a state of dance
founded by michael klien and davide terlingo
edited by jeffrey gormly (editor [at] choreograph [dot] net)

LEAD ARTICLE: dear grace (patterns are everywhere remix)

by Alan N. Shapiro


This is the author’s take of an early version of Klien, Gormly and Valk’s text for Framemakers Book of Recommendations, which was in process parallel to this publication.

Patterns are everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere. Patterns are in between, ephemeral yet real. They exist in parallel to what we commonly call reality. We can only perceive them if we are precisely tuned in to their wavelength. They only become visible to us under certain specific conditions. But these absently present patterns govern our lives. Work routines, planetary systems, ordinary life, and daily conversations are all governed by the subtle framing of patterns. As the scientist-philosopher Gregory Bateson reminds us, it is the supremacy of patterns “that connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose, and all of them to me and me to you.” What Bateson foresaw in his seminal work was the initiation of a shared collective project of friends to imagine and bring about through social choreography a vivid awareness of the profound structures and dynamics that underlie the true realities of nature and human existence. Patterns are flexible and ambivalent. They are fluid constellations, continuously appearing and disappearing, crystallizing and dissolving, being born and dying. They are an ongoing dance of creation and de-creation in our environmental habitat and our species-being. They provide an elegant frame to guide our becoming airborne and our flight. Surrounding this dance is a world full of interactions, arrangements, relationships, instantiations, dependencies, and ecologies. To enquire into this world of ever-changing patterns and spirited forces at play is to explore the choreography of life, to interrogate what it is that makes us dance and why.

Patterns can grow, learn, evolve, become livelier, and propagate. In a media-theatrical context, we might identify these patterns as an idea light bulb, the prop of a beer mug, an animated character, a cartoon speech bubble, or the volleyball named Wilson with which Tom Hanks converses while stranded on his Desert Island in Steven Spielberg’s film “Castaway.” Yet such patterns are merely discrete systemic terms conceptually capturing only one level of analysis and approximation. The beer mug, Wilson, and the electric incandescent brainchild are also moveable components of other patterns, or macro patterns of patterns. We ourselves are constituents of larger social-psychological choreographies. Our acts are often unaware interventions in these wider dramaturgies. What is really required to act more effectively is an original creativity embedded in a sense of material historical processes and ethical responsibilities. What is needed is a thoroughgoing yet simple rational investigation into the general grammatology of patterns, and into their twists and paradoxes, in order to discover the frames that bind us together and which render possible the jigs that we dance.

With advancing knowledge in the arts and critical social sciences arise doubts, making plain the obsolescence of static frameworks, questioning the validity and exposing the limitations of existing frames as woefully inadequate for achieving the goal of “wider knowing.” There must be an active rebuilding and re-framing of subjectivity. We must fundamentally transform the ways that we conduct our lives, interact, love, consume and relate to the social, libidinal, and territorial spheres. We have acquired the super-powers to bring about fantastic changes. This is a given of our radical rewiring of our rich cultural heritage. We will create conducive and conductive conditions to make things happen, for local-global patterning and re-patterning. This is the work of the choreographer of everyday life. She is the negotiator, navigator, provider and architect of the flowing economy in which we are swimming. “Western morality says: the good is the true, the true is the real, and the real is substantial. The Nietzschean child replies: your truth doesn’t interest me, I know nothing of substance, and I am stumped by what you call reality.” (Caroline Heinrich, “In Search of the Child’s Innocence”)

I,the untimely timeless Nietzschean child-choreographer for whom sequential-chronological “stages of life” have no meaning, whose Self evanesces into the Unity of the Whole, am not interested in the least in your Business-as-Usual notions of pre-scripted choreography, those configurations of fixed relations that belong to the classical Euclidean geometric world of rock solid distinctions. My playful Klein-bottle topographical choreography is not about the disciplinary arrangement of inanimate objects, nor is it about determining the fate of human beings within the four-dimensionality of classified space-time as we have known it until now. Such traditional dance-work is as far removed from patterns of truthful creation as it possibly could be. This conventional stuff is rather engineered for instant digestion and assimilation. There is no challenge and nothing at stake in designing for the affirmation and reproduction of the established order of things. I shout an emphatic “no” to the imperative to choreograph the becoming-concrete of social institutions. The hardening foundations of the dominant social are poured during the sleep-walk of our multitudes of reductionist thinkers, who bury fruitful uncertainty and complexity beneath the mass-produced grave markers of their false assumptions. The physical universe as I know it is a thirteen-dimensional hyper-space of contingency and free-floating forces. I conduct the orchestra of phantom fragments of naked time, eating my naked lunch as I herd endless nows safely back into the makeshift shelters of my spitfire ideas and actions, an endless cycle of fusional patterning and releasing outwards to chaos. These protecting containers are temporarily erected, transformed, and then actively forgotten. They might resurface or be rediscovered at a later date-and-time-stamp, when the white hole end of the tunnel into which they entered via the black hole finally re-hits the fanned open air of space. The choreographed collapsing and spiraling of the fall from grace into the heart of darkness is the prequel to metamorphosis into the posthuman. Like dust from the feet of the traveler at the end of his journey, it is from the dug out dirty ground of being that super-charged anti-matter is brought back to terrestrial contact. Life blossoms. Vitality is realized in its full potentiality and capacity. The true stability of this pataphysical architecture embraces ebbs and flows, and flirts with infinity. As systems architect of the invisible buzzings of the emergence of consciousness, I set entities into relationship to one another. Sometimes this is no more than the re-shuffling of the deck of a game-of-life context. I introduce enough “re-framing” into the situation for the idea-body to get unstuck from its orbital patterns of circumstance and repetition.

II,Last night in bittersweet nocturnal reverie, I took part in a massive demonstration against humanity. Those gathered together protested against the insanity, contradictions and cognitive failures within individuals and society as a whole. I was among a throng of tens of thousands of dutifully assembled lost souls, each holding a candle in her hands. The sense of absolute urgency was highlighted by a deathly silence that ruled because no one had any ideas or vision whatsoever. No one knew what to say or do. Finally, for no apparent reason, a few scattered individuals raised their candles ever so slightly, perhaps adjusting angle to compensate for a change in wind direction or velocity. Soon everyone else followed. “Look,” I whispered to my shadow, you who are my faithful and constant companion, “we are finally doing something! The movement has re-started! Soon we’ll be wearing war paint on our cheeks and the Metropolitan Indians will be turned loose on the City once again!” What are the precise actions to be taken to bring about the freeing of such a spirit, you ask? Naturally, expressed in the languages of our existing sense-apparatuses, nothing is precisely that thing that you do and which needs to be done. All acts are reductionist except for the act of doing nothing, once we have arrived in the trans-computational no man’s land of unfathomable complexity. All answers are immanent to the self-aware object’s continuously unfolding life as it decrypts its invisible species-nascent code saved on no storage medium in real time. Everything traces and scents the trail of a similarity of patterns in the interlinking sphere of the living. After appearance and growth comes finally death. This can be transformed into no-death if we decide with every ounce of our self-confident conviction and self-taught technological savvy to say no to that expiration date. Sharpen your awareness of the communicative procedures of the internal skin, said the sage to the seeker. My secret epidermis, which no violator can take away from me, is delineated by the outside of the inside, which is beneath the inside of the outside. If we slowly climb the Stairway to Heaven, each single step up the Master is no effort.

But sometimes I wonder if meaningful creation is possible at all. What forms of vibrating reverberant purpose has the rationalist-linear-algorithmic way of human inventiveness that has straitjacketed us up until this day succeeded in giving rise to? Sure, we have devised creature comforts of all sorts. But has not our restricted way of imagineering led to a systematically self-inflicted segregation from more profound and wider realities? Enthusiastically it seems, we have been wildly running around in circles, as we build roads, castles, nation-states and simulated-democracy constitutions. Is this the meaningful habitat of the extraordinarily re-ordinary that we have built for ourselves to live in? Standing transfixed in historical presence, bound hands and feet to the hyper-realism of our mundane gravitationally down-pulling creations, we catch a glimpse of real value only betwixt and between the fake values of commercial-consumerist shopkeeper-mentality mongering. Nothing is rising. Nothing is rising. No candle is yet being raised. Only the dropouts and the lumpens are producing any genuine wealth. I lament the poverty of the oh so restricted endeavours of our intellectuals, academics, politicians, and cultural impresarios. They advance such a reduced sampling of the wide spectrum of nature’s and capitalist society’s possibilities. A crude, simplistic, reductionist reading of nature and culture’s ways and byways, her thousands of authentic paths mapped witlessly upon the surface of our minds. Imprints relentlessly under-computed and partial-recalled in parimutual permutations within the hyper-planned architectures of our preprogrammed daily existences. A mistletoed misfortune, when our castles in the air are brought down crashingly to earth by the grave and heavy spirits of simulation and mechanical modelling. All this, at the degree zero point in our history, when the dance of elementary particles is to be the new name given to the earth for the emanation of life from eternal starkness. As staid hierarchies prevail in the logical positivist conscious classification systems of humans and the narrow cause-and-effect thinking that reigns in contemporary medicine, sex, and urban planning, it becomes more and more self-evident that the machinic mind and the limits of imagination are the products of the limits of our perceptions of the world within the prevailing techno-scientific paradigm.
Whatever the patterns are that one perceives become the available palette for building in a combinatorial way from the smallest possible units of the system to the desired executable piece of pseudo-intelligence. This method will always be a reduction, and our reductions no longer work. What we perceive with optical recognition based on one-dimensional simplifications will always produce conflict with the a priori environment that becomes our too rigidly constructed habitat. We have enslaved our imaginations, limited the world of our minds to a precooked repetoire of frozen instances. Imagination draws from perception and this spells the outlined boundary of our doom. Never limited by imagination, only by perception. Our societies serve well as reminders of the monstrosity of our collective limitations. Good nations and beautiful institutions are hardly choreographed from the blueprint of written laws. Such nations of anarchism would never be lawless or loveless, as the bearers of the books of the currently prevailing false community of false nations try to get us to believe. The laws of these new anarcho-Marxist nations of liberated capitalism, these lands of Peter Pan Make-Believe, will be inscribed into, and emerge out of, distributed self-ordering automata of free associations. Individuals will balance their libidinal and literal checkbooks with rules, not with laws proscribing order for a collective. What a difference! Nations full of proportionalities, rich in relations, giving the individual her space to unfold in full thought. Thought which is the highest form of action or the most significant moral choice for determining the future of the world. Yes, it’s time to start playing for real. Games and play instead of using the body and pain of others for our violence-sports and simulacrum-wars. But we have to take our time. The time to observe and to study the glue that has been holding all hives – whether rigid, aggressive or indifferent – together. Such post-possessive properties have been on my mind for some time. I see them as the future social glue. What a balance to be struck! Maintaining a hive, a swarm whilst catering to the individual. Maximum individual freedom coupled with maximum harmonic stability of the collective – this is the Holy Grail to which the Yellow Brick Road of social choreography leads. I feel deeply that the alchemic secret opening the way to this Alice’s Wonderland resides in the idea of “recursive epistemology.” (see Peter Harries-Jones’ work on Bateson) The literary sociology of knowledge of how we as individuals, and we as a social grouping of companions-companeros, go about knowing.

How do we know our own framing procedures, our reoccurrences, and even our mistakes. The word recursivity, the deep interdependencies of everything with everything else. The dimension of self-recursivity, or that required existential and personal component of all legitimate thoughts and assertions, which must be grounded in one’s own experiences and struggles, and not remain on the arrogant self-satisfied level of intellectual abstractions. I cannot explain in a single speech what recursivity is, and I shall instead give it the prodigious gift of having super-alchemistic powers for now. The genie in the bottle, discovered on the deserted South Pacific Island after the splashdown of the Mercury capsule protecting the spiritually seeking astronaut-of-the-inner-mind’s journey. What a merged amalgamated mind we live in! A world of endlessly integrated smaller minds. To describe reality in terms of things and subjects – as if everything is not subject to a larger flow – is a violation of our senses. Let us re-introduce movement and the concepts of dance and re-mixing into our language. Language has a dismal past, let us give it a better future! I could talk about the nuts, wheels, bolts and springs that by themselves move nothing. But together, if organized in the right arrangement, they actually produce a clock or a carriage. Such fixed models only help to confirm one’s illusions of a mechanistic, dualistic reality of Aristotelian binary oppositions. There are better clocks out there that not one single mind had yet put into order. Evolution is the dance of many minds. Systems are an interlocking movement-sequence of a number of parts. The elements of manifold systems dance and interweave with other ingredients according to the rhythm of immanent patterns. Systems fuse, morph, retain information, memorize, learn and find ways to duplicate themselves, notably in the form of a chemical double helix string of exons and introns, which in another disco Saturday Night Fever swing is wrapped around everything that its dance touches. It plays with itself, plays itself out, and gets played out within its two-sided-that-is-just-one-side wormhole-like Möbius context. It copies itself forward in time with difference and deferring. Such Minds, conscious or not, are everywhere. Each atom affected or involved in the dance of life is part of many minds. Every mind is arising through others, built upon and within an immeasurable quantity of minds. And here we are on our illusionary Island, an isolated abstract thinking mind we call consciousness, pretending not to be engaged in such a social dance of reciprocal entanglements. Welcome to the Rock. The dance of life does not take place in isolation. All of these minds form an interwoven conglomerate of subtle balances, a stability in constant movement.

Every innocent child at play knows that a simple disturbance of one constellation sends ripples throughout the connected fabric, ripples in space-time. Our limited cogitating consciousness can only be passive in the bad way, bound mercilessly into the fabric while the effects ripple through us, changing or killing us. We must take care not to cause the ripples ourselves. All minds that bind the living together recursively validate and define themselves. Yes, recursively. One’s context defines who one is since we are all part of each other’s context, and so is the oak outside, the field beneath our feet and the worms below. We make each other possible, enable each other’s elasticity and life. This could be an elegant description of recursivity. Our minds simply exist through and in others. My assumption is that the dead are also part of this fabric, as a tree needs to be dead at its core to sustain a fragile skin of life around what is non-living. This could serve as a metaphor, binding the living and the dead into an ecology of belonging. I can no longer see with my eyes in literal hyper-real pictures, representations of unique moments. Patterns are everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere. They are real. In between, ephemeral yet real. That’s why I refer to choreography as the invisible art, the art of the invisible. After all – it is immanent in relations, force-fields, and attractors of all sorts – not frozen into any subject or object. Choreography is everywhere, always, in everything. I can no longer see in literal hyper-real pictures. I see in movement and interrelations, in exchange and interchange between bodies and ideas. What is the difference between the concepts of body and idea? Isn’t an idea a body – when passed on in its entirety? Isn’t a body an idea that has been strong enough to prevail long enough to be perceived, physical if described in matter? What rule-based choreography is immanent in the playing out of chemical processes of becoming-life? And what choreographs the act of making love? Can there be a more aesthetic dance that extends the mind, wrapping one mind-body around the other, bringing the other to life in your hand, your hand. Choreography of evolution, an evolution beyond the dichotomy of necessity and freely chosen, intricate order of two people in relation to each other, the ether of the mental fabrics being pulled into a dance not inscribed anywhere – a conglomerate of needs, desires, submission, sacrifice, humility, giving, tenderness, energy, vitality – an immanent, nameless set of relations within nature, an authorless phenomenon usually bastardized and instantly destroyed by one’s will to make order. What frames all this movement, these processes, mating dances, ant colonies. The subtle pathways, attractors, fields. The pulling of movement out of mannerisms and minds into time and space? These choreographies surpass the capacity of any choreographer, any one creator. Yet ignorance still prevails when we flatter ourselves with our pathetic, over-simplified creations, our rote copies of nature, our factories, transport vehicles, and theatres that never learned to dance at all. We stand proudly fake-erect next to our daft work that in truth belittles our very source of knowledge as we force our self-referential, awkward creations onto the suffering larger ecology. To live harmoniously within an ecological system, one must indeed strive to perceive the deep structural processes underpinning one’s environment. One must harvest, integrate and digest them, make them part of one’s mental performances, and furthermore apply them as structural tools in one’s personal creations. Only in this way can they become integral parts of a larger ecology. To embed my consciousness free of collisions within my larger mind, and myself within the social, and with your mind, and with the social mind within the larger ecology of life and nature rests at the core of human desires and survival.

It all sounds like utopia, especially to the ears of the radically detached, self-righteous world of bankers, artists, cooks, and thieves. In fact, it is a utopia far more realistic than their time-worn realism. I have spoken of the need to gather the village around the fire, to build bridges to the sacred, to the unknown, via dance, acknowledging our limits as a collective. I don’t know if you are familiar with the story of the polar bear who was kept in a too small cage. Once released into a bigger enclosure, he kept moving in the same patterns to which he was accustomed. He moved constantly from left to right and back, emulating the container he used to be kept in. This bear is you. Stuck in patterns shaped since birth – and most likely your roaming space has decreased over time ever since – your enframing walls still rise and dull your mind. I presume that our primary path or instinct in life is to think oneself enclosed. Yet consciousness has given you and me the possibility to gain glimpses of our condition beyond this. It is up to us to put a stop to habitual movements formed by antiquated frames, to align our being with the ecology of mind and to start creating anew on the basis of such knowledge and freedom. One needs to dance to inscribe into oneself the possibility of such real change and growth. Turning water into words of wine and thoughts into choreography, I ask you, dear shadow-brother, what patterns does it takes to extricate ourselves from the condition of the military soldier in Big Rat’s Army that we have reduced ourselves to? My recommendations will resonate and shine only in the light of the elevated candles. Illumination from a different angle, from a new naïve pragmatic reality of the senses. Choreography will be the word given to “recursive epistemology” that indicates the essential intrinsic value of aesthetics to any form of being. It shall invoke a sensuous inclusion of the observer him/herself in such reality. A way of seeing the world, choreography makes reality much richer. It infuses into one’s reality the chemical ingredients for perceiving a new dimension. This new dimension of relations, proportionalities, movement, and dance makes us at once actors and creators in our newfound land, restoring unity where there was finally only separation. Naïve realism or radical pragmatism emerges as a new paradigm. Sensitive knowing coupled with a deep subjective observation of nature, society and oneself. A painstakingly precise sensorial imagination. Current social frames and the tautological self-fulfilling prophecies of rationalism stand as grey architectures. In a world and ecology of minds, the state of dance and hop is essential and elemental. Dance is a display of the life-force. Don’t think Pirouettes. Think of bird flight, bird shit, and clouds. Dance is an ephemeral state of the qualities and properties of relations. It is all open to change. A potential for change, a flexible and non-determined condition. A specific, excited state of mind where all things are possible. Until now the way our society has choreographed dance has unfortunately been reflective of the larger propensities of how we deal with the unknown, the unframeable, the foreign, the spiritual, and the animal. Conventional arrangements – those of streets, languages, railways, and tin-soldier performers – impose rigid frames. These systems are the embodiment of fear and the cultural suppression of that which is to be governed neither by individual nor collective will. Our premise will not be to constrain movement into a set pattern, but rather to provide a cradle for movement to find its own patterns – over and over again. To prevent a body, whether bound by skin or habits, from degenerating into stagnation. To enable lightness and primal energy that are only discovered once relations start dancing. Dance immerses humanity into interconnected divided moments of mind, into the stirring dynamical systems that connect the dots of the world and our being in time. The world needs dancers. Return stolen territory to the immortal one who dances. To sweat, to smell, to think and stink in flesh, to be in presence in proxy for others who are absent or have disappeared. It is time to stop choreographing Swan Lakes and train schedules! In your quest for innovation you innovate nothing. When the curtain falls on your Swan Lake, the walls between your tribe and other tribes will be thicker and stronger, and all candles will have melted down to their wicks. You are pattern and thought, none of which you have thought yourself. Better to instead assume responsibility for your being in its totality. The future is to be created. Make a dance that tears down separating walls and unties knots. Your choreographies build our meaning and your creations, dear brother, matter to me. Take time to sense your context. It charts the boundaries of your imagination. Make a choreography of the clearing. Out of the woods and onto the beach. Only fools go marching on – the wise ones dance.

published 4 March 09



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