Court/Garden: Context Notes

If I could imagine the past, this is how I might remember the future


With “Court/Garden” my question is: how does our shared imperial, Western, cultural history dictate the ways in which we come together?

Yanira Castro


History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now (p. 261) . . . A historian who . . . stops telling the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary. Instead . . . grasps the constellation which his own era has formed with a definite earlier one. (p. 263)

Walter Benjamin, “These on the Philosophy of History”


In his essay “These on the Philosophy of History” Walter Benjamin evokes the presence of an angel:

“. . . looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating . . . This is how one pictures the angel of his- tory. . . His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”(p. 257)

Benjamin’s angel is both a witness and a victim. A Cassandra in reverse, unable to turn around and warn the future of its encroaching consumption by the past, he is cast alone, with no one by his side to aid him in the moment of the present. Thrust forward by a narrative he has no way of reshaping, he faces history on his own, a specter of the spectacle before him.

The spectacle of history could be one way to describe the subject of a canary torsi’s piece Court/Garden, the vision of its founder and artistic director, choreographer Yanira Castro. Another would be the history of spectacle, of, in Castro’s own words, “the ways we come together” as a social and political body, and how this is reflected back to us through the politics of performance.

Read the complete context notes here.

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