Bodynet-Khorós Vision Statement

Bodynet-Khorós Vision Statement

EU logo  Bodynet

BODYNET-KHORÓS is a three-year EU Funded project, coordinated by Reverso Transdisciplinary Association and Jaime del Val (Spain) with partners K. Danse (France), University of the Aegean (Greece), and initially also with TMA (Germany).

BODYNET-KHORÓS is a transdisciplinary project on digital and physical artistic experimentation for reinventing the body, movement, and relations towards sustainable and plural ways of living and for restoring the Planet’s Health in the Anthropocene, across the arts, technology, philosophy, and the social dimension. The project proposes to address the current global, ecological, and social challenges in a unique, original and transversal approach that stresses the underestimated role of the moving body and the need to reinvent it.

Figure 1. Flexinamics choral action in Zorita de la Frontera, kick-off event, August 2022

The project takes as a starting point the following speculative premise:

The source of the ecological crises as being in unsustainable ways of living and in overpopulation has at its roots a millennia long process of impoverishment of the body’s movement, sensory, creative and expressive capacities. This impoverishment makes us dependent on unsustainable systems of transport, communication, consumption, and production. This is the same process that induces rigid normative conceptions sex-gender, class, ability, and species that erase social-cultural plurality.

Moreover, digital culture strengthens the tendency to immobility and control. A far more critical digital shift is needed since digitisation as is now happening contributes both to worsening climate change (as with digital trash covering Africa) and social alienation and control (as with increasingly immobile and isolated bodies). Both aspects: of physical and digital immobility have been dramatically worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is urgent to reinvent our relation to the body in both physical and digital environments.

The reply to this unprecedented challenge is in moving and sensing in more varied ways so that we can rely less on unsustainable technical systems and at the same time counteract social homogenisation. Diversification, as crucial evolutionary process, is as essential for natural ecosystems as for cultures and societies, and both are interrelated. A healthy, sustainable planet and society needs an as rich as possible biodiversity, cultural diversity, neurodiversity, bodily and affective diversity, as all are equally crucial for processes of sustainable evolutionary diversification. Underlying all these is the need for a diversification of movements and perceptions that have become atrophied by millennia of alignments with geometric, mechanistic, algorithmic and utilitarian environments.

Novel transdisciplinary artforms and processes (that we will name metaformance) are the laboratory proposed for addressing this ambitious evolutionary challenge. Art has the crucial role of reinfusing richness in our impoverished and accelerated lives by focusing on qualitative variations of experience that don’t follow a narrow, pre-established, utilitarian goal. This experimentation has far-reaching implications for all domains of life including education or health, for instance in terms of affording richer neuroplasticity. As proposed by Del Val (2020) the narrower are our movements-perceptions, the narrower will be our thoughts and lives. Inversely, the richer are our sensorimotor spectrums, the richer is our neuroplasticity. The project will propose a focus on the largely ignored sense of proprioception to address many of these issues: the body’s internal sense of movement and its unexplored potentials.

Artistic experimentation will be done to outline, produce and test experimental responses to the mentioned global challenges of erasure of diversity in bodies and in natural-cultural ecosystems. This will be done in the transdisciplinary convergence of dance, performance art, digital media, visual arts, music, interactive architecture, and design. New forms of collective, immersive, participatory media and art forms will be proposed that involve perception and bodies in motion in as rich and non-reductive ways as possible, counteracting the prevailing tendency of digital media to immobility, standardisation of movements and sensorimotor atrophy, while regaining and reinventing bodily capacities for a diverse culture and an ecological future: new techniques for education and training, communication and dwelling, for a society to come.

These issues will be addressed not only in the content of artworks and its associated technical systems, created and performed in the project, or in the theoretical debates around these, but in the entire process of production of the works, the events and the project: at stake is how to involve people of the most diverse types and backgrounds, in highly diverse specific contexts outside the existing traditional cultural venues, in sustainable processes of collective creation through participatory co-creation processes and improvisation techniques that involve as rich as possible a spectrum of movement and multisensory integration.

Figure 2. Bodynet project image

The core aspect of the approach lies in choral practices, collective co-creation process of bodies in motion, based on novel improvisation techniques focusing on the body’s capacity to move and sense in always new ways while creating always new relations with others and the surroundings. These processes stress the role of the body, nomadically, with site-specific processes in each location, and avoiding far away and short trips: a renewal of the otherwise unsustainable concept of touring and of the spectacle as consumption.

We are explicitly concerned with the application of activist-oriented socio-cultural art practices and the generation of non-hierarchical collective knowledge spaces as opposed to the production of new art products. The project will experience the value of artistic research and promote diversity in perception and practice. Attention will be paid to the application of open-source practices and to the mediation of media-ecological contexts.

BODYNET-KHORÓS is designed as an artistic research project, which will not only activate people in Spain, France, Germany and Greece, but in cooperation with its networks, it will have an impact in other regions. And this will be not primarily in the urban centres, but urban peripheral areas as well as rural regions focusing on socio-cultural work with disadvantaged groups across Europe.

The aforementioned challenges will be explored along two interrelated strands:

1. Khorós – Embodied technologies for emergent collectives — collective and embodied improvisation technologies (with educational and training components) through bodily movement and physical body extensions, as rebirth of ancient choral practices, oriented to letting people unfold richer capacities of movement and perception rather than repetitive learning of patterns, with focus on physical formats (see figures 1, 6, 7 and 8).

2. Bodynet – Broader bandwidth bodies in times of social distance — richer and less reductive digital experiences that reinvent digital interaction and telematics involving the body, movement, and multisensory experience in far richer ways than usual, with focus on digital and telematic media (see figures 2 and 4).

The core methodologies and techniques applied are those stemming from the Metabody project and developed by Jaime del Val and the Reverso association, since 2013 (some of them since 2002), in collaboration with Jean-Marc Matos (K. Danse) since 2016.[1]

Choral ontopolitics for earth liberation[2]

In ancient Greece the chorus, as groups of dancing and singing bodies in public space, from which the tragedy arose, of primordial importance in Greek culture, was considered, for instance by Plato, a fundamental means of education, a way of educating bodies through movement, whereby movement and the body had a crucial role in culture, a role that we seek to recuperate. It seems that choral practices have been present in every culture (see figures 3 and 5).

Figure 3. Dionysian Thiasos, from a Greek Vase in Athens, 420 BCE.

The project thus proposes a revival of some ancient roots of European cultural heritage through the concept of choral practices. At the same time, it proposes a planetary chorus, an embodied Internet, a radically embodied digitality of unquantifiable bodies: a Bodynet. Although it seems unlikely that digitality can ever become sustainable due to its mode of production, its environmental-social unsustainability, its thrust to control and the fact that it is but the most recent phase of an avoidable mode of dominion.

Figure 4. Bodynet: Disaligned Online, between Madrid and Toulouse 2020.

In this project we play with the tension between what a body can do by moving and sensing (techniques of the body) and its impoverishment when it extends in exosomatic alignments of technics: can one reintroduce a richer body into technics? Or are exosomatic technics intrinsically impoverishing the body and creating a trash-planet on the verge of collapse?

Bodynet vs. Khorós will expose and elaborate on this tension between the (perhaps impossible and undesirable) attempt to create and embodied internet and a planetary chorus of moving bodies.

Figure 5. World in chorus diagram, of choral dances from the Palaeolithic to today

Choral or group dance is foundational to the social and the “human”, like individual dance is foundational to the body and the “self”. In ancient Greece the chorus as group of dancing-singing bodies was perhaps the most important institution for social cohesion, education, healing conflict, and celebrating life. There were funeral dances, war dances, ecstatic dances, most of them sacred dances associated to every kind of ritual. But this picture, which is already surprising if not incomprehensible to Western industrialised rationalists of today, is not the exception, but the norm in early human cultures. Particularly of tribal cultures (including, most likely, those from the Palaeolithic, i.e., 99% of the Sapiens’ existence) one can say that everything is or was danced, perhaps especially in Africa, where every single significant occasion of life has its dance, where dance for sheer collective kinaesthetic enjoyment can be collectively improvised any night if not anytime. In fact, one can argue that most animals dance their life around most of the time, and endless cases of specific ritual dances for mating or other purposes have been documented amongst animals also, not to speak of their astonishing visual appearance, kinesthetics, sensory capacities, and architectures.

The chorus is proposed here as an ontology to understand social-cultural phenomena as aaligned fields of movements, as metabody or common body, as rhythmic field, and as (a more aligned) expression of swarms and flocks (in the gradual geometric becoming of flocks and swarms).

The project takes on the ancient Greek etymology by which the chorus is at the same time the group of dancing-singing bodies, the space of the dance, and the (circular) dance itself[3], a field approach.

Figure 6. Disaligned chorus, workshop by Jaime del Val, Chile 2010

But the chorus claimed here is not as palliative technique to ease the lives of rich civilised humans[4] but aims at regaining movement for a radical transformation of life, following the example of gather-hunter societies.

The Anthropological theory of the Original Affluent  Society[5] (Suzman 2017 and 2020) has overwhelmingly asserted since the 1960s that for 99% of their history sapiens have lived otherwise, as gatherer-hunters and less than 1 million global population (Del Val 2022), in egalitarian societies, respectful with the environment and with other forms of life, who ate well, lived well, worked two hours a day, had a lot of free time and great creativity, where every society has had its choral dances.There is, furthermore, anthropological evidence of communities that only or primordially gather, and not hunt, being thus vegan gatherers.[6]

The true revolutions for a global transformation come from the San and other gathers-hunters in Africa, Australia, the Amazon, and other parts of the world. Such societies move with the flows of the Earth, never against them, never blocking them by accumulating through imposing monocrops and alignments on the Earth.

The challenge is that all life on earth needs to be equally taken care of. This implies acknowledging the way currently dominant human life is entirely grounded on a massive disruption, exploitation, and extermination of much of the other 8,7 million species. ALL LIFE ON EARTH NEEDS TO BE LIBERATED.

For this we need a new politics not limited to rational-semiotic human constructs: an ontopolitics of movement where by regaining the moving body we regain sensibility and the capacity for symbiotic mutation, in order to move again with all life forms and not against them; from verbal-rational-discursive politics of assemblies and parliaments we shift to a planetary choral politics of moving-sensing bodies, a nonverbal r/evolution for an Earth Liberation.(Though provisionally a lot of work will need to be done in the discursive human spectrum).

Figure 7. Metahuman Lab at the 1st Metahuman Futures Forum in Sakala Eressou, Lesvos, 2022

The project proposes a threefold thesis:

1. Richness and diversity of movement is core to life and evolution (in the entanglement of inorganic, organic, and social, where the complexity of earthly flows is inseparable from the flourishing of organic life, the flows where non-human and human societies have proliferated). Kinediversity is the deeper ground of biodiversity.

o Dance as rhythmic unfolding and variation of bodies can be found in the animal world and beyond and is core to all tribal cultures, from early Palaeolithic to today’s hunters-gatherers, as creative unfolding of rhythmic fields that are the very foundation of the social.

o All gatherer-hunter cultures have/had, extremely varied and rich choral practices that are/were the main means of social cohesion, memory, knowledge, healing, and creativity.  Dance has thus no mysterious “origin” in civilised societies. Indeed, it has no origin, it is metacosmic.

2. The evolutionary anomaly currently creating a mass extinction on Earth is the emergence of homogeneous, synchronic rhythms in some human cultures in the Neolithic, along with agriculture, farming, cities, and the need for aligned coordination of movement in large scale and hierarchical societies. This is crucially part of the unfolding of the Algoricene or age of algorithmic reduction and is linked to an economy of homogenisation, separation, and accumulation (instead of variation, relation, and flow).

o Choral movement, which was already the core means for less aligned modes of social cohesion, thus evolved into the core civilizatory practice, with unison dance at its centre but unfolding in a variety of disciplines, including sports, the military, work, etc., as the technical took gradually over, up to current digital society.

o We have transitioned from ancient cultures where everything was danced to a global culture where one hardly dances, instead technologies dance in algorithmic form for us, and we align to them: a planetary chorus of microchips and satellites of which we are appendixes. In the process we go from internal proprioceptions as reference, to complete exoreferential alignments with technics.

o This is the process of dance extinction that is equivalent to mass extinction of life: as the impoverishing movements of technics choreograph the planet in gridded form, erasing the kinediversity that underlies biodiversity.

3. In face of this the way out is in regaining the moving-sensing body, and claiming the richness of what a body can do just by itself, its body-movement technes, both for regaining a lost richness of experience, for undoing our dependence on toxic systems, and for relearning to move with others and the world, by regaining a lost symbiotic sensitivity;

o claiming the possibility of open forms of social cohesion based on differential movement, not on synchrony:  at stake is not only to regain dance but disaligned dance and disaligned choruses.

o One can dance in non-synchronous, fluctuating ways, growing in symbiosis with others, and this is core for reinventing life in the age of extinctions: for an ongoing dance of life, not an occasional escape valve, where every aspect of life recuperates experiential richness.

o well beyond rational control, unfolding the power of BI(Body Intelligence);

o cultivating varying modes of embodied knowledge, no more based on imitation and repetition, nor on vision at a distance, but on entanglement of proprioceptions and their evolving rhythms.

The chorus is a core trope for a planetary politics of regeneration that undoes the reductive inflexion of the age of algorithms and extinctions: a Dionysian politics of moving bodies where the chorus is transitional step towards moving immanently and creatively with the flows of the Earth and not against them, implying a deep transformation of our ways of living. The chorus as the ground for a non-verbal revolution, a general disalignment, a metahuman R/evolution.

Figure 8. Bodynet-Khorós project team at start with teams from Reverso, K. Danse and TMA in Spain, August 2022

[1] See for the core Metabody techniques and for their new iteration as telematic experiences for a embodied internet.

[2] A far more extended elaboration on this will appear in my forthcoming monograph Ontohackers, 2023.

[3] See Donath 2018, 131.

[4] It is not acceptable that we claim freedom for humans while we keep 100 billion sentient beings in concentration camps, a Planetary Holocaust of such calibre that it creates a mass- and self-extinction. This is also the deep root of capitalism. Marxist critiques of capitalism are shortsighted if not blind versus the fact that it is accumulation altogether and sedentary living, and their related human overpopulation, occupation of the Earth and exploitation and dominion over other life forms, that are the source of human inequality and of the climate, biodiversity ad extinction crisis. 

It is for this reason that all forms of sedentary occupation of the earth are a problem. Pretending that overpopulation, excessive occupation of the Earth, or dominion over other species is problematic in other continents but not in Europe, as some colleagues seem to contend, is a highly problematic argument with potential racist, colonialist, Eurocentrist and nationalist implications. Of course, there are differences between territories, but the way we occupy the Earth in Europe, including countries more based on smaller farms, like Greece, is altogether outrageous.  

It is the enemy within each of us that we need to start facing first rather than pretend that the problem is elsewhere: this enemy is called Human Supremacism, and ranks high amongst, first of all, academics of all kinds. Hence the insistence: can we start calling things by their names?

[5] See also

[6] In this exhibition it is stated that “At present, the diet of hunters-gatherers, in fact, comes from gathering and not from hunting; that is why some scientists propose inverting the name to gathers-hunters.”  Some Australian aboriginals do more gathering than hunting. See “According to Peterson (1998), the island population was isolated for 6,000 years until the 18th century. In 1929, three-quarters of the population supported themselves on bush tucker.”

* The Bodynet-Khorós Vision Statement has been published in the Journal of Posthumanism's Metahuman Futures Special Issues (Vol. 3, Issue 2).