Special affects : compositing images in the bodies of Butoh

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This thesis examines how the relationship between 'the body' and 'the image' may be understood within the Japanese dance movement called butoh. The aim of the thesis is twofold – to investigate what it means to construct a body specific to butoh, and to consider how the image in butoh may be seen to affect this body. In the first instance, I examine how the materiality of the butoh-body constrains or delimits its expressive capacity. In the second instance, I investigate how the materiality of the butoh-image performs a generative function, to stretch the bounds of this body and the limits of its expression. As far as theorising the butoh-body is concerned, what interests me are the points of confluence that may be explored through the materialist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. I seek to demonstrate how the ideas of Tatsumi Hijikata (butoh's co-founder) may be discussed through the writing of Antonin Artaud, whose approach to the body influenced both Hijikata and the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. As far as the butoh-image is concerned, I seek to show how Deleuze's cinephilosophy may also inform an understanding of Hijikata's choreographic method of working with images, called butoh-fu. Here, I develop a conceptual model with which to probe the materiality of the butoh-image and the cinematic qualities of the butoh-body. This twofold approach stems from my own art practice as a filmmaker and performer. The initial impetus for the research emerged through an intensive period of butoh dance training, as well as the production of a short film. This film experiments with a dynamic interaction of performers, sculptural elements, plus digital and optical effects. In the thesis, I use the theory of complex systems and the ideas of Deleuze, Guattari, Hijikata and Artaud, to discuss how the film may be imagined as a 'systemic narrative'. This approach explores interactions between the filmic elements, to produce the narrative as an ongoing process of construction. This thesis is a work in progress towards two outcomes. The first of these is a diagrammatic model for butoh dance notation, to provide a graphic template for Hijikata's choreographic method. The second is a proposed video-installation, which may further implement the systemic narrative with a technical configuration that corresponds to the diagrammatic model. Through this research, I seek to develop my own praxis, which investigates a systemic approach to the embodiment of the image.
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