Moving without a Body
Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts
A radically empirical exploration of movement and technology and the transformations of choreography in a digital realm.
Digital technologies offer the possibility of capturing, storing, and manipulating movement, abstracting it from the body and transforming it into numerical information. In Moving without a Body, Stamatia Portanova considers what really happens when the physicality of movement is translated into a numerical code by a technological system. Drawing on the radical empiricism of Gilles Deleuze and Alfred North Whitehead, she argues that this does not amount to a technical assessment of software's capacity to record motion but requires a philosophical rethinking of what movement itself is, or can become.
Discussing the development of different audiovisual tools and the shift from analog to digital, she focuses on some choreographic realizations of this evolution, including works by Loie Fuller and Merce Cunningham. Throughout, Portanova considers these technologies and dances as ways to think—rather than just perform or perceive—movement. She distinguishes the choreographic thought from the performance: a body performs a movement, and a mind thinks or choreographs a dance. Similarly, she sees the move from analog to digital as a shift in conception rather than simply in technical realization. Analyzing choreographic technologies for their capacity to redesign the way movement is thought, Moving without a Body offers an ambitiously conceived reflection on the ontological implications of the encounter between movement and technological systems.
Stamatia Portanova choreographs technology, media, dance, and philosophy together to make a brilliant, multilayered account of contemporary culture and the changes and possibilities brought by the floods of computation. This is a book full of sensual abstraction and lucid, rigorous bodies: an inspiration!
Matthew Fuller, David Gee Reader in Digital Media, Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
Moving without a Body is a book about choreography, and about the use of digital technologies in contemporary dance. But beyond this, the book also offers a deeply original discussion of the relations between body and mind, between analog and digital, and between the fluidity of the organic and the algorithmic complexity of software. These pairs of terms should not be seen as opposites; for Stamatia Portanova demonstrates the fertile creativity that arises from their intertwining.
Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University; author of Without Critiera: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics
In the increasingly rich literature exploring the intersections between contemporary dance and philosophy, Stamatia Portanova's Moving without a Body stands out as a true achievement. Investigating the digital as metaphor of thought, Portanova shows how choreography is not only concerned with the creation of artistic works, or with the implementation of training techniques, but reveals itself to be also, and importantly, an 'abstractive perspective' that forces us into thought—as Deleuze would say.
André Lepecki, Associate Professor, Department of Performance Studies, New York University