Rub Your Tummy, Tap Your Head: OPENLAB session on Thursday, 28 March 2013

Today we were Sophie Arstall, Danai Pappa, Thelma Sharma as well as myself.

I was gladly surprised to see them there as I was coming to the studio thinking that maybe today was a sad day and that probably everybody had gone on holidays for Easter.

I had decided that no matter what I would still work… but seeing that Sophie and Thelma were in the studio, and that Danai just arrived as I was arriving made me really to have to work.

I like those moments in which there is no time for excuses, no time for preparations, for deciding what’s appropriate and what isn’t… those are the moments in which what you really have to offer comes as it is to the surface… maybe its delivery is not pristine and is far from perfect but it’s overall honest, humble and full of integrity.

I’m quite happy now about the session we had this morning the four of us.

We worked with the openform as a frame. And as I was setting the rules of the form (just do… and let any motivation or accessibility which is already there to tell you what to do next, even if you do first and hear what to do after and even if it happens regardless of its external appearance) I was also adding layers of things to try to be aware of… different layers of perceptions, different layers of notions about what we do with agency and those other things we still do but seem to be happening to us, different layers of notions of how do we feel as subjects exposing that we are our bodies and not only owning those bodies and of what do we feel in the world out there; the physical and temporal objects that were there and then happening/existing, etc., etc., etc.

The final aim was to try to find the relationships between the things we feel out there and the way we can feel our body to respond to it. Not really the response that is part of what we intentionally do but the experience within our body of the feelings we can get from the anatomical structures reacting to the external objects of the world… or those other feeling of you, the feeling well, the feeling sad, the feeling poor, the feeling agitated, etc.

I just wanted to bring into explicitness the fact that when we experienced something, let’s say the warmth of the radiators, part of that experience it’s also the experience of how the body feels as it responds to the noticing the warmth of the radiator, let’s say that in this occasion the muscles relax (amongst other possible things). In that instance, and probably influenced about what had just happened before and would happened afterwards (namely, it was and would be a very cold day in a very cold studio), the feeling of warmth is also accompanied for the feeling of the musculature releasing and opening to the warmth… amongst other things.

My proposal was to find similar relationships between the ‘how we feel’ and the ‘what we feel’ whilst being aware of ‘what we do.’

I’m aware that by definition (at least according to the definition with which I agree more often than not) they ‘how-and-what we feel’ and the ‘being aware of their relationships’ are also things we do (even if it seems happening to us).

It may be overwhelming to ask to any person to do all those things at the same time, but I see it as I see the gimmicky ability of rubbing your tummy and tapping your head. It may seem difficult at first but you just need to keep on trying and you will be even able to do it at dissociated frequencies. What’s the moral of this fable? Just stick to it and keep on trying.

In any case it’s not about being able to make it happen because even if we observe to just one of the options closely we realised we are not good at it. Let’s think for example about just trying to perceive the world (what I call the ‘what’ one feels). I have been reading Kevin O’Reagan’s book “Why Red Doesn’t Sound Like A Bell” and he keeps on trying to prove that in reality things are perceived one (or even just one detail) at a time, this is not fully but partially, and that things are perceived sometimes rather than continuously. This fact, according to him does not go against with the fact that the phenomenal experience of the word is on the other hand fully extended and continuously present, this is that we experienced everything showing up for ourselves all the time.

I sort of get what he is trying to convey (or at least that’s what I think) but I think he would have written differently if he was a dancer into the kind of work that searches for presence. I have lost count of how many times I have been asked, in one way or another, by others or by myself, to try to be aware of everything and uninterruptedly. What I can say is that whatever the number of times I tried and let’s call than number “n”, I’m sure that “n” times I have failed; this is, “n” times I have noticed how impossible the task is.

In this case I also think it must be like rubbing your belly and tapping your head. Let’s stick with it (obsessively but not competitively) and we will get better at it.


On seeing open OPENLAB in photographs


(©Photos by Patrick Beelaert)

Oh wow, the photos are really beautiful.

I see group shapes. People going down to the floor together. People deciding to look in the same direction. I see facial expressions in tune with one another. I see bodies having conversations intended to be publicly readable. I see an awareness of others and an interaction with them that I am not aware of in the sessions. Maybe it is there all along and it is me that is not? Is it that I focus almost entirely on ways of being present or of performing that take me more than anything on an interior journey? (This is quite possible. And I can see how focusing on presence might take me on an interior journey, but not how performing could.)

Last open OPENLAB, I remember experiencing a very different vibe from the session vibe when we came to perform. Isn’t it natural though, that the vibe should change? With hindsight, I don’t know why I am so surprised. I do though: I thought we would just show our thing in the raw and that since its whole focus was on being present anyway, that nothing would be that different. But gosh, this looks so naive written down.

Last open OPENLAB, the fact that we were performing was instantly tangible. You could have sliced the air with it. I experienced a sudden acute awareness of the colours we were wearing and how they seemed to dance together. The group energy was totally different; accelerated. For me I was kind of amazed to experience it. Naively, because we hadn’t prepared a ‘show’, I had thought it would feel the same as a session, except that there would be an audience there this time seeing what we did: “let’s just show them what we do”. Why did I think that? Since what we worked on anyway was being present (rather than the more current question, which is looking at what it is ‘to perform’), I thought that nothing would need to change for what we were doing to be ‘sufficiently’ performative. It was, in its way, already performative to the max.

I have since experienced and acknowledged some profound shifts in my perspective of what it is to perform, which continue to evolve. But I am still so curious, especially looking at these photos, about what performing is for other people. So I want to put some questions to the open “openlabbers” this time: how did it feel to perform? What is different about performing in a group as opposed to solo? Was there an extra something that you brought into play as soon as you were in front of an audience? If there was, can you describe it?

I would love to hear your thoughts.