Indelible [I closed the book and I changed my life]
By Becca Weber
This video installation is a dance film and documentation of a site-specific performance work. Situating the work, which questions our embodied histories, within the confines of a library challenges the Cartesian distinctions between mind and body. The library, while a physical location, remains a site firmly situated in intellectual and mental territories, and thus is rarely a place of embodied exploration. By performing movement explorations in this space, we disrupt the “safe space” of the hierarchy of mind over body, and reinforce the plasticity of our bodies—its ever-alive and changing nature which reflects our own individual histories. This site-specific dance also highlights the physicality of the books, and the presence of bodies—of both performers and studious “audience” members—in the space. By situating our explorations in physical intersubjectivity, we hope to transgress the boundaries between mind and body and the social codes of behaviour in public spaces of the mind to reunite the body and brain, the physical with the intellectual. Elizabeth Grosz claims in an analysis of Deleuze that the space in between two things is where thought originates; “becoming” which is the method of transformation for the two things creating this liminal space, “is bodily thought, the ways in which thought, force, or change invests and invents new series, metamorphosing new bodies from the old through their encounter.” (Grosz 2001, p.68-69) Becoming enables singular parts to be released from the system of the whole, transforming possible experiences. By prioritizing the relational aesthetics of the dancers to each other and to the books, “Indelible” engages in this bodily thought and transforms individual participants and witnesses experiences of this intellectual space to raise physicalized experience to an equal plane of value. Thus, the work actualizes an alternative method of engagement in a space dictated by the hierarchies of academia. In the silent space of the library, our movement is the nonverbal communication, giving voice to the knowledge of histories in our bodies and aligning them with the knowledge in the books.
These themes were cultivated from a multi-part movement exploration of themes inherent or implied in Bruce Smith’s poem, “Untitled [I closed the book and I changed my life].” The choreography stems from a collaborative creative process which examines our own embodied histories—specifically, our deliberate, chosen past actions to create change in our lives. The movement utilizes a playful, and at times fraught, interaction with books as metaphoric representations of this change/decision. “I closed the book,” “I turned over a new leaf,” “I’m beginning a new chapter of my life.” We tend to think of these touchstones in our lives as memories which live on in our minds, yet we keep rereading the same lines over and over, rediscovering familiar patterns at different points in our lives. When we create change, are those changes lasting? Or do we always carry our past histories with us, our embodied memories affecting our currently-enacted lives?