Choreographic trace

from Norman Bryson, ‘The Invisible Body’, in Vision and Painting – The Logic of the Gaze (1983):

. . . Look at the Chu Jan scroll in Cleveland, I can imagine all of these gestures; no film is necessary for me to locate these movements, for the silk is itself a film that has recorded them already; I cannot conceive of the image except as the trace of a performance. In part, the performance has been fully advertent, directed to the gaze of the spectator in the same way that a dancer projects his movements through the four sides of the proscenium to the audience beyond; the four sides of the scroll contain a spectacular space, where everything exists for consumption by the gaze, im Augenblick, as a scaena, a backdrop.

(Chu Jan – Buddhist Monastery by Streams and Mountains)

But in part, the performance is inadvertent, for although the strokes are so displayed that from their interlocking structure I can visualise a scene, a monastery in stream and mountain landscape, the strokes exist in another space apart from the space of spectacle; a space not so much convergent with the silk (though the silk intersects with it, it is a section of that other space) as with the body of the painter; it is his space, and in a sense it is blind; the movements executed there will, as they touch the silk, leave marks I can construct as a scaena, a spectacle, but these marks are also simply taches, traces left behind in the wake of certain gestures, but remaining below the threshold of intelligibility (recognition), blind marks which support, eventually, the sigils from which I can construct the landscape scenically, but which are also independent of the sigils they bear; as the body of the dancer exists physically for the others on stage, projecting outwards past the proscenium arch, certainly, but also here, seen by the other performers, on the ‘wrong’ side of the arch.

(Hans Namuth – Jackson Pollock)

For the dancer, the space of the stage is an extension of studio space; periodically, he must move his performance to the theatre, but even then the stage retains a quality of studio space, into which the audience looks as though from a public gallery; in the Chu Jan, it is this choreographic space, behind the proscenium surface, which also we look into, studio space seen from the excluded angle of this picture gallery.

(David Dawson – Lucian Freud (video now defunct, worth seeking out))

It is this other space of the studio, of the body of labour, which Western painting negates; we are given the body with an intensity of disclosure and publicity without counterpart outside Europe, but it is the body in a different guise, as picture, to be apprehended simultaneously by the Gaze: the Gaze takes the body and returns it in altered form, as product but never as production of work; it posits the body only as content, never as source.

(Tac Creative – Lucian Freud, L’atelier présentée au Centre Pompidou)

. . . What we must suspend, clearly, is the conception of the body in representation which our own tradition proffers us, as something fixed, pictorial, framed; we must attend, on one side, to the means by which the individual painting directs (rather than determines) the flow of interpretation across its surface; and on the other, to the collective forms of discourse, present in the social formation and subject to their own unfolding in time, which the painting activates: activates not as citation, but as mobilisation (the painting causes the discourses to move).

(Kseniya Simonova – Sand Animation)

. . . Since it is only by working, by transforming the signifying material provided by the painting that the process of recognition unfolds, recognition is always in movement, is always an active rotation of the annulus of signs; viewing is mobility both of the eye and of discourse, in the disseminations of the glance.

(TheDIEMProject – Eye movement peekthrough in There Will Be Blood)

. . . To understand the painting as sign, we have to forget the proscenic surface of the image and think behind it: not to an original perception in which the surface is luminously bathed, but to the body whose activity – for the painter as for the viewer – is always and only a transformation of material signs. That body may be eclipsed by its own representations; but it is outward, from its invisible musculature, rather than inwards, from its avid gaze, that all the images flow.”

(Lawrence Upton – Paintings by Carrà)


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