House of Time (HoT)     

After Repose

Talha Işsevenler

Repose (2021). Picture taken by the author. 

1. The impossibility of immediacy. An analysis of the temporalities of Moriah Evans’ Repose can focus on its expansive form—the distributed movement of bodies covering 1.4 miles of the Rockaway beach in six hours—as well as the entanglements of its imagery with the social memory or what Bernard Stiegler called tertiary retention (1994/2020). With this concept, Stiegler drew attention to how our time-consciousness—the way we keep threading the dissolution and unfoldings of the present into immediacy—is supported with the exteriority of technical archive which then makes subjects embody a time that they did not ‘directly’ experience, as their own. In fact, this is the aporia of direct or immediate experience. No matter the proximity and liveliness, all perception of here and now is limited by the concepts and technicity available for understanding and registering which bear the traces of another time—the time concepts and technics came about—with their own pack of sensations external to here and now (Nietzsche 1873/1956, p. 42-47).In response to the abstractness of scenes and the rhetoric of the composition, I am surrounded with streams of association in different shapes. In that late summer day as I am breathing in the ocean air and trying to register the micro-temporalities of the increasingly decelerated progress of dancing bodies, images and memories remind themselves; thoughts sprout. My present—the mythological lived moment—becomes a scene of incessant disjoint and encounter. “Can we consider Coney Island a local beach? … Is it even legitimate to use a word like local in referring to any place in New York City? … Or anywhere else on the planet for that matter?... Casper David Friedrich’s “Monk by the Sea.” But not the single recluse, cloaked in black standing against the black of the sea, but many bodies on all fours, in green, not contemplating as he does, but living on, and always living with …  These bodies I am seeing tell me about pain and wound more than joy and play…” I am not sure where perception ends, projecting begins. I know that they are always simultaneous. I am curious to know what made this stormy dissonance possible, willing to face again some of these thought-images (Deleuze 1985/1989, p. 156-188).

Repose (2021). Picture taken by the author. 

2. Perceiving and Projecting. Moving along the scattered crowd who is fused with but still distinguishable from the performers—some of them came to the beach for the show, some of them came for the sand, water and sun—we follow performers’ sometimes imperceptible progress from east to west. More often than not, they occupy a zone for a period of time, countering the temporality of forwardness and the linearity of progression with crawling, stillness, withdrawal reverberating the sociological distinction of productive and reproductive work acting as the condition of possibility of each other (Althusser, 1995/2014). If Repose avowedly orients itself by a sense of rest, insofar it is a formal performance, an intense, concentrated and purposeful discharge of energy this activity is the opposite of rest—at least for the performers. The choreography of Evans stands exactly at this limit experience of oppositions, beautifully drawing on the archetypical unstable shoreline that separates and conjoins. Just as the brain activity during sleep not only refreshes the consciousness but also provide dream material for a possible interpretative analysis, Repose calms down and inspires at the same time. Perhaps, this state is only an amplification of already existing modes of beach-dwelling, as Evans wants to achieve: “REPOSE borrows from the social and physical choreographies inherent to the beach—from the sun-bathing bodies lying in repose, to the posturing of the self in forms of commercialized leisure sanctioned by the Parks Department that police and maintain the shoreline. By mirroring these actions, REPOSE both imposes on, and blends into, the beach’s elemental composition, landscape, and communities.”

Repose (2021). Picture taken by the author.

Alongside resting, posturing, sun-bathing, the shoreline is also the location for daydreaming. The sea, with its vast opening and extensive color, offers a rare view that allows projection because projection requires the absence of interference from the surface as in the darkness that encapsulates the theatre and the white screen that reflects the rolling flashes of the projector, clearing the noise that occupies perceptual activity in order to give room to projection. “To close the doors and windows of consciousness for a time; to remain undisturbed by the noise and struggle of our underworld of utility organs working with and against one another ... that is the purpose of active forgetfulness, which is like a doorkeeper, a preserver of psychic order, repose, and etiquette: so that it will be immediately obvious how there could be no happiness, no cheerfulness, no hope, no pride, no present, without forgetfulness” (Nietzsche, 1887/1989, 57-58). In this context, the green that all the performers are wearing becomes interesting. It clearly interferes with the normal distribution of color on the beach by accentuating one among others and therefore arguably stands in contrast to the performance’s declared intent on mixing with the texture and bodily codes of the beach. Yet the green costumes are also the intersubjective sites where the eyes of the daydreaming, imagining, and speculating onlookers meet the artistic, receptive and expressive bodies of the performers, acknowledging and amplifying the excess of artificiality. Amidst the elemental, runs the art and thought of elemental, laying bare the powerful dissonance between perception and projection. Repose then understands body also as a technical center of indeterminacy where information is always caught in a process of interpretation and revaluation (Deleuze & Guattari, 1992, 201-218). Finally, the function of this color can be thought in juxtaposition to the technique known as chroma keying that uses green screens as a differential in order to impose another layer of video behind the one at the foreground. The green of the costumes inscribes the originary difference of subjectivity revealed by this technology—the way it is always already thrown into processes of ungeneralizable change—to the surface of the body unfolding always within the historicity of intersubjective material environment.

Iman Crosson (2011). Image taken from Wikipedia.

3. Receptivity. In an interview from 2015, Evans says “What else is choreography other than structure? Dance can be a deviation from structure.” After all the potential of an idea can be actualized only if it meets the universe half-way. Yet in Repose this choreographic structure is not a reverberation of the architectural geometry of the closed space and an exploration of the set of possible variations of movement in relation to the well-observed limitations of the location. What happens to the choreography-as-structure in the open space of the beach? It mutates. Evans asks performers to become anthropologists/urban sociologists who use participant observation in order to attune themselves to the social insofar as something like that unfolds in the embodied practices (of the beach) and does not refer to the columns and ceilings of the building (De Certeau, 1980, 99-110). Here, social is understood through traceable currents of imitation that makes it a concrete reality always in variation à la Tarde more than in the spirit of always already assumed unity of the social as in Durkheim (some time ago, Bruno Latour participated in a mock revival of the debate of these two foundational sociologists. A video recording is available here with its English transcription). The fluid, dreamy, moody affective ether of the beach that reverberates across each dwelling body, this is what Evans is after in the score that orients the performers on wet sand for 6 hours. The vibe of the beach cannot be assumed in the score, that would simply turn the piece into a pre-set projection. A pragmatics of attunement has to be developed. Thus, Evans develops strategies of listening to the material practices of the beach. “Feel the sand supporting your weight. Rely on the subterranean as a support structure … Follow a bird, a person, the horizon, a cloud, etc. revealed through the aperture. Keep this thing in sight and slowly reorganize your position as you follow what you notice … Allow movement to initiate from very specific places in your body and sequence its resonance elsewhere in the body … Be a plant and attune to the environment … Keep feeling more. Get inside. Get inside. Get inside. Keep fantasy always engaged as a motivation. See the horizon. Try not to look down … Always be in a state of copy/mirroring. You are never not in that state” (Evans, 2021). Then, bodies of the performers become antennas; they catch signals. Or put differently, becoming-antenna of bodies is met half-way by this performative discourse.

Sarajevo (2011). Picture retrieved from the author’s Facebook album.

4. Expressivity. In this grasp of the technicity of the body—that it is a distributed site of reception and register affected and informed by signals of all sorts, human and nonhuman, sensual and conceptual—Repose reverberates the current media climate and the environmental view of technology developed in critical media scholarship. In the opening pages of Feed-Forward, Mark Hansen writes: “In our interactions with twenty-first-century atmospheric media, we can no longer conceive of ourselves as separate and quasi-autonomous subjects, facing off against distinct media objects; rather, we are ourselves composed as subjects through the operation of a host of multi-scalar processes, some of which seem more ‘embodied’ (like neural processing), and others more ‘enworlded’ (like rhythmic synchronization with material events). In today’s media environments, that is, subjectivity is neither set off against a (media) object world, nor different in kind from the microprocesses that inform it” (Hansen, 2015, 3). In this view of media, subjectivity is conceived not as representative activity which would separate represented object and representing subject into exclusive domains but as expressivity (Deleuze 1968/2021). The output cannot be traced to the input. There is an ocean between them, incompressible (Parisi, 2013; Clough et al., 2018, 106). Then, I would argue, as the bodies in Repose are hit by the abundance of the elemental, they become amplifiers and express the silent noise of the sensations.

A scene from Avatar (2005). Iroh vs. Lightning. Painted by Justine Neuberger.

Works cited
Clough, P., Gregory, K. Haber, B. and Scannell J. (2015). “The datalogical turn”. In Non-representational methodologies (p. 156-174). Routledge.
De Certeau, M. (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press.
Deleuze, G. (2021). Expressionism in philosophy: Spinoza. Princeton University Press.
Deleuze, G. (1989). Cinema 2: the time-image. The Athlone Press.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1994). What is philosophy?. Columbia University Press.
Evans, M. (2021) REPOSE SCORE.
Hansen, M. B. (2015). Feed-forward. University of Chicago Press.
Nietzsche, F. (1977). The Portable Nietzsche. Penguin.
Nietzsche F. (1989). On the Genealogy of Morals. Vintage.
Parisi, L. (2013). Contagious architecture: Computation, aesthetics, and space. MIT Press.
Stiegler, B. (2020). Technics and Time, 3 Stanford University Press.