A personal aesthetic experience by Peter Mills,
I stand in the centre of the studio. Ready to start creating the next piece of dance. I think to myself of all the possible movements. What each movement could mean, and what the next movement will mean in relation to the first and where will this go and what will it say once it has been there. So I ask which movement do I start with and why? Because I think the movement I choose will state that I think this was the best movement for that moment. But there are an infinity of movements and second movements to choose from, and I think they are all of the same value.
The blank canvas of the choreographer, with all its possibilities and consequences of what they may or may not convey.
So I was frozen by choice, unable to to make a decision.
With an infinity of choice I did not know what was the best choice to choose. I did not want to pretend I knew, that I had some divine power to know more than others. I wanted to express that I know no more than anyone else. I do not know what you need to see or know, what movement to use. I believe that it is important to state that I don’t know.
From what I can prove, nothing is for sure a fact. All we know is that we think. We think that we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Or we think that we did or are doing. So with that everything is fiction or subjection of our own mind. If the tangibility of everything is created by ourselves then it would be fair to say we are the creator. And without any measure to say otherwise then everything must and have to be meaningless. Meaningless and equal until we decide otherwise, through faith and what must be blind faith because of our lack of complete and absolute truth. As complete and absolute truth would prove it to be meaningless. Because for it to have meaning should it not have to exist, be real or part of an objective reality?!
The biggest argument is that there is a degree of objectivity in reality otherwise the world you experience would not be the one I experience. And we do experience the same world but inflict upon it different narratives and interpretations.Which does seem the case but lets for the sake of this argument make the conclusion that all that can be truthfully proven to its limit to its final end. There may be things that in some way can be shared, like physical truths, the physical world and some of the scientific reasoning and rules attached to it. But I argue if we take proof to its limit, the physical world is not as true as it may seem, because we can only prove our own thoughts. At least when truth is taken to its ulitmate limit.
So it is from this point which I make my claim that to give meaning, to create things out of blind faith is to cause inequality. Because to give meaning is to give vaule and vaule causes differing of vaules and therefor ineqaulity. If we take truth to its limit, then meaning is false, not holding any truth in reality because there is no true meaning in reality. With that there is no need for such inequality because at the limit of truth everything is meaningless and therefore equal. So to counter inequality, I believe everything must be said including the disclaimer I do not know. I don’t know that this is more or less equal than that. The absurdity of life or reality which must hold contradiction at its heart to speak true, so whist frozen not knowing how to start I could start by expressing:
that this is a good movement but I don’t know for sure.
The obvious argument to me is that this is of course inherent, an unspoken understanding. So when the performer on stage makes the first movement it is common knowledge that the performer does not know for sure that it was the perfect, true movement. I argue that this is not the case because some things are valued above others. I would conclude that if one thing is chosen to be valued above another then everything can. It is for this reason we have inequality and all that it entails. Because some things are considered better than others. There is too much blind faith.
To strive for equality and truth, the statement I do knot know has to become the recognised underlying disclaimer for everything. We can do what we like as long as we do not claim to know that it is the right thing to do. To not give meaning and therefore express that everything is equal. I think that to change the ideology of every thought and action, especially such an everyday idea that has such vast and large consequences, is perhaps the hardest thing to do. Our lives and everything we think we know is all geared up to better versus worse. We evaluate things all the time in accordance with other things. But I believe that we can start to think about what are the causes of our faith in reality itself.
So I am left standing in the room movement-less by the philosophical idealism against inequality. Not wanting to make the awful mistakes of dance tradition where people are exploited and excluded right, left and centre by blind faith in meaning, and more so in meaning itself. What move next?
So I will not do nothing, I will not stand in the studio trying to do nothing. I will justify my movement by adding the disclaimer that “i don’t know” to every action and thought.
Although I have made many movements with the intention to communicate the disclaimer and justify my movement, I am yet to succeed.
I will explain why by going through one of my most recent piece No choice, don’t watch this, and with the title itself I hope to start an ontological discourse into meaning and value. The aim of the piece is to look at choice and how it shapes our reality. No choice is referring to my idea that when a proposition is posed we have no choice but to act because of it. Either we rebel, or we conform or we act somewhere in between, we become a slave to the proposition. Then the proposition don’t watch this is directly questioning peoples choice to rebel or conform. I see the title as a warning of this line of questioning which follows.
The performance.The piece is presented in a large dark empty room with a projector facing a white wall opposite a mirrored wall reflecting the room. There is no one in the room as the audience enters. Once the audience has entered a technician shuts the door and starts the DVD projection onto the wall.
My intent. In this work I choose not to distinguish between audience and performer. Which one day I would like to take it to its ultimate end and have no performers at all and just audience, with the audience turning performers during the piece. This is an attempt to express that the performer knows nothing more than the audience. Sadly this is not true as the performers have rehearsed and know what is going to happen once the DVD starts to play. But the ideal effect would be that no one had any prior knowledge.
The performance. The DVD starts by introducing itself, This is Google translate, speaking to you from the past… The automated voice from the computer generated program Google translate echoes around the room with the words flashing on the wall.
My intent. The audience have been left without an author to the piece. My intention would be not to have any name associated with the piece. To rid us of a divine author, a choreographer who knows better. I would like it to present as an anonymous entity, perhaps from within ourselves, the audience or a manifestation of ourselves. But until now this has became lost in emails, and the piece is often presented with my name attached. It would be ideal to not have an author at all and for the authors to be the collective spectators, the audience, watching their own creation. It is the desired effect within the piece to have the audience create the piece themselves within their mind. Then Speaking to you from the past is played, as a reference to how the past informs the present, with us constantly having to answer to it. Another unavoidable choice we have to make.
The performance. Please follow the instructions given, Turn off you mobile telephones echoes in the darkness. With the words illuminating the space from the projection.
My intent. Turn off you mobile telephones is a reference to the theatre, and the codes of conduct which the audience abide by when being in the theatre. To highlight and bring the audience face to face with the mutual unwritten terms of agreement of the theatre, forcing them to make a choice and see themselves making a choice.
The performance. Stand, the room moves in cannon as some people stand up having sat on the floor during the long pause at the beginning, others shuffle already standing and then some remain sitting as long as they can with the word Stand repeated relentlessly leaving most standing and a few sitting.
My intent. With this audience participation they are not participating in the piece but with the decision making of what is the proper way to act within a theatre situation. To stand or rebel, they all must engage. The choosing is forced upon everyone.
The performance. Whispers and laughter can be heard from the audience as they come to terms with their situation, as it becomes the piece itself. A pause, then Do nothing pulsates through out the space.
My intent. Do nothing is a command which I hope would resonate not only with the placid idea of the spectator viewing the happenings on stage but also the person in society being a bystander of exploitation and exclusion within the world and not taking responsibility. Here the audience is given the choice to conform to be placid or rebel and not be placid, highlighting how responsible the audience member is. To show that the audience have responsibility for the their actions, hopefully engaging with the idea of responsibility of choice within society.
Do nothing is also an impossible task. Breathing, thinking, heart beating, staying still and trying not to think makes it impossible. A demand which we cannot attain, reminding us of our lack of choice. Bringing the philosophy about the creation of meaning within our meaningless existence into the heart of this performance. As the performers struggle with anxiety from attempting to meet the ideological end to Do nothing, the audience hopefully through observing the performers or through their internal struggle to conform, also feel the exploitative nature of creating meaning where there is none.
The performance. There is a long pause where the room goes black, before the next instruction is announced. Copy the recording of the copying process, flashes on the wall and echoes in the room. A recording of a person dressed all in black covering their face with a black mask standing against a white wall is displayed. The recording have had been recorded against the wall it is now projected onto.
My intent. This for me is a reference to creation, to express that creation is not divine, original and comes from nowhere but is an accumulation of experience and knowledge. The performers/audience attempt to copy the video to their best ability. The performers are to move on impulse rather than associative shape, their bodies are thrown into a trance like obsession reacting to every movement from the screen, obviously showing how mistakes are unavoidable even when the attempts are full of intent to do them correctly. The person in the recording moves in a way that indicates they too are copying a recording. I have tried to extract the black masked person from the position where the black masked person creates divine movement. The reason for the black tights, shoes, top, and mask like an anonymous black bloc anarchist superhero, is to also express a void of divine association to sex, age, meaning. Whilst the recording is playing there is a conflict of where to watch, the wall with the recording playing or the audience/performer copying the recording. This choice highlights the idea of conform or not, watch recording or audience. Conform to theatre traditions of looking forward at the projection or rebel and look around at the audience. And to also question the position of themselves as audience. Are they the spectator of others or the spectacle themselves or is it the game of conforming, rebelling in their own heads that is the spectacle.
The performance. After the frantic copying which disrupts the rooms order into more of a chaotic scattering, the performers returns to be an audience member and waits for what comes next. Do nothing but copy each others mistakes at attempting to do nothing interrupts the voice, words flashing.
My intent. The rooms attention is now truly on themselves and the people around them. The slightest movement caught by the eye of a performer, a twitch or movement from a member of the audience is copied. The copying of these movements, can in no time become a virus like an infection of movement. There is an emphasis for the audience on their contribution to the performance, and they are confronted with the conform or not to conform problem in doing nothing or not. Some find joy in causing movement by rebelling. Some run away causing movement of a performer to escalate and sometimes has the performer chase the person until they learn they are causing the chasing and then choose to conform. If the performer gets caught in the mirror we have a game of error, where the performer should continue to do exactly the same movement or nothing over and over again, but as they make mistakes doing movement too big, small or wrong, the movement grows and changes.
The Do nothing but copy each others mistakes at attempting to do nothing performance shows through the act of choice how for the audience/performers choice to believe in meaning, with the meaning being the dictation, causes inequality and exploitation. As the audience control the situation by doing nothing or not, the frantic and anxious reaction of the audience/performers’ belief in the dictators fake meaning and choosing to conform to it, faith in meaning manifest itself as exploitation. That is to say, if everyone believed I don’t know then the instructions from the dictator would not be acted upon, knowing that the dictator does not know.
The performance. The piece ends with the instruction Copy the recording of the copying process, and each other. where the room is once again filled with movement. Half way through this instruction This is not a love song by Public image limited is played as an advert, after which the words LEAVE NOW flash over the recording and the doors are opened and the audience is advised to leave by the technical team.
My intent. This concluding performance instruction which includes the past influences as the recording and the present influences as the copying of everyone else around, is a expression of how creation is created. Not just the creation of art and dance but also choices and the creation that they cause. The playing of This is not a love song is a message saying I do not love capitalism and authoritarianism. It is to say this is not a piece in admiration of value and creation, it is the opposite. LEAVE NOW is to give the feeling that something has gone wrong as people are advised to leave. The performers are left trapped in the world of instruction and constructed meaning, causing them to be thrown around the room some lying on the floor twitching from the slightest movements they can see. The world created in the piece causes meaning which causes the exploitative situation at the end because of the choices made to believe in meaning.
I hope the audience go away having had to question their choices and the results of them, with my attempt to show how by creating meaning and choosing to believe in it cause valuation, inequality and eventually exploitation and exclusion. The awful part of being within, watching this piece is that you have no choice as others around you choose to believe in the meaning created by the instruction, and that is why the title is a warning. But I hope through this attempt of an example how meaning affects society, we can better understand the need for the disclaimer I don’t know after everything.
My intention in every aspect of this piece can be reasoned to the smallest detail by myself. If I start an ideological discourse with the audience and communicate my thoughts, is somewhat unknown. How much is communicated to the audience if any at all?! I know the work resonate with people but I dno’t know if they see it as I wish them to. I know they cannot understand it exactly as I hope they would but maybe that itself would communicate my message that I don’t know or never will and neither will they, because we don’t know.
Whilst writing this I have noticed inconsistencies in my theory and I am forever changing, contradicting and questioning it. I hope that this gives some insight into some of my ideas but would like to stress that I am not finished yet. To find an answer would give meaning which negates my statement that there can be no meaning.
My personal aesthetic experience, has been to find justice for the sensory or sensori-emotional value of movement, performance, theatre and the constructs of creation, whilst believing in equality. This has forced me to question all my roles in life, which is what I like to bring to the work I create. The debate about the judgement of anything and everything and even the judging itself.