hypertext dissertation - by Robyn Stuart

Rhizomes as a Living System; its evolution and identity

Rhizomes is a complex system, moreover it can be perceived as a living system. Lucas (2000a) defines a living system as:

'an ongoing process that self-defines and self-maintains its form, reproduction is not a necessary function of this.'

Rhizomes is a bounded system with a form, which like an adult person undergoes a growth phase, but then plateaus out to a less changeable form. Its growth is defined from within, by its components some of which are also living systems e.g. dancers, choreographer, and digital designer. It uses material from its environment such as white floor and screens to help dress its form, just as a person uses clothing. The computer software and data entry could be seen as food, input which is digested and used to create parts of its form. Rhizomes self-maintains its form through cycles of ‘work’ as much as any growing living system (ecosystem) and will eventually die too.

One primary difference is that Rhizomes is an entity, which lives through time erratically. Its visible form materialises in particular points of time; then lives and defines its 'adult' form through performance time; and then dematerialises living 'in limbo' until its next materialisation. It does not die between materialisations. While its components exist and there is potential for the relationships between the components to come to fruition, Rhizomes exists.

Each time Rhizomes materialises its form or identity will vary somewhat. This does not necessarily mean that it is a multiple rather than a singular living system. Rubidge (1998a) notes that our current understanding of a self-identity is giving way to the idea of multiple identities.

Indeed the very notion of an identity is giving way to the notion that a single individual can support several parallel identities, none of which is central, or essential, but each of which go to make up what he or she is.

If Rhizomes is a closed dance-work, its material form will vary minimally from materialisation to materialisation, just as an adult friend will vary minimally each time met. However if Rhizomes is an open dance-work i.e. containing improvisation, it will vary perhaps considerably each time it materialises, depending on the degree of improvisation in its content and structure. It could be seen to have multiple identities, and yet still be recognised as a singular 'work'. Rubidge (2002b) notes that even closed performance-work can be considered to have a fluctuating form, which opens philosophers to the question of where the 'work' is sited, (Quote 30). She suggests using Deleuze and Guatari's (1987) interpretation of the 'work' being a complex web of its elements, which includes the performance entity or events and also 'the pre-stratified plane from which those forms are generated' (Rubidge, 2002b, Quote 31). The elements could be the 'hard' material components and also the 'soft' or virtual components, which include not only the software, but also aesoteric interpretations, put upon it by its audiences, its choreographer, its digital designer, its dancers, and the environmental contexts within which it is performed.

Rhizomes is in fact part open and part closed. Its 'adult' form (Rhizomes III) changes only a little with each performance. But it has also been performed in its 'child' state, that is whilst in the midst of development. Vignette-bits of it also have been performed. I consider as choreographer that all versions and bits belong to the 'work' Rhizomes. Yet undoubtedly these younger versions have a much simpler network of relationships and not all the final content and yet, also contain content and form not seen in the 'adult' version. As such I would not call them 'the work Rhizomes' in retrospect, but neither would I separate them from the 'work'. They belong to the rhizomatic network of relationships and elements (a Deleuzian assemblage arising from the plane of composition) (or, the complex living system) that is Rhizomes. As choreographer, I would also consider any future version of Rhizomes performed with a different order of the same scenes created for Rhizomes I or Rhizomes III as still being Rhizomes.

From the beginning of its inception Rhizomes existed as a single entity in becoming, as does a child.

Rhizomes is as complex as a human. It is comprised of humans and their interactions.

It has grown and developed, matured and ...

At this point it would seem pertinent to talk a little about how identities are formed. It is commonly accepted that we do not develop our personal identity in isolation from others, but in relation to others, (Rubidge, 1998a).

... it is a complex system, a living system, an assemblage,... it has evolved its own properties

3.3 Home Page, 'Beginning', Conclusion, Acknowledgements, References, Rhizomes Performances, Performances as References

alKamie are members of Chisenhale Dance Space.
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