Saturday, 25 February 2012


On February 24th 2012, William Forsythe visited CERN as my guest. What follows are fragments of conversations and thoughts exchanged during the visit.

Lying in the bath listening to Mozart’s Symphony in C, William Forsythe realized that all action is now. And from that single moment, with that single certainty, all his work flowed. He describes it like everyone who has been struck by those sudden collisions of simple and certain truths: he is in that moment, of that moment, is that moment. And from it everything and all flows.

Approaching Zero…
Back to the beginning again. A Re-approach. The moment before all knowledge – before the universe. Approaching zero. That’s what he calls it, as he trades faster than light question about particle physics with Michael Doser at CERN. It is hard to know where the shots are coming from or who pulls the trigger first - so fast and furiously the words and ideas fly

It all Begins with Duchamp…
It’s him again. This the moment he says when modern art was really born. The Standard Stoppages 1913-14. The metre line.
The Idea of the Fabrication
--If a thread one meter long falls
from a height of one meter on to a horizontal plane

twisting as it pleases and creates
a new image of the unit of
length --
-- 3 examples obtained more or less
similar conditions
:considered in their relation to one another
they are an approximate reconstitution of
the unit of length
The 3 standard stoppages are
the meter diminished

Duchamp follows the the protocol of his note. Or so he says. He claims he drops three pieces of string, each exactly one metere long, each from a height of exactly one metre too, and each only once, onto a canvas. He then glues each string to the canvas in the exact position of its chance fall. Photographs of the three canvas strips appear in the Box of 1914.

The Three Standard Stoppages. With a few wooden rulers added, following the same curves. From a box with string and rulers comes one of the great upheavals of the twentieth century in visual arts. A box whose name was given by chance when Duchamp strolled the streets and spotted the sign Stoppages over a shop on the rue Claude Bernard in Paris.
Perception is never the same again. Chance operation with a definitive curve. Possibility and necessity. A run game.

Magritte says it better…
An apple, a hat, a hollow man, ceci c’est un pipe. Or not. Rene Magritte too interrogates perception, just like Duchamp, but playing with words and images…

Les Mots et Les Images

An object is not so attached to its name that one cannot find for it another one which is more suitable

There are objects which can do without a name.

A word sometimes serves only to designate itself.

An object encounters its image, and objects encounters its name. It happens that the image and the name of this object encounter each other.

Sometimes the name of an object occupies the place of an image.

A word can take the place of an object in reality.

It is all a matter of perception…

We are all starlight…

From the core of our being to our bones. When matter and anti matter come into contact they annihilate, creating pure energy - light. Like the light in stars and that of the sun. And we too are made of light. No wonder that people are obsessed with light, as well as space and time. It is within us all. And if you dance – how the light dances too. There is no surprise that William admits that he has dancers in his company who have been trained as physcists. I ask him if their quality of movement is different and he says they think before they move. That is the difference. The difference he is reaching for.


When he works, Forsythe works like a physicist. He works in a consensus driven collaborative style – just like the experiments at CERN. If a dancer wishes to be an individual, s/he can not stay. The decisive moment. Think again.

Human Writes
Last night, Forsythe himself was one of the 36 dancers battling with constraints to write one sentence of the Declaration of Human Rights. One dancer pushed charcoal with her nose and wrists, trying to sketch out the words. Antoher flung himself against the table, so that his body would mark the words out with every fall. The audience wondered throughout the grid of tables, some whispering instructions - left, right, down, up – Human Writes. Rights of Man. The individual tested against the community. Where does responsibility lie? With the audience passing through to help the dancers constrained and contorted by instructions which chain their actions? Or with the dancers to persist and resist the constraints to complete the task?

William sets himself a deliberate constraint – one so against his nature it tests him to the core. The constraint he set himself was to be decisively indecisive. To deliberately destroy what he set out to do with indecision. Creating movement and the moment with a complete and competent negation.

Why It Matters
Matter is classically patterns of nothingness in empty space. Understand that, and you realize nothing is nothing. What is empty is in fact full of patterns, and what appears material – like the table beneath my hands, the blackboard I write on or my feet on the earth, is in fact probably empty too if it wasn’t for the forces which create resistance in the real emptiness of space. Without these forces – like gravity – we would be infinite.

There is no such thing as emptiness – there is merely movement. As William Forsythe himself says – you need to see my piece I Don't Believe In Outer Space. Because there is none.

This thought takes William back to his Christian Science upbringing and the phases about how all is infinite in the mind which itself has infinite manifestations.

Earth is our testing ground for these theories of space and the infinite. The ultimate mass which pulls us towards it – as strong as an umbilical cord.

In the end we all part of

The Human Experiment - Being Human.

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