'Special Affects : Compositing Images in the Bodies of Butoh'
Media Production, University of Technology Sydney, 2004
Research areas include:
Masters Practice-based research in media production informed by avant-garde performance (Artaud, Hijikata); the cinephilosophy of Gilles Deleuze; architecture of Peter Eisenman and Greg Lynn
This thesis examines how the relationship between 'the body' and 'the image' may be understood within the Japanese dance movement called butoh. The aim of the thesis is twofold - to investigate what it means to construct a body specific to butoh, and to consider how the image in butoh may be seen to affect this body. In the first instance, I examine how the materiality of the butoh-body constrains or delimits its expressive capacity. In the second instance, I investigate how the materiality of the butoh-image performs a generative function, to stretch the bounds of this body and the limits of its expression. As far as theorising the butoh-body is concerned, what interests me are the points of confluence that may be explored through the materialist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. I seek to demonstrate how the ideas of Tatsumi Hijikata (butoh's co-founder) may be the discussed through the writing of Antonin Artaud, whose approach to the body influenced both Hijikata and the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. As far as the butoh-image is concerned, I seek to show how Deleuze's cinephilosophy may also inform an understanding of Hijikata's choreographic method of working with images, called butoh-fu. Here, I develop a conceptual model with which to probe the materiality of the butoh-image and the cinematic qualities of the butoh-body. This twofold approach stems from my own art practice as a filmmaker and performer. The initial impetus for the research emerged through an intensive period of butoh dance training, as well as the production of a short film. This film experiments with a dynamic interaction of performers, sculptural elements, plus digital and optical effects. In the thesis, I use the theory of complex systems and the ideas of Deleuze, Guattari, Hijikata and Artaud, to discuss how the film may be imagined as a 'systemic narrative'. This approach explores the interactions between the filmic elements, to produce the narrative as an ongoing process of construction. This thesis is a work in progress towards two outcomes. The first of these is a diagrammatic model for butoh dance notation, to provide a graphic template for Hijikata's choreographic method. The second is a proposed video-installation, which may further implement the systemic narrative with a technical configuration that corresponds to the diagrammatic model. Through this research, I seek to develop my own praxis, which investigates a systemic approach to the embodiment of the image.