Sunday, August 10, 2008

Abstracted bodies

Was anyone else as annoyed as I was at the sight of those hundreds of Chinese girls in their white dresses and heeled boots as they hopped up and down and performed their little kicks to the side as the athletes marched in to the Beijing stadium? Could anything have been more calculated to bring us down from the beauty of the previous show? or to contrast more strongly with the hundreds of scholars in their swirling silk robes? Here were disciplined bodies abstracted to the nth degree, providing nothing more than guiding lines for marshalling the athletes. Ok, a great feat of endurance, patience and discipline, in keeping up all that jigging around for however long it took, but for me, it was just depressing to see such energy channelled to such a trivial end...

4 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

I wasn't so much annoyed as terrified that they were going to start dropping dead.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Nah... I read somewhere that most of the performers were from the army, so that was military discipline in little white skirts we were watching.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Interesting you should bring that up, as I've spent half the afternoon in deep phone discussions about the way that the mass-precision spectacle aspects, even the most beautiful of those (the drums, the tai chi, the people in the movable type), could be achieved only in/by the kind of state that China is. Which of course led to a more general discussion of whether you could say that these were two opposing ideas, and, if you could, whether it was possible to hold them in the mind at the same time.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Yes, good point. If Australia, say, had been able to produce that level of discipline in 2000, would we have condemned it as passionless? Or would we have praised the hours of dedication, passion and effort it would have taken to produce? Actually, it's almost unimaginable: our national character does tend rather more to the free-floating, shambolic and casual, it has to be said.

Is there beauty, though, in mass-precision? Or is it something else, more like awe? In the case of Beijing, we probably all expected mass-precision; I wasn't really expecting beauty of that order. And then when I realised the artistic director was Zhang ("Raise the Red Lantern")Yimou, much fell into place. But on that scale, I think beauty is apprehensible only in parts (discrete images, as you suggest), not in the whole.