As soon as I saw this dance footage, I knew I really wanted to share it with you. It is a clip of Jacob Lang, one of the competitors in the Contemporary Dance final of the recent BBC Young Dancer 2017 show. This is one of his solo pieces, entitled ‘FrankAIstein‘, danced to music from the film ‘Shutter Island’. The music itself is haunting, both in its words and in its moving strings – it is a beautiful blend of Dinah Washington’s ‘This bitter earth’ and Max Richter’s ‘On the nature of daylight’.
The dance is about an Artificial Intelligence ‘being’. When interviewed about the piece, Jacob Lang said this – and his words are for me, the perfect depiction of the dance – or rather, the other way around. If this is what he was seeking to communicate, in my view, he communicated it powerfully, and left me almost on the point of tears:
“I think the character is almost alive, but not quite. And I think the character has a conflict going on. And I think its experience of being is quite painful.”
These words, and the dance itself, resonated for me as powerful metaphors for my experience. You can substitute the psychoanalytic concept of the ‘false self’ or the ‘artificial self’, for the AI, but the conflict, and the painful experience of being, are just the same. Who am I? Am I real? If there is a ‘true self’, how can its spontaneity and freedom be expressed or show through this artifice that has been created? The painful sense of fighting with oneself, of trying to figure out one’s true nature, of being taken prisoner or being taken by surprise by one’s own being – I think they are all there in the dance. I know that for many of you reading, this will be your experience too, which is why I wanted so strongly to share this.
Sometimes we struggle to come up with external realisations or depictions of our conflicts and our pain; and sometimes it’s easier to see them, to feel them, and to process them when we can do that – when they are ‘out there’, rather than ‘in here’. Our therapists help us to do that – but so can creative expressions such as this heart-rending dance: