Repetition I have been working with methodologies of repetition throughout my practice, for different purposes. Repetition in my work is both technique and subject. It is a compulsion that refers to the way I repeat forms and gestures. The subject and what is repeated are determined by different signifiers. Within drawing and painting practice, I work with repetition in a different way, repeating the same form, lines, and gestures to create variations of an idea or source. In my performative practice for the camera, I repeat the same gesture or movement in a ritualized act, to generate sensations and representations, to accumulate movement materials, and to make the dance visible. I'm influenced by the innovations in movement by the members of the Judson Dance Theatre, such as the performance duet by Trisha Brown and Yvonne Reiner called Satie for Two (1961). Both Brown and Reiner sought to explore repetition in different ways and to make work that questioned visibility and materiality, but they also used repetition as a method to generate new ways of thinking and making. Rainer puts it plainly when she says: “Dance is hard to see.”
Rainer is talking about the discreteness of a movement in dancing, and the attempt to show the transient gesture that disappears in its act. It is an alternative way of ordering material, and making the material easier to see, or perhaps to recognize changes in movement. In the process of digital choreography for the screen, the use of repeating forms and gestures in multiple durations is a kind of method to generate sensations. I develop my movement vocabulary through dynamic and rhythm repetitions, through a ritualistic, repetitive movement. Physical and visual narratives are revealed through methods of repetition, varying from one iteration to another, while new information, differences, gestures and expressions arise in-between whatever is repeated. In a sequence repeating one single movement, form or gesture, there can be a distinct range of variation that appears. Each repetition is unique, a little different from one to the other. We can imagine repetition as a device of experimentation for new gestural expressions and representations, as a playful reinvention that could be activated in creative practices that are conscious of their own history and attentive to the materiality of process.
According to French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, repetition of the work of art is like a “singularity without concept.” In other words, every repetition consists of a difference without a concept. Repetition, which we might have thought to be a matter of sameness, turns out to be a matter of difference, of the obscure. This is both the literal and the spiritual sense of repetition. Repetition’s power comes from the way it energizes the space in-between whatever is repeated. As Deleuze says, “The theatre of repetition is opposed to the theatre of representation. In the theatre of repetition, we experience pure forces, dynamic lines in space which act without intermediary upon the spirit, and link it directly with nature and history, with a language which speaks before words, with gestures which develop before organized bodies, with masks before faces. I keep returning back to Peggy Phelan and Philip Auslander’s views on archival return and the experience of returning through performance re-enactment - my obsession with returning to my early performance archive is another method of repetition that has led me to wonder: What is it that I am drawn to return to? There are many reasons for the purpose of revisiting instances of movement: the desire to see again, to reconstruct embodied knowledge or unfinished ideas that I want to work through, to actively engage with the document through memory. It is also a continuous return for something that I could not experience the first time that I viewed the photographs, and that only appears through time and through repetition and archival re-visits. Still, I know that the live moment will never return, that I cannot repeat the performance, and that it will never feel the same as it was; nevertheless, I engage my returns to remember. There are questions that inspire my methodology of repetition. I ask: How did I feel? How did the light enter the space? What were my thoughts and concerns? What were my contemplations? What was my state of being? What was my perception about the world around me? These are not comfortable or nostalgic returns, unlike that of returning to familiar places, and these are not necessarily difficult returns, like returning to a traumatic experience; rather, these are a bit of each. These are simultaneously familiar and difficult returns, causing discomfort at the same time as pleasure, as well as a bit of nostalgia—because the past will never return. This is a liminal experience of always being in-between, and what is constituted in-between is difference; a difference that I am seeking to explore.