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Bad Example: Andrea Bowers

George W. Bush’s quip about his gait – ‘Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called “walking”‘ – was a kind of declaration of war on human gesture. Some two centuries earlier Heinrich von Kleist had a dancer in his short story ‘On The Marionette Theatre’ (1810) expound the theory that human beings are incapable of the ‘natural grace’ of a puppet: ‘Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness.’ We might speculate where George Bush would fall on that graduated scale; but he is the product of an epoch in which kinesics have increasingly displaced rhetoric and made an anthropologist of every television viewer. It is well over a century since Gilles de la Tourette published his Clinical and Physiological Studies on the Gait (1886), and no one should imagine by now that there is anything straightforward about putting one foot in front of another – not least for a politician. As Giorgio Agamben puts it: ‘An age that has lost its gestures is, for this reason, obsessed by them.’