The Aesthetics of Tension and Release
The Aesthetics of Tension and Release
Tension and release are the basic building blocks of a wave. A wave transfers an energy impulse through a medium using a succession of tension and release.
The only difference between an impulse and nothingness is the tension that the impulse brings with itself. Therefore, a release that follows is an important backdrop as it is this backdrop that makes it possible for us to perceive tension.
Tension and release are also the basic building blocks of any communication. The basic way to communicate something is to be able to say "yes” and for every "yes” (1) there is also a "no” (0).
Emotions are also based on tension and release. They build up (towards the crest of the wave), and come down (towards the trough). They have an amplitude and they tend to dampen (with time or as the energy dissipates). Music is based on tension and release and so is any form of art.
Most interaction is based on tension and release. In a complementary interaction, we oppose each other (left); in a symmetric interaction, we escalate (right). This sort of pattern can be clearly seen during negotiations, conflicts, and arguments, but also in arms races, stock markets, and trade wars.
Tension Release through the Body
If tension and release are so omnipresent, what would it look like on the level of the body?
A body that gets tense and that releases tension. A collective body that does the same.
On the level of a singular body we can invoke ritualistic dances (tension = possessed by a spirit), representation of states or concrete forms in a classic form (ballet), boogaloo, locking, and popping.
Possessed by technology — a robotic dance:
The tension between the liquidity of the body and the rigidness of technology. Embracing the progress or fighting against it. Flowing around the 1s and 0s, curves versus squares.
Releasing the tension against the society norms, finding one’s own truth — butoh and the new forms of breakdance:
Dance as a release of tension. Escalation / deescalation technique.
Generating the tension and then finding a way to flow out of it, to transform oneself or a situation into something else. Encountering a new obstacle, new tension, releasing it, letting go, fighting against it, winning or losing, moving on.
Collective Tension / Release and the Catharsis of Violence
A collective body that dances will also consist of a succession of tension and release.
Traditional stories play out dramatic events, generating a build-up to produce a catharsis (release). Through that re~lease we re~solve a situation (an archetypical or an imaginary event) and discover more options or at least a faint idea of hope.
Some situations can also be resolved through ongoing practice. Martial arts offer an outlet to channel this flow.
A continued meditation on violence, modulated escalations and deescalation of tension in order to know how to attack and how to respond.
A succession of tension and release is used to process a situation. To create an inner discussion, to communicate, to pass information, to agitate a medium, to be heard, to speak, to ex~press, to tune in a frequency, to receive a transmission, to start a tsunami, to prevent it from happening.
The Underlying Dynamics
A dance of tension is a dance that is ultimately about the existence of a system. If the tension is too high, the system will eventually break (and this may be a desired outcome — how to escalate the tension, so that there’s a change). An inner riot.
The absence of tension, on the other side, is entropy, randomness, death. No tension, no release, no in~formation.
There are also ways to modulate the dynamics of tension, a dance of pulsating tension and release, waves, oscillations.
Physical movement allows exploring this dynamics to the fullest extent using the most basic means. Body as a laboratory. Pain is a very efficient control mechanism. It is the most immediate indicator of the state of a system. Dance is a way to perform this exploration in a way where the outcome is not necessarily practical and maybe aesthetically pleasing. Martial art is also a formalized way to research and explore this continued interplay between escalation and deescalation.
To maintain non-equilibrium stability where a change is welcome, a system must be adaptable. If there is tension, it can respond with tension (escalation) or release (deescalation). A general meta-view is necessary to modulate the dynamics.
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