Ethics, Staged

Authors

  • Carrie Noland University of California, Irvine

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.31165

Keywords:

ethics, dance studies, Cunningham, Agamben,

Abstract

This article stages a dialogue between Giorgio Agamben’s theory of gesture and the 2016 reconstruction of Merce Cunningham’s 1964 choreography, Winterbranch. This juxtaposition encourages a comparison between Agamben's and Cunningham's respective approaches to the semiotics of dance, the way that dance can generate meaning but also evade meaning in a way that Agamben deems "proper" to the "ethical sphere." For Agamben, dance is composed of what he calls "gestures" that have "nothing to express" other than expressivity itself as a "power" unique to humans who have language. For Cunningham, dance is composed of what he calls "actions," or at other times "facts"—discrete and repeatable movements sketched in the air that reveal the "passion," the raw or naked "energy" of human expressivity before that energy has been directed toward a specific expressive project. I will look more closely at what Cunningham means by "actions," and to what extent they can be considered "gestures" in Agamben's terms; I will also explore the "ethical sphere" opened by the display of mediality, the "being-in-a-medium" of human beings. What, then, do dance gestures expose that ordinary gestures do not? Why would such an exposure be “ethical” in Agamben’s terms? And why would (his notion of) the ethical rely on a stage?

Author Biography

Carrie Noland, University of California, Irvine

Carrie Noland is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.  She is the author of Poetry at Stake: Lyric Aesthetics and the Challenge of Technology (Princeton, 1999), Agency and Embodiment: Performing Gestures/Producing Culture (Harvard, 2009), and Voices of Negritude in Modernist Print (Columbia, 2015).  She is also co-editor of two interdisciplinary collections: Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement with Barrett Watten, and Migrations of Gesture with Sally Ann Ness. At present, she is completing a manuscript entitled Merce Cunningham: After the Arbitrary (forthcoming from Chicago University Press).

References

Agamben, Giorgio. 1992. “Pour une éthique du cinéma.” Translated by D. Loayza. Trafic 3: 49–52.

Agamben, Giorgio. 1996. Mezzi senza Fine: Note sulla Politica. Turin: Bollati Boringhiere.

Agamben, Giorgio. 1997. “Le corps à venir.” Les Saisons de la Danse 292 (May): 6–8.

Agamben, Giorgio. 1999. “Aby Warburg and the Nameless Science.” In Potentialities, translated by David Heller-Roazen, 89–103. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, Giorgio. 1999. “Kommerell, or on Gesture.” In Potentialities, translated by David Heller-Roazen, 77–85. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, Giorgio. 2000. Means Without Ends. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Banes, Sally. 1993. Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater, 1962–1964. Durham: Duke University Press.

Brown, Carolyn. 2007. Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham. New York: Knopf.

Cage, John. 1961. Silence. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.

Chroniques d’un petit rat parisien. 2013, 27 May. Accessed May 11, 2017. http://www.leschroniquesdunpetitratparisien.com/tag/winterbranch/

Copeland, Robert. 1979. “Politics of Perception.” The New Republic, November.

Croce, Arlene. 1968. “Merce Cunningham.” Dance Perspectives 34.

Cunningham, Merce. 1968. Changes: Notes on Choreography. Edited by Frances Starr. New York: Something Else Press.

Cunningham, Merce. 1970. “Choreography and the Dance.” In The Creative Experience, edited by Stanley Rosner and Lawrence E. Abt. New York: Grossman.

Cunningham, Merce. n.d. “MGZMD 295.” Choreographic Records. Jerome Robbins Collection, New York Public Library.

Cunningham, Merce, and Jacqueline Lesschaeve. 2009. The Dancer and the Dance: Merce Cunningham in Conversation with Jacqueline Lesschaeve. London: Marion Boyars.

Dalva, Nancy. 2005. “The Angle of Incident: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Joyce Theater.” DanceView 22 (1).

Dalva, Nancy, ed. 2007. Green World. New York: Editions 2twice.

Duchamp, Marcel. 1975. Duchamp du signe. Edited by Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson. Paris: Flammarion.

Foster, Susan Leigh. 1986. Reading Dancing: Bodies and Dancing in Contemporary American Dance. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Franko, Mark. 1992. “Expressionism and Chance Procedure: The Future of an Emotion.” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 21 (Spring): 142–60. https://doi.org/10.1086/RESv21n1ms20166846

Godard, Hubert. 1998. “La geste et sa perception.” In La danse au XXe siècle, edited by Isabelle Ginot and Michel Marcel, 224–29. Paris: Bordas.

Hering, Doris. 1954. “Merce Cunningham and Dance Company.” Dance Magazine, February.

Johnston, Jill. 1963. “Cunningham, Limon.” The Village Voice, September 5.

Laban, Rudolf von. 1960. The Mastery of Movement on the Stage. 2nd ed. London: MacDonald and Evans.

Langer, Susanne K. 1953. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Levinas, Emmanuel. 1979. “Ethics of the Face.” In Totality and Infinity, edited by Alphonso Lingis, 197–200. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-9342-6

Lussac, Olivier. 2004. Happening & Fluxus. Paris: L’Harmatton.

Mallarmé, Stéphane, 1842–1898. 2003. Oeuvres Complètes. Edited by Bertrand Marchal. Pléiade. Vol. II. Paris: Gallimard.

Martin, John. 1950. “Litz, Cunningham Give Dance Solos.” New York Times, August 13.

McDonagh, Don. 1970. The Rise and Fall of Modern Dance. New York: A Cappella Books.

McDonagh, Don. 1976. The Complete Guide to Modern Dance. New York: Doubleday.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1945. Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard.

Noland, Carrie. forthcoming. Merce Cunningham: After the Arbitrary. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Noland, Carrie. 2002. “Energy Geared to an Intensity High Enough to Melt Steel: Merce Cunningham, Movement, and Motion Capture.” Leonardo Electronic Almanac 17 (2): 120–35. https://doi.org/10.5900/SU_9781906897161_2012.17(2)_120

Noland, Carrie. 2009. Agency and Embodiment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674054387

Noland, Carrie. 2017. “Crises: Bound and Unbound.” In The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment, edited by Mark Franko. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pouillaude, Frédéric. 2014. Le désoeuvrement chorégraphique: étude sur la notion d’oeuvre en danse. Paris: Vin.

Rancière, Jacques. 2009. The Emancipated Spectator. Translated by Gregory Elliot. New York: Verso.

Reynolds, Dee. 2007. Rhythmic Subjects: Uses of Energy in the Dances of Mary Wigman, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. Hampshire: Dance Books.

Ruprecht, Lucia. 2015. “Gesture, Interruption, Vibration: Rethinking Early Twentieth-Century Gestural Theory and Practice in Walter Benjamin, Rudolf von Laban, and Mary Wigman.” Dance Research Journal 47 (2): 23–42. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0149767715000200

Siegel, Marcia. 1971. “Dancing in the Trees and over the Roofs.” The Hudson Review 24 (3): 466–75. https://doi.org/10.2307/3849471

The London Times. 1964. “American Choreographer’s Strangest Ballet,” August 3.

Vaughan, David. 1997. Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years. Edited by Melissa Harris. New York: Aperture.

Downloads

Published

25-06-2017

How to Cite

Noland, C. (2017). Ethics, Staged. Performance Philosophy, 3(1), 67–91. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.31165

Issue

Section

Special Section: Towards an Ethics of Gesture