– and, it’s just an imagination
DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.2020.14 | Issue 4 | June 2020
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London
This portfolio gives an insight into my practice-based research exploring how somatic/mindful dance and multimedia collages link to critical thinking about ecologies. It reflects on the process, the difficulties, possibilities and questions that continue to arise when I try to grasp the complexity of ‘nature’ while trusting the embodied knowledge unfolding within dance improvisation and dance scores. The portfolio is a collage that includes parts of the score that I presented as a lecture performance at the Cracking the Established Order conference at De Montfort University in June 2019, critical reflections and various media artefacts that form part of my research. It also proposes to be a score in itself, in order to enable a form of access to the experiential dimension of the live performance and the practice-based research process so to highlight the challenge of sharing such a process in the frame of a journal.
[PROPOSITION TO THE READER:
WHILE READING THIS RESEARCH STATEMENT, LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING SOUNDTRACK]
[ask audience to gather closer, sitting or standing
start moving with the score to attend to that which is unfolding
and explore the first sound: ifff
before continuing to move and speak at the same time
feel that both actions are connected yet autonomous]
if my cells understand the principles of growth and resistance
if my bones are not fixed but constantly adapting
if my vagina bleeds and I feel love
if i am dying every day
Panty-liner and stones, Copyright 2019.
[PROPOSITION FOR THE READER:
PLACE ONE HAND ON YOUR BELLY AND FEEL THE BREATH, LITTLE MOVEMENTS AND VIBRATIONS HAPPENING THERE WHILE READING]
if the bacteria in the human guts communicate with the
central nervous system and the brain,
via the vagus nerv that is encapsulated in the vertebrae of the spine
then I am part of nature
I am curious about the idea of Nature. Written with a capital ’N’, it denotes various functions and histories, and opens up a complex net of concepts of what human beings are and what they are in relation to the environing world. Might these various conceptions also be a matter of scale? Nature is both the blue planet seen from outer space and the micro worlds in the zone where the living being and environing worlds shape each other.
[pause, then go to the wall, lean against it
and feel its resisting potential as a surface to meet
press against wall with upper back
and shoulders, experiment with the affect on my voice]
Thinker Bruno Latour calls this thin layer in which lives
happens on the globe the Critical Zone. He says the concept of
‘critical zone modifies the notion of space that had been enshrined
in the notion of Nature as well as in the older divides
between human and physical geographies.
While space, in earlier times, was what could be
surveyed by a detached human gaze [...], critical zones
define a set of interconnected entities in which the
human multiform actions are everywhere intertwined’ (Latour, 2014: 4/5).
What happens if I read geopolitical concerns from my subjective somatic perspective?
Outdoor research with drawing and collage, Copyright 2019.
Somatic practices know about how scales matters. Somatics is a term coined in the 1970s by practitioner and writer Thomas Hannah, as a way to summarise a variety of techniques situated between bodywork, therapy and dance. Hannah identifies the first-person perception of the body as a key principle of somatics, where sensing the body somatically is to sense movement, and the somatic body is basically experienced as patterns of movement. Learning in a somatic sense draws awareness to the unknown, to embody the not yet conscious areas of those internally felt movements (Hannah, 1986).
In the process of embodying of the unknown, the felt sense of my lungs may morph, the image of the other person’s configurations as bodies may transform fluently, my situatedness in the local place may become tangible, thick, dense. The difference between a not yet conscious and a conscious movement and being is both tiny and seems to have the force to shift planets.
[PROPOSITION FOR THE READER: WHILE READING THIS, SIT DOWN. GENTLY BRING THE ATTENTION TO YOUR SAT BONES AND TRY TO SENSE THEIR SHAPE BY MOVING YOUR PELVIS IN A VERY SMALL, ALMOST NOT TANGIBLE SCALE. THERE IS NO NEED FOR THIS TO BE A COMPLETE OR EFFICIENT EXERCISE, YOU CAN FOLLOW YOUR PLAYFULNESS AND DESIRES. OBSERVE HOW THE PERCEPTION OF YOUR PELVIC AREA CHANGES IN COMPARISON TO THE REST OF YOUR BODY. AND DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH!]
Somatics thereby also emphasise that ‘body, self, and world are inextricably entwined’ (Fraleigh, 2017: 11). The air that fills my lungs, the other beings around me, the bacteria in my guts are part of the impulse giving and receiving processes in this improvisational journey into the unknown world of mindful movements.
Video, movement research with stones and silicon casting, HfG Karlsruhe, Copyright 2019.
[PROPOSITION FOR THE READER: FEEL THE MATERIALITY OF THE DEVICE YOU ARE READING THIS FROM: THE DRYNESS OF THE SHEET OF PAPER, THE LIGHTNESS OF THE SCREEN …]
‘From the microcosmic perspective, plant life and animal life,
including the evolution of humanity, are recent,
passing phenomena within a far older and more fundamental
microbial world. Feeding, moving, mutating, sexually recombining,
photosynthesising, reproducing, overgrowing, precarious,
and energy-expending symbiotic microorganisms preceded
all animals and all plants by at least two billion years’
(Margulis&Sagan, 1997, p.4). Biologist Lynn Margulis’ research
into bacteria and symbiosis had deep implications against
a Neo-Darwinist approach. We are here, today, maybe more
because of symbiosis of microbes than of mutation and competition.
What if all life and matter share the same origins?
Movement research with panty liners and organic material, Copyright 2019.
if I could experience this reality, if I imagine the smallest piling up, branching out,
circling through, holding close, letting loose.
if I imagine microworlds in the folds of the physical self,
of my situation, I view the unfolding out of, folding into.
Philosopher Timothy Morton claims the ‘idea that a view can change the world is deeply rooted in the Romantic period, as is the notion of worldview itself (Weltanschauung). Coming up with a new worldview means dealing with how humans experience their place in the world’ (Morton, 2007: 2). Do I create a romantic way of feeling and perceiving place when I approach geopolitical concerns from my subjective somatic perspective? Often, theory about somatics/dance seem to work on a perception of the world and then call it phenomenology, but maybe it is ‘just’ romanticism. Not philosophy, and not politics. Am I more concerned with the human psyche, after all, with the romantically broken bridge between subject and the world (Morton, 2007: 22)?
But, is romantic illegitimate? Morton goes on to say that ‘aesthetics thus performs a crucial role, establishing ways of feeling and perceiving this place [in the world]’ (Morton, 2007: 2). If the separation between the subject and the world is just a mental concept then there is nothing to be bridged. But still the experience of a separation is reality. Can one work on undoing this separation through embodied practices while always keeping the voice, somewhere somehow saying: what if there is no gap? What if the pain of the separation is rooted within the concept of the gap itself? Meeting the urgency of geopolitics with the practice of time and listening to that which is unfolding, the complexity of nature with the awareness of the beauty of the simple and already given, is not claiming to be a solution. Attending to Nature: be with what is already relating, the obvious microworlds and undercurrents, no need to produce anything.
what if the complexity of what nature is can teach me a dance?
Aligning the body, aligning ideas, is a dynamic folding process.
Panty liners with organic material, wall collage, Laurie Grove Studios London, Copyright 2019.
This dance is not more about life than about death. It may be detached and abstract as well as bittersweet. Happy and grieving. It’s not a dance about pleasure, but it acknowledges the pleasures, desires that intertwine with the sensual dimension of experiencing my body and its situatedness within the environing world. Familiar and unknown. Attending to body as nature: be with what is already relating, the obvious microworlds and undercurrents, no need to produce anything.
[experiment with a theatrical voicing]
it’s just an imagination. TIME FOR IMAGINATION.
What if I attend to already being part of nature? This research, by balancing many voices and complexities, is claiming to be a practice about something that is not (yet) known and to be known anew again and again: our place in the world.
Video, movement research within installation, Goldsmith studios, Copyright 2019.
[PROPOSITION TO THE READER: DO A BODY-SCAN AND IMAGINE ALL THE BACTERIA AS STRANGERS PRESENT RIGHT NOW IN YOUR BODY, FOE EXAMPLE IN YOUR GUTS, ON YOUR SKIN… SPEAK THE FOLLOWING OUT LOUDLY AND FEEL HOW THE VOWELS AND CONSONANTS MOVE IN YOUR MOUTH. IMAGINE THEY WOULD RISE UP FROM YOUR GUT AREA]
[re-align the panty liners and attach them with their adhesive film to the wall while speaking]
then i am part of nature
a nature that has deep earthly roots and a vast sky,
a nature that is a landscape of folded matter,
a nature that is a romantically painful absent paradise,
a nature in which micro plastic and micro organisms mingle,
a nature of ghosts and energies, a precarious nature,
a nature that has never been pure, a lost state of human innocence,
a co-reacted reality.
Fraleigh, S. (ed.) (2017) Back to the Dance Itself: Phenomenologies of the Body in Performance. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Hannah, T. (1986) ‘What Is Somatics?’ Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences 4.
Latour, B. (2014) ‘Some Advantages of the Notion of “Critical Zone” for Geopolitics’, Procedia Earth and Planetary Science 10: 3-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeps.2014.08.002.
Margulis, L and Dorion, S. (1997) Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Morton, T. (2007) Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.