Face & Eyes (Upd: Nov 06, ’22)

“If human beings have a destiny, it is rather to escape the face, to dismantle the face and facializations, to become imperceptible, to become clandestine, not by returning to animality, nor even by returning to the head, but by quite spiritual and special becomings-animal, by strange true becomings.” – Deleuze & Guattari¹

Saar Amptmeijer

The face may represent a symbol of code, a stratum crafted by our culture, which we often have to fit into. We must rebel and cut these habits. To D & G, “dismantling the face is the same as breaking through the wall of the signifier and getting out of the black hole of subjectivity.”²

Frances Barbe emphasizes the importance of the face in butoh: “The use of the face often reveals self-consciousness and tests if dancers can really commit to something fully, such as a big smile, or a distorted face and, crucially, to keep it alive when asked to maintain it for an extended period.”³

The face and hands talk. To know what is happening with the face/eyes (like the hands) is vital, as they are language-makers, and we do not want to say something during performance not intended.

An example of a completely deterritorialized face would be one that is obscured, dysfunctional, or dead. What is the look of the face dull as a floor? A bit stiff and flat? This is Tatsumi Hijikata’s floor face from his butoh score (butoh-fu) Quiet House.4

In butoh, the face takes the place of the mask. In butoh, the face is de/reterritorialized into a living mask.

The performance artist Olivier de Sagazan said this of the face: “Disfigurement in art is an attempt to get the brain to explore the human face in its strangest and most magnificent aspects. The human face is like a raft from which a tiny part of the universe can look at itself and gaze the world.”

Exercise 1: Face Koan

What was your face before you were born?

Exercise 2: Finger Face Mirroring

This exercise was noted by Maurreen Momo Freehill and involves the face mirroring the shape and qualia of fingers in front of it.

Exercise 3: Sour Face, Balloon Face

This is an expansion and contraction exercise. Contract your entire face as if you have something very sour in your mouth. Then from there transition to your face blowing up like a balloon. Repeat.

Exercise 4: Face Sun Massage

This is a nurture exercise. With closed eyes, rotate your head around so that it feels like the sun is massaging all parts of your face. Also, roll your eyes around so that the sun massages all parts of the eye.

Exercise 5: Pretty to Ugly

There is a subreddit where girls submit what they deem is one attractive photo and one not attractive one. Some resulting transformations are impressive. Find your most beautiful face, followed by the most ugly.

Exercise 6: Pretty to Ugly Synthesizer Knob

We can now transition from a pretty to ugly face, viseversa. What are all the inbetweens?

Exercise 7: Cobody to Face Mirroring

This is a deterritorialized face exercise where a group gets in a circle and collectively make one co-face, each person a part of the face such as eyes, lips, cheeks, etc. For purposes of visibility, they might all be in a ball and close together. One participant will mirror in the face what the group’s face is showing. The exercise can also be reversed where the co-face is mirroring the one individual’s face.

Exercise 8: Face Puppet Master

The following is inspired by Özerk Sonat Pamir’s face exercise where the face controls the rest of the body like a puppetmaster. At first, one can form a 1 to 1 correspondence with parts of the face to parts of the body. Then one can link an expression or feel to a part of the body.

Exercise 9: Ugly Orgasm Face

This is a face exercise of resonating with the ugly orgasm face. Let the rest of the body follow accordingly.


“What is a tic?” asks D & G. “It is precisely the continually refought battle between a faciality trait that tries to escape the sovereign organization of the face and the face itself, which clamps back down on the trait, takes hold of it again, blocks its line of flight, and reimposes its organization upon it.”²

Become friends with the facial tic, a form of facial shock, an isolated shock.


The face is closely associated to emotion. It is recommended to identify emotions past the basic happy, sad, and angry. There are many more:

Affection, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, ecstasy, embarrassment, empathy, envy, euphoria, fear, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, humiliation, interest, jealousy, joy, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, remorse, resentment, sadness, saudade, schadenfreude, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, sorrow, suffering, surprise, trust, wonder, worry.

Important: To not get lost in the outer form, once a particular feeling is recognized, swallow the emotion and then resonate with how the body reacts while also being mindful of typical facial expression associated with the feeling. This is not repression of emotion, but the opposite. If after this, the facial expression or gesture still comes, resonate with that too.

Exercise 1: Deconstructing Emotional Response

Because there are certain facial expressions related to a feeling, we want to train ourselves to go beyond this. The physicality of an emotion may seem universal, but there can still be a cultural influence. For instance, if one were to give a teeth-displaying smile to a monkey, this could be taken as a sign of aggression because to them teeth means being ready to bite, hence an act of aggression. We can thus shift the physical response to any emotion. If for instance, we go into the qualia of horror, we can utilize a facial expression not associated with the qualia of horror.

Exercise 2: Emotional Face Chimera

This is a chimera exercise where one part of the face gives one emotion and another part another. For instance, the mouth can exhibit deep disappointment and the eyes, euphoria.

Exercise 3: Two Emotion Transition, 5 Minutes

Take 5 minutes to shift from one emotion to another.

Emotion Fermentation

What is in an emotional expression? The typical facial expression can be seen in everyday life or in movies. Mainstream actors know these facial expressions. In butoh, however, we may not be too interested in the surface meaning of things or general associations. This is why I like to use the analogy of: (1) Juice; (2) Wine; (3) Brandy.

Let juice be the ordinary facial expression, e.g. fear. We then take this emotional expression and swallow it so that it can ferment. The question is, what will turn this juice expression to a wine expression? Is there something even more that can show us fear without the literal facial expression? Perhaps this is your secret. Is it new wine or aged wine? Can we take the process further into distillation? Can we make brandy? If so, will the brandy be a new brandy or an aged brandy?

Perhaps the aged wine and aged brandy will take years of letting the expression sit. This is your process.

De/Reterritorialized Face

When the face is deterritorialized, it leaves the usual function of the human and moves somewhere else in the body (gets reterritorialized somewhere else). What if the torso becomes a face? Can you make a face with the torso? What if the hand becomes a face? What kind of facial expressions can your hand make?


“It is possible to make a superb dance with the eyes alone.” – Tatsumi Hijikata

People often say that the eyes are the windows to the soul for a reason. The eyes are one of the main filters of our experience.

Just like any position in butoh, if we are to do them, they are not to be forced just for aesthetic or anti-aesthetic (grotesque) purpose, but because it’s a natural manifestation out of what is already happening inside.

Human World Eyes

Watching Eye – This is the typical, everyday social or behavioral stratum of which is a starting place for deterritorialization or reduction & regeneration.

Emotional Eye – The eyes (with the assistance of the eyelids and eyebrows) can embody all the emotions. The main emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

Closed Eye – It is easier to go inside the body with eyes closed. Only one eye can also be closed.

De/re-territorialized & Paradoxical Eyes

The rest of the eyes on the list are deviations/deterritorializations/reductions & regenerations.

Where is the paradox? To see without seeing. To look without looking.

Glass Ball Eye – Like a doll’s eye, these eyes are immobile. Place your gaze near the horizon. Or you can form a parallel line from eye level to ground without placing attention to any particular area, but all the area in your field. You can even look at any particular point then spread the gaze to the whole scenery which is vague. The eyelids are relaxed. Pupils do not move. Try not to blink too much, and if you do, let it be a subtle flash.

The important point about glass ball eye is that the usual eyes are deterritorialized. The function of the eye more accurately moves to the third eye on the forehead or the Riken eye that is your own third-person-perspective eye looking down upon you.

Joan Laage says of this eye: “[its] diffused or non-seeing focus allows the head and, in particular the face, which in the West is so communicative, to be equal to the rest of the body.”5 Deleuze and Gutarri even mention this eye: “I see that behind the sockets of the eyes there is a region unexplored, the world of futurity, and here there is no logic whatsoever. […] The gaze is but secondary in relation to the gazeless eyes.”¹

Another reason this eye might have been so prevalent in butoh is for its symbolic nature of going beyond the visual channel and to travel freely to the others (e.g. audio, emotional, human relationship). To Yoko Ishikawa, this is internalizing. She noted that one must get beyond the stumbling block of mere conscious visualization.14

White Eye – Relax the eyelids and look up at your third eye. The goal is to appear with only white eyes.

Crossed Eye – Extend your arm in front of you. Look at your finger as you bring it between your eyes. This is the position of your cross eyes.

Half Crossed Eye – Do the Crossed Eye (See Above), but then straighten out one eye. This may take a bit of practice but it is doable.

Rotten Eye – The eyes are dysfunctional and moving in random directions as if it were taken over by bugs. This is a very good example of a nearly completely reduced or deterritorialized eye.

Rock Cicada Eye – This is a frozen, solid glare that for some may even be terrifying, bringing back the archetype perhaps of the big eye in the sky that judges you or sees your every move.

Thunder Eye – Look side to side then pick up the speed till you reach a vibration/tremble effect with the eyes.

Doll Eye – Eyes that go from either completely open or completely shut.

50/50 Eye Close your eyes half way so that you see half dark and half light. Be 50% inside and 50% outside.

The focal spot ranges from way far in the horizon to our own body. The eyes can also be useful with on-the-spot qualias if we resonate with objects or persons that we see literally.

Edge Eye – These are various watches from the corner or side of the eye.

Traveling Eye Any of the deterritorialized eyes above can result in traveling eyes. Yoko Ashikawa proposed eyes to travel beyond the front of our skull, but to the “crotch, back, and so on,” and further still beyond the body.6

The natural result is transformation, becoming or embodying various qualias. This is because eyes are associated with personality. So the eyes in/on/of something is a becoming of something. So say one’s eyes float out to a tree and now the tree has eyes. We will have automatically been engaging in becoming the tree and making it a person.

Exercise 1: Figure 8 Conditioning

This is a figure 8 exercise. With your eyes open, do the figure 8 in varying ways, so that the 8 is upright or horizontal, but also make the 8 go behind you so that your pupils may seem to go behind your head. Also try the figure 8s with closed eyelids.

Exercise 2: Quick Counting

Find something such as bricks which you can count with your eyes very quickly. The objective of this exercise is to go from one item to the other as fast as you can.

Exercise 3: Floating Eyeballs

This is a world where only your eyeballs exist floating in an ethereal space or an ocean.

Exercise 4: Glass Ball Eye to Focused Eye Scale/Synthesizer Knob

Transition from the glass ball eye to glaring at something very specific.

Eye-Mentioning Butoh-fu

The following is Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu that makes mention of the eye, and the very last butoh-fu is Kazuo Ohno’s. The majority of the list comes from Waguri translations, unless otherwise footnoted:7 (1) Wild Flower; (2) The Blind Girl; (3) Flowers and Children; (4) Prince of Smoke; (5) Stuffed Birds; (6) Evaporation Process; (7) World of Toyen; (8) Walking Just As Pure Measurement; (9) Deer; (10) Horse; (11) Owl; (12) Bird Dances; (13) Strange Man With Frog On His Head; (14) A Strange Neurotic; (15) “Kinka-To” Walk; (16) From The Forest To The Swamp; (17) The Appearance Of The God Maya Made Of Nerves; (18) The Bird’s Nest Walk; (19) See Through The Crystal; (20) Traces of Salvador Dali; (21) Behind The Mask; (22) Leper Hospital; (23) Heavy Neck; (24) Auschwitz Walk; (25) Ear Walk; (26) Rubber; (27) Pus and Flower of Epilepsy; (28) Celebration Within The Wall; (29) “Dozo,” A Storage Building Made of Dried Mud; (30) Flowers In The Wall; (31) Quiet House(32) Sick Dancing Princess (Ch. 1)(33) Bugs Crawl10 (34) Walking of Measure10 (35) Beardsley No. 1 Thru 410 (36) The Flower Garden of Bresdin10 (37) Flamen11 (38) Gibasan12 (39) Monet13


Experiment with what the eyelids can do, e.g. (1) flutter them; (2) shift the timing of opening and closing them; (3) squint; (4) close them tightly (e.g. with sour qualia).

The following is Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu that makes mention of the nose. The list comes from Waguri translations, unless otherwise footnoted:7 (1) Wild Flower; (2) The Blind Girl; (3) Flowers and Children; (4) Behind The Mask; (5) Flamen Matiere.15

Exercise: Close to Open Eye, 5 Minutes

Take 5 minutes to smoothly transition from close eyes to open eyes.


Don’t forget about the eyebrows. Example Qualia-world: Your eyebrows are flying crows.

Here is a haiku by Yakamochi that may inspire:

faint in the twilight…
I think of the moth eyebrows
of a girl I saw only once.16


The jaw can do a number of things: (1) bite; (2) change speed in opening/closing; (3) silent scream; (4) multi directional movement; (5) overbite & underbite. Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu/writings Beardsley No. 1 Thru 4and Rose Girl7 make mention of jaw.

Can connect to zombie qualia. Jenny Lawson has written about the zombie and its deep connection with eating. Jenny states, “Eating connects us in a web of ongoing transformation between self and other, between internal and external and between living and dead.”8

Exercise: Open Jaw, 5 Minutes

Take 5 minutes to open your jaw.


The tongue is often incorporated into the dance as another dancer. Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu/writings “Gaki,” The Hungry Demonand Sick Dancing Princess8 make mention of tongue.

In Contemporary Metaphor Theory, taste has a link with experiencing.  The conceptual metaphor EXPERIENCING SOMETHING IS TASTING has the following example: he has tasted the frustration of defeat.18

Let us experience the world through dance, so let us taste the world. See the first exercise below.

Exercise 1: Taste the Room

Stick your tongue out to taste the room. This is a synthetic exercise because you are tasting the visual or even auditory. What does the taste provoke in the body? That is the dance.

Exercise 2: Dog Tongue

Let the tongue dangle out long like that of a dog. From here you can move the head so that the tongue dangles.

Exercise 3: Figure 8

Figure 8s from multiple directions.

Exercise 4: Tongue Lunch

Your tongue has become food.

Exercise 5: Tongue Rolls

Roll the tongue in endless ways, inside and outside the mouth.

Exercise 6: Tongue Dragon

The tongue is a dragon inside the mouth. This imagery is also used in qi-gong.

Exercise 7: Tongue Puppet Master

Like the mouth puppet master, The tongue is the controller of all the body’s movements. Feel, for instance, that the tongue is the character inside a mecha (the large robots).

Exercise 8: Deterritorialized Tongue

In the place of the tongue, something else takes its place. Is someone’s arm your tongue? Is a bird your tongue? Is your whole body your tongue? When you move, can you taste the space?

Exercise 9: Stick Tongue Out, 5 Minutes

Take 5 minutes to stick your tongue completely out. May be best done outside due to saliva.


Exercise: Life Snorting

Snort the life around you into one nostril and then try the other. Get high on life.

The following is Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu that makes mention of the nose. The majority of the list comes from Waguri translations, unless otherwise footnoted:7 (1) The Choir Girls; (2) Various Places; (3) Threads of Drawings of Noble Ladies By Beardsley; (4) Sleep Walker; (5) The Nerve Walk; (6) Behind The Mask; (7) Ear Walk; (8) Quiet House8; (9) Michaux or The Man of Light10; (10) Flamen Matiere15.

¹ Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. Page 171. Print.
² Page 188
³ Barbe, Frances. The Way of Butoh and Contemporary Choreography: Reflective. Writing on Choreographic Research. n.d. Web. 20 April 2010.
4 Lee, Rhizome, Behind the Mirror: Butoh Manual For Students.
5 Laage, Joan Elizabeth “Embodying the Spirit: The Significance of the Body in the Contemporary Japanese Dance Movement of Butoh.” Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, 1993.
6 Shibusawa, Tatsuhiko. “Hijikata Tatsumi ni tuite” (About Tatsumi Hijikata), a commentary of Yameru Maihime (The Dancer of Sickness), Hakusuisha, 1983. Page 231.
7 Waguri, Yukio, Butoh-Fu CD-Rom. 2006.
8 Lee, Rhizome. The Butoh. 2017. Pages 120 – 137.
9 Ibid. 337 – 354
10 Mikami, Kayo. “Tatsumi Hijikata: An Analysis of Ankoko Butoh Techniques” 1997. Tokyo.
11 Calamoneri, Tanya. Becoming Nothing to Become Something: Methods of Performer Training in Hijikata Tatsumi’s Buto Dance. pHD dissertation. Page 136. 2012.
12 Ibid. 134, 135.
13 Miyagawa, Mariko. Kazuo Ohno’s Dance and His Methodology: From Analyzing His Butoh-Fu. From Cord Procedings. 2015. Page 120-122.
14 Fraleigh, Sondra Horton (1999), Dancing into Darkness: Butoh, Zen, and Japan, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press and Dance Books. Page 142.
15 Hijikata, Tatsumi. Translator unknown. Retrieved by Rhizome Lee at unknown date. Date retrieved from Rhizome Lee: 10/22/2018 at the Subbody Butoh School in Dharamsala, India.
16 McMillan, Peter. One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. Columbia University Press, 2008.
17 Lawson, Jenny. “Eating Minds: fantasizing undead, becoming zombie in performance.” Studies in Theatre and Performance 34 (2014): 239.
18 Lakoff, George. Master Metaphor List. Page 146.
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