Migrations of Gesture

Migrations of Gesture

Carrie Noland
Sally Ann Ness
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsr1g
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  • Book Info
    Migrations of Gesture
    Book Description:

    Derived from the Latin verb “gerere”—to carry, act, or do—“gesture” has accrued critical currency but has remained undertheorized. Migrations of Gesture addresses this absence and provides a complex theory on the value of gesture for understanding human sign production. _x000B_Contributors: Mark Franko, Ketu H. Katrak, Akira Mizuta Lippit, Susan A. Phillips, Deidre Sklar, Lesley Stern, Blake Stimson._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5651-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxviii)
    Carrie Noland

    In one of those brief but intensely evocative fragments fromMinima Moralia,Theodor Adorno asks pointedly, “What does it mean for the subject that there are no more casement windows to open, but only sliding frames to shove,” no portals to close “discreetly,” but only doors to be “slammed”?¹ If modern subjects learn to slam and shove, rather than latch and release, how will their general experience of movement be transformed? “What does it mean for the subject” if, under the sway of advanced technology, only gestures “precise” and “brutal” may be executed within the modernist regime?

    Adorno is worried...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Inscription of Gesture: Inward Migrations in Dance
    (pp. 1-30)
    Sally Ann Ness

    My main question in this chapter can be summed up as the following: What might it mean to take the phrase “gesture as inscription” as literally as possible with regard to dance?—dance being understood here as broadly as possible. I am assuming gesture as inscription would assert that the gesturing of dancing was a kind oflinguisticor quasi-linguistic mark-making. Gesture as inscription would characterize the gestures of dancing literally as a kind of writing or as something that closely approximates writing. Moreover, it would characterize the gestures of dancing as “scripting,” that moved literallyinward, or, perhaps better,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Physical Graffiti West: African American Gang Walks and Semiotic Practice
    (pp. 31-68)
    Susan A. Phillips

    Imagine a kid propelling himself through space. Though he slaps his hands periodically on the soles of his shoes, his feet rarely leave the ground. The root of his motion is nearly invisible as he furthers himself heel-to-toe across the dance floor from left to right, facing first north, then south and east and west. The music pumps, and his right foot gently touches the ground as he moves, the meaning of its tricks and turns not escaping the practiced eye. The dance he does is more or less unique among the world’s cultures, because the boy is not simply...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Gesture and Abstraction
    (pp. 69-84)
    Blake Stimson

    The topic that concerns me here sits on a distant horizon of philosophical abstraction, but I make a case for it as lived, bodily experience and thus for its immediate vitality and relevance here and now. Indeed, I argue that it is the process of abstraction itself—that is, the removal of understanding outward from any particular experience to a general, all-purpose explanation or figure or type—that can paradoxically serve as a locus of affective or embodied engagement. The cool, distant, and objective “over there” of theoretical or artistic abstraction, in other words, is considered as the wooly, intimate,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Remembering Kinesthesia: An Inquiry into Embodied Cultural Knowledge
    (pp. 85-112)
    Deidre Sklar

    This chapter begins at ground level, with a nonfigurative treatment of gesture as rooted in embodiment, and particularly in human bodily movement. Bringing out the somatic, or felt, dimensions of movement opens the way for an examination of kinetic vitality as an overlooked aspect of embodied knowledge. Establishing human movement as the organismic foundation for a concept of gesture also offers a determining yet indeterminate source and medium for examining the processes of cultural manipulation. Thus, the chapter addresses the migration of qualities, especially qualities of vitality, across sensory modalities and their configuration as cultural aesthetic schema across media. Basing...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Digesture: Gesture and Inscription in Experimental Cinema
    (pp. 113-132)
    Akira Mizuta Lippit

    The very name of cinema, from kinematics, or “pure motion,” alludes to a foundation in movement and gesture; its colloquial synonym makes the relation explicit, “movies”¹—images that move, that produce and reproduce movement from life itself, animation. The illusion of pure movement in cinema depends on the verisimilitude of the image, on the reproduction of the bodies in motion.² The photographic images that form the basis of live-action films refer to a body in space, a body from which the images are drawn indexically. Noting the lengthy exposures required in early photography, Walter Benjamin speaks of the photographed subject...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Miming Signing: Henri Michaux and the Writing Body
    (pp. 133-184)
    Carrie Noland

    Henri Michaux, Belgian poet turned painter, belonged to a generation of mid-twentieth-century modernists intrigued by prehistoric inscriptions and their seemingly immediate relation to gestural routines. Studying the visual cultures of the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, modernist prehistorians (from Salomon Reinach to André Leroi-Gourhan) observed that markmaking was clearly a corporeal as well as a graphic practice. The discourses through which prehistoric visual culture was presented to a larger public were diverse and heterogeneous, yet almost invariably they contained an implicit theory of gesture, or of the rhythmic movements of the body, as fundamental to the production, appearance, and social function...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Ghosting: The Performance and Migration of Cinematic Gesture, Focusing on Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Good Men, Good Women
    (pp. 185-216)
    Lesley Stern

    She is woken in the middle of the night by the telephone. Stumbling, groping in the dark, at last she reaches and answers it. The piercing insistent ringing stops, followed by silence. The caller says nothing. The fax machine, which sits on the television, clicks into action. As it starts spewing out pages, images from the past and from another country play on the television: Setsuko Hara cycles joyfully toward us, her hair blowing in the wind in Ozu’sLate Spring.Throughout Hou Hsiao-Hsien’sGood Men, Good Women(Haonan haonü,Taiwan, 1995), this young woman, Liang Ching, is plagued by...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Gestures of Bharata Natyam: Migrating into Diasporic Contemporary Indian Dance
    (pp. 217-240)
    Ketu H. Katrak

    As gestures in the Indian classical dance style of Bharata Natyam travel from their native space of India into diasporic locations, they find new homes and lead to creative cultural translations that are meaningful in different environments. As performance studies scholar Rustom Bharucha remarks, “meanings mutate and metabolize” as they are transported from one cultural locale into another.¹ In this essay, I analyze how Bharata Natyam’s highly elaborate movement system ofnrtta(footwork) andabhinaya(gesture language), rooted (as are other classical Indian dance and theater traditions) in the ancient Sanskrit textThe Natyasastra,are used and transformed in the...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Mimique
    (pp. 241-258)
    Mark Franko

    My interest in writing “Mimique” in the early 1990s was to come to terms with what deconstruction had “let loose” in its influential constructs, such as the trace, spacing, and play. (Of the two traditions of twentieth-century critical theory outlined by Blake Stimson in this volume, my account is decidedly French rather than German). Should moving bodies recognize themselves in these ideas? Have they already done so prior to their articulation? Was the unrelenting philosophical focus on writing that characterized much poststructuralist thought an unconsciously rear-guard action for having missed the embodied subject of movement? Writing “Mimique” was a way...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 259-280)
    Sally Ann Ness

    The introduction to this volume centers on a discussion of “gesture”—the concept that gave rise to this collection. Gesture is the idea that has been with us all from the beginning: gesture seeking recognition, as Mark Franko’s “Mimique” illuminates it, within the contours of poststructuralist thought. In conclusion, I gravitate toward the other concept that shares the volume’s title, “migration,” a relatively late arrival in our creative process. Migration emerged as a theme at one of the group’s final meetings at the University of California–Irvine Humanities Research Institute. In a sense, we started out with “gesture” and ended...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 281-284)
  16. Index
    (pp. 285-296)