Pandemic Journal

Over at the NYRB Blog, Ali Bhutto, Jamie Quatro, Edward Stephens, Carl Elliott, and Liza Batkin, et al.:

[Liza Batkin] A few weeks ago (which feel like years), my boyfriend showed me a video of the British comedian Steve Coogan in his Alan Partridge character, demonstrating how to “complete an ablution, entry to exit, without using your hands.” “Drop a thigh,” Patridge begins, bending his leg, then “elbow down to open,” as he clasps his hands and dips his right arm to the phantom door handle. He continues to narrate unusually graceful movements, popping his hip to open the door, spinning on left foot to face the “toilet,” lifting its seat with his right one, and so on.

“It’s funny to imagine getting so good at something so odd,” I think of saying, but stop myself from explaining the joke. It does seem impossible to ever adjust to the awkwardness of avoiding stray particles.

The routine reminds me of my favorite clip of the choreographer Bill T. Jones performing, initially, a short dance phrase, and then the same phrase while describing each movement in as much detail as possible. What was at first marvelously fluid becomes slower and belabored, though still beautiful, as Jones struggles to account for his body’s actions. “As one shifts one’s hip onto the left leg, the left arm breaks over the head, the right leg comes in and proceeds up to a passé parallel position,” he says, as his typically steady leg wobbles uncharacteristically. The task of carefully thinking about what he’s doing appears to unsettle his ability to do it.

More here.