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The Six Viewpoints and the art of waiting (to become art)

Tony Perucci

The first hand (in which the wheel is invented backwards)

On the day I meet Mary Overlie, the originator of The Viewpoints theory and practice for actor training, she stands in front of her iconic blackboard, where she explains the ethos and history of the approach of The Six Viewpoints, the six individual Viewpoints—the ‘materials’ of Space, Shape, Time, Emotion, Movement and Story (SSTEMS)—and the nine philosophic laboratories of ‘the Bridge’ that support their study. It is June 2004 in Fresno, California, where I am participating in a two-week course, ‘Viewpoints in Action’. Outside it is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the studio, it is a crisp 64 degrees. Amongst a group of students, faculty, dancers and actors, it is the first of five full days training with Mary, as well as with her long-time collaborator, the dancer and choreographer, Nina Martin.

She is finishing her introduction to the Viewpoint of Time, preparing to pivot to the Viewpoint of Emotion. We laugh when she tells us that, ‘Anytime any of you get intolerably cold I will send you to stand outside in the sun’. But, now, she tells us that she will tell us a story that she often tells ‘in relationship to time’. She says that while once lecturing on the Viewpoints in Chicago, she had said to herself, ‘I’m tired of giving this lecture, I’m going to do it backwards!’ She continues, hamming up her own impish mental dialogue: “‘Oh, that’s cool.” And then I thought, “Oooh, let’s not even start at the end. Let’s step away, step away from the lecture!” Okay! I’m stepping away from the lecture!’ As she shoots her left arm out in front of her, she re-enacts the pedagogical explication of this gesture, T went, “You see this?”’ She delicately places her right hand on the extended arm and says, “‘This is the Viewpoints.’” She gazes inquisitively at her arm and hand, and then turns to grin mischievously at us, before once again beholding the simple shape this gesture has created. ‘Any minute, it’s going to become art.’1

Now she grasps and releases her arm, saying, ‘It’s going to collect a story’. She shifts her gaze from the shape to various points around her in the room. ‘It’s going to start affecting the Space, and a lot of that has to do with letting it rest there,’ she says, as she lightly traces her body from outstretched hand to bicep, ‘so that it can collect the information, rather than speeding on’. The event of this gesture and the workshop of which it was a part, transformed my understanding of performance, as both an artist and a teacher. But in the more than fifteen ensuing years in conversation and study with Mary, in working with the Viewpoints in my artistic practice, in teaching them to students, professional actors, and non-actors, I have only begun to recognise the affective charge of this gesture—not only how it functions as a synecdoche for the Viewpoints, but also the pedagogical force of its demonstration.

In this chapter, I consider Overlie’s Six Viewpoints through six ‘hands’— occasions for thinking through The Viewpoints, not as a method, but as an approach for what Erin Manning (2016) terms, ‘the affective tonality of 11011- conscious resonance and moving it toward the articulation, edging into consciousness, of new modes of existence’ (p. 7). Following Deleuze and Guattari’s (1986) theorisation of‘minor’ languages, literatures and sciences that unsettle the force and fixity of ‘major’ forms from within, Manning calls this movement between affective tonality and articulation, a ‘minor gesture’ (p. 7). I posit The Viewpoints approach as a theory and practice of the minor gesture, but also as one among many ‘practices that are generative of minor gestures’ (Manning, 2016, p. 24). As a minor gesture and as a practice that is generative of minor gestures, The Viewpoints embodies a politics of fugitivily, of theatre’s ‘anarchic share’ (Manning, 2016, p. 33), that is, an ‘anarchist calisthenics’ (Scott, 2012, p. 4) for the production of what Overlie terms ‘Original Anarchists’. (Overlie, 2016, p. 123). Just as Manning describes such work of‘[cjhoreographing the political’, The Viewpoints is a call not only for the collective crafting of minor gestures, but for the attunement, in perception, to how minor gestures do their work (Manning, 2016, p. 130). The writing that follows is one attempt to participate in that collective practice—an act of attunement towards how the Viewpoints does its work.

Second hand (in which it grasps too tightly)

Throughout the Fresno workshop, Nina has led us in exercises in the Hamilton Floor Barre and Contact Improvisation, while Mary has lectured and led exercises on The Viewpoints, her approach to actor/dancer training that emphasises the isolation of theatre’s six ‘materials’: Space, Shape, Time, Emotion, Movement and Story (SSTEMS). Some of these exercises are very specific and limited in scope. For Space, we are instructed to ‘walk and stop’ to identify the distances and angles of space. For Emotion, we individually sit in front of the group and, invoking the choreographer, Deborah Hay, ‘allow ourselves to be seen’."’ However, other instructions are quite abstract. Each performer is one of four quadrants marked by chalk. Our instruction: for 13 minutes, do an improvised dance on Time. As an actor and director with little dance training, I find myself further unmoored by the vagaries of these instructions leaving me either utilising too much effort or lost in a fog of uncertainty.

But on the penultimate day, during an exercise doing ‘Shape duets’ with the dancer Kelly Dalrymple-Wass, I have a kind of breakthrough. We have been instructed to use our ‘Shape awareness’ to have a ‘conversation’ with Shape with our partner. However, our impulses to assert pronounced ‘interesting’ shapes have missed the mark. We are not to ‘make shapes’, but rather to learn the ‘language’ of Shape, in order to have a conversation with and about it. My body relaxes, time slows, Kelly and I comfortably and casually begin to speak ‘with Shape’, sometimes back and forth, sometimes in synchrony, sometimes in counterpoint. In a photograph I have from that day, it appears that we were working with linear and angular shapes, my own body is standing straight, leaning slightly forward from my hips toward Kelly, my hands by side, cupped in the opposite direction. With her right arm crooked at a nearly 90-degree angle, her body is turned away from me, as is her head, which faces the ground. Her outstretch arm is extended, her hand gently resting atop my head. Someone has memorialised this photo by inscribing on the back of it, ‘The Famous Tony + Kelly dance. Framing another. 2004’.

‘The Famous Tony + Kelly Dance’, Kelly Dalrymple-Wass (L) & Author (R), Viewpoints in Action Workshop, Fresno, GA, July 2004

FIGURE 10.1 ‘The Famous Tony + Kelly Dance’, Kelly Dalrymple-Wass (L) & Author (R), Viewpoints in Action Workshop, Fresno, GA, July 2004.

On the following day, we are improvising with The Viewpoints, with all six materials available to us. I am part of a group doing a 15-minute improvisation. I am working intuitively with the materials. I am working with tempo, slowly crawling on the floor. I am conscious of working with Space, erasing a chalk line with the top of my bald head. I am working with duration and repetition as the dancer Andrew Wass calls repeatedly from across the performance space, ‘Toooo-nyyyyy’ and I reply at variously timed intervals, ‘AAAAAndreeewww’. I am in it. But, then, the generally soft-spoken Mary Overlie, yells, ‘Tony, let go of your artist-creator! Let go of your artist-creator!’ I am baffled; is not the job of the artist to create? If I do not create, what on earth am I to do?

Third hand (in which it becomes a minor gesture)

The Viewpoints was originated by Mary Overlie in the vibrant interdisciplinary arts community of the SoHo district of New York City in the 1970s. Under the tutelage of Yvonne Rainer, Barbara Dilley and others from the post-modern dance world, Overlie (1980) worked to identify what she termed, a ‘language and system of thinking about dance which addresses more than just the language of the body’ ({5. 31). This practice formed a ‘coming together of the systematic investigations of post-modern dance and the more complicated forms of literal dance’ (Overlie, 1980, p. 32). While the term ‘Viewpoints’ has become well- known, due to theatre director Anne Bogart’s appropriation of it to name her own ‘method’, Overlie’s approach differs significantly from Bogart’s.3 Though Bogart adopts many concepts and terms from Overlie—not the least of them being the term ‘Viewpoints’—Bogart’s method does not simply ‘expand and refine’ Overlie’s approach for ‘the theatre’ as Bogart often claims (Landau, 1995, p. 16; see also Bogart & Landau, 2005, p. 5), it refashions them as a ‘grand gesture’ of the ‘major’ (Manning, 2016, p. 1; see also Perucci, 2017).4 Unlike Bogart’s method, the minor gesture of The Viewpoints functions as a rhizomatic structure, not only of the materials themselves, but also of Overlie’s conceptualisation of them.

The Viewpoints operates as a practice of deterritorialising the fixed terms of theatres of the major by enacting a ‘collective assemblage of enunciation’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, p. 18) in theatre and dance in order to free their materials, performers and audiences from what Overlie (2004) calls the ‘domination [of] hierarchical control’. Bogart’s method exemplifies the grand gesture of the major by utilising the terms of Overlie’s approach (e.g., Space, Time, Viewpoints) as what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) call the major’s ‘order words’, which fix and capture experience (pp. 106-107). The Viewpoints provides the conditions of possibility for what Overlie describes as Bogart’s ‘funny little machine’, which Overlie notes is an entire ‘system that wasn’t mine’ (Bogart, 2012, p. 483).

Developed in the context of the SoHo experimental and interdisciplinary world, The Viewpoints was never intended to displace the American mainstream (or ‘major’) forms of theatre’s psychological realism or dance’s Classical and

Modernist virtuosity. Rather, the Viewpoints operate as a minor gesture in that it ‘punctuates tiie in-act, leading the event elsewhere than toward the governmental fixity’, of grand gestures like Bogart’s method, doing so with ‘fragility and persistence’ (Manning, 2016, p. 7). Bogart's method operates as 'major' taxonomy, obscuring the potential of a different kind of machine altogether-the Viewpoints' abstract machine. As such, The Viewpoints does not oppose the major, but rather seeks to enable what Derek McCormack (2013) terms ‘affective-somatic experi- mentalism’ (p. xi) for Manning’s minor gesture that lopen[s] the as-yet-unseen the as-yet-unthought, the as-yet-unfelt (Manning, 2016, p. 23). In short, the infectiousness of the Viewpoints, may arise from its carrying ‘the germ of freedom’ (p. 23).

Fourth hand (in which it learns the languages of the materials)

As is visually apparent by the rendering of the Figure 10.2, the Viewpoints are not only provisionally isolated, they are non-hierarchical. A primary intervention of The Viewpoints is the shift from what Overlie sees as the ‘vertical’ hierarchies in both theatre and dance. In the case of Western theatre, primacy is traditionally given to plot and character, where all other scriptive and scenic elements exist to support those two formal elements. For Western dance, (depending on Classical or Modern style) this refers to the privileging of narrative, virtuosity, languages of the body. In the Viewpoints, the performer encounters all materials as existing ‘on the Horizontal’, as no material is essentially determining. Rather, in treating the materials as fundamentally Horizontal, as that which ‘fell on the floor’, one can create ‘temporary hierarchies’ in composition, where any one of the Viewpoints (or outside materials, such as spoken text or objects) is given the spotlight.

The Viewpoints, as a pedagogy and form of embodied research, is fundamentally a perception training. It uses nine ‘laboratories’ to provisionally isolate or ‘bracket’ one Viewpoint at a time, for investigation or interrogation, a process introduced in the first two laboratories: News of a Difference (‘Noticing Difference in Increasing Levels of Subtlety’) and Deconstruction (‘Investigating Theater by Separating the Components of Its Structure’). While all of The Viewpoints are always present, these laboratories are geared toward a serial exploration of each individual Viewpoint: Space, Shape, Time, Emotion, Movement and Story (SSTEMS). Overlie refers to this process as ‘Inventing the Wheel Backwards’—a

The Six Viewpoints, a horizontal structure of theatrical materials, developed by Mary Overlie

FIGURE 10.2 The Six Viewpoints, a horizontal structure of theatrical materials, developed by Mary Overlie.

term she coined in the 1970s, while working with the improvisational dance company, Natural History of the American Dancer, to refer to the act of ‘inventing’ the wheel by taking it apart, rather than by putting it together. This represents a radical shift in training the performer’s authorial relation to the work—rather than ‘inventing’ new material by introducing vocabulary, choreography, and affect, what is ‘invented’ is the materials that are already present and the structures that hold them together. The purpose of this deconstruction and, as she puts it, ‘particle-isation’ is one of learning to ‘speak’ the languages of the materials, notably different from learning what the performer can instrumentallv do to or do with the materials. As a ‘language’ to be learned, rather than a ‘tool’ to be used, The Viewpoints do not seek to contain or fix the elements of the natural world, but instead materialise the performative intensities of what Fred Moten (2003) terms ‘fugitivity’ (p. 35).

To learn the language of Space, for instance, rather than to talk about Space is the critical distinction that lies at the heart of The Viewpoints and the Horizontal Laboratory. In this view Space—as an abstraction, material fact, and sensory experience—is always already speaking, prior to, during and long after the performer enters into it. However, its communicative force is nearly imperceptible, operating at the edge of our consciousness of it. Its language is non-representa- tional, but instead constitutes an affective relational field of which the performer is a part. To learn to speak the language of Space is to participate in perceptual attunement to its abstract-material tonality. Deleuze (1997) describes theatre’s potential to ‘minorate’ as just such a practice of ‘subordination of the subject to intensity or to affect, to the intense variation of affects’ (p. 249). The Viewpoints, as a form of perception training and affective attunement, works precisely to decentre and reorient the performer in a moment at ‘the height of abstraction, but also the moment at which abstraction becomes real’ (McCormack, 2013, p. 87). While Manning sees the minor gesture to be ‘activating new modes of perception’ through the work of ‘inventing languages that speak in the interstices of major tongues’, The Viewpoints demurs from the act of invention, choosing to learn abstract-material languages from the materials beyond the performer (Manning, 2016, p. 2).

As significant as the horizontality of the materials is the horizontality of the performer in relation to the materials. That is, the materials of performance are to be given as much focus as the performer themselves. The performance work is ‘about’ the materials as much as it is about the performer(s). This can be seen as following in the tradition of Judson Dance Theatre and the work of post-modern choreographers, such as Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, who sought to deprivilege and problematise the performer and their virtuosity as the loci of audience attention. Rainer (1968) famously schematised these as ‘minimalist tendencies’ as dance’s correlative practice to minimalist visual art in her ‘Quasi Survey’ (p. 263). However, notably absent from Rainer’s ‘quasi-survey’ is the ‘theatrical’ and confrontational aspect of minimal sculpture, derided by Michael Fried (1968)—its irascible presence and its obstinate refusal to mean. From a more celebratory perspective, Barbara Rose (1968) describes this quality as not just a passive ‘thing’, but also the thing’s ‘literal emphatic assertion of its existence’ (p. 291). Rainer’s elimination of the quality of‘emphatic assertion’ from her formulation—both in recounting sculpture and dance—is not surprising given that in dance the ‘thing’ in question is a person. This is the heart of what Rainer variously terms her ‘seeing difficulty’ and ‘audience problem’, that the propensity of the performer’s ‘seduction’ of the audience impeded the audience from being able to perceive, apprehend and experience the literal physicality of the body (Lambert-Beatty, 2008), what Rose might call its ‘concrete thereness’ (Rose, 1968, p. 29l).5

Overlie addresses this challenge directly in multiple ways, first, by shifting the locus of the performer onto the materials, themselves. The performer’s job, one could say, is to get out of the way of the materials in order allow for them to emphatically assert their own presence. This approach correlates well with the work of minimal sculptors. The objects created by Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Richard Serra and others can be seen as the artist enabling the object’s emphatic assertion, as opposed to the emphatic assertion of the artist-subject in, for example, abstract expressionism. Overlie’s formulation doesn’t resolve Rainer’s dilemma, but it attends to it by expanding the ‘literal object’ to include, for instance, the negative space between performer and object, between audience and architecture, or any other such combination.

In The Viewpoints, the performance ecology of which the performer is a cocomposer and participant functions as this kind of literal object. Deleuze (1997) terms this role for the theatre artist that of the ‘operator’, but perhaps the more apt word would be a conductor, not only in the sense of the train ‘operator’ or one who leads the symphony with their baton, but as a conduit for circulation of the electrical field of affective resonances (p. 239). As a minor gesture for the enabling of minor gestures, the actor-conductor challenges the centrality of the artist’s volition, and thereby ‘celebrates the art of participation, making felt how an ecology' can become expressive, and tuning that making-expressive toward the generation of an aesthetic yield, aesthetic in its original definition of making sensible, making felt’ (Manning, 2016, p. 81). As McCormack (2013) notes, the ‘affects of this field are radically autonomous’ and are to be found in the relational performance ecology, rather than in the body of the performer (p. 33).

Fifth hand (in which we wait for it to become The Viewpoints)

It is February 2017 and Mary Overlie is leading workshops at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the occasion of Carolina Performing Arts 10-day programming series and residencies marking composer Philip Glass’s eightieth birthday. Mary holds out her hand and investigates it. It is twelve years since the first and last time I had seen her perform this gesture. Indeed, I had forgotten about it. She asks the question to us, to herself, to her hand, ‘When will it become art?’ I don’t recall which Viewpoint she was demonstrating, because

I have since realised that she employs this gesture for numerous purposes. It can be understood as a synecdoche for The Viewpoints as a theory and practice. That is, not what can the artist make with the materials, but how can they create the conditions in which the materials can ‘become’ art? For Overlie, the Viewpoints leads away from being an ‘artist-creator’ and instead to an ‘observer-participant’. This term—which had caused me so much consternation in 2004—is a reversal of the one used by contemporary anthropologists, surprisingly emphasises not enactment, but perception. The performer’s primary role is to ‘observe’ and then to ‘participate’ in that which they observe, rather than to impose something on it.

This physical gesture is central to Overlie’s pedagogy, so much so, that it functions as a minor gesture to enable the Viewpoints minor gesture of producing the conditions for the emergence of minor gestures. In fact, she utilises it in her book, Standing in Space: The Viewpoint Theoiy & Practice (2016) on different occasions to illustrate five different concepts through the recollection of previous demonstrations. The physical gesture makes its first appearance in her explication of the Viewpoint of Shape.

Now reach your hands out; look at them. Here is a Shape that is yours alone. Here is a material of performance existing in the form of your body. This material is both singular and universal. Begin by contemplating your own

Mary Overlie waiting for a gesture to become art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 2017

FIGURE 10.3 Mary Overlie waiting for a gesture to become art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 2017.

Photograph by /Мех Maness form. Simply lake lime—lois of time—lo jusl look ai your arms, your legs, and the position they are in, and their relationship to each other, as a painter would. Observe and wait for the moment when Shape begins to speak in Shape to you.

(Overlie, 2016, p. 19)

Most notable here is that Overlie focuses us not on the shapes the performer can make, but on the shape that their hands are already in. Moreover, it is not the ‘hands’ that ‘speak in Shape’, but Shape (nor is it ‘the shape of your hands’ or even ‘the shape’, but ‘Shape’).

Implicit in her use of the hand gesture to illustrate Shape is its reference lo time, the necessity of duration, which is characterised by waiting for ‘Shape’ to ‘speak’. In her description of the Viewpoint of Time, she utilises the same gesture, but now as a description of her own performative pedagogy, rather than as an instruction to a student:

In many ways it can be argued that this specific interrogation of Time was one of the primary, embodied cores of the radical shifts taking place in the art movement of that era [1970s SoHo]. In my lectures on the structure of the Six Viewpoints I express this shift, this emphasis on a contemplative Time, a natural Time, with a symbolic gesture: hand held out, palm cupped to receive while saying, ‘You see this, this is the Viewpoints, at any given time art will arrive on its own if you train yourself in observation and patience’.

(Overlie, 2016, p. 22)

In this case, ‘this is Viewpoints’ does and does not refer to the object of the cupped hand or the gesture of its extension. Similarly, ‘this is Viewpoints’ does and does not refer to the duration of time it will take for art to ‘arrive on its own’. What ‘is’ Viewpoints here is the quality of the waiting, its interminability, its potentiality, its imminent failure to arrive, the hope against the possibility that this waiting is like that of Vladimir and Estragon. It is also, though, a relation to the audience of students, in which we are invited to join her in waiting for the art to arrive on its own.

In her use of the embodied gesture for the Viewpoint of Story, Overlie (2016) once again frames it as a performative demonstration. As with the Viewpoint of Emotion, which I will explain below, Story is particularly slippery, given our association of the term with linear narrative. Story is the most ‘difficult of the SSTEMS to teach’, (p. 45) and yet it is also ‘the material I most want them to learn and master (p. 51). Story, Overlie states, is a bit of a misnomer, as ‘logic’ would be the more accurate term.6 As with the other Viewpoints, Story is not a fictive structure to be imposed but the extant structure of an ‘arrangement of particles’, a ‘Logic’ to be discovered through a process of ‘exposing ... an organization of sequences of information’ (pp. 45, 55). Thus, when Overlie once again holds out her cupped hand, she repeats, ‘See this? This is the Six Viewpoints’ (p. 50).

Then I stare at my hand for a moment. Without taking my eyes off my hand I say. ‘At any moment this is going to become a performance, it is going to become art ... it’s going to start to take on a meaning, a story’. At first it seems like a joke.

(Overlie, 2016, p. 50)

While nearly identical to the presentation on Time, there is a significant shift— artfulness of form connects the emergence of meaning. But, rather than a volitional construction of meaning, it is one that constructs an event that is shared by audience and performer and governed by duration and the tensive moment wherein a decisive act becomes meaningful. Story is necessarily always becoming- Story.

Meaningfulness as an emergent logic is particularly critical for this discussion, because this conceptualisation challenges not only the major definition of story as linear narrative, but also (and especially) the understanding of meaning and logic as rational processes dial are divorced from emotion and corporeal experience. As many researchers into die significance of recent findings in cognitive neuroscience have shown, die ‘mind-body’ split is simply not supported by contemporary scientific investigation. Not only are the ‘body’s ongoing interaction with the world’ and the embedded emotional response to external forces, the ‘primary means for our being in touch with the world’, diey are also co-constitutive of meaning and logic (Johnson, 2007, p. 65). If, following Mark Johnson (2007), we understand how ‘logic is embodied—spatial, cotporeal, incarnate’, dien it becomes apparent that the perceptual tuning of Viewpoints pedagogy is toward this somatic-affective-neurological experience of story-logic-meaning (p. 102).

Sixth hand (in which we want to be anarchy)

It is June 2014 in Fresno, California; and Mary has just finished waiting for her hand-arm gesture to become art. Now she is putting that same hand on the blackboard, where she has written the word, ‘Emotion’. She says, ‘This is for most of you guys in “the theatre”, something you know very well’. Many of us laugh in knowing recognition. However, she explains, ‘emotion has been reified and practised in so many different ways’, that what we see most often in American theatre is the ‘gross and repetitive’ acting that she calls ‘cartoon work’. The Viewpoints of Emotion does not refer to the ‘capture and expression of unique emotional content’ that is found in Method Acting, Grotowski work, or the Modern Dance techniques of Martha Graham or Jose Limon (Overlie, 2016, p. 30). Rather, Emotion is the attunement to the simple fact that ‘the performer is present’ and that they have offered themselves to ‘the gaze of the audience, communicating human to human’ (pp. 29, 31). In short, Emotion is ‘presence’, which does not refer to an ephemeral ‘liveness’, but a performer’s heightened condition of ‘active self-awareness’ (p. 29).

Thus, the Viewpoint of Emotion is not a matter of the communication of ‘feelings’. As Eric Shouse (2005) has argued, feelings are the ‘personal and biographical’ sensations that have been ‘checked against previous experiences and labelled’—the work that Overlie describes as the reified emotion expressed in ‘cartoon’ acting (p. 2). Following Brian Massumi, he describes affect, as ‘a non- conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed and unstructured potential’. It is these pre-/non-conscious entities that make ‘feelings feel’. While Shouse defines emotion as the social expression of feelings, Mark Johnson (2007) utilises Damasio’s term of ‘emotional response’ as an ‘automatic’ response to a stimulus, characterised by a ‘complex collection of chemical and neural responses forming a distinctive pattern’ (p. 59). Thus, the personal and biographical qualities of feelings can be understood as a ‘qualitative awareness’ that is labelled in relation to previous experiences and socially constructed categories that reify a particular feeling as such (Johnson, 2007, p. 56).

While affects are, as Virginia Demos notes, ‘comprised of correlated sets of responses involving the facial muscles, the viscera, the respiratory system, the skeleton, autonomic blood glow changes, and vocalisations that act together’ that produce intensity, this understanding of emotion is that of making affect conscious (cited in Shouse, 2005, p. 6). Overlie demonstrates Emotion-as-presence as self- awareness, by giving language to the conscious experience of an actor during ‘presence work’:

Ahh, here I am and they are watching me. This is causing my breathing to be fairly shallow, there is a rigidity in my body and especially in my spine; I don’t feel comfortable with them watching me; now a wave of sensation is rippling up the surface of my back; I am acutely aware of my shoulders for some reason; I need to allow them to see that I am uncomfortable. My focus should be more acute; I am in a mildfog. I would like to swallow and instead grind my teeth; they can see me grinding my teeth. I have stopped breathing for a second. I shift my ribcage and take a deep breath that moves down my last three ribs. I just dropped my eyelids; I am going to keep them and down and let myself know that they can see this gesture; this action, the vulnerable position. I look up, smile nervously at my audience, taking a ragged breath. This is my current slate of being.

(Overlie, 2016, p. 32; emphasis in original)

Though Overlie verbalises it here, this articulation of affect into emotion need not be transformed into explicit representation. Moreover, the objective is not to express this interior awareness to the audience, but to attend its presence with the same care and specificity as Space or Time. Just as contemporary' research into cognition has shown (Barrett, 2017; Claxton, 2015; Gallagher, 2005; Johnson, 2007; Noe, 2004), the production of emotion is neurological and corporeal; and thus, it is as material as Shape. While Overlie originally used the term ‘emotional ambiance’ for this Viewpoint, one could easily use the term ‘affective tonality’, whose materiality Overlie had to account for because ‘it is always there whether you want to acknowledge it or not’ (Anderson, 1981; Sommer, 1980, p. 57). All this is to say, the Viewpoint of Emotion works to open conduits for the transmission of affect, as to inhabit it, Overlie explains, is to enter the ‘Dog-Sniff-Dog World’, in which the performer simply presents themselves to the audience as ‘open and sniffable’ (Overlie, 2016, p. 32)

It is no surprise, then, that to introduce the Laboratory for the study of Emotion, ‘The Piano’, she returns, once again, to the gesture of the hand. ‘The Piano’ might give the impression that the performer simply manipulates the audience by ‘playing’ then; indeed, this was my understanding of it until I did the presence work with Overlie in 2017. Rather, as she explained, following my own self-conscious (rather than self-aware) work, the term is meant to convey the sensitivity to nuance, magnificence of construction and openness to the artists’ actions as the finest hand-crafted piano in the world. In discussing The Piano, Overlie introduces the figure of the hand, not as an example of her teaching, but as a moment of discovery that accounted for the audience as internal to the work, as the ‘SSTEMS existed as fully in the audience as they do onstage’ (Overlie, 2016, p. 107).

I began to walk around my studio using my space lens but this time seeing what I was doing from the perspective of the audience. I lifted my arm and inspected my hand and saw the audience see my hand, then I saw the audience see me seeing my hand and realized that these spectators/participants were very good. If I ‘thought of them as not good then what was I doing making dances for them? They were as good as I was. They had the capacity to see everything I wanted to show them and even things I did not consciously know I was showing them. I realized they were the finest pianos in the world. The audience, in this laboratory, became an instrument I could work with rather than a negative and frightening judge, or an ignorant, somewhat dangerous and demanding force.

(Overlie, 2016, pp. 107-108)

The hand, here, operates as the occasion to collaborate with the audience, where they are not only considered equal to the performer, but superior to them, able to detect things that she ‘did not consciously know’ to be discernible.

This curious process exemplifies the Viewpoints, in its affective and perceptive attunement, as a minor gesture for the generation of minor gestures, and its operation at the ‘edge of the imperceptible’, of what Manning terms the ‘smallest vibrational intervals’, which the minor gesture assists to ‘take expression’ (Manning, 2016, pp. 221, 250). The Piano’s minor key(s) attunes us the emotion as corporeal and relational, ‘as both in us and in the world at the same time’ Johnson, 1987, p. 67). That co-constructed emotional ambience is fundamentally affirmative, based on the performer’s recognition of the audience’s goodness and their ‘embrace [of] the idea that [they] are loved by the audience (Overlie, 2016, p. 32). And it is in precisely this ‘revolutionary theatre, a simple loving potentiality, an element for a new becoming of consciousness’ (Deleuze, 1997, p. 256) that the minor gesture of The Viewpoints attunes us to this political potentiality of 'the barely perceptible sounding’ of affective tonalities of ‘the anarchy at the heart of all processes’ (Manning, 2016, pp. 228, 38). For, the perceptual tunings are preparations for The Viewpoints’ final laboratory: ‘The Original Anarchist’.

In many ways, the performer’s discovery that their study of the Viewpoints had been a form of anarchist calisthenics. Critically, the Original Anarchist’s anarchism is not based on opposition to the grand gesture’s upstagings or the major’s rules and regulations. The Original Anarchist does not oppose, she evades. For, she simply ‘needs no outside rules as guides in order to function as a positive part of the whole’ (Overlie, 2016, p. 124).' Nor does she oppose structure, rather the Original Anarchist is a performer who is ‘confident enough to wait’ for an emergent becoming-Story-logic (p. 124), derived from what Manning calls a ‘technique ... for experimental prudence, a prudence patient enough to engage with that which experimentation unsettles, a prudence that composes at the edge of the as-yet-unthought in the rhythm of the minor gesture’ (Manning, 2016, p. 7).

The Original Anarchist is capable of politics without a political programme. In fact she enacts a politics defined by its exceeding of such programmes and pronouncements. She is now attuned to the Viewpoints’ minor gesture, drawing her now to ‘the periphery of the stage’ and a tucked-away lighting pole’s ‘intriguing secretiveness’ (Overlie, 2016, p. 125). Led by the materials to the affective resonances of ‘hiding on stage’, she finds herself ‘feeling a new power with the idea’ by ‘turning the theater around on itself (p. 125). The performer’s minor gesture of attending to her hand—outstretched and cupped—embodies the ‘patina of The Original Anarchist gleaming in her presence, through her eyes and in her manner’, opening up the artfulness of Time, of Shape, of Story, of Emotion (p. 126). Her gleaming patina is not an achievement, but rather an affective tonality that hints at the performer’s ‘secret onstage’: that she will observe her hand and she will observe the audience observing her hand, waiting together as she asks, ‘When will it become art?’


  • 1 My recollection of this lecture is based on a video recording taken by Cal State Fresno students.
  • 2 Hay’s (2000) formulation is to ‘invite being seen’ (p. 26).
  • 3 I argue in ‘On Stealing Viewpoints’ that, while Bogart has brazenly acknowledged ‘stealing’ the Viewpoints from Overlie, I argue that the radical differences between the approaches (and die very idea that the Viewpoints could be stolen), are such that what Bogart ‘stole’ was the term ‘Viewpoints’, more than the approach itself (Perucci, 2017).
  • 4 See, for instance, (Bogart & Landau, 2005, p. 16), however, Bogart has circulated this claim of ‘refine and expand’ so frequently and for so long, that it is reproduced in most descriptions of the work.
  • 5 Carrie Lambert-Beatty (2008) makes the convincing case that this dilemma is actually a central aspect of Rainer’s work, rather than an incidental one.
  • 6 The story of how Logic came to be named Story helps to account for the critical role it plays in the Viewpoints. From her earliest solo dance pieces in the 1970s, Overlie’s ‘abstract narratives’ staged interventions into the ‘era of Conceptual Minimalism’ in which she was working. In naming Logic as Story, Overlie (2016) intended to contest the claim made by John Cage and others of their work that ‘THIS DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING’, (p. 45). Rather, as one of her ‘Arguments with Merce [Cunningham]’, she incisively pointed out that even the ‘enormous effort to have no Story is itself the Logic’ (p. 46).
  • 7 1 explicitly address the political potential of the Original Anarchist and the Viewpoints in relationship to Occupy Wall Street and other ‘horizontalist’ political movements in my ‘Dog Sniff Dog: Materialist Poetics and the Politics of the Viewpoints’ (Pcrucci, 2015, p. 16).


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