Wednesday, 14 October 2009

AUT Masters in Art and Design, majoring in dance and video; Aims and Conclusion

After three years of study, today I completed my Masters Exegesis. I used the following points in part as a critique to cross-reference my Conclusion:

Principal areas of Focus in my Masters work:

In this exegesis, I am investigating theories which I believe, indicate a relational dynamic between duration and social behaviours. These theories are formulated through my empirically-based research and suggest re-alignments of existing constructs with regard to the apparent stability of our condition as humans frequenting, as we must, durational spaces. My interdisciplinary performance-based research practice has sought to scrutinize and present the state of Indeterminacy as the prime mover and the Roaming Body as interlocutor and go-between for this discussion. I will attempt here, to define and give substance to the ministrations and movements of the Roaming Body and endeavour to demonstrate how the forces of indeterminacy are represented through this agent in my practice. My intention is to establish in this document, robust contexts in Real Life and the MUVE metaverse of Second Life for the enactment of the participants, Indeterminacy and the Roaming Body. The effects of their residency in us as humans will be questioned and examined together with the substance of their conjoined states-of-agency which I maintain is, as a single entity, responsible for the dynamic tensions which emerge in notions of Belonging, the Self and Identity. The discussion will progressively critique my performative research practice (and how this has sought to engage with these stated descriptors and their implications), as protagonist toward the recognition and establishment of a lived blended-reality, subject to and mediated by the affects of indeterminacy emerging through the event of departure.

In this new urban Myth I maintain that all our exchanges, whether they be either apparently resolved engagements, casual encounters or missed conversations with people and places, are subject to the presence and affects of indeterminacy, evidenced in us as an ongoing state of departure through the agency of the Roaming Body.

What are Indeterminacy and the Roaming Body? How might Indeterminacy be active as a force sufficiently potent to affect our lives? What are the constituents of Indeterminacy? How might these constituents be evidenced in everyday human behaviours to extend the description of Indeterminacy beyond the theoretical? How is the existence of Myth a coherent and recognisable possibility in our lives?

The Roaming Body I suggest, is responsible in our behaviours for pre-emptive departure and the involuntary pursuit of the next moment.

Within the parameters of this urban myth, the manifestation of indeterminacy suggests that ‘Leaving’ is a universal state over which we have no conscious control. Departure is that paradoxical frame of reference for us as humans which both, frees us from the constraints of our previous engagement in time while instilling perhaps, trace echoes of what has been left behind. For me, this creates poignancy - a pathos evident in the most mundane of departures, humanity-wide, a sense which has been the principal informant of my dance and video work over the past three years of my Masters study. Whether it be recognisably profound and measurably life-altering, or apparently occurring within the humdrum of the everyday, departures and the act of leaving people and places of significance constantly colours our lives. Could it be that this unconscious facility that we unknowingly possess, the ability to live with indeterminacy as an ongoing, involuntary occurrence, is actually responsible for our departures, regardless of our own diagnostic sensing within a meeting or engagement with someone? Perhaps departure itself is the indeterminant driving factor here. A condition which affects us all, impinging upon and mediating our behaviour while for the most part, we remain in ignorance of its existence. To us, usually we are simply involved in 'going' somewhere else.

Principal areas of focus seek to create an environment which enables me to explore the potential for embodiment and transfluency between real and virtual surfaces or screens, based on my concepts of engagements mediated by departure through the indeterminate Roaming Body.

It is a concern for the possible descriptions of the screens around us which define a dual representation of deep space and how 'removal' or departure of our 'self' from these screens or surfaces may generate dualities which hold a genuine potential for mixed-realities, which is currently holding my attention in my exploration of surfaces.

My intention has been to explore how dual manifestations of the same identity, (when crossing over or through a MUVE interface), which are still defined through these interstices as 'different', may evolve into a single, blended reality using my intent through my avatar, Rollo Kohime and my Real Life video footage manifesting in my Second Life station.


Over the last 200 years, Western Thought has created a dialectic (Martin-Alcoff, 2005) which, I believe, impacts upon certain concepts concerned with the acquisition of autonomy within personal identity - that debate which seeks to synthesize the self and the ‘other’, the implications of which can adversely affect our ability to fit, to customise our belonging in the here and now and consequently, to question a sense of lasting allegiance to any one place. Recent social research (Belonging - Social Issues Research Centre 2007) suggests that traditional categories of belonging are now less easily defined in relation to distinct groups into which people may adroitly insert themselves. As our social interactions become more complex we are increasingly obliged to select our host groups. These groups are now encountered in all aspects of our lives. Through the internet, we have the potential to be members of communities not just locally, but in Cape Town, Archangel, Buenos Aires or in mixed-reality locations in Second Life, like New Philadelphia, New London, Ohio University or Amsterdam. But has this increase in choice diluted or made more tenuous our commitment or ability to experience that sense-of-place which ultimately is our own?

Identity and belonging. I suggest that our basic needs to be a part of something greater than ourselves are still intact. The idea of belonging is central to our existence and to our understanding of how we and others give meaning to our lives, yet it seems that these cornerstones of our sense of self are truly at risk from the ministrations of that thief of our stable moments; indeterminacy, emerging through the Roaming Body,
this purveyor of intimate-distance within the self, unapproachable, enjoying stranger status, yet strangely familiar. Our sense of identity is founded in our ability to not only connect with our self, but to maintain
a meaningful connection with others, to adhere to those places and people in our world which bring a sense of worth into our lives; founded too, upon our social interactions which are indicators of our allegiance to particular communities or groups through shared beliefs, values or practices. However, is it possible to exercise a balanced control over our facility to belong? At which point does an autonomous estate stand
so resolved, itself independent and immune from the need to be a part of something greater? That late 17th and 18th Centuries set of collective Western values emerging through The Enlightenment, called upon individuals to think for themselves, (Martin-Alcoff, 2005). In embracing this, we have since held that independence and thus the capacity for reason (which apparently, enables one to successfully stand alone) were to be our exemplars. This has necessitated that the individual be able to separate from all that is externally imposed on them in order to evaluate and consider rationally, their ongoing condition: that of a sentient being, with the capacity to act autonomously. Yet it can be seen that perhaps self-autonomy is divided.

Since Hegel, (1770-1831) major psychological accounts of the self have placed its dependence on the ‘other’ at the centre of formation and maintenance of the self. For Hegel, (Martin-Alcoff, 2005) one needs the ‘other’ to recognize one's status as a self-directing subject in order to create the conditions for the self-directing activity; one's self image is mediated through the ‘self-other’ relation, not only in terms of its substantive or evidential content but also in terms of the self in its base capacity. The self is completed by the active existence - and adherence to its potential other. Thus, on the one hand freedom and independence requires reason, which requires the ability to separate from the ‘other’, while at the same time, the self is ineluctably dependent on the other's interruptions and influence. If both of these philosophical traditions are broadly correct, it would seem that we are doomed to a lack of freedom through autonomy, because undivided autonomy is doubtful. Consequently, freedom through independence is defined as precisely that which we cannot attain and the consequences of our preoccupation with this pursuit may be placing at hazard our paradoxical need to find a place to stand which supports equally, our sense-of-place in the world.

In the Social Psychology of Experience: Studies in Remembering and Forgetting, the authors, David Middleton and Steven Brown suggest that Bergson`s view of the world is a process which embraces a, ‘fluid continuity of the real’, (2005). There is no doubt that for us time is at first identical with the continuity of our inner life. What is this continuity? That of a flow or passage, but a self-sufficient flow or passage, the flow not implying a thing that flows, and the passing not presupposing states through which we pass; the thing and the state are only artificially chosen snapshots of the transition, all that is naturally experienced is duration itself' (Bergson quoted in Middleton & Brown, 2005: 61).

Among my tasks in this Masterate was to demonstrate if possible, that our behaviours are mediated through the processes of indeterminacy experienced in duration. That we are receptacles susceptible to the minstrations of entities within our becoming amid this duration ; uncertainty through change. Indeterminacy is just one of those visitations that mediates our transformative existence in our 'becoming human', (Bergson, 2005) yet I perceive this entity as lying beneath and mediating any others which may emerge. It is this presence which ensures that we are never quite whole or complete because we can never be fully present - in the present. The Roaming Body as a, '... fellow-travelling identity ...', (Massumi, 2002) is the vehicle which articulates the properties and causality of indeterminacy. As vitally as food, we record through traces on the surfaces of our lives such insubstantial yet potent ephemera as habits, memories and tropisms - movement in response to a stimulus - all occurrences mediated by the passage of ongoing moments. Could it be that this unconscious skillset - the active processes of our leaving - processes of which we are largely unaware exercised through the event of departure, is that stimulus? Our Roaming Body becomes the functionary of our departures, itself gripped by indeterminacy and while drawing us away, also supports in us a certain fluency in managing this wayward feature.

Despite our apparent inability to 'stay put' and recognising intimations that our present is continually under threat, rather than find this depressing I find it persuasive, capable of propelling me into re-evaluations of how, where and when I can be who I am. Perhaps, as I have endeavoured to demonstrate, how, as a sentient being, I may conduct my life through a perceptual reality composite, ('The Human Analogue in Mixed-Reality', p. 25) caught up, despite myself in a perpetual state of change which is centred ultimately, in a compelling, involuntary movement away from what appears to be the prevailing moment. Indeterminacy affecting us all, is here inscribed upon the surfaces of our every cell through the unconscious transgressions of the Roaming Body, a time-bandit which steals away not our possessions, but our presence; a hijacker of our on-task moments and our efforts to stay grounded in any given manifestation of 'now'. These misdemeanours are largely invisible to us, yet they shape all of our dealings, our movements and apparent stillness in time and spaces. Through the event of departure, our body`s inclination to stray precludes any hope for us of lasting stability or stasis. Perhaps today, as never before, is this predilection to locate ourselves in the onward surge of movement away from that previous moment so instrumental in thwarting our search for both, our collective and individual sense of belonging ... as if we had a choice and were not swept away, regardless ...

In this Urban Myth the interconnections which exist between indeterminacy manifesting through lived departures, ensures that there is no surcease for the body, roaming in this blended continuity of the world surface we call the Real. No secure position to be attained and held indefinitely. In this context we may find that we are interconnected through our mutual estrangement and that our engagements, conversations and connections will always be at hazard. I suspect from my observations that ultimately as indeterminants, we are always ‘Leaving’ and that this is a true descriptor of our condition in that business of being human. There is real pathos to be found in a lifetime of leaving engagements in the Real, whether these lie across interface moments from person to person in Wellington City centre or avatar to avatar, prosthetic constructs in metaverse environments and this state will keep us forever defined by some, if not ourselves, as strangers. In my videoed dance work, I have been concerned with the investigation of what I will call the spaces between recognized content in our lived experience. Intersticial spaces dominated by duration itself. In exploring what may comprise engagement and conversation on the street, my interest has been held not so much by what is being communicated, as what is being left out, due to what I have identified as interpersonal terrain dominated by indeterminacy manifesting through that durational process. It appears that this uncertainty located within movement/change may indeed influence or to a significant extent, govern the nature of dialogue in urban contexts. The paragraph under Belonging, Identity and the Roaming Body (p.12) introduces the notion that, 'Indeterminacy has always dominated the terrain which we have had to negotiate, evident still, in the ways in which our choices may be mediated, in our actions which only appear to prevail, in our inter and intra-relations with ourselves and others, in the spaces we impinge upon and in the times which we traverse'. In the end, despite the apparent efficacy of our acts, the transfluency of our movements and transformative embodiments across a broad range of interfaces, our relations with and through avatar companions in various descriptions of the Real, only serve to bear witness to temporary points of purchase within the durational register of our lives. Perhaps the only actions which truly prevail are those which keep drawing us away. Leaving.

My last reference is a quotation from Buddha for the summary insight it possesses in posing the questions which will continue to haunt us in our everyday engagements: 'What is the appropriate behaviour for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What`s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?' Buddha, (2008).



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