Expression and Bodily Faith in Natalie Heller’s First Impressions
Keywords:Phenomenology, motor-perception, perceptual-faith, contemporary dance
In this essay I place choreographer Natalie Heller in dialogue with Merleau-Ponty on issues of motor-perception, expression and bodily faith. I analyze her new work First Impressions to demonstrate how she responds to a similar impulse that drove Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, particularly in his last writing, The Visible and the Invisible. Both Heller and Merleau-Ponty seek to go beyond the representational understanding of motion and perception in order to articulate and experiment with a type of expression, which is beyond the distinctions between motion and motionlessness, activity and passivity, visibility and invisibility. While Merleau-Ponty writes about this form of expression, Heller’s performers show that beyond these binaries is a form of expression that is ambiguously situated between impressing and being impressed upon, and that to engage the world or the city as such, requires a motor-perceptual form of faith.
Heller, Natalie. 2014. “Research Blog.” Last updated April 24. http://www.natalieheller.com/research-blog
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1945) 2002. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. London and New York: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1952) 1993. “Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence.” In The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, edited by Galen A. Johnson, translated by Michael B. Smith, 76–120. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1961) 1993. “Eye and Mind.” In The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, edited by Galen A. Johnson, translated by Michael B. Smith, 121–149. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1964) 1968. The Visible and the Invisible. Edited by Claude Lefort. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1973. Prose of the World. Edited by Claude Lefort. Translated by John O'Neill. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.
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