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I am not a performing object, I am a performing person!

by on October 29, 2012

Further to our discussion in class last week, I thought more about people performers as objects. I do not consider myself an object, therefore when I act I do not become a ‘performing object’. Similarly, I do not think of puppets as ‘performers’, but as ‘performing objects’ because they are not alive. However, this then poses more questions: is a living dog that participates in a performance a ‘performer’? Or is it simply a dog in a performance?

Also, as someone training in ballet myself, I found the brief mention we made in class of ballerinas as cyborgs intriguing.  According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the definition of cyborg is ‘a creature that is part human, part machine.’

As Hari Kunzru wrote, 1997, ‘the realities of modern life happen to include a relationship between people and technology so intimate that it’s no longer possible to tell where we end and machines begin’. A ballerina called Maya Motamedi wrote an article about her dancing on Pointe shoes, and said. ‘The ribbons of these paradoxical shoes now run up my ankles like vines, binding us together. Suddenly, I cannot tell where I end and they begin. I am a cyborg.’ Is she really a cyborg? Yes, the Pointe shoes are an extension of her body, and as she claims they become part of her when she dances, but in reality they are still separate parts to her body, and therefore I do not feel that ballerinas on Pointe are cyborgs. Just like a footballer wears football boots and rugby players wear a gum-shield, ballerinas wear Pointe shoes: it is part of their equipment, but not machinery. Therefore, if a cyborg is ‘part machine’ and the Pointe shoes are part of a costume, or dancing equipment, surely this means they are not cyborgs? Motamedi goes on to explain that without modern technology, however, ‘the activity undertaken is not possible.’ It is true that performing objects and new ways of performing have come from an advance in technology. But perhaps we are not advancing, perhaps we are regressing… we started as nothing, and now we are slowly eliminating the need for human function with the introduction of machines and robots doing the work for us. Perhaps we will end up with only a few human beings left, until they too die out and again we are left with nothing.

Afternote: the comic ballet “Coppélia” is relevant to this discussion. Dr. Coppelius, an inventor, creates a life-size dancing doll, Coppélia. Watch this clip from the ballet:

Motamedi, M. (2006) Ballet shoes. ( last accessed 29th October)

Kunzru, H. (1997) You are Cyborg: for Donna Haraway, we are already assimilated. Wired February ( last accessed 29th October 2012)


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