Ready, Set, Go! Stopping Time in Its Corporate Tracks

Anna Beatrice Scott / University of California, Riverside

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Bodies at rest. Bodies in motion.

On the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War and in the midst of a Democratic Primary that feels like the actual run for the White House, it feels impossible (or perhaps frivolous) to speak about dance or performance as it is mediated via television and the World Wide Web. Another dance competition dial-in show feels like the massive disconnect that they represent; why waste time underscoring their inutility? The United States is presented with real opportunities to investigate, analyze and create new terms of engagement around race (Obama & Ferraro) and gender (Clinton & Obama; Spitzer) explicitly, and to a less, more well hidden degree, social class (collapse of sub-prime lending) and economics (Baer Sterns Bail-out). Each one of these immediately reveals an interrelationship to the other, but also to time itself; specifically chronometric time. These events and how they have been presented in time trickery-media underscore the unquestioned import of time and timing to all endeavors of so-called great social magnitude; truly time is of the essence in the successful management of dissonance in a tuned in and out United States. Through deployment of not only dance vehicles, but the positioning and training of bodies to be instant performances, broadcast televisual culture (that not only includes moguls/producers but “talent” and watchers/traffickers) forecloses the potential to destabilize chronometric time, the work clock, and move instead towards a placed sensation of events.


Improv Everywhere Grand Central Station Freeze on Good Morning America Feb 28, 2008

It is in the current demand that we pay attention to the details (what is a Super delegate) and take time to savor and assimilate the spoken word (Obama’s “flaw” according to Hilary Clinton) that one can discover the break with the business clock. YouTube desks and specialists have cropped up in every major news outlet (at newspapers and television stations) to locate the populace again, even though vlog fragmentation is already occurring through internal video sharing in Face Book and MySpace, to name a few. Toggling back and forth between body-to-to-body, text-to-internet, TV-to-internet, bodyidea-to-swarm via SMS or web platform, one thing is clear: We do not want to keep up. We want to be up. And perhaps are up. Is there a refutation of broadcast television inherent in these moves? Might it be possible that our screened consciousness is transforming itself, hopefully, into an interface, plugging people into the sensation of time as distinct from the sensation of working on time? Are we not experiencing instead a profound acknowledgment of the necessity of body-based improvisation?


Grand Central Station Stop

At the height of US primary season remix this February, Improv Everywhere launched a “mission” in NYC that soon caught on around the world. “Global Freeze” as it has become known works through website and text messaging to create a swarm of individuals, which then must come together in person (imagine that) to receive their mission i.e. roles, cues, set and time directions. What makes them of interest to a journal on TV is that a great deal of effort and staging goes into the documentation of the events. With video cameras a common accoutrement of the pedestrian, it is quite easy for the organizers to deposit bodies and cameras all over the “arena” for later editing. The event as it occurs breaks into work clock corpo-reality momentarily throwing off other pedestrians, yet at the end, they elicit joy, or maybe just relief that the action is over and no one is coming to throw blood or yell, or demand that we get out of ___ right now, or that we vote for ____ or we’ll be sorry. It was just a prank, but a prank which pushes folks to experience place and time as distinct entities from work.

In these dreadful dance shows like Yo Mama Don’t Dance, it is evident that the choreographic experience is meant to be repetitious, not cyclical, in order to induce drama. Drama is not information, nor is it an actual experience of connection, though reporters would have us believe so as they force candidates into specific roles in order to sell us “the human side.” Repetition without difference is arrhythmic and soon induces stupor/breaks down of the interlocking rhythms that keep us groovin’ along, pretending to be on time to our destination. Repetition with difference can be moving when it co-creates with our cyclical selves.

Keeping time

We are not data packages, and yet we become that as we surf towards each other, towards meaning, attempting to keep up with the 24 hour media day. Our flesh does not vanish, or take on less importance as our FICO scores, zip and area codes, and IP addresses shift to accommodate more and more discrete sorting of our vital statistics. We are easily stranded in 20th century discourses on race and “sex” based on these merges and purges. Are we shut out, distanced from communication by media itself?


“Yes We Can” DipDive featuring

Lefebvre in his recently translated Ryhthmanalyis: space, time and everyday life states that, ” [m]ediatisation tends not only to efface the immediate and its unfolding, therefore beyond the present, presence. It tends to efface dialogue” (48) (emphasis his).((Lefebvre, Henri. Rythmanalysis: space, time and everyday life. Stuart Elden, translator. London: Continuum Books, 2004.)) In the stoppages and the viral music videos and animated shorts supporting and/or condemning political candidates, I would like to think that effort is being made to overcome not only the work clock, but the 24 hour media day, which Lefebvre also lambasted. The body as instant, capital extractive performance has become a hallmark of screened culture. The Global Freeze and Yes We Can hotwire that frame, disrupting the extractive possibilities of a body cum performance (or is it a body-cum data merge) by seeking to elicit engagement from non-participants. Even as a passive consumer, these two events cause you to participate through their simplistic veneer, which is undergirded by very astute attention to details while embracing any and all variables.


Santa Monica, CA Freeze by GueriLAImprov Feb 2008

The details, the dropped heads and nervous giggles of the performers as they very quickly create a piece of agitprop in a format widely recognized as both cultural product and branding device excites me and disturbs me in the same ways that the stoppages in public places gets me thinking about privilege: these choreographies of power, but on the periphery, will they actually do anything? Why do I want or need them to do anything? There is so much to be done, so much to talk about and shift in the social sphere (notice I did not say public…we are still working on creating that). These brilliant mixes of mediation are reflections on a TV screen, one that has been turned off, so that we can better understand what is going on, and not get lost in the drama of a poorly timed pirouette…


Portland Freeze by Portland Mayhem Feb 2008

Image Credits:

1. Frozen Grand Central

2. Good Morning America

3. “Yes We Can”

4. Frozen Santa Monica

5. Portland Freeze

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