Week 45: 5-11 November 2018
Resting Places for Potential Body Parts
It was a strange experience to be in a dance studio again (it has been a while). My first idea was to explore the notion of touch while being alone. So how the floor and walls make contact with my body: how they support my body. How I can rest in the floor, in the walls, to find comfort. So after I installed myself in the studio, the first thing I did was to lie on the floor. This was in fact too comfortable since I relaxed entirely and felt no need to move any more. The comfort of the floor resulted in my body entirely surrending to stillness.
I forced myself out of this comfortable stillness (it felt as if I was not spending my time in fruitful way). But maybe it would have been good to sustain and nurture the stillness a bit more. To completely surrender to the floor, giving over entirely, for as long as possible. Would it be possible to surrender to the floor for a couple of hours? For a day? For a week? In between I would probably fall asleep, or move between different states of consciousness. A few hours, yes, but a whole day would already become problematic. First because too much stillness would create discomfort too. Second, because all kind of other bodily needs would come to my attention too (feeling hungry, thirsty, needing to go the toilet). And most importantly, the stillness would require a great deal of mental effort and I guess I am too restless and impatient for that.
Another strategy: to remove myself as much as possible from the floor by using objects that support my weight and guide me into gravity. The studio was full of chairs so I decided to use them. First, very comfortably. Using different chairs for different body parts; which was still an easy job to do. Then I slowly started to remove chairs and I ended up with two chairs: one to support my head, the other one to support my feet. I put the chairs closely to each other and then I slowly created more distance between the chairs by using my arms and legs, until I reached the point where only my head and my feet (and a bit of my legs) were supported by chairs. It was no longer comfortable. My feet were still providing me quite some support since I used the friction between the back of the chair and my feet to keep my body stable. I felt a growing pain in my upper back and also I was afraid that the chairs would be pushed outside by my weight and I would collapse to the floor.
I used the resistance between the chair and my feet as a way to stabilize my point. Contact point = (also) a point through which one can resist forces (such as gravity and weight).
Also here I had the idea that I could have pushed it a bit more. To remain longer in the pose: to feel which body parts were craving for support the most. If I would have to say it now, I would say that my upper body needed the most support.
Week 46 (12-18 November 2018) and Week 47 (19-25 november 2018)
Every time I am in the studio I feel so restless, due to the felt necessity to produce something. Even in the studio I am a slave of my own machine, movements should always produce something…a new movement, an idea, an insight, so that I can go home and say ‘I really had a fruitful day’.
It is difficult to enjoy. I find it difficult to surrender myself over to time.
Okay, so what did I do? I worked on some material that I collected last week, specifically on the assignment to remove myself as much as possible from the floor by using objects that support my weight and guide me into gravity. Again I used chairs. This time I felt a bit more control, I was able to suspend the movements, to hold myself longer in positions where I felt hardly any support from the chairs. At some point (when my feet was supported by one chair and my head by another chair) I felt that I could go on for ages. Different from last week was also my attention. I was much more aware of my focus, first on the wall, then on my feet, then the ceiling and eventually the floor. Was it because the touch with the chairs felt more comfortable? Did I have more ‘space’ to guide my attention outside, to the environment?
After a few rounds, I was quite satisfied with this experiment and I felt no need to explore it any further.
At home I already thought of other things to work on – in relation to touch. One is to explore the notion of ‘leaving traces of touch’. I realized that I had been working in the studio, but no traces of my body-in-touch (well except on a microscopic level) would be found there. I touch the floor, the walls, with my whole body, with parts of my body, but all of that remains invisible. There are no traces. I want to think of a strategy where the traces of my body touching the space become visible. The work of Nancy Spero might be a source here. Using paint or another substance that make the movements of touch visible. (I am not interested in something static, but something that can capture the dynamics of touch, to build up layers of touch, preferably whole body touch, not only using the hands because that seems the most obvious thing to do). I don’t yet have a solution, so I will do some small experiments at home. To be continued.
I have the idea to make a short ‘touch lecture’, a studio performance and talk on touch.
Another idea: to make a connection map between my body and the space (to visualize possible contact points). For example, to attach a rope to different body parts and to connect them to the space. I am not sure yet about this idea.
Finally, I worked on ‘the floor is lava’, this game where you are not allowed to touch the floor. I placed all kinds of objects in space and then I moved through space without touching the floor. I felt clumsy and old to be honest, and stupid too. Maybe you also need the excitement of other people, in outside/daily environments, doing it alone seemed a bit awkward.
Week 50 (10-16th of December 2018)
In the Theatre of the Conservatory of Amsterdam
A slight change of plan, because of several reasons but mainly time pressure and the fact that I am working alone, I put ‘the touch experiment’ aside for a moment and concentrate on intensity and vitality affects.
So I want to work on transformations, I specifically want to re-enact three dance play events of my daughter: the hotel dance, the dance with a blanket, and the spontaneous dance in our living room. The aim is to return to the initially felt intensities/affects that were once present in these three dance play events, in a few improvisational sessions. I want to examine concepts such as energy, affects, intensities and aliveness that I find evident in the three play dance events. I believe these affects and intensities give rise to transformative powers, ways of becoming that create openings and passages through which I re-engage and re-connect with once felt intensities. The photographs serve as an entrance point. I take the material to the studio and try to re-enact the playful dance event. The aim is to capture the intensities/forces/energies/affects that were once produced and felt by my daughter.
This week I take the dance with blankets as a starting point. In this dance, Lisa uses two blankets to transform in different animals: a bird, a fish, a beaver and a mole (see the post on blanket). I use these different animals as a framework.
The blankets help me in becoming animal. I guess the space works too. I am not in a studio but in a theatre space and the light, black curtains help me to create a black box in which the animal can be released. As a result, I am more expressive, at some point I even feel that I return to dance pioneers such as Isobar Duncan, Martha Graham and Kurt Jooss through this expressive powers – so that I do not only re-enact the play dance of Lisa but also some part of history. I exaggerate my gestures, sometimes even ritual movements take over, so that energy fills the space and the animal
I notice that it is important that my head (read: face) is covered by the blanket. It makes me less human, less of a personality, and more an organism.
Steve Paxton refers to the animal body as the presence being underlying the socialised self. “Ones animal” is a physical intelligence composed of movement patterns and reflexes, both inherited and learned, that form our ability to energetically meet the environment (in Lepkoff, 1998).
To become, writes Deleuze, ―is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernibility, or indifferentiation where one can no longer be distinguished from the animal (Beaulieu, 2011, p.74). he becoming animal is a process that is fueled by desire, by a longing for proximity and sharing (Brown, 2007). It’s the ability to participate in the other. In otherness. Becoming animal is a bodily experience: we sense the presence of the animal, we use our embodied sensitivity to creatively engage with the animal. We enter into a relationship that consists of movements and rests. Becoming animal is not a thinking of the animal, but a sensing of the animal.