r u c t u r e s n e c e s s a r i l y f a i l . I t i s t h i s t e n s i o n b e t w e e n t h e r e a l a n d o u r s o c i a l l a w s ,
m e a n i n g s , c o n v e n t i o n s , d e s i r e s , e t c . t h a t d e t e r m i n e s o u r p s y c h o s e x u a l l i v e s . N o t e v e n o u r u n c o n s c i o u s e s c a p e s t h e e f f e c t s o f
l a n g u a g e , w h i c h i s w h y L a c a n a r g u e s t h a t " t h e u n c o n s c i o u s i s s t r u c t u r e d l i k e a l a n g u a g e " . S o u r c e : ( L a c a n , J a c q u e s . T h e F o u r
F u n d a m e n t a l C o n c e p t s o f P s y c h o - A n a l y s i s . Tr a n s . A l a n S h e r i d a n . E d . J a c q u e s - A l a i n M i l l e r. N e w Yo r k : N o r t o n , 1 9 7 7 : x ) .
26 T h e f a t h e r i s i d e n t i fi e d w i t h t h a t o r d e r, a n d f o r t h i s r e a s o n L a c a n s o m e t i m e s c a l l e d t h e s y m b o l i c o r d e r l e N o m - d u - P è r e
( a l s o a s s o c i a t e d w i t h “ T h e N O o f t h e f a t h e r, a c o m b i n a t i o n o f a G o d - l i k e a u t h o r i t y a n d p r o h i b i t i o n ” ; A u s l a n d e r 2 0 0 8 : 1 1 9 ) .
27 T h e O e d i p a l C o m p l e x : W i t h i n p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a l t h e o r y, t h e O e d i p a l C o m p l e x p l a y s a s i g n i fi c a n t r o l e i n h o w t h e b o d y i s
p e r c e i v e d . B o t h F r e u d a n d L a c a n a s s u m e t h a t t h i s p r o c e s s i s o f i m p o r t a n c e i n t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f t h e e g o a n d h a v e a
s p e c i fi c a p p r o a c h t o t h e u n d e r l y i n g ‘ f o r c e s ’ . W h e n F r e u d w r o t e a b o u t a s e x u a l b o d y, i t w a s f r o m a s p e c i f i c p o i n t o f v i e w .
W i t h t h e O e d i p a l c o m p l e x t h e b o y i s a f r a i d o f h i s c a s t r a t i o n , p a r t l y b e c a u s e o f h i s f a t h e r ’ s a n g e r ( h e w i l l c a s t r a t e t h e b o y
a s a r e s u l t o f h i s s e x u a l i n t e r e s t i n h i s m o t h e r ) b u t a l s o b e c a u s e h e o b s e r v e s t h a t g i r l s d o n o t h a v e a p e n i s ( a n d h a v e m o s t
p r o b a b l y b e e n c a s t r a t e d ) . H e o v e r c o m e s t h i s f e a r b y l o s i n g i n t e r e s t i n h i s m o t h e r, i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h h i s f a t h e r a n d d i r e c t i n g
h i s e n e r g y t o o t h e r f e m i n i n e s o u r c e s . T h e g i r l ' s p e r s p e c t i v e i s o f a m o r e t w i s t e d k i n d . H e r d i s c o v e r y t h a t h e r m o t h e r a l s o
h a s n o p e n i s m a k e s h e r c o n c l u d e s h e i s a n i n f e r i o r b e i n g , a n d s h e b l a m e s h e r m o t h e r f o r h e r o w n c o n d i t i o n . S h e t h e n t u r n s
h e r a t t e n t i o n t o h e r fa t h e r, w i t h w h o m s h e w i l l b e a r a c h i l d , a s g i v i n g b i r t h c o m p e n s a t e s f o r h e r l a c k o f a p e n i s . B y d i r e c t i n g
h e r a t t e n t i o n t o o t h e r m a l e s w h o c a n i m p r e g n a t e h e r, i t b e c o m e s p o s s i b l e t o o v e r c o m e t h a t f a c t t h a t s h e i s a n i n f e r i o r
b e i n g . L a c a n h a s h i s o w n i n t e r p r e t a i o n o f t h e p h a l l i c i n w h i c h i t b e c o m e s c l e a r t h a t t h i s o r g a n h a s a p r i v i l e g e d p o s i t i o n i n
h i s “ l a w s o f G e s t a l t ” : “ A l l t h e p h e n o m e n a w e a r e d i s c u s s i n g [ t h a t i s , t h e v a r i o u s m a n i f e s t a t i o n s o f t h e b o d y i m a g e i n
p s y c h i c a l l i f e ] s e e m t o e x i b i t t h e l a w s o f G e s t a l t ; t h e f a c t t h a t t h e p e n i s i s d o m i n a n t i n t h e s h a p i n g o f t h e b o d y i m a g e i s
e v i d e n c e i n t h i s . T h o u g h t h i s m a y s h o c k t h e s w o r n c h a m p i o n s o f t h e a u t o n o m y o f f e m a l e s e x u a l i t y, s u c h d o m i n a n c e i s a f a c t
a n d o n e m o r e o v e r w h i ch c a n n o t b e p u t d o w n t o c u l t u r a l i n f l u e nc e s a l o n e ” ( L a c a n 1 9 5 3 : 1 3 ) . T h i s l a w a c t u a l l y m e a n s t h a t t h e
f e m a l e c h i l d b o d y ’ s s i g n i fi c a n c e i s t h e l a c k o f a p h a l l u s , a n d a s a c o n s e q u e n c e i t i s a l r e a d y c a s t r a t e d i n a d v a n c e . B o t h
p s y c h o a n a l y s t s h a v e q u i t e a m a l e - d o m i n a t e d v i e w o f t h e s u p e r i o r i t y o f t h e p h a l l u s , w h i c h h a d a s i g n i fi c a n t i n f l u e n c e o n t h e
p e r c e p t i o n o f m a l e a n d f e m a l e b o d i e s .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 27
2.2 .B Lacan’s concept(s) of the body
For Lacan as for Fr eud, the ego is a kind of mappi ng or tracing of the
subject’s perce ived and pe rceivi ng cor poreal ity. In contr ast to Freud, Lacan’s notion
of the ego is not an outline or projection of the r eal anatomical and psychical body
but is “an imaginary outline or projection of the body” ( Grosz 199 4: 39 ). Although
the image of the body is pl iable, the body is confine d wi thin the lim its of the s kin.
The body is imagined and repre sented for the subject by the image of others
(including its own reflection i n the mirror ). Li ke Fre ud, Lacan claims that the ego has
no a priori status. For him, the cons tructi on of the ego come s into being in the
mir ror stage (6 th to 18th m onth), the time befor e the child is able to spe ak and
bef ore it has control over its motoric s kills. The mirr or stage provides a m atrix or
ground for the development of hum an subjectivity. It functions to “establis h a
rel ation between the organis m and its re ality, be tween Innenwelt and Umwelt”
(Lacan 197 7a:24 ). Lacan des cribes the f ormati ve e ffect on the chil d’s ego of the
fas cinati on with and introjection of an ex ternal ized image of its own body. The
mir ror stage institutes “an essential l ibidinal rel ations hip wi th the body image”
(Lacan 195 3:1). Lacan str esses that what the chil d sees in the mirr or is an
anticipatory im age of its own body as a “Gestalt”, a totali zed image of its elf. This
Ges talt f orms the bas is of an “im aginar y anatomy” which, al though it wi ll undergo
modification and transform ations throughout the child’s life, wi ll nevertheless derive
its stabi lity ( or the lack of it) from the earliest stage s of the chi ld’s s elfrepresentation”
(Gros z 1994 : 42 ). This body image is internalized as a map of the
meaning that the body has f or the subje ct, for othe rs in its social worl d, and for the
sym bolic order concei ved in its gener ality (that is, for a culture as a whole). The
imaginary anatomy i s thus an individual as well as a collective f antasy of the body’s
for ms and modes of action.
Imaginary anatomy only starts to emer ge in the “m irror stage”. 28 In the
“mi rror s tage” the chi ld gets a gr ip on the unity of the body (although real izing that
the refle ction is and is not itse lf: unification and dis unification at the s ame ti me).
The child identifies with an image that is both the self and not its elf. It is the self in
the sense that the mi rror i mage i s an i nverted, vi rtual repres entati on of the ex terior
of the body. This is an exteriori ty to which the child woul d have no othe r acce ss
except through a mirr or (or through an equall y problem atic i dentification with the
image of the Other, us ually the mother); a unified and unifying image of the sel f
whi ch the subje ct’s e xperie nces can never confirm .
28 “ T h e c o n c e p t o f t h e m i r r o r s t a g e w a s L a c a n ' s fi r s t f o r m a l c o n t r i b u t i o n t o p s y c h o a n a l y t i c t h e o r y, p r e s e n t e d a t t h e
F o u r t e e n t h I n t e r n a t i o n a l P s y c h o a n a l y t i c C o n g r e s s i n M a r i e n b a d i n 1 9 3 6 . T h e t e x t o f h i s p r e s e n t a t i o n w a s n o t p u b l i s h e d a t
t h e t i m e , b u t h e r e v i s i t e d t h e i s s u e i n a p a p e r p u b l i s h e d a s T h e M i r r o r S t a g e a s F o r m a t i v e o f t h e F u n c t i o n o f t h e I a s
R e v e a l e d i n P s y c h o a n a l y t i c T h e o r y, i n É c r i t s - A S e l e c t i o n i n 1 9 4 9 . ” M u l l e r, J o h n . ( 1 9 8 5 ) . L a c a n ' s m i r r o r s t a g e .
P s y c h o a n a l y t i c a l I n q u i r y, 5 , 2 3 3 - 2 5 2 .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 28
In his eyes, the ego is split between two e xtreme s: a psychi cal interior, which
requires continual stabilization, and a corporeal exte rior, which re mai ns pli able,
ope n to m any m eanings (Grosz 199 4: 43 ). Lacan suggests that this de sire f or a s olid,
stable identi ty may help ex plain our fascination wi th images of the human f orm. We
kee p looking for unity with ourse lves. The mirr or image provides “an anticipatory
ide al of unity to whi ch the ego will al ways aspire ” (Gr osz 19 94: 44 ). Lacan str esses
that this unity is fr agile, and the subject needs to be continuously renewed, not
thr ough the subject's conscious e fforts but through its ability to conceive of itse lf as
a s ubject and to separate i tself from objects and others to be able to undertake
wil ful action. The diss olution or disinte gration of the uni fied body schema “risks
thr owing the subject into the pre-imaginary Real, the domain inhabited by the
psychotic” (Ibi d:45 ) 29 . In the e stablis hing of unity duri ng the mirror stage, the chil d
str ives to bri ng together its im age of a body-in-bits-and-pieces, the chil d’s
reconstruction of the body fragme nted and divided by his/her divers e and scatte red
experiences and by the body’s compartm entali zed sensations i n the earlie st stages
of life. In thi s stage the child's life e xperie nce is still serialized, momentar y and
without any ongoing unity. The mirror image creates a primitive notion of context,
envir onment or location, which cr eates its firs t feel ing of spati ality and te mporal ity.
A s tabili zed body i mage or what Lacan cal ls “im aginar y anatomy” is a consistent
sense of self and the subje ct’s bodily boundaries. It requi res and entails
understanding one’s position vis- à-vis others , one’s pl ace in the perception of space
as well as a set of clear disti nctions between inside and outside of the body, the
active and pas sive positions and a pos itioni ng of a sexually determi nate s ubject.
According to Lacan, “i maginary anatomy” is the precondition for symbol ic
interacti ons in a shared space and for a quantifiable and me asurable form of space,
or in Grosz' words: “T he vir tual duplication of the subject’s body, the creation of a
sym metry measur ed from the mirror plane , is necessary for these more
sophisticated, abstract, and der ivated notions of spatiality” (Grosz 1994: 45 ).
At the end of this paragraph, I want to summ arize Lancan’s main i deas about
the body and the body/mind relati onship: Lacan, like Freud pres umes a
cor respondence and correlation be tween the f orm of the body and the form of the
mind or psyche. The inte rnal i mage of the body, which Lacan cal ls the Mirror Image
is seen as a form of internalization of the m eaning and s ignificance of the body and
its parts that is establis hed through its own reflection i n the mirror. The proj ection
of the internal image of the self on the othe r establis hes a cohesi ve, unifying image ,
29 I n s u c h a s t a t e , t h e s e n s e o f a u t o n o m y a n d a g e n c y t h a t a c c o m p a n i e s t h e i m a g i n a r y a n d s y m b o l i c o r d e r i s l o s t , b e i n g
r e p l a c e d b y “ t h e f a n t a s i e s o f b e i n g e x t e r n a l l y c o n t r o l l e d , w h i c h a r e i m a g e s o f f r a g m e n t a t i o n , a n d b e i n g h a u n t e d b y p a r t
o b j e c t s d e r i v e d f r o m e a r l i e r, m o r e p r i m i t i v e e x p e r i e n c e s ” . L a c a n , J a c q u e s , O n t h e Q u e s t i o n P r e l i m i n a r y t o A n y P o s s i b l e
Tr e a t m e n t o f P s y c h o s e s ” e s p . 1 9 9 7 : 1 9 6 - 9 9
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 29
whi ch the subje ct’s e xperie nces can never confirm . The “gaze” of the other / the
social pl ays a deter minant role. Lacan ass umed that the Mirr or Image is fragil e and
that the contact with the other gives us a s ense of distinction between the i nside
and the outside ; where the own body s tarts and where it ends vis-à- vis others. An
over-de veloped fascination with the sel f in the mir ror or the other as a mi rror is
rel ated to the fact that the identification during the Mi rror s tage was not succe ssful.
“ ...the body is cer tainly not only
whe re the borde rline of the body and its clothes ar e.”
Schilder (The Image and App earanc e of t he Human Body 19 78:123 )
2.3 .A Introduction
Paul F. Schilder (1886- 1940) was born in Vie nna, Austria. He recei ved his MD
in 1909 f rom the Univers ity of Vienna. While se rving in the army during Worl d War
I he studied philosophy, and he r eceived his PhD in 1 917 fr om the Univers ity of
Vie nna. In 1918, he was appoi nted to the Faculty of N eurology and Psychiatry at the
Uni vers ity of Vienna, where he becam e profess or extraordinaire in 1925. During the
sam e peri od, he met Sigmund Fr eud and became an active m ember of the Viennese
Psychoanalytic Society. Schilder was a visiti ng profess or at the Johns Hopkins
Uni vers ity School of Medi cine i n 1928 and 1 930. He later becam e clinical director of
the psychiatric divis ion of Belle vue Hospital in Ne w York, as well as a faculty
mem ber in psychiatry at the New York Univers ity Me dical School . In 1 940, he died
in a car accide nt in New York.
2.3 .B Schilder’s concept(s) of the body
For the Austrian doctor and researcher Paul Schilder, Fr eud’s thoughts about
nar cissis m and libidi nal dr ive f ormed an important part of his conce pt of the se lfimage
and conce ption of the body. He too believed that e ven on an organi c level,
the feel ing and sens ations we have of the body do not exactl y corr espond with the
anatomy. In line with Lacan and Freud, Schilder believed that the subject f orms a
mental im age of the body. In Schilder’s mode l, social and interpers onal attachm ents
and investments, as well as li bidinal ener gy, form a m ajor part of one’s self- image
and conce ption of the body. In Schilder’s view, wi thout the me diating posi tion of the
body image, the inte ractions with the organi c and the ps ychical woul d not be
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 30
Schilder stress ed the optical and visual aspe cts of the s chematic
representation of the body. He state d that every touch is al ready oriented in a
vis ual re gister, for it e voke s a me ntal ( that i s to s ay visual) image of the spot
touched. For Schilder, the body image is formed out of the various mode s of contact
the subje ct has with the envir onment through its actions in the worl d. In this sense,
the body image is an antici patory plan of future action, in which knowle dge of the
body’s current positi on and capacities for action must be re gister ed. This knowle dge
is combined with emotional and li bidinal atti tudes and the subj ect's social relation
towar d his/ her own body, connecte d to and mediated by others within socie ty. Take n
together, this inf ormati on str ucture s the image of the body that the subject has. In
other words, the body i mage i s the three- dimens ional image or dynamic f ramework
everybody has about him self or hers elf. The term indicates that we are not deali ng
with a me re sensation or im agination. Schilder’s body image assum es the unification
and coordination of postural, tactile, ki nae stheti c, and visual sensations. For Schilder
thi s is the necessary precondition for undertaking voluntary action, the point at
whi ch the subje ct’s i ntenti ons are trans lated into the beginning of moveme nt, the
poi nt of transi tion i n acti vating bones and muscles. Schilder is convinced that
involuntary action and r eactive behaviour do not im ply a body i mage, as wilful
action re quires “a pl an of bodily action - pr ecisel y the functi on of the body image”
(Gr osz 19 94: 83 ). It indicates that the re are mental pictures and representations
involved (Schilder 1935:1 1).
Schilder stated that there is a pliabil ity of meani ng for the various bodil y
organs, zone s and proces ses. In his i dea, the borders of the body im age are not fixed
by nature or confine d to the anatomical “container”, the skin (which i s the case with
Fre ud and Lacan). For him, the body limits are “extre mely f luid and dynamic; its
bor ders, edges and contours are ‘osm otic’ - they have the rem arkable power of
incorporating and expelling outsi de and inside in an ongoing interchange” (Gr osz
199 4: 79 ). I want to point out here what Schilder calls “zone s of s ensiti vity”. T hey
concern the body’s openings and s urface s. Just as there is an inside zone , so too
the re is a zone outsi de the body, occupying its surrounding space, which is
incorporated into the body. Intrusion into this bodily space is considered as much a
violation as pe netration of the body itself. The size and for m of this surrounding
space of safety are i ndividually, se xually, racially, and culturally variable. This is
expressed in the way we e xperie nce the behaviour of some people as intrusive,
whi le we welcome the same behaviour by others. 30 The space surr ounding the body
30 S c h i l d e r i l l u s t r a t e s t h i s i n t h e f o l l o w i n g c i t a t i o n : “ . . . t h e b o d y i s c e r t a i n l y n o t o n l y w h e r e t h e b o r d e r l i n e o f t h e b o d y a n d
i t s c l o t h e s a r e . I n a n a u t o m o b i l e a c c i d e n t I s u s t a i n e d r a t h e r s e v e r e i n j u r y t o m y h a n d ( t h a t r e s u l t e d i n a d e f o r m a t i o n ) w h i c h
w a s f o r s o m e t i m e c o n n e c t e d w i t h p a i n f u l s e n s a t i o n s . I n t h e e a r l y d a y s a f t e r t h e a c c i d e n t , e v e r y a p p r o a c h i n g c a r s e e m e d t o
i n v o l v e a p a r t i c u l a r l y d a n g e r o u s e l e m e n t , w h i c h e n c r o a c h e d i n t o t h e s p h e r e o f t h e b o d y, e v e n w h e n i t w a s s t i l l a
c o n s i d e r a b l e d i s t a n c e a w a y. I n o t h e r w o r d s , a r o u n d t h e b o d y t h e r e w a s a z o n e c l o s e l y i n t e r r e l a t e d w i t h t h e b o d y i m a g e ,
w h i c h w a s i n s o m e w a y a n e x t e n s i o n o f t h e b o d y. L a t e r o n , t h i s g e n e r a l z o n e d i m i n i s h e d i n s i z e u n t i l f i n a l l y t h e r e r e m a i n e d
o n l y a z o n e a r o u n d t h e h a n d . T h e s e e x p e r i e n c e s i n d u c e d i n m e t h e c o n v i c t i o n t h a t t h e b o d y i s s u r r o u n d e d b y a s p h e r e o f
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 31
is thus crucial in de fini ng the limits and shape of the body image; the lived spatiality
and endogenous sensations, the soci al space of interpersonal relations, and the
“objective” of “scientific” space of culture (including s cienti fic and ar tistic)
representations all play their r ole.
Schilder is convinced that the body image is capable of accommodating and
incorporating an extr emely wide r ange of obje cts. Anything that com es into contact
with the surface of the body and remains ther e long enough will be “i ncorporated
into the body” (Gr osz, 19 94: 80 ). This can be cl othing, je well ery, other bodies,
obj ects. This means that exte rnal objects , im plements, and instruments with which
the subje ct continual ly interacts becom e inti mate, vi tal, even libidinal ly invested
par ts of the subject's body image while they are be ing us ed. Gr osz il lustrate s this
with the following text: “T he wri ter woul d be unable to type, the musi cian unable to
per form, wi thout the word proce ssor or the musi c instrument becom ing part of the
body image. It is only ins ofar as the object cease s to r emain an obj ect and becomes
a m edium, a vehi cle for impr essions and expres sions, that it can be used as an
ins trument or tool” ( Grosz, 19 94:81) .
Schilder also i nclude s an ‘inter mediate’ category of obj ects, the
“detachables ” ( Schilder, 197 8: 21 3), parts of the s ubject’s body. Detachables ar e
obj ects which were once connected wi th the body and in Schilder’s eyes al ways
retain something of a quali ty of the body image in them; whatever originates i n or
emanates out of our body wi ll sti ll rem ain a part of the body i mage. The voice,
uri ne, se men ar e stil l parts of the body image even when s eparated in space from
the body. Detachables , in Schilder’s view, re main m agical ly linked to the body and
ill ustrate the narcis sistic and l ibidinal investment of the body. We e ither love or hate
our bodie s or parts of them .
At the end of this paragraph, I want to summ arize Schilder’s main ideas
about the body and the body/mind relati onship: Li ke Fre ud and Lacan, Schilder
ass umes that both the mental and the ps ychical are necess ary ingredie nts for a
cohesive s ense of self . I n line with Freud, Schilder relate s the form of the body
image with the narcis sistic investment i n the subject’s/pe rforme r's body (parts) and
cor responds with the form of the mind. In contr ast to Freud and Lacan, he sees the
body image as osmotic, capable of integrati ng obj ects. O bjects becom e part of the
body, change the internal image and enlar ge the body’s capacities . Mos t significant in
Schilder’s ideas, in the body-mi nd rel ations hip, is his assumption that without the
mediating position of the body im age, the inte ractions with the organi c and the
psychical woul d not be pos sible. In his opinion, human subjects never simply have a
body; rather the body is necessarily the obj ect of attitudes and judgements.
Schilder’s body image , as a res ult, is as much a function of the subje ct's psychol ogy
p a r t i c u l a r s e n s i t i v e n e s s . T h i s i s t r u e e v e n i n t h e p h y s i o l o g i c a l s e n s e , s i n c e s m e l l o f t h e b o d y g o e s f u r t h e r t h a n t h e b o d y
i t s e l f ” ( S c h i l d e r 1 9 5 3 : 5 7 ) .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 32
(including libi dinal drives) and sociohistorical conte xt as of anatomy. The body and
its various sensations are proje cted onto the worl d, and convers ely the worl d and
its changes of circum stance s are introjected into the body of the subject.
“My body is my being-i n-the- worl d.”
Mer leau-Ponty (The Phenomenology of Perc eption , 19 62:56)
2.4 .A Introduction
Maurice Mer leau-Ponty (1 908-19 61) was a Fr ench i ntelle ctual particularly
intereste d in the nature of human consciousne ss as embodi ed experience. As a
student at the École Nor male Superieur e, he becam e inte rested in phenomenology -
the philosophical study of the pe rcepti on of things – thr ough the work of Hus serl 31
and Heide gger. Mer leau-Ponty taught at differe nt high schools and was associ ated
with the leftis t Catholic j ournal Esp rit. During WWII, under Ge rman occupation, he
par ticipated in the French resistance. Af ter the war he co-founded the existential ist
journal Les Temps Moderne together with Jean-Paul Sartr e and Simone de Beauvoir,
but because of recurr ing political arguments, Mer leau-Ponty di ssolved the
cooperati on and conti nued his academic career. He held several posi tions at the
Sor bonne in Pari s. Hi s inte llectual contributions are, in part, ex tensions of Hus serl’s
vers ion of phenomenology and centr e on understanding the l ived, em bodied natur e
of human consci ousnes s and perception. These ideas ar e expl ored i n The
Phenomonology of Perc eption 32 which is regar ded as his m ost im portant work.
Mer leau-Ponty’s thoughts have i nfluenced noted theorists like Miche l Foucault and
Louis Althusser. More recently, hi s work has been pursued by s ocial scientists
intereste d in cri tiquing traditional assumptions about the relati onship between body
and mind and the nature of human experi ence. According to J ane Howar d 33 , the
phe nomenological critique of mode rn sci ence and phi losophy has “influenced
pos tmoder n thought, which interpre ts the moder nist worl d view as having the status
of master narrative r ather than the truth. Postmodern thought also critici zes the
31 E d m u n d H u s s e r l w a s t h e G e r m a n f o u n d e r o f p h e n o m e n o l o g y. H e a r g u e d t h a t a l t h o u g h p h i l o s o p h i c a l p r o o f s f o r t h e
i n d e p e n d e n t e x i s t e n c e o f o b j e c t s p e r c e i v e d t h r o u g h t h e s e n s e s a r e i m p o s s i b l y d i f f i c u l t t o e s t a b l i s h , h u m a n b e i n g s
n e v e r t h e l e s s e x p e r i e n c e t h e e x t e r n a l w o r l d a s o b j e c t s o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s , r e g a r d l e s s o f t h e u l t i m a t e o n t o l o g i c a l s t a t e o f
o t h e r t h i n g s . H u s s e r l s a ys t h a t w e n e e d t o “ b r a c k et o f f ” c o n c e r n o v e r p r o o f s a n d o t h e r q u e s t i o n s f o r w h i c h d e fi n i t e a n s w e r s
a r e n o t f o r t h c o m i n g . I n s t e a d , h e s a y s w e s h o u l d c o n c e n t r a t e o n i n v e s t i g a t i n g t h e s e n s u a l p e r c e p t i o n s t h a t c o n s t i t u t e o u r
e x p e r i e n c e o f i d e a s , i m a g e s , e m o t i o n s , o b j e c t s , a n d o t h e r t h i n g s t h a t a r e p e r c e i v e d t h r o u g h c o n s c i o u s n e s s . T h u s , H u s s e r l
e s t a b l i s h e d p h e n o m e n o l o g y a s t h e a n a l y s e s o f e x p e r i e n c e s t h a t r e s u l t f r o m t h e c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f e x t e r n a l o b j e c t s .
( A u s l a n d e r 2 0 0 8 : 1 3 7 )
32 M e r l e a u - P o n t y, M a u r i c e , T h e V i s i b l e a n d t h e I n v i s i b l e , N o r t h We s t U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1 9 6 8
33 J a n e H o w a r t h i n S h o r t e r R o u t l e d g e E n c y c l o p e d i a o f P h i l o s o p h y, N e w Yo r k , e d i t e d b y E d w a r d C r a i g 2 0 0 5 : 7 9 1
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 33
pos itive phenome nologi cal cl aim that the re are essential features of the lived worl d”
(Howar d, 20 05:791 ).
2.4 .B Mer leau-Ponty’s concept of the body
For Mer leau-Ponty, the body was not an obj ect, the body was the condition
and conte xt thr ough which I am able to have r elations with obje cts. He proposed a
fundamental ass umption, not a Cartesian dual ism of mind and body, but thei r
necessary inter relate dness. In The Prima cy of Perc eption 34 , Mer leau-Ponty stresses this
interrelatednes s as f ollows: “I have tried...to re -establis h the roots of the mind in its
body and in its worl d, going against the doctrine s which treat perception as a simple
res ult of the action of external things on our body as well as against those which
ins ist on the autonomy of cons ciousness. The se phi losophies commonly forge t - in
favour of a pure e xteriority or of a pure interi ority - the insertion of the m ind in
cor poreal ity, the ambi guous relati on with our body, and cor relati vely, wi th per ceived
thi ngs...And it is equally clear that one doe s not account for the facts by
superimposing a pure, contempl ative consciousness on a thing- like body...Perceptual
behaviour eme rges...from relati ons to a situation and to an e nvir onme nt whi ch are
not merel y the working of a pur e, knowing subj ect...” (Mer laeau- Ponty 19 64:3). As
is evident from this citati on, for Mer leau-Ponty the body and the modes of sensor y
per ception are not me re physi cal/physi ological phe nomena; nor are they the
psychological r esults of physi cal causes but the y “affirm the necessary
connectedness of cons ciousness as it is incar nated: the mind is al ways embodi ed,
always based on cor poreal and s ensory relations” (Grosz 199 4: 86 ). For Mer leau-
Ponty, “e xperie nce can only be understood between the body and the mind - or
acr oss them - i n thei r lived conjunction. It is the body as I live i n it, as I experience
it, and as i t shapes my e xperie nce. The body is my being-i n-the- worl d and as such,
the instr ument by which all infor mation and knowle dge is recei ved, me aning is
generated and objects can appear to me” (Mer leau-Ponty 19 62: 91 ). In his i dea, it is
never the objective body that we m ove, but always our “phenome nal” body, that is
to say as some thing percei ved or experienced, es pecial ly an object as it is
apprehended by the hum an senses, as oppos ed to an obj ect as it intrinsi cally is in
its elf. We perceive our body as a potentiality for associ ations with the worl d. This
ass ociati on with the worl d is i n the firs t place an ‘I can’ and not an ‘I think that’. In
other words, “C onsciousness is be ing-towar ds-the -thing through the intermedi ality
of the body” (Mer leau-Ponty 20 02:159 -160).
In contrast to Freud, Lacan and Schilder, Mer leau-Ponty de nies the fact that
the subje ct can “stand back from its body and its e xperie nces to refl ect on them;
34 M e r l e a u - P o n t y, M a u r i c e , T h e P r i m a c y o f P e r c e p t i o n , E v a n s t o n , N o r t h We s t e r n U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1 9 6 4 , 8 t h p a p e r b a c k
p r i n t i n g , 1 9 8 9
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 34
thi s withdrawal is unable to grasp my body-as -it-is -lived- by-m e. I have access to my
body only by l iving it” (Grosz 199 4: 86 ). This means that the body i s not a subj ect
separated from the world or from othe rs and is not conceived as a mind hous ed or
encapsulated in a quasi-mechanical body; we perceive and receive i nformation of
and from the worl d through our bodi es. Through this notion, Mer leau-Ponty re nders
“ex perience of immedi ate and dire ct rel evance to philosophy and the production of
knowle dge; a subject as a “being-in-the-worl d” (Mer leau-Ponty1962: vii ii). He
opposes the psychoanalytical idea of the unconscious being responsible for many of
the things we do as well as those we do not. For him consciousness is intentional
and directed onto obj ects. Subjects and objects are e ssenti ally i nterre lated. The ir
rel ation is not causal but is based on a s ense of meaning. For Mer leau-Ponty, the
rel ations of mutual defini tion governing the body and the worl d of objects are
“form-giving”, in so far that the body actively differe ntiate s and categorizes the
worl d into groupings of sens uous e xperie nce, patterns of or ganization, and gives the
worl d (and objects within it) meaning. This is in contrast to traditional psychology
and physi ology, which pr esume a “fundamentally passive body, one on which the
sensuousness or per ceptuality of obje cts im pinges ” (Grosz 199 4: 89 ). In Mer leau-
Ponty’s idea, phenomenology “tries to gi ve a direct description of our experience as
it is, wi thout taking account of its ps ychological origin and the causal ex planations
whi ch the scientist, the historian or the sociologist may be able to provide”. 35
The body, in Mer leau-Ponty’s vi ew, gi ves form and sense to its own
com ponent parts and to its relati ons wi th obj ects i n the worl d. The body is
fundamentally l inked to representations of spatiali ty and temporality. This rel ation,
according to Mer leau-Ponty, is a pre condition of the s ubject’s rel ation with the
obj ect. Hi s point is that we perceive e xternal space only through cer tain r elations
we have to our body or “cor poreal schem a”. Unlike my per specti val access to othe r
obj ects, my body is not accessi ble to me in its entir ety. We build up a corporeal
schema by acquiri ng motor ski lls and a syste m of possible actions or corpore al
projects, li ke Mer leau-Ponty ex plains in the foll owing citation: “While being i n the
worl d, the body’s rel ation to space and time is a precondition of the subje ct’s
rel ations with objects, our bodi es are not i n space like things; it inhabits or haunts
space. It appli es its elf to space like a hand to an instr ument, and if we wish to move
about, we do not move the body as we m ove an obje ct. We transport it without
ins truments since it is our s and becaus e, through it, we have access to space”
(Mer leau-Ponty 19 63: 5) 36 . The body schem a is a serie s or r ather a fiel d of possible
actions, pl ans for acti on, maps of possible moveme nts the body “knows” how to
per form. The body schem a is also “the fiel d in which the subject’s cohesion and
35 P o n t y, M e r l e a u P h e n o m e n o l o g y o f P e r c e p t i o n ( L o n d o n : R o u t l e d g e , 2 0 0 2 ) p p . v i i
36 F o r M e r l e a u - P o n t y, t h e s t i c k h a s b e e n a b s o r b e d o r i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o t h e p e r c e p t u a l f a c u l t i e s o f t h e b o d y ( p a r t s ) . I t i s
t h e c o r p o r e a l s c h e m a t h a t e n a b l e s u s t o d e v e l o p a p r a c t i c a l r e l a t i o n t o o b j e c t s i n t h e w o r l d a n d a p s y c h i c a t t a c h m e n t t o
o u r b o d i e s a n d b o d y p a r t s . A s a c o n s e q u e n c e , I d o n o t s e e m y b o d y a s a m e r e o b j e c t , I n e c e s s a r i l y h a v e a d i f f e r e n t r e l a t i o n
t o i t t h a n t o o t h e r o b j e c t s .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 35
ide ntity as a s ubject and i ts intimate incarnation in and as a particular body take
place” (Grosz 1 994:94 ). Where in The Phenomenology of Perc eption per ception is a
the matic object of investigation, in the Vis ible a nd the Invis ible 37 , Mer leau-Ponty
for mulates that the body schema is al so the fiel d “in which the subject’s cohe sion
and identity as a subject and its intim ate incarnation in and as a particul ar body take
place” (Grosz 1 994: 95 ). Mer leau-Ponty calls this concept “the fl esh”. The fles h is
that elem entary, pr e-communi cative domain out of which both object and s ubject, in
the ir mutual interacti ons, de velop. Subject and object are ope n to e ach other,
“interlaced with each other, not exte rnally but through their revers ibility and
exchangeability, their si milari ty in differe nce and differe nce in simil arity. Perception
is the fl esh’s revers ibility, the fles h touching, se eing, pe rceivi ng its elf, one fold
(pr ovis ionall y) catching the other in its own self – embrace” (Grosz, 19 94 102 /103).
According to Gr osz, wi th the notion of the “fl esh”, Mer leau-Ponty attempts to
return to pre-discurs ive e xperie nce be fore the overl ay of refl ection, be fore the
imposition of m eta-ex perime ntal organization and its codi fication by r eason. He
looks for the “return to a ‘wil d being’”(Mer leau-Ponty 19 68:153 ), an uncul tivate d
or raw s ensibi lity. In retur ning to a pr e-refl exive s ensible, Mer leau-Ponty is not
dir ected to a pure pi ece of data uninfl uenced by the social; instead, hi s goal is to
find the preconditions withi n se nsibil ity itself, wi thin the subject, that make it open
up to and be complete d by the worl d. Ne ither subject nor obj ect “m ingle”. Mer leau-
Ponty se es thi s as necessary to produce a non-dual istic, non-binarized ontology in
order to find the preconditions within se nsibil ity itself. The “fle sh” is that
ele mentar y pre- communi cative domain out of which both subject and object
develop, in their mutual interacti ons, which he illus trates with a favour ite ex ample of
In the “double sensation” my r ight hand is capable of touching my l eft hand,
becoming both the touching and the being touched as if the latter were an object.
Yet, both sides of this e xperie nce ar e min e. The re is a slippage though, in the double
sensation, be cause one’s two hands are part of the s ame body. They rem ain
irr educible to each othe r, split be tween touching and being touched, in spite of their
interchangeabil ity. The subj ect can at best ex perience the trans formation of one
pos ition into the other, but they never coinci de. For Mer leau-Ponty this rel ation
shows the human body as a “bei ng of two l eaves”, one of which i s an object in a
worl d of other objects , the othe r of which i s a pe rceiver of the se obj ects. It is
doubled back on itself . 38 Each is implicated i n and necess ary for the other as such.
For Mer leau-Ponty, the double sensation can, in principle, be trans posed to the
other senses. The subj ect can be s eeing and is seen, can be smelli ng and is sm elled,
38 A l t h o u g h M e r l e a u - P o n t y l o o k s f o r a n o n - d u a l i s m a n d t h r o u g h t h i s c h a l l e n g e s t h e b o d y / m i n d o p p o s i t i o n , b i n a r y
p o l a r i z a t i o n s , i n t h e “ d o u b l e l e a v e ” , h e c r e a t e s a g a i n a s e p a r a t i o n o f t h e o b s e r v i n g m i n d f r o m t h e b o d y. A s E r i c M a t h e w s
p o i n t s o u t : ” R e f l e c t i o n o n e x p e r i e n c e e s s e n t i a l l y i n v o l v e s d e t a c h m e n t f r o m d i r e c t i n v o l v e m e n t w i t h t h e w o r l d . S o w e s e e m
b a c k t o w h e r e w e s t a r t e d . ” M a t h e w s , E r i c , G u i d e f o r t h e P e r p l e xe d , 2 0 0 7 : 9 1
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 36
can be he aring and is heard. This bri ngs me to the role of the sens es in his
per ception. In Mer leau-Ponty's idea in lived experi ence, the sens es interact, form a
uni on and give access to a s ingular worl d. Si ght and touch are able to com muni cate
with each other because the y are the se nses of one and the sam e subj ect operating
simultaneous ly, wi thin one and the s ame worl d.
Mer leau-Ponty locates experi ence m idway between the m ind and the body.
Not only does he link exper ience to the privi leged locus of conscious ness; he also
dem onstrates that experience is always necess arily embodied, corporeally
constituted, located in and as the subj ect’s incarnation. Ex perience can only be
understood between mind and body - or across the m - in their lived conjunction. Or
as Mer leau-Ponty says: “T he worl d is not what I think, but what I live through”
(Me rleau- Ponty, 19 62: xvi)
At the end of this paragraph I want to summar ize Mer leau-Ponty’s main ide as
about the body and the body/mind relati onship: For Mer leau-Ponty, the body and
the modes of se nsory perception are not mere physi cal/physi ological phenom ena
nor are they (i n contrast to Freud, Lacan and Schilder) the psychological r esults of
physi cal causes, but “affirm the necessary connectedness of cons ciousness as it is
incarnate d: the mind is al ways embodi ed, al ways based on cor poreal and s ensory
rel ations . Actions/ moveme nts ar e inte ntional, di rected to objects, not dire cted by
unconscious dri ves and ne eds, connecte d to the for m of the internal image as we
saw with the psychoanal ysts. The subje ct cannot stand back from its body and its
experiences to reflect on them, it is through the body, as it is lived by the subject
that it i s of the worl d; it is not in s pace but of it. For Mer leau-Ponty, consciousness
is being- towar ds-the -thing through the intermedi ality of the body. The body is in
constant dialogue with its surroundings , se eing and bei ng see n, touching and being
touched, etc. The phenomenol ogical subje ct is capable of “br acketi ng” or suspe nding
ide as about phe nomena. By attai ning a phenome nologi cal attitude , the subj ect can
sus pends pre-as sumed meaning and discover unnoti ced possibil ities. In Mer leau-
Ponty’s phe nomenology the body provides access to a uni fied and s ingular worl d.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 37
3. The Outside In
In the following paragraphs , I will f ocus on the “Outsi de In” category in
whi ch the social inscriptions of the surface of the body generate a psychical
interior; a moveme nt from the outside in. The noti on of corpor al ins cripti on of the
body-as-s urface rejects the phenomenological framework of intentionality and the
psychoanalytic postul ate of psychical depth. As we s aw i n the Inside Out categor y,
the body is a m ode of expre ssion of a psychical interior or a m ode of
com muni cation and m ediati on of what i s esse ntiall y private and incommuni cable.
Thi s mode of ps ychical tracing/re tracing or writing marks the “inside ” of the Möbius
sur face. What mar ks the outsi de sur face i s more law, ri ght, re quirem ent, social
imperative, custom, and corporal habits. If the psychical wri ting of bodi es retraces
the path of biological processes using the li bido as its marker pen, then the
“inscription of the s ocial surface of the body is the tracing of pedagogical, juridical,
medical, and economic texts, laws and pr actice s into the f lesh to carve out a s ocial
subject capable of labour, of production and manipulation. A subject capable of
acting as a subject and, at the s ame ti me, capable of bei ng deciphere d, interpre ted,
understood” (Gr osz 19 94: 11 7). I examined Nie tzsche , Foucault, Del euze and
Guattari, philosophers that focus on the procedures and powers which carve, mark,
incise - that i s, actively produce - the body as histori cally specific, concrete , and
determinate. In their vision, bodies are “fictionali zed or pos itione d by various
cul tural narratives and di scours es, which ar e them selves embodi ments of cul turall y
establis hed canons, norms, and repr esentational forms , so that they can be seen as
living narratives, narratives not al ways or even usuall y transparent to themsel ves”
(Gr osz, 19 94:118 ). The philosopher s in this category focus on the body as “a social
obj ect, as a text to be marked, tr aced, wr itten upon by various regim es of
ins tituti onal ( discur sive or nondiscur sive) power, as a ser ies of linkages (or poss ible
activitie s) whi ch for m supe rfici al or provis ional connections with other objects and
processes and as a re ceptive s urface on which the body's boundarie s and various
par ts and zone s are consti tuted” (Gros z, 19 94:118 ). The mode l of s ocial inscri ption
implies that social values and re quirem ents are not so much incalculated into the
subject, as we s aw i n the Insi de Out category, but etched upon the subject’s body.
The messages or texts construct bodies as networks of m eaning and s ocial
significance, as meani ngful and functional “subjects ” within social ensembles .
The body can be understood as a seri es of surfaces, a mode of linkages and
connections with othe r things, other bodies. These interactions can be se en as
sur face e ffects, as relations occurri ng on the surface of the skin and various body
par ts. The corporal i nscriptions are not mere ly superfici al though, for they gener ate
all the e ffects of a psychical i nterior, an under lying depth, individuality, or
conscious ness. Where in the I nside Out, de pth is already ins ide the subj ect, in the
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 38
Outside I n cate gory “depth, or rathe r effects of depth, ar e ge nerate d pure ly thr ough
the manipulation, rotation and i nscription of the flat plane” (Grosz, 19 94:116 ).
The focus on the encr ypted subject rais es the question of whether the re was
a body be fore this si tuation. This state pri or to inscri ption is referr ed to as “tabula
ras a”, a blank page . For a short ex planation of the term, I want to refer to the
Bri tish philosopher Locke ( 1632-1 704). Jos eph Pear write s in his book, A h istorical
and contemporary look at psychological sys tems, 39 that Locke in An Essay Concerning
Human Understan ding (16 90) “did not consi der man to be a di vine creatur e fixed
with ideas on coming into this worl d but asserted that we are bor n with an em pty
mind, wi th a s oft tablet (tabula ras a) r eady to be writ upon by e xperim ental
impressions” (Pear 2007:43 ). Accordi ng to Locke, be ginning blank, the human mind
acquires knowle dge thr ough the use of the five s enses and a proces s of r eflection.
As unders tood by Locke, tabula ras a also emphasized the individual's f reedom to
author hi s or her own soul. Each indi vidual was f ree to define the content of hi s or
her character. In recent time s, however, tabula ras a has come to be unders tood
fundamentally differe ntly. While the idea that the individual can be changed remains,
the power to effect that change is now ascr ibed to soci ety, not the self. Under this
vie w, “one can almos t without re striction shape the indi vidual by changing the
individual's envir onment, and thus sensory experiences" (Pear 2007:44). In the
Outside I n chapter, the inci sion i nto the body and what shapes and m odifies it wi ll
be the topic of exploration. I will e laborate on the ideas of Nietzsche, Foucault and
Del euze and Guattari.
“Be hind your thoughts and feel ings, my brother, there stands a mighty rule r,
an unknown sage - whose name is self.
In your body he dwell s; he is your body.”
Nie tzsche (Thu s Spoke Zarath ustra 19 85: 34 )
3.1 A Introduction
Fri edrich Wilhe lm Nie tzsche (1844 -1900) was born in Rucken, Pr ussia.
Com ing fr om a Lutheran background, he studi ed the ology and philology. He later
concentrated on the l atter and be came profess or of classi cal philology at the
uni vers ities of Bas el and Leipzig. Ni etzsche suffere d from faili ng health and from
188 9 onwards spent hi s life with hi s fami ly because of this . It was his sis ter, an anti-
39 P e a r, J o s e p h , A h i s t o r i c a l a n d c o n t e m p o r a r y l o o k a t p s y c h o l o g i c a l s y s t e m s M a h w a h , N J : E r l b a u m 2 0 0 7 : 4 3
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 39
Sem ite, who publis hed The Will to Power 40 (based on his 1880 notebooks) and
brought N ietzsche’s i deas to the Nazis. Ni etzsche hims elf felt no sympathy f or
Ger man national ism. He descr ibed his work as “philosophizing with a ham mer” 41 ,
cri ticizi ng pr evaili ng Western European cultural values, inspired by the des ire to
affirm what he understood to be “the source of l ife” - a ki nd of primor dial, cr eative
ene rgy be yond rationality and m oral categor ization. In contr ast to the predomi nant
Chr istian worl d view of his time, Ni etzsche saw the worl d not as a m oral univers e,
cre ated and managed by a moral God, but as a chaotic “monster of ene rgy” in
whi ch hum ans move and have their being. Particular ly important to contemporary
thought i s his On the Genealogy of Morals 42 in which he ex plores the origins of the
mor al categorie s of good, bad and evil and argues that the se categorie s are not
uni vers al but are culturally constr ucted through oper ations of social power
thr oughout history. When Nie tszche declared the death of God, the most impor tant
thi ng for him was what woul d die with him, namely “the Christian conceptions of
hum an sinfulnes s, fal lennes s and indebtedness ” (Aus lander, 20 08: 22 ). In Nietzsche’s
vie w, humans l ive their l ife i n expe ctation of an other-worl dly re ward as a re sult of
the se Chr istian conce ptions . Nie tszche ’s “Übe rmensch” is the human be ing that has
overcome the slavis h morality of the Christian notion of being sinf ul, as evide nt in
the prologue of Thu s spoke Zarath ustra 43 (1 883-18 85) where he state s that
Catholici sm rej ected physi cal be haviour in favour of im materi al 'spirit' (mind- body
In contrast to the pr evaili ng thoughts of his time, Ni etzsche argues in his
firs t book The Birth of Tragedy 44 that the Greek culture was not a worl d of noble
har mony and rational order but a worl d of tension between two f orces: on the one
hand, the Apol lonian force s of m oral order and sober rationali ty and on the othe r,
the Dionysi an for ces of amoral desi re and irrational, cr eative e xuberance. Di onysi an
is primor dial, that is, the chaotic li fe f orce that pr ecedes the order of civi lizati on
and its creative s ource. He divides the se for ces into active ( aristocratic, noble,
expanding and governing) and reactive f orces (slavis h and adapti ve to the active
for ces, re acting on the ir ini tiative). Re active f orces are not weaker than acti ve
for ces; on the contrar y, they tend to overpower active f orces and convert them into
reactive f orces. Ni etzsche beli eved that Western ci vilization had gradually repre ssed
40 N i e t s z c h e , F r i e d r i c h , ( 1 9 9 6 ) T h e W i l l t o P o w e r . Tr a n s l a t e d b y W a l t e r K a u f m a n n . N e w Yo r k : V i n t a g e B o o k s
41 N i e t z s c h e , F r i e d r i c h , ( 1 9 9 0 ) T h e Tw i l i g h t o f t h e I d o l s a n d t h e A n t i - C h r i s t , Tr a n s l a t e d b y R . J H o l l i n g d a l e , P i n g u i n C l a s s i c s
42 N i e t s z c h e , F r i e d r i c h , ( 1 9 6 9 ) . O n t h e G e n e a l o g y o f M o r a l s / E c c e H o m o . Tr a n s l a t e d b y W a l t e r K a u f m a n n . N e w Yo r k : V i n t a g e
B o o k s
4 3 N i e t s z c h e , F r i e d r i c h , ( 1 9 6 9 ) . O n t h e G e n e a l o g y o f M o r a l s / E c c e H o m o . Tr a n s l a t e d b y W a l t e r K a u f m a n n . N e w Yo r k : V i n t a g e
B o o k s
4 4 N i e t s z c h e , F r i e d r i c h , ( 1 9 6 7 ) . T h e B i r t h o f Tr a g e d y / T h e c a s e o f Wa g n e r , Tr a n s l a t e d b y W a l t e r K a u f m a n n . N e w Yo r k : V i n t a g e
B o o k s
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 40
the Dionysi an, le aving mode rn society predomi nantly with the Apolloni an for ces,
starved of cre ative e nergy and poor in health.
Nie tszche had contras ting i deas about theatre and i ts inf luence on li fe. On
the one hand, he belie ved that arts (e specially the complete works of the composer
Richard Wagner) could re surrect the Dionysi an. On the other hand, he doubted if
thi s coul d happen in modern times . He based his doubts on the conte mporar y
audience whose education and soci alization, in his e yes, re ndered them incapable of
Dionysi an sur render to musi c. Later in his l ife he actually incalculated a slave
mor ality in audiences , ar gued f or art which demands no audience and declared
him self antitheatrical. Jon McKe nzie analyzes that this pl ay between the theatri cal
and the antitheatrical that we find in Nie tszche , “possibly marks the rupture of
per formance into mode rn thought; the emer ge of perfor mance as a problem , a site
of contes tation” 45 .
3.1 .B Nie tzsche 's concept(s ) of the body
Nie tzsche sees the body as a sociocultural artefact rather than a
manifestation or externali zation of what is private, ps ychological, and “dee p” in the
individual, as we have s een in the psychoanalyti c and phenom enological approach.
The body is als o not the ex ternal tool of an inner sovere ign me ntal e go, but an
organism within which the e go, or mind, pl ays a subordinate role . Nie tzsche sees the
body in terms of a political/soci al organization (i nstead of the body in te rms of the
mind/body disti nction), but one in whi ch the re is a kind of chaos. The body is s een
as a seri es of interacting and conflicting energies , which struggle among the mselves.
If there is a unity, it is the result of the suppress ion of the multiple conflicting
for ces, a result of cr uelty. The body must be se en as a pli able and potentially i nfini te
set of energies .
For Nietzsche ( in Spi noza's tradi tion), the body’s capacitie s cannot be known
in advance, its limi ts cannot be defini tely l isted. It is al ways in a s tate of becoming.
According to Gr osz, Nie tszche conce ives the body as “the i ntimate and inter nal
condition of al l knowle dges” (Grosz 199 4:125). In his e yes, the body is an intel ligent
knowle dge-cr eating organism, of which the brain i s a part. Ni etzsche reje cts the idea
that the mind can be in control of the body and see s it as one of the cruci al
ass umptions whi ch woul d have to be overcome in a future and more healthy
For Nietzsche, knowle dge and power are the results/pr oducts of the body's
activitie s, it is the hunger for life that makes the body move, for its own well -bei ng,
sel f-expansion and se lf-overcoming. The body gener ates and pre sumes
45 M c K i n z i e , J o n . D e m o c r a c y ’ s p e r f o r m a n c e , T h e D r a m a R e v i e w 4 7 , n o 2 , 2 0 0 3
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 41
interpretations , pe rspectives, which se rve i ts nee ds in the worl d. The will to power
is the dr ive towar ds sel f-expansion, the moveme nt of becomi ng, “vigorous, fr ee,
joyful acti vity” (Nie tzsche 1969: 33 ). In Nietzsche’s assum ption, knowle dge has
sur vival value rather than truth val ue. For him, knowle dge in gener al and philosophy
in particular are dri ves for mastery - consequences of the will to power that i s
pri marily corporeal. It involves a struggle to survive, to grow on the level of cel ls,
tis sues, or gans, where the lower-or der bodily f unctions are subor dinate d to and
har nessed by higher-or der bodily process es and activities (the brain being
considere d the highes t one) . For Nietzsche, the body produces/constructs sys tems
of belief , knowle dge, as a cons equence of the impulses of its organs and proces ses.
In his vi ew, the grand metaphysi cal categori es such as truth, subject, morality, logic
are products of the body's strate gy, which contribute to the will to power. For
Nie tzsche this is the intel ligence of the body; the energetic l ocus f or all cultural
production. Fr om thi s point of view, he is in favour of a new ki nd of philos ophy that
is allied with the ar ts of moveme nt (the atre, dance , and musi c) because , for him,
phi losophy i s a bodily activity, capable of dynamizing and enhancing li fe. Philosophy,
or what counts as truth, enhances the body’s capaci ties, enlarges its powers of
becoming, intensifies the body’s sensations and makes it able to do other things in
the worl d. Philosophy, according to N ietzsche, is affirm ative and productive of new,
hitherto unimagined possibi lities , the transformation of man into higher man. For
him , the knowle dge fr om the body offers us the insi ght that the re is nothing beyond
the multiple bodily perspe ctives and forces, there is no anchor i nto the real . The
body itse lf can be se en as a multiplici ty of competing and conf licting for ces which,
thr ough the dom ination of one or a few, comes to have a perspective and pos ition,
one among a num ber of compe ting or complementary pe rspectives strivi ng for a
controlli ng inf luence .
Grosz notes that although N ietzsche define s the body with re fere nce to a
concept of instincts that m ay at firs t sight appe ar a-histori cal or natur alisti c, he has
a complex notion of nature that r ules out ass ociati ng ins tincts with their usual
biological and non-hi storical connotati ons in advance. Ni etzsche sees natur al as
ine rt, tr ans-hi storical and governed by l aw. In The Genea logy of Morals he descr ibes
the active i mpulse s (noble and ar istocr atic) as the ones that are independe nt sel f-
expansion and have no inte rest i n the past. This leaves the body ope n to the
intensiti es of the pr esent; it is Dionysi ac, dynamic, pl ayful, cel ebratory, wi th an active
wil l to f orget. In contr ast, the Apol lonian (or s lave) impuls es are embittered and
dis appointed by the worl d, they never forget, are bound up wi th the past and not
ope n for the future.
It is thi s qual ity of forge tting that N ietzsche works out in r elation to what
kind of f orce i s nece ssary to res train and tr ain re active f orces in his second essay
Gen ealogy of Morals . Me mory, he write s, is “a de sire f or the conti nuance of
som ething desir ed once, a real m emory of the will” (Nietzsche 1969: 58 ). For hi m,
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 42
kee ping one's promise s involves renouncing for getful ness, it makes active use of the
mem ory. In Nietzsche's idea, pain is the ke y term for i nstituting m emory, it is
thr ough i t that culti vating force s brand the law or in other words: ”I f some thing is to
stay i n the memory, it must be burned i n” (Ni etzsche 1969 : 61 ). The establis hment
of a memory is the ke y condition for the creation of a social organization, us ing the
body/skin as a notebook whe re “the unforgettable” is etched in. In Nietzsche's eyes,
the social orde r is the rul e, and at the bottom, the body can be made to pay, to
guarantee . This rel ation instal ls a debtor-cr editor relation, in his e yes, the very basis
of social relations, moral values, and cultural production. Morality and j ustice share a
com mon ge nealogy in cruelty: me mory, social history, and cultural cohesion are
branded i nto the fles h, wr itten into the body. 46 Ni etzsche is convinced that whatever
of the social i s written there is fundamental ly ope n to r einter pretation, to reins
cripti on, to trans formation, de pending on context, si tuation and positi on.
At the end of this paragraph I want to summar ize Nie tszche ’s mai n ideas
about the body and the body/mind relati onship: In Nietzsche’s parti cular
understanding of the body/m ind re lationship, the social i nscriptions of the surface of
the body generate a psychical interiori ty, a moveme nt from the outside into the
body. Socially/culturally inscri bed bodies “know” what to do, how to behave, the
body writing has deeply penetrate d its tissue . See n this way, puni shment is the
“ex ternal ized” counterpart of socialization; both are forms of codification of the
social onto the corporeal, though f rom two differe nt dir ections. The body is a
sur face, on which syste ms engrave their r ules and regulations, quite li terall y, and
make it act in specific ways and tame the will to power. Systems brand memory into
the body becaus e of the body’s power to res ist. The body can actively forge t and
overthrow the dom inant forces that regulate the body and li berate the cr eative l ife
ene rgy and joyous activity of the body, fr ee of morali ty and intentional ity.
46 G r o s z m a k e s a r e f e r e n c e t o K a f k a ’ s s h o r t s t o r y T h e P e n a l S e t t l e m e n t i n w h i c h h e a d d r e s s e s a s y s t e m w h i c h r e v e a l s v e r y
c l e a r l y t h e o r i g i n s a n d f u n c t i o n o f p u n i s h m e n t a s r e g u l a t e d r e v e n g e a n d c a l c u l a t e d b l o o d l u s t . A c c o r d i n g t o G r o s z , K a f k a
d e s r i b e s “ a p e r f e c t p u n i s h m a c h i n e , a m a c h i n e w i t h a n e n t i r e l e g a l s y s t e m , t h a t o p e n l y a c k n o w l e d g e s t h e b o d y o f t h e
p r i s o n e r a s i t s t a r g e t a n d o b j e c t i v e a n d c l e a r l y p o s i t i o n s c o n s c i o u s n e s s a n d c o n s c i e n c e a s t h e b y - p r o d u c t s , e f f e c t s , o r
r e s u l t s o f c o r p o r e a l i n s c r i p t i o n s i n a t h e a t r e o f c r u e l t y ” ( G r o s z 1 9 9 4 : 1 3 5 ) . F o r f u r t h e r r e a d i n g , s e e K a f k a , F. T h e P e n a l
S e t t l e m e n t Ta l e s a n d S h o r t P r o s e Wo r k s , S e c k e r a n d W a r b u r g , 1 9 7 3
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 43
“.....the body is....
dir ectly involved in a political fiel d; power relati ons have an imme diate hold
upon it; they invest it, mark it, tr ain it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks,
to perfor m cere monies , to emit signs.”
Foucault (Dis ciplin e and Punish 19 77:86)
3.2 .A Introduction
Michel Foucault (1929 -1984) was a French phil osophe r, social and intellectual
his torian, and culture cr itic. He was a profess or of philos ophy, ps ychology. Foucault
was a mem ber of the French Communi st Party, but left after readi ng Nie tzsche . He
hel d many teaching posi tions and wr ote hi ghly i nfluential books, including Madness
and Civilization (1 961), The Birth of th e Clin ic (1 963) and The order of th ings (1 966).
In 1970, Foucault was elected to the College de France as Profess or of the Hi story
of System s of T hought and could devote his time to research and writing.
Foucault’s work relentlessl y chal lenges what counts as commonse nse
knowle dge about human nature, hi story, and the worl d, as well as the soci al and
pol itical impli cations of this knowle dge, questioning as sumpti ons of moder nist
mas ters l ike Fr eud and Marx . Foucault explores what he calls the “human s cience s”,
the acade mic fiel d in which humanis tic and soci al sci ence discour ses construct
knowle dge and subj ectivi ty. He often write s on how various insti tutions produce
dis course s that then consti tute what can be known or practised, re lative to that
body of knowle dge. People become di scipli ned subjects withi n thes e differe nt
dis course s. For Foucault, power is not an il lusionary as pirati on, a mode of survival
(as we s aw with Nie tzsche ), but a “body” of propositions and text, together with
the ir accompanying institutions and pr otocol s. For Foucault, knowle dge is a maj or
ins trument and techni que of power; knowle dge is made possible and functions only
thr ough i ts ali gnment with the re gimes of power. Power, in its capacity to bring
together or to sever words and things , is the condition under which truth can be
dis tingui shed f rom falsehood. In retur n, power is able to sei ze hold of bodie s, to
entwine i tself into desires and practice. 47 In his work, Foucault shows how
47 F o r F o u c a u l t , p o w e r i s a n i m p e r s o n a l s e t o f n e g o t i a t i o n s b e t w e e n p r a c t i c e s , d i s c o u r s e s , n o n - d i s c u r s i v e e v e n t s , a m o d e o f
m a n a g e m e n t o f a m u l t i p l i c i t y o f r e l a t i o n s , a s e t o f t e c h n o l o g i e s l i n k i n g t h e m o s t m a s s i v e c u l t u r a l m o v e m e n t t o t h e m o s t
m i n u t e d a y - b y - d a y e v e n t s i n p e r s o n a l l i f e . P o w e r h a s n o s p e c i fi a b l e o r u n i v e r s a l g o a l , n o p r e - g i v e n s h a p e o r f o r m , n o
p r i v i l e g e d m a n e u v e r s , n o g e n e r a l p r e f e r r e d t a r g e t o r p r i v i l e g e d r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s . “ B y p o w e r I d o n o t m e a n ‘ P o w e r ’ a s a
g r o u p o f i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d m e c h a n i s m s t h a t e n s u r e t h e s u b s e r v i e n c e o f t h e c i t i z e n s o f a g i v e n s t a t e . B y p o w e r, I d o n o t m e a n ,
e i t h e r, a m o d e o f s u b j u g a t i o n w h i c h , i n c o n t r a s t t o v i o l e n c e , h a s t h e f o r m o f t h e r u l e . F i n a l l y, I d o n o t h a v e i n m i n d a
g e n e r a l s y s t e m o f d o m i n a t i o n e xe r t e d b y o n e g r o u p o v e r t h e o t h e r, a s y s t e m w h o s e e f f e c t s t h r o u g h s u c c e s s i v e d e p r i v a t i o n s ,
p e r v a d e t h e e n t i r e s o c i a l b o d y. . . . P o w e r m u s t b e u n d e r s t o o d . . . a s t h e m u l t i p l e o f f o r c e r e l a t i o n s i m m a n e n t i n t h e s p h e r e i n
w h i c h t h e y o p e r a t e a n d w h i c h c o n s t i t u t e t h e i r o w n o r g a n i z a t i o n ; a s t h e p r o c e s s w h i c h , t h r o u g h c e a s e l e s s s t r u g g l e s ,
c o n f r o n t a t i o n , t r a n s f o r m s , s t r e n g t h e n s o r r e v e r s e s t h e m ; a s t h e s u p p o r t t h e s e f o r c e r e l a t i o n s fi n d i n o n e a n o t h e r, t h u s
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 44
knowle dge and power are intimate ly connected. Therefor e, term s such as di scours e,
subjectivity, knowle dge, and power are ke y to understanding Foucault’s theori es.
The se concepts, in turn, can be “positi oned within three areas central to Foucaul t’s
cul tural analys is: ar chaeol ogy of knowle dge, ge nealogy of power and e thics”
(Aus lander 2008:97-99) .
3.2 .B Foucault’s concept(s) of the body
For Foucault, the body is a social construct. It is pe netrated by networks and
regimes of power-knowle dge that actively mark and pr oduce it: the body seems to
be the passive r aw data, manipulated and util ized by various syste ms of social and
sel f-cons tituti on, an object more or le ss at the me rcy of unintentional or selfdir
ected, conscious production of knowle dge. Following Nietzsche, Foucault label led
his work “gene alogy”. He descri bes it as “an analys is of descent, whi ch is thus
situated within the articul ation of the body and hi story. Its task is to expos e a body
totally i mprinted by history and the processes of hi story’s destruction of the body”
(Foucault 1977: 14 8). Like Nietzsche, Foucault is concerne d with the m aterial,
cor poreal costs of hi storical events and transf ormati ons, their investments in and
rel iance on sys tems of power. Foucault’s reading of Nietzsche is about the ways in
whi ch his tory affects bodi es, the inte rface be tween bodie s and knowle dges, how
knowle dges are extracted f rom and in their turn he lp to form bodies. He is
concerned to ex plore the co-production of bodies in their mater iality and e nergetic
for ce, and the machineries of power. In his wr iting (Dis ciplin e and Punish 48 and The
His tory of Sexua lity 49 ) he reveal s the power of knowle dge, di scours e, di scipli ne and
the ir ins cripti on in the body and shows how transformations of subjectivity or se lf
are a consequence of changi ng investment of power in the body. For him punishment
is a “pol itical technology of the body” (Foucault 1 979:24 ).
f o r m i n g a c h a i n o r a s y s t e m , o r o n t h e c o n t r a r y, t h e d i s j u n c t i o n s a n d c o n t r a d i c t i o n s w h i c h i s o l a t e t h e m f r o m o n e a n o t h e r ;
a n d l a s t l y, a s t h e s t r a t e g i e s i n w h i c h t h e y t a k e e f f e c t , w h o s e g e n e r a l d e s i g n o r i n s t i t u t i o n a l c r y s t a l l i z a t i o n i s e m b o d i e d i n
t h e s t a t e a p p a r a t u s , i n t h e f o r m u l a t i o n o f l a w , i n t h e v a r i o u s s o c i a l h e g e m o n i e s . ” ( F o u c a u l t , 1 9 7 8 : 9 2 )
48 I n D i s c i p l i n e a n d P u n i s h , F o u c a u l t e x p l o r e s t h e i n t e r f a c e o f c o r p o r e a l i t y a n d t h e p o w e r t o p u n i s h . H e s t a r t s w i t h t h e
d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e p u n i s h m e n t o f D a m i e n i n 1 7 5 7 . A t t h a t t i m e t h e c r i m i n a l b o d y 1 . c o u l d b e s e e n , 2 . p u n i s h m e n t h a p p e n e d
d i r e c t l y o n t h e b o d y, 3 . p u n i s h m e n t w a s r e g a r d e d a s a s o c i a l l y a c c e p t e d f o r m o f t o r t u r e , 4 . r i t u a l i z e d f o r m s o f p u n i s h m e n t
c r e a t e d t h e i r o w n m o d e s o f t r u t h . I n 7 0 ye a r s t h i s f o r m o f p u n i s h m e n t w a s c h a n g e d : 1 . p u n i s h m e n t w a s i n f o r m t h e s a m e
f o r a l l ( i t i s t h e l e n g t h y o u s t a y i n p r i s o n t h a t v a r i e s ) , 2 . t h e j u d g m e n t i s s e c r e t i n s t e a d o f p u b l i c , 3 . i t i s n o l o n g e r t h e
c r i m e b u t t h e c r i m i n a l b e h i n d t h e d e e d t h a t i s p u n i s h e d , 4 . t h e s o u l r a t h e r t h a n t h e b o d y b e c o m e s t h e s u b j e c t o f
p u n i s h m e n t . F o u c a u l t c o n c l u d e s t h a t i t i s n o l o n g e r r e v e n g e w h i c h i s t h e m o t i v e o f p u n i s h m e n t , i t n o w a i m s f o r t h e
r e d e m p t i o n o f t h e c r i m i n a l . F o r f u r t h e r r e a d i n g : F o u c a u l t , M i c h e l , D i s c i p l i n e a n d P u n i s h : T h e b i r t h o f t h e P r i s o n . Tr a n s l a t e d b y
A l a n S h e r i d a n . L o n d o n : A l l e n L a n e 1 9 7 7
49 I n T h e H i s t o r y o f S e x u a l i t y F o u c a u l t s p e c i fi e s t h e d i s c i p l i n a r y p o w e r o v e r l i f e a s b i o p o w e r, a p o w e r t o r e g u l a t e t h e
m i n u t e d e t a i l s o f d a i l y l i f e a n d b e h a v i o u r i n b o t h i n d i v i d u a l s a n d p o p u l a t i o n s . I t i s t h e h e a r t o f t h e m a n a g e m e n t o f t h e
p o p u l a t i o n ( f o r e x a m p l e , i n b i r t h s t a t i s t i c s , a r c h i t e c t u r a l p l a n s , t o w n p l a n n i n g , e t c . ) . S e x u a l i t y i s n o t a p u r e o r s p o n t a n e o u s
f o r c e t h a t i s t a m e d b y p o w e r ; r a t h e r s e x u a l i t y i s d e p l o ye d b y p o w e r t o e n a b l e o n e t o g a i n a g r i p o n l i f e i t s e l f o r a s F o u c a u l t
s a y s : “ … S e x w a s a m e a n s o f a c c e s s b o t h t o t h e l i f e o f t h e b o d y a n d t h e l i f e o f t h e s p e c i e s . ” ( F o u c a u l t , M i c h e l , T h e H i s t o r y o f
s e x u a l i t y . V o l . 1 , A n I n t r o d u c t i o n . Tr a n s l a t e d b y R o b e r t H u r l e y. L o n d o n : A l l e n L a n e ( 1 9 7 8 : 1 4 6 )
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 45
Whe re Nie tzsche under stands the f ormati on of knowle dge as an
unr ecogni zed product of the body (the body as an agent for the acti ve cause of
knowle dge), for Foucault the body is the fiel d on which the play of power,
knowle dge and resi stance is worked out. The inscr iptive s urface of the body
functions alm ost “as a black box, as a pas sive m edium on whi ch power operates and
thr ough which i t functions” (Gros z 1994 , 14 7). Es pecial ly under the di scipli nary
for ms of normal ization prevalent today, power utilizes, indeed produce s, the
subject’s desir es and pleas ures to create knowle dge, tr uths, which may provide more
refine d, im proved and ef fici ent te chniques for surveil lance and control of bodies, in
a s piral of power, knowle dge, pl easure . According to Foucault, the body is the
pri vilege d obje ct of power’s oper ations . Power produces the body as a determi nate
type, wi th par ticular features, skills, and attr ibutes which he il lustrates cl early in the
fol lowing citation: “The body is mol ded by a gre at many distinct regi mes; it is br oken
down by the rhythms of work, re st and holiday; it is poisoned by f ood or value s,
thr ough e ating habits or moral laws; it constructs resistances... Nothing i n man - not
even his body - i s suffici ently stable to ser ve as a basis of self- recognition or for
understanding other m en” (Foucaul t 1977 b:153) . It is penetrate d by networks and
regimes of power-knowle dge that actively mark and pr oduce it as such. It is utilized
by various syste ms of social and s elf-constitution. Si gnificant in Foucault’s thought is
that power has no s pecifiable or uni vers al goal, no pre-given shape or for m, no
pri vilege d manoeuvres , no gener ally preferr ed tar gets or privileged repre sentation.
In Foucault’s ide a the body i s produced through and i n history. In his vie w
rel ations of force cr eate the body through the use of dis tinct techni ques, li ke
feeding, tr aining, supervis ion, and education that harness the e nergie s and potential
for subvers ion that power itself has constructed. In Foucault’s idea r egimes of or der
and contr ol involved in modern di scipli nary s ociety need the cr eation of a docile ,
obe dient subject whos e body and m oveme nts parallel and correlate with the
effici ency of a machine or a body whose des ire is to confess all about i ts innermost
subjectivity and sexuality to ins tituti onally sanctioned author ities. Gr osz wr ites
about the effects of power in rel ation to Foucault’s body/mind relati onship: that
“power is the inter nal condition for the constitution and activity attributed to the
body-subj ect. It is power which produces a 'soul work' or i nteriority as a re sult of a
cer tain type of etchi ng of the subject’s body” (Grosz 199 4: 14 9). For Foucault
power deploys discourses, particul arly knowle dges, on and over bodies , es tablis hing
knowle dges as the r eprese ntatives of the truth of those bodies and the ir ple asures .
Later in his li fe Foucaul t’s concern shifte d from the genealogy of knowle dge-power
to the pr actice s which lead individuals to focus on thems elves “to de cipher,
recognize and acknowle dge a certai n relationship that allows them to discover, in
des ire, the truth of that be ing” ( Foucault 198 7:5), which he named the “technologies
of the se lf”.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 46
At the end of this paragraph I want to summar ize Foucaul t’s main ide as
about the body and the body/mind relati onship: Both body and mind are involved in
the coding of the body, in which corporal inscriptions generate the effects of a
psychical inter ior. In contr ast to Nietzsche, who sees the body as a si te of active
res istance, Foucault’s notion is that of pas sive f lesh, inscribe d by power structures
and constructed by the for ces that penetrate it, li ke a “black box”. The body is
dis ciplined and punis hed by e ducati onal, social and cul tural norms and acts in
accordance to i ts social, political, cultural and s exual surroundings and s pecifici ties.
Sys tems of power operate on the body and penetr ate it with notions of truth and
knowle dge (about the body) of what a parti cular cultur e counts as truth. It can be
wri tten and re- writte n according to the syste m(s) that us e it. The body will
consume a certain way, value ce rtain things above others, cr eate habits and accept
thi ngs as true. Even its re sistance is in accordance with the r ules of the system it
functions in. The body is li ke a theatre that perfor ms according to its inscriptions, a
medium on which powers operate and through whi ch it functi ons.
3.3 Deleuze and Guattari
“The BwO is ne ver your or mi ne, it is al ways a body”
Del euze and Guattari (A Thousa nd Pla teaus 19 87: 164 )
3.3 .A Introduction to Del euze and Guattari
Gil les Del euze (1 925-19 95) was a Fr ench philosopher, who comm itted
sui cide after a long illnes s in 1 995. He taught phil osophy at the Sorbonne and
Uni vers ity of Lyon and, on the i nvitation of Foucault, at the U nivers ity Pari s VIII . He
was a prolific writer, including studies on a dis parate group of philosophers as well
cri tique on Kantian and Platonic ideas and consider ation of such issues as
representation, li nguistic, me aning, subjecti vity and differe nce. Fe lix Guattari (1930-
199 2) was a psychoanalyst and pol itical left- wing activis t. Born in the north of
France, he died of a heart attack in 199 2. He recei ved his education from Jacques
Lacan. He later becam e critical of Lacanian analys is and embraced radical
psychothe rapy ( anti-psychiatry). He was disillusioned with the Fr ench C ommuni st
Party afte r the May 1 969 strikes and joined the Mar xists. In addition to his work
with Del euze, he collaborate d with other Marxi st thi nkers and ps ychoanalys ts.
Del euze and Guattari met in 1969 and wr ote four books together, of which Ant i
Oedipus: Ca pitalism and Schizophren ia (1 972) and A T housan d Plat eaus (1 980) are
noteworthy f or the ir cri tique on Mar xist and Fre udian thought. Their te xts de scribe
ways of se eing and understanding multiplici ties both of individual and larger
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 47
ins tituti onal e ntitie s. Through their collaboration, and in keeping with their desire to
understand subj ectivi ty as multiple r ather than s ingular, Del euze and Guattari seek
multiplici ty in their writi ng style. In his T heory Perf ormance Studies, 50 Aus lander
notes that “any attempt to de rive a clear and l inear outline of their i deas r uns
counter to thei r own resistance to such moder nist ways of thi nking” (Aus lander
200 8: 84 ). In their wri ting they were criti cal of grand narratives and engaged in
ins istent criti ques of mode rn ide as concerning the primacy of hierarchy, tr uth,
meaning, subjecti vity, and repr esentation. They problem atized our most common
ass umptions regarding identity, re lations be tween subje ct and object, substance,
matter, and corporality and challe nged theoretical paradigms that pres ume the
centrality of the subject and the coher ence and effectivene ss of signification. The
dif fere nt concepts they theorized are loose ly linked together in an attem pt to reject
or displace pre vailing centrisms , unities, and rigi d strata (societal layers ) 51 .
According to Del euze and Guattari, the absorbent (inste ad of reflecting)
mode, which has domi nated Western thought, is hegem onic i n that it natur alized
hie rarchi c orde rs and gives priori ty to narratives of ori gin. In their writi ng, they
move away f rom the well -recognized Fre udo-Marxism problem s (centrality of the
phallus f or psychoanalysis; the centrality of re lations of production, and monolithic,
cohesive f orms f or Mar xism)( Grosz 1994: 16 5). In their eyes, the body is nomadic
and rhi zomatic. The rhizome for Del euze and Guattari is a “horizontal and nonhie
rarchi cal concepti on, where anything may be linked to anything el se, wi th no
res pect whatsoe ver for specific spe cies: rhizome s are heterogeneous li nks be tween
thi ngs that have nothing to do between themsel ves” (Del euze and Guattari 1987:
78) . A rhizome cease lessly establis hes connecti ons be tween semiotic chains,
organizations of power, and circumstances re lative to the arts, sciences , and soci al
str uggles . Rhi zomatic thought sugges ts a non- hi erarchy of multiple narrati ves
without origin or central r oot to serve as the source . I n Del euze and Guattari’s
work, subject and object can no longer be understood as separate entities or binary
oppositions, and things, material or ps ychical, can no l onger be see n in terms of rigid
boundarie s. Instead, they are seen as uni ties, si ngular or holistic, and subj ect and
obj ect ar e fragments that are capable of bei ng linked together in infini te ways to
cre ate he teroge neous assemblages 52 or machi nes. For Del euze and Guattari,
ass emblages fol low no hier archical order but are provis ional linkages of elements
(ideas, things – human, animate and inanimate), and all have the sam e ontological
status: they do not answer any central organization or plan to which they must
50 A u s l a n d e r, P h i l i p T h e o r y f o r p e r f o r m a n c e s t u d i e s : a s t u d e n t ' s g u i d e . L o n d o n : R o u t l e d g e , 2 0 0 8
51 I n t h e i r w r i t i n g D e l e u z e a n d G u a t t a r i t r y t o s t a y t r u e t o t h e i r r h i z o m a t i c a n d n o m a d i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f c o n c e p t s , w h i c h I
w i l l n o t b e a b l e t o f o l l o w i n t h i s t h e s i s . F o l l o w i n g G r o s z , I w i l l g i v e a m o r e s t r u c t u r e d a n d s e l e c t i v e r e a d i n g o f t h e i r
c o n c e p t s .
52 “ A n a s s e m b l a g e h a s n e i t h e r b a s e n o r s u p e r s t r u c t u r e , n e i t h e r d e e p s t r u c t u r e n o r s u p e r fi c i a l s t r u c t u r e ; i t f l a t t e n s a l l o f i t s
d i m e n s i o n s o n t o a s i n g l e p l a c e o f c o n s i s t e n c y u p o n w h i c h r e c i p r o c a l p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s a n d m u t u a l i n s e r t i o n s p l a y t h e m s e l v e s
o u t ” ( D e l e u z e a n d G u a t t a r i 1 9 8 7 : 9 0 ) .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 48
conform but cre ate endless experi mentations where hierarchies are “not the result
of substances and the ir nature and value but of modes of organi zation of di sparate
substance s” (Gr osz 19 94: 16 7). Machines , for Del euze and Guattari, ar e not simply
mechanical repl acements or corpor eal pr osthetics, but instead form an opposi tion to
the mechanism. “T hey ar e the condition as well as the effect of any m aking, any
producing” (Grosz 199 4: 16 8).
In their idea, ps ychoanalysis relie s on a notion of desire as a l ack, an absence
that stri ves to be fill ed, through the attainme nt of an impossible object. Del euze and
Guattari propos e an alternative notion to des ire. In their eyes, de sire can be seen as
a f low that pr oduces , connects , makes mechanical alli ances. De sire can be an
actualization ( presence and absence are coupl ed in this f ramework), a series of
practices , making r eality by bringing things together or separating them into their
singulari ties, or even making machi nes, “desiring machines”. Del euze and Guattari
see the body as eleme nts or fragm ents of a de siring machi ne and thems elves as
com posed “desir ing machines ”. In the perform ing ar ts (as well as other di scipli nes),
Del euze and Guattari’s concepts of be coming, machines , Body without O rgans
(BwO ) have s erved as a basis f or ex plorations of the perfor mer’s physi cal
rel ations hip to space and presence and the space be tween humanity and othe r
3.3 .B Del euze's and Guattari's concept(s) of the body
Del euze and Guattari provide an all together differe nt way of unde rstanding
the body and its connections with other bodie s, both hum an and non-human,
ani mate and inanimate , li nking organs and biologi cal pr ocesse s to m aterial obje cts
and social practices, while re fusing to subordinate the body to a unity or
hom ogenei ty of the ki nd provided by consciousness or bi ological organization. Their
notion of the body can be formulated as a “di sconti nuous, non-totalizable se ries of
processes , or gans, fl ows, energies , corporal substances and incorpor eal events,
spe eds and durations” (Grosz 1 994:16 9). This way of conceiving of the body can be
see n as an atte mpt to place it outside the bi nary opposition im posed by the
body/mind, nature/culture , subject/ object and i nterior/exte rior oppositions.
Fol lowing Spinoza 53 , Del euze and Guattari understand the body more i n term s of
what affects it i s capable of ins tead of concentrating on the consequences of having
a body: “T he thi ngs it can perform , the linkages i t establis hes, the transformations
53 . . . S p i n o z a ’ s q u e s t i o n : w h a t i s t h e b o d y c a p a b l e o f ? W h a t a f f e c t s i s i t c a p a b l e o f ? A f f e c t s a r e b e c o m i n g s : s o m e w h e r e t h e y
a w a k e n u s t o t h e e x t e n t t h e y d i m i n i s h o u r s t r e n g t h o f a c t i o n a n d d e c o m p o s e o u r r e l a t i o n s ( s a d n e s s ) , s o m e t i m e s t h e y m a k e
u s s t r o n g e r t h r o u g h a u g m en t i n g o u r f o r c e , a n d m a k e u s e n t e r i n t o f a s t e r a n d h i g h e r i n d i v i d u a l ( j o y ) . S p i n o z a n e v e r c e a s e s t o
b e a s t o n i s h e d b y t h e b o d y : n o t o f h a v i n g a b o d y, b u t a t w h a t t h e b o d y i s c a p a b l e o f . B o d i e s a r e d e f i n e d n o t b y t h e i r o r i g i n s
a n d f u n c t i o n s , b u t b y w h a t t h e y c a n d o , t h e a f f e c t s t h e y a r e c a p a b l e o f , i n p a s s i o n a s i n a c t i o n . D e l e u z e , G i l l e s a n d P a r n e t ,
C l a i r e , D i a l o g u e s . L o n d o n : A t h l o n e 1 9 8 7 : 7 4
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 49
and becomings it under goes, and the mechanic connections it forms with other
bodies, what it can li nk with, how i t can proliferate its capacities” (Del euze and
Guattari 19 87: 74 ).
Del euze and Guatari “concei ve of human beings as desiri ng machines. This
refers , in part, to the i dea that des ire stems fr om a m oment pri or to structure and
representation. Bodies are des iring machines, in which such things as ideas, feel ings,
and desir es flow i n and out of one body/machine and into and out of other desir ing
machines” (Aus lander, 20 08: 87 ). In Del euze and Guattari’s idea, de sire i s like a
machine because it acts in ways very simil ar to a machine in that both are
productive. A “desir ing machine” opposes the notion of unity or oneness. Therefor e,
the ir notion of the body can no l onger be see n as an organism centred eithe r
biologically or psychically, or ganized in ter ms of an “overarching conscious or
unconscious, cohesive through its i ntenti onality or i ts capacity for re flecti on and
sel f-refl ection” (Grosz 199 4:178) . Instead, the body is fr ee and open to the flows
and intensities of the desi ring m achine s that compose it. Following Antonin Arteaud,
Del euze and Guattari call this fr ee and open body, “the Body without Or gans”, the
BwO, a body i n abundance of its organization (biological, ps ychical, and signifying)
and organs. The y distinguis h the BwO from the si ngular, or ganized, se lf-contained,
organic body. Del euse and Guattari’s noti on of the BwO attem pts to denaturalize
hum an bodies and to place the body in direct relati on/connection to f lows and
par ticles of other bodies and thi ngs. Unlike psychoanalysi s whi ch regards the body
as a developmental union or aggregate of partial obje cts, or gans, dr ives, or ifice s,
each with their own significance, their own modali ties of pleasure which, through the
processes of Oe dipal reorganizati on, br ing these partial objects and erotogeni c
bodily zone s into alignment i n the service of a highe r goal than their immedi ate,
local gratification ( the ul timate goal being reproduction), the BwO invoke s a
concept of the body that is disinvested of fantas y, im ages, pr ojecti ons,
representations , a body without a psychical or se cret i nterior, wi thout internal
cohesion and latent s ignificance. Del euze and Guattari speak of it as “a s urface of
spe eds and inte nsitie s before it is str atified (layere d), unified, or ganized, and
hie rarchi zed” (Grosz 1 994: 16 9). The BwO resis ts the layeri ngs and overcodings that
produce the thr ee gre at ide ntitie s: the union cons tituti ng the organism, the
uni fication that constitutes the subj ect, and the structure of signi ficance. “There is
nothing to inte rpret” ( Del euze and Guattari 1987:1 53).
At the end of this paragraph I want to summar ize Del euze and Guattari’s
mai n ideas about the body and the body/ mind r elationship: The body of Del euze
and Guattari is no longer in oppositi on with its surroundings , they try to overcome
dualism. They no longer refer to bodies as beings, objects, identiti es, but rather as
multiplici ties, intensities, fl ows, “becomings ”. The body does not have i mposed
binary oppositi ons such as mind/body, culture/nature, subject/ object and
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 50
interior/ exteri or and is no longer subordinated to cons ciousness or to bi ological
organization. The body is rhi zomatic and in active connection and inte raction with
its surroundings. It is addres sed li ke a f lat pl ane, wi thout a hie rarchi c organisati on. It
no longer refers to a unity or cohesion, a body that functions from a central
organisation, instead, it is composed of di ffere nt par ts or planes and can link to
obj ects and space, make new assem blages or machines. Its acti ons ar e not motivated
to fulfil lack or desi re and/or the confirm ation of the body’s meaning, li ke we have
see n in the Ins ide Out chapter, but on what it can do, what the body is capable of. It
for ms constellations, not out of its natur e and value, but from modes of organizati on
of dispar ate substances. The body is an open structure, it does not re veal a secret
interior, nor does it confirm a “blue print” but i s in a motion of “becomi ng”.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 51
Impression of Giulia Mureddu’s re search.
Photos: Konrad Szymañski
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 52
4 The choreographic research of Giulia Mureddu
The following chapter is an analysis of the chor eographic re search I obs erved
for this thesis , which was calle d: Deformalization and Depersonaliza tion. It took place
from January 12 until Fe bruary 12 200 8 in the Danslab, The Hague. Mur eddu
col laborated wi th the performers Katerina Die tzóva and Keyna Nar a. I t was my aim
to find out which i mplici t and explicit ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about
the body could be implied i n Mur eddu’s chore ographic res earch. To collect
inf ormati on for this thesis , I interviewed Mur eddu twice after s he fini shed her
res earch, re ad books, he r blog and texts related to her r esearch. Be fore I elaborate
on my findings, I shall briefl y intr oduce Mur eddu’s activities as a choreographer and
her descr iption of the rese arch s he conducted.
In the work of Mur eddu ( NL/IT) , as she describes on her webs ite, “the body is not
always a dancing body, but some times also j ust an everyday body” 54 . On stage , one
see s and experi ences a human body which dance s and sings, wrestles, tr iumphs and
makes love. As a choreographer, she “investigates the point of inte rsecti on between
abs tract moveme nt material and more the atrical expr essions” 55 . He r body language is
detailed, staccato and poly-rhythmical. Objects, light and live musi c all play an
equally i mportant rol e alongside the pe rforme rs. Mur eddu writes that s he
approache s chor eography “as a game be tween a set structure and the freedom to
improvis e”. He r focus when creating a choreography i s “not the visual ordering of
the body and the bodi es in space, but the perfor mer and the way he relates to his
body - the body as a reservoir of fear s and desire s, ps ychological comple xes
and sociological sche mes”. 56 Mur eddu’s work is presented throughout the
Netherlands and abroad. She created guest choreogr aphies for Dan sgroep Chris tina
de Châ tel and The aterschool Amsterdam, am ong others. He r work was pre sented in
var ious theatre s and festivals including the Oer ol Fes tival, the Tane c Praha Fes tival
(Pr ague) and in the Middle East.
4.0 .A Res earch descri ption
The chore ographic res earch centre Danslab, where Mur eddu conducted her
res earch, as ks all chore ographers to openl y communi cate about the aim s and subject
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 53
of their choreographi c rese arch. I find it important to re produce here the unedite d
tex t of the choreographer’s research as a refere nce to my theoretical r esearch on
the impli cit and expl icit i deas about the body that infor med the chor eographer's
res earch. Be low you will find her description as it can be re ad on the webs ite of
Def ormali zation and Depersonalization
When does the a rtific ial separation of dance and th eatre blur?
When is a movement sequence abstract and when is it th eatric al?
In my res earch, I will focus on two core t erms: ‘deformalization ’ and ‘depersonalization ’.
The definitions are an extension of my former searc h for the duality between abs tract
and theat rical, human and forma l – a dualit y always present in my work. Together with
my dancers Kat erina Dietzóva an d Keyn a Na ra, wh o will also join my next creation, I
will focu s on movemen t lan guage and possibilities for fu ture materia l. I want to provoke
my dance material by bringing in more huma n elements. Therefore I will lead a
workshop with p eople who are educ ated n either in da nce nor in theatre. I want to
res earch the in terpretation of my choreograph ic idiom through an ‘unknowing’ body. I
expect an interesting exch ange between my profess ional dan cers a nd the non-educated
people. Unt il wha t poin t am I able to deformalize my idiom? The collected materia l in
the first phase will form t he physical ground to st art digging int o the term
‘deperson alizat ion’. I intend to deperson alize the da ncer by putt ing his /her body first.
For this process I have invited pupp eteer and pu ppet c reator Ulrike Qua de. How can
the work with p uppets and masks be made more abstract and t he dan ce be made more
con crete? Is it pos sible to make t he body conc rete t o the extent tha t it can be looked
upon as a n independen t, living object, so one might s peak of a depersonalized da ncer?
(Mureddu, Ja nuary 2008)
4.1 Comparison with Grosz
To be able to place Mur eddu’s im plicit and e xplici t ideas, as sumpti ons and
pre suppos itions about the body into Grosz's model, I analyzed four elem ents of her
res earch: the integration of an object, in this case a mask into the body-container
that allowed the pe rforme rs to “re-ex perience the ir bodies”; work with “the
unknowing body” (people wi thout dance/ theatr e education) ; “def ormali ze” her
choreographic i diom; and the use of the mask to “de personalize” the dancer. I will
start with anal yzing her notion of the body-container and the person “locke d
within” i t. Although the body-container with the pe rson-l ocked- within was not an
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 54
explicit resear ch subject, I do bel ieve that it holds a significant place in her idea
about the body in her work and therefore is important for this study.
4.1 .A The body as a homunculus
In one of our i ntervi ews, Mur eddu s tated that what is at stake in her work
“is the possibi lity to give e xpress ion to the pers on-locked-wi thin-his-body” 58 . On her
webs ite, she described the body as a “container, a reservoir of re cognizable
emotions, fear s and desire s, ps ychological comple xes and sociological s chemes ” 59 .
She referr ed to the skin as the border between “the inne r and outside worl d” 60 of
the body, which ke eps the whol e “together”. She mentioned that the way the body
and its parts were used by the per former s depe nds on their personal ex periences.
She held these experi ences responsible for the way the per former used his/he r
body, hi s/her relati ons to other s and the us e of objects and s pace. Mur eddu’s
container metaphor suggests an inner space, a reservoir full of per sonal and unique
experiences that create the container’s volume and mark its edges. I unders tood
that the border s of the container even locked the person inside . It looked as if
Mur eddu s aw the ski n as the lim it of the containe r that did not see m to dissolve i ts
bor ders. This could explain why the per former s' bodies us ed dir ection and height
dif fere nces as autonomous units clearly separ ated f rom the worl d they move i n, in
other words, the body-container was in space, not of i t. This body-container seemed
to functi on like an i nner s pace that gathered and/or unified the perform ers' m ental
and physi cal ex periences into one centr al spot. I sugges t that Mur eddu assumed the
body-container gave access to a s ingular worl d, the rese rvoir of pr ivate experi ences
of the pe rson-l ocked- within. I had the impr ession that the way the body-container
was occupied and lived was relate d to what was insi de the reser voir of the
container, li ke “fear s and desire s and psychological complexes” that were
res ponsible for how the body and its parts were perce ived. This define d what the
per former rejected, pr eferr ed, avoided. It created hi erarchy i n the way the body was
use d or, in Mur eddu’s words, “m oveme nt habits”.
From what I obs erved, the rese rvoir or inside of the body-container could
be unders tood as a form of introjection of the m eaning and s ignificance of the body
and its parts, li ke an internal map of the perf ormer’s pers onal perception of his/her
own body. I want to suggest that Mur eddu’s body- contai ner does not refer to the
anatomical body but to an i nternal mental image, specific to the person-lockedins
ide and his/ her pe rsonal reser voir. This woul d expl ain why her interest as a
choreographer i s to “give e xpress ion to the person- locked-withi n-his- body”. Thi s
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 55
could be interpreted as an attempt to r eveal the perform er’s private and i nternal
image determini ng how the body-container took i ts for m and define d inte raction.
Thi s seem ed to be bas ed on the as sumpti on that the content of the res ervoir could
be externalized; a moveme nt from the inside of the body container, the private
res ervoir, to the outside of the body container, the public. Mur eddu r eferr ed to
what was expose d of the ins ide of the body-containe r as “recognizable”, as
som ething that could be understood by those watching as i f the body could be read.
She assum es a causal relati onship between the i nside of the container and the
per former s' behaviour, or in other words: This per son is like this and the refore acts
and reacts like that. Se en thi s way, he r body-container becomes a vehi cle for what is
ins ide the rese rvoir. When rendered public, the body’s meaning can be shared and
recognized. The body-container s eems to function as a me dium connected to chains
of signification that could be “read” by the spe ctator s as a confirm ation of its
meaning and/or truth. When I r elate my observations of her body- contai ner to the
mapping of Gros z, it could be compar ed with the ideas about the body ari sing i n the
work of the psychoanal ysts and the way they as sume an inte rnal i mage of the body,
as we have s een in the I nside- Out category. As Mur eddu r eferr ed explicitl y to a
per son-locked-within- his-body, he r particular under standi ng of the body-container
see med to be im plied by the ide as evi dent i n Freud’s work, specifically hi s noti on of
the “cortical homunculus”.
In Freud’s idea, the way the body is occupi ed and lived is deter mined by the
ego, the medi ator between the i nside and the outs ide, wi th the skin as a clear
separation. The subj ect re flects from its inside on the outside as i f it was separated,
and there fore i t does not dissolve i ts bor ders. Fr eud se es the skin as “the call us of
the ego” that i nforms the i nternal map of the body. As we have s een in secti on
2.1 A, he sees the ego as a mental proj ection on the surf ace of the body, and in his
wri tings he refers to the “cor tical homunculus”, a tiny “maniki n” registere d in the
cer ebral cortex , in the f ront of the head. Instead of a point-f or-point pr ojecti on of
the outsi de of the body in its entirety, it stres ses ce rtain points of intensity above
others. These points are related to how the per sonal experi ences of the subje ct are
per ceived and translated in the use of the body. It deter mines the way the subject
invests in and is attached to his/he r body, how action/ interaction takes place. It
define s the symbol ic and hierarchic relati on with the self and the surrounding worl d.
Fre ud poi nts out the influe nce of memor ies, internal drives, de sires and fear s on the
subject's behaviour and perception of hi s/her body.
Referr ing to Mur eddu’s body- contai ner, it looks like it functions as a confine d
uni ty, bordered by the lim its of the s kin. The pers on-locked-within- his-body
res embles Freud’s homunculus i n the ideas of how e xperie nce re nders the subject's
body meaningful . For both Mur eddu and Fre ud, the inte rnal i mage r efers to a form
of internalization of the body and its parts, and convers ely, the body is formed
thr ough projection. It functions as the boundary or border of subjecti vity, which
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 56
divides the subject f rom other subjects and f rom objects in the worl d. In line with
Fre ud, Mur eddu's body- contai ner could be seen as an externalization of what is
ess ential ly pri vate, psychological and dee p in the individual. In Mur eddu’s view, as
with Freud, the single and unified identity of the perform er can be re ndered public
and meani ngful through either analysis or choreography. I want to refer here to a
quote of Freddi e Rokem in his ar ticle Act ing an d Psyc hoanalysis 61 : “B oth theatre and
psychoanalysis search the i ndividual's private psychic li fe which becomes public or
receives a public form of expression through these two activities. When the private
is made public, theatre and ps ychoanalysis becom e effective” (Rokem 198 7:181) .
In the body/mind relationship, Fr eud and Mur eddu agree that it is thr ough
per ception, which involves both the mental and the psychi cal, that the subje ct
acquires a unified and cohesive body image. The skin functions as the sieve or
bor der: the inte rmediate in the pe rcepti on of the insi de and the outside . Mur eddu,
in line with Fr eud, apparently ass umes that what is experi enced is col lected in an
interior reservoir and creates the s pecific behaviour as if there is already som ething
ins ide the subj ect/pe rforme r that urges it towar ds others and through others i nto
the social. As if it were a moveme nt from the inside out.
4.1 .B The body as a pliable contai ner
In one of our i ntervi ews, Mur eddu told me that in her view, most of our
“communi cation happe ns thr ough the face and the eyes” 62 . She cons iders that the
eyes and the face are the mos t signifying part of the body- contai ner. I observed that
Mur eddu was motivated to change the per ception of the body-container and
the refore “blocked this bri dge of communi cation” 63 wi th a m ask. The mask was
placed over the he ads of the two perform ers, and Mur eddu assumed that, as a
consequence, “the res t of the container can take a differe nt pos ition” 64 . He r idea
was that the mask could be integr ated i nto the body-container. Mur eddu: “So it
became re ally one thi ng, complete ly a part of the body.” 65 The effect of the
integrate d mask woul d let the pe rforme rs “re -exper ience” their body. She
apparentl y assumed that the body- contai ner is able to integrate the m ask. To be
even more e xact, the inte gration of the mas k seem ed to be the condi tion f or the reexperiencing
of the body-containe r. As a res ult, the perf ormer’s body woul d feel and
act differe ntly. Mur eddu: “T he firs t time you put the mask on, somehow i t is
ine vitable that you start behaving differe ntly, you are a bit more awar e of what
61 R o k e m , F r e d d i e . A c t i n g a n d P s y c h o a n a l y s i s : S t r e e t S c e n e s , P r i v a t e S c e n e s , a n d Tr a n s fe r e n c e . T h e a t r e J o u r n a l , 3 9 , n o . 2 ( M a y
1 9 8 7 ) : 1 7 5 . - 1 8 4
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 57
happens i nside your body. And also, we needed two hours of laughing before we
could work seriously.” 66 It becam e evident that the mask, an object, something that
doe s not belong to the body, pr ovoke d laughter, di slike and fascination. In order for
the performers to accept and/or i ntegrate the masks in their body-container,
Mur eddu gave them ti me to work and to get used to it. The mask was not onl y an
external object to which the perf ormers had to adjust, it also limite d thei r visi on
and there fore their perception of and r elation to s pace. This made it necessary to
re- orientate this rel ations hip, and the perfor mers had to move around with the
mas k on to be able to establis h a solid notion of this new r elationship.
As we s aw above, Mur eddu’s idea of the body- contai ner re fers to an inter nal
body image, a subjective m ap of the me aning of the body and its parts to the
subject; it creates hie rarchy i n the use of the body and the way objects and s pace
are perce ived. As expre ssed i n the interview, Mur eddu s aw the face and the eyes as
mos t significant. I want to suggest that thi s assumption was related to her pe rsonal
internal map, in which these parts of her body are significantly m ore pr esent than
other par ts. This woul d expl ain why s he placed a mask on the head of the
per former s in order to make them re-experience thei r body, as refle cted i n the
ass umed hierarchic structur e of her own internal image . Mur eddu assumed a body
that was able to integrate exter nal objects into i t as i f it were a pli able structure.
From what I obs erved, she felt that one needs to per sonall y invest in the
mas k/obje ct to be accepted as par t of the body-container. To m ake the change s of
the body- contai ner ef fective, the body neede d to m ove and re- adjust its
‘coordinates’ to space and time.
Given the way that Mur eddu r eferr ed to the body-container as a pliable
str ucture , he r particular under standi ng of the body could be compar ed with the
ide as about the body evident in Schilder’s work, particul arly his ide a of the osm otic
body image. As we have s een in secti on 2.3 B for Schilder, the body image is a map
or repres entati on of the de gree of narcissistic investment by the subject in its own
body and body parts. The borders of the body im age ar e not fixed by nature or
confine d to the anatomical “container ”, the skin. They are “osmotic” and have the
rem arkable power of accommodating and incorporating an extr emely wide r ange of
obj ects. Schilder refers to the sens ory and kine stheti c apparatus of the body that i s
able to integrate the object into the body-image.
Mur eddu’s expli cit idea that the mask could be integr ated i nto the bodycontainer
paral lels Schilder’s osmotic body image. She as sumes that the for m of the
body-container does not cor respond with the anatomi cal body, but is relate d to the
nar cissis tic investment i nto the body-container and its parts . This explicit
ass umption was trans lated in her state ment that the eyes and the face are the mos t
significant par ts of the body. In order to change the ass umed hierarchic structur e of
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 58
the body- contai ner, Mur eddu placed the mask on the he ads of the perform ers. In
line with Schilder, she assumed that the mask could be integrate d into the bodycontainer
and woul d change its presupposed hierarchic structure or, in her own
words, all ow the perf ormers to ”r e-expe rience their body”. Both the body image
and the body–containe r are not fixed by the anatomical border of the skin. They can
shr ink and expand, ar e open to ne w meanings and investment and can incor porate
other obj ects. Schilder sugges ts that obje cts be come a tool if the y become a
medium, a vehi cle of impre ssions and e xpress ion.
Schilder points out though that part of the difficulty wi th objects is not
sim ply the technical problem s of how they ar e used (in Mur eddu’s case the mask
with limi ted eyesi ght), but also how the obj ects become psychi cally (and
nar cissis ticall y) invested. I want to refer to what Schilder calls “zone s of s ensiti vity”
whi ch concern “a zone outsi de the body, occupying its surrounding space” (Gros z,
199 4: 79 ). Schilder sees this as a zone of safety, and it f unctions alm ost as a filter in
the case of acceptance or r ejecti on of other objects into the body im age. As we s aw
in the ex ample in the beginning of this secti on and in li ne with Schilder, Mur eddu
facilitated a period where the pe rforme rs could accept the mask into their sensitive
zone s, si nce it touches the face and the neck and changes the general exper ience of
the body. Both Schilder and Mur eddu assume that the mom ent the obje ct is
accepted within the s ensiti ve zone s, it is no longe r an object disconnected from the
body but become s inte grated into the body-image/container.
In their body/m ind re lationship, Schilder and Mur eddu s eem to agree that
both the mental and the psychical are necessary ingredients for creating a pliable
body-image/container. In their ide a the sensor y and kinesthetic apparatus of the
body enables the i ntegration of obje cts. The body image /container is a form of
internali zation of the meaning and significance of the body and its parts. They both
see a cor respondence between the f orm of the body and the form of the mind. The
body image/container both unifies the differe nt experiences and sense perce ptions
into an i nternal space and create s the specific behaviour of the s ubject/performer
and/or the way the psychical inter ior has made the body its form of ex terior ity.
4.1 .C The body as “unknowing”
In Mur eddu’s chore ographies, as she writes on her webs ite, “the body is not
always a dancing body” 67 . In an intervie w, she told me that thi s referr ed to a body
coded and/or formalized by dance technique. In her work she combined this
“dancing body” with what she call ed “the dail y body” that in he r opinion is more
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 59
the atrical 68 and which she assume s is “not coded by dance technique”. In her
opi nion, the “dancing body” i s domi nant i n the ideas about dance in the Nethe rlands
that focuses on “the visual order ing of the body” 69 . I believe s he refers here to the
emphasis on the formal aesthetics of the body in choreogr aphy, which she also
recognized in her own work. He r rese arch s ubject “def ormali zation” was motivated
to challe nge this coded “dancing body”. During f our consecutive days, Mur eddu
worked with gues ts who had not yet been e xposed to the dance/theatre education
sys tem. She referr ed to her guests' bodies as an “unknowing body”. Through
working wi th the m, she hope d “to get ri d of f ormal habits ” that, in her i dea, were
connected “to technique, to patte rns” 70 . Mur eddu s electe d elem ents f rom their
moveme nts and worked with her dancer s to i ntegrate thi s into her choreographic
material. She told me, “What I try to do is to tr ain the dancer so that he is able to
go away f rom ce rtain habits ” 71 . In the r esearch process s he noticed s ignificant
dif fere nces i n the behaviour of herse lf, of her perform ers and of the “unknowing
bodies” on both a physi cal and emotional level. 72 She referr ed to them as reactions
“that for us pr ofess ional dancer s are unimaginable, physi cal and psychological” 73 . To
give e xpress ion to this feel ing, Mur eddu f ormulated the term “bungee-jum p effect”,
whi ch she descr ibed as: “What woul d the dancer need to be able to experience
such an overwhelming emotion?” 74
68 T h e w o r d “ t h e a t r i c a l ” i s a c o m p l i c a t e d t e r m i n t h e p e r f o r m i n g a r t s a n d t h e a t r e s t u d i e s . I n t h e l i g h t o f t h i s t h e s i s , I w i l l
n o t e l a b o r a t e o n i t . F o r f u r t h e r r e a d i n g : We b e r, S a m u e l , T h e a t r i c a l i t y a s M e d i u m . F o r d h a m U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , N e w Yo r k , 2 0 0 4
69 M u r e d d u s t a t e s : “ E s p e c i a l l y h e r e i n H o l l a n d , t h e d a n c e s c e n e h a s t o d o a l o t w i t h c o d i fi c a t i o n ” ( I n t e r v i e w M u r e d d u J u n e
2 0 0 8 ) . W i t h t h i s r e m a r k s h e s t a t e s t h a t t h e r e i s a n e m p h a s i s o n c o d i f i e d a n d / o r “ f o r m a l i z e d ” m o v e m e n t t h a t i s p re s e n t e d o n
t h e s t a g e s o f t h e N e t h e r l a n d s . I w a n t t o r e f e r h e r e t o w h a t h e r d r a m a t u r g e s a y s a c c o r d i n g l y : “ T h e v i s u a l o r d e r i n g o f t h e
b o d y a n d b o d i e s i n t i m e a n d s p a c e , b o u n d o r n o t t o c o n c e p t u a l c o n t r a c t s , h a s l e a d t o t h e f a c t t h a t ‘ t h e i m a g e ’ o f t h e b o d y
b e c a m e m o r e i m p o r t a n t t h a n t h e e x p e r i e n c e o f t h e m o v e r ( d a n c e r ) o r t h e m o v e r h i m s e l f ” ( R o b i n Tu n c a , d r a m a t u r g e o f
M u r e d d u , r e s e a r c h r e p o r t w w w . d a n s l a b . n l . ) . I w i l l n o t e x p l o r e M u r e d d u ’ s o p i n i o n a b o u t t h e c h o i c e s m a d e b y t h e g o v e r n i n g
p o w e r s o f D u t c h d a n c e i n t h i s t h e s i s , b u t i t w o u l d b e i n t e r e s t i n g t o r e s e a r c h t h i s s u b j e c t m o r e e x t e ns i v e l y. I w a n t t o d i r e c t
m y a t t e n t i o n t o t h i s s u b j e c t i n f u t u r e r e s e a r c h .
70 S o m e t i m e s w i t h d a n c e r s i t i s r e a l l y e x t r e m e . T h e y h a v e t h i s v e r y b i g l a n g u a g e o f t e c h n i q u e , t r a i n i n g o f t h e d a n c e r s i s
k i n d o f e x t r e m e . I w a s t a l k i n g w i t h M a r c e l f r o m t h e Ve e m T h e a t e r, h e f e l t t h a t f o r m i m e p e o p l e , i t i s u n i m a g i n a b l e t o u s e
t h e s t e p s o f a t e c h n i q u e i n t h e p e r f o r m a n c e . . . . . b u t i n d a n c e w e u s e c e r t a i n f o r m a l e s t h e t i c s c l e a r l y a n d e a s i l y.
71 I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
72 M u r e d d u a n d h e r d a n c e r s w o r k e d i n t e n s i v e l y w i t h t h e i r g u e s t s a n d d i s t i l l e d s e v e r a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s t h a t a r o s e d u r i n g t h e
r e s e a r c h t h a t M u r e d d u d e s c r i b e d a s :
A . W r o n g a b s o r p t i o n o f t h e w e i g h t t h r o u g h t h e k n e e s . M u r e d d u e x p l a i n e d t h a t d a n c e r s a r e t r a i n e d t o d e a l w i t h t h e
a b s o r p t i o n o f w e i g h t i n a c e r t a i n w a y. W i t h i n t h i s t e c h n i q u e , t h e t i m i n g o f t h e b e n d i n g o f t h e k n e e s i s i m p o r t a n t . S o m e
“ n o n - d a n c e r s ” h a d a h a r d t i m e u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h i s t e c h n i q u e a n d a c t u a l l y b e n d a t “ t h e w r o n g m o m e n t ” .
B O v e r t r u s t . S o m e n o n - d a n c e r s g a v e m o r e w e i g h t t h a n t h e r e c e i v i n g p e r s o n c o u l d p o s s i b l y t a k e . M u r e d d u e x p l a i n e d t h a t
d a n c e r s a r e t r a i n e d t o fi n d a fi n e b a l a n c e a n d n o t t o v i o l a t e t h a t .
C S t r o n g i n j e c t i o n o f e m o t i o n a n d i m m e d i a t e r e c o v e r. S o m e n o n - d a n c e r s w o u l d h a v e a v e r y s t r o n g p h y s i c a l o r e m o t i o n a l
r e a c t i o n j u s t b e f o r e o r a f t e r t h e y h a d t o e xe c u t e a m o v e m e n t , b u t r e c o v e r e d i m m e d i a t e l y a n d r e s t a r t e d . D a n c e r s a r e
t r a i n e d t o r e p r e s s t h i s a n d fi n d “ e l e g a n t ” a n d / o r p r a c t i c a l s o l u t i o n s , w i t h i n t h e f l o w o f t h e p e r f o r m a n c e .
73 I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
74 M u r e d d u a d d e d t h i s c o m m e n t t o t h e o b s e r v a t i o n s : “ A s a d a n c e r, i f yo u d e a l w i t h e x t e r n a l f a c t o r s , yo u a r e a l w a y s
i n t e g r a t i n g t h e m i n w h a t yo u a r e d o i n g . . . . a n d w i t h t h e s e p e o p l e i t w a s v e r y c l e a r t h a t i f s o m e t h i n g w o u l d h a p p e n , i t w o u l d
h a v e a d i r e c t e f f e c t o n t h e m , t h e y w o u l d e i t h e r l a u g h o r a m o m e n t o f b e i n g s c a r e d . . . . r e a l l y e x a g g e r a t e d r e a c t i o n a n d t h e n
g o b a c k w i t h t h e a s s i g n m e n t . W h a t i n t e r e s t e d m e w a s n o t s o m u c h t h e r e s u l t / e xe c u t i o n b u t t h e p r o c e s s , a n d t h a t w a s r e a l l y
c l e a r w i t h t h e s e p e o p l e , b e c a u s e f o r t h e m i t w a s t h e fi r s t t i m e , e v e r y t h i n g w a s s o n e w , i t w a s r e a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g t o s e e h o w
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 60
According to the Koe nen Di ctionary, “f ormal” me ans: “characterized by or
organized in accordance with conventions governing ce remony, be havior or dress”
(Koe nen 20 04:67) . If I translate this to Mur eddu’s research, it looks as if she
ass umes that the “dancing body” ( we s ee in the Ne therlands) is formal ized by the
governing conventions about dance. This could explain why s he referr ed to school s,
the atres and subsidy criter ia and held their selection and excl usion proces ses
res ponsible for the codi ng and formi ng of this body. It seeme d that for Mur eddu,
the se educational, cul tural and political systems pr oduce certai n abil ities and al most
eli minate other abili ties of the body. This could explain why s he looked outside the
conventions of dance and worked with people who had no dance education to
“def ormali ze” her idi om. She pres uppose d that the “unknowing body” woul d provide
access to forgotten abiliti es of the “dancing body”. Mur eddu s eemed to bel ieve her
body was coded to act in accordance with what discourse conside rs dance and that
she (re) produces, be ing a representative of the Dutch dance scene. Re lations of
for ce, of power (in he r case educational , pr ofess ional and cultural syste ms), wi th the
use of di stinct techniques, li ke training, supervis ion, and discipline , de fine the body’s
behaviour. As we s aw at the beginning of this section, she too uses these s ystems in
her working me thod. I recognized it at work in the way she appr oached the body of
her dance rs in order to challenge the f ormal use of the body. In Mur eddu’s strive to
bre ak for mal be haviour, ne w form al behaviour and codes are created by training/
dis ciplining the perf ormer to per form i n a specific way. Mur eddu “trains her dancers
to go away f rom habits”.
In my observations of Mur eddu’s approach to the s ubject of
“def ormali zation”, I did not re cognize a refere nce to a secret interior /depth of
nee ds and drives (unconscious ) of the body-subj ect, as we s aw with ps ychoanalytical
the ory. Nor did she pl ace the code d body in re fere nce to a uni fied and s ingular
worl d. I feel that her ex plicit ideas about the body i n this aspect of her res earch
suggested the i dea of the body as a page, on which a social te xt (or several texts)
can be wr itten as des cribed in the Outs ide-In category. Me ssages or te xts construct
bodies as networks of m eaning, pr oducing them as meaningful and functi onal
“subjects ” within social ensembles . The way that Mur eddu r eferr ed explicitl y to the
educational, pr ofess ional and cultural discourse that codes the “dancing body” could
be compar ed to the ideas de rived from Foucaul t’s work, in particular his ide as about
the power of dis course .
For Foucault, as we s aw i n section 3.2B, power produces a body as a
determinate type, a social construct with particul ar features, skills and attribute s. In
his view, power does not control the subject through system s of i deas-i deologies or
thr ough coercive f orce; rather, it surveys , supervis es, obs erves and meas ures the
body’s behaviour and inte ractions with othe rs. The Foucaulti an dis course about the
t h e y d e a l t w i t h i t . T h e q u e s t i o n t h a t a r o s e w a s : t h e b u n g e e - j u m p e f f e c t . . . . w h a t w o u l d t h e d a n c e r n e e d t o b e a b l e t o
e x p e r i e n c e s u c h a n o v e r w h e l m i n g e m o t i o n . ”
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 61
ody involves governing knowle dge and truth about it. Foucault sees knowle dge and
truth as what a parti cular cultur e counts as true. For him discur sive knowle dge
regulates what ‘can be said and done’, what constitutes right and wrong, and what
counts as knowle dge in the firs t place. If I translate Foucault’s ideas to Mur eddu’s
ass umptions, I could say that for her dance is what is s ociall y recognized and the
body is coded to per form what is value d as s uch by governing (Dutch) discourse. I
suggest that Mur eddu r egards the “danci ng body” as a pass ive bundle of flesh that
is impregnated, modified by the dis cursive powers of dance that produce a speci fic
body and moveme nt in accordance. As we s aw, she appl ies rules and uses forms
com ing fr om dance dis course to inscribe her i deas about the moving body into the
body of her per former s. In line with Foucault’s way of looking at the body, Mur eddu,
without being e xplici tly awar e of this, applied governing structur ing me chanis ms of
dance dis course and s tayed linked withi n the network she f unctions in. Mur eddu’s
dancing body is inscr ibed anew and will “perf orm” a certain way, a way that is in
line with the noticed and unnoticed governing powers of dance di scours e. A docile
dancing body mar ked, br anded by a social, cultural and political seal. In the
body/mind relationshi p, Mur eddu r esembles Foucault in the i dea that external
sys tems i ncise the body with thei r conventions/discour se. These social i nscriptions
of the surface of the body generate a psychical interior that m akes the subject
per form a certain way, in accor dance wi th the text( s) that are inscri bed. I t is here
that I want to stress her work with the “unknowing body”. Fr om what I observed,
Mur eddu assumed it was outs ide of the s ystem and bared the forgotten abilities of
the “dancing body”. In her i dea, this body without dance education was free f rom
inf luence . I want to suggest that her work with the “unknowing body” was motivated
by her implicit idea that there is a body outs ide of dance discourse. Mur eddu’s work
with the unknowing body could be interpreted as a s trategy to r each an innocent
body that still uses all the poss ibilities that the coded “dancing body” has lost. He r
ide a of an un-i nscribed body seem s to be based on the assum ption that there i s
som ething like a pre- discur sive or pre- dance body. I conclude that in this aspect of
her research, Mur eddu i mplici tly as sumed a body as a blank page on which the
dis course of dance has not put its marker pen. A tabula rasa .
4.1 .D The body as its elf
“It is not the body that is expre ssing something, but the body i tse lf that is
the re,” 75 Mur eddu told me , in relation to her r esearch subj ect “depersonalization” 76
75 I n t e r v i e w J u l y 2 0 0 8
76 I w a n t t o r e f e r s h o r t l y t o S c h i l d e r w h o w a s c r e d i t e d f o r h i s r e s e a r c h o n “ d e p e r s o n a l i z a t i o n ” ( s e e p a r a g r a p h 2 . 3 B ) .
A l t h o u g h s h e u s e s t h e s a m e w o r d , I h a v e t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t i n M u r e d d u ’ s r e s e a r c h , t h e w o r d t a k e s o n a d i f f e r e n t m e a n i n g .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 62
that she conducted during the las t two weeks of her five-week research pe riod. It
was in this per iod that she invited the puppe teer/theatre maker Ulrike Quade to
work with her. They chose to work with masks that are an abstraction of the human
face. 77 This was motivated by the fact that for Mur eddu, the masks were not worn to
represent a character or a person or te ll a s tory. On the contrar y, wi th the abstr act
mas k on the eyes and face of the pe rforme rs, Mur eddu assumed a body that was
able to ”ex press itself rathe r than expre ss som ething” 78 . In one of our interviews,
Mur eddu stated that “by taking away the eyes and facial e xpress ion, the pers onality
of the dancer i s not so important anymore” 79 . In this aspect of he r rese arch, she
divided the body up i nto 5 differe nt segments that covere d feet, pe lvis, ar ms, spe ech
and emoti ons 80 (i ncludi ng use of voice). Each layer had its own indepe ndent task, and
all layers were addre ssed e qually. He r moti vation was to discover the unknown
pos sibili ties of the body and “br eak habits” 81 . Wi th the layers , she faci litate d a
multitude of impulses in a poly-rhythmic body that was explored in all i ts divers ity.
Mur eddu: “At a ce rtain point the body becom es kind of autonom ous, as if it
expresses itsel f.” 82 She pose d the following ques tion at the end of her r esearch
des cripti on in relati on to the us e of m asks: “Is it pos sible to make the body
concrete to the extent that it can be l ooked upon as an independe nt, li ving object,
so one mi ght speak of a depersonalized dancer ?” 83 What ide a, ass umption or
pre suppos ition about the body could be the motivati on for this resear ch que stion?
According to the Koe nen Di ctionary, “depersonalize” means “to take away or
omi t pers onal qualiti es from some body or some thing: to depri ve of the sense of
per sonal identi ty” (Koe nen 20 04:182 ). If I relate thi s expl anation to what I have
obs erved of Mur eddu’s re search, the masks coul d be s een as a tool to break away
from the dominating, si gnifyi ng par t of the face and the eyes and to explore the
body beyond the unifying elem ent of “pers onality”, as we s aw i n the Inside -Out
category (which was the topic of analys is in section 4.1B ). I want to suggest that
Mur eddu’s “depe rsonal ization” refers to an idea about the body that no l onger
car ries the bur den of its “identi ty” that nee ds to be expressed but i s base d on the
ass umption that the body can expr ess itself. This woul d expl ain why Mur eddu did
not addre ss the maske d body as a totali ty and/or containe r in this as pect of her
res earch but as a multi-layere d enti ty. The acce nt was no longer on having a body,
on expres sing what the body means to the perf ormer but on what the body can do;
F o r f u r t h e r r e a d i n g s e e S c h i l d e r, P a u l . M e d i c a l P s y c h o l o g y ( 1 9 5 3 ) . Tr a n s l a t e d b y D. R a p p a p o r t . N e w Yo r k : I n t e r n a t i o n a l
U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s
77 T h e m a s k s w e r e m a d e o u t o f s o f t m a t e r i a l s o t h a t o n e c o u l d s t i l l s e e t h e f a c i a l e x p r e s s i o n .
78 I n t e r v i e w J u l y 2 0 0 8
79 I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
80 A s f o r t h e l a y e r ‘ e m o t i o n s ’ , I w a n t t o s u g g e s t t h a t M u r e d d u f o c u s e d o n t h e p h y s i c a l a n d / o r m u s c u l a r e l e m e n t s o f
e m o t i o n s a n d n o t t h e c o n t e x t i n w h i c h t h e y s o c i a l l y f u n c t i o n . I t w a s s e e n a s o n e o f t h e m a n y p o s s i b i l i t y o f t h e b o d y.
81 M u r e d d u : “ W h e n yo u s e e t h e d a n c e r s w o r k i n g o n t h e l a ye r s , yo u s e e . . . . t h a t i s a l s o k i n d o f r e v e i l i n g . . . . i t f o r s e s t h e
d a n s e r s t o a n o t h e r k i n d o f m o v e m e n t . . . . . o u t s i d e t h e i r h a b i t s . . . . . i t i s a m e t h o d t o b r e a k h a b i t s . ” I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
82 I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
83 w w w . d a n s l a b . n l
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 63
as a seri es of possible activi ties, a force to be reckoned wi th. This thought i s
ill ustrated in the following citation: “I reali zed in my work, it stays still very human, I
tal k about body/mind, the idea of the body as a person locke d in the container.
Som ehow i t stays not dangerous, still too much contr ol. Maybe the ultimate power
wil l be the abi lity to have m oments when it becomes dangerous, where the body
som ehow takes over.” 84 Fr om what I observed, Mur eddu’s ideas about the body, in
thi s aspe ct of her re search, can be r elated to what was descr ibed i n the Outside-I n
category in chapter 3 , where the body is se en as a seri es of surfaces, energies and
for ces. Be cause of the way s he referr ed explicitl y to the “dangerous depe rsonal ized
body that expre sses i tself”, he r particular under standi ng of the body coul d be
com pared with the ide as about the body evident in N ietzsche’s notion of “dr ive to
expansion” of the body (section 3 .1B).
“Li ve dangerously” 85 is one of Nietzsche’s well -known pieces of advice. It is
his reminder that the most exuber ant and ecstatic e xperie nces of life do not grow
out of a well -prote cted e xistence whe re ris ks and extre mes ar e anxi ously kept away,
but out of a courageous exposure to the force s and conditions of life that activate
the best of a person’s powers . In Nietzsche’s idea, the powers of the body can be
unl eashed as a force of res istance. I want to refer to his “will to power”. In Beyond
Good and Evil 86 . Ni etzsche stated that “wil l power, or any other m ental phenom enon
is not the emanation of som e non- physi cal entity 'inside ' the body, but the selfexpressions
of a dynamic and multifaceted physi cal be ing” (Nie tzsche 196 7:134) .
Thi s idea paral lels Mur eddu’s work with the layers in which she addr essed the
multifaceted pos sibili ties of the body. He r urge for the body to e xpress itsel f or
even become dange rous could be relate d to N ietzsche’s “active f orces” that can
overthrow e xisting domi nant s tructures of reactive f orces, as we s aw i n section
3.1 B. I n line with Nietzs che, Mur eddu l iberated the active f orces in her will to
power to expand and by doing s o chal lenged the dominant reactive f orces that s ee
the body as a s ignifying me dium. I believe this was what Mur eddu aimed f or in
res earchi ng a “depers onalized dancer ”: the libe ration of he r assumption that the
body is an emanation of som e non- physi cal entity "inside ". He r impl icit i dea about
the body as an active f orce of resi stance resem bled Nietzsche’s idea of “dr ive to
expansion”. When it is fre e, it can open hi therto unknown possibilitie s. In the
body/mind relationshi p, Mur eddu’s idea parall eled N ietzsche's i dea that the re is an
internal battle going on in the body, it constructs system s of belief, corporeal
str ategie s or r esources. Se en thi s way, knowle dge and truth are a cons equence of
par ticular, dominant force s or passions of the body.
84 I n t e r v i e w J u n e 2 0 0 8
85 N i e t z s c h e , F r i e d r i c h . B e y o n d g o o d a n d e v i l ( t r a n s l a t i o n 1 9 7 3 ) . P e n g u i n b o o k s , ( 2 0 0 3 ) : 1 3 4
86 N i e t z s c h e , F r i e d r i c h . B e y o n d G o o d a n d E v i l : P r e l u d e t o a P h i l o s o p h y o f t h e F u t u r e , Tr a n s l a t e d b y W a l t e r K a u f m a n n , N e y
Yo r k : V i n t a g e B o o k s 1 9 6 7 : 5 6
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 64
4.1 .E Pre liminary conclusion
It is evi dent f rom my observations of Mur eddu’s chore ographic res earch
Deformalization and Depersonaliza tion that she was not explicitl y informed by any of
the Western thinkers I wrote about. Wi th the use of Gros z' categorizati on, I was
able to analyze the dif fere nt ide as, as sumpti ons and pres upposi tions about the body
implied i n her choreographi c rese arch and rel ate them to the di ffere nt aspects i n
her mappi ng and their speci fic body/m ind re lationship. I recognized the ideas of
Fre ud and Schilder, whom Grosz placed in the I nside- Out category, and Foucault and
Nie tzsche , who are place d in the Outside-I n cate gory. I will give a short overview of
the eleme nts I analyzed.
I placed Mur eddu’s body- contai ner wi th a person- locked-withi n in the Ins ide-
Out category. Her idea seemed to be implicitly i mplied by the work of Fr eud,
especiall y his notion of the homunculus. Mur eddu’s container f unctioned fr om an
internal image that was forme d by e xperie nce. In the body/mi nd rel ations hip, Fr eud
and Mur eddu agree that it is through perception, which involves both the mental
and the psychical, that the subje ct acquires a unified and cohesive body im age
for med by personal expe rience and i n contact wi th the social. I recognized the
fol lowing specifics of Mur eddu’s explicit idea of the container-body with a pe rsonlocked-wi
thin: The body acted as a confine d unity, bordered by the lim its of the s kin.
The subje ct was in hi erarchic rel ation to its own body, others, objects and space.
Depending on the “per sonali ty” of the perform er, specific elements were rejected or
included, and habi ts were forme d. Body, objects and space had symbolic m eaning.
The body functi oned as a me dium within the chains of signification. The identity of
the performer could be render ed public and m eaningful. It is li ke an externalization
of what i s esse ntiall y private, psychological and dee p in the individual.
I placed Mur eddu’s idea of the container-body as a pliable structure in which
obj ects could be integr ated i n the Inside -Out categor y. He r idea seeme d to be
implicitl y impl ied by the ide as from the work of Schilder, in parti cular his notion of
the osmotic body-image that is not fixed by the lim its of the s kin and is able to
integrate objects. Schilder and Mur eddu agree that both the mental and the
psychical are necessary ingredients for a pli able body container/image; the form of
the body- contai ner is related to the narcissi stic i nvestment i n the
subject’s /performer's body (parts ) and corres ponds with the for m of the mind. This
was refle cted i n Mur eddu’s assum ption that the eyes and the face are the mos t
signifying parts of the body’s communi cation. This motivated her to cover them. In
her ide a the body-container could the n take a dif fere nt for m, and the perfor mers
could re- experi ence their body. I r ecogni zed the following specifics in Mur eddu’s
ide a about the body i n this aspect of her res earch: Obj ects could be inte grated into
the body that challenged the body's supposed hierar chic s tructure and expanded
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 65
the body’s poss ibilities. The focus was on the performer having a body and his/her
per sonal relati on to the mask. The body-container f unctioned as a res ervoir that
col lected the i nformation of the perfor mer into one centr al spot and as the
experience of a singl e identity. Although pliable, the body was i n space, li ke an
isolated and autonomous uni t.
I placed Mur eddu’s idea of the “dancing body” as formalized by s ystems of
power that use the body to per form a certain way i n the Outside-In categor y. He r
ide a of the coded “dancing body” seems implicitly i mplied by the ide as pre sented in
the work of Foucault, in parti cular his notion of the power of dis course . Their idea
about the body/ mind r elationship is the same: that both body and m ind ar e involved
in the coding of the body, in which corporal inscriptions generate the effects of a
psychical inter ior. He r moti vation to work with the “unknowing body”, which in her
vie w was outside this syste m, was to “def ormali ze” her choreographic i diom and
ins ert it with “forgotten abiliti es of the dancing body”. I recognized the following
spe cifics in Mur eddu’s idea about the body in this aspect of her research: The body
was addre ssed as a te xt, formalized passive f lesh, ins erted/ inscri bed by power
str ucture s. It seeme d to be constr ucted by the force s that penetrate i t. The body
was disci plined and acted i n accordance with the noticed and unnotice d governing
truth about dance. Mur eddu used the same techniques of the syste ms she functions
in to “tr ain he r dancers”. I feel that her work with the unknowing body is a strate gy
implying the idea of the body as a tabula rasa .
I placed Mur eddu’s idea of a “depers onalized” and dangerous body that is
able to “to expre ss its elf” i n the Outside-In categor y. Mur eddu’s idea of the
“de personalized” dange rous body ex pressi ng its elf se emed to be i mplici tly im plied
by the ide as in the work of Ni etzsche, in parti cular his notion of “the drive to
expansion”. They agr ee that the body i s not the ex ternal tool of an inner sovere ign
mental ego, but an organis m within which the ego, or mind, pl ays a subordinate role .
The body is a f orce of creative action and a site of resi stance . I recognized the
fol lowing specifics in Mur eddu’s idea about the body in this aspect of her research:
The body was approached as a multi-layere d physi cal be ing. The differe nt par ts of
the body were addre ssed equally. The acce nt was on the poss ibilities of the body,
what it can do. Physi cal power was liber ated to overthrow prevail ing thoughts and
exi sting dominant sys tems within the body.
In her re search Deformalization and Depersonaliza tion, Mur eddu challenged
her under standi ng of the body that she is working from. She wanted to break
patterns or habits by trying out unknown resear ch approache s. It is through these
approache s that she hoped to find new possibi lities in the body. What was evide nt
in her re search was that di ffere nt ide as about the body co-exi st. Ideas that are not
necessari ly connected, sometime s even contradictor y. I recognized the ideas of
Fre ud and Schilder, whom Grosz placed in the Inside-O ut category, and Foucault and
Nie tzsche , whom Grosz placed in the O utside -In category.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 66
I s uggest that the internal image that we r ecogni ze i n the work of Fr eud was
par t of Mur eddu’s impli cit idea about the body. The inte rnal i mage connected to a
“containe r body with a pers on locked wi thin” create d a habitual , sym bolic and
hie rarchi c use of the body and pl aced the body as an autonomous unit in space.
Mur eddu challenged the container’s hier archy by placing a mas k over the parts of
the body that s he see s as m ost si gnificant: the face and the eyes. Im plied by the
ide as of Schilder and in contr ast to the i deas of Freud, the container-body was seen
as osmoti c. What uni fies both thinke rs of the Inside-O ut the ory is their presumption
of the ex periencing s ubject that unifies his perceptions i nto a singul ar worl d, they
are part of a s ingle identi ty. This is in contrast to Foucault’s ideas of the body as a
social construct that I recognized in Mur eddu’s “def ormali zation” of the “dancing
body”. She mentioned that she wanted to break the habits that were created and/or
ins cribed into the body. At the s ame ti me, she inscribed and/or “trai ned” her own
dancers using the sam e techniques of the systems she functions in. Based on my
obs ervati ons, I believe that Mur eddu f aced a confl ict be tween her i mplici t ideas
com ing fr om both the Inside -Out and Outside-I n cate gory. Mur eddu’s urge to com e
to a “depersonalized” body that can express i tself, instead of a body that
com muni cates the confirm ation of its meani ng leads me to question her central
metaphor of the body as a “contai ner wi th a person locked inside”.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 67
Impression of Kenzo Kus uda’s re search.
Photos: Konrad Szymañski and Eric Schrijver
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 68
5 The choreographic research of Kenzo Kusuda
In the following chapter is an analys is of the re search proce ss entitled A
Stu dy of One Body in front of Another B ody of Kenzo Kus uda. It took place f rom May
16 until June 2 7 2008 in the Danslab, The Hague. Kus uda collabor ated with the
dancers Mir eia de Que rol Duran, Kay Patr u and Joe ri Dubbe. My research focused
on which implicit and expli cit ideas, as sumpti ons, and pres upposi tions about the
body seem ed to be implied i n Kus uda’s choreographi c rese arch. To collect
inf ormati on for my thesis I inte rviewed Kus uda, re ad his texts and books and articles
rel ated to his resear ch. Kus uda invited me to obs erve his res earch in the studi o
once, and I was pres ent at the presentation at the end of his resear ch per iod.
Bef ore I elabor ate on my findings, le t us s tart with a short introduction of Kus uda’s
life and work and his des cripti on of his own resear ch.
Kenzo Kus uda (N L/J) i s a Holland- based Japane se choreographer/dancer.
Kor zo pr oducti ons de scribe s his work as follows: “Kus uda takes the audi ence to a
worl d fill ed with imaginati on. In his work, he reveal s the poetry of the dancing body.
His chore ography i s poss essed of a mystic beauty that lie s beyond the perception of
our physi cal se nses and aim s for a communi cation with his audience preci sely by
finding a connection with their imaginative powers .” 87 Si nce coming to the
Netherlands in 1999, Kus uda has appe ared i n the works of m any choreographer s.
Whe n Kus uda started dancing in J apan i n the 1980s, he was introduced to Mer leau-
Ponty, 88 whose ideas continue to be an im portant inspiration for his work. Starting in
Japan, Kus uda cr eated a large number of choreographi es, mostly s olo works he
per formed himse lf, as well as for free lance dancer s. Hi s work is presented in the
Netherlands and abroad. Kus uda cooperates with arti sts fr om dif fere nt dis ciplines
and is active as a te acher in his method “Vit alizin g the Invisible”.
87 w w w . k o r z o . n l
88 I w a n t t o s t r e s s t h a t i n E a s t e r n p h i l o s o p h y, t h e a t t e n t i o n o n t h e a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e h e r e a n d n o w i s s i g n i fi c a n t a s w e l l a s
t h e n o t i o n t h a t t h e r e i s n o s e p a r a t i o n / d i f f e r e n c e b e t w e e n t h e s e l f a n d t h e s u r r o u n d i n g w o r l d . T h i s m i g h t b e w h y M e r l e a u -
P o n t y ’ s w o r k f o u n d a f e r t i l e g r o u n d i n t h e a r t i s t c o m m u n i t y i n J a p a n . F o r f u r t h e r r e a d i n g , v i s i t t h e M e r l e a u - P o n t y c i r c l e i n
J a p a n . w w w . m e r l e a u . j p / i n d e x E . h t m l
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 69
5.0.A Kusuda’s research description
The chore ographic res earch centre Danslab, where Kus uda conducte d his resear ch,
asks all choreographe rs to openly communi cate about the ai ms and subje cts of their
choreographic r esearch. Be low i s Kus uda’s descri ption as it appear s on the webs ite
of Danslab. 89
A Study of One Body in fron t of Another Body.
“An exploration in various forms of physical dialogue between performin g bodies . Bodies
tha t cann ot esc ape from bec oming subjec t to c hange in the ever shift ing, fleeting tide of
relations hips with oth er bodies. Investiga ting t hrough various dialogues, creating a
physical, ta ngible sensa tion bet ween t hem. Att emptin g to s tep ac ross t he physical,
personal bounda ries of the other(s). How much can on e affect the s tate of the other's
being? How much can on e allow ones elf to get affect ed, ch anged, connected by t he
energetic flows from the others? Wha t energy and phenomena will th ese relation ships
bring about on these bodies and t he spa ce they inha bit?”
Kenzo an d the dancers explored t he body's mu ltiple connections and its provocation in
con stant mot ion with the other bodies (Kus uda Ma rch 2008).
5.1 Comparison with Grosz
In the following paragr aphs, I will analyze the inf ormati on that I gathered and
place his ideas , as sumpti ons, and pres upposi tions about the body that seem ed to be
implied i n his choreographi c rese arch A Study of One Body in fr ont of Another
Body in the mapping that Gr osz of fere d. I analyzed three elements: Kus uda’s
“pre suppos itionl ess” or “bracketing body” that allowed the suspensi on of
pre sumpti ons, the “body as a mirror“ that functioned as a reflective s urface for
Kus uda, a subject that is re lated to the title of this res earch. I will s tart with the
“ex plosive body”, which re fers to how Kus uda ex presse s his shyne ss. Al though the
“ex plosive body” was not an ex plicit research subject, I do bel ieve that it holds a
significant place in Kus uda’s idea about the body and theref ore is impor tant f or thi s
89 w w w . d a n s l a b . n l
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 70
5.1 .A The body as hydr odynam ic
In one of our i ntervi ews, Kus uda told me that he is actuall y very shy and that
he uses this “f act” as a power. He explained that he is constantly awar e of what the
body hide s and what, as a res ult, the body is showing. As far as I understand, he
artistically de velops thi s moving body, which is “cons ciousl y vani shing and
appearing” 90 . This subject was tri ggered in our convers ation about the theories of
Lacan and Freud and their notion of “l ack” and “ne ed” and the psychoanalytical
pre sumpti on that ther e is s omethi ng within the subj ect's histor y that was r epress ed
and found a place in our unconsci ous. What is lacking or needed is not relevant for
thi s thes is; what is intere sting is that Kus uda pr esumes that there is som ething in the
his tory of his life that is responsible for hi s idea about the body that he integr ated
into his choreography: a body that wants to hide and ex pose. Kus uda re ferr ed to
thi s behaviour as something of which he is “overconscious and gives fuel to burn, to
express him self as if s omethi ng explodes, li ke an erupti on” 91 . In his r esearch, I
recognized moments of i ntense and f ast moveme nts as well as moveme nts that
“pull” the atte ntion to spe cific parts of the body.
Kus uda’s “explosive body” s eemed to car ry the marks of hi s life’s
experience. His “natural” body, if there is one, was infl uenced by the products of
his tory and cul ture, which he incor porate d into his own intimate space to define the
significatory ef fects of his body and the love/dislike of hi s body (parts) as he lives
his body now. I want to suggest that the way Kus uda us ed his body is not in
refere nce to the anatomi cal body but is connecte d to a mental idea of how the
body “is”, li ke an internal refere nce. This woul d expl ain why s ome parts ar e
ass umed to be m ore si gnificant than othe r parts and are therefor e hidden and/or
exposed. Kus uda’s body developed specific and/or habitual be haviour as a result. It
looked as if Kus uda as sumed a caus al rel ation between what happened to him in the
pas t and how that influenced his prese nt behaviour. Kus uda looks as the e xperie nces
that made his body “e xplosi ve” as uni que. They define his particular way of livi ng his
a body and come together in a uni fied and s ingular identity. The expe rience itsel f
see med to still be ‘i n his body’. What was inside created internal press ure and
impelled Kus uda to expre ss it, fr om his (secr et) interior towar ds the social, the
‘pe rformi ng’ body. Se en thi s way, hi s body becom es a s ymboli c vehi cle of meaning
and signi ficance. I observed that Kus uda as sumed that he is “in control” of hi s body.
As if he can di stance himse lf from it; an autonomous unit that can stand back from
his own body and ref lect on his own behaviour. This could explain why he speaks
about his exper iences as a “fact” and that he can m ake “conscious decisions ” about
his own behaviour.
90 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
91 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 71
My observations of Kus uda’s particular understanding of the body in this
aspect of his r esearch could be compar ed with the work of the psychoanal ysts we
saw i n the Inside Out categor y. Psychoanal yst theory f ocuses on how e xperie nce
its elf structur es and gives meaning to the ways in whi ch the body is occupied and
lived. It presumes an inter nal im age of the body, connecte d to narciss istic
investment. In this category, the body needs to be interpreted, re ad, in order to
grasp its under lying meaning. Se en thi s way, ps ychoanalysis is a knowle dge system
concerned with the ps ychical inscription and coding of bodies, pl easure s, se nsations
and exper iences ; a “mani festation or externali zation of what is private,
psychological, and ‘dee p’ in the individual” (Grosz 1 994:11 5). The way Kus uda
referr ed explicitl y to the body like an er uption explosion, hi s particular
understanding of the body s eemed to be implie d by the ideas evident in Freud’s
work, specifically hi s comparison of hi s ther apeuti c sess ions with a “hydr odynam ic
Kus uda’s e xpress ion has an i nteres ting r elation to the obs ervati on of Prof.
K.M. Ful ford 92 and the way that Fr eud looked at his sessions of therapy with a
“strongly hydr odynam ic flavour ” (Ful ford 1 996:25 6). Treatment involves “releasing
the energy of the repressed traum a back into the conscious mind” (ibi d:25 7), li ke
the pres sure that is created in the re servoir of a hydr odynam ic machine needs to
be releas ed. What Ful ford also me ntions is that it is often ass umed that rational
ref lection is e ssenti ally conscious in nature and provides an unambi guous criter ion
for differe ntiati ng reasons f rom causes. Ful ford s tates that “Freudi an the ory
(whether or not corre ct in detail ) unde rmines this assumption by s howing the
pos sibili ty of a cohe rent notion of an uncons cious reason” (ibi d:25 7).
Referr ing to Kus uda’s conscious use of his explosive body, it seemed to
match Ful ford’s obser vation of Fr eud’s hydr odynam ic the rapy s essions. According to
Fre ud, the behaviour of the subject is built in a m oral s tructure in which the
subject’s sexual drives do not fit in, ar e sham eful and amoral. Confrontation of this
des ire of the s elf wi th the moral s of the envir onment make the subj ect re press
the se emotions/ needs. Instead of lyi ng on the couch as a pas sive body, Kus uda
per forms moveme nt that allows pressure to be releas ed in the sublim ation of his
lack/need through his body. Kus uda “consciously” used his repressed exper ience as
ins pirati on or “fuel” for his choreographic e ndeavour s instead of being
“unconsci ously” lead by them. Both Fre ud and Kus uda as sume that ex perience for ms
the inter ior or “depth” of the subject that can be render ed public. The expe rience s
uni fy and give access to a s ingular worl d; they are conne cted to a si ngle i dentity. In
the body/ mind r elationship, Kus uda agreed with Fr eud that both the psychical and
the physi cal ar e responsible for the way the body of the subject is experi enced and
use d, in this case how i t hide s and expose s itse lf.
92 F u l f o r d , K . M . B i o g r a p h i c a l D i c t i o n a i r y o f Tw e n t i e t h C e n t u r y P h i l o s p h e r s . R o u t l e d g e ( L o n d o n , N e w Yo r k ) , 1 9 9 6 .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 72
5.1 .B The body as tabula ras a
“We are not touching yesterday's body or nex t Wednesday's body, we are
touching this body he re and now.” 93 As far as I understand, Kus uda wanted to avoid
the performers taking the body and its possibilitie s for grante d because they thi nk
the y know what today's body will feel like. Kus uda formulated this as “not having a
pre - exis ting i mage and confirm ing it through touching, be cause than you are not
experiencing that mom ent, you are answeri ng expectati ons” 94 . This understanding
was centr al in Kus uda’s choreographi c ende avour s and a subj ect of forme r rese arch.
From what I understood, pr e-images in Kus uda’s view are based on fixed meaning
about the body and wi ll lim it the performer’s choices. For Kus uda, “the body can not
be known in advance” 95 . Kus uda’s motivation to rese arch the body in this way was
not to li mit and excl ude but to e xpand and include the possibil ities of the body. 96 In
rel ation to thi s, he explained how he appr oached “preparing the body” for the
res earch: “I t is very physi cal pr eparation. It is not even a preparation because our
motto is not to prepare. It is not to warm ourselves to be ready for something...” 97
In this aspect of his research, he worked from a questioning attitude with which he
bel ieved he could avoid creating moveme nt patterns, habits and/or hierar chic use of
the body. Kus uda as sumed that i t was only through exploring the body over and
over again, as if you touch it for the firs t time , that thi s can be achie ved. This woul d
explain why at the start of every day of the resear ch, Kus uda and his perfor mers
began with one hand i nvestigating the other hand, in line with Mer leau-Ponty’s
“double touch” as we have s een in secti on 2.4 B. Kus uda as ked hi s perf ormers to
que stion what they feel , what the hand percei ves at that mome nt, avoiding pr e-
exi sting images or pr esupposed me aning 98 . This exercise was buil d up and eventually
involved the re st of the body and its r elation to s pace. On the day I watched, a very
significant exam ple of Kus uda’s aim for a body that is, in his words
“pre suppos itionl ess” was demonstrate d. Kus uda introduced a m artial arts princi ple
that focuses on adjus ting the ene rgy of your body to that of your enemy to such an
extent that you will s tay unnoti ced and ther efore wil l not be kil led. He trans lated
93 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
94 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
95 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
96 K u s u d a : “ T h e s t r e n g t h i s n o t t h e s t r e n g t h b y p u s h i n g e v e r y t h i n g a w a y, i t i s m o r e i n c l u d i n g . I t i s n o t t h e c o n c e n t r a t i o n o f
t h i s ( m a k e s a s m a l l s p a c e w i t h h i s fi n g e r s ) b u t i t i s m o r e e xe n t r a t i o n , i n v o l v i n g a l l t h a t i s p o s s i b l e . We d o n ’ t e v e n k n o w
w h a t w e m i s s . ” I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
97 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
98 I n a n i n t e r v i e w , K u s u d a g a v e m e t h i s e x a m p l e : “ W h a t a m I t o u c h i n g ? A m I t o u c h i n g a b o n e , a m I t o u c h i n g t h e f l e s h o r t h e
s k i n , n e r v e s , o r j u s t t o u c h i n g , o r I d o n ’ t t h i n k m u c h , b u t I a m j u s t h a v i n g t h i s s h a p e ? O r I g o t o u c h i n g i n t o t h e b o n e o r t e n
m e t e r s i n t o t h e g r o u n d . . . B u t a l t h o u g h i t i s t h e s a m e s h a p e , yo u c a n f e e l c o n t e n t r e a l l y, t h e r e a r e a l o t o f v a r i a t i o n s a n d a
l o t o f d e p t h . B u t t h e n w e c a n t o u c h , a n d I a m t o u c h i n g m y s h o u l d e r. B u t w h o m a m I t a l k i n g a b o u t ? I a m t o u c h i n g t h e
s h o u l d e r ? T h a t m e a n s I t o u c h . . . a m I t h i s l e f t h a n d ? A m I m y r i g h t s h o u l d e r ? M a y b e m y s u b j e c t i v e I i s l i v i n g i n t h i s h a n d
t o u c h i n g t h e s h o u l d e r. T h i s i s a l s o m i n e . S o t h e n I t r y t o s h i f t f r o m m y s u b j e c t i v e I a n d I t r y t o s h i f t i t t o m y r i g h t s h o u l d e r
a n d t h e n I a m t o u c h i n g b a c k m y l e f t p a l m , m y l e f t h a n d , t h e n n o w m y r i g h t s h o u l d e r i s t o u c h i n g b a c k m y l e f t h a n d , b u t s t i l l
i t i s m e t o u c h i n g m y s e l f . T h i s k i n d o f e xe r c i s e w e d o a l o t . ” I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 73
thi s principle into an assi gnment that involved three perfor mers of which one tried
to follow the moveme nt of two perform ers, while standing in the middle, facing
the m, both hands on each of the other two perform ers' s houlde rs. The middle
per son was aske d not to change the pres sure nor pos ition of her hands and feet,
whi le bei ng as accurate as possible in fol lowing the unpredictable moveme nts of the
other two. The bodi es stayed in one place in space. The m iddle person tried to
integrate all possible external impulses into her body, pr oducing unpr edictable
rhythms and moveme nts. When I asked Kus uda what his aim was for this exercise, he
tol d me that it was directe d to come to a body that is open to all phenom ena, fr ee
from prefere nces and habits, ”f resh”.
From what I obs erved, Kus uda as sumed that the body’s actual e xperie nce
gives a sens e of how i t is i n the worl d, acknowle dging that the conditions and
pos ition of the body constantly change and influence the here and now. In order to
classify these experi ences, it is ne cessar y to adopt a r eflective attitude in which we
put aside assum ptions about the body’s and the worl d’s ex istence and character. As
a r esult, per ceptual expe rience s could be questi oned f or pre -conce ived ideas.
According to Kus uda, it i s only through thi s “pre suppos itionl ess” approach that the
body’s full potential is us ed and new possibi lities can be discovere d, as we s aw i n
Kus uda’s “warm up”. Fr om what I observed, Kus uda di d not assume a pre -existing or
internal image of the body, as we have s een in psychoanalytic theory that define s
cor poreal actions and relations, solidifying the body in me aning and si gnificance. He
tri ed to eliminate possible fixed ideas about the body, or in hi s words, “hie rarchy
and exclusion” 99 through “ a pre suppos itionl ess attitude ”. He did not refer to the
psychological origin that objects and s pace have, as we have s een in psychoanalytic
the ory in the I nside Out chapter. Kus uda’s idea about the body referr ed to a unified
and singular worl d of the experiencing pe rforme r. They onl y know how their body
feel s here and now.
Whe n I re late my observations of Kus uda’s particular understanding of “ a
pre suppos itionl ess attitude ” with the m apping of Gr osz, it resem bles the i deas about
the body that derive f rom the work of Mer leau-Ponty, es pecial ly his notion of
“br acketi ng”. In his work Mer leau-Ponty de scribe s how the body as I exper ience it is
the instr ument through which all inf ormati on and knowle dge is recei ved and how
meaning i s gene rated. As we have s een, in Kus uda’s resear ch, there is a defini te
par allel to Mer leau-Ponty’s way of thinking about the body and the way the body
plays a fundamental role in how he is i n the worl d; they are intim ately connected.
Referr ing to Kus uda’s explicit ass umption of “ a pre suppos itionl ess attitude ” as the
condition for avoiding “pre-images”, in Phenomenology of Perc eption Mer leau-Ponty
referr ed to phenom enology as a method of describing the nature of our pe rceptual
contact with the worl d. In his ide a, pe rcepti on is the background of experience
99 I n t e r v i e w O B A M a y 2 0 0 8
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 74
whi ch gui des every conscious action. For Mer leau-Ponty this involves a
“presuppos itionless attitude which avoids imposing pre-exi sting theori es or attitudes
on experi ence, whether from common sense, re ligion, science, culture, or any other
source” ( Mer leau-Ponty, 19 64/196 8:38-3 9). This “phenomenologica l attitude” m akes i t
pos sible to avoid taking things for granted in everyday l ife, including the use of our
bodies. In Mer leau-Ponty’s vi ew, if we “bracke t” or sus pend our ass umptions, we will
dis cover that m any e vents and patter ns we previously “knew” become questi onable.
“Br acketi ng” wi ll als o create options to re-e xamine things that were previ ously
ignored or that looke d insi gnificant. Mer leau-Ponty wr ites: “T he onl y way to real ly
see the worl d clearly is to re main as free as possible from pre-conceived ideas or
notions” (Mer leau-Ponty 19 56:46) .
In Kus uda's resear ch, in line with Mer leau-Ponty, the body is not an object,
but the conditi on and conte xt thr ough which I am able to have r elations with
obj ects. Kus uda focused on indivi dual s ensual perce ption as the fundamental
entrance to knowle dge about the body and i ts bei ng-in- the-worl d. He assum ed that
the performer can have a “pre suppos itionl ess” or “bracketing atti tude” which
sus pends presum ptions about exper ience or what Kus uda calls “pre-exi sting images ”.
The body is not di rected by unconscious drives and ne eds but the perfor mers
intentionally direct their attention to objects. In line with Mer leau-Ponty, Kus uda
focussed on the exper ience of the subje ct in relati on to the other and its
envir oment. The differe nt sense experiences are unified in a singular worl d. Their
body/mind relationshi p is s imilar : consciousness is a process that includes sensing as
well as reasoning, a being towar ds thi ngs thr ough the intermedi ality of the body.
Consideri ng Kus uda’s resear ch and assignments , I had the impr ession that he
ass umed that wi th his “pre suppos itionl ess” or “bracketing” approach, it was possible
to attain a body that was not onl y incl usive and non-hierarchic but uninflue nced, not
affected by assumptions and pre -image s. Could it be, that Kus uda ai med for a body
that is f ree of influences, as if nothing ever touche d it and that this was the reason
for his r educti on? I sugges t that Kus uda, in this aspect of hi s rese arch, im plicitly
conceived of the body as a blank page , a tabula ras a, that Grosz placed in the
Outside I n cate gory, and that he us ed the phenomenological strate gy as a method to
com e to this untouche d body. This was clear est in the assignm ent in which the
per former followed her two colleagues, as we s aw i n the beginning of this section,
whe re he create d a si tuation wher e he r educed the i nfluences of possi ble existi ng
pre -image s to an absolute m inimum. In Kus uda’s words, this exercise was dire cted to
com e to a body that m oves “free from prefere nces, fr esh”. I conclude, that Kus uda
was expli citly inform ed by Mer leau-Ponty’s notion of a presuppos itionless attitude
that Gros z placed in the Inside O ut category as well as the impl icit i dea that the re
is a body prior to or outsi de of the influence of ‘pre-im ages’, a tabula ras a: a body
pri or to assumptions coming from common sense , re ligion, science, culture, or any
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 75
5.1 C The body as a m irror
As the name of his re search A Study of One Body in fron t of Another Body suggests ,
Kus uda spend a considerable amount of ti me obs erving the other i n differe nt
var iations and referr ed to the other body as “a ref lection of the sel f”. Kus uda told
me that he repe atedly researched this s ubject and r eferr ed to it as “his greates t
cur iosity”. Be fore I go de eper i nto this aspect of his r esearch, I want to stre ss a
general observation I made during Kus uda’s resear ch in relati on to the other as a
mir ror. During the project Kus uda worked with impr ovis ation and fixed
choreographic m oveme nt material (studi ed in front of the mirror and eventually
danced in unison, tr ios, duets and solos). I notice d that throughout the pr oject,
the re was a hom ogenized approach to the body. There was li ttle e mphasi s on the
per former s' individual differe nces. Instead, al l the perfor mers e xecuted fl uid
moveme nts wi th a s oft quality and the unex pected accents that char acteri ze
Kus uda’s choreographi c mate rial. In other words, Kus uda’s way of moving was
explicitl y pres ent in the bodies of the performers. However open and
“pre suppos itionl ess” he appr oaches the body, I got the impr ession that Kus uda’s
res earch proces s was directed at creati ng a mutual notion about how the inclusive,
non-hierarchic body m oves. Kus uda de monstr ated, correcte d and rehear sed through
repetition as i f his way of moving coul d be i nscribed into the bodies of the
per former s so that they woul d move l ike hi m.
I want to refer here to the Outside In categor y in chapter 3, in which Grosz
des cribes how the body is seen as a page that can be wri tten on. In this category,
the body is a s urface phenomenon on whi ch tex ts or messages (choreogr aphic)
cre ate “a disti nctive body capable of acting in disti nctive ways, pe rformi ng spe cific
tas ks in social ly spe cific ways”(Grosz 1994:118). Kus uda’s working pr ocess sugges ts
that in this as pect, there was an i mplici t idea about the body as an inscriptive
sur face. I even felt that Kus uda saw the body as a rathe r pass ive s urface , as
expressed in the work of Foucault, de scribe d in s ection 3.2B. Kus uda se emed to
ass ume that the performer’s body ‘accepts’ the inscription of his choreographic
material through discipline and r epetition. This was most clearl y refl ected in the
uni son. It looke d as i f the perfor mer, moving the way Kus uda moved, functioned as
an external mir roring image . Could it be that Kus uda’s inscri ption had a specific
obj ective? I want to suggest that through fill ing in the corpore al habits of an
inclusive, “pre suppos itionl ess” body, the perf orm ers be came the ref lection and/ or
mir rored image of Kus uda’s choreographi c body. I propose that Kus uda’s idea of the
body as an inscriptive s urface was a strategy to create a re flecti ve s urface of the
body. This could als o place the title of his research A Study of One Body in fron t of
Another B ody in a dif fere nt per specti ve. It is he re that I want to refer to Lacan and
the Mirror Image, as descr ibed i n section 2.2B of the Inside O ut category of Grosz.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 76
As we s aw, Lacan’s Mirror Image referr ed to a unif ying inter nal im age of the
subject, es tablis hed through its own reflection i n the mirror, that functions as an
internal refere nce for the subject, li ke an internal map. The proj ection of the
internal image of the self on the other establis hes a cohesi ve, unifying im age, which
the subje ct’s e xperie nces can never confirm . Lacan ass umed that there wil l always
be a gap between the s elf and his reflection, a gap that the human being will always
try to re store. For him this helps to expl ain our fascination with image s of the
hum an for m. He stres sed that thi s unity is f ragile and needs to be continuously
renewed, not through the subj ect’s consci ous ef forts but through its ability to
conceive of itse lf as a subj ect and to s eparate itse lf from obje cts and othe rs to be
able to undertake willf ul action. 100 In line with Lacan’s i dea that it is by the grace of
a r eal mi rror or the other that f unctions as a mirr or that one can ge t a total vi ew of
the self, I propos e that Kus uda’s motivation to face the other was to generate a
cohesive and uni fying image of the self. Kus uda ex plicitly refers to the othe r as his
It looked as if Kus uda as sumed that through the r eflection of the other
per son’s body, he could affirm his se nse of self and hi s bodi ly boundarie s, li ke
‘al igning his own internal image’. T he other re- affirm s his own form of the body, and
gives him a sense of dis tincti on between the i nside and the outs ide, where Kus uda’s
body star ts and where it ends vis -à-vis other s. What was evident from my
obs ervati ons is that Kus uda not only obser ve the other, just by s tanding opposite
him /her, he actively created a physi cal mi rror of his internal image. I sugges t that it
is through chor eography that the bodi es of his pe rforme rs ref lect the inclusive and
non-hierarchic body that he has ‘in mind’. I conclude that Kus uda’s idea about the
body was implicitly i mplied by the ide a of the body as an inscriptive s urface , as
found in the work of Foucault, which is place d in the Outside I n cate gory of Gros z.
Kus uda appeared to us e this as a strate gy to ‘create’ the expli cit re flecti ve body, a
projection of the internal image of the body that was implicitl y impl ied by the
notion of Lacan’s Mirror Image, which Gr osz pl aced i n the Inside Out categor y.
5.1 .D Pre liminary conclusion
With the use of Grosz's categor ization, I was able to analyze and categorize
the differe nt ide as, ass umptions and presuppositions about the body that seeme d to
be implie d in Kus uda’s choreographi c proj ect A Study of One Body in fron t of Another
Body and relate them to the differe nt aspects of her mapping and their specific
body/mind relationshi p. In Kus uda’s res earch I recognized the ideas of Mer leau-
100 A l t h o u g h L a c a n r e f e r s t o t h e c o n n e c t i o n o f t h e i n t e r n a l i m a g e a n d t h e s o c i a l , i n K u s u d a ’ s r e s e a r c h t h e a c c e n t w a s c l e a r l y
o n t h e o t h e r b e i n g a r e f e r e n c e o f t h e s e l f .
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 77
Ponty, by whom he was e xplici tly informed, as well as Fr eud, Lacan and Foucault.
Grosz placed Fr eud, Lacan and Mer leau-Ponty in the I nside Out category and
Foucault in the Outsi de In category. I will give a short overview of the e lements I
Kus uda’s explicit ide a of an “ex plosive body” see med to be inform ed by
Fre ud's i deas, es pecial ly his comparison of his the rapeutic ses sions with a
“hydr odynam ic machine”. In the body/mi nd rel ations hip, Kus uda agreed with Fr eud
that the psychical and the physi cal ar e responsible for the way the body of the
subject is experi enced and us ed, in this case how i t hide s and exposes itself . In line
with Freud, Kus uda as sumed that that what was hidde n insi de impelled him towar ds
others and through others i nto the soci al. I recognized the following specifics in
Kus uda’s ideas about the “e xplosi ve body”: The body functions as an e xternal ization
of what i s psychologi cal and ‘dee p’ in the individual. Kus uda acts in accordance to a
pre sumed internal image of the body. This cre ated a habitual us e of the body. It is
see n as a medium, a sign to be r ead. Kus uda is able to stand back from the worl d by
its own efforts, it can r eflect on its own behaviour. There is a causal re lation
between his history and his behaviour. The expe rience s related to Kus uda’s body
uni fy the exper iences of a single identity and were rende red public. Kus uda’s
par ticular unde rstanding of the “explos ive body” corresponds to the characteristics
of the Inside O ut category of Grosz.
Kus uda’s explicit ide a of “a pre suppos itionl ess body” was informed by the
work of Mer leau-Ponty, es pecial ly his notion of “bracketing”, in whi ch ass umptions
about the body’s and worl d’s ex istence and character ar e suspended. In their
body/mind rel ations hip Kus uda agreed with Mer leau-Ponty that conscious ness i s a
process that includes sensi ng as well as re asoning, a being towar ds thi ngs thr ough
the intermedi ality of the body. Kus uda’s motivation f or thi s rese arch e lement was to
expand the poss ibilities of the body by avoiding a fixed truth about it. I sugges t that
Kus uda ai med to reach the body as a blank page through phe nomenological
reduction. I r ecogni zed the following specifics of Kus uda’s ideas about the
“pre suppos itionl ess” or “bracketing body”: the body was the condition and context
thr ough which Kus uda had relations with objects and the worl d. The body was able
to avoid pre-e xisting images. The body provided access to a uni fied and s ingular
worl d. Moveme nt was intentional , di rected to objects, not dire cted by unconscious
dri ves and ne eds. It seemed that in Kus uda’s idea about the body, li ke Mer leau-
Ponty, there is no static i nternal image. Kus uda’s particular understanding of the
body in this as pect of his resear ch cor responded wi th the characteris tics of the
Ins ide Out cate gory. For both, consciousness was the background of the body’s
experience. It guide d the body’s conscious actions , which included sensing as well as
Kus uda’s explicit ide a of a “body as a mirr or” see med to be implicitly i mplied
by the work of both Foucault and Lacan. I recognized Foucault’s notion of the body
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 78
as a pass ive i nscriptive s urface on which Kus uda wr ote hi s choreographical ideas and
Lacan’s Mirror Image in the body of the other that functi oned as an e xternal mirr or
of the self. I argued that Kus uda us ed the inscr iptive s urface of the perf ormers as a
str ategy to com e to a refle ctive s urface that mirror ed his own “inter nal im age”. I
recognized the following specifics in the ”body as a mirror from the perspective of
the inscr iptive s urface ”: the body performed Kus uda’s moveme nt hom ogenously.
The body was seen like a page on whi ch Kus uda wr ote hi s chor eographic material .
Dicipline , correcti on and repetition were used to instr uct the ‘pas sive’ body. There
was no de pth or secre t alre ady inside the body, it was the flat plane that is
moulded, manipulated to construct a sense of de pth; a body as a de terminate type,
with particular skill s. I recognized the following specifics in the body as a mirror
from the perspe ctive of the body as a re flecti on: the body (of the other) functioned
as a uni fying internal image (fr agile) ; an inter nalized map of the m eaning that the
body has for the subj ect, for othe rs in its social worl d. The body’s expe rience s form
par t of a singular subject. The body has s ymboli c value for the se lf and other s.
Kus uda combined two s eemingly contradictory ways of looking at the body coming
both from the I nside Out and the Outside In.
In his re search One Body in front of Another Body, Kus uda de epened his
understanding of the body that he is working from. The subj ects touched on were
not unknown, they had been previously r esearched. What became evident in my
analysis is that he did not want to bre ak patterns or habits by trying out unknown
working me thods and re search approaches, he tried to avoid them through
dee pening his knowle dge about hi s “pre suppos itionl ess” or “bracketing” approach. It
is through this direct description of e xperie nce as it is that he hoped to find new
pos sibili ties i n the body. In his r esearch, Kus uda was expli citly inform ed by the ide as
of Mer leau-Ponty. Im plicitly, there were other ideas impli ed that contradict Mer leau-
Ponty’s ge neral notions about the body. I sugges t that the i nternal image that we
recognize i n the work of both Fre ud and Lacan was part of Kus uda’s implicit ide a
about the body. They referr ed to a symbolic m eaning about the body and its parts
and the r elation it has with obje cts and space. The inte rnal i mage of Kus uda’s
“ex plosive body” created a habitual and hi erarchic use of the body which is i n
contrast to Mer leau-Ponty’s “sus pension of assumption and inte ntionality”. What
connects these thinke rs of the Inside O ut the ory is their presumption of the
experiencing subject that unifies his perceptions i nto a singul ar worl d, they are part
of a single ide ntity. This is in contrast to the ideas of Foucault that I recognized in
Kus uda’s approach in relati on to the pe rforme rs executing his material. Wi th the
hel p of Grosz's categor ization, I analyzed anothe r contradictory idea about the
body. Kus uda’s explicit ide a of the ope n, non-hier archic body (avoiding corporeal
habits and pre- concei ved images ) is implicitly approached as a tex t to be inscribed.
He inscri bed the bodi es of his pe rforme rs to answer to his own internal image. As a
res ult, instead of a group of bodi es that “bracket” and approaches moveme nt in all
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 79
the “pre suppos itionl ess” divers ity one woul d expe ct, we s ee a homogeni zed,
conditioned and disci plined group of the image Kus uda “has in mind”.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 80
In the pr ocess of analyzing the choreographic research of Kus uda and
Mur eddu, Grosz's disparate group of differe nt representatives of Western thought
since Des cartes was of great help in el ucidating their si gnificant rel ations and
dif fere nces. He r clear and in-depth analysis of the cultural and historical ideas of the
the oreticians allowed me to distinguish and cl assifying the impl icit and explicit ideas,
ass umptions and presuppositions of the body that were impli ed in the
choreographers' research and the associ ated cultural and histor ical perspectives.
Grosz’s choice of the Möbius strip me taphor refle cted the spe cific intertwineme nt
of the mi nd and body in the ir res earch. The Insi de Out and O utside In categori es
gave m e insi ght into the ideas conne cted to thes e cate gorizations and their inherent
contradictory thoughts about the body. In line with contemporary thought, as pects
of differe nt traditions and theori es were part of Mur eddu’s and Kus uda’s creati ve
process. Their ideas di d not form a coher ent whole but more an al chemy of
dif fere nce. The Insi de Out and O utside In categori es of Grosz flow through
Mur eddu’s and Kus uda’s unders tanding of the body like the e ndless turns of the
Möbius strip. The body was seen as both a me dium and a s eries of ene rgies, as a
static and pliable structure, as singular and multiple, as an autonomous uni ty and a
social construct, as passi ve and a power of knowle dge and resi stance . What my
analysis of the differe nt ele ments of the ir res earch brought forward is that their
implicit and ex plicit ideas about the body were predominantly inf luence d by the
ide as rel ated to the Inside Out categor y. In Mur eddu’s research, I recognized the
ide as of Freud and Schilder and in Kus uda’s resear ch Fre ud, Lacan and Mer leau-
Ponty. Fr om the Outsi de In category, I recognized Foucault in both and Nie tzsche in
Mur eddu’s research. Fr eud and Foucault are thus pres ent in both works. In the
aspects that I resear ched, the ideas of Del euze and Guattari were signi ficantly
abs ent, which problem atize ge neral assumptions regarding identity, re lations between
subject and obj ect, and corporality that are dominant in the Ins ide Out cate gory.
I want to list several note worthy differe nces and par allels that arose in my
analysis of Mur eddu’s and Kus uda’s resear ch processes . The moti vation to investigate
for both choreographe rs was to find unknown possibilitie s for the body and its
range of moveme nt. They had very differe nt approaches to the ir projects. Mur eddu
was not e xplici tly informed by any of the Western thinkers I wrote about and
challenge d her particular understanding of the body with new ideas and working
methods. The ideas of Mer leau-Ponty were expli citly present in Kus uda’s resear ch,
and he de epened his i deas by r eturni ng to previously r esearched subjects . The
method of “bracketing”, which avoids imposing pre-exi sting theori es or attitudes on
experience, looked l ike “his method” to find new, pr evious ly unknown moveme nt.
The relation be tween impli cit and expl icit i deas and the ir inf luence on these
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 81
es earch methods was not a subject of this thesis but could be an interesti ng topic
for further investigation.
With the help of Grosz’s m odel, it becam e apparent that Mur eddu and
Kus uda had very differe nt notions of the body i n relation to the source of habitual
behaviour that inf luence s the “use” of the body. In Mur eddu’s research, I recognized
two contradictory ideas : The body as a text to be m arked by s ystems of power
com ing form outside of the body, and a body for med by the internali zation of
experiences that create habits as descr ibed i n the Inside Out categor y. In Kus uda's
the ory, pr e-conceived ideas create habitual behaviour, but he was les s expl icit about
the ir source, what he called “pre-i mages”. Although differe nt sources were held
res ponsible for the habi ts/coding, both agr eed on the i dea that the y limi t the body’s
pos sibili ties. I notice d that Mur eddu and Kus uda chose to focus on how to modi fy
thi s behaviour and not take the habits/codes as research subjects . In both projects,
the re was even an urge to come to an uninflue nced body: a tabula ras a. I sugges t
that for Mur eddu the “unknowing body” was a strategy to come to a “def ormali zed”
body outs ide of the power of (dance) dis course , im plied by the ide as of Foucault;
and Kus uda us ed phe nomenological reduction, informed by Mer leau-Ponty, as a
str ategy to com e to a body free f rom pr e-images, “f resh”. What was signi ficant was
that in r elation to their r ole as a choreographer, the coding and creating of habi ts
that both impli citly applie d duri ng the ir res earch went unnoticed by them. It is he re
that I want to elucidate another significant ele ment of my analysi s.
I r ecogni zed that Mur eddu and Kus uda both had an ex plicit idea about the
body that resem bled the i deas of the Inside Out categor y and the internal image
and speci fically the ideas of Freud: Mur eddu’s “body-container with the pers on
locked wi thin” and Kus uda’s “explosive body”. The “explosive body” s howed and hi d
spe cific parts of its elf, and although Kus uda focused on a “pre suppos itionl ess”
approach, the body and the sur roundi ng worl d were met fr om thi s inte rnal i mage.
Mur eddu’s body- contai ner ended up being the m ost si gnificant “corporeal habi t”
that I re cognized, which kept the body connected to its unif ying, internal image , and
although Nietzs che’s active f orces pounde d agai nst its skin, it kept its autonomous
wal ls standing.
The se spe cific and si gnificant ide as about the body were impli ed by the ide as
of Freud and Foucault, both representatives of contradictory categor ies. Grosz’s
model hel ped to reveal that a chor eographer’s implicit and expli cit idea about the
body and the body/mind rel ations hip ar e inte rrelated with how i ts behaviour is
res earche d. It raise s questi ons about our “blind spots”. Could it be that the se ide as
are so well -known, so normal and famili ar, that the y dire cted behaviour unnotice d
and there fore e nded up not being resear ched? I want to re fer to the introduction of
thi s thes is whe re I s uggested that chor eographic ideas ar e subj ective and peculiar to
the individual. However, it is as sumed that e xposur e to a common envir onment
generally leads to a sharing of concepts and to the acqui sition of a standard
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 82
epertoir e of concepts and ideas that are shared by virtual ly all membe rs of a given
cul tural or linguisti c group. We s aw how both choreogr aphers looke d for a body
that becomes its “own reality”; Kus uda’s body that “has nothing to confirm ” and is
fre e of “pre-im ages”, Mur eddu’s body that “can ex press itself ”. Fr eud’s
psychoanalytic concepts of interi ority, uni ty and identity and Foucault’s ideas of a
body as a social cons truct that can be inscri bed wi thout resistance i nfluenced the
choreographic r esearch of the body and its possibil ities implicitly and unnoticed. I
woul d like to continue to re search the e ffect of these basic unnotice d assumptions
about the body and their inherent influence on chor eographic re search. I believe
that more insight into this mechanism could give us tool s to e xplore the body and
ope n up a discussion about these basic assumptions it.
In their resear ch, both Mur redu and Kus uda as sume a speci fic intertwineme nt
of mind and body. However, the clear ideas about thei r rese arch and the moveme nt
ass ignments that the choreographe rs pre pared for their pe rforme rs dur ing the
res earch made m e look at this again. I want to propose that the chore ographers
implicitl y reli ed on instructions coming from the m ind to infor m the body r ather
than the other way around in thi s specific resear ch process . They looked for a body
that expr esses and communi cates itself , but the trust in the body itself without
ins tructi ons is hardly addre ssed as a pr imary source of information or knowle dge.
Thi s refl ects Grosz's i dea stated i n Volatile B odies that the mind is traditionally
val ued over the body in Western culture. I propos e that because of this deeply
rooted habit, the chor eographers choose to val ue the mind over the body in the
ini tiation of m oveme nt explorati on in their resear ch. I t was implicit, and it goes
unnoticed because it is com mon.
From what I obs erved, in both choreographi c proj ects the body was
addressed as a general enti ty, al most as if i t was neutral for all participants. There
was no ex plicit exploration of male and female bodies. In Kus uda's resear ch, for
ins tance, I did not obse rve that he addre ssed what it means to look at a male or
female ref lection of the sel f and the conseque nces of things you see that are not
par t of your body’s own reflection ( beard, br easts, pe nis, vagina, wi de hips). In
Mur eddu’s female-onl y crew, the specific aspects of the “body contai ner wi th a
‘female’ pe rson l ocked inside ” was not a topic in her r esearch. I want to refer here
to Grosz, who states that in our cul ture ( with i nfluential thinker s like Plato and l ater
Des cartes ), the mind was associated wi th the male and the body with the female.
Phi losophy, pr edominantly practi ced by m en, em phasizes the activity of the mind. As
a r esult of the centuries i n which predominantly male thi nkers have theorized about
the body, it is of ten de scribe d from a “ne utral” (this means male) point of vi ew,
emphasizi ng that the “male mind” is able to take distance and be objective, ignoring
the subje ctive position. A male point of view says little about the female spe cifici ties
of the body, which are there fore l eft out of perspective. Gr osz states that this
dom inant view is generally accepted as normal and is to be found in the way we s till
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 83
look at the body. I have the str ong im pressi on that within the research of the two
choreographers the body is still approached f rom an impli citly male point of view,
whi ch is considered ‘normal ’. Fr om what I have observed, I conclude that even in
contempor ary choreogr aphic resear ch, wi th all the new concepts that are tri ed out,
the re are still old assumptions, connecte d to the obj ective, male mind, that dom inate
the exploration of the body.
The insights of the I nside Out and Outs ide In categories that Grosz offere d
and the theorie s of the thi nkers that s he connected to them gave m e a be tter
understanding of how an impl icit or expl icit i dea about the body influences not only
the way the body moves in choreography but als o, and this is es pecial ly important
within choreogr aphic resear ch, the way changes in the body's behaviour ar e thought
to be made poss ible. As noted in my analysi s, if our i dea about the body’s behaviour
is implicitly connected to an internal image, wi th all the s ignificant spe cifics that
implies, the chance that the body will open its skin and interact on a non-hi erarchic
plane with othe r obje cts and space is not evi dent. Im plicit and e xplici t ideas,
ass umptions and presuppositions about the body seem to di rect our behaviour and
eventually “make you do the same thing again even if you don’t want to”. It is he re
that I think this the sis wi ll be able to ser ve m e in my daily practice as a
choreographer, dramaturge and resear cher. Our impl icit and explicit ideas about the
body strongly i nfluence the way we l ook at its possibi lities and l imitations, the way
we l ook at ourse lves, others, objects and space. Our body is our connection with
the worl d and all its phe nomena, it is fundamental in our communi cation and
interacti ons. To be able to recognize what ideas mi ght be impli ed in specific
(choreogr aphic) situations opens up dialogue and al lows room for questions about
the body and its role . This is not only use ful for my activities in the perform ing ar ts
but can be applied on a broader level in society. It might chall enge prevail ing ideas
about the body, br ing ne w ins ights or rai se que stions in unexpected places and
situations. In this proces s, Grosz’s non-dualistic model is an extre mely useful and
effective m etaphor and tool.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 84
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RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 86
A.01 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, June 27th 2008
A.02 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, July 12th 2008
A.03 Interview with Kenzo Kusuda, May 9th 2008 in OBA
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 87
A.01 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, June 27, 2008
Is there anything you would like to say in relation to the material that I send you.
G Maybe I could refer to the parts that particularly spoke to me. Whet I found very beautiful was
is referring to the mirror phase. The fact that at a certain point the individual gets an image of itself in the
mirror and from there on the whole life is about to relate to this image, which is really a kind of not
simple but a meaning of perfection and that the gap in the fact that you never will experience from inside
the same image that you see in the mirror. This is maybe the reason why e always are longing to see a
Does this relate in a way to your work, in relation to the last research that you did?
G See, with the question which is always hammering in my head Why do I like dance? So in this
sense I could relate, not specifically to my research question but it simply said that the moving body we
like to watch because it reminds us of our body. And you always,, also when I talk about, what I like to
achieve also towards the audience that through the experience of the performer, that the audience can
remember and re-experiences their own body. In a way I could connect with that point of research or
artistic point in my work.
Can you that maybe relate to that in relation to your research of depersonalization? To put a
G I was thinking about that. Last time, what does happen this mind expressed by the facial
expression. NO. Of course, the personality of the performer is expressed by the body, by his personality,
but of course the face, the eyes are a very extreme bridge. By covering the face, you amplify what is
already in the body. Also it connects to another part of my research when I talk about memory and
history of the body everything is already present in the body and I think it is up to me, to take it out and
probably it is a question of amplification of that what is already present.
What I also found very beautiful is the theory about how the ego is formed. Very extreme, like it is a
physical process, it is so much about how you build up a strong ego and how you position your body in
space. I find this also very dance related.
Other elements I could really connect with is also the double sensation. That the body is the border
between the inner and outside world.
In relation to that, where do you think the body ends?
G There is for sure a physical border, skin is clearly a shell, but just because of all the potential the
body has, there is a lot of further in the skin and further out of the skin.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 88
D What do you mean with further out of the skin, can you say something about that?
G For example, just the idea of spatially considering the body you kind of project the intention of
the body along a diagonal, for example. But I don’ t think there is really like a definable border, but there
is for sure a bigger range of border of what you can reach. For the research it was the mask that you put
really on your face, but when I was working for the solo with the puppet, at a certain point, one of the
keys we found out, to be able to maintain the tension, me as a dancer and the puppet as an object, was
also that `I somehow had to consider the puppet, I know I would not have said that, but no I realize that
is was a kind of prolongation of my body. So that I would in a way, me and the puppet being one body.
But do you think, in relation to the mask for instance, when they put them on, were they really
separate of the body or were they become part of the body.
G It was my goal. I was telling you about last time, about the ‘drie delige parcourt’, that the fact
that I got is that in the beginning you have a lot of “an external object put on the face” and a certain
point it becomes a new body. What was interesting: We were questioning What if we would use for
different dancers the same masks/ face. It was not a completely a neutral face of the mask but of course,
because of the different shape of the face, the mask will be different, but because of the different bodies
the face of the mask also changed. So in this sense it became really one thing, completely a part of the
Was there anything you wanted to get rid off during this research?
G Well, maybe according to the body I could say, what I was already saying in relation the people
that are not educated in dance, to get rid of formal habits, which are connected to technique of patterns,
for example that we would automatically put your arm in space.
Do you have any idea where those patterns come from?
G From the, especially from the tradition of the training of the dancers. I think this is also the
question that I have for my last research, what kind of training could help to reach a certain intensity and
freedom for the work.
Freedom in what way?
Freedom to being able to break patterns.
Do you thing that there is anything like natural movement?
There is for sure more natural movement than how the dancer moves (laughs).
So what would that than be?
I thought very much, also during the research and in general, baby movements.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 89
But are they natural?
I don’t know if they are natural but they are for sure less codified.
You think so?
G In comparison with certain codification in dance yes. I would have to maybe do a research on it
how daily movements codified by society and how much...well I have my experience with children, so I
can say that certain movements are, you see a kind of pattern in the child itself but it is not learned. This
is for example a just born child, certain impulses of movement, that you can call natural. Repeating in
every child, from instinctive movements. But can we call this natural, I would say yes.
Do you have an idea what causes that change? From natural to codified?
G I would say that everybody has anyway a natural way of moving but then again we need to
specify what does natural mean. Let’s say that everybody builds a certain way of how he uses his body
in daily life.
This we could say is “personal movement” ? I ask it because we refer to codification from
When I talk about coded, I am actually more specific, in the dance technique.
D I tell you where it comes from. When I watched your video, You say that with the mask certain
things don’t work. You stated, and I cannot quote the exact word you used, but you clearly stated “This
is not the way, this really does not work”. I wondered on the basis of what you made that decision? It
was about trying out, which movement(pattern) worked or without the mask.
I think it was in the layers, when we had the layers. For example, with the 5 layers, where we
consciously inject an emotional layer. The mask was on the edge of being disturbing.
I want to go with that. Why was it disturbing?
I decided because it became “overacting”
On the basis of what do you make that decision?
The problem is also which codes. What is possible in theatre and what is not. But when
something is so exaggerated that it becomes maybe fake? That it breaks actually the inner logic.
Inner logic, that’ s a nice one, what do you mean by that?
I call it inner logic, when you look at something and you do not need to question things
(modernist, the truth) or the scene as it is.
D So it is something that we as normal?
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 90
G No! I does not need to be normal at all. But it doesn’t raise questions, because it has this inner
logic and I cannot explain on what level,. Probably that I do not question the source where it comes
Where does movement come from, than, related to this question and referring back to your
In general, make the body available for instinctual impulses, that is from inside, inside the body.
But then again, those impulses has your codes of what is tolerated.
What I found disturbing in that case, was the intention behind. It became artificial.
Meaning that what was there was not connected to your logic, or what we accept as things that
are presented in an theatre.
I think my logic is deeply bounded with what we think that is presented in the theatre.
What I noticed, also last time, that you make a selection on the basis of what you have as codes
of what should and should not be in the theatre. It is part of us, it is heard to stop it.
G When I look at something and I make my decisions, I don’t look from the perspective of what
people would accept in theatre. I think of course that it is very connected with this, it goes more with my
What is that, how free are you in your own perception? What is the motor of your own
G What is the motor for my creativity. I think it is a combination of eeehh, well I am kind of
influenced. It is a combination of my own perception of my body and that of the dancers. The
combination of that. It is like: I have some idea and I give a task for the dancers and than there is an
exchange from the dancers.
And in this process, do you think that the body is the thing that makes you move or is it the
mind that makes you move?
I think it is the dialogue.
How does that happen?
G It is also different if you say what makes me move and what makes the others move. For
example, the thing I was explaining to you, that I am always very obsessed about kind of inventing tasks in
which I kind of “force” the dancers to install a kind of dialogue.
So actually to escape the patterns that are in us?
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 91
G Yes absolutely. This is also what even with the people that were not educated in dance, we
were working on the layers, which is a kind of exercise, which is really about breaking habits, they got it
What did they get?
That there was a way to break patterns. If they don’t have the same codification as the dancers.
So what would you reveal if you break those patterns. What then comes out? Is it than the
natural or instinctive body?
G I think what comes out is just this dialogue that comes out. The experience of it. Than of
source you can place, you can construct different way how to construct this dialogue, than you get the
direction you want.
In a way, you do not want to create some sort of drama , you want to affect (what happens to
me while I watch it) with those four layers.
But than also, if you place it within a choreography you can achieve drama or what ever, but
through this experience or process of the performer.
You build the skeleton through the research based on the affect? To make a grit, you don’t need
anything put on, just the body moving.
G Yes, and I was not doing that only this last research, it is something I am already doing for a
while in the last projects. And you are right, somehow, normally when I work for a piece I have a very
clear theme so I have to direct everything to that and in this case I kind of almost treated it in a more
abstract way. So it is not the body that is expressing something, but the body itself that is there.
D if you would have one sentence about the body, what would that be?
G What comes into my mind is my pr text (laughs) The body is not always a dancing body. How I
explain that is that I talk about the body as a container. And this I could connect to what I was reading (in
the definition of drives) the work put these drive kind of under control. Give an order to the different
drives that a human body has.
Just for me to get it right: There is a body and at some point in our lives we decide it is dancing
or is it the body on stage that is sometimes dancing and sometimes not dancing.
G The second.
When is it not dancing?
G What I call this “ daily” body. For me dance is this combination of elements but from the point
of view, especially here in Holland, the scene dance has to do a lot with codification. I am trying not to
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 92
give in to the codification. Also, using it, it is not that I denigrate it or eliminate it, but to kind of blur this
codification. And this becomes another codification, of course, my own codification maybe.
Is there a thing about the body that you want to lay bare?
G I was thinking for my next research. Till now I was “ satisfied” is not the right word, but I had a
task like blurring the codification, clarifying the style of movement, mind and body, I noticed that
everything still stays on a safe sphere, on a safe level. What I want, I don’t know yet, I do not have a clear
image of it, but again, my intuition I would like to be able to reach a more dangerous level. What this
means, somehow, it has to do, still with the control. A lot of this dialogue, and it also connected with the
text, is also about the relationship that you try to be in control of what your impulses are and for
example through different methods a kind of challenge to let more and more go of this control. But my
next step would be to make that even more extreme. What would happen?
D If you would let go of control. What is the control. Your control or the dancers?
So you challenge their codifications.
G The challenge of codification is already there. The physical result is intense, it stays, let say, inside
the room. Maybe I like to, and maybe that connects to where the body finishes, how far can we amplify
the physical expression.
What is the biggest influence in your last research?
G One of the (I don’t know if it is influence or inspiration) what was very interesting was to bring
in people from another art form/ discipline. For example Ulrike. This is the second time that I was
working with her, the spoken language we talk about, certain things, of think is completely different, even
when we talk about the same thing. So this is always very much refreshing and inspiring.
What I also found very inspiring the last research is the way how the dancers were involved
because...when I work for a project, there is a lot of personal influence anyway, but because of the
attitude in the process of a performance, I make the decisions. I lead how the day goes. And through the
fact that we had this diary as an excuse. In the end, I thought okay, let’s see what happens was a kind of
an excuse for starting the day We would start the day by reading the diary and would really bring the
dancers with an other approach.
In what way?
G Like we would write very shortly about the previous day, thoughts comments that pas by
because of what we were working on, and then there was every time a line from us three that brought
us to a conversation of two hours about certain matters, where normally there is never the time, okay
you could make the time for it, but if you have a limited time than you try to skip the opinions and try to
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 93
eally focus on what you want to see as a maker. And this way was a much more dialectic way that the
dancers participated. I really took the time for it to analyze the perspective of the dancers.
And what did you learn from it?
G For sure it helped for gathering information. Now I cannot recall something that is something
that I never thought by my self, but in a way it was in the process, where I would maybe reformulate my
So , would you repeat that in your next performance?
That would be really nice.
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 94
A.02 Interview with Giulia Mureddu, July 12, 2008
What function does the dramaturge have in your work?
G For sure questioning........I come with a theme or an idea, he helps me to brainstorm about this.
And then also trying to slowly grow into the position of a more independent choreographer......We
started a foundation and then the core is developed together with Roland. So besides the artistic
discussions, we write texts together and also more practical things like dealing with logistic and practical
stuff like website.....all the things you encounter when you are making your work....80% of the time
Is he (Robert Tunca) part of your creative process, is he in the studio a lot...can you tell me
something about that?
G In the research, for financial reasons he was not so often in the studio. We also tried to have an
outside view on the things. He came a few times and he was reading the diary that we kept during the
process. When we work on a piece., I have to dose how much he comes. I also need somebody that is
not so much involved in the process as me. There is a part that we work together in the studio and there
is a big part we do not.
When you come with an idea does he respond with theoretical information, background on
thoughts that you have. Does he inspire you with philosophers?
G Not so much with theoretical background, it is more on an intuitive level that he responds to
my idea. Maybe some writings, maybe sometimes philosophers, but he is not an academic. His
background is autodidact.
In his reflection on your work he speaks about the authentic body. How do you refer to that
according to your research. It is his conclusion more or less.
He mentions in the beginning...I depart from the idea that the body is a “vergaarbak” a container
Could you tell me a little bit about what could be in that container?
G Very simply can be emotions (fears, desires) history (the info you gather through your life) there
is also the history of body/ other bodies around you (parents) so what I would like to do with my work is
that this container which is the body, give almost form to it. Giving form is a bit tricky. What I like to aim
for, is that the process is tangible. So for Tunca, this departure point of the body as a container, could be
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 95
How do I recognize as an audience that “authenticity”, these layers, what speaks to my....how do
you try to provoke that?
G What I do a lot...it is the dialogue between the body.....is that I give the different layers a task...so
that the performer is always in dialogue with his body...he is always injecting different layers of tasks into
the body....A kind of zigzag effect from the mind to the body and the body to the mind........so I think in
this way, when you watch a performer being busy in this way, with these many layers, you can see the
process somehow......but then you as me, how can I as an audience perceive that.....
Yes.....I am curious What task do you give your dances in your last research for instance, in those
G For example, I use this also very much s a warm up or sometimes even to make movement
material, very simple physical tasks, but then I divide the body in 4 different cores of impulses Feet and
you explore all the possibilities of the feet, then I add the pelvis that injects new impulses, than the hands,
last is the voice and normally work on diagonals.
Why do you work in diagonals?
G Like a warming up, through the space.........it is a good example of the process because you are
not executing a form but somehow you let the body decide the way you should go. The mental process
is that every time you have to adapt to a more or less impossible situation.
Impossible situation. Do you mean that the body is autonomous although you impulse it from
G Yes, it is the balance in between that, of course you can very much decide what to do, but
when you really give yourself to the task, at a certain point the body becomes kind of autonomous, it is
never really always but in an way the balance between those unexpected impulses and the ability of
making choices, makes this meta process kind of visible. I make scenes where, on top of that I will add
layers in the scene, layers on the base material, like you are executing it in an square, you insert chunks of
a set phrase, there is moments of “self-indulgence” where you suddenly open yourself to the audience
(Giulia used this in a piece she made for Christina de Châtel).
What happens, when they open themselves to the audience?
It is up to the dancer, what they gain from what you are doing in that moment, informs you
what this self-indulgence moment will mean.
D You say you find something in those self indulging moments. What is it then that they, the
performers find? Are you specific in where that information comes from? Is it the memory, is it a mental
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 96
process, is it society that imprinted this information? What do you look for, especially related to this
G With the self indulgence I was also working very much on memory, or you could call it history,
that everyday you bring a big history with yourself, so what I am interested in as a performer and maker,
is the balance between the task and the freedom to have the memories enter.
D And those memories, do you approach them more that it is the memories connected to the
idea that you give form to the world around you or that society has imprinted things in my mind and
that’s why I react this way.
G I think it is both. I did not choose consciously for one or the other. I think actually can be
anything. It can even be a technical think like a ballet class and your body wants to go back to this
“arabesque”. I have not made a conscious choice about how it should be, I am more interested in the
way how, you let the memory express itself.
D If you think about the body in general, and you work with these histories, these associations in a
way that transform into movement, what would be the vision ( you have this container and you have all
these memories) what would be your idea about how these traces are left in the body. What association
level do you try to trigger with your dancers?
What really interests me is the person, so than the person having a body, that there is a person
locked in the body.
So how does that feel I am locked inside of this body, then what makes me move?
G (Long silence) Life makes you move! I use artificially very technical/physical tools to make this
body move. But then, when I am working on a scene for example, even the performer stays kind of strict
in dealing with this task, but then from the other side (audience) I am always departing from a very much
existential themes, like failure, ambition.
What interests you in ambition
G In a way this will of trying to differentiate yourself from the others, to get the most from life,
how far you go for that, how much you go against the others or against yourself. That you die because of
your wanting so much.....that is what I mean about the person, the existential.
What is your personal fascination at this moment? Towards ambition
G The two last pieces I made were about failure...busy about the fears and doubts, the moments
you choose for something...If I look back to my work I was always busy with “the attempt to achieve
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 97
something”. That I think failure/ambition/love/hate into it. Society...I am not so much busy with social
engagement, I am taking it more from the existential base.
You were talking about ambition...how do you place the people without dance education in this,
that you used in your last research?
G The research was build around two major themes: depersonalization and deformalization. I
thought the material that came out during the last research I will use for my next piece. But I think to
provoke the deformalization, how can I inform my movement material with elements which are more
I find that very interesting. What is that, more human?
G Especially in dance there is such a huge luggage on technical information, sometimes we forget
how many other abilities are present in the body. Maybe I also can connect with an other thing...it is a
very broad question that I will not be able to answer, not even after years and years of research...balance
between theatrical and abstract
D For you theatrical means more human?
G I came in the end of the research that theatrical in my terms means when there is a dialogue
inside of the performer, which is then transmitted onto the audience, so there is a communication, this is
what I call theatrical. What I was interested in, really talking about material, movement “phrases” etc, not
a scene where you have theatrical elements, but how can I play between these two worlds inside the
material itself. And then in this case, I would say it is about human, in the sense of daily.
So how did you work with this unknowing body?
G We prepared the workshop together with the dancers, we spend a lot of time thinking “What
can we do with these people”...and also at a certain point we thought ...We do not see any connection
anymore with the research...but then suddenly we came with a list of characteristics...that for us
professional dancers are imaginable... (in a body that is dealing with dance) physical and some
One was...the wrong absorption of the weight through the knees (we were doing giving the weight
exercises, and then I was explaining if you absorb with your knees, it helps, you to recover and also the
person that catches you) There was a woman that tried and she did well but it was on the wrong
2 Overtrust… they trusted more that it was possible to take the trust........
3 Strong injection of emotion and immediate recover. (a very grounded woman.....just before she was
just of balance she would jump and say she could not do it) as a dancer, if you deal with external factors,
you are always integrating them in what you are doing...and these people it was very clear that if
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something would happen it would have a direct effect on them, they would either laugh or a moment of
being scared....really exaggerated reaction and then go back with the assignment.
Normal reactions of people you placed back into your work because you realized that you were
a bit deformed by your profession?
G Yes also...in line with the question I had during the research, what really interested me was not
so much the result/ execution but the process, and that was really clear with these people, because for
them it was the first time, everything was so new, it was really interesting to see how they deal with it.
We also had an other question with the dancers, which was very touching...because everything was so
new and a huge experience...we were talking about the bungee jump- effect....what would the dancer
need to be able to experience such an overwhelming emotion...maybe we need to go in much bigger
extremes...this idea that I was explaining, this methodology of working with tasks, which is almost a fight
between body and mind, keeps in a way fresh the experience.
Also the fact that they were wearing masks was a completely new experience, and that also gave a very
What is the freshness about the mask?
G The moment you put the mask on, somehow it is inevitable that you start behaving differently.
And I guess when you do it years long, it will become something common. The first time you put the
mask on, you are a bit more aware of what happens inside your body. And also, we needed two hours of
laughing before we could work seriously.
And what provoked the laughter?
G The fact that it is something that doesn’t work or makes sense. The body of the person is
disassociated from the person......so you see suddenly another body...for example Cathrina and
Kayna.....Kayna is a very female and soft person and Catharina is a more muscular/ androgen type.......but
with the mask Kayna became masculine/male character and Catarina became so female.....
D Have you figured out why this changes????
G I tried to get some conclusions but it depends a bit on the mask...between neutral and a bit
absurdist, you get this shift in attention......a lot of times when you see a performer, the attention goes to
the facial expression (you also receive a lot of information through facial expression) and by coloring that,
the attention shifts immediately. And what is interesting is that it is not only a visual thing, it is from both
sides, when you put a mask on, you kind of behave a bit differently. Like also the material...the experience
was very different for the dancers.....if I put the mask on, I feel that everything I do with my body becomes
more slapstick like.......more exaggerated......for Kayna (it was already a sign that something was clicking)
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she could choose consciously to behave as if she did not have a mask. Which implicated the fact that to
have a mask made her aware about it.
The face, the eyes are a bridge of communication and because this bridge is eliminated, you have to
create a bridge and you do it through reading more the body (of the performer) The personality of the
dancer is not so important anymore, the body is personalized.
Do you then say that the personality is caught in the head, in the face? I found that a very
interesting split and I would like to focus a bit more on that.
I would hope not but the personality is a big combination of body and face, and once you do
not have the face, then everything is transported into the body.
Why did you choose the word “depersonalize`’ while the only thing that happens is that you
have no more face/ eyes.
G The concentration is more onto the body. The body that expresses itself. The mask had a lot of
influence. Things that worked and did not work with the movement. Then we started to try, for me that
was also a revelation of making a research, that we, it is maybe very naïve, but I just experienced it in the
first person, we started to try out all things...We were intrigued by or insisting on things that did not
work.....Normally when you work towards a performance .....you go like “this doesn’t work, away,
away...you eliminate very intuitively this item.......so then we were like “Let’s see, let’s try all different kinds
of combinations to see what material works with masks and what doesn’t. So, we made I think a very
beautiful phrase (using the floor, very organic and fluid). We put the mask on and it was horrible (laughs
And why Giullia, what was so horrible about it?
It did not make any sense.
What is that, what did not make any sense?
There was no reason for the mask to be there. It did not add.
Was there any reason for the body to be there?
Somehow...I put it in these words: Material that is based on dynamics, division in the space, with
the mask on it became much more flatter.
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because the material did not survive the mask. You see ......The mask was killing the material.
......You did not have anymore mask and body. You had a body doing some nice material and you had....
So you are talking about formal material, am I correct?
G Yes, I think the material which without mask becomes formal because, somehow you are more
taken by the dynamic, with the mask became much more formal. So we came to the conclusion that
material which survives with the mask is material which has...now we go back to the big definition...is
material which has a theatrical strong base. But then we thought the layers, which you could also say is
material with a certain dynamics, because there, there is really a dialogue between mind and body......that
worked very well with mask. It worked even better when we added the emotional layer to it.
The material you talk about now, is that set material or is it improvised?
That is improvised. We thought...so is it then about improvisation? Because maybe it is.
The spontaneity of the movement.
G Yes, but then we tried, we call it the anti phrase...we made a small combination only based on
the characteristic of the material of the non dancers.....kind of simple…ony 8 movement based on these
principles......and I asked Catarina to make it so… specific as possible...like every movement would be
really flat. Every movement has to do with a different characteristic...and Catarina was really suffering by
doing this movement, that’s why we call it the anti-phrase......she was like a slapstick, overacted, we go
again into this area, something that...if you see it within the social codes.....you really doubt about it......you
put the mask on and again it was working!!!!
So......what also was interesting to see in certain material was, especially when it was fixed material, you
had to have a certain attention to the way you had with the mask.
Which is kind of logical, I mean with object theatre this is one of the rule because otherwise he dies......but
for example in the layers, there was no need to pay attention into that...
You know why?
G It has to do with set material and improvisation. Set material you have a kind of way how you
are relating “head/body” and when you are improvising, especially with this injection of task, the head is
kind of automatically moving.
D You could work with “depersonalization” also on that level...if you set the material and then
move the head in a way that is “not normal within the set phrase” you again get a friction. If you
consciously decide to do something else, you will also start to communicate something else. Did you
work with that?
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No we did not.
Did it develop more, the idea that the one became more feminine and the other more
masculine? Was there anything else that was revealed?
We did not, also because of time, we did not go further into the fact that why it
happens that this occurs......but we worked with idea’s like homogeny...we were working on duets,
It was following Ulrike who was saying (because the masks were actually the same masks, but by the
differences of the face, already the mask would change) she was saying that the body of both dancers are
so different, that it would anyway read as two different masks. But then I was curious to see if, even if the
bodies are so different, how much we could actually get a homogenized image.
There were questions that came.
G From female and male and to research why this happened we came with the other question
and asked “How can we get these two bodies homogenized, even if they are so different?” I think, I
managed for the time we had, we were spending a whole day that we worked wit 8 postures, kind of
waiting positions. And then we were analyzing a whole long how you could actually physically define
these postures. By really specifying the weight shifted, the upper-body is like...you know really technically
For what reason?
To be able to arrive at this homogeny.
Is it possible, through a very specific analysis of the body structure, even if you have different
body structures, even with mask......
Did it work?
G I think so, I think it can even work much more, so I did not agree so much with what Ulrike was
saying that “You should have to similar dancers to achieve the same, this image” but I found it much
more interesting to find the same image with these two different bodies. And maybe from there start to
Where does this fascination for homogeneity come from?
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G I think in this case it could be seen as ‘preparing for the next piece’. The main idea behind was I
started from a statement I call it “Driedelig parcours”.......
You have first dancer with the mask on, then you start to get used to this and then you have one entity.
At a certain point, there is a kind of, by thinking of this image, maybe you can also call it character, they
are a kind of creatures...and at a certain point you start forgetting them having a mask and then you go
completely into the body. To build up this “parcours, I kind of put together a scene, and in the middle, to
be able to go into the body you have to create a certain kind of homogeny, so that you would accept
that this is a world and than you also accept the characters in this world. And it worked, the “Driedelige
parcours”, so for this I am really happy.
You keep on saying “going into the body” there is many ways to describe it but what fascinates
you to go so much into that body?
G On one side there is the research for the new piece. And then I there is 3 parts in the new
piece, which represent different aspects of the theme which is ambition. The middle part would be the
ambition of the body. The person has the ambition to have control over the body. And I wanted to do
the opposite, the body having the ambition to be on top of the person.
Why is that so fascinating for you?
Maybe because, than we go back to the definition of the body, this container, how can you get
the most of this container. How can you make visible the power and diversity of this container.
What could be the ultimate power of the body?
G I don’t know yet and this will be one of the next questions of my next research. Because what I
realized in my work, it stays still very human.....I talk about body/mind, the idea of the body as a container
locked in the body. Somehow it stays not dangerous...still to much control, maybe the ultimate power will
be the ability to have moments when it becomes dangerous, where the body somehow takes over.
Than what will be liberated?
Maybe you could call it “pure physicality”
I think we have come to the core...what is it that fascinates you about this?
G Maybe I can come back to another question that I have of seeing a performance.
“What do I need to be touched and to be involved?” to experience something. And probably what I
would like to achieve that through my work I would touch/ have somebody really experience something.
And when are you touched? What happens when something touches you?
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First of all, when I do not have a question (why do they do it?) When there is an inner logic.
And where would that come from?
not the goal.
When the work goes beyond a certain formality. Of course formality is always there and that is
So, if we do not see the formality, what then do we see of the body?
Well, the formality is there, it is not the goal...
What do we see? Do you believe in a pure body, untouched by past.
No the other way around! I believe that the body by itself is not pure....the body is again a
combination of all other things and then probably you see a person.
D In fact your conclusion is that a lot of times when you see a dance performance you do not see
a person. And you want to see a person. Can I say that it needs a necessity to be there. What would that
G Somehow I go in circles, I see your point...the necessity is in a way for example...if you read a
book you really like, why do you like the book? It is because of the story, the words, the philosophy
behind, somehow you get a view of something that you also deal with, but you get a perspective. What I
would like to achieve is this perspective and I would like to achieve but then through the medium that I
have and that is the body.
What is so fundamental of working with the body for you?
It is the language I am specialized in. It is not that myself I like to see a dance performance more
than a theatre performance, painting...Something brought me to dance...why.....probably instinct.
Instinct of what?
Body is so brought and it is communicating with the body touches sides which you do not
achieve with words. But why myself I choose for the body.
So what can we then say with the body.
Well it is a total experience, for sure...because it includes the mental, physical. When a dance
performance works I also experience it physically. So in this way, yes...what intrigues me and that is what I
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like to achieve is because it is both a mental and physical experience. A dance performance is more than
that, you also have images, music...it is, when it works, a total form of art.
D We all have a body, there is a form of recognition.....at some point to talk about archaic, maybe
this is what could refer to that? (on the weblog you say that when the dancers have their mask on the
turn into something archaic/metaphorical).
That is the beauty of this form of art...it can connect to a bigger communal memory and through
the mask it is easier to connect to it.
Maybe we can shift for a moment and step a bit out. What is the reason for you to make work?
G My focus is the existential engagement in my work because my view on the world should be
necessary interesting for other people. But by using my view on it to make work and give the possibility
to reflect through my work.
want to say.
What is that you want people to see? How do you construct as a choreographer what you
G It is not a very conscious choice, there is a big dose of humor in it. It happens by itself. I can
always reflect that it is about attempt, this big gap between wanting something and doing it ...I believe that
there is two things
1 the performance real on stage
2 what do we get as an audience
So I ask my performance be in the moment through the different tasks...every evening is different and in
my case it is more extreme because of the combination I use between set things and improvisation.....I
prefer that the performer is more busy with this kind of peculiar things then trying to have a view over
the whole situation. As a result we get a view over the whole situation.
What really intrigues me, and than we go again to theatrical and abstract, ‘ how you get theatricality
through physicality?’ So, in a way I always tend to give the dancers very physical tasks, and of course, they
have to deal with the others also because of the amount of improvisation, like unexpected factors, they
have to be able to deal with this inside certain tasks. I always push myself to get the dancers into a certain
theatrical state, not because they mentally decide ‘I have to act this way or this way’ but because they
have a physical journey that brings me to that.
D So, in you working method you could say that, for instance if you want to make a piece about
fear, it is not fear that they have in their mind, but you find physical solutions that create the situation of
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Okay, we are a big step further for me, thank you. Now to continue...So you put in
improvisation into your performance.....why do you do that?
G When I talk about improv, there is a different graduation about this. It is again it is specific that I
have already names for certain ways of improv.
I give one example, the skeleton scan. You have for example three phrases set and this is the skeleton,
and than you use them as a reference, but then inside or during the going through this skeleton, you have
different tasks that you can apply...for example repetition, pause, zoom in ( you take one element of this
phrase and you stay a while on that...after it can transform into something else. And than you have what I
call ‘emergency exit’...at a certain part you can take a part of this phrase and execute it in its fullness. You
have a motor...which is the skeleton...kind of marked way, very exact also...you know what direction it is,
what body tension and than, while you are going through this, you can inject all these other elements. So,
it is improvisation, because it is up to the performer to choose the ‘setting’. And why I do that? It is
because I think in this way, this process mind/body is really there...
D I have the impression that through these exercises the body opens up. Somewhere you
describe that you think that some body parts are underestimated, do you include those in these
G We started to talk about this in relation to the non dancers and also the layers is also based on
this...like if I say ‘impulses from the foot’ to really think of the foot in all its different parts. When you see
the dancers working on the layers, you see ....that is also kind of revealing....it forces the dancers to an
other kind of movement.....outside their habits.....it is a method to break habits.
Where do you think these habits come from?
G First of all, habits are...I want to break habits, but I do not think that habits are a negative thing...it
is something very natural for people. Sometimes with dancers it is really extreme. They have this very big
league of technique, training of the dancers is kind of extreme. I was talking with Marcel from the Veem
Theater, that for mime people, it is unimaginable to use the steps of a technique in the performance….
but in dance we use certain formal esthetics clearly and easily.
D In this light, I also like the way you try to “deformalized” this… Let’s talk a bit more about habit
in this respect… there is the formal training habits within the dance world… Can you tell me a little bit
more about where these habits could come from?
G Well, I think it has also to do with, I talk often about ‘solving the situation’, there is also a very
instinctive way, which is maybe the easiest way to solve situations...I am now talking in terms of
physicality… for instance a position and to get out of this position you choose the most effective way
out...a way to break the habit is … what happens if we insist in certain things… which is maybe not the
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most comfortable by… training how to insist in situations where you actually want to get rid of it, you
These habits… how is this body formed by habits… are you looking at the person… do you
use a lot of personal information about the dancer t achieve that...is that a source for you?
Is there any other source for you where you try to find out where this habit came from?
I think about habits… I do not want to eliminate habits… What I try to do is I bring or train the
dancer that he is able to go way and to use certain habits.
(I explained the Inside Out/Outside In to Giulia and asks which one see feels more connected to, within
the habit situation.)
I think I feel more connected to the first one but of course you can not eliminate the other
ones, that have a lot to do with social rules.
You speak a lot about of intuitive… so I wondered how this plays a role in your work...the
inside out/outside in.
G For sure...it the end it comes together with the things I was saying about memory and history…
the person as an individual who is collecting all different experiences and than, with the time, also certain
experiences become archetypes or become codes. And of course, there is… maybe you could say that
the second theory (outside in) somehow has to do with the way you look at the performance.
D For you as a choreographer how you modify your work. So can we say that the way you
generate your material is more based on the inside out and the way you structure your work, the way
you make choices is more generated by the outside in?
Yes, that could be...nice to look at my work this way
D It is implicit a lot of times and to make it explicit can be quit interesting. If we go a little bit
further in this, just fantasizing...how is this related to your last research… if we relate it to “depersonalize”
G It has to do with the first theory...maybe we can connect back again to the forgotten elements
of the body...through time you make a selection of things and forgets things that are anyway there.
Getting information from the outside… when I am talking to the dancers, it is always in different
context...if you go too fast we can’t see them anymore.
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It this connected to the erotogenetic zones...is there any connection to the way you research
the body......you way is almost de-hierarchies these influences? Is that your aim?
I can agree (laughs).
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A.03 Interview with Kenzo Kusuda, May 9, 2008 in OBA
You are going to do a research soon, can you please tell me what it will be about?
K It is about a study about a body in front of the other. That title explains quit a lot. I am studying
myself, the body (myself) than also the body of you in front of me, my body in front of your body, like a
mirror, like this way facing. In front can also mean this (head inclined to the side) this is not meeting
(through the eyes).
Anyway it is in the same space, people are there to be related.
Relating is that meeting?
K My research is about meeting. To simplify, it is about relationship between one person and the
other person, in principle, but than also it can go towards one body meeting two bodies, one body
meeting a hundred bodies. So, my interest is what we are doing when we are facing each other. What
are we doing when we are performing in front of a hundred people, what am I doing in relation to
hundred peoples bodies. When I am dancing with another dancer and the relation to that person, So that
is very basic, basic thing.
would that be?
Do you have some form of vision about what happens if you meet this other person? What
K My interest is there. Me meeting you in this particular moment, meeting you questions me back
who I am, so that thing and also it questions me if I am really interested in you as a person in front of me,
or am I interested in myself? Also what is happening between us two, what is happening to you, what is
happening to me. Is it only happening to me. Is something coming to you but nothing is happening to me.
If something is happening between two bodies, just to start with, that it can become 2, 3, 4, 100 bodies.
What is happening in between two separate ( you and me) and then I would like to be able to sense
detect, feel what is between us. So it very practically I want to be able to be sensitive enough to be able
to detect what is happening between us. Not what is happening to me, but between us. I still do not
know what is happening in you, in you or another person. That is something I cannot know. But still I
would like to be able to initiate my first step to knowing what is between us. And than what?
I d like to , as a dancer/performer/person be able to tune in, I would like to be flexible enough to be able
to be moved by someone. My main purpose is growing this sense what is happening between people.
Knowing that you are there and others. What is happens here (in between us as he shows with his hand).
What is here is always there, just we overlook it, we are not concerned that it happens.
D Do you have an idea what “ this” exists of? Is it energy, thoughts....do you have a sort of idea
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 109
K I don’t know....I don’t have the attention to know, or give it a name. I know what it is...we know
what it is, it is always there... the research is dance and we try to get something as a skill, as a skill/
experience. When it is happening, we say Ohh.. it is happening. But what is happening....What is making it
So you are in a way analytical in your research?
K No, it is based on experience and because of this experience you can make it happen again. It is
a skill. It is straining, not analyzing. It is about a power you want to get. My research is very much
connected towards communication and performativity.
The point is I am here in front of you and I want to change you, that ’s my thing. By me, by my presence.
I want to get power to change you. At the same time, I want to be sensitive enough to be changed by
you. So I do not have to claim that I am this or that, I don’t have to be stubborn about I am this or that, It
is not a conflict. It is more based on affinity, especially affinity, synergy. It is about you being sensitive
enough to tune in, to the condition that the other is creating. You can always go for your own condition.
It is very important not to be prepared in terms of training I consciously make movement that dancers
are not prepared or not taking it for granted that THIS is a meeting. I don’ t know, it goes quite a lot of
places but the important term is Not taking it for granted. We can be doing this, but we cannot be doing
this. This to me is important, but this to me is nonsense. So that why I do not take it seriously. But it can
be a very, very important this. So it is always a mirroring. Plus and minus.
I am facing you, but it does not mean I am facing you. I am just here, it does not mean that I am looking
at you. That kind of things. We take it into consideration.
But bodies are meeting, but does it mean that these bodies are meeting. They are just standing in front of
each other. What makes it a meeting. One is meeting one is not meeting, but then....does it matter to
him if the other is not meeting. We can still do something. Non of them are meeting, just standing there,
but then it becomes meeting from some point, or ...we can be only busy about myself, what is in
between us is a subject, but I can only know about myself. I cannot know about you. What is your
condition, what is your picture, your nervous system. I don’t know and I don’t care, but then I what is in
between us is the protagonist. I am not a protagonist, you are not a protagonist, but what is between us
is something to honor or praise for. It is our opportunity for meeting. This in between things is what is
making me exist here. I am not a protagonist, this (the in between) is the protagonist.
In that sense, although we subject most this (the in between) but still I can only know about myself, and
even sometimes I don’t know about myself. But I can at least be busy with myself. But this is a very
important paradox in case of communication, in case of performativity.
I perform something on stage, and people don’ t ask you to look at me, although I am doing something,
they don’t have to look at me. I am looking at them does not mean I am looking at them. They might
interpret in any way my movement or my message, my energy, but I am directly giving what they think, or
not. But that is always an element. I do not know about you. But then at the same time, we have a big
aspiration/ big fascination to communicate. To some degree. Maybe not the meaning of it, information
like I love you, I hate you, it is nice weather today, Like that sort of precise information. It is nice to be
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 110
able to communicate that, the real presence. Also what we communicate is not that information, it is
something beyond information, beyond words and the fascination, this longing to understand each other.
Understand in a different level that we want to share something.
It is such a privilege to be in a place as a performer or as a person to imitate some information radiate
something to be a social something and that people receive it is quit a precious thing. And also at the
same time we are receiving a lot from the people, the environment, space. So it is always a vice versa, we
are always reflecting and in my research a lot of elements like mirroring. I am meeting you and you are
meeting me. That is already a mirroring situation. Also listening, or seeing is also a mirroring as a listener
It is all about exercising in my research, so it is very practical. What we do involves a lot of listening and
seeing, listening to whatever we can listen to and then all the sounds we can detect we can listen. And
still we miss a lot of small sounds, we want to hunt every sound. What we are trying to find sound
behind the major sound, insignificant sound, outside this space. Or even our ear cannot listen to it but we
pay attention to that sound even if it is not sounding.
As much as we listen, we reaching towards there, not thirty centimeters around us, but much further,
much more, emanating much further, that means all the other sounds are listening to me. As long as I
listen to them, they are listening to me. That thing far away , they are listening to me. So I am listened to.
As much as I see something, I distribute my attention, far away or close and as long as I give them
attention, they are giving me attention back. So I am being given attention by those things I give attention
to. So in that sense it all comes back to me what I do. All those happenings all become quit meaningful,
quite charming and quite playful.
What happens to these things that we do not pay attention to, do they still talk to you?
K No, I don’t think so. As much as you pay attention to it, there is potential. That this, pass way
will get open. I think it all has to do with communication. There would be some gift falling from heaven,
and you are gifted to begin with that, but if you are not aware of it, you cannot use it, and it is a wasted
gift. Than that happens anyway, you don’t have to look for it. But what I want to do is consciously
establishment of that skill. I am not aiming for a productivity of that, that I can use it as a technique, or
something like that. I do it because it gives me pleasure and fun to do it. Giving attention to whatever
things, I will get attention back,. In that sense I can say I have a connection with that space, or dust, or
sound from the corridor or building. Whatever things I have a relation with, is supporting my being. On
stage or in life.
And you support their being.
K Exactly, so that is very important. And also in terms of performativity that is a very important
thing to acknowledge that. And also for the people, sharing the space with the audience. I would like to
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have the other elements participating. It is not only a body dancing and people watching that. y it is just
fun to engage and activate that kind of feeling. Also from any body anybodies body, as much as I can pay
attention to. Even if they live on the other side of the earth and I cannot pay attention to them that that’s
okay. As long as I can pick up that thing I want to be able to pick it up.
We also apply that relationship between two people. Just to start with. You can have a relationship with
being alone in the studio. You are alone but you are not lonely. You are surrounded by an enormous
amount of things, so you can have a duet or a trio, or an orchestra even. If you are not there to
acknowledge that, if you cannot imagine those, you cannot imagine those anyway. But as much as you can
acknowledge it and imagine it, and pay attention to it, you should do it, otherwise it is a waste of time
and energy, if you doesn’t do it.
I encouraged myself and my dancers to assume that energy, By presuming or intentially using it, than you
do not get tired, if you pay intention to it, it gives energy to the body. It is quit fun to do it, it really gives
proportion to this energy and radiation. I want to make the body very radiative. Radiation is
communication. Radiation is reaching that way the audience, the space behind me, towards the others,
towards me. It is a mirror. As far as I reach outwards, I travel inwards in the same proportion, in the same
plus or minus. I think many things like mirring, like contradict, also very understandable, very natural, a
natural force, natural energy.
So, in the relationship. I am looking at you and you are looking at me and then from that basic point there
is a lot to investigate. I have a lot of exercise.
What sort of exercise would you do? Would you like to share that with me, or do you want to
keep it for yourself?
K No, I want to share. It is one exercise that I have been doing it long time, but it is nice to do it
every time because it gives every time. It is not a repetition.
You see the others, but what does that mean. You can question all the time. So, I think I am seeing you,
but what am I. What am I seeing, and then I see you, a picture, your face, shoulder, skin or something.
And than I can imagine that my seeing is almost like touching. It is my freedom to think whatever. That
freedom of association and imagination. You have the freedom not to think of anything.
Or I can touch by seeing. What does it mean to touch by seeing? I don\t have to convince you. I t is my
thing. And then I can see the whole thing and I am touching the back of your head, or your shoulder, it is
still my freedom, I am still in the same shape. But my content is changing, gradually but my shape does not
The mirror again. Then I start seeing the eyes. What am I seeing in the eyes? Than I imagine touching
your eyes, be drowned, the mirror, texture, I have the freedom to think. But it is also nonsense at the
same time but is is not nonsense at the same time. So I have two things, I can think what I am doing right
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now is very important, very significant. It is always two things. Really important to be very realistically and
to be skeptical. It is nice to have both at the same time. And then I can see myself in your eye.
D I’m doing it now too, looking at myself. It looks as if we have an incredible contact, but we are
both staring at ourselves (both laugh).
K So it is a bit of window shopping that you suddenly find yourself in some windows of some
shop, than you get surprised or embarrassed, but you see yourself, the background, the scenery around it,
you see it in the eyes of the other, looking at yourself. You see that space in the eye of the other. Still, at
any time you can go back to the eyes of the other.
D It is work-shopping in seeing in a way. On intensities. What I mean is that we are so limited in
the way we are dealing with looking most of the time, it is almost that with this research you expand the
possibilities of meeting. The other, which I think is beautiful. It is taken for granted, I look into your eyes
and I see your eyes, but I can see much more than that, I have that freedom. Through that I meet on a
So, it is a very intense working process and I guess not everybody is open for it. How do you
choose your dancers?
K That is something, maybe I better finish my explanation. It takes time....
What I am doing is having different perspectives, like you were saying, but still it is my action but it also
changes the way of communicating. What happens between us also is changing only because of the
arrangement of my perspective. And also my feeling towards you changes, my energy of the body
changes,, your body changes, I think. The energy between us changes.
Also it is practicing the way how much we can divide things. 1 into 2 and 2 into 4 .
It is quit a mental process then, in a way?
K Maybe, yes But it is nice to divide anyway. There is something very fascinating there, that when
we divide. It is not so that if we divide there is something good, that is why we have to divide. But if we
do this active dividing, it gives some pleasure.
What do you mean by dividing. I don’ t really understand what you mean by that.
K Dividing means: I am meeting you, and I am seeing your eyes, , I am finding myself in the eye of
you, and I see myself and I wave at myself in your eye, now I see my own eyes in your eyes, I see my
eyes in my face in the eye of the face of the other.
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So I am seeing my own eyes. It is a bit like the “Droste” effect, a mirror in an mirror in a mirror., going
back and forth and traveling, coming back to in, going away from it.
So that working happens, and after that, my fascination is eliminating this boundary of I am in my body, I
am caged inside what can travel through is energy, it is not limited in your body, it can travel. Also
thought and feeling, act of praying, If you pray for some one it arrives somewhere, maybe it takes time or
no time, but arrives somewhere, it is not useless. It can be useless, so also having these two ways. We
have always been praying in different ways, and always been dancing. Dancing and praying is, in may sense
Communication, what is that. Between audience and performers or performers to performers. But what
are we feeling, what are we doing? What am I doing to them, what are they doing to me? All that energy
that is exchanged. So that is very important.
I find myself in the eye of you, and in that way, I enter you, I can also invite you in my body. Or that kind
of thing., emanating your energy or attention in whatever space or elements in the space or the audience.
So you arrive to them, and they arrive to you, also the air, the room.
So we practice that we visualize the air that we breath in, it is like “Kindergarten”, in a very hardcore way.
What we do is exactly not so different from “Kindergarten”.
D In what way.
K A bit like Now we are in the space and we breath our air and we are happy breathing the air
and than...The air that was inside me is now going out and that air can be me. Air is coming inside me and
then nobody can say that you are not me inside this space. Also the air you breath in and out, could be
my air or your air,. So in that sense we are exchanging our content. Air is content. So the air around can
be my body. It is just a matter of inside or outside, but around me can be anything. It is up to me no, no
one cares. I am the one that decides. So in that way it is important for the performers to initiate or dare,
in a sense not in a mental or psychological sense but in that moment.
I am in this space, I want to be friendly with this space. I want to consider this space as an extended part
of my body or you as an extended part of my body. I can consider myself as an extended part of you. It
can all get mixed up. Than it becomes quite unnatural to say that we are different things, entities, and
than...our body is quit limited if we cannot plug into this space, than you have to struggle so much to do
your thing. So that does not activate a sense of being. It simply does not give energy. You can do
something but if you cannot use it you cannot dance.
D What is then dance for you? In relation to what you just said.
K In terms of me, I cannot dance, that means I get very tired . So if I have to dance maybe I have
to dance , but I would like dance to be something which does not have to have a body, it happens, I
mean, we know how to create dance, but dance create itself.
D So where does movement then come from?
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I don’t know.
So if dance creates itself, where would then movement come from?
K I think it is coming. It is not one place or one way, but I am not here to define what dance is, I
am not interested in answering it also, If I answer it, what do I get from it? Nothing. I am not interested
what dace is, or what is not dance.
What I want to say is that I like dance that happens by itself. That means, I want to dance. I dancing. Why
do I say this. It does not require any motivation. It happens.. I do not have to make it happen also. When
I am listening to the space, I really consider this as a dance, this communication. Or listening. See or
understand or try to be open to what is there is already a dance. You go beyond your body, you are
opening and your body is already , as I am thinking of that corner of the room I am there already, I am
here but I am there at the same time, but I am already reaching there, otherwise I would not pay
attention to it, first of all. But if I think of it, I am there and also there and here, so it is connected, it is
bridged So That is dance I think. I think that is already a dance. What shape it takes, is another thing, it is
interesting to see, but most important is this bridging. This beyond the limitation of the body. I don’ t
have to try to go out there, I am there already, so it happens already without processing. So that I find
Also in terms in two bodies relationship. Very practical, standing in front of each other, in that way,
actually I am there at the same time being there. I am meeting you and entering in you, going trough you.
I am already going through you, or entering you. There is some bridging connection. I don’ t know if it is
happening from your side or my side
Maybe less, maybe more, but than, someway something very interesting which is going beyond my body,
before touching physically, that is quit interesting thing which really changes the temperature. And then
you are also practicing the way that this connection making a connection in my subjective way.
Also with touching and not touching we are practicing to maintain this connection. For example: In this
research wea re very much paying attention to ourselves also touching. What am I touching. Am I
touching a bone, am I touching the flesh or the skin, nerves, or just touching, or I don’t think much, but I
am just having this shape. Or I go touching into the bone or ten meters into the ground. It is a freedom
and if now one questions you and you can question your self and it can also change.
But although it is the same shape, you can feel content really, there are a lot of variations and a lot of
depth. But then we can touch and I am touching my shoulder. But who am I talking about. I am touching
the shoulder. That means I touch...am I this left hand? Am I my right shoulder? Maybe my subjective I is
living in this hand touching the shoulder. This is also mine. So then I try to shift from my subjective I and I
try to shift it to my right shoulder and than I am touching back my left palm, my left hand, then now my
right shoulder is touching back my left hand, but still it is me touching myself. This kind of exercise we do
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I am just raising my hand. But I am showing my palm, or I am touching air or what ever. You do not have
to know what I am doing but I can do what I am doing, I can question what I am doing. At the same time
that is nonsense. So that is quit interesting.
I am touching air, so I am now only here (in my palm) Now I am touching air, but which amount of air?
What kind of air. That is also very much up to me; I think of a big cube of air, also I can think of a small
amount (fitting in his hand). It is very much up to me but at the same time it is bullshit. But not really it
feels real, can, than it feels real, but I can say wait, wait and then it is just nonsense. All these things can
vary and also changes the quality of my body and of the space I inhabit and also it is communicating
eventually. Maybe not, there is no believe in it, also we know it changes, at the same time not really.
That’s why it is interesting to keep doing it.
My shape is a cupped hand, I am here (that is the great cube of air) touching the hand/ myself. At the
same time it is nonsense, and it is not.
What do you mean with nonsense?
I don’t know. It can be insignificant, it can be ...it does not matter, it is bullshit
But I don’ t really question what nonsense means, because that is not my interest. I just throw it away.
You use the word, so it is nice to know what that container word means.
Nonsense is nonsense, it is nothing to pay attention to, or nothing to think deep about it. Just
stop thinking about it, because it is a waste of time to think about it.
Does it mean it has no value?
K You can give it a significance but I am just using it to create parameters ?
So, now I am touching and being touched is a very big subject to me. Touching the chair, the chair
touching me. Because it is mirror again. I am doing something and being done.
If I am touching this air, the air is touching me back. That is a very practical thing, we just do it. We do not
believe in it. It is not a hypnotization, or anything. It is just a practical exercise that we engage the process
as a worm up.
This is just a worm up, it is very physical preparation. It is not even a preparation because our motto is
not to prepare It is not to warm ourselves to be ready for something.
Because you are already ready?
If we are cold, we dance with a cold body. A cold body is good. We don’t have to get warm to
do something. Anyway we get worm by itself.
So what would be the next step to take. What flows out of what you just did?
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K It is just one/tenth of the face of a warm up. It takes quit a time. It is also about not getting used
to it either. I am just thinking “What element is important to start with. Touching, being touched, Also
seeing, being seen. Listening and being listened to.
What you are doing is what you are done. What you do something, you get done ( action- reaction) It is
not Jesus Christ preaching but, What you do to the others you get done to yourself. It is a very inspiring
Also seeing the others.
In a way what I want to do is touching the others means that you are being touched by the others. I am
sitting in this chair and the chair is touching my knee, my back. We question: What is this, we question all
this touching, and this shape, we just get to know more frequently.
By acknowledging where I am, I move and than I stop somewhere and cheque where am I, what is this
doing (wobbling his finger). So in a way it is hard to know what I am doing in a way, because there is a lot
of mystery. I breath without controlling it, it is all moving, even in my own body.
Then...we just pay attention to as much as we can, we can not imagine what we cannot imagine.
Whatever we can imagine, we try to imagine, picking up that information
And then it becomes quit interesting to do and then there is some energy coming out from that, it is
vitalizing. It does something very important that I can shape with my dancers and it can also be shared
with the audience. That energy is something quit important, that energy only comes out from
acknowledging what is around. Being here and something comes.
That energy is also something to handle it when you are dancing. It really bridges a lot of things. Then in a
way I am very interested to disappear, vanish, vanish in a way that I want to ...(making arm movements
and referring to the space around him)
What we exercise was also this touching, we never touch enough, It is not so that I felt everything, If I do
it again another feeling comes. So if you don’t feel it at that moment, you are already behind, you are
feeling the past. And not here in the present.
Then it is not meeting, than it is reproduction of form of meeting. Your content is not catching up to the
present. You are behind, you are not there, you are not meeting. We cannot communicate, radiate. You
can maybe give me information but you don’t exchange that energy that I told you about. That
something that arises from acknowledging what is around you.
It is also transportable. It is “meetable” and reachable and tangible. It really flies across and bridges people
and than we feel it and than we understand it. Although we don’ t understand the information. But then
we share it and we feel that we are beyond our body. In a way. I don’ t want to sound Holy, Holy but I
want to connect to that place.
In stead of becoming a winner, beating others, than I survive, actually there is no hope for it, it is not
interesting. it makes me tired. So that is the very key thing, Looking for the energy is simply pleasure.
But we are conducting the research in a very practical way. We don’t talk too much but we are very busy
with doing it. We have talked about it, of course, but what we are doing is quite concrete, exercises
touching and feeling.
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We can feel what ever what we can feel. Feel moving in what ever way. And if I engage free to maintain
this feeling alive in stead of preserving this like a frozen sensation, I am keeping it alive by maintaining this
sensation. Without changing it. I kind of maintain and activate it every second.
Do you then apply the same imagination to it as with the other exercises?
K This exercise about engaging in the feeling. Meeting, maintaining as lively as possible and same
sensation. And the same does not mean preserving but keep engaging. BUT not changing the condition
of it . However fast of dynamic you move, I keep it. In order to keep this sensation, I have to rearrange
my other parts of my body, but `i still try to keep. I am Almost not giving you the information that I am
touching (comes from martial arts) but in order to do that I rearrange my body. It comes from martial
arts that exercise. If you know that I am here, you will kill me. If I don’t claim my presence or resistance. If
I resist, you will kill me.
If I don’t activate that sense of resistance or instinct of survival that you have to run away or do
something, than you will sense it as an animal instinct. But than I have to take over that animal instinct by
even more sensing it and then you wont detect that, so I will have more possibility to do whatever, or
that maybe just by affinity here, you will loose the sense of fighting with me. Maybe the necessity to fight.
I don’t know b ut it is coming from the martial arts and I was applying it.
Than you have to change yourself in order to keep it. It rally requires your flexibility or physical rearrangement.
You are not moving by yourself, you are moving according to the others. So actually it is
not your intention to do this or that, but follow. By non-moving you see how to be available.
Also in the exercise we do not change our footstep. My body does not get activated, we don’t make a
step, when I make a step, my body does not get activated. I keep my footprint at the same place and also
my hand at the same place, maintaining that state, I can activate in the middle part, I can rearrange. If I
really have to make a step, I make a second step, coming from a necessity. My feet are not moving if I
don’t have to, it is a waist of ability. So we try to cultivate in that way the physicality
That martial arts is also looking into a possibility of harmony, not about killing. I will adjust my steps
towards harmony so you do not feel the necessity to kill me. This is beyond animalistic, reflexology also
In a way, It requires some practice. We apply it to dancing thing, it is quit interesting to search for your
bodies potential using the other bodies by touching. From there, you are connecting to the other persons
body, and actually you move as one animal, one life. And than, it does not matter if the others know it, at
least you can be the initiator to make one step towards that place.
Harmony and oneness, based on actual contact. Or maybe you don’t even have to touch it. It can be
through touching the air. Everything is “airmetic”. It matters, One finger matters in terms of the whole
That kind of attention might be very effective in performativity. That you move that much and the space
moves. Moving the whole space in some way that it is being felt immediately. By the participating bodies (
RESEARCHING BODIES Diane Elshout 2009 118
n that sense. The body in front of an other body comes to meeting, communication, and feeling and
tuning and a sense of affinity and harmony, something which is communicative. It is being felt on an
immediate level, without reason, without concept. But it has to work, physically, because it is not a
beautiful idea, but it has to work. So that’ s why it is important to have the time to practice it.
It can easily become pretence.
K Exactly. If you believe in it, it becomes a farce. We should not believe in it. It can be nonsense.
It is just a body standing and that is it. But it is not, but it is that thing.
I am trying to trespass the boundaries of the other bodies and going in., merging into it. That is what I
have in mind. Merging. Something emerges out of vanishing. Dancing and vanishing. Something appears,
but it does not have a form.
I would like to kind of disappear or vanish, or go out of the body to be permeated by the whole space/ in
the whole space in that kind of body, that is practical and heavy but the body can be more. Body in front
of a body (but body can be object) what is a real body, am I in my real body, am I around me? Am I
touching you (with my breath that came out and that is now our shared space) because I am bigger than
the size of my body. Or smaller than my body, breathing. So I am quit asking myself: Am I here, or here
or here...... (pointing inward to his body and also outward towards the whole space ) no I am here, and
he comes back to the limits of his skin). It is very transparent, this presence, like this it is manageable by
touching and triggering. There is something very interesting, a potential.
How long have you been walking around with this idea?
K I just gave it a name Vitalizing the invisible. I needed name for a workshop.
Example, I am rising up and now I am getting small, but I am creating a huge balloon, so I am becoming
small but actually I am becoming big. It is mirroring.
And this is something that you have always been busy with?
Yes. Quit from the beginning of my dancing 1996/97 There was a lot of environment that kind
of echo’s that kind of way in Japan. Those idea’s are quit familiar somehow. Dancers and philosophers.
Japanese philosophers also?
Some, but mainly Merleau Ponty. Is very significant, touching/ being touched but also visible/
invisible all with the perception. Also other things. Anything.
It is so beautiful because it is not hierarchic.
No, it is very democratic It is very animistic (is that not hierarchic).
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K Everything has a life. The right to exist. It really supports you. If you think the air can touch you,
you have a “ bare” . So, also touching can give stability. By the act of touching you can loosen a lot of
other things. Like your feet on the ground allow you to shake your body.
Point of reference also.
I think that really effects the state of body and it affects back the environment. That is quit a
communication, it is quit a performance,
already on its own, without doing anything.
Exactly. Already this active listening is a performance. The engagement of listening is already
giving something back. It is a mirror. Our sensitivity becomes a power.
You say performance does not start with the performance but performance is constant and
K How much the body can be a “catalyzer”. So it is not an idea or concept of seeing this way or
this way, but it has to embody it. It has to be felt by the others, by the space. The space has to encourage
you. You have to be in that way very effective, if you have to be influential, that means that you are
capable of being touched and influenced by what surrounds you. The strength is not the strength by
pushing everything away, it is more including. It is not the concentration of this (makes a small space with
his fingers) but it is more “exentration”, involving all possible. We don’t even know what we miss,
Enormous possibility to pay attention to and only by paying attention to the time will be finished.
My tape is finished
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