Pina Bausch’s 1980

“The purpose is not to describe or represent bodies; bodies already have proper qualities, actions and passions, souls, in short forms, which are themselves bodies. Representations are bodies too.”
A Thousand Plateaus, Chapter 3

The dance is superficial and exterior, a surface and a space. It offers itself already whole and completed. We are not wholly interested in how it started, where it came from, who it is. We are looking at the sea, trying to imagine our relationship to it. To move with its movements. Movement, being both the physical exertion (bodies) and the expressive flow of its significances. Learning from this movement via a chain of expressions.

The movement of the swimmer does not resemble that of the wave, in particular, the movements of the swimming instructor which we reproduce on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal with only by grasping the former in practice as signs… When a body combines some of its own distinctive points with those of a wave, it espouses the principle of repetition which is no longer that of the Same, but involves the Other—involves difference, from one wave and one gesture to another, and carries that difference through the repetitive space thereby constituted. To learn is indeed to constitute the space of an encounter with signs, in which the distinctive points renew themselves in each other, and repetition takes shape while disguising itself. (RD, 23)

In order to let the dance teach us, we must enter it. It would be silly to dip a bucket into the ocean and study its sample saying “I now know the sea”. Swimming is moving with the movements, become part of its chain of expression. Your body’s phantom remainders, your arms and legs reattached inscribed upon the performers. But how do we write about that connection? First, throw away your tide charts, your depth-finder, your oceanographic history. Jettison everything that attempts to freeze-frame the flow, every rigid structure that imposes an exterior organization. Find the way that language moves: a poetics of movement that does not translate the dance, but connects to it. Writing cannot map the dance. It can only hope to repeat the difference, to create movement from movement. Deleuze’s swimmer connects the body to the wave in the same way that I wish to connect writing to dance.

My approach to 1980 recognizes the way gestures, words, music, space and time weave together inextricably, how these elements twist into a genetic code that is constantly changing it’s own material and what that material ‘expresses.’ I point to ‘moments’ in 1980 that are more like movements, trajectories of expression that trace the exteriority of the dance. Pina Bausch is famous for her ability to subvert classical narrative, thematic, or conceptual models. I am not interested in the structures that her dances negate, but instead what they create. 1980 connects to experience, rather than representing experience. Deleuze and Guattari describe this method of assemblage.

There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author). Rather, an assemblage establishes connections between certain multiplicities drawn from each of these orders, so that a book has no sequel not the world as its object nor one or several authors as its subject. In short, we think that one cannot write sufficiently in the name of an outside. The outside has no image, no signification, no subjectivity. The book as assemblage with the outside, against the book as image of the world. ATP 23

The following is a list of entry points into the dance, different ways connecting to it, forging an assemblage that repeats its movements through difference.

Collapsing the Sign

A woman runs in a circle upstage. She’s waving a flimsy scarf, chanting I’m ti—ired. I’m ti—ired. The persistence of the gesture exhausts her. The enunciation not only expresses or represents her body, but intervenes with that body. The words exert a force upon her, causing the signifier (I’m tired) to collapse against the signified body. The body is tired because the word ordered it so.
The only possible definition of language is the set of all order-words. … They tell us what we “must” think, expect, etc. Language is neither informational nor communicational. It is not the communication of information but something else quite different: the transmission of order words, either from one statement to another or within each statement, insofar as each statement accomplishes an act and the act is accomplished in the statement. (A Thousand Plateaus 79)

This intermingling of physical action and expressive representation reveal the power of the order-word, how text determines our relationship to it. Operating similarly, the thin scarf is whimsically waved about, later becoming heavy as a flag that a soldier carries through battle. What was once a symbol for dainty, childish fun is now an oppressive weight. The scarf moves from a purely expressive sign to a physical effect. The audience watches the dancer’s arm shake with exhaustion as she desperately tries to hold up the thin fabric.

Like most expressive objects in 1980, the body and the scarf are not fixed symbols or signs. They are constantly changing and evolving. The body’s exhaustion and the exhaustion that the body expresses fold indistinguishably into one another. The scarf is neither its physical material, nor its expressive function. It becomes something else: a movement, a flow of intensities that are constantly changing and developing into new intensities. For example, later in the dance, after a particularly fast-paced montage, a magician shows the audience both sides of a scarf, then he holds the scarf like a cup. When he tips it over, the scarf empties out a stream of different colored scarves. The scarf excretes it’s excess (in my notes, I concisely said ‘scarf shits’) revealing to the audience how something light and flimsy (like a scarf or a dancer or a deer) is overflowing excess meanings and contradictions.

Storytelling and Time

For a time my father used to dress me
when my mother wasn’t there. To do that,
he always put me on a chair. Holding her hand
while she steps up. It was always complicated.
He was rather clumsy pulling on her cloths.
Then we’d both laugh like crazy
because you can’t go into the street without underpants.
So that no one can see her skin And then.
He always tried to comb my hair. Here.
on the right of the scalp with a part on the side
But it was always difficult, because it never came out straight.
And then he pulled too much tugs furiously,
tugs at her hair ‘til it hurts And in the evening,
when he picked me up from kindergarten,
when I was tired, he always carried me home
over the threshold.

In this section of 1980, the dancers further complicate the collapse of the sign, by doubling present movement with past recollections. In this sequence, ‘he,’ the dancer, and he, the father, slip through each other. The father is an expression of the daughter. He is textual, a sign. However, this sign does not constitute a relationship between a the real father and the daughter’s feelings for him. The sign infects the men around her. The sign acts as a template. It commands the action of the present ‘he.’
The doubling of the father and the ‘lover’ reveal the way that memory is not static. The past commands the present. The representation and mimicry of the father suggests that signs are constantly changing. The memory of her father is adjusted by re-presenting him. The male dancer is forced to conform to this representation. The daughter, the subject expressing the memory, is also changed (quite literally) while negotiating her relationship to both men.

The collapse of the sign always implies movement and change through time. The affective sign is never static. It proliferates new experiences and re-constitutes old ones. It works simultaneously in the past and the present, weaving the two into a single fabric. This fabric is constantly changing, re-fitting itself to our bodies, and re-masking the subject who wears it. Time itself folds over the daughter’s body, ghosting her anatomy and interfacing her relationship to others.

Bausch constantly problematizes storytelling by doubling the textual message with a paradoxical action. In the below transcription, a dancer justifies the death of her grandmother.

My granny’s in the sky.
Do you know she got there?
It started with a fly.
It settled on her nose.
While she was sick in bed
I got a walking stick
and tried to kill that naughty
fly. I didn’t kill that naughty fly dead.
I broke poor granny’s jaw
The doctor couldn’t mend it
So I won’t do that no more.
But I couldn’t help it could I?

The grown dancer recites her monologue in the peevish voice of a spoiled child. By doubling the grown dancer with the voice of a child, Bausch undermines the child’s innocence. The dancer appears almost self-righteousness by repeating “But I couldn’t help it could I?” after several similar stories. However, the sequence not only parodies the impetuous character of children, but it leaves out certain events. There are marked gaps in time. For example, what exactly happens between the broken jaw and her grandmother’s death? The memory is distorted. Time has only preserved the dancer’s plea of innocence, not the actual facts of the story. Elements of the past are projected violently toward the present, often reformed (distilled, filtered, coagulated) into variable emotional and physical intensities.

Language Variation: Music

I had a little party,
this afternoon at three.
It was very small, three guests in all,
just I, myself, and me.
Myself ate all the pudding,
while I drank all the tea.
It twas also I that ate the pie
and passed the cake to me.

The verses Bausch sprinkles throughout the dance operate tonally. By tonally, I mean the way the poem says something, rather than what the poem actually says. For example, a woman looking quite elegant in a white silk dress recites the poem above. The poem is light, short, and childish, with a tight antiquated rhyme. The delivery intensifies this tonal quality. The dignified dress and stature of the woman, her heaviness, contrasts to the light poem. The tone of the poem seems to undermine its delivery, just as the delivery undermines the poem. This tension does more than create an uncomfortable humor. Deleuze and Guattari describe how poems like this one operate to infuse a static linguistic system, a system of representation, with variation and flexibility.

It is perhaps characteristic of secret languages, slangs, jargons, professional languages, nursery rhymes, merchant’s cries to stand out less for their lexical inventions or rhetorical figures than for the way in which they effect continuous variations of the common elements of language. They are chromatic languages, close to musical notation. (ATP 97)

The tone of the poem operates as another movement, this time, moving though a static set of signifiers creating a language of music, complicating the underlying message of poem. Poets use tone and sound to escape signification, to allow the reader to experience the poem instead of simply reading about an event. The poem becomes an event, an affect, a movement.

Bausch masters the tonal quality of language. An Australian dancer tells a fragmented story, shifting between specific tones. First, she appears quite irritated pointing to and naming the grass and river, then suddenly shifts into a frenzied account of how someone is following her. She oscillates between “going straight to the top” of the hill and looking terrified by its 60 foot drop. She nervously talks about the ‘big noise’ of the frogs and the people coming over the hill. Just as she decides that there’s nothing left to do, gun to her head, she smiles and seductively asks “What’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?” The tone is in constant variation, changing like a musical score. Each tonal change is a way in which language opens up, becomes fluid.

Repetition and Dissonance

In 1980 words and actions erupt across the topology of the dance like a crescendo. In many cases, Bausch multiplies a single theme with different variations. For instance, in one section of the dance, a women describes her fear of people following her. Bausch complicates and intensifies the initial story by doubling the theme of fear with variation. The first story begins like the melody of a song. “I’ll keep my lips really wet just in case someone’s behind me. And I’ll run to the apartment and wake all the girls up just in case someone’s behind me…” Other voices join in. A woman steps up describing how she checks “ under the table and under my bed, especially under my bed, to see if anyone is hiding… I was so afraid and then I laid down and cover myself up really tight.” A third female enters to perform the trio:

Over the past thirty years I’ve been remarkably careful never to be alone in the dark. Not ever. That’s why I always carry candles with me: abroad or overseas, never without my candles. And as a child, I was lying in my cot with all those bars, you know, and covered myself up with covers and slipped into the kitchen so a little bit of light could come in and who came in? My nanny, and did she slap me. I got up again. She entered, and did she slap me. I got up again. She entered, and did she slap me. I got up again. She entered, and did she slap me. I got up again. She entered, and did she slap me. I got up again. She entered, and did she slap me. So I’d rather get slapped than be alone in the dark. No. No. Never.

By overlapping the stories, the audience can not tell where one character left and the other character began. The intimate subjective nature of the story becomes de-personalized. Bausch adds a fourth voice, a counter-melody. A man steps up and boasts about his fearlessness:

I have never been afraid of the dark, even as a child, never. When my brother crawled into my bed at night, I used to say Olie, no need to be afraid, I’m with you. I had to walk ten blocks home, no houses, no proper streetlights. Sometimes a couple young lads from the village hung around there.

Dancers are scattered across the stage, each excitedly telling the audience about their personal fears. The cacophony of voices and the different variations are as overwhelming as a symphony. One dancer points to a stick she has obviously used in self defense. Another hides under the covers. The affect of these disparate notes: dissonance and variation. Bausch takes a simple melody and produces multiple variations. She does not resolve the chord. She sees how far the chord will go. Bausch’ dances, like music, does not offer an answer or resolution. It proliferates the complexity of the chord, exposes the infinite vibrations that give music its ability to be finish without an ending.

Multiplying the Subject

The proliferation and variation of a single melody also reveals Bausch’s strategy of subjectivity. Just as melody, through a series of variation, slips into dissonance, Bausch’s subject becomes multiple subjects. This multiplication of the subject has two functions. The first undermines a single way of perceiving or thinking, disrupting one subjective position. Second, the multiplication of subjects creates another kind of movement. The multiple singularities connect to each other in different ways.

The first function of the multiple aptly describes how Pina Bausch starts with highly personal and subjective material (What are you afraid of?) and transforms those autonomous subjects into a porous flows. A row of dancers walk upstage, backs to the audience. A man from the back of the auditorium shouts their names, insisting that they tell him what they are afraid of. On the surface, this seems like a highly confessional moment in 1980, but the affect is exterior to any of the dancer’s personal experiences. The affect, the shouts from the turned heads of the dancers, undermine a single notion of fear and complicate the notion that fear is a purely subjective experience. My notes on one section of 1980 illustrate how Pina Bausch uses the multiple to form connections within a highly chaotic construction.

another movie scene: man slow-motion, falls over the table that was just set up… couple comes out of the table… two boys with hats wiggling with their fingertips out… man carries a woman in and puts cigarette into her blank-faced mouth…. man jiggles jello on a plate…. woman takes off her cloths and shows her bikini… couple makes out on a blanket.. woman steal a man’s hat…. woman in a toga drinks lots of milkshakes…. dude with the chalice is looking at the mush falling from the spoon and enjoying it immensely… Man and woman have a tea in a very dignified way… music changes and things get really boring again… Oh dear… Oh dear…. Oh dear… Oh dear… (that might be why the deer is there)… screaming behind them…

The actions in the following scene suggest a kind of chaos. Dancers run across the stage carrying out various tasks. But each task in some way resembles another task. The specific movements intercept and change each other. For instance, the devious couple under the table looks strikingly similar to the couple making out on the blanket. The boy smiling as the globs of mush that flow from his spoon is similar to the person playing with Jell-O. The slow-motion man seem to keep perfect time to the TV music. The connections between various tasks find the space between a unified theme and pure chaos, a space of movement and speeds.

The above example of the Australian schizophrenic is not simply a chaotic devise. The question is not: “Which personality is the real one?” Every personality is real, illustrating the multiple movements of desire, the infinite vibrations of the psyche, the disappearance of the single voice or subject. Similar to the schizophrenic , fragments of 1980 hinge upon each other in specific ways, each performing the multiplicity of human desire and how desire creates movement. For Deleuze and Guattari, desire is not rooted in Freudian familial hierarchies. Instead of creating a totalizing theory that organizes thinking and subjectivity into one constant stable system (Oedipus), they propose ways of understanding thought and desire as multiple, in constant variation. Schizophrenia is a technique that Deleuze and Guattari strategically use.

The task of schizoanalysis is that of learning what a subject’s desiring-machines are, how they work, with what syntheses, what bursts of energy in the machine, what constituent misfires, with what flows, what chains, and what becomings in each case. (338)

The movement and variation in Bausch’s 1980 reflect these syntheses, bursts, and chains. The dance does not simply present the multiple. Bausch exposes the multiple as a movement and vibration, a flow with no origin and no end, a series of connections. Schizophrenia is not a celebration of chaos or surreality. On the contrary, it is a way of exposing the complexity of the subject through a series of material flows and connections. Using this schizophrenic method, Bausch articulates new possibilities, territories, and convergences.

Space and Movement

One way of understanding the immersive space that Bausch creates is by relating to its movements. These movements are not simply an arm extending or a tapping foot. Movements can be textual or oral, physical or emotional. They are lines of flight that produce variation and dissonance. Simply put, movements are something happening. For Bausch, movements do not originate in a single voice, character, subject, or body. Nor do movements point towards a rigidified idea or concept. Movements open up a space. They change through time.

Compare movements to vectors. Vectors are the trajectories. However, vectors are not simply pointers. They do not imply a pre-existing state, concept, or Idea. Instead vectors create new spaces and changes existing spaces.

Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3

In the first diagram, the movements point to a pre-existing idea, a fabrication. Here, the center (the Idea or Concept) acts like a magnet, forcing disparate movements toward itself. The Idea swallows the motion, limiting the diversity and variation of the affect. In the second diagram, vectors have partial attraction to a specific space but are free to form and reform, traversing through its fabric instead of being stopped by it. This movement creates new experience, offers to us new terrain, different ways of thinking. In the third diagram vectors have no magnetism, no attractions. Here, vectors (by reversal) rigidify the same structures, are swallowed by the same unifying Idea that Diagram 1 illustrates. Pure chaos equals pure consistency.

The model of the vector gives us some insight as to how movement creates affect. Movement is defined by speed, direction, and attraction. But these variables vary through time. Vectors are not signifiers. They are quantities made up of components of both direction and magnitude. Vectors constitute a space not by statically occupying it, but by moving through it. The space constantly re-creates itself through the singular movements of disparate elements.

This notion of space and movement, gives us a way of examining 1980 as a whole. Throughout the entire paper, I picked specific elements of the dance in order to elaborate on the structural qualities, revealing different ways that Bausch complicates meaning with gesture, text, music, space, and time. However, these trajectories of movement constitute a space, an aesthetic experience. Using the model of vectors and movement, we may trace the dance as an exteriority, a topology of a new experience, a new space. Deleuze and Guattari describe the nature of this exteriority.

…feelings become uprooted from the interiority of the “subject,” to be projected violently outward into a milieu of pure exteriority that lends then an incredible velocity, a catapulting force: love or hate, they are no longer feelings but affects. And these affects are so many instances of the becoming-woman, the becoming-animal of the warrior… Affects transpierce the body like arrows, they are weapons of war. The deterritorializated velocity of affect. (ATP 356)

The Double Bar: Closing Remarks

dou·ble bar n
a symbol that marks the end of a piece of music or the end of its principal sections

(excepts of a letter written after watching 1980 for the first time)
I’m not exactly sure how to start talking about it. 1980, like most of Bausch’s later work, is divided into little vignettes, a montage of different elements. Here’s where I run into a problem: the elements don’t follow any kind of logical order (in other words, there’s no way I can point to a specific part of the dance in terms of timeframe, character, or plot). And to further complicate the matter, the elements can’t be separated from each other. Part of the exuberance of the 1980 is the feeling that I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. Sometimes, there’s a movement in the corner of my eye on the corner of the stage or a sound that I can’t quite attach to any of the dancers. It’s overload, maybe. A destabalization. My pulse starts pounding. I lean forward. My entire body seems to expand: fingers lengthen, throat enlarges. You will yield nothing to haecceities unless you realize that that is what you are, and nothing else. … You are longitude and latitude, a set of speeds and slownesses between unformed particles, a set of non-subjectified affects (A Thousand Plateaus, 262). I like the idea non-subjectified affects. And what does it mean to be longitude and latitude? Traversing a map that doesn’t exist? A path without origin or destination? I don’t know. It feels like you’re swimming through a field of wheat. Wind rolls over the stalks and they whisper to each other in different languages—but it’s not alienating. It envelopes you with a kind of vibration that, by sheer multiplicity, loses an origin. Even though you know that each little stalk is moving individually, you also get a sense of the whole field, the immensity, the exquisite mess of it all… I think I’ll spend a long time trying to figure out what that wheat field means. But maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe the dance is becoming-field and that’s that. No metaphor. No concept. Just wheat. Gold and white wheat.

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