"Mime is a Strange Loop" - by company member Blake Habermann

Why Mime?

I get this one a lot. It’s usually the second question people ask when they discover my mimeness, right after “can you do the box thing?”

In truth I don’t have a satisfactory answer, at least not for myself, and people don’t seem to accept “because I kind of have to….” Why dedicate so much time to this style? Why are there certain stories that can only be told this way? What is it that draws me, living today, to this style that dates back thousands of years?

Like many simple questions, “Why Mime?” has a complex answer...

[puts on philosophy hat]


What I mean by "strange loop" is — here goes a first stab, anyway — not a physical circuit but an abstract loop in which, in the series of stages that constitute the cycling-around, there is a shift from one level of abstraction (or structure) to another, which feels like an upwards movement in a hierarchy, and yet somehow the successive "upward" shifts turn out to give rise to a closed cycle. That is, despite one's sense of departing ever further from one's origin, one winds up, to one's shock, exactly where one had started out. In short, a strange loop is a paradoxical level-crossing feedback loop.

-Douglas Hofstadter
I Am A Strange Loop

Mime pokes at the tender underbelly of perception.  It toys with the shape our minds try to impose on the world, the grids we lay in the void. It absorbs the membrane between being and not being, the desire for clarity and the creeping dread of our own invisibility that lead us to cling to fabricated systems of meaning and hierarchy. Mime appropriates symbolic relationships to plot new pathways of understanding, navigating systems of reference while inventing logics, probing for previously (and literally) unseen connections between the performer and the performed.

Mime is defined by absence. From the start it is explicitly unreal, any relationship to a perceived reality is purely imagined and thus symbolic. The mimed object’s non-existence is self-evident, and this not-being subverts the psychological and social narratives that define our lives by removing their materiality, seizing our cognitive grids and twisting them into new shapes, discovering curves and novel geometries, displacing assumed polarities and dragging the edge to the center until they overlap, the above is just another below, the map is the territory. Mime forms a strange loop, it’s not-being is it’s being.

Mime forces us to recognize our perception as a thing in itself, separate from any true essence of what is perceived. Any notion we have of a self as the center of some ordered universe is merely an elaborate series of gestures and symbols, our determination to prove we exist nothing but a futile joke, but damn if it isn’t funny.

This insistence on negation liberates mime from the weight of the real and bestows a transcendental logic, the symbolic object become capable of a representational flexibility impossible in the material reality of the actual thing. As things are liberated from their “thingness” through mime, so is the mime performer freed from their personhood, themselves becoming a symbolic object fluidly shifting through figure, ground and character.

This liberation, like the dialectic it creates, is itself defined by its opposite. The freedom of the mimed object is only achieved under the strictest of constraints. The mimed action must accurately recreate in order to redefine, recognition is essential. The object is created through witnessing, and is in fact comprised of the witnessing itself. Thus mimes serves as a physical simulacrum of the dialectic of existence, a void containing multiple realities and relationships, fluctuating between constellations of radically different centers, becoming true by remaining absolutely false.

Mime conjures an identification with the performances of normalcy in face of the void. Artifice is our only solace, and mime’s uncompromising embrace of artifice mirrors our own, reaffirming the secret joy of our belief that the world is not ours, we are just dancing in it.

[takes off philosophy hat]

Yeah so short answer, mime is really cool and come see BKBX at HERE Arts Center starting October 2nd!

Signing off,


Blake

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