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Choreographic Objects
by William Forsythe

An object is not so possessed by its own name that one could not find another or better therefore.
           - René Magritte 

Choreography is a curious and deceptive concept. The word itself, like the processes it describes, is elusive, agile, and maddeningly unmanageable. To reduce choreography to a single denotation is to not understand the most crucial of its mechanisms: to resist and reform previous definitions.

There is no choreography per se, at least not that can be understood as a particular instance representing a universal or standard for the term. Each epoch of choreography is, ideally, at odds with prior determining incarnations, attesting to the human ability to reconceive positions of certainty - and to detach ourselves from them.

Choreographies are schemata that wrangle with the historical continuity of their own constitutive innovations. These innovations are the evolving procedural conditions that bring about the manifestation and perception of purposeful action-fields of knowledge production. In my experience - and as Magritte suggests in his refection on the relation between object and language - the introduction of substitute terms into this field consistently reveals facets of choreographic inquiry that were not previously evident. This has been key to the evolution and perception of choreographic procedures, and to prohibit or constrain this process of terminological migration across fields of arts practice artificially delineates a frontier that serves no cause.

Choreography elicits action upon action: the methodology for deriving methods. It presents an environment of grammatical rule governed by exception, a state of contradiction that exists in visible complicity with each successive abdication of a past definition. The intricate global history of choreography proposes an exemplary ecology of procedural valences that exhibits no preference for any one particular model of manifestation.

Choreography and dancing are two distinct and very different practices.  
When the two coincide, choreography often serves as a channel for the desire to dance. One might well assume, then, that the substance of choreographic experience resides exclusively in the body; but is it possible for choreography to generate autonomous, accessible expressions of its principles - "choreographic objects" without the body?

My question arises from real and extensive experience of the status of physical practices - specifically dance - in Western culture. Over centuries, the perception of the body in motion, the obvious miracle of existence, has been relegated to the domain of raw sensation. Is a simple question enough to disengage the mechanics of this assignment by imagining alternative sites of knowledge production? Where else, besides the body, could this physically instigated knowledge reside?

In the case of the blind mathematician Bernard Morin, the problem of everting a sphere provided a model for the transition of knowledge from one state to another in any space imaginable. Morin perceived this conceptually elusive event in his mind, which he then translated into heuristic devices. It was only by hand-sculpting models that corresponded to his mental problem-solving that he was able to translate his idea and its eventual solution into a mathematic formula. Thus Morin was the unmediated, sensual recipient of the solution, even after he had separated it from his body.

A choreographic object is, by nature, open to a full range of unmediated perceptual instigations without having to prioritize any type of recipient. These objects are examples of specific physical circumstances that isolate fundamental classes of motion activation and organization. The objects instigate processes in the body that instrumentalize the body´s readiness to provide input for our heuristically driven, predictive faculties, which work incessantly to secure for us a higher probability of preferred physical and mental outcomes. A principal feature of the choreographic object is that the preferred outcome is a form of knowledge production for whoever engages with it, engendering an acute awareness of the self within specific action schemata.

At this point in the evolution of choreographic practices, it is helpful to make a distinction between an abstracted manifestation of choreographic ideas and the historical forms of its enactment. Not out of any dissatisfaction with the tradition but, rather, in an effort to alter the condition of the concepts incumbent in the acts, and to lend them distinct, atypical prominence. Once, these physical concepts were seen as being bound unconditionally to a mediated, sentient expression; now, it may be acknowledged that they also reside in objects that systematically articulate their subject directly in the user.

Thus, the introduction of the term "choreographic object" is intended as a categorizing tool that can help identify sites within which to locate the understanding of potential organization and instigation of action-based knowledge. With this tool, the proliferation of choreographic thinking across wider domain of arts practice can be thrown into relief.