LEARNING OBJECTIVES "ARTICULATING BODY AWARENESS"

As a (future interdisciplinary) artist, one develops a specific practice; a practice that is specific to one’s individual work, consisting of research, methodology, style, materials, social relations, performances, presentations, expressions and so on. These practices are not isolated from our surroundings, but they are situated in a certain context. Therefore, as artists, we are social beings whose knowledge and skills depends on the way in which we engage with our environments. Hence, our work, processes, thoughts, sensitivities and ideas should not be considered as isolated, but as highly situated. Therefore, we can benefit from becoming aware of our specific way of engaging with the world. This training works with the assumption that the way in which we move through, relate to and attune ourselves to our environment depends on the way in which we use our body. When performing our (artistic) practices, we always use our bodies (in certain ways and in others not). Hence, in order to sensitize and attune ourselves to our practice’s needs, we train our body awareness. 

 

In these sessions we will work with Body Awareness in several ways. 

1.     Practical (movement and sensitivity) classes that teach and train the students’ body awareness

2.     Explorations of how what is learned in these classes can be articulated, documented or expressed

3.     An individual research in which each students explores and reflects on the role of their own body in their work as a (future) artist and the body techniques that can help to develop these practices further. 

 

During the sessions we will explore our body as an “instrument”. Each student, each artist, each researcher is, has and does a unique instrument with which they sense, attune to and relate to the world. Our bodies are our means through which we gather and process information, move through our environments and produce work. In short: not only is our body always there with us; it is the very medium we do our work with. Therefore, we will work on becoming aware of our instrument, learning about its specificities, how we attune it to and how it is affected by our surroundings. We work on “calibrating” our instrument to the practices we perform, the spaces we move through and the contexts we work in. 

 

Because these sessions combine bodywork with documentation and reflection, students develop both intuitive and sensitive as well as analytical and reflective skills. 

 

We will be dealing with questions such as: 

- What role do our bodies play in our work (e.g. as (future) artists)?

- What role do other bodies play in our work? 

- How do we situate or position ourselves/our bodies in a certain environment? 

- How do we attune our bodies to other bodies or specific situations or contexts? 

- What are ways to attend to our surroundings and how do we (distribute our) focus? 

- How do we receive, gather and process information? 

- How do our bodies react to certain situations? 

- How do we relate to others? 

- How do we connect? 

- In what ways are we sensitive? 

- In what ways are we intuitive?  

- How do our instruments work and what exactly do they do? 

- What kind of instrument does our work or a specific context ask for and how can we calibrate our bodies in a way that they become such an instrument? 

- How can we attune our work and our bodies in a functional as well as healthy way?  

 

We become aware of and learn about:

- personal patterns and styles of using our body 

- positioning and situating

- attention and focus

- reacting and acting

- improvising and intuition 

- connecting and relating

- sensitizing and attuning

 

Sessions consist of exercises and techniques from different methods such as: 

- physical theatre/dance

- action theatre

- viewpoints

- yoga/meditation/mindfulness

- somatic movement

- body-mind coaching

- Laban Movement Analyses

- Feldenkrais, Ideokinesis 

 

Besides that, we work on reflecting and articulating body awareness, building on the idea that finding words or other (e.g. visual) means to articulate what we perceive with our senses, helps to become even more sensitive (think of a wine taster who, by learning words for what she senses, learns to taste even more nuanced tastes). We will therefore practice documentation and teaching each other. Furthermore, while working on registering, documenting, articulating and presenting what bodies do, we work on making embodied and tacit forms of knowledge explicit (in order to enable exchange with other “wine-tasters” and establish ourselves within a “wine-tasting community”). 

We alternate practice-based classes with classes that focus on reflection, documentation, articulation. 

09-03-2021 "Opening up the Blackbox"

In this exercise, we are going to explore different imaginations of the body. We will explore how different ways of imagining our body can make us attend to, feel, experience and become aware of our body in different ways. Some of these ways of imagining your body may be very familiar to you. Other might be very strange. Our historical, cultural and social background may have taught us to imagine and experience our bodies in certain ways, and others not. Feeling our body is not natural, but depends on the specificities of our social-material surroundings. Yet some ways of feeling our bodies may seem natural to us, while others do not, because we are used to practicing them. By using different imaginations we become aware of a wide spectrum of ways in which we can “do” our body and what part of this spectrum we use (on a daily basis or within our artistic or research practices) and what ways of doing our body we do not do. 

Duration: 1 hour 

Location: inside 

Preparation: Don't use headphones for this audio exercise as they may limit free movement. Make sure you have enough (safe) space to move. We start with slow movements on the floor, so make sure you stay warm. You may use a mat of blanket on the floor to begin with. Later movements will be more active and distributed in space. 

Documentation: After the exercise: take at least 10 minutes to document about your experiences, what you became aware of or what you learned about the way you do your body.

References, sources: 

Bogart, A. & Landau, T. (2005). The viewpoints Book. A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition. New York: Theatre Communication Group

Newlove, J. & Dably, J. (2004). Laban for all. New York: Routledge

Olsen, A. (2004). Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy. University Press of New England, Hanover and London

Zaporah, R. (1995). Action Theater: The Improvisation of Presence. North Atlantic Books 

Download
Opening the black box.m4a
MP4 Video/Audio File 27.0 MB

23-03-2021 "Space - Outside the instrument"

Duration: more or less one hour

Location: outside / the street 

Preparation: Bring headphones so you can listen to the audio exercise while walking. Bring a notebook. Bring a face mask.

Documentation: You are documenting during your walk. You can use the document that you can download below. 

References, sources: 

Bogart, A. & Landau, T. (2005). The viewpoints Book. A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition. New York: Theatre Communication Group

Newlove, J. & Dably, J. (2004). Laban for all. New York: Routledge

Download
Walk-space.mp3
MP3 Audio File 23.8 MB
Download
Use this worksheet to make your documentations or as a tool to remember the different aspects of this exercise.
space_worksheet.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 10.7 KB

30-03-2021 "Outside the instrument - Reflection & Documentation"

Please listen to the episode “Dispatch 6: Strange Times” of the podcast Radio Lab. The part that is of relevance for this assignment (the first part of the episode) takes about 20 minutes. 

 

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/dispatch-6-strange-times

 

Andrea Pruisers directs the Corona Virus Anti-Viral Research Program. In this podcast, she beautifully illustrates the kind of preparations, care, movements, attentiveness, mindfulness, feelings and thoughts that are at work when she is working in the lab. 

Try to illustrate your working process as an artist in a similar way. Although obviously working on your artistic research is quite different from working in the anti-viral research-lab (among others things because this kind of work is very protocol driven and your work probably not so much), for this assignment you will attend to the process with the same kind of precision. Hence, even though every step of your work is not as methodically set out for you as the work described in the podcast, as a thought experiment you pretend that it is, as a means to create body awareness in relation to your artistic (research) work.

Imagine a typical research day and attend to: 

 

-       What and how you prepare before starting your work 

-       The intentionality with which you do everything

-       How you move

-       Your mental state

-       Your concerns 

-       The order in which you do things 

-       The qualities of your movements and bodily tensions

-       Your mental state and headspace

-       How you are aware of things that happen around you

-       The way you relate to space 

-       The way you relate to objects around you 

-       The way you relate to other bodies around you

-       The way you relate to the objects and materials you touch, move around, manipulate or handle. 

-       Your thoughts and feelings

-       Your focus 

-       The way you are present

-       Your sense of time

-       Anything else that stood out for you when listening to the podcast

06-04-2021 "attuning"

Story 1 

Hiroyuki Noguchi (2004) describes traditional Japanese culture, perception of the body and sensitivity, by explaining the Japanese use of colour. Traditionally, in Japan a material was coloured in such a way that the colour was not painted onto the surface, but the material absorbed the colour. Colouring a material meant that the material incorporated colour. In the same way, my dance teacher Yoshito Ohno explained to me in his studio in Yokohama, “in the West, you dance to music. This way the music remains on the surface. Here, the music enters the body and so the movement comes from inside the body”. According to Noguchi, this “inviting” or “welcoming” state of a body has been the “essence of the idea of Nature held by Japan’s culture” The inside and the outside become one. And boundaries between inside and outside get blurred. 

 

What happens inside the body and what happens outside the body may not always be so easily defined. 

Story 2 

In “Embodied Action, Enacted Bodies: The Example of Hypoglycemia”, Annemarie Mol and John Law, show how bodies with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may expand beyond the “body-proper”. Their informant Miriam knows how to feel a “hypo” coming (sweating, shivering or an overall sense of discomfort) and knows that eating an apple may prevent this. Sometimes however, Miriam’s husband feels her hypo coming before she does: “Then he looks at me and says ‘Don’t you think you’d better eat something?’ Or he doesn’t even look, but he gets it from how I’m doing. I get irritated in a particular way, or unfriendly. And he knows where I’m at, what’s happening. And usually he’s right.” 

Miriam’s husband feels what is happening in Miriam’s body, because she “excorporates” some of her body’s actions beyond her body’s skin. 

 

While incorporating parts of our environment, we also excorporate to our surroundings. 

Story 3 

Maya is a haptotherapist. Through touch, she helps her client – Nicky who is lying on her belly on a massage table – to connect to her body. She asks: “can you feel my hand on your back”. Nicky confirms. Maya goes on: “do you feel only my hand, or can you also feel the part of your back my hand is touching”. “Only your hand”, Nicky replies. Maya invites Nicky to try to also feel her back. After a while, she says, “yes very good”, apparently feeling that Nicky started to feel something else than before. “Now, also feel your belly touching the table.” Again, after a while she senses some progress, guiding Nicky one step further by asking her to feel “the entire area between my hand and the massage table”. 

 

After practicing this for a while, Maya asks: “Now that you feel your body, can you still feel my hand?” Nicky replies that indeed, she had been so focused on the inside of her body now, that she forgot that Maya’s hand was still there. Together, they work on making Nicky feel both at the same time, so that she can be in connection with her own body, without losing the awareness of her surroundings. Maya instructs Nicky: “see if you can try to not just feel my hand, but my entire arm”.

 

Again, after a while Nicky seems to succeed and Maya continues to guide Nicky through feeling more and more of Maya’s body. After a while, she reminds Nicky: “can you still feel your own body now”? 

Working on this dual attentiveness, Maya constantly feels and invites Nicky to feel beyond the boundaries of her individual body and to be aware of the inside, the outside and how they interrelate and interexchange. 

 

Our body-boundaries may be constantly changing, shifting or (at least semi-) permeable. Sometimes we may experience that what feels as our body is not just what happens inside our skin. And sometimes we may feel what happens inside another person’s skin. 

Story 4 

Butoh practice dairy, Tokyo februari 2013

Yokio Waguri shows us a painting from Hijikata Tatsumi’s (Butoh dance’s founder) notebook. It basically shows some flowers at the bottom and a yellow plane that, towards the top, dissolves more and more into small particles. Into a yellow grain. It is about pollen. About losing outline or shape, he explains. Waguri talks us through this dance, the dance of pollen. 

 

I walk. The air around me is filled with pollen. As I walk further, I breathe in the pollen through my nose. I also open my mouth and feel how the pollen enter my body. There is pollen in my eyes, in my ears. My body becomes dry inside. It feels extremely light. My mouth is sticky and it feels as though my lungs are filled with pollen. My skin changes. Or disappears, rather. I start to lose the outline of my body; to become one with the space around me. 

 

We practice this a second time. Now, at the point we stopped the last time, Waguri says that the air becomes wet. Walking forward extremely slowly again, I feel how the pollen become sticky and how they start to settle. The pollen are slowly resembling a kind of shape again. For a moment there, I think that my skin returns, that I will soon possess my outline again. But then the wind comes and the pollen are taken away. I am taken away and turn into smoke, or damp. I have no shape. I am inside and outside at the same time. 

 

Depending on the way we attend and attune to our body and its surroundings, we can shift our body boundaries. Can you think of situations, in which your body boundaries shifted, changed, became permeable or maybe disappeared altogether? 

References:

Mol, A. & Law, J. (2004). Embodied Action, Enacted Bodies: the Example of Hypoglycaemia. Body & Society, 10, 43-62

Noguchi, H. (2004). The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement. International Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2, 8-24 

11-05-2021 Being Present

Duration: more or less one hour

Location: outside / the street - find a place where there are other people!

Preparation: Bring headphones and a notebook. 

Documentation: You are documenting during your walk. 

References, sources: 

Newlove, J. & Dably, J. (2004). Laban for all. New York: Routledge

Download
Being_present.mp3
MP3 Audio File 18.1 MB