An OPENLAB intensive week: A tiny odyssey in February (18 to 22 February 2013).


©Photo by Patrick Beelaert




Four hours of warmth within a cold week

I attended Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s OPENLAB, both of them very different to each other. But the space was different and the group of people was different, so that makes sense. On Tuesday’s OPENLAB I very much enjoyed the topic and the tasks through which we explored that. It gave me ideas for things I am currently working on. Next day I’d rather have had more time, or maybe more interaction with the rest of the group – we stopped by the time I started feeling getting into it. In general, I find OpenLab very inspiring, but because there are “good” and “bad” days, depending on the circumstances, group and, of course, our personal mood, it is best if one is able to attend it on a regular basis so that they get the most out of it. So, great that Antonio managed to have an intensive week and us such a gift!

OPENLAB Intensive Week 2013: Monday 18 February — A take-away session.

This track contains a guided OPENLAB session meant to happen anytime on Monday 18 of February. Of course, you are free to download it (see link above) and follow the instructions at any other time, or even repeat it as many times as you would like. Please chose a space indoors or outdoors that you think is both safe and comfortable, and both for yourself as well as for other people who may be there. The key is in the idea of respect. Respect yourself. Respect the others. However, you may want to challenge your comfort zone… still there is no reason to force yourself into situations that are not entirely comfortable.

Apart from that, the choice of location is entirely up to you. This is your way expressing what you may be interested in exploring, which environment you think you would like inhabit. You may want to be in an environment that is cosy and tranquil, or go into the wildness of full of stimuli.

Get ready! If you chose an environment without internet access, you may want to download first the track and move to that space afterwards bringing the song with you in an mp3 player or similar.

Remember to thing about things you may need: warm clothes, a person who takes responsibility of your possessions or of your safety, food… I don’t think you will need any special thing. The instructions are vague recommendations and you will be able to deal with them in your own. You can interpret them the best way they suit you also considering what are the needs of the moment and of the space you have chosen. So for example, not having possessions with you or having someone else with you if you do it outside may give you more possibilities for explorations, and maybe you could do it together even.

You don’t need to listen to it before you are going to take the session.

Just find your way around things!

You also can download the track from WeTransfer by following this link:

(This link will expire by 1 March 2013.)



Riddles of inner and outer in public: thoughts from OPENLAB’s session in Anthony Gormley’s Model Exhibition

The exploration inside the White Cube gallery was a puzzle, with clues everywhere.  The puzzle was how to stay in an open state of being present while being in a context that was not usual for this task, the more usual being inside of a dance studio or on a performance stage.  Something that we all talked about together before entering, was the intention to explore what we do in an OpenLab session and enjoy it without being ‘kicked out of the gallery’.

Inside the gallery, it became a riddle.  Each time I focused on what I was internally sensing in the moment, there was a riddle of how the sensation could seep outward into the external space…  I found the sculptures really helpful…  They encouraged me to let movement happen – starting with looking around at the steel sculptures dotted around the gallery rooms, browsing between them, coming close to touching them, listening to the sounds of the people in the gallery, noticing my pedestrian movements against gravity.

The last installation room was a big surprise.  I moved around what felt like a giant version of the sculptures I’d seen in the other rooms.  I almost missed the ultimate part which was the entrance into the sculpture!  Somehow I noticed some people walking around the back of the sculpture so I walked around the corner, suddenly entering the sculpture itself.
The spaces inside of the installation were different heights, some totally pitch black.  At first, I felt unwillingly to respond other than functionally, moving through the pathways of the installation sometimes crawling through a low tunnel or other times turning a corner toward the light.
As I got more comfortable with the space I enjoyed playing with which senses I used to make the choice of where and how I moved.  Sometimes I found touch, or the sound of where others hit the steel walls far away giving me information on what was possible in this space.  I was also aware of my ‘sense’ of comfort and fear, which impacted my choices and sensations.  While suddenly encountering strangers in pitch black rooms by touch or seeing them in a lit space, I was affected by a ‘sense’ of social ettiquete- a voice in my head telling me, ‘be aware not to annoy strangers, try not to scare them’.  Gradually I felt my boundaries loosen and expand as time went on, and strangers around me seemed to accept our evolving language of actions and movements.  As it went on, I felt increasingly freer to express outwardly into my kinesphere what I felt internally while the public watched and accepted us dancers as ‘doing our own business’.
Jan Lee

Experiencing ‘Model’

Here is my reflection on the last week’s OPENLAB session (7th February), which took place at White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey during Antony Gormley’s exhibition.

Our main focus was on ‘differences/similarities between real life and performance mode’.

To start with, I decided to focus on how my body-mind would respond to this new experience.  I noticed how my actions, focus, and presence changed each time I entered Model, the installation work which gave its name to the whole exhibition.

1st time: I was on my own, followed by two other visitors.  I waited for them to enter Model as I was quite scared of the darkness.  Not really my favorite thing to be in small dark places.  In that first time, my desire was to find out what was there.  That first time was the opportunity for me to meet the new circumstances, to adapt in the space, to get to know it, to see how I can move in it, to discover its open, safe, and comfortable areas and the close, dark and less comfortable ones, to get an understanding of the passages and the illusions that low light can create, to overcome my fears.  I was walking carefully, reaching out with my hands so I can touch the surfaces around me.  The excitement was always present with every new discovery and was enhanced by the sense of achievement every time I managed to pass through a small corridor overcoming my fear.  At the end of the last box – or what I thought at that time that was the last – there was another entrance, perhaps that was the last one or maybe there were more corridors to follow.  Making the connection that this should be the end of South Gallery II where Model was installed, I understood that this room was indeed the last one.  However, I did not enter.  I couldn’t do that on my own. I decided to leave.

2nd time: I enter again alone – the rest of the group is not there yet – but this time there are some other visitors and I know where I am going.  There is the sense of familiarity that makes me feel more comfortable.  I know the space and I want to know it even better.  I stand in different locations and observe from various angles the landscapes that are created by the edges, the surfaces, the light, the lack of light, the shadows.  Awkward to think that Model is meant to be the analogy of the interior of the human body.  And still it makes sense to me.  These soulless cold steel boxes suddenly become alive when people passing through, bending, leaning, talking and laughing complete the composition in the most fascinating and essential way.  I feel as if I am in another world, a world where people come to discover a new life.  The images are quite cinematic.  I sit there for a while, close to a surface in almost complete darkness and try to draw the scenery that rises in front of me.  Blind drawing really as I could not see the paper, but it was interesting to do it as a kinaesthetic experience.  And it was also very interesting to see that some people where noticing that I was there and some others not.

3rd time: The OPENLAB group is here.  We leave our jackets and bags in the box office, and this makes me feel different than the rest of the visitors.  As if we really have to move in a different, more performative way.  I was trying not to attract the eyes, to behave as everyone else.  And it was great when I felt I did so.  I was also trying to see if I can attract the eyes just by being as everyone else.  Back in the Model, there are even more visitors.  This time I feel experienced as I feel I already passed the stages of adaptation.  I am more relaxed, and I also feel the safety that friendship offers.  I can give bigger challenges to myself now.  The space is quite populated.  This makes the exploration even more exciting.  It feels like a playground.  First thing this time is to go straight to the dark room which represents the head.  Pitch dark in there but I don’t mind it.  I know that nothing bad can happen nothing can go wrong.  The darkness ends up being my best friend.  I feel free to do anything without anyone knowing apart from the people being in that room, who could not see a thing but they could sense and touch.

And that was the time that the main focus of that session came to mind – ‘perform’. ‘No, that is not performing for me.  I’m not performing now.’ I thought.  I had the freedom to move however I felt, it was almost like dancing, but it was not performing.  I was not presenting anything to anyone.  It was just an expression towards myself or towards unknown invisible powers but not towards specific spectators.  The word ‘performance’ seems to have a specific meaning for me.  It is related to being aware of being seen.  To perform declares in a way the embodied communication with an-other.  I understand performance as a situation where something is made available and perceptible to a witness in a live situation.  And perhaps this has to do also with the meaning of this word in Greek. ‘Parastasis’ (παράστασις) in general is ‘the depiction of things in a specific way so that they become perceptible’.  The noun is derived from the verb ‘paristemi’ (παρίστημι) which means ‘to stand beside, to proffer’.  In Modern Greek the verb has different meaning in active and passive voice.  In active voice the verb is ‘paristano’ (παριστάνω) and means ‘to present someone or something as real or fake’, and in passive voice the verb is ‘paristamae’ (παρίσταμαι) and means ‘to be present in a situation/event, to attend’.  Therefore, ‘performance’ is automatically related to an-other.  I have the sense that the performing mode for me was ‘on’ when I was trying not to be seen.  Just because I was thinking about it and I wanted to pass on a specific message: ‘I am not here.  Don’t look at me.  I am not different.  I am like you.’ Performance in a way has to do with a particular message to be given to the other, I think.  For instance, the three men standing at the door of the room giving us a page to sign before we enter the installation gave a specific importance to the fact that we take the responsibility for whatever might happen.  If they were relaxed drinking coffee I would probably be less concerned.  That of course is another kind of performance but I still perceive it as performance.  When we feel being seen or heard, we take care of what we say and how we behave, how we perform…

(A post by Evangelia Kolyra)

On ‘Superheroes, Powers & Spellbinding:’ OPENLAB Session on Friday 15 February 2013

I have had for some time now an idea at the back of my head for a series of OPENLAB sessions. However, the idea hadn’t quite taken form.

This kind of seminal idea for a session (without really knowing which tree is going grow out of it) is more rule than exception but although this time I didn’t really know where to start from so I just decided to share with the group and see where would the idea go, how would the group take it, and what would be the reactions to it.

This session was made possible by the presences of Evangelia Kolyra, Martine Painter, Robert Vesty, Flora Wellesley-Wesley as well as myself.

Somehow I didn’t have even a real title for the session, only a series of examples and metaphores, images and comparisons.

I had to summarise it to a sentence first once I started the session; this sentence was something like ‘what if we consider ourselves performers as a group of superheroes?’

So I tried to explain it better but I only could explain things that I have heard and read and experienced recently:

… a quote in Manou Koreman’s MA dissertation draft (I wonder whether she kept that on the final version she submitted) which said something like: “Dance [is] ‘a play of Powers made visible’.”(Langer, 1953, p.44).

… a class I took with Giovanni Feliccione and in which he would invite the students to let the object in front of them to call us to grasp it rather than being ourselves the ones who decided to take it, or would invite us to walk by leaving the space behind rather than approaching the space before us.

… Martine Painter’s entrance to this blog questioning “What is a ‘recognisibly performative state’ ?”

How could I connect all of this?

I didn’t know but here what I did:

1) We practice openform as a warm-up. We focus on dycotomies: focusing (or expanding our awareness if you may prefer) on moving at the same time that we were noticing, focusing on noticing at the same time that we notice ourselves noticing, focusing on noticing ourselves directly through our own corporality at the same time we notice the rest of the world indirectly also trough our own coporality, focusing on inside at the same time we focus on outside, using breath as an anchor for inside and the floor as an anchor for outside, in case we needed one.

We continue with this and then in order to transition to the next part I ask people to utter sounds from the physicalities of breathing.

2) I suggested to practice a closeform (or at least a closer one in realtion to the rest). I ask the people in the session to close themselves from the world by closing their eyes and pluging their ears with their fingers whilst the continue to utter sounds. I aske them to feel what happened, to notice what the notice in theri bodies: the reverberating vibration felt in the body. I asked them to continue moving, never stopping, didn’t matter in which ways they would move, no pressure about in which ways the would move but just moving… I aslo told them to explore the fact that different parts of the body and different types of tissue reverberate and vibrate depending on the qualities of the sound being uttered, their volume, texture, timbre and tone, and the positions the body take, the tension of the muscles, etc.

I also ask them to learn this relationships, to realise that maybe instead of having to think of the qualities of the sound and uttered and of the positions and movements of the body one could actually think of the part of the body one wants to make vibrate and just let the self to make this happen, the sounds and the body will do what they had to do to make those places vibrate.

The task was for us to learn how to control at will and move throughout the body this vibrations, but also accepting what are the physical limitations we have in order to make this happen. Maybe with time and practice we could get better at this but in any case that wasn’t really the poing.

3) The point was that this closeform exercise serves as an example of what a Power could be. The idea of changing the regular way we relate with the world, of changing our habitual and normally logical attitude toward the things that happens. Changing the ideas of ownership and agency, changing our points of view, points of reference.

Moving the vibration throughout the body was the first ‘Power’ we have just learned. Now the question was: how many other powers could we develop? In Feliccioni’s example, the object in front of us was making us move. In that class, we eventually grasp the object not only because our hands are made for grasping but also because the object is made to be grasped, so is it crazy to thing that the appetite for grasping comes from the object instead of from ourselves? In that class, we eventually were moved by the object as it started float up. Our arms started to seemingly efortless follow it… then the head, then everything. And this become true for us, even if we know it isn’t what actually was happening, just because we wanted to accept that this was what was happening. I also pointed out that some things we generally accept (even in a tacit but anofficial way) are sometimes not true. For example for us the landscape in the worlds is rather a fix point and we move around it, but we all have learnt that the world turns and we are moved with it… but we still

I continued by trying to give other examples of possible ways of changing the way we may develope a ‘Power’ but then I realised that it could be also a power the way we may accept we are powerless, or spellbound. For example, what if some other person moves me. That’s my power as a dancer (or performer) but in fact is as though I’m being control, and letting me be controlled by another external power… maybe was another person in the room who controls me?


Model and mode of being: notes on the Antony Gormley OPENLAB session

On 7th Feb, OPENLAB went to the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey where Antony Gormley’s exhibition Model was in place. In particular, we explored the installation piece Model which the show was named after.

Inside the exhibition, our brief –  or at least, the one that I am most interested to explore  –  was this:  ” […] to see the differences/similarities between real life and performance mode”.

Some questions come up for me. They are as follows:

What do we mean by ‘performance’ mode?

What do we mean by ‘real life’ mode?

Being a lazy kind of person at the moment, I googled Wikipedia’s definition of performance.  It says “A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience.”

I like this description because it makes me think.

Behave in a particular way…?  I guess this means that performers are recognisably acting, singing or dancing or whatever for an audience (and this ‘behaviour’ is rated according to the skill they are judged to have brought to it).

But what about when the performer’s behaviour is concerned with ways to be present in the moment of performance?  Would this always be a discernible quality? Is it a ‘rateable’ quality? And how important is it for an audience to know that the performer is behaving in a particular way for them? The words, or rather the accusative call to ‘make an effort’ spring to mind as something an audience might say if it felt excluded from proceedings.

Under what circumstances might an audience be ‘won over’ if the performer performed all the while behaving primarily in a particular way for themselves? And do we ever do that even when we think that is what we are doing? Would there be extra work to be done to translate this process into a recognisibly performative state? What is a ‘recognisibly performative state’ ? Is it something akin to a state that will satisfy an audience that they are not being cheated out of a ‘performance’? Would we have to step outside of what we thought of as our own level of in-touch-ness with ourselves and what we think we are doing in order to better think we were achieving this?

However, if I aim to ‘perform’ in this state, in this particular way, then it’s because I think it has worth or merit in itself, as a thing to see, as a spectacle. Thinking it’s enough is maybe asking an audience to expect something different. Because the ‘product’, the spectacle, might be discernibly different. On the other hand, it might not. It is concerned though, with the process; with the process as being the product. The ongoing ongoing product.

Is thinking something’s ‘enough’ in this context comparable to offering something closer to a ‘real life’ mode as a performative aesthetic? As in declaring of something that ‘it is what it is’ …

Does that mean that when we think something’s ‘enough’, its more closely related to authenticity than when we believe that what are doing is not enough and strive towards an idea of ‘performance’?

What, generally, if there are ‘general’ notions about it – which of course there must be – are our ideas about ‘performance’ comprised of?