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dharmakaya – the dharma body; the body that carries teaching; the teaching body


“My spider-sense is tingling!”

  • Peter Parker, Spiderman


In the Jacques Derrida-introduced “Helene Cixous Reader”, Cixous traces her work as a feminist writer, LGBTQi citizen, activist, and professional philosopher to a maturation point of accepting – to paraphrase – both the feminine and masculine energies inside of her notional and ontological social and natural self. She came to recognize these energies as being inextricably, necessarily, and fundamentally in concert and along an often temporally-based synthesized spectrum with one another – individual and, yet, profoundly linked within her experiential and knowing body-mind.

In much the same vein, Dr. Carol Gilligan, in her groundbreaking work as a clinical psychologist, directs us to go beyond binaried arguments surrounding valuation, domination, and eradication of masculinity and/or femininity to a centering of the interrelationship of these two forces, as well as the product of that interrelationship. Importantly, Gilligan notes that interrelationship does not absorb its elements into a deindividuated state. Rather, the interrelational event and view obviates individual elements within a dynamic, in addition to the synthesized summation and, perhaps more importantly, the evoked nature and product of that dynamic and effort.

The presence of interrelationship, and the play of the masculine and feminine energies within us, may be most easily noted in the performing arts ensemble and its participants (note: even within solo work - but for illustration, this blog description will focus its attention on the externalized ensemble model and its production). For instance, in my twenty-five years of experience as a facilitator of contemporary music ensembles, applied to my formal training and studies in Conflict Transformation, specifically, I notice that each member of the performing ensemble can hear themselves, can hear the other person or people (as individuals), and can hear the sound produced by the whole ensemble. Further, the classic occurrence of band arguments, disagreements, etc. almost never occurs, and if it does, it is short lived, for everyone witnesses the product of their effort apart from themselves, as well as a part of themselves – ie an event for which they and others are responsible. This model is a perfect example of the interrelational presence, view, mindset, and practice – especially, as its auditory nature renders such perception in the immediate sense, rather than upon later review. However, this latter model also has its own special, additive benefits.

In future Free the Body Blog postings, I’ll delve more into formal Abolitionist frameworks as purported by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners, Beth Ritchie, and others, but for now, suffice to say that one key function of Abolitionism is as an investigatory tool of assessment and appraisal. As we attempt to abolish a punitive, inefficient system, we must, necessarily, see the scope of productivity of such an effort. In the performing arts example, above, given the critical pedagogy of original student art creation within an ensemble, we abolish the didactic, mimetic, traditional educational framework of the owner-owned banking system of education (Freire) that is cast as exceptional and truest in the symbol-laden value schema of the popular socio-cultural “adult” consciousness; the indoctrination-training of teachers – first as young students, themselves, then through the Teaching Academy, then within assessment metrics in the educational system’s hierarchy of student and teacher achievement, directly modeled by, and congruent with, a capitalist perspective of wealth-gain as worth-gain (grades, dollars, widgets) (see Mark Fischer’s seminal work, Capitalist Realism for a more in depth critique of schooling under this lens); and, finally, as a labor-portion of a vastly triangulated, directed, monitored, controlled, and administered system of Power (Volume of Elements) and Violence (Implements) against the creative, individual human spirit-body.* Truly, to be human is to create – that is, to imagine what could be and then to make it appear in the physical realm. (Anthropologically speaking, if we can’t make it appear, we “summon” it – thus, in part, creating culture. More on this god-like effort in future blogs.)

Following that, humans may also imagine the “decreation” of something, someone, some place – any construct. For instance, famously, when his studio engineer left at 11pm, Prince’s original recorded track for the song “When Doves Cry” was awash in keyboards, percussion, bass, guitar, vocals, etc. When she returned the following morning, Prince was just finishing up. He had removed everything but the core, repeating drum track, vocals, and a couple of instruments. “Just one more thing,” he said. “They’re not gonna believe this.” And he removed the bass. And so the true nature of the song was evoked.

Interrelationality affords us the opportunity to view beyond ourselves as only an inextricable whole. We may also see the product of our effort that is greater than the sum of its parts, as well as decreating our notion of self to the interrelationality of our various inner selves - the intrapsychic – and, given our blessed metacognition, calibrate those selves, at will, albeit with some practice! In doing so, we may view these various selves, and any other construct we apply interrelationality to, more clearly. The resounding whole, the creative whole, and the participating parts. To view the inner selves that we harbor as individual players, as interactive, and as summative – as well as the knowledge that we can let one go or be silent or, at least, quieter, but only because it is there to begin with. Truly, the relations and the spaces afforded in our song cannot exist if they are not both extant, already.

So, the performing ensemble must return to the individual and social body, itself – the poli-soma – as another relation, as another summative, as another producer, and the thing produced – and that branches out into ensemble relationships – how do I move, at this moment, if at all, in relation to the others? Do I leave? Partly? Fully? Now? No, now. CAN I MOVE? AM I FREE TO MOVE? DOES THIS FRAMEWORK ALLOW ME TO RESPOND?

The transmission of the full answer is ultimately beyond the descriptive, only being fully communicated through the experiential. As all art is. Experiential, creative, and decreative in its resonance and effect. It is curiosity, receiver, respondent, and response, as well as a critical message weeding out the egregiously specious projections within us. Truly, Abolition Now.

In my work as composer for this project, I am trying to be mindful as to how I position my entering intentions – that is, my entry into the interrelational song. Ideally, as question, receiver, etc. but, also, given our abolitionist framing, I must be intentional about abolishing previous ways of working and exhibiting, then try to be aware of what is magical and useful. Following that, how may I decreate what is produced, in an effort to awaken both my own true intention, the true nature of investigation, and the essence of what is being investigated. In this way, abolitionist practice is, by definition, radical. The compositional interrelationship comprises the intrapsychic, the somatic composer, the physical body of studio tools, the various “tracks” of sound within a recording session, the interplay of various program material (in various stages of development), open air listening, the gallery space, the bodies of collaborators and the minds of collaborators. At present, the interaction of the various tracks within a composition has arisen great curiosity for me, ideally as it did for Prince. What happens when I abolish? Let’s see!

Again, the notion of freeing the body means limits are being placed or are in place. But it also means limiters need to be put in place – perhaps counter-limiters, to open up space and place. The secret to John Cage’s “4’33”, as he recounts, is that there is no such thing as silence – there is always sound – but there is also such a thing as no-sound within that sound field. Space and Form need each other to exist, by definition. Likewise with Freedom and Limits. But is the song being sung the healthiest song? For anyone? Let’s start abolishing and find out.


*these particular notions of Power and Violence are drawn from Dr. Hannah Arendt’s book, On Violence.


Next Blog: Investigating my project position further using Abolition Feminism

Written by Peter DiGennaro, Sound Artist/Human Rights Educator

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