The Movement of the Cursor
Laura Belik on Movement as Research | Cursors: Undoing Bodies Moved by Language, Artist Talk with Will Rawls, October 18, 2017
Will Rawls’ strong and remarkable presence on stage is not limited to dance. In order to tell the audience about his experience, he decided to share a piece that he wrote about his life and its connections to movement and performance, that were represented through some of his inspiring anecdotes. “Rawls’ work addresses what it is to be black in performance and art”, introduced Julia Bryan-Wilson, Director of the Arts Research Center and Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at UC Berkeley.
Dance does not escape these power dynamics, and Rawls has proven to be an important voice advocating for change. Dance has been incorporating more subjects such as material, body, mind, language and history. There is a potential for choreography and dance into opening new worlds, and that is precisely what Rawls tries to do. Choreography for him is a language, “and I just do free-associations”. Rawls also incorporate speech into his works: “When you speak as a performance, it is not yourself who’s speaking, it is the artwork. This way, the performance never disappears”.
Talking about his collaboration with poet Claudia Rankine, he emphasizes the idea of the power words can have at performances. No pronoun is preferred in Claudia Rankine’s poetics, Rawls explains. In their collaborative work, the use of the word “you” exhaustively repeated has a strong connotation, bringing to light several different meanings this action can have. “You”, from times vague, from times very personal, at the same time engages with the audience as friends and enemies. There is a gestural significance to it that comes along with the word itself. As Rawls observes: “they are naming names inside this poetic content. Naming names but also bringing them to a new context”.
Rawls also talks about some of the most recent projects that he has been working on, such as the cursor. He shared with the audience how his obsession began by observing the cursor blinking in a word document, waiting for an activity to happen. He emphasized its poetics: “The cursor is not the text. But it has its own choreography. The cursor is the ‘self’ amongst so many languages”. Recognizing its movement, Rawls advocates that the cursor’s dance happens over time and space. “Which way will the language run?” The same way Rawls sees the potential of the cursor to engage in several conversations, he understands his work: Dance has a multi-language potential.
Laura Belik (PhD Student, Architecture) reviewed the October 18, 2017 presentation and conversation, CMovement as Research | Cursors: Undoing Bodies Moved by Language, the second program in a series of events this academic year focusing on arts practice as research. To learn more about Movement as Research on October 18, and Making as Research on November 2 & 3, please visit arts.berkeley.edu.