Overview: Chorais a metaphysical creative space from which concepts manifest via their movement in and through said space. Given the creative possibilities it opens, digital space serves as the modern chora. Keywords: Chora, invention, medium, digital platform, digital space, remix, digital chora, performing platforms, composing practices, embodied experience, punctum, studium
Definitions The chora is an elusive concept that defies explanation. As best stated by Marc Santos and Ella Browning, “The chora lies outside manifestation, signification, or comprehension… it represents that which escapes all attempts at mastery, and thus insists upon a vitalist, enigmatic, non-space resistant to codification and control as critical to invention” (Santos and Browning 6). Chora is a space of creation and creativity from which concepts manifest via their movement in and through that space.
Historic Foundations/Theoretic Grounding Although so abstract and convoluted a concept that few have adequately succeeded in defining its existence or qualities, the idea of chora initially came to fruition in Plato’s Timaeus in which the title character explains the genesis of the universe. Chora (or Khôra: Greek for “space”), as Plato describes it, is separate from matter or physical location, but is rather an all-encompassing “receptacle” through and in which all things come into being and pass through into subsistence. Eleonora Mingarelli breaks down this idea into three components: the chora as a continuum, as a space in which things come into being, and as a medium, “the physical middle ground between the original forms and the copies” (83-84). She later clarifies, “Yet the chora is neither matter nor substance, but rather a sort of proto-matter, the primordial reality that allows matter to appear” (Mingarelli 88). In Timaeus, Plato asserts that the chora has no physical place or form but has a significant function that coincides with being and becoming: “Timaeus does not use any descriptive word that can suitably be translated as ‘matter’ or ‘material’; he does, however, use the word, ‘space’ (chôra). Its function of providing a ‘seat’ (hedra) reinforces the conception that its role is to provide a spatial location for the things that enter it and disappear from it” (Zeyl and Sattler). Though the chora is not a part of the material world, Plato uses metaphor to give substance to the chora such as a mother’s womb being the “receptacle” of the “copy” of the father (Watson 29). By presenting this physical image of a metaphysical concept, Plato explains that the seed of the father passes through the mother’s womb in order to create something new that will then pass out of the “space” or “chora” of the womb. Chora, then, is a metaphysical, nurturing place of creation.
Application/Praxis With the rise of digital platforms in the field of rhetoric, the metaphysical concept of chora has come to a point of reconceptualization. The elusive “receptacle” of Plato’s conception can be traded for all digital space as it serves, in a less metaphysical way, all the purposes of “the original,” namely, the creation of new meaning. Sarah Arroyo’s YouTube videos, such as “The Dancing Floor” and “The Choric Swipe,” inhabit this space. In her videos, she explores newfound digital space as the modern chora through which information moves and passes to become something entirely new, only to then be remixed, remade into something else and spread across the world. In both videos, she claims, “One’s particular location is not as important as one’s continual movement and lines of flight” (Arroyo). In “The Choric Swipe,” Arroyo emphasizes the importance of not limiting ourselves in the digital chora by succumbing to the notion of digital space as a “table,” a static location on which to “swipe,” organize, and assemble. She warns, “When swiping is limited to the table, it is still static, and the body focuses in on the device instead of looking through to the multiple possibilities that emerge” (Arroyo). If inventors focus attention to the chora of digital space, as opposed to the topos of the device, we can encounter potential that “releases writing from interfaces reliant on letters and symbols and opens up symbiotic relationships between writing, the body, and performative platforms” (Arroyo). Doing so opens creative space and enables composingpractices that better represent embodied experience.
Arroyo enacts her own philosophies in the publishing of her videos which are performances themselves. She assembles countless images, both moving and static, flashes words and quotations, incorporates music, and narrates throughout, using all of these instruments to orchestrate a new symphony of meaning. She then publishes her performances on a viewing platform that facilitates others’ interactions with them. The movement of new creations through this space produces multiple “punctums,” which Arroyo describes in her video, “The Dancing Floor,” where she contrasts this concept with that of “studium.” According to Arroyo, “studium” is the idea of “arriving at stasis,” understanding the material, and accepting the information as a natural part of culture. “Punctum,” on the other hand, pierces through that equilibrium and disrupts understanding, causing undefinable reactions. These wounds are to be celebrated as opportunities to rethink the accepted knowledge, to agitate stasis and create new meaning with a clearer view of reality as these points of puncture move us (Alaei and Arroyo). Thus, the digital chora has far surpassed its non-digital predecessor in utility and impact.
Implications The digital realm has given birth to a new chora. Once an abstract dimension without form, the new, digital chora thrives, giving rise to the conception of new creations every second and providing an ever-expanding universe in which an infinite number of punctures can occur.
Arroyo, Sarah. “The Choric Swipe.” YouTube, 18 May 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCjTHU_IzSE.
Arroyo, Sarah, and Bahareh Alaei. “The Dancing Floor.” YouTube, 4 Jan. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQDtOMdEHv4.
Mingarelli, Eleonora. "Chora and Identity: Whitehead's Re-Appropriation of Plato's Receptacle." Process Studies, vol. 44, no. 1, 2015, pp. 83-101. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5840/process20154415.
Santos, Marc C., and Ella R. Browning. “Maira Kalman and/as Choric Invention.” Enculturation, 8 Dec. 2014, enculturation.net/kalman-choric-invention.
Watson, Janell. "The Urban Chora, from Pre-Ancient Athens to Postmodern Paris." China Media Research, no. 4, 2017, p. 28. EBSCOhost, login.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/login?auth=shibb&url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.512288889&site=eds-live&scope=site.