Slides from my talk, Embodying Aesthetics through Proprioception
Slides from my talk, Embodying Aesthetics through Proprioception
Dancer Greg Kollarus and I were paired with the choreographer Brandon Powers for an xyz nyc performance on March 24th. The motto of xyz is experiment, collaborate, and compete. Teams are allowed only one week of rehearsal and and given a challenge. This time it was that each piece must include a costume change.
I danced with Erin Carlisle Norton, who also choreographed the piece, entitled Alright. We had only 4 hours to put it all together.
Photo and Video: Patrick T. Rousseau
Michael Burke was the guest judge (that’s right: experiment, collaborate, compete is xyz nyc’s motto)
I spoke this past weekend at the Cognition, Consciousness, and Behavior Workshop at the University of Louisville. My talk on improvisation in music and dance is definitely in workshop form, and any comments would be appreciated.
I’m dancing in this xyz nyc performance for the dark fest.
I liked the idea of no lights. Aimee Plauche is the choreographer.
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I have to admit, I sort of liked both of these Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:
Wayne Christensen writes, “Of all the contributors, only Barbara Montero directly challenges Dreyfus’s empirical claims about expertise…” (→ Wayne Christensen’s review). The paper he’s talking about: A Dancer Reflects
Selections from my upcoming book, The ‘Myth of just do it’: Though and Effort in Expert Action (preface, introduction, Ch. 1)
From the introduction:
Science, Richard Feynman once said, is the belief in the ignorance of experts. If so—though I wouldn’t put it in quite those words—then perhaps my project should be dubbed scientific, for it is my belief that a wide range of experts who have written about expertise have been mistaken. In particular, I believe that various psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, and other experts on high-level performance have erroneously concluded that expert action proceeds best when the mind is relatively less active, when action occurs automatically, and when bodily movements are effortless. These expertise-experts, I believe, are wrong…
(→ to the book )
Draft of Aesthetic Effortlessness
Forthcoming in the Oxford Anthology on Aesthetics and the Body, ed.
Abstract. Although we praise effort, we prize effortlessness. Effortless bodily movement, effortless speech or writing, even effortless objects affect us in a way that one naturally thinks of as aesthetic. But just what is effortlessness and what makes effortlessness aesthetically valuable?
I’ve recently been interviewed by Joe Gelonesi for the Philosopher’s Zone program, “Just do it?” and by David Brendel for the VoiceAmerica program, “How to hit and think at the same time.”
Just as when I was a ballet dancer and I couldn’t bear to watch myself on video, I can’t bring myself to listen to these. (I’m willing to suffer for my craft, but I do draw a line.) Nonetheless, because this is how one measures out one’s life these days, I post them below.
Here is a draft of A Dancer Reflects Deliberation in Action which was published in Mind, Reason, and Being-in-the-World: The McDowell-Dreyfus Debate, 2013, Routledge, 303-319.
Abstract: The idea that performing a ballet typically involves tremendous effort is contrary to the widely touted view that great performances, in ballet and elsewhere, are natural and effortless. Although practice may be hard work, it is thought that when performing, an expert just lets the movement happen. Indeed, thinking about what you are doing during a performance is, if anything, thought to interfere with expert skill. Here, I argue against such views.
Although the book, alas, is not yet done, I have managed to write this article for the New York Times:
The idea that thinking interferes with doing is often taken for granted. But the realities at the highest levels of athletic and artistic performance are more complex.
→ go to The Myth of ‘Just Do It’
For discussion, see Martin Bingisser’s blog post, The Effortless Throw, in which he states, “few philosophical ideas…relate more directly to hammer throwing.”
CBS’s Christie Nicholson interviewed me shortly after the New York Times article appeared: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-barbara-montero-philosopher-on-the-myth-of-8216just-do-it/10230?tag=mantle_skin;content
Barbara Gail Montero, “The Artist as Critic: Dance Training, Neuroscience and Aesthetic Evaluation,” Published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 71, Issue 2, pages 169-175, May 2013
The published version was revised significantly from this earlier version, which might nonetheless be of interest. The Artist as Critic
It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it (Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist).
It is difficult, if not impossible, for those who do not perform to be good judges of the performance of others (Aristotle, The Politics).
Abstract. Despite the recent flurry of interest in ballet after the release of the psychological thriller, Black Swan, dance is suffering at the box office. Yet while interest in attending live performances wanes, interest in dance as a tool for scientific research—in particular, for the purpose of understanding links between action perception and action execution—is burgeoning. In this paper, I address some of this rapidly developing research and suggest a way in which it may be relevant to the question of how dance training affects one’s perception and aesthetic evaluation of dance.
Barbara Gail Montero, Effortless Bodily Movement
(2011) Philosophical Topics, 39:1, pp. 67-79
Abstract. According to the Renaissance theorist Baldassare Castiglione, perhaps the most important quality to cultivate in oneself is effortlessness, what he refers to as “sprezzatura.” In his Book of the Courtier, he writes,
I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all human actions or words: namely, to steer away from affectation at all costs, as if it were a rough and dangerous reef, and ….to practice in all things a certain nonchalance (sprezzatura) which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.
But just what is it for an action to be effortless? What are we appreciating when we admire Castiglione’s effortless courtier, a dancer’s effortless leaps, a basketball player’s effortless shot, or even a seagull’s effortless soar? For Castiglione, effortlessness was socially valuable; the façade of effortlessness enabled individuals to gain recognition, approval and promotion to higher positions in the Royal court. Though perhaps no less relevant to politics now than it was in Castiglione’s day, my concern is more with aesthetic rather than social value, and it is with movements rather than manners. Accordingly, the question I am to address is this: What does it means for bodily movements to be effortless and what makes such movements aesthetically valuable?
Barbara Montero (2011). Practice Makes Perfect: The Effect of Dance Training on the Aesthetic Judge. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:-.
Barbara Montero (2010). Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement? Inquiry53 (2):105 – 122.
The aesthetic senses are the senses by which we experience beauty, grace, and other aesthetic properties. Vision and hearing are commonly recognized as aesthetic senses, while smell, taste, and touch are not. Proprioception is the sense by which we acquire information about the positions and movements of our own bodies, via receptors in the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and skin. My claim is that proprioception is an aesthetic sense and that one can make aesthetic judgments based on proprioceptive experience. I will argue that, just as one can deem a painting beautiful based on one’s visual experience of the painting, one can deem a certain movement beautiful based on one’s proprioceptive experience of the movement. In addition, I posit that in a certain sense an observer can proprioceive the beauty of another’s movement. Although this may sound surprising, I argue that recent discoveries about the function of mirror neurons—neurons that are activated both when one performs a task and when one sees that task performed—as well as other empirical studies illustrating that when seeing others move we kinesthetically represent their motion, support the case and potentially pave the way toward a third-person proprioceptive aesthetics.