Manu Arregui presents a project that takes the form of a video installation, photographs and graphics obtained through virtual 3D movement capture and other procedures of videographic recording and conventional photography.
Taking images of hands in movement as its motif, the project deals with dance themes as insignia of the right to dissent, and of the malaise of the individual due to the sexist masculinisation demands of society. Traditionally, masculinity inhibits this impulse. A failure to resist the impulse involves freeing oneself from the stereotype, ceasing to be a man. A masculine movement is straight and energetic and contains large, sharp movements opposed to smooth, doubtful and small movements. Masculine gestures of hands give the impression of rigidity; there are slight movements of the wrists and the fingers only bend in order to perform an action and never flap. Flexibility and animation do not agree with the self concepts of masculinity. Clearly, the principle that guides the maintenance of a masculine image is that a man must remain motionless. It is as if everything that is curved, fragile or divergent from traditional masculine conduct has had to succumb to outside pressures to produce the weatherbeaten man, of few words, i.e., the strong and silent type. The masculine stance is one of composure while most of the movement and emotion comes from without. Feminine movements would be curved and flexible, implying a scanty predisposition to aggressiveness or resistance and expressing approachability or submission.
Arregui specifically studies the codes of movement in hand gestures. It is a way of visualising this series of unwritten laws to have a direct influence on what society expects of a man. Effeminate gestures in a man are not socially acceptable; they are considered to be a sign of weakness and superficiality. There are always two ways of doing things: the masculine way and feminine way; in the way one picks up a cup or looks at the sky, and there exist unspoken rules to accuse an individual of acting in a way inappropriate for his or her sex. But there is a specific issue that seems to worry the author especially and that is the effeminaphobia that exists among some subcultures of homosexual groups. This involves an intolerable alliance with the worst aspects of male chauvinism and misogyny that characterises the dominant heteronormative culture and in essence it is nothing but another kind of homophobia in its eagerness to disapprove of effeminate behaviour, especially when referring to personal appearance and corporal expression.
History alerts us to the fact that since 1930, aversions to effeminacy increase with the arrival of economic crises. The world of dance offers a good example of this: in order to protect masculine dance against homophobic disapproval with the aim of propagating the idea that men that dance are respectable and are not necessarily homosexual, the well-known choreographer, Ted Shawn, attacked Russian ballet companies: “America wants masculinity instead of art”, virility and nationalism against the great depression. Shawn evoked images of Greek sculptures. His byword was energy, humility and bravery. He composed virile, nonsexual dances; the dancers never touched each other.
Later, a number of prestigious modern choreographers found protection for their homosexual condition by neutralising the concepts of masculinity and femininity, sexual connotations, and concentrated on abstract properties such as space, time and movement. Modern dance creates an antisexual environment with a masculine rationality that distinguished it from the internal excavations of its feminine colleagues. In this case, the meaning would not be in the psychological implications of corporal movement but in the physical nature of movement itself. Merce Cunningham stated with reference to his own choreographies: “There are no symbols, or stories, or psychological problems. What you see is what there is.”
For 100 years, choreographers and dancers have developed a dance that responds to emotions and forms, but not to sexual impulses. That began to be imposed as a result of the actions of a number of gay liberation movements and the AIDS crisis.