My view is that in order to communicate through the arts, the chosen language has to have a comprehensible vocabulary and supportive patterns of phrasing, together allowing the possibility of articulating thought.
The gesture from the dance 'Errand into the Maze', performed by Barbara Cuckson in 2013, was originally choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser. Jason Benedek motion captured and designed the gesture with Lisa Roberts for inclusion in her video, Oceanic Living Data.
Only the creator of the gesture, Gertrud Bodenwieser, really knows what inspired it. However as a student of this pioneer of modern dance I understand the inspiration of her choreography and what this gesture meant to her. Her inspiration came from rhythms in the natural world of which humans are a part, and this gesture shares with us her experiences and observation of the destructive forces in human nature and the inevitable consequences, this despite people being shown ways to escape that fate.
To me, this choreography is a sigh of deep regret by a creative artist at the latter end of her lifetime. She is now looking back on her own experiences and observing the seeming inevitability of man's chosen self destruction in following a doomed path. What could be a very different world of harmony and co-operation for a mutually beneficial outcome, is knowingly rejected once more. Human nature is conflicted with an agenda that causes people to waste their energy in futile pursuits, and get in each other's way, destined to create disorder and chaos while trying to struggle through life's maze. The gestures in question are the responses to the invitation by Life to go on a different pathway and to a different future. Firstly there is listening with hope and wonder, then consideration, but lastly, from within and drawn from earth below, the final rejection of new thought. With the steps backwards, the pattern reverts to the old, familiar pathway to inevitable doom.
What does it mean to me? I am at a similar age and stage of life to Bodenwieser at this time, and so I can understand her expression of sorrow. This is not an emotional choreography, but a sad statement of fact, and so an older person perhaps does not feel the capacity to make changes to the world any more. We have tried. We can see parallels today, but then we can see parallels for all time, as well.
My view is that in order to communicate through the arts, the chosen language has to have a comprehensible vocabulary and supportive patterns of phrasing, together allowing the possibility of articulating thought. For the thought to be successfully shared, this codified message must have the propensity to initiate a desired response in the recipient. The artist has to have these skills to enable communication. Whether their chosen system of codification is intuitive or learnt, impromptu or contrived, they will necessarily utilise some form of codification as a tool. But where codification becomes not a tool but the master, then the use of codification itself has destroyed it's own artistic ability.
Impacts: My desire is to share with others a link to the Bodenwieser influence that I have absorbed, so that it can be added to the working vocabulary of others, in their own chosen field of communication. I should like people to absorb expressive movement through a process of osmosis, penetrating the soul rather than by intellectualising. Intellectualising lends itself to mistakes and manipulation, the soul has more integrity and recognises truth.
Barbara Cuckson, Rozelle School of Visual Arts, Sydney
Barbara's family immigrated to Australia post WW2. Her father, an inventor, was a political refugee. Barbara's school, Rozelle School of Visual Arts, ongoing since 1971, provides recreational cultural activities including dance, which Barbara herself teaches, following dance philosophies of Gertrud Bodenwieser, her teacher, and dance-training system of Emmy Steinninger-Taussig.
Further engage: Dance classes inspired by Bodenwieser are available at Rozelle School of Visual Arts, Sydney.