Jessica Rajko

As I began to write, Ananya Chatterjea’s [1] work immediately came to mind. Chatterjea questions the dominance of somatically informed, postmodern methods of ‘listening to the body’ as having ownership over embodied discourse within dance. In this she does not discredit or devalue such work, but instead articulates that to assume these practices and affiliated research universally speak to the whole of embodied experience both flattens such inquiry and omits others perspectives – particularly those that consider sociocultural, political, and economic ideologies to be inextricably entangled within our multilayered notions of embodiment. Considering Chatterjea’s arguments within the context of this discussion, I ask the following questions:

  • Does the somatic, postmodern practice of deconstructing embodied experience along spatial, temporal, kinesthetic, anatomical parameters neatly align with the limitations, goals, and aims of computational practices?
  • If so, are we aware that this neat coupling both flattens our work and excludes other embodied perspectives?
  • Is our flattening of embodiment akin to what Norman defines as the making of ideal lab spaces; a “clean-room type boxes with level floors, materially bounded to facilitate rigging and equipment maintenance, and the marking up of well delineated test areas?” [2, p.5] If so, what happens if we “diversify and extend the limits of our analytical apparatus?” [2, p.5]

My point here is not do devalue or dramatically change our practices, but to question how the repetition of a specific disciplinary coupling (namely somatically informed dance from postmodern lineages and movement sensing for interaction design) cultivates a flattened definition of ‘meaningful’ research and ‘pleasing’ aesthetics within the field. My aim is to better understand the gaps, limits, and assumptions we make about our practices – not necessarily to change them, but to better articulate their value and limitations beyond the scope of the field.

[1] Chatterjea, A., 2004. Butting out: Reading resistive choreographies through works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha. Wesleyan University Press.

[2] Sally-Jane Norman. 2015. Grappling With Movement Models: Performing Arts And Slippery Contexts. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Movement and Computing. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 136-141.

-Jessica Rajko