Choreographies of visiting Yosemite National Park ….

….. (a slight overhang from March’s piece)

dance 2013 gouache 51x34cm[1]
Image: David Crouch (2013)
By David Crouch (University of Derby)

I take the title of this brief note almost directly from a book due out early 2016. It is by Sally Ness, a trained dancer but also Professor of Performance Studies at University of California Riverside, Los Angeles, a social anthropologist. Sally is fascinated by the different and distinctive ways in which individuals do apparently unremarkable things. Well, she finds the mountaineers and boulders particularly distinctive in their ways of getting around, or getting up.

In the Yosemite, she tracked the distinctive body-movements, accelerations and easing, moments of waiting in doing different activities, taking their leisure in different ways. She interviews, walks or boulders with them. She calls this,

“an ethno-choreology. ……to interpret the cultural significance of the kinds of performance that occur at Yosemite National Park…… (identifying) sources of cultural intelligence, power, and creativity, to reflect on how self-world relationships emergent in these activities become integrated into more general representations of cultural identity and place. I attempt to conceptualize practices that are meaningful to the participants while remaining outside conventional systems of signification.”

There is freedom in this everyday creativity.

And Also: Expanding Distractions: expletives deleted.

Particular ‘new paradigm’ [sic] arise that give some of us intense irritation, for different reasons. This time I have four such sources. One is the absurdity of the label non-representative theory [or stuff]. Another is the still-surviving old goat of ‘the gaze’, which is sometimes re-written in awe of the salience of the notion [it is not a paradigm]. Third, seemingly its offspring, mobilities. The last one I chew up today is generally older than these others, the notion of ‘the creative city’.

John Urry, who was a good participant in a number of events in and around leisure studies, as well as the Association’s conferences. His notion of the gaze became all-consuming, as almost has Thrift’s notion of non-representative theory [one could interpret, stuff]. Each of these notions is absurdly exclusionary. “It was the gaze, stupid”, it feels like in the reading; everything sorted. The gaze both reduced the way of thinking about participation in leisure and tourism and in a way not necessarily welcome, aligned that wave of thought and approach tightly with that of the respective industries, that may benefit from more fair argument than that.

Thrift’s apparently neat packaging of things other than representative similarly created a duality, inn this case that it is time to shift our thinking from images and things to other ways, non-visual ones through which we encounter things. Yet humans don’t switch on one or other sense; they all work together, if sometimes at odds with each other: they operate collectively, perhaps sometimes one or other in full flow, at other times a flatter, even register. So it’s all the senses, their pre-cognitivity characteristic too, happening. Not ‘reject vision, the representations’, engage together. I feel the result of engaged thinking creates new ways of grasping things, what is going on. This does not mean we cannot specialise in one or other of them in any one investigation, or action, say, but singular focus requires consideration of the relational character of any one or other; how they are handled together.

Something else that continues in the main to overwhelm, or threaten to do so. Mobilities. Peculiarly coming along, some twelve or more years ago now, on two waves: A very belated acknowledgement that lots of things and people don’t stay in the same place all the time, that has become a new romance of movement, unsettlement, ever-changing and so on; a fascination with cars, trains, planes (influenced, surely, by the availability of the global academic conference circuit. Of course (if we want to keep with the word; there has long been both migration studies and migration studies….) mobilities (mobs) have become as romanticised as the so-called ‘old fashioned’ fixity that mobilities people tend to find stuffy, not that it ever much existed a century ago [wars, migrations, searches for food, jobs security, has been replaced – our focus must be on those on the move. Exceptional contributions to this lame new nostalgia like Tim Creswell write more sceptically, and of the social divisions that mobilities involve. Overall there is little realisation, apparently, of the importance of the folding, commingling or clashing in how we may cope or not with slices of live being in wider, further movement or in close confines.

Finally, the creative city. Read Sarah Cohen’s splendid examination of culture in Liverpool, particularly its music culture, published before the place was labelled as ‘city of culture’. shows the limitations of considering creativities only amongst institutional and business efforts to claim the cultural arena of Liverpool, City of (European) Culture, finding a wealth of creative pursuits among local music groups and individuals across the city. She contends that opportunities for creativity might depend more on freedom, openness and a lack of institutionalisation outside the policy-framed `Allocated Core`, the so-called ‘Creative Quarter’. Anthropologist Ruth Finnegan found similar liveliness of creativity of ‘amateur’ music-making in Milton. We don’t have to look- or taste- or listen – to discover creativity everywhere.

Elizabeth Groz writes: Familiar attention focuses upon the idea of city and other similar aggregates and abstractions of life. Instead, Grosz fills out how this notion of space can be applied. ‘By ‘city’ I understand a complex and interactive network that links together, often in an unintegrated and ad hoc way, a number of disparate social activities, processes, relations, with a number of architectural, geographical, civic and public relations’. Individuals do not live in a ‘city’ or ‘country’ but in groups of friends, families, looser and stronger networks, gardens; pubs and clubs, sport field and shopping malls, beaches where they meet and enjoy time, group leisure venues and workspaces; briefer moments in transit, relationally with other-than human things, emotions, dreams and fears.

I think there are plenty more expanding distractions I might stumble on for another time.

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