POLLEN : ATMOSPHERES
WORKSHOP CONDUCTED AT THE AALTO SCHOOL OF ARTS, DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE
PORI, FINLAND, 2014
DEPARTMENT OF RT AND RESEARCH, MASTERS DEREE PROGRAM IN VISUAL CULTURE
Video Installation by Raisa Foster
Portraits by Carolina Trigo
Day 1: body 2: objects 3: environment
1—Can One Lead a Good Life in a Bad Life? — Judith Butler, in Radical Philosophy, Adorno Prize Lecture, September 11, 2012. Published Nov/Dec 2012. 2—Dance as a metaphor for Thought— Michael Klien & Steve Valk 3—Choreography as an aesthetics of Change— idem 4—Social Dreaming / Social Choreography— idem With additional fragments from Joseph Beuys', What is Art? (citizen, artist, social sculpture) / And excerpts from Jonathan Burrows' A choreographer’s handbook.
Writings Consisted of Daily writings and a Final essay.
DAY 1: BODY
explore the space. walk around. touch things notice the details of what you see. go slow. walk the space with your eyes shut. follow someone (without the other knowing) become aware of your body and their body as you move: mimic their gestures: position of their limbs, tension in their limbs, your thoughts. (remember these and write them later)
move the other’s body mimic each other poke at each other’s body. touch a part of the body, stay there. mirror each other on the spot.
put the other’s face (mask) on. attach your limbs to each other’s with elastic bands (or ropes) and re-enact B. position yourselves face to face and mirror each other. enact a fall, either by yourself or with / against somebody close your eyes. say what you see (blind spot exercise)
DAY 2: OBJECTS
bring objects that make you feel at “home”
enact “nothing is happening” with an object, a living object (plant) / a non-living object (a bottle)
create a costume with “home” objects. exchange costumes.
everyone comes together to make 1 sculpture, allow that costume to be transferred, re-placed, given to another.
observe each other closely (clothes, under shoes, in between layers etc) take pictures MICRO
go outside, arrange all objects to match the landscape (i.e. stacked up to look like a tree, or curled up to seem like a stone). do the same with your bodies.
Discover the music that occurs in very strong wind. Enact it without sound.
Write a secret a bury it in the forest. Mark the burial site so someone else can find it later. This other will enact your secret (keep it anonymous)
Think of something or someone you don’t know. Write them a message.Action writing: Secrets
write down 2 actions of each category below in a piece of paper: objects
atmospheres put them in 4 buckets (one per category)
pick one of each
form a sentence (action)
perform this in relation to landscape
first perform for your partner
then your partner performs for you
collective performance, switch roles: now you enact your partners sentence, and vice versa.
DAY 3: ENVIRONMENTS
Bring images of "constellations" (i.e. patterns / ecologies)
1. matter (non-human, eg: dirt, stones etc) 2. body and matter (eg: position yourselves under trees, under clouds, stones, branches).
The task is to mirror these pattern compositions and to position your body in relation to these new environments. eg: create a landscape with powder, clusters of matter: dirt, stones ...position yourself in relation to them.
Relate to these landscapes in the following ways: acceptance projection tension resistance
"there's a sense of responsibility in wearing someone else's face."
—excerpt from daily writings.
Student essay (anonymous)
WHOSE LIVES ARE GRIEVABLE, AND WHOSE ARE NOT?
This is going to be awkwardly personal. This might have nothing to do with the given headline, or, maybe it does. This is the only viewpoint I am having and can have right now, observing from the state of mind in this time of my life and it keeps this essay to the course laboratory: experimental workshop within it right now. I'm not even sure if I'm going to return this "essay" or try to write something else that makes some sense after this. I'm kind of in a pre- political phase, everything right now is seen from a very private sphere. Not in the sense of food and shelter, but in the state of mind and the mess in there. And, actually, it all has everything to do with my body, or more detailed how this female mind and body of mine has been taught to be a part of the world. I have been quiet, shy, and I did not want to be on the way of things - and o ́boy, have there been so many things in my childhood until even this point to be on the way of, or better said, not to cause any more trouble on those ways.
So, here we are. My revealed secret went like this: I dream of getting connected with the world. Or something like that, can't remember the exact words, because I gave it to someone else and it became somebody else's secret to reveal. The two secrets I got in return to reveal [because we mixed the secrets and action aphorisms together in a box, by chance I was to have two secrets and one action aphorism while picking three of them all], went: I'm so embarrassed that I can't think of anything and I do love laying on the beach under a hot sunlight while listening to the waves breaking. I can actually relate to both of them. Maybe the first one could even be originally my secret, in some other moment or other me in other dimension than that when I wrote the one I wrote. [I just decided, that I'm not going to be embarrassed about my tendency to be too private among the public. From now on, if I want to cry during the class, that might not be place to do that, but what the heck. Maybe I'll just cry.]
I had this very weird, but also integrative feeling during the course. Also there were moments when I really was not there. It might have something to do with the search I'm going through now, I'm peeling the winter cabbage layer by layer and finding more worms and rot in the way - but somehow, all the bodily actions and texts were somewhat self therapy for me. It all also had so much to do with identity - choosing family pictures to work with, or the objects that make me feel like home, revealing secrets, wearing someone else's faces and being forced to watch your own meanwhile doing the exercises and so on. It all becomes too close to the stuff that I'm anyway going through right now.
For the object that makes me feel like home, I chose quite intuitively in the middle of the night, before going to sleep the usual restless sleep, a plate. It is a piece of series that I bought from a flea market, when I was leaving to other side of the country to work there for a while, or maybe longer. I knew, that it would be stupid to drag that kind of set to the other part of the country - 6 cups, 6 large and small plates, a tea pan and a pot for sugar. But, I just knew I had to do that. Drag it with me. And it also followed me back home. Now, if I'm ever to leave this home to start another one, I already see in that picture forming in my head at least one plate of the set if any of them still are existing. One plate, maybe with some rye bread, gouda cheese and tomato puree on top of it. Now might be the right time to tell the ode I wrote to the plate and the two words I picked to relate feelings to it. Some of it I wrote just after reading it out loud to my class mates and some just a moment ago while I was retyping the text to the computer; they both are now a separable part of the ode.
I know you will be broken one of these days - I'm not good at handling objects like you. But still I will remember you. Because I'm also a little silly about objects; contradictory, even. You reminded me of home, where ever it is, or was, while I was in an environment, that was only a place to spend some time in between things or happenings.
You also remind me of built or false memories. You were not there when I was a child - yet you make me think and long for my childhood. Maybe even that one I actually never had, but have imagined. This, in my head, leads directly to the concept of option and also coincidence and through that to NOW and HERE, where I am remaking the same mistakes or at least actions my parents already made. Luckily I never had children. Nothing is actually going to be fixed before the final judgement falls and lets me forget and forgive, gives me forgetfulness and forgiveness.
Because of the deaths and losses, and also surprises that life has been offering me while I was a minor creature, I have always been too conscious of the choices, about the billion choices, that can lead to very different results and yet have billion and billion sidepaths [of eventually the same result? you never know that and THAT really is the most shaking fact to it], and because of that been thinking over and over about other realities - what if my first father never died and I had never known about my biological father? What kind of human being would I be then? Yes, still hanging in there. And also; it kind of felt so good to reveal those secrets and parts of my head that also the action aphorisms became some kind of revealing, continuing in this text. The action aphorism, that I had in chance comparing to those I was giving might just tell about how many extra words I have been having lately. ---
Stand on a chair to change the perspective.
DAY I A
Try to hang in there. Avoid the panic lurking around the corner. Try to be something else than a human remain. Smile gently to the window while thinking of the snow outside.
DAY I B
Remember to breath while thinking of unthinkable. Feel the cold of the winter while thinking of a lover. Touch the floor with bare mind and go to sleep without hesitation.
DAY II C
Promise to dance at least once a day during a month with a memory of your childhood friend in your head. Read the phase of the moon daily. And remember to pray for a better life. Promise to dance at least once a day without a thought in your head.
DAY II B
The most important thing to remember; speak without thinking. Try and learn to speak without thinking. Then, think what you're going to say. Think it wisely and then let go like you would release a wounded animal that you have nursed until it's ready to continue on its own again. It will come back to you with new approaches. Remember, it is all in the form of a wave. Lay in the snow and make an angel. Don't think Don't hesitate. Let everything come and go in their free will. That's the only way you can reach freedom.
DAY III A
Walk so far that your feet don't have the strength to carry on. Use all the energy to make the space for new one. Feel your sore feet And think of someone who doesn't have the chance to use ones own Use your legs for his or hers behalf
DAY III B
Be someone else for a while. Think of the moment when you were on your weakest, and strongest [They often go hand in hand] Be the animal you would be if you were an animal And eat only light red marshmallows until your stomach doesn't hurt. ---
And yes. My body has been a very unfamiliar instrument for me. I never climbed to trees while I was a child. I learned to ride a bike in a relevantly old age. I never had any balance or strength or agility. But also never really used my body. Didn't realize then that all requires action so you can learn. I've been having to learn that from the zero point as an almost adult. ---
Someone said something about the sexualization of touch; that the touch is - at least in western cultures - nowadays only related or closed to relationships or one night stands. There might be some truth to it and the thought leads me to another situation. Also discussed this with my friend who was having the same certain kind of breathing class with me. That included some touching from the guide, and my friend felt like it was something really awkward. The guide became too close, stepped over some line that did not feel good for her. She's the type of person you kind of avoid hugging, because you know she might not always like it. She likes to pet her pets only. Another friend said in the same workshop, that she would not like it, if somebody would touch her throat. The guide was asking how she was born, did she have any complications or problems. She answered, that she was having umbilical cord around her throat while being born. I don't know if these things really are in relation with each other, but it makes me think, what kind of things can a touch bear within itself - or how different things it can represent to different people, even if the touch is neutral. Touching can mean so many things, even awake memories, good or bad. It can also be a sign of trust. I have to admit, for start it felt really weird to be guided or try to follow a almost total stranger by touch while doing the exercises at the laboratory.
I'm at this moment - the next day I'm writing - pissed. In rage from the bottom of my heart. I've been a good girl and been quiet about stuff, but not going to be that anymore. Now, I'm defending myself. You all can ?&%# off if you like. [Let's not go to details, because details would not be "personal" but "public". But they still have a chance to conciliate me. It's now their choice.] And this is already next day I'm writing. The body I gave this essay, is becoming some kind of diary. Or maybe fragments of diary. That's the choice I made by intuition. I'm not sure if it is the right decision, but at first I decided to be personal, so I'm being it now. Being the choreographer of this essay and my life. But are the fragments "personal" anymore, or does it happen, that I am the only one who has any idea of what I'm writing about? This text and forming its body I like to take as a little experiment, how does this become a writing and what kind of writing does this become. And by experiment I don't necessarily mean something "never seen", huge, something mind-blowing; just, experimenting, or better trying out or testing. Somehow related to that: what I really liked was the thought picked to be part of our materials at laboratory, the one from Joseph Beuys:
Man is not free in many aspects. He is dependent on his social circumstances, but he is free in his thinking, and here is the point of origin of sculpture. For me the formation of the thought is already sculpture. The thought is sculpture.
I don't feel I'm free at thinking, not quite yet. There are too many distractions at the moment. But I'm aiming towards that. To be honest I'm not free at writing either [or might it just be natural consequence of my "not free thinking"]. Right now I'm too much aware of this writing. I can't sculpt my words, because they are not coming freely. I'm too much afraid and starting to look at the content from outside before I have even written any word down. I'm afraid of thinking about someone actually reading this. It feels terrible, and I don't even want to write anymore. Okay, I'll try. But paradoxically I have to stop thinking and start thinking at the same time to continue.
And nothing is coming out now. So I have to take a boat to the island of Bali and the ritual Steven Valk was talking about, the one that Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson have studied in their film Dance and trance in Bali at 1930's. Maybe I have to form my own ritual for those times, "when there is crisis or deep disharmony, when there has been no rain, or when the dead are seen walking thought the village at night." [Michael Klein & Steve Valk. Dance as a methaphor for Thought.]
BECOMING A STRANGER
So, whose lives are grievable and whose are not? As you have read, I can adapt to this question only from a very private, even selfish and self-centered sphere. This is also a very narrow perspective. The amount of my personal grief is not visible to others. It's also something that is really immaterial, that is only in my mind. Is my life grievable? In some sense it is and is not. For me it many times is. What about from outside? For my friends and relatives it sometimes might be, because my grief also affects their lives. But for the passer by on the street it is another thing. They don't see it, or feel it, or they don't care, because they don't know me or have the personal relation to me. And, my griefs, those are the ones, that I have to go through myself, no one can really help me with those. Still I have to go through them to become a functional human being. My point of view is also very western, very much one that doesn't have to deal with hunger or material uncertainty or unfulfilled basic needs.
So, in the larger scale: everybody's lives are grievable. And also no-ones. It also depends on the point of view. Are you on the side of the enemy. Or the defender. Or are you part of the faceless mass or someones daughter. Still I would grieve in either case. But if forced to pick from these two options, I would say that everybody's lives are grievable. I must believe so in order to survive in this life. Still, what would it be like, if one would feel every sorrow in the world? This is the point where we become to defense mechanisms.
For example, through the news - the grief comes always somehow closer, if something happens in relation of our own knowledge. We might feel empathy or get angry, but sorrow and grief is maybe something you have a personal relation to. That's how human beings are built.