Questions, ideas, options : A dialog with Piet Devos
On Tuesday, November 16, I had a first meeting with Piet Devos.
Piet is a writer, art connoisseur, critic, questioner, thinker.
His website: www.pietdevos.be
At the age of five, he developed rare retinal disorder retinoblastoma, and became blind as a result. He expresses his condition very interestingly as follows: “My two-sided experience of seeing and not seeing raised questions about our perception that would make me think and write later in life.”
When I read this and recall our first conversation, I immediately think to myself: “What a fantastic fact” and this with a big exclamation mark!
Our hour of chat resulted in a four-hour reflection on art and, of course, more specifically on dance.
To my enthusiasm, we couldn’t stop talking and the chatting went on and on until even the last seconds before he boarded the train back to Kortrijk.
Browsing through his biography, his love for the word soon became apparent. It is, of course, logical that Piet attaches great importance to words, word aesthetics, word choices, and word variation because he is a writer.
Piet added: “I feel a bit timid, I am dyslexic and have learned to write by trial and error, never with reluctance, on the contrary, always with great pleasure, but always a bit overshadowed by a small gray cloud. In your way of thinking and patterns, I would describe it as a sunny day, where you feel the wonderful warmth of the sun on your body and that is suddenly, sometimes very briefly, disturbed by a cloud in the sky”.
a. Am I saying that right? Would you see it that way?
I find your search between the relationship between seeing references and other sensory perceptions interesting.
You do this, among other things, by placing word and sound against color.
In addition to letters, you also catalog numbers and link them to a specific color.
The following truths apply to you:
1 – light blue
2 – red
3 – green
4 – yellow
5 – blue
6 – black
7 – brown
8 – black
b. I immediately come up with a first question:
Do you think your color identifiers can also be applied to dance?
c. Where do you get your inspiration for each color linked to a number? I like to draw the line and replace the number with a count as an exercise.
Because as you probably know, most dance sentences consist of eight counts:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
There are eight counts in most standard dances, hip hop, street dance, break-dance
other examples are:
Samba: the accent is on the first and third count.
Waltz: the accent is on the first count.
Quickstep: an accent on the second and third count.
Salsa: the accent is on the first and fifth, the count fourth and eighth counts are not danced.
Bachata: the accent is on the fourth and eighth count.
And so on…
With this reflection I return to our recurring question:
d. What about the aesthetic pleasure experience for blind and partially sighted people in this setup? Can we explore part of this question by questioning (in my opinion, subjective) color analysis and presenting it to blind dancers?
e. Can we perhaps think of creating an aesthetic universal barometer for the blind and partially sighted in relation to a movement linked to a dance pair?
I would very much like to think so.
Imagine a count in a dance move definable by associating it with a color. Suppose we were to do this exercise and figure it out. What an absolute insight that would mean for the sighted to grasp the aesthetic feeling and emotion as the blind experience it. Colors are always associated with evoking a certain emotion. We call it color psychology. But color is also illusionary.
And that’s why I immediately critically ask myself
f. To what extent is this not all subjective? So, to what extent is the assigned color choice subjective?
Words, conversation, descriptions seem to be very important in my short experience with the blind. I conclude from this that they generally regard descriptions as pleasant and valuable. The way colors are defined is again not objective, or even depending on a language. Colors are named differently in different languages, so the theorem of subjectivity applies. As a sighted person in this context, however, I may experience linking a dance pair to color like a welcome relief. A welcome pause for the sighted to put themselves in the mind of the blind and understand. As Piet emphasizes in one of his speeches, we are certainly very visually brought up in Western society and heavily conditioned in this. I emphasized several times that the blind or partially sighted also bear a responsibility in coming together and approaching simultaneous pleasure stimuli (in our case for dance aesthetics). Creating a color palette by a blind person is striving for 100% approximation and understanding. Piet, this seems like a very interesting subject to investigate further.
With this second letter about aesthetics and the related questions, I already return to my previous inquiries:
In the article about Abramovic, I ask the world questions about aesthetic value and being blind. I complete this by stating that I ask these questions repetitively to myself and to the blind. I suspect this will be a long-term work. To my first finding, I already have to reconsider, adjust or rediscover a few things. Piet opened as it were, Pandora’s box. I agree with Piet that research into multisensory experiences is paramount and should be described as the main title.
However, we must mention the inventiveness of a visual classification by color as an aid to the sighted as opposed to counting the movement for the blind or partially sighted (for dance in general or more specifically for the sighted dancer and even more going further, the classical approach to dance aesthetics, which has largely been the general rule to this day).
By “sticking” a color to a “count” we could offer a clear solution for a possible general movement classification for both blind and sighted dancers.
What a beautiful approach! Thank you Piet.
As a follow-up, I will forward you the questions in this article, but this does require further thought.
I am looking forward to the sequel.