“OPENLAB Intensive Week” or “The Week I Learnt the Word ‘Norovirus'”

Norovirus_pd_cdc_charlesdhumphrey


The intensive week, so much expected, arrived but a minuscule entity known as norovirus defeated it.

After just 2 days of work I felt extremely bloated after dinner on Wednesday 12 December. What happened after you can deduce by yourselves when you know that norovirus is the technical name given to the winter vomiting bug. The aftermaths took me out of order until last Monday (which means that the open OPENLAB at Agony Art didn’t happen, although it will happen on a next edition in early 2013).

For what I did on the first day of the intensive you can click here to see another post where I talk about it.

I would like to continue here with what I did on the unexpectedly last day of the intensive (Wednesday 12 December).

We had 2 sessions of the intensive:

 

During the first session we started by doing a slow roll down which would allow us to get in our bodies as well as calm down our minds. Help us to be present. A sort of closeform exercise.

After that we decided to take Chrysa Parkinson’s Art Practice as Ecosystem Questionnaire. We decided to do it in couples and following an interview model; i.e. each person would ask to his or her partner the questions and would write down the answers on his or her partner’s notebook. The idea is that each person would have the answers filtered by another person as a way to minimise your own patterns and possibly getting to know yourself from a different side, a side from which you may not have regular access. I also suggested that each person should take the questionnaire on their own without having read the notes take by the partner first a few days after. The idea was for each person to then compare both sets of answers (if you were there during this session: have you been doing your homework? Allow me to joke about this, you know that there isn’t homework and that it’s entirely up to you whether you would like to continue with this exercise but I thought it would be good to remind people about it nonetheless).

 

During the second session I facilitated an exercise I had done before with Lisa Nelson at The Conscious Body Meeting in Université Paris 8 last October.

We first followed the exercises faithfully to the one I had done with Lisa except for one difference: I added one extra step. After we stopped for a mini-break, we continue from that extra step I had added to put into practice exercises on sight. The idea was that, if perception is an action, visual perception and the mechanisms involved in the activity of the visual sense can be practiced and trained, and from that practice we could explore in which ways that work with sight may influence our “performing.”

Lisa Nelson’s exercises use different combinations of moving versus stillness with eyes closed versus eyes open. Together with the different combinations possible during the exercise, Lisa would invite us to become self-aware of what it’s happening. It seems the exercise invites you to become aware of the relationships between intention and action and of your own patterns.

 

Short description of Lisa Nelson exercise:

. Eyes closed / The only instruction is to get physical (this can be understood and interpreted personally) / 5 min.

. Eyes closed / Moving, voluntarily / 3 min. / Whilst doing this asking yourself: “How do I know that this (I’m doing) is moving?”

. Eyes closed / Still, voluntarily / 2 min. / Asking yourself: “How do you know that it is stillness?”

. Alternating between eyes closed whilst moving and eyes open whilst still / Always trying the best you can to keep this combination as a voluntary action / Slowing down the pattern / Speeding up the pattern / Asking yourself: “What’s the order of events? What does happen first? Do I stop moving because I have opened my eyes, or do I open my eyes once I have stopped moving? Do I start moving because I have closed my eyes, or do I close my eyes once I am moving? Does the pattern repeat or is it different each time?”

. At this point I added en extra step or, to be more correct, an extra question: “Bringing the attention to your eyes, what does happen with them when you open them? Can you keep the eyes still? Can you do it at the same time that your body freezes? Pay attention to the motion of the eyeball within the eye socket; pay attention to the motion within the eye at the level of the iris and pupil. If you can’t do that alternatively pay attention of whether the image you perceived as you open the eyes moves or shakes; pay attention of whether the image refocuses once you have open the eyes.”

. Alternating between eyes open whilst moving and eyes closed whilst still / Always trying the best you can to keep this combination as a voluntary action / Slowing down the pattern / Speeding up the pattern / Asking yourself: “What’s the order of events? What does happen first? Do I start moving because I have opened my eyes, or do I open my eyes once I have started moving? Do I stop moving because I have closed my eyes, or do I close my eyes once I have become still? Does the pattern repeats or is it different each time?”

 

Short description of the exercises with vision:

. Openform throughout the exercise

. Become aware of not only that we see with the eyes but on how we see with the eyes: movement of the eyeball in eye socket, movement of head and neck, movement of all the body; movement in the iris and pupil (focusing)

. Chose an object to look at as you move, change to another object

. Binocular focusing: Use your hand to focus on it, can you attend to the objects you see beyond your hand and which are out of focus? Focus in the objects beyond your hand but keep the hand in between, can you attend to the hand out of focus in front of you?

. Binocular focusing: Focusing on a point in space closer to you than the object in front of you. Focusing on a point in space beyond the object in front of you. You can picture in your “mind’s eye” that point to facilitate. Notice your own body (how does your body feels?) as you focus on an object, somewhere on the space closer to you or somewhere on the space beyond the object

. Monocular focusing: Cover one eye with one hand and repeat the exercises on focusing described in the last two points.

 

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… in response to OPENLAB session on Wednesday 12 December 2012

it’s a fine line between grey and black
it’s a fine line between grey and white
it’s a fine line between heat and cold
it’s a fine line between light and dark

 

a fine line between seeing and not
a fine line between resisting and not
a fine line between giving in and not
a fine line between knowing and not
a fine line between asking and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between seeing and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between wanting and not
a fine line between liking and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between being and not
a fine line between having and not
a fine line between feeling and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between thinking and not
a fine line between hurting and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between moving and not
a fine line between obsessing and not
a fine line between being spontaneous and not

 

it’s a fine line between fine lines

Revisiting “On Coldness”

Images

(I meant to post this as a comment to this other post: OPENLAB session on Wednesday, 5th December 2012 — “On Coldness”; I decided to post it separately as it became a very long “comment”).

Cold. It may be hard to believe it but I found myself exploring this idea of coldness again on Tuesday 11 December.

 

There are probably several reasons for this. One reason is that although it was the first day of the OPENLAB intensive week, I found myself on my own in the main studio of Chisenhale which was as cold as it is also big. Another explanation is that, for some reason, I feel attracted to the idea of exploring the limits of the mental, physical and biological capacities of the self.

 

For some reason I found that there is some connection between performing and the states the self enters in such situation at the limit of our capacities.

 

It is maybe paradoxical because, although I don’t know how to defend the following statement, I also find more and more that there are not differences between performing and life, even in cases of ordinary, simple and unassuming life. However, the exceptionality of cases where the body and the mind are brought to their limits makes life explicitly stated and immensely present. There is probably a satisfaction extracted from this obviousness of the extremes that making things bigger than life are experienced as just life.

 

Enough from this. I would like to say a few words about my experience exploring the cold environment, focusing in temperature as a way of mapping both the room and my body and focusing on the idea of how far can I ‘take’ it.

 

On that cold Tuesday I blindfolded myself and I started by doing a Klein Technique bent-over. After that I undressed myself and I explored the room, my body surfaces and cold.

 

Some ideas that kept on coming during the exploration:

 

. Cold/Temperature it is a kind of perception that depends immensely on contrast and comparison. I guess all senses are in a way. The physical and temporal objects of perception are experienced depending on what other objects are contiguously placed to them, both in time (objects perceived just before or after; for example, think of the way you feel your body before and after a massage or a somatic class — You may proprioceptively experience a huge difference but actually if you look at yourself in the mirror the difference is not so obvious) and space (objects perceived side by side; for example, think of visual illusions like this one (the bar in the middle of the image is actually made of one colour). The idea of contrast becomes very quickly very evident during the exploration. This, I think, influences also the following idea.

 

. Cold/Temperature perception is paradoxically both precise and poor. During the exploration I felt like I could start to tell the subtle differences between different ways to perceive temperature from different objects in the room but I also had this sensation that I could not have a judgment about temperature at all. Some examples are:

  1. When touching 2 body parts that had different temperatures (for example the cold hand on the warm torso) was unsettling. First I wouldn’t understand what I was perceiving, then I would perceive that my hand was cold (ouch!) but for a very sharp instant it time, finally I would have a sort of slower and more durable perception that my torso is touching my hand and that the torso is warming it up.

 

  1. Subtleties amongst the vastness of monotonous cold: The air felt unsettling evenly cold until I felt that I could feel the temperature of the light coming through the windows just very so slightly warmer than the rest of the air and giving me an idea of where I was in the room; all surfaces felt unsettling evenly cold until I felt that the temperature of textiles had a different quality even if probably being the same than the temperature of the floor, and until I found the back brick wall which was extremely cold and that it was cover by a crust of emanating very cold air (so I could say the wall was there even without touching it by just staying almost touching it, feeling the cold air emanating, emanation which I had experienced before only with warm air, how strange!).

 

  1. The task was mapping and it became very clear to me that it mapping through temperature was very different to mapping through touch. The mapping in this case was much more contained, not mapping very well actually. The explorations of the space was very shy, almost not happening. Also there was the fact that in the end I wanted to confront the tolerance to cold which made me move little and lie down loads. However, I would try to stay with the task of mapping but even then I would bring the focus towards myself more often than towards the space, and even when exploring the space the motivation would be centred on my own body. The movement would come from different ways of exploring how to “choreograph” the stimulations on the body.

 

  1. I kept on thinking the way of reading temperature could be improved through practice but at the same time the longer it took I couldn’t have a judgment about temperature. It was becoming increasingly confusing: I couldn’t really tell how could my own body was getting. I was able to say that I was getting cold but it wasn’t felt as terrible or painful. It was uncomfortable but no more uncomfortable that wearing a watch for the first time; but the difference is that I know that nothing terrible will happen to me if I continue to wear that watch for the rest of my life whereas I know that sooner or later something will happen to me if I endure coldness being naked whilst lying down on the floor. Sometimes I thought that maybe I wasn’t that cold anymore but then I feel that maybe I’m getting accustomed to it and I can’t really say. The heating was working so, how cold was I really? When I touch my own body I could feel it warm but, how warm was I really?

 

. One hour and 15 minutes after I started I suddenly felt I wanted to stop. I didn’t think it was because of the cold. I didn’t have an urge but I just knew I wanted to stop. I could have continue with the experiment but surprisingly I suddenly saw myself standing up, removing the blindfold and dressing in less than a minute. As soon as I was dressed I suddenly realised that probably I was colder of what at first I believed. Suddenly discomfort was evident. Hypothermia? There were no signs of it and I doubt I was even close to it.

 

I won’t be exploring cold for a while I think. However, I think I have an idea for a piece. In summary, not a bad outcome for two days of exploration.

 

OPENLAB session on Wednesday, 5th December 2012 — “On Coldness”

Cold

Today I was late and I also had to open the space, so we didn’t properly started until at least half an hour after we have planned to.

The theme of todays session was On Coldness.

 

To enter into the session I propose to start by doing some openform as everyone in the session today knew about as we all have done it before (more information about what I mean by openform is coming soon in another post).

As in-put I just shared a few sentences to stimulate our action:

. A paradox: Perceive everything vs. Perceiving just one thing at a time.

. A way of rephrasing it: Perceive things/everything as accessible/available at any given time.

. A quote: “We perceive life only from one point of view. When changing that point of view, our life changes.”

. A way of repharsing it: swap the word life by the any of these words: things, reality, the world…

This makes me thing of the concept in quantic physics that observation changes the results of the experiment. Therefore changing our point of view, our point of observation actually transform not only our experience but the reality of that experience perceived itself, it changes its own matter.

By constantly changing our point of view, i.e. by constantly moving, we are not just changing ourselves, we are changing the world. Therefore action (and perception is included as a kind of action) does not only choreograph our own beings, it does actually choreograph the world too.

Maybe the ultimate instruction would be: “choreograph your own reality.”

After the openform we went into exploring through cold. The inspiration for this exploration came from the fact that the weather forecast for today said it would be a cold day. During the week before the session my preoccupation when thinking about what to do during it was to find ways to help people to stay warm whilst leading the explorations… But then I thought why to fight the cold that was expected to be present instead of confronting it and using it as the subject for exploration.

Then, I remembered something I read in How the Body Shapes the Mind by Shaun Gallagher (2005). Several time in the book Gallagher resorts to the case study of a man who after an infection in the nervous system has lost the senses of proprioception and touch from the neck down, although he still can perceive pain and temperature (as those signals travel through a different neurological pathway). In one experiment they perform with this man, he is blindfolded and he is asked to talk in order to see whether and how he gesticulates in coordination with speech. What made me remember this story wasn’t the fact that in the end this man, who doesn’t have a clue at all of where his body is placed in space or whether he is contact with anything unless he uses vision to know that, did eventually quite well at gesticulating; actually he almost did as good as as any person with intact proprioception and touch even when he was blindfolded. What made me remember this story was the fact that before he started gesticulating he sort of knew where he hands were placed and had an idea about the position of his body. His hands were placed on his lap and he was sitting on a chair, and he was able to know this because he could feel the warmth generated between his hands and his thighs and between the back of his body and the chair. (p. 112).

He was therefore able to “map” his own body and of the objects around him, although precariously, through the reading of surface temperature.

This detail gave me the idea to use the extreme cold and the sources of warmth in the room to “map” that room as well as our own bodies whilst blindfolded during today’s OPENLAB session. The idea was to isolate as far as possible the sensations of temperature from the sensations of touch even if that it’s actually impossible for healthy subjects.

I know the four of us who were in this session: Mafê Toledo, Evangelia Kolyra, Martine Painter and myself, had very different experiences. Maybe it would be interesting to hear a few examples from each of us.

On “Borders,” a film by Manou Koreman

Skin

Yesterday I attended to the screening of Manou Koreman’s film Borders. The film is part of Manou’s indipendent research project within her ‘MA in contemporary dance’ at the London Contemporary Dance School. Manou has been a very active member of OPENLAB from its very beginning and, as she said during the presentation, for her the work we develop in OPENLAB fitted perfectly together with her own practical research for her MA project. For this reason I would like to share with you some of the impressions I had watching her film.

Before the screening started Manou talked very briefly just sharing a quote from Didier Anzieu’s book The Skin Ego:

The skin, the largest and heaviest organ of the body, is an almost inexhaustible subject of research. it combines and connects all of our senses and holds together our organs. Unlike the other sense-organs, skin cannot refuse an impression. My skin serves both as a border and as the point of interaction between me and my environment. 

Black_walnut_bark_detail

It was indeed a film about the skin and about all the subtle possibilities that the sense of touch as one of the main functions of the skin has. As many explined after the film, she felt inspired to create a work about skin and touch whilst working in a coffee shop and having to deal with coffee beans. Whilst having to fill up the coffee grider she would feel she would like to stick her hands into the beans. She found out that the amount of information she could get from this action, once he attended to her sense of touch was so rich that it would become overwhelming.

Borders show us all of this and even more. In Manou’s film the rawness and coldness of the anatomical and fisiological analysis of skin and touch became a pure poetic act. During the film one becomes extremely conscious of the skin as a border, and on the metaphorical skin/border of everything else that sorrounds us. So much so that from the idea of borders integration instead of separation emerges. The film shows the “skins” in nature, the sandy suface of dunes in the beach, the moisted top layer of soil in fields and parks, the crusty bark of trees in the forests and the rippling membrane of water in the sea. From the metaphore a feeling of no border but a continuum of interaction between the self and its environment arrises.

One feels for Manou, who is also the performer in the film. The sinesthetic empathy created is so strong that as one recognises similarities between Manou’s skin and the “skins” of nature one can even empathised with the tactile sensations nature itself may feel.

I am very glad that the frame that OPENLAB generates has given Manou the opportunity to put into practice her own work at the same time that she was following many of the sessions I facilitated during the course of this year. I feel proud of everyone who makes OPENLAB a reality and think that probably Manou felt less lonely during her endeavour and hard work to create the beautiful film that she created. But he also felt that learning to understand and deal with such expanded perception of the sense of touch would be a good skill to develop and bring to her performance practice.

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OPENLAB news: Session on Wed 5 Dec / Intensive 11-14 Dec / Open Session @ Agony Art on Sun 16 Dec

Public_house4openopenlab

Winter seems to have arrived to stay with us like a guest that inconveniently refuses to leave the house and force us to stay awake and talking about uninteresting subjects when all we want to do is lay down and dream in our snug nests.

I have a few updates and news about OPENLAB to warm you up!

. Next session:

Next week on Wednesday 5th December, 9-11 am at Chisenhale Dance Space‘s Small Studio.

It is expected to be a cold day. Bring layers that allow you to stay warm… however, be prepared to confront coldness. Bring something that you can use for blind-folding.

. Intensive week:

The week after next one I have got space on Tuesday 11 and Thursday 13 from 9 am to 1 pm, and on Wednesday 12 and Friday 14 from 10 am to 2 pm (4 hours each day).

The idea is to dived those 4 hours per day in 2 sessions of 1 and 3/4 hours with a 20-30 minutes break in the middle each day.

That will give us a total of 8 sessions. You are all invited to come to any of these sessions and you will be welcome to attend as many session as you would like and are able to do. The idea is to work in different task and themes on each session.

In the end, all the sessions will be happening at Chisenhale Dance Space.

This intensive week will lead to a session open to the audience on Sunday 16 December.

. Open OPENLAB as part of Agony Art:

Whether you are able to join the intensive or not you will be welcome to come and do a session with audience. We will be hosted by Agony Art at Chisenhale Dance Space.

I see our work with OPENLAB as a work on the activity of performing even when the words performing and performance rarely come across during the sessions. However, our work on the states of mind of the here and know and on being present are aiming towards the idea of doing what the action of performing entails.

If we agreed in the fact that to perform requires the presence of both the performers and the audience, it seems natural to me that to do performing, to improve at this skill, we should by necessity do it with an audience (even if just once in a while). We only improve at those skills that we put into action over and over. From this concept comes the idea of opening our OPENLAB.

If you would like to join the session just let me know. Agony Art will happen on Sunday 16 and the evening will start at 7:30pm. We will meet in the lounge of Chisenhale earlier that day  to go through what we are doing during the session from around 3 or 4pm. We will do a sort of warm up from 6 to 6:30 in the Main Studio but the session will not be rehearsed. We will stay honest to the fact that it is a session to which we have invited an audience to witness, support and ponder about.

This is all for now.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Let me know by e-mail (antonio.delafeguedes@gmail.com) if you’re planning to come to any of the sessions or to the session open to the audience. Drop me a line also with any question you may have.

Best,
Antonio