Amphibious Trilogies

Reflecting on choreography

As a social scientist and historian, I work within traditional scientific traditions relating to choreography both as a practice and as a field of reflection.  Thus, I try to relate to what is cognitive science at the same time of what is beyond the field of theory and embodied in dance and movement. The Austrian later British philosopher and Cambridge lecturer Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) influence me through his reflection on language and practice. According to the Finnish professor at Cambridge, Georg Henrik von Wright, he wrote for people who would think in a different way and breathe a different air of life. One of the most famous quotations from his writings is “ Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”.  Norman Malcolm, a research fellow at Cambridge, describe Wittgenstein’s lectures, as prolonged periods of silence, were he carried out original research in dialogue with those attending.

Choreography is both practice, dialogue and reflection quite often, on what we have no words to describe. Thus, the philosophy of language and the limitations of language is important. As Wittgenstein phrased it in 1921 in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus proposition 7 “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”  Still that is different from acting and the bodily reflection of thought and human emotions.

Today’s world is facing great humanitarian crises as well as ecological disasters. The climate crises creates humanitarian crises. The amphibious project relate to those challenges in ways that no analytical dissecting publication are able. We need action and we need change. It is as simple and as difficult as that. Obviously, no single dancer on stage can ever create substantial change. However, using the world as stage we can perhaps create change like sparks from a fire that starts a greater fire.

Intellectuals need to acknowledge their limitations and have no impact unless they are willing to participate in interaction outside of their world. Choreography is in such a perspective deeply political and a field of multidisciplinary approaches as well as social action.  We relate to the climate crises and we relate to the refugee crises as well as the political fault lines of Europe.  We are afraid of what is ahead, we face our fear and we challenge both others and ourselves to action.  That is what choreography is about and that is what it is for me to be part of the project.

As a social scientist, I have related to trauma, fear and grief. I have also related to happiness, beauty and love. Often it is a mix of the dark and light aspects of life. At times of complete darkness and hopelessness, it is beauty and sharing. Dance is relating to highly polished professional performances. Dedicated skills of good performers is a source of admiration and inspiration.  There are hope in the middle of a depressive situation and choreography is making people relate to the hope and the reality of the challenges.

The French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 1961) left notes to a book published after his death “Le Visible et l’invisible suivi de notes de travail” (1964) published in English in 1968 with the title “The visible and invisible1. He wrote about Eco phenomenology, that is a tradition choreography and art is certainly part of. In his opinion “worldly existential analysis are grounded in earthiness, and environmentalism in ontological thinking”

I will not reduce dance to thinking, but I relate my thinking to the choreography and certainly to the great challenges of our time.  In a way, we have no choice the changing world will sooner or later make us face what is part of our time and perhaps the project Amphibious Trilogies will be acknowledged as part of what can make a difference.

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1 Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The Visible and the Invisible, followed by Working Notes, trans. by Alphonso Lingis, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968 (in English).


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