- The Annihilated Body -
by Shimizu Shinjin
Translation/Adam Broinowski (copyright 2002)
‘In the 18th Century, masturbation became a point of much public debate. Christian moralists were concerned not for the waste of semen nor for ethical reasons, but because something beyond the imagination was being used to awaken desire.
Even in a time when there were no computers, the screen upon which dreams are projected existed, and sex for those who ignored it was inconceivable’. (1)
The Gulf War destroyed my work. My plan to show ‘the body’ using a ‘media environment’ to reveal the discrete pleasure of the bourgeoisie so to speak, had completely evaporated. (2)
Once again, scenes on the television of nightly bombing are being presented – targets detected with infra-red scope, the screen changing colour – which makes me think of ‘green darkness’. While I stare at film of multi-tipped weapons and a ‘battlefield’ revealing a ‘dark green’ world with no bodies/corpses, I vividly imagine extremely advanced ‘media-technology’ and nuclear weapons. This is a world after the body/corpse has been annihilated, a world where nothing exists beyond the screen of the projected ‘dream’.
As soon as the global regime was established however, this ‘dream’ was concealed. In fact, the ‘battlefield’ overflowing with innumerable bodies/corpses reported by the media army only became the ‘battlefield’ after the fact (after the Gulf War).
This process of change - ‘media technology’ and ‘multimedia systems’ organized within the global regime - is a response of process-integration. The present operation of ‘media image’ integration began with the ‘device of oblivion’. This device transforms ‘the body’ into an ‘illusion’ and has been created to make ‘humans’ forget their relationship to ‘history’. It makes them forget their own meaning.
Next I would like to discuss what I have recently recognized to be a map of ruins organized by the global regime. This map represents what is beseiging the ‘body’ now. I have written this elsewhere (3), but I will make some amendments and additions.
Globalization is more than anything else a global system of national capitalism(Fig. 1-3). Both (nationalism and capitalism) independently rely on worker and management production to enforce development. From another angle, the media-image is the bearer of cultural strategy of information consumption in our society. The media-image constructs and deconstructs stereotypes of thought-trends and body actions(gesture) (Fig.1-2), and while the ‘body’ is in a state of ecstasy/paralysis, it consumes these images (Fig.2-4). In this way, the nationalism currently being exposed is connected to ‘physicalism’, for example, in the formulaic imitation of the spectacular ‘theatre of life/violence’ which employs the theory of ‘rhythm’, in which the flesh and unified body are exalted (Fig.3-4). Nationalism uses the media image as a medium of indoctrination to attain compliance, as well as to anticipate events/emergencies (Fig.2-3). Capitalism, in order to accelerate the rate of information consumption reduces ‘the body’ through the violence of data culture to numerical value, while having the ‘body’ take it in as ‘the pleasure of speed and convenience’ (Fig.1-4). These four function in perfectly mutual and complementary cooperation, existing in adhesive ‘symbiosis’.
To this I must respond from a director’s point of view. In the following ways, the prominent characteristics of each heading are highlighted with the aim of deconstructing them from within. The four concepts to the right of the arrows are specific ‘movement’ techniques and are examples of this deconstruction.
To put it simply, ‘Transformation’ is literally the changing of form. In order to do so, ‘parasitism’ and ‘reversal’ are essential. ‘Repetition’ is the revelation of individual memory through the repetition of certain actions. Employing the ‘Nervous System’ is to organize ‘movement’ not through rhythm but through nerves. ‘Phantom Pain’ is literally, to ‘move’ the illusion of the missing limb. This time because I want to speak with particular reference to ‘media technology’, I’ll focus on ‘transformation’. In order to do so ‘reflection’ is necessary.
I would like to return to the 80s. Why should I want to do this? Because it was in this period this picture - media culture gradually embracing ‘media technology’ along with computer technology to form a ‘multimedia system’ - began to appear. Morever, the origins of the present media environment began at this time. While there are technologies which combine various disciplines of physics and culture, serving the core of each of them is the power of ‘transformation=form changing’. For example to put it in contemporary terms, ‘missile defense’ becomes ‘ubiquitous’, daily television is called the ‘silent century’, and ‘multimedia feedback’, developed for the purposes of torture(and hazardous operations), becomes a two-legged robot named ‘ASIMO’. In this way, the vast and multifarious fields of ‘civilization/politics’, ‘economics/military’ and ‘culture/lifestyle’ are traversed(4). Namely, ‘system’ implies something unified, whereas ‘form’ is something that is constantly changing and consequently can be regarded as completely new. Basically, ‘Transformation’ is limitless within a market targeting the ‘differences between forms’. Above this, the system’s technical information is protected by a conglomerate of military, industrial and academic super-structures. Its ownership is concealed. As a consequence, the deciphering of personality and content is not easy, and almost deliberately, each system’s origins are being forgotten. At any rate, people are continuously being ‘delayed’. Realistically speaking, as these systems become embedded in our lifestyles, I too have no choice but to become a consumer in pursuit of tasteful convenience. ‘Systematic’ thinking is essentially non-contextual and anti-historical.
Perhaps at this point, we should recall the still bright Mabu Mines performance of Haj (Writer/Director Lee Bruer, Toga Festival, 1984) made in response to the high-end of consumer society. The production, in which the actress sat in the dressing room reminiscing in front of a three-panelled mirror, revealed through a ‘multimedia system’ her ‘subjectivity’ refracted into a ‘multiplicity’. Ootori Hidenaga described it as ‘the projections of a multiple body wrapping a highly advanced multiple body’(5). To analyze this in detail, I’ll refer to the concepts of the performance stated by Lee Breuer.
“The three faces of the Magic Mirror revealed in the video recording – she travels with her mother and father at 8 years old on their pilgrimage – this is her memory. The second reality is the acting body in real time. The third panel is the body being ‘shot’ by video camera, her live image appears as her consciousness, her self-perception in relation to the present. These things appearing together are a merging of one thing with other things.”(6)
Moreover, although it is clear that this ‘multiple body’ is revealed through a ‘parasitism’ of ‘transformation’, Lee Breuer emphasizes the ‘division’ of the ‘state’. ‘State’ in this context, is (the lead) actress’ memory, presence and self-perception are being supported by a ‘surface/mask’ (screen) as the recorded video projection, her (actual) ‘body’, and her live image. While ‘appearing together, and merging with other things’ is the ‘extant state’, this proposition of ‘division’ is being raised and urged by the actress’ utterances. This harmonizing is supported by the ‘voice’ or ‘self-consciousness’, whose ‘words’ are a fourth ‘temporary mask’, thus repeating the ‘division’.
While having simply followed the explanation, I am describing what I have seen through this ‘actress’ as ‘state-transforming’: as change repeats, something is born through ‘dividing subjectivity’, which in this case is called ‘the body’.
‘The body’, which is not only seen as antiquated, unified ‘flesh’, is the ‘divided’ original, and for the first time this ‘division’ makes the possibility of ‘representation’ possible, as well as revealing and problematizing its ‘limits’.
From ‘Physical Expression’ to ‘Body Representation’ is the conclusive direction and the skills of ‘transformation’ and ‘systematic thinking’ has made this path accessible.
The ‘sur-face/s’ propagated by Lee Bruer are endlessly multiplying around the world. Realistically, ‘the body’ of the global regime – ‘the besieged body’ – repetitiously disappears/appears on multi-racial, multiple ‘supporting surface(s)’ while being (forcibly) rushed through daily transformations. This is the normal ‘bodily’ condition. While the confinement of space relegates detailed discussion to another opportunity, I would like to discuss the matter of imprisonment in relation to the ‘globalized body’ here. This body is multi-faceted and is divided into many classes. For example, the body is seen as a source of tax revenue, as the access point for large amounts of statistical material, as a powerless source of sweat, blood and tears, another as a human, and yet another as part of an a-political, bestial pack. In short, this ‘body’ (‘besieged body’) is undoubtedly a selfless double upon which a thousand layers have been written. Meaning, the real body has had an innumerable amount of fleeting icons forced upon it and has come to exist as a sheaf of stored documents. Usually, this collection of categories is so compressed that only one layer can be seen at any given time.(7) By highlighting the trance of normality that is our “actual body” I have tried to say that the body, owing to what I have looked at thus far, is not unified at all. In fact it is not of any ‘substance’ whatsoever. In short, it is not real. ‘The body’ is a philosophy and therefore an ‘illusion’.
So what is to be done? I shall simply bring another’s ‘eyes’ to the table. These ‘eyes’, originating from Tatsumi Hijikata’s notion of ‘flesh’, are those of the ‘taxidermied body’.(8) I will ‘parasitize’ Hijikata’s worm-ridden corpse. Of course, what is to be ‘parasitized’ is not the entire form but the ‘eyes’ buried within, which contain his ‘philosophical perspective’ in order to re-appraise his philosophies of ‘flesh’.
These ‘eyes’, moreover ‘taxidermied eyes’, cannot be seen no matter how hard one willfully tries. They are neither (being) reflexive, nor (being) forced. They are simply watching (being watched). The moment of blinking is denied so that things reflecting on the ‘sur-face’ of one’s ‘taxidermied eyes’ become a screen/layer for the ‘reflecting of dreams’. The ‘curtain/film’ through which one sees things, like the ‘eyes’ of a taxidermied body, becomes a medium. Suddenly the sublimated individual context, traces of life-history/history, the destroyed climate, suddenly speaks from the prohibited ‘north’.
These eyes of the ‘taxidermied body’ function within the ‘locality’ of ‘flesh’, and should not be interpreted as being part of the closed circuit of the ‘unified body/limb’ dichotomy. More importantly, at a particular stage of Hijikata’s life, he began to grasp the notion of ‘media as medium’ and its ‘limits’.
I recall Hijikata often saying that ‘inside is outside’. He said ‘world/meaning’ was related to ‘outside/other’. Whatever ‘ouside/other’ is related to, what came ‘before’ is always present. This ‘before’ so to speak, (according to Hijikata) depends on the disposition of the ‘medium’, in the creation of something (through one). This kind of thought is completely opposite to the orientation of ‘community’. It is not narcissistic, it is generous. While he was still alive, Hijikata was fond of using the expression, “England also has the ‘north’”.(10) This was his way of directly communicating this idea. However, I am not making reference to the ‘north’ as a mental image of rural home life Hijikata evoked through the ‘butoh’ he created, nor to the debate concerning whether he was ‘nativist’ or ‘globalist’ in his thinking.(11) That he never went overseas is clear. That he never departed from himself is not. Rather, this ‘north’ he referred to is the ‘other’, it is ‘being watched’ from the ‘north’. The ‘north/other’ is neither strange nor special, but comes to anyone in a normal, regular way as a ‘factual state’. He often defined ‘butoh as the corpse being stood straight up’. As long as ‘butoh’ is the ‘logic’ of the ‘media/medium’ and ‘technique’ is the way to be freed from thinking of the (body as) ‘flesh’, in short he is suggesting a media technology. That the ‘taxidermied body’s eyes’ expose the present ‘world’ structure, and the meaning of the presence of the ‘Other’, which is of vital importance, has become very clear to me.
The ‘Media Image’ is a troublingly simple principle. The reason for its strength lies in it failing to recognize the ‘outside’. That is really the only reason. At its roots it has the same principle as that of the ‘community’. However, the ‘media image’ post-‘9/11’ is cleverly doubled in two frames. Pre-‘9/11’ it was ‘recognizing each other’s differences’ but post it has begun ‘accusing each and every one of us’. These two frames have been joined together. Consequently, ‘unified’ violence and ‘racist’ violence are invoked together. ‘Unification’ comes from ‘recognizing the difference of others’ and from within what the ‘unified’, ‘racist’ ‘divisions’ are created. This principle is ‘richly’ advanced in every way, and is repeating in innumerable scenarios.(12) More seriously than ever, here and there, already and always, for the purposes of ‘unifying within’, the notion of ‘time-space’ is disappearing. Only the notions of place and of ‘time’ that support ‘the body’ in relation to each respective culture is considered. The ‘body-time-locality’ nexus is already within the global regime. Having said this, there is ever-present masturbation over the ‘global object’.
This piece was completed in October 2002 as a contribution to the ‘Performing Arts vol.2, special on Media Technology’ (Kyoto Art University Performing Arts Centre Editor/Publisher).
Shimizu Shinjin (founder/director)
1. Slavoj Zizek Virtuality has always existed, interviewed by …and translated by …., Multimedia Society and Culture of Transformation, NTT Publishing, 1997, p.173
2. I want to include a reference from my own book, Dialogue, ‘Theatre of the Besieged Body’ Shimizu Shinjin/Ootori Hidenaga, Gekidan Kaitaisha 1991-2001, Gekidan Kaitaisha publishers, 2001. pp121-123 This is in reference to the film of Luis Bunuel ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’
3 ‘Gekidan Kaitaisha World Tour’, by Shimizu Shinjin, p.5 ViewPoint No. 20, Saison Foundation, 2002 .
Also see Heiner Muller/The World News letter Vol. 3,
‘Response to ‘The future is nothing but evil’’ by Shimizu Shinjin, p.9Heiner Muller Project, 2002
4 As there are many explanations to be found in the current mass media it is not my purpose to go into a detailed explanation here. Briefly, ‘missile defense’ meaning missile systems for the defense of North American homeland security which are ‘ubiquitous’ – meaning there is high-end logistical information integration equipment probably capable of detecting living environments or locations anywhere. I say ‘probably’ because making a thorough definition is near impossible and meaningless. We of the ‘substratum’ are not supposed to have in-depth knowledge or the ability to trace advances in technical information engineering which is capable of high speed, minute, and complex analysis. With these parallel categories placed on a map, I am simply making the point that the former ‘military surveillance satellite networks’ as in the latter internet, both use the concept of network at their base, and I thought that it was easy to point out this similarity. Moreover it is not whether one is connected, or one is being connected which is the issue, but a case of ‘having no choice but to be connected’ that I wish to problematize.
The relationship between TV and ‘Silent Century’ can be generally understood from the following quote.
Silent Century by Paul Virilio
‘Strategies of Deception’ p. 46~47
Trans. Kawamura Ichiro
Shindo Press, 2000
(Re-translated from Japanese by Adam Broinowski)
“In the autumn of 1998, a system called ‘silent century’ has appeared, named after the general developments of the Lockheed Martin case. ‘There are 55,000 TV/FM radio broadcasting towers in the world which can be connected from which one data base can be constructed. Connecting these towers surely would make it possible to effectively navigate the airspace within its range capability.’ Television can no longer be only considered a panopticon-like distance surveillance system, but owing to this huge development in total detection radars, it is now one area in space development. No longer a problem of the legitimate or illegitimate interference in radio waves, it detects life patterns, moreover, movement itself…”
‘Multimedia Biofeedback’ and ‘Asimo’ share the fact that both are devices which deal with artificial intelligence.
MacLuhan of the Virtual Age
Humans in Media ‘post-MacLuhan’ p.143
Seido Publishing, 1992
‘Actually, recently some extremely important information has come from devices used for the purposes of practical research. For example from the biochemical information gathered from internal digestive cameras, means that future applications of nerve electricity devices will be used in Biofeedback. This means the level of multimedia biofeedback has been reached.
Video and Theatre
Flesh language vol.12, ‘Special Performance’, pp.109~111
(I think this quote is very important..)
“The essential difference between formal simulacra and originality is (that formal simulacra ) is not a functioning object.”
6. ‘Theatre of Escape’
Dialogue between Lee Bruer and Takahashi Yasunari
Eureka, p. 46, Seido Publishing, 1984
Again, the mapped categories of these ideas have not been touched, but in Uchino Tadashi’s From Melodrama to Performance in 20th Century American performance, in the chapter ‘Lee Bruer’s Pilgrimage to Mecca’, (publ. Tokyo University Press 2001, pp.100-120), this idea has been developed in the ‘critique’ based on much more detailed and abundant information. In the following quote below in particular, has presented me with an the opportunity to reconsider Tatsumi Hijikata’s idea of ‘flesh’.
“But what Bruer specializes in, in relation to the theatrical mechanism introduced, is the development of the artist’s work in Artaudian fashion, to the horizon (limit).
7. The next point has been quoted from Gekidan Kaitaisha’s world tour report in Viewpoint no. 20 (p.5~6).
“For example, from one perspective the ‘body’ is an object of tax revenue,…and usually only one layer can be seen at any one time in this stack of compressed layers.”
8. ‘Taxidermy’ is an expression by Tatsumi Hijikata quoted from the Gendai Shitecho (contemporary thought magazine), and was also talked of during Hijikata’s in-house ‘intensive workshops’ held at his Asbestos Studio.
Symposium: Tatsumi Hijikata, Tadashi Suzuki, Akihiko Senda
Special on Butoh; Lacking language=Body Hypothesis
p. 125, Gendai Shitecho
9. In 1985, at the Hijikata household, there were many long and detailed discussions. At that time, I quote directly from his conversation, “To begin with, rule number one is ‘inside is outside’”.
10. Tadashi Suzuki introduced this expression in his obituary for Tatsumi Hijikata.
‘The expression of modern human crisis. Butoh artist, Tatsumi Hijikata.
Tohoku Daily, January 28th 1986
11. Hijikata himself expresses this formula. This is an essential quotation.
“But I have been taught by the spring mud that the source of my butoh has no relation to the traditional performing arts of Shinto and Buddhism. I think it is okay to make this declaration.”
Tatsumi Hijikata in Wind Daruma p. 72, from ‘The confessions of Butoh’ speech given at the 1985 Butoh Festival.
12. This is from the site of production (rehearsal, performance, workshops given on tour) as part of our theatre’s body of work. Here, it is not a matter of ‘same / different’, but a matter of ‘unified / discrimination’.