Response to 2.1 (Carrie Rohman)

    In case it hasn't been obvious from my posts so far, my most recent book Choreographies of the Living: Bioaesthetics in Literature, Art, and Performance (2018) makes exactly this case, through the particular lens of animal or creatural becomings-artistic and the vibratory forces that all creatures self-perform.  There, I look at writers (D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf), dancers, performers and musicians (mainly Isadora Duncan, Rachel Rosenthal, Merce Cunningham and John Cage).  I essentially argue that the artistic impulse should be viewed as a creatural or animal impulse, not as a later, human one.  

   While I obviously can't summarize the entire book here, I end the book with the following claim:  "... one of our challenges and tasks for the 21st century is to see aesthetics even more broadly as "creaturizing," so that our artistic undertakings—those we have traditionally viewed as exclusive and "elevated"—are framed in ways that truly resonate with strangers, in a shared system that is fully more-than-human in all its fragility, but also in all its creative aliveness and improvisation.  The transporting power of art, the becoming-intense of aesthetics, the felt vibrations of aesthetic forces, and the taste for certain affect-circulating performances all have their "ancestral" lineage for us in animals' aesthetic engagements.  Bioaesthetics thus reminds us that the world of art includes hordes of other creatural actors and living assemblages—that these beings always have been artistic.  And finally, I would submit that all this makes the artistic, in every permutation, even more extraordinary." 


Taney Roniger said...

Hear hear, Carrie. And, considering Christine's presentation the other night and Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter, we might also include the creativity of matter itself. Reconceptualizing aesthetics so that it extends beyond the human is something that's going to take time -- and there is clearly going to be resistance. I wonder if you or anyone else has suggestions for how we can make these ideas more palatable, or even beyond more palatable, how to make them alluringly transformative. I agree with your last statement -- that "all this makes the artistic, in every permutation, even more extraordinary" -- but how to convince those who are deeply invested in art's humanness?

Deborah Barlow said...

What a provocative quote Carrie. Creaturizing. Artistic undertakings that resonate with strangers. A shared system that is fully more-than-human in all its fragility. Just ordered a copy of the book.

Carrie Rohman said...

Yes, I should have mentioned that Jane's work (primarily her book Vibrant Matter) was deeply influential to my own thinking. I was so fortunate to study with her in the summer of 2013, at the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory, while I was in the trenches of writing this book-- and her incredible ways of thinking about vitalism, matter, etc. are threaded throughout the 2018 book. The vibratory is something that I consider all creatures "harnessing," as part of their cosmic, earthly becomings-artistic. Jane's ideas about the swerve of matter linked up very fruitfully with my own interests in movement and dance, as well. Matter itself is most definitely creative (!), and I look at that idea perhaps most prominently in Virginia Woolf's writing, but also elsewhere, in relation to choreography and other ideas (using Whitehead etc.) about the becoming-creative of all matter / lifeforms. Christine's illuminating presentation and work link up beautifully with all of these efforts, to push creativity itself well beyond the human "fraternity."

Taney, great question about how to make all this more convincing to entrenched "humanists" in the arts, specifically. The only thing I can come up with at the moment is to continue pointing out that our beliefs in human superiority have gotten us right where we are, in the current ecological crisis that literally could signal the end of the whole show. I do think that rehearsing this line of thinking (that began with ecofeminism, etc.) can continue to be persuasive. It really should be accumulating, in its persuasion. Those who are highly theoretically and "rationality" oriented can take up other strands of posthumnist philosophy, which show again and again how the "human" was never itself, how it was always a fantasy of control, separation, and reason, etc. Perhaps those ideas just need to be linked more forcefully to the (in my view, outmoded) idea of art as only human.

It might also take practicing artists being prompted, encouraged, reminded to think and speak about their own processes as deeply inter and intra-- as has happened in this very forum quite beautifully. Merce Cunningham for instance drew animals and plants in his "amateur" sketch book nearly every morning for decades. And so, even his work-- which was often considered very "architectural" and non-emotive-- was totally entangled with nonhuman forces. (Of course, I would argue that all dance, especially dance, is entangled with nonhuman forces, but this is an example of the creatural and bio being *explicitly* evidenced in that artist's process).