SPACE the first and final frontier: OPENLAB session on Friday 25 October 2013

I come in the studio and although I’m not late but just in time everybody else is here.

I look around and see Jia-Yu Corti, Sarah Kent, Yong Min Cho, Thelma Sharma and Timothy Taylor. They are the openlabbers of today, as well as myself. I feel nervous as I suddenly realised that I am clearly the youngest of them all, but I immediately remember that this is not an issue because I am not here to teach but to facilitate. I won’t be giving them answers; I just will offering a frame for them to continue their own personal and professional research, possibly around the question of performance, maybe around other personal and transpersonal questions… it is up to them and to chance.

This season I have come with this determinative obsession of exploring the “quadrominium” made by breath, floor, space, and gravity… and today space will take a place at the forefront of the session’s theme.

I start by reading its dictionary definition, a habit of mine (I should read this definitions before I do it in the session to avoid surprises, but I think that if I don’t I won’t be manipulating their meaning in accordance to what I want, or at least I will be open to explore further possibilities beyond my own habits).

We then all discovered that as a noun space has several meanings that may be interesting to explore in the session:

1 A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied:

• [ count noun ] an area of land which is not occupied by buildings.

• (also commercial space) an area rented or sold as business premises.

• [ count noun ] a blank between printed, typed, or written words, characters, numbers, etc

• [ count noun ] Music each of the four gaps between the five lines of a stave.

2 The dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move:

• (also outer space )the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

• the near-vacuum extending between the planets and stars, containing small amounts of gas and dust.

• Mathematics a mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.

3 An interval of time (often used to suggest that the time is short considering what has happened or been achieved in it).

4 The amount of paper used or needed to write about a subject:

• pages in a newspaper, or time between television or radio programmes, available for advertising. [This meaning makes me think of written text as a tool of expansion of language and thinking, and therefore makes me think of amount of mental space as ‘room for/of thought.’]

5 the freedom to live, think, and develop in a way that suits one.

Departing from these definition I proposed to divide the exploration of space in different sections:

Space in/whitin Breathing:

I decide to introduce space by exploring briefly the experience of space that we can have when focusing in breathing. I just pointed out that in pulmonary breathing there is not only an exchange of air between us and the environment, this is also an exchange of space.

Inner Space:

Inner space is a recurrent subject in dance and somatic techniques, practices and methods. I just pointed out that the space enveloped by many of our systems such as the respiratory, digestive, sexual, excretory, aural, visual and vocal systems isn’t really considered inner space in biology. Those engulfed areas within ourselves aren’t considered what’s called inner milieu. If we consider internal milieu as synonym for inner space, this space is then a non-space, it isn’t available or free, it is stuffed. However, movement within it is still possible. I suggest: “let’s do [whatever doing is the one that needs to be done in your own exploration] in relation to this inner stuffed space.” I wonder: “Can I really do in relation to this space?”

Outter Space:

Out there there is space unlike inside us. The place where no solids or liquids exist, only air. I suggest: “let’s do in relation to this outer space.” Another day I said that from finding space within oneself hunger for doing towards outer space is born. Today I forget about saying this: “space is hungry for more space.”

Out there were only air exists (unless within the planet of which we are also part of). However, air is a gas and gas is also matter. Matter that occupies and pervades through the entire room, the entire building, the entire environment, the atmosphere… Within this atmospheric space the material air can be understood as stuffed. I talk about the concept of place, as having a place in space. I’m borrowing from Julyen Hamilton (again). I talk about place in these terms: as occupying space, reclaiming it from the atmosphere by carving the atmosphere as we move… by carving space. Going into it as we vacate the space that we leave behind us, and that it is occupy in return by the atmospheric air. This does not happen in 3 secuential steps: 1) from my place #1, the space I’m going to carve into (future place #2) has to empty, 2) the transition from place #1 to place #2, 3) the space I left (past place #1) is occupied by air. Those steps happen but only they aren’t steps, they happen all at once simultaneously.

Sharing Space/Showing Space/Answering Questions:

I share the fact that for me this idea of everything, both within and around us, as being stuffed is actually a little bit overwhelming… almost asphyxiating and not really light. I try to allow lightness by reconsidering the idea that at atomic and subatomic level there is more space than corpuscularity, and the fact is that thing don’t really touch, even when we thing we are touching an object outside us we are in fact very far away from that object (atomic-wise)… we feel it there because we feel the repelling forces amongst the different particles that conform matter…

I suggest this to allow lightness but what we actually work on is on doing now in relation to others who are watching. I suggest that we are actually all doing, as a watcher you still do and as a doer you sill watch, even if just slightly. And the task as a watcher and as a doer are respectively 1) what is that thing the other person (who I watch) is doing? 2) what is that thing that I (and the other person watching to me may see) do?

This work of seems very interesting but also felt very short when the time of the session is over.

I also think that by trying to answer ‘what am I doing’ as doer, I stop doing that very thing that I’m questioning. This is I’m not doing any more that thing I was asking about and now if anything I’m asking about it… somehow it seems that the very action of asking takes us outside of the doing… but I wonder whether if ignoring the paradox and continue this work we can actually developed an almost subconscious, non-lingual, way of questioning and so we can be asking-doing

At the end of the session there are suggestions of doing only that second bit of the session for a whole session. This seems as a proposition for next session.

Come this Friday then, 1st of November, if you’d like to work in the relationship between space and visibility.

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Sharing and Dividing: OPENLAB session on Friday 18 October 2013

OPENLAB + Agony Art

OPENLAB and Agony Art’s shared space. Photo by Antigoni Avdi.

Session in an open space. Shared space. The table set with conversation, discussion, shaping an event out of the empty air.

Texture unites my fragmented senses. The touch of a gust of air against my skin, the touch of my bone joining another bone, the taste of my saliva running into the fluidity of my next move, my spiralling body spinning my vision on its own head. Moving so giddily, weaves a rough vision of furry walls, embeds itself inside my eardrums. The soundscape hooks itself onto this texture.

We had to share and divide our space and attention up in our OPENLAB session last Friday. There were three of us- Thelma, Tara and Jan. Well, actually there were twenty of us, including the performers who were meeting together for an Agony Art performance in the same studio.

The generous spirit of improvisation allowed the three openlabbers to operate at the same time as the Agony Art team were forming the basis of a performance, so we all shared the same space. But worked on different things. Dividing the space and senses up and then re-integrating it together again in a new kind of thing.

The sound of three people, the openlabbers of this day, moving feet, some words, turned inwards. The sight of moving bodies, unfocussed colours, stillnesses, shapes. That’s for those at the table. For us, the rhythms of their talk, the highs and lows of tone, the individual voice, the image-heavy words – time, wall, line – jump out to capture us.

The question was, how can I break it all up and then re-integrate it into some new coherent concoction? And what does my movement have to do with it?

Playing with tuning in/out of the words coming from the Agony Art discussions. Allowing the rhythm and narrative sense of the words to feed but not govern the movement. Trying to find an abstract/instinctive response to the word-flow which allows for new stimuli/information to feed back into the ‘sense’ of the words rather than allowing the movement to become pure illustration.

Noticing and losing. Affected by what was around and seeing how attention can move, include and exclude.

Here the three of us cultivate attention, pruning the excess growth of our hearing.

(Excerpts from Thelma, Tara and Jan’s writing)

We are breathing beings: OPENLAB session on Friday 19 October 2013

We are breathing beings.

porous rock

In this session, we worked again with breath.

We warmed up with breath, with letting it into the belly and playing with the speed of our in and out breath to change the way it spreadsaround our whole bodies.
We breathed into each cell, let the air lap into each one, feeling ourselves to be porous beings.
Panting to quickly heat our whole selves up, like rubbing two sticks to quickly start a fire.
Alternating with slower breath to focus on the gentle spread of warmth.
Allowing pauses at the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ of each breath.

Exploration:
How can we move and show ourselves to be breathing beings while we move? How can we communicate this quality of ourselves?

Some of the things we felt about this were:
“Showing my breathing alters the quality of my movement, making it more expansive.”
“Because I breath anyway, I don’t need to show anything, it’s a given. I am therefore free to move as I wish without bringing my or anyone else’s attention to it.”

Exploration:
How can we move and do the opposite – subtracting our breathing selves from what might be present as a quality to an onlooker?

Some of the things we felt about this were:
Feeling ‘closed’, private, feeling ‘clammed up’.
Tension between this privateness, this closed-off-ness and being present, or knowing how exactly to share this or make it visible for others.
“I don’t tend to show this anyway. I always just show myself as a mover.”
“I feel one-dimensional.”

Exploration:
Does it make a difference to alternate between the two states adding the choice of having eyes open or closed, and alternating between all these things?

Some of the things we felt about this were:
Enjoyment of mixing things up.
Both heightened focus and lack of focus about what we were making visible to others.

Exploration:
We took it in turns to watch two people moving together at a time, playing with all states so far explored.

Some of the things we felt about this were:
A mover: “I felt your breath as presence and tuned what I was doing into that”
An onlooker: “I felt that what I saw was full of space”
An onlooker: “I saw two bodies moving”

Exploration:
What if we imagined both that movement is powered in us by the breath of the other people rather than our own? And that our breath in turns powers their movement? And that we make this perception visible? We moved together as a group bearing this in mind.

Some of the things we felt about this were:
“That was really pictorial. Everything must have been so visible”
“That was incredibly keyed-in”
“We did it!”