RAG FACTORY- VIBRANT MATTER/ LA METACHORIE
Vibrant matter/ La Métachorie
What’s the matter darling?
Nothing really matters to me, I am a spirit!
How’s the visual related to the guy’s story?
The guy? Which guy?
The visual is a window to the past and my personal reconstruction of the choreography of the Métachorie of the female artist Valentine Saint Point 101 years later. It’s a reference to the 19th century idea that the universe was suffused from invisible ether and that all phenomena including sound, light and even matter itself consisted of vibrations of various frequencies, an idea that offered explanation for occult phenomena such as the communication with the dead.
Why everything is white?
Why did you choose white? Considering that white is the color of innocence and your main theme is lust?
Because I like milk, ghosts and white rats and I am inspired from voodoo rituals and chemical attacks and because it’s amusing and outrageous at the same time what people project on me: purity, innocence and racism.
Was that a ritual?
Rituals are complex phenomena and they have a very strong social input. They are symbolic systems that cannot provide a recipe outside their own context. It’s surprising how well scripted and precise some rituals can be. It’s important to use this word with care and place it in the context that it belongs each time in order to keep its specificity and polysemy. Joseph Cambell says that a ritual is a reenactment of a myth and by participating in the ritual we are participating in the myth too, so in that sense, yes, it’s a ritual around the myth of Saint Point.
Although, behind my actions, there is no specific “spiritual” significance, as you would find it really precisely in religious systems while evoking spirits or being possessed by them as for example in the voodoo practice. Nevertheless, I am definitely “evoking” a different state of being present which always makes me return to the dance. What fascinates me in possessive rituals that involve dancing is how and from where the spirit enters the body, the space that is made in the body to receive something immaterial and how it manifests. The idea of leaving the self behind for something else and offering your body for this.
I have looked a lot through the work of Maya Deren (Divine Horsemen) the work of Alfred Métraux and of Gilert Rouget ( La musique et la Transe) on voodoo rituals and more precisely the way spirits are invited through the drawing of the “Vever” on the ground – a sort of gate- with flour or rice to take over the body of the possessed.
There is an element in the way Saint Point’s dance relates to geometrical shapes of vibratory energies that radiate beyond an original body which I think has something really similar to possession. I am interested in putting in parallel her dance with the concept of the “sympathetic vibration” and how its expression or communication could be transmitted between and beyond bodies across time and space.
Why are you inspired by Valentine de Saint Point?
I have never heard her before and I want to know more.
The main reason for picking up this work is because Saint Point is still not entirely recognized for her contribution in the arts and because she remains largely unnoticed for her prolific artistic and political activities. It’s really important that her work is credited and placed within a dance context too. Her involvement in various fields from painting, poetry, choreography, writing and her invention of new ways of making like the feminine Action, the Art of the Flesh and the Theatre of the Women raise the matter of the emancipation of female eroticism and the carnal attraction as free of guilt and sentimental.
The Métachorie opens new windows to a dance that derives from the esthetic and the ideological revolution of visual arts, cubism and also the structural qualities of cinema. The dance becomes abstract, mechanical and anonymous, free of mimicry, inharmonious, asymmetrical with a cerebral component and an esoteric meaning. There is a strong attraction to an Idea and not to an esthetic quality driven from the female beauty. There is also an attempt for a union for the arts.
I think basically what inspired me the most was her insistence on the importance of the Idea independent to the form or the art category, the reason behind making, and her ideological belief for lust: ‘we must make lust into a work of art’. This drive produced no identifiable art object but opened up dance to various disciplines. Maybe her work makes me rethink of Futurism and how to find an adequate space of display for new work to appear in that context.
Fire, liquid, vibration, white, black, masculine, feminine, light and dark, molding, nature, tension, technology, buttons, microphone.
What I haven’t seen?
History, memory, frequency, audience, controversy, ideas, stage, the past, the future, geometry, occultism, biology, X-rays, entropy, machine, radioactivity, Hertz, telegraphy, theosophy, cubism, symbolism, Nietzsche, Egypt, colonialism, matter, a blank canvas, mediation, resonance, fire and heat. I also see a woman artist talking about a woman artist before her, their relationship, the learning of old and new ways, a woman living in a man’s world.
Crap question (reply to questions of others).
What is the live presence of matter?
I don’t know. I am not sure I understand the question.
Does the white cover resolve the problem of masculinity and femininity? Or is it to hide the identity?
“I am against theatrical expression in my dance. Covering the face I erase facial expression that could add sentimentality to my movements and gestures, as it is also absurd to divide humanity into women and man. Humanity is made from masculinity and femininity”.
The meta-dance of Saint Point offers ground for a dance that borrows its structural qualities from cinema and visual arts of the early 1910’s and seeks to go beyond the conventional use of the chorus in tragedy: there is an urge for the body to be represented as depersonalized, abstract and anonymous.
Do you assimilate yourself to the white color shaped by music?
There is a relation between what Saint Point calls the “visible” and “invisible” forces and the whole idea of “vitality” from Bergson that lies behind her work. I am studying this sort of chart called- the Archéometre made from the Theosophiste Saint d’ Alveydre and used from Saint Point as a background symbol for the Métachorie. (see below). This geometric shape gathers figures- numbers and symbols deriving from various religious contexts in order to unveil a “secret” correspondence between sounds and colors and find the one and only principle that connects the whole of the universe. Geometry and symbols and an interrelationship with the senses are some dominant characteristics of futurism too. The geometric mandala below appropriates all these elements and creates a sort of “rule”- “a mesure” or an “arxin” meaning a principle, around which everything connects. I look at his shape as a historical example of occultism, as a system that operates basically through appropriation and is an amalgam of styles and approaches that walks parallel to all scientific achievements of that era.
Were you genuine in the biography you talked loud?
Yes, its all valid historical information through various sources (Magazines, interviews, images, texts) found in the book Féminines futures (Presses du Réel) curated and edited from Adrien Sina who holds a great personal archive on Valentine de Saint Point. Beside this main source I am looking at various other historical sources through newspapers and articles. (For a more detailed bibliography look in the end of the text.)
What’s in the future?
Definitely, the past. Derrida in the Ghost Dance says: “Our future is looking increasingly like our past, which now looks like the future, which looks increasingly like the past etc”…I think that it is impossible for the future to escape the past and its retrospective orbits. The weight of the past slides into an always haunted future, its scaring but quite exciting too. Again I think of Derrida and Specters of Marx, where he argued that hauntology- as a term that defines any concept of being and time-was characterized by “a time out of joint”, a broken time expressed in cultural objects that return to a wounded or distorted version of the past. Reworking the Métachorie of Saint Point is a way of revisiting this era with all its controversies and interpretations and identifying the same political questions that have not been answered yet. It’s somehow attempting knowledge in the future by a return to its primal impulses.
If the future belongs to the ghosts then we are in a loop, it is about repetition. Reworking on a piece of the past consists on a reactivation of the dead and their knowledge. I think here of traditional societies where the dead and the alive live together and they communicate. For me being haunted by a ghost of the past like Saint Point is a way to remember something that I have never lived through, a way of expanding my imagination of the present and to make new connections with the it.
Do you think that in the long term you will need the verbal intro – the bits that you are reading factual stuff about Valentine?
I would like to integrate them differently into the performance and maybe use less of them and in a different way but it is important for me that there is historical context that frames the performance. It is somehow an historical research that needs to be revealed somehow. This was a first attempt.
Was all the sound live?
How do the elements of voice, image and movement interact? In fragments?
I would like to, yes. I want to work more on the idea of fragmentation as a whole and not only in the moving image. In my head it’s like a collage of trying to create the whole person of who Saint Point was and what she did by using the video, the voice and the movement. The whole process reminds me of this game with the different parts of the body – head- torso- legs- cut apart and pieced back together. The voice as an identification of the person, the image of my body the memory of her body through images and the body of the material- I would like all this together to form a new body, an imaginary body where all the parts do not necessarily fit always, there is cut. Every reconstruction risks to fail, like a transplant. The same for any historical reconstruction, it necessarily becomes an interpretation and therefore personal.
What is the material in the video? Fascinating.
What the fuck is that white stuff?
What is this liquid white thing?
What was the material you use on the speaker?
It’s the substance that exudes from my body while being possessed and which forms this material as the manifestation of the spirit of Valentine.
Why did we not see THAT live?
Did you ever see the material happening live? By material I mean the matter moving?
Initially it was happening live. I have already tried to live-feed with a camera but I didn’t like the result so much, there was a visibility issue and too much multi-tasking plus some extra people needed just for this. With the video there is mediation and something very tangible between the image and the sound. Also the video is in 4 acts exactly like the 4 parts of the choreography of the Métachorie.
Was that a washing machine drum?
No, it’s a car speaker.
What were you saying about nature?
It’s a text of Valentine which attributes to nature human qualities and actions like: “ vibrates, pants, shakes, sprawls, creeps, runs, shakes, flies, dashes forward, steps to the side, gives herself up to sustain equilibrium, to define its existence”.
This quote is a clear indication of her influence from symbolism; the artistic movement before futurism where you can find frequent references to nature as a main topic.
Why did you put the shoes on?
Because I like to dance with shoes, it makes me look more human and more contemporary too.
Would you like to have more surround sound?
Yes. I would love to have more surround sound. It’s the next step forward. Or some vibration under the seats of the audience, just to think big!
Encore- encore- encore!
So what are you thinking of doing with this feedback?
Well use it as a guide for my next step. This is really useful to change, rethink, remake, and reconsider all my choices so far. Also, I am planning to send the text to the audience as promised and post it on my blog so people can read it.
In the program you mentioned that Saint Point is an aristocrat. Why? Do you think this is important?
Like any other historical research you need to provide as much information as possible in order to create the best understanding of the era that frames that person. There is a family “heritage” that draws a lot of attention on her work at least in the Pre-War World I in Paris but being an aristocrat not meant necessarily being rich. I came across one source that mentions that she invented her aristocratic origin in order to be able to enter the artistic and literary elite of her period. Not sure if this source is reliable, though. In any case her pseudonym comes from the birthplace of her uncle Lamartine- important poet and minister of foreign affairs for France for a while. He had a massive influence on her and partly her trips and political actions in Egypt have an intention to retrace his journeys in that region some years before her.
For a woman from that era must have been hard to enter a circle of artists without having any way in from the family. Also, it is important not to forget that she has begun her life as a model for Rodin and that she was in relationship with two important Italian leaders of the avant-garde established in Paris: Canudo and Marinetti. She also had strong links with some very important artists like Satie, Debussy, Nijinsky, Duchamp etc. I find it really problematic to read her work only through the lens of aristocracy or futurism or feminism. Her artistic, literary and political contributions and concerns propose a reform of the arts which need to be appreciated beyond these limits.
Sounds and movements take a lot of space on stage today and I like it. Where do you want to take this performance now?
I would like to develop further the historical text and context and add all the different layers that relate to her work, find more ways to integrate the material live and also work more on the idea of fragmentation and the impersonation of her in me. I would like to make the piece longer and create more possibilities for the sound and the movement to grow too.
What’s the spark? A ritual, a meeting of the two bodies, a revolution?
The spark refers to the beginning of a voodoo ritual. Most of the times they use black powder and burn it before the formation of the “gates” on the ground with rice or flour for the spirit to arrive. It’s a call. It’s a beginning of a relation and could be a revolution but a revolution of non-human things, of no masterminds or of a single locus. Maybe, a revolution of a non-human force that is transcendental for humans, something like the nucleus mysticism of Dali. This sounds like a conspiracy theory!
How did you find out about the Métachorie and what attracted you to it?
I found about the Métachorie from the book called Féminines Futures, edited and curated from Adrien Sina, recommended to me from the performance artist Ron Athey. It’s a book that is dedicated to Saint Point and that traces the work of a lot of other performance female artists, some of them not so known.
I was attracted to this work because it is considered to represent the first multi-disciplinary female artist, because it combines elements that I am interested in historically like the relation between occultism, science and futurism, because there is a dance that is not just beautiful, but that brings into it the emancipation of patriarchal bonds exposing the female body not as an object of beauty but as a vehicle of a concept. Because Saint Point has introduced the importance of the Idea for a genuine, non-identifiable relation between the arts and makes me reconsider the way I see futurism, feminism and other isms too.
Are u trying to find out from the public if we got the point of your research, or are u looking for that still?
The process of making is never ending. There is not one point to see, there are a lot of aspects and layers in a work in the same way there are a lot of aspects in each of us individuals.
What is the difference between a face, a mask, a portrait and a blank space?
I don’t know. To me they are all different things.
What would a second person do?
What do you mean? Maybe you mean what would a second person do participating in the performance? But we are two.
Is the sound (the vibration) the vibrance of matter? Is it the only source of vibrance?
I think that the whole universe is a musical construction and that all phenomena consist of vibrations of various frequencies. So somehow, there is nothing but vibration everywhere and all the time. It’s up to us to train our eyes and our ears to see it or hear it.
How do you translate vibration?
This is a great question. Thank you!
Is like being saturated from something invisible and inaudible, like an unseen force that mediates all interactions between the exterior environment and oneself. Its something that is always there and affects my relation with everything that surrounds me.
When I think of vibration I think of Pythagoras and his theory on 1 and harmony and of the cosmogenic theory of the pre-Socratic Empedocles who proposed that the 4 elements of Water, Earth, Air and Fire comprise all things in creation including human and non-human and those 4 elements are informed from the two master principles, Eros and Strife. Eros is then in the formation of the universe the power of organic unity and mutual attraction and Strife is the power of disparity and random disruption. In all things, somehow desire and division coexist and there is no desire without division.
I see vibration as the result of this relation. In the theory of sympathetic vibrations in physics, the name already suggests that there is the notion of “sympathy with”, a relation between 2, which then creates another relation with a second etc and this leads towards a creation of infinite possibilities of relations. If vibrations are then relations, then there is only vibration all the time and it operates with a principal of sympathy. But also vibrations are what cause organization and geometry so I see them as well as moving and rotating within various axis and planes. Like the musical tones between harmonies, the vibrations interact with each other in harmony and discord; I see vibrations as a metaphor for human relations.
The soundtrack was amazing. Could be the soundtrack of my funeral, the woofer between the legs resembles to a depiction of a womb- flesh lust- I see futurism everywhere. As always the question that always tortures my brain for everything and for ever. What is the point?There is no one single point and no didactic conclusion. What makes me do this is to understand this quote ‘we must make lust into a work of art’. And I would add to apply it in my life, to make lust into life. To live life in full and to find this drive that pushes us into doing things with others and to be brave to affront it, to dive and surrender into it, to transform this drive into actions with others and for others. That’s would be a good starting point.
Can it be longer?
Well, this is the plan, yes to reach max 1 hour.
Will you be working on the language and the diction?
Yes! Thank you. Now I will definitely have to do it!
Why so little movement?
Because that was what I considered was giving me good enough reason to move.
When talking about nature are you interested in the idea/ concept of self-organization?
Partly yes. I am interested in the idea of Nature for two reasons: the first reason is that nature forms a single whole and that each element of it is an individual and that all together they work not only as parts of an organism within the organism itself but with the collective whole of all the others. But it is also interesting how nature sets living beings at discord with one another where there is order there is disorder, retrogression alongside with progress etc. So nature has to provide various examples in terms of not an ideal but an adaptation to survival, which humans just tend to forget. There is a “vital” principle, which when found in nature has neither purely internal finality nor absolutely distinct individuality but really interesting interconnections with everything.
What is the relation between the Métachorie and Vibrant Matter?
The link between the Métachorie and Vibrant Matter is the concept of élan vital and the vitality theory of Henry Bergson that both Valentine and me have read in different moments in time. “Matter and Memory” of Henri Bergson, in 1896 extrapolates from the ether theory and the notion that everything in the universe is physically interconnected and interdependent. For Saint Point, the idea of Lust as a creative force is inspired from the Bergsonian élan vital.
My question was how to reconstruct the “Métachorie the way that Saint Point defined it as form a living organism, whose idea is the soul, the skeleton dance, music and flesh”. I see in the Métachorie- vitality/geometry/lust and I see politics, physics, and biology operating behind it but mainly how the notion of Idea connects the whole through geometry and movement. It’s really abstract and expands in a lot fields.
Vibrant matter, is an attempt to reconstruct the Métachorie. It tries to demonstrate how the loss and amorphous primordial matter brings the past into the present, is genderless and eternal. Matter carries everything that could possible be divided into human and non human with all the qualities that humans have attributed to it. But still there is a 96% of the physical reality which still remains obscure and matter is pure perception is something that doesn’t really exist. So by illustrating the connections between science and occultism that developed through the Victorian period and into modernism, the ether theory provides me a bridge to the work of Saint point by claiming that all phenomena consisted of vibrations of various frequencies-even matter-and that everything can communicate and be transmitted between and beyond bodies across time and space, an expectation that we haven’t seen coming true so far, or have we?
Adrien Sina, Feminine Futures, Perfomance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism, Presses du Réel, 2011.
Leslie Satin Source: “Valentine de Saint-Point ”, Dance Research Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 1-12.
M. Barry Katz Source: “The Women of Futurism”, Woman’s Art Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Autumn, 1986 – Winter, 1987), pp. 3-13.
Antony Enns and Shelley Trower, Vibratory Modernism, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Laurence Rainey, Chirstine Poggi, Laura Wittman, Futurism, an anthology, Yale University Press New Haven& London, 2009.