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Motivation: the artist and the psychoanalyst
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Mis-seeing: vision, experience and prejudice     17.11.04
Culture-specific “mis-seeing” Yaw Busia, 22 November 2004, 08:27
  As someone who comes originally from a different cultural background, I was reminded during the seminar of a possibly fundamental difference in the notion of ‘performer’ in Western and African traditions. My thought was that in the African context, it may have been difficult to set up the distinction between ‘dancer’ and ‘non-dancer’, (expert || non-expert) in quite the same way. In fact, in West African culture statements such as “I can’t dance” would be considered strange, and to be proud of it, as we become in the West – where we leave dancing to the experts, would be even stranger. It would be similar to someone declaring “I can’t talk” (or even “I can’t make conversation”) since dancing is a regular social activity that permeates family, village and civic gatherings and in which participation is just normal – like conversation.
Following this argument, the difference in see-ing (a dance) between members of let’s say, a dance troupe and an ‘ordinary’ person would be perhaps one only of degree – if detected at all by fMRI, PET scans or other techniques. The distinction, perhaps, would be like the distinction between a public speaker and a non-public speaker – where we could categorise public speaking as ‘performance’. Would this be detectable?
Of course, in so far as a lecture is a performance, it is quite possible for someone to be a competent lecturer and a poor communicator in other settings – such as a dinner party. There may be no correlation between these various, apparently verbal, skills.  However, my thought is this: in the absence of some kind of fMRI or other imaging ‘helmet’ that a dancer could wear whilst performing, in the moment and immersed in the dance or any truly unobtrusive way of recording expressive physical performance – perhaps interesting research  at ResCen or elsewhere could involve attempting to categorise different (less full-body-motion-oriented) performances?  The variety of apparently verbal performances seems to be very wide and could include the work of singers, poetry recitalists, stand-up (or lie-down, in this case) comics, art critics reporting on pictures and objects presented to them and so on.
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