Collapse & Transgression

Alina Astrova’s approach to creative practice stems from her ongoing interest in crossovers between different art forms underlined by the relationship between language cognition and gesture. Having made several D.I.Y. short films as well as holding contemporary dance and theatre residencies throughout Europe, she is a sometime curator of independent films and a regular columnist for the Tallinn-based magazine Jana. Alina is currently working on a proposal for a curatorial project at the Kanuti Gildi Saal in Tallinn.

Dissertation (excerpt):

In Notes on Gesture (1999), one of two brief essays on cinema, Giorgio Agamben brings to readers’ attention the research initiated by Gilles de la Tourette on the subject of human movement. Mainly concerned with abnormalities in the gestural sphere, Tourette’s research provided a medical context for what later
became famously known as Tourette’s syndromesyndrome—the inability to control certain movements or vocal gesticulations, a foundation for conditions such as ataxy, tics or dystonia. However, there is practically no record of Tourettism in 20th-century critical literature, which allows Agamben to suggest that beyond a certain point the inability to control gestures has become the norm. Tourette’s example leads the reader to understand that a gesture can be considered a progressive connection between movements, and the disturbance of this connection is the death of gesture. Agamben’s concern with the Western bourgeoisie’s loss of
gesture, which sets off his essay, raises a more connectivity as such. Encompassing worry about the loss of what is important for this dissertation is that this loss had an immediate effect in the sphere of art. This much is clear from Max Kommerell’s examination of the early 19th-century German writer, Jean Paul. The abnormal use of disconnected sentences and descriptions in Jean Paul’s novels, which has left some to doubt the writer’s talent, for Kommerell is an indication of his deep insight into this unveiling situation. Comparing Jean Paul to Goethe, both of whom wrote for a bourgeois audience, Kommerell
proves that, unlike Goethe, Jean Paul realised he was writing about people who were in the process of losing their gestures, and attempted to reflect this situation through the very medium of language. The most apparent effect of this attempt was the impact it had on the narrative of his novels, narrative being the epitome of the classical understanding of connectivity—a connection between the movement of events in time. In disturbing the narrative Jean Paul represented to the reader a situation where the classical understanding of connectivity was in crisis; the fact that he did so not by means of delivering the meaning of
words per se but through the very possibility of speaking unconnectedly, expresses the pure mediality of his writing, or what Kommerell calls the “pure gesture” of the existence of language. Ironically, it is in writings like those of Jean Paul, which destroyed the classical idea of connectivity that literature began to seek “pure gestures” and assert narrative coherence.
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