by stamatia portanova — birkbeck university of london
April 26, 2010 – 00:15
Together with biological, cultural and technological viruses of all sorts, globalization has facilitated the exchange of another infectious bacillus: dance, or the choreographed tendency to follow a pattern of imitable steps. The digitalization of some of the most popular movements produced by the contemporary music, sport and entertainment industries has had a large influence on the movements of people at a global social scale. Several technologies of movement creation and distribution (Motion Capture, digital video editing, the Internet) are used in mass-media environments such as commercial videos and You Tube, generating and replicating what can be defined as ‘movement-objects’, digitally generated dance steps that are widely imitated and readapted. These objects have the possibility of infinite reanimation and ‘actualization’, a capacity of ‘clothing’ themselves with different physical qualities: the same movement can be endlessly repeated, becoming for example a football action or a dance step. The travelling of these steps, for example of a particular articulation, a particular raising and bending of the knee, from street dancing to sport, from soccer dribbling to breakdance top rocks, shows them as virtual movement-objects to be variously actualized.
An ‘object’ is usually thought of in terms of its static, inanimate and isolated persistence. The concept of a’movement-object’ reconfigures this definition at three different levels: first, ‘movement-objects’ do not block but constitute the virtuality of every dance; in other words, they compose the abstract matter that subsists and returns in the memory, perception and design of movement, while continuously varying in its concrete realizations. A virtual object is, in short, an idea that can associate sport and dance. A digitalized movement-object is a choreographic idea with a numeric virtuality all of its own. Second, rather than confirming the basic ontological (or topological) aporia between the continuity of movement as a material experience and its abstraction into rational figures of the mind, the concept of ‘virtual movement-objects’ builds a connecting bridge between the empirical dimension of movement and the abstractness of the mind: the digits, numbers and points at the basis of digital video editing, in fact, always result from the spatio-temporal ‘thickness’ of events, from which they are abstractly experienced (or experienced as abstractions) through a ‘rational’ operation, a computation or ‘calculus’ of movement differentials by the body-mind. Third, ‘virtual movement-objects’ are always ‘relational’. By ‘informationalizing’ dance into data objects, digital video editing reveals not only how fields, disciplines and cultures continuously interconnect, but also how the parameters of each movement (height, width, strength, velocity) are all connected to each other in such a way, that a change affecting one of them corresponds to a change throughout the whole system (or the whole ‘movement-object’): movement becomes thus an algorithmic system of shifting potentials.
Finally, it should be noted how the linking of movement aesthetics with global brands or with the names of world-known athletes or artists, generates an exponential increase in the contagiousness of virtual movement-objects, and therefore in their disciplinary but also disruptive social potential.