In November I presented at the Where the Image Meets the Body Symposium at Monash University. It featured talks, performances and lively discussions on the role of image in creating performance and training performers, with particular attention to Butoh. I gave a talk on a research project exploring embodying the five elements, according to Tibetan Buddhism, through movement research, and the role of image in the research.
In hindsight I am struck by how efficient image is, and therein lies its power. Taking an image into the body-mind opens up immediate possibilities for alignment and efficiency (see the long line of ideokinesis pioneers and practitioners), for evoking particular movement qualities for performance, and for generating compelling states, as in much of Butoh. Image is of course also a large part of how we receive and perceive visual artworks, video, live performance, etc. And a strong image is what stays with us the longest.
Now, three months after the symposium, what remains in my memory are the images that found their way in to my consciousness and stayed. Nikki Heywood transforming into a deer, sitting on a park bench, writing. Alice Cummins in black clothes on a black stage, while above her on the video screen, an earlier Alice dancing in white skin in a white studio. Peter Snow’s simple story of a mother on a boat with her thumbs through the belt loops of her two children, keeping them secure in the midst of silence and stillness. Massive bowls of Szechuan food at the symposium dinner, everything swimming in chilli peppers.
I was reminded of this:
“…we’re in a transitional phase, moving away from print and literary modes and into the world of the image, away from deductive reasoning and toward associative patterning. One of the greatest challenges in today’s culture…is how to bring analytical skills to bear on the perceptual physiological language of the image, an event and not an object – constantly changing, living, and growing” -Bill Viola, in Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House (Viola & Violette 1995, p. 243)