By using intertextuality as a conceptual reference I aimed to move away from concepts of hierarchy, categorisation and linearity, replacing them with multilinearity, networks and links. Through my work I'm not attempting to portray an agenda or specific narrative. Rather, my aim has been to create a space to think together by working with subtle nuances and layers of complexity that accumulate over time. Through fragmentations, ambiguous text and movement that reinforce listening, my goal was to open for interpretations and meaning to arise in the understanding of the viewers.
I’ve actively moved between using the terms “intertextual” and “hypertextual” as a way to illustrate how I envision the texts, movement, sound materials weaving together in the performance. I’ve visualised the work as a three-dimensional sphere consisting of many points that can be connected. The points of connections being mulitlinear and multilayered. This being said, the text material being explored in the performance aren’t strictly linked to existing written texts. Rather the intertextual reference acts as a clear point of departure for individuals to understand the format of the choreographic work.
Deferral of meaning - deconstruction
Jacques Derrida´s theory of deconstruction has acted as an important point of departure for how the texts were developed and informed the choreographic process. Deconstruction, a theory about language and literature, is a post-structuralist theory from the 1960´s referring to a wave of academic output which critically revised the structuralist movement which preceded it. The term “deconstruction” does not mean destruction as it might indicate, instead referring to analysis in a linguistic sense of undoing. Paul H. Fry at Yale University states that Derrida´s thought process on deconstruction was a deliberate process of refusing to settle for definite positions. He goes on to discuss deconstruction as “the dismantling of the grounds whereby we suppose our thinking can be derived from one or another definite concept” (Fry, 2012, p. 125). In other words, Derrida attempted to illustrate how basic ideas and concepts fail to ever express only one meaning in a text.
Derrida´s deconstructive strategies included taking apart hierarchical systems of thought to re-write them with a new intention. What is interesting to consider is where meaning is constructed in a text. In Derrida´s case he considers it not only inscribed in the sign (signifier and the signified) but considers everything as a “text”. That meaning and representation lay in the interpretation of the work. His famous statement “nothing outside of the text” (1998) can be understood that meaning is always incomplete depending on what will be said next and how the words are understood in relation to each other. Derrida didn´t mean that there is nothing outside of writing, or that text is all that matters, that the world of reality does not matter, nor is he trying to play down the importance of social concerns that lay behind the texts. Comparatively, he suggests that meaning is never as straight forward as we think. Stating that everything, like text, can be interpreted in multiple ways and is never a pure signifier of the signified.
The choreographic movement and text materials in If Only have been constructed with this in mind. The materials work with fragmentation, and repetition through accumulation. The performance explores multilinear ways of understanding and reading meaning. For example, during the creative process we explored how the sound of words can affect the meaning of what is being said in spoken language. Together with the performers, I developed tasks exploring fragmentation, repetition and accumulation based on the sounding of words. I realised that this exploration could be connected to Derrida´s deferral of meaning, by exploring the differences and similarities of words through sound vs written language. The point of departure in the language exploration was to expand on the words “align/a line”, constructing and shifting the meaning of the text through repetition and accumulation. The two words have identical pronunciation but different spelling and meaning. Example of word play from the performance in G Score module: — “Align, a line, a lining, aligning a line, a line of aligning lines, in line of aligning, a lie of lines, align, flying lines, of aligning, a lying lie of lines align.”
My choreographic work draws parallels with Derrida´s deconstructive approach to working with language and exploring where meaning lies. It’s been intriguing to consider where meaning arises in a choreographic work which explores the relationship between the spoken language and movement, opposed to Derrida´s speech/writing hierarchy.
photo by: takumi morozumi
If Only (2021)
Openings refers to the different perspectives that have influenced my thinking about the work. The performance has been influenced by various literary sources including the thinking of Jaques Derrida on Deconstruction, Roland Barthes´ writerly text, and Lyn Hejinian´s open text. The concept of intertexuality and hypertext were themes I researched in Bojana Cvejcic’s theory classes. These classes informed and influenced my contextual understanding of the references mentioned in this reflection. Other important sources are Anne Boyer’s poetry, Meg Stuart´s artistic work and approaches, and Deborah Hay´s reflections.
Intertext as an interlinked web
From my perspective intertextuality expands the Derridean view that there is nothing outside the text. Meaning exists in the interpretation and re-interpretation of texts and that it cannot exist outside of itself. Rather it views texts as a weave of codes from other “texts” or discourses such as history, philosophy, sociology etc. The term intertextuality was first developed by Julia Kristeva in an attempt to incorporate Saussure´s semiotics – his study of how signs acquire their meaning within the structure of a text. Kristeva described intertextuality as:
“each word (text) is an intersection of words (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read” and “any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another” (Kristeva, 1986, p.37).
In other words, any text is an “intertext” existing through its relationship with other texts. The author of a text cannot avoid hinting at other works. Thus, meaning is not directly transferred from writer to reader, rather it is negotiated through “codes” made known to the writer and reader by other texts (Kristeva, 1986). An example of this can be seen in Roland Barthes work. His intertextual view of literature (in his later works) supports the idea that the meaning of a text does not exist in the text, rather the meaning is produced by the reader in relation to the text but also the reading process. Barthes called this “writerly text”, where the active participation of the reader is required to establish the text´s meaning. The goal of the “writerly text” was to make the reader a producer of the text, not just a consumer, while the “readerly text” was considered a classic text (Barthes & Balzac, 1974).
photo by: takumi morozumi
photo by: takumi morozumi
My choreographic approaches resonate with Lyn Hejinian´s essay “The rejection of closure” (2000), she writes about the “open text” as inviting participation, rejecting the authority of the writer over the reader, consequently rejecting the authority included in other (social, cultural) hierarchies. Through the process, I realised that the methods I’ve developed emphasised horizontality and placed the process in the foreground. Each of the modules consists of particular ideas about how language moves, transforms and opens up for potential understandings in their reading. My final performance integrated one of the core ideas of the “open text”; highlighting the process. In this case the composition of the performance consisted of modules with specific goals, which unfolded in the moment. I aimed to create a space for the audience to “participate” through identifying and understanding the “game rules” of particular modules such Module:Word journey and Module: Anne Boyer - the method. They were not set or fixed in form; rather consisting of rules and strategies to work with explorations of language and movement.
I find that when I try to fix and set choreographic material, I lose the aliveness and listening that occurs in research settings. My intention has been to resist reduction. In other words, the meaning is not imposed, it is created in the listening and encounters between movement, language, sound and space. Therefore, the nature of the work has been to play with the ambiguity in spoken language and body language, questioning where meaning is created. One moves through the work, listening to words or movement that catch ones attention, moving across a web of references and associations. My approach has been to work with the idea of language and movement as generative and imaginative rather than commanding one meaning.