[NetBehaviour] Dance and Gravity

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Nov 3 19:34:31 CET 2008

Dance and Gravity

For gravity is everywhere, loving us bone by bone, cell by cell, atom by
atom; think of gravity as strings everywhere in a dream, caressing and
tugging the world into shape. [...]

I envy Foofwa who travels with his body, observing the movement of the
scenery, the great wheel of the world, within the atmospheric, untoward
stars and constellations. Teleporting not only collapses distance; it
implicates space itself in fraud, the clearest evidence of database. I
long for the seamlessness of the real world, its inconceivable vulner-
ability, its joy and suffering in our darkest hours, its fantasms and
hallucinatory quality. In Second Life, one never wakes from the dream,
dream is all there is; in dance, gravity surrounds and infiltrates the
body - Foofwa travels to Lebanon on a plane whose wings suck it up into
the sky, where comfort, great circles, and vectors reign. It takes time
and shadows of dawn and dusk, morning and evening, to achieve anything.
It takes rehearsal time, stretching and turning and other movements and
parallelograms of force, the soft speaking of gravity, the hardness of
silence, among dance and a communality of dancers, audience, presenters,
choreographers, as if the world momentarily separated into categories.

In Second Life there is nothing to see; it is all visible, all present,
even give members-only barriers. It is flat, simulacrum and hyperreality
all in one; it goes nowhere. Something drops from the sky, founders, but
nothing breaks, there is no wear-and-tear. Even the text-based MUDs in a
sense were more realistic; one's avatar had to eat and drink, wore out,
perchance to sleep, but the MUDs were game-based and one can't fight
forever. Dance is brilliant burning; bodies wear out, and even today
documentation of choreographies is insufficient: What goes, what leaves
the earth in exhaustion or death has placed memory at the heart of the
world, and memory is the most vulnerable of all. Still, memory seeps into
the mind, into the very bones, of the spectator, who moves and thinks
differently, however slight; her body's muscles carry the evening, even
from the silence of a chair. It is a ritual of inhering; the scopic act,
I think, is always already ikonic, always at work with the dancer, in a
way one only dreams about in Second Life. Second Life's simulacrum is
binary, either on or off; the screen is illuminated or dark, sound and
video present or absent, and so forth; these doors don't wear out, but are
replaced by newer versions of the software brought down to hard drive by
the mother company.

Second Life seeps into the first; being in Second Life, as anyone will
tell you, is being in the first, and Second Life's dreams are tableaus in
first life's night. But still there's a difference which goes back to the
negation of the planet, negation in the world as one turns away from
another, as a species dies or a forest is logged or a community is
slaughtered. I think this is at the heart of the real and oddly at the
heart of Second Life itself, which is pushed into modes of surrealism and
the fantastic, as if it were possible to keep dis/ease at bay. I am sure,
though, that Second Life, like MUDs or MOOs or other populations, will
have its death off-screen, silencing every and all, returning these to
memory as well. (I remember the 'QRB' - quota review board - on PMC-MOO:
who even knows what I'm talking about?) By the time and space of that
death, only a virtual world will disappear, one whose weight is zero, and
whose gravity may be turned on and off at will. Or at the will of another
in physics calculated, not from the very inhering or substance of matter,
but in the matter of a suitable abstraction intentionally built-in.
Falling is no danger; and Foofwa, on his way to Lebanon for choreography,
dance, presentation, warmup, rehearsal, blocking, teaching, learning, is
up there above a game-space from which there is no escape, the 'idiotic'
and inert real of a world of given without a giver - a world whose
resource use is already above its carrying-capacity, and therefore a world
of zaniness and suffering. This is a world always at war with itself with
greater and greater fire-power, while we avatars fall and fall from the
sky, always landing in interesting ways, undamaged and somnolent while we
take a break for dinner.

| Alan Sondheim Mail archive:  http://sondheim.rupamsunyata.org/
| To access the Odyssey exhibition The Accidental Artist:
| http://slurl.com/secondlife/Odyssey/48/12/22
| Webpage (directory) at http://www.alansondheim.org
| sondheim at panix.com, sondheim at gmail.org, tel US 718-813-3285

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