Prose for a Choreography

The following piece, “Prose for a Choreography” (or “Crabs”), was written by Marian Kaiser, and later recored as soundtrack to the film “Pre-Enactment” by Margarete Jahrmann for Transmedial project of University of Applied Arts, Vienna.


I have been here for a year, now. Watching my decision demons on autopilot. Extreme inner states emerge and disappear. I’m my future’s very own electromagnetic material. I eat, I sleep, I train. A movement a day. A different one every day. For five days. Then a two-day recap. The next week, another five. For five weeks, then two weeks of recap. After three hundred and fifty-seven days, I have an arsenal of two hundred and fifty-five possible movements.

Pre-cognition. Pre-sentiment. Sure. But what does it mean to pre-enact? There is a German word, I cannot translate. Vorahmung. If there is Nachahmung, there has to be Vorahmung. To anticipate a movement that might be enacted in the future, to pre-serve it. Move like you might have to move, without enacting the movement. Train your body for a state to come in an environment you can’t yet enter. A potential gesture. A contingent twitch. Minimal.

Two days, before I locked the doors, the examiner told me, how the research had started back in the day. About the famous Israeli dancer, who had invented a notation system that would address every single limb. And how the first American space suits were developed on the basis of her system. The astronauts were the first to train possible future movements for an environment, they could not simulate. But they were still training for a surrounding they could anticipate. These days, you have to be your own environment. Take yourself to the stars. Or wherever. There is no outside.

In the first NASA report on the possibility of mining rare earths and new elements on Mars from 1969, there is a chapter on green houses, in which the bodies of the astronauts are themselves described as “mines”. Small graphics show, how to attach your body to the on-board system to fertilize the plants and to produce electricity in a reaction that turns phosphates that the human mines excrete into pure P4. To mine the stars, you have to mine your body. To mine the future, you have to mine your brain. The primary motor cortex and the area for visuomotor coordination and multimodal association are centered around, what used to be known as Brodmann area 7. It serves as a point of convergence between vision, movement and proprioception to determine where objects are in relation to parts of the body — and to anticipate, where they will be a second later. If treated over longer periods of time with regular doses of phosphate, this area of the brain develops arsenals of phosphocreatine, a phosphorylated creatine molecule that provides brain cells with high, fluctuating energy demands with short, intensive boosts.

I watch my brain waves enter future states on the screen and take posture. It’s a bit like method acting. Only, you don’t look for an experience from your past, but one you haven’t yet made. If you subtract pattern recognition and the decoding system from your perception apparatus, what remains, is the bliss of the real. Noisy, a rush, everything at once. Plug in and drop out of the world. To prepare for the experiment, we would inject ourselves with a sub-narcotic dose of an anesthetic, originally developed to be used on animals. Once we did, we understood, what an-aesthetic is. To exist in a space without images or structures. In an-aesthetics, all you do, is play. The dream of a world outside the world, a place that is truly empty. Retreat. Become the world. 

The misunderstanding about oracles has always been, that they might provide an answer. But a movement is not about arriving in a position, but what happens in-between positions. There used to be a common crab oracle. You sit on a stony beach, formations of black rock run into the sea, warped like a manic parking space, consisting mainly of holes. You drop a gleaming white stone into one of the curvy tunnels. Within an instant, thousands of crabs shoot out of the stone, in curves and circles, over one another, into the water. Three days later, you do it again.

When the Portuguese colonialists arrived in Central Western Africa, they stopped at a river that was swarming with crabs. They called the surrounding area Rio dos Camarões, Cameroon. In return, the people from the area called the Portuguese “crab people”, because of their metal breast plates. The legend goes that the Portuguese crab people were told the future by a crab oracle. Over the next four hundred years years, they forced thousands of human bodies into slave labor. Today, there is a phosphate mine next to the river. The river water is used to wash phosphate rocks over hundreds of kilometers to the coast through a blue, red and pink pipeline. It spills into a gigantic phosphate sludge lake. There is always a mountain of dead crabs at the lake side. Every couple of hours, a man with a shuffle turns up, throws the crabs on a truck and drives them to the next market, where they are sold as a delicacy and served in restaurants. The ones that survive are the only living creatures for kilometers and kilometers, red dots in a concrete grey slurry landscape. The shell is not the crab, it simply allows its carrier to survive in changing hostile environments. Once hooked to the machine, the past becomes a dream.