In relation to “Improvising Translation”

During the last two OPENLAB sessions I facilitated at Chisenhale Dance Space I proposed some ideas inspired by reading Jaques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster.

I would like to share with you here a series of randoms thoughts and writings before and after the session, in one part there is a facebook thread including a passage from the book that was partially the reason for the inspiration, especially for the idea of ‘improvising’. The ‘translation’ bit comes from the main fact described in the book.

This is going to be a sketchy posts, so sit down and fasten your sit belts.

This was the description I wrote for the session for a facebook event :

Imagine you are given a book which language you cannot read. Let us assume your only interest in life is to become able to read this book for all other activities in and around you are either humdrum or vacuous. It will be work, possibly felt as hard, but as you make your way through the lines of the book you will realised that you have already a copy of the book in your own language. This will not mean that by knowing then later you will have immediate access to understanding the former. However, as you keep up at making your way through these (now precious) coupled books you will be able to improvise translation. Maybe, it won’t be so much a translation of the language you don’t know to the language you do but rather from the version you did understand to start with to this other version which may feel little by little less foreign.

I also shared the event in a facebook group. This is a copy of what I posted followed by a series of comments which I found quite thoughtprovoking:

Improvising Translation… It doesn’t need to be literally about improvisation (unless you want it) but improvisation can be the means to what you want to work on.

This Friday at Chisenhale Dance, 10am-12pm.

Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Improvisation is the means/part of the process upon which one develops a piece.
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe “We know that improvisation is one of the canonical exercises of universal teaching. But it is first of all the exercise of our intelligence’s leading virtue: the poetic virtue. The impossibility of our saying the truth, even when we feel it, makes us speak as poets, makes us tell the story of our mind’s adventures and verify that they are understood by other adventurers, makes us communicate our feelings and see them shared by other feeling beings. Improvisation is the exercise by which the human being knows himself and is confirmed in his nature as a reasonable man, that is to say, as an animal “who makes words, figures, and comparisons, to tell the story of what he thinks to those like him.” The virtue of our intelligence is less in knowing than in doing. “Knowing is nothing, doing is everything.” But this doing is fundamentally an act of communication. And, for that, “speaking is the best proof of the capacity to do whatever it is.” In the act of speaking, man doesn’t transmit his knowledge, he makes poetry; he translates and invites others to do the same. He communicates as an artisan: as a person who handles words like tools. Man communicates with man through the works of his hands just as through the words of his speech: “When man acts on matter, the body’s adventures become the story of the mind’s adventures.“ And the artisan’s emancipation is first the regaining of that story, the consciousness that one’s material activity is of the nature of discourse. He communicates as a poet: as a being who believes his thought communicable, his emotions sharable. That is why speech and the conception of all works as discourse are, according to universal teaching’s logic, a prerequisite to any learning. The artisan must speak about his works in order to be emancipated; the student must speak about the art he wants to learn. “Speaking about human works is the way to know human art.“”
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe From Jacques Raciere’s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster”
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Ref: ‘Knowing is nothing, doing is everything..’ One has to know inorder to do. (In my view)
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Ref: ‘Speaking about human works…..’. Speaking also requires the speakers capacity to hold the attention of the one to whom he/she is communicating, and then we can move onto focus on idea rather than making. Where we have the concept acting as permission for its existence! (Your last sentence implies this)
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney ‘In the act of speaking, man doeasn’t transmit his knowledge, he makes poetry; he tranlates and invites other to do the same…..words like tools’. This implies that everyone is a poet, is an artist? Again I refer back to the speaker, and his/her capacity to hold the attention of the one to whom he/she is communicating to. I wouls add here that words in themselves move, they have stylistic devices, they can roll and pause, a sort of kinetic equivalent to inflection in the voice. Words move along relentlessly, up and down, stopping, starting….one is involved in rhythm, pauses, and pacing…time. To hold the attention of the viewer the composition of the words requires tailoring/careful thought. Variety, almost musicality. This works together with utmost attention to ‘content’. Hmmmm…I’m not sure all ‘are poets’.
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe Fiona, thank you for engaging with my posts and sharing your thoughts. You are provoking many more thoughts on me. Let me answer to your comments. I feel almost obliged to do so, at least to share my two cents and share with you my view on this. I first would like to clarify one thing, which I think probably doesn’t need to be clarified but I would like to do so to avoid misunderstandings – at a point in the second comment from the three consecutive comments above this one of mine you say, “Your last sentence implies this.” However, as much as I would like that the sentence was mine it isn’t mine. I’m quoting Jacques Rancière (“The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Fives Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation” (1991). Standford University Press, Stanford: CA, pp. 64-65.), and in fact in the last sentence of that paragraph Rancière is quoting within his quote: He is using Joseph Jacotot words from a book titled “Enseignement Universel: Musique,” 3rd ed. (1830), p. 163. It would be pretentious from me to say that I fully understand Rancières words and I am not totally sure what is my positions towards all of the statements that he seems to put forwards. These statements, and others in his book, have nonetheless stimulated my imagination and inspired me for the OPENLAB session which is what the event is about. The book talks about emancipation in education and the proposition for the lab is at some level to be independent but collaborative in the way we continue developing as performing artists. At least that’s the wish I have for the lab for myself and I share that point of view with the other people who come to the lab.
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe Now, I responded to your first comment at the top of this thread with that quote because I was thinking on it when I use the word Improvising. The session is called *Improvising Translation*, and I’m using it in the way that Racière uses it in the first sentence in the quote, “We know that improvisation is one of the canonical exercises of universal teaching.” I think he is using improvisation as a faculty that at least humans (although it could be argued that other non-human beings could also) have and that apply continuously in the way the interact with the world around them and with each other and that it is part of the process of acquiring new knowledge(s). In a way for me that’s a bit different to a more specific use of the word improvisation as a tool or mode which is sometimes (or often) use within the performing arts. My knowledge of improvisations as a label for a performance tool/mode comes from my experiences with it in dance both as a student and as a professional performer and maker. However, I don’t want necessarily to direct people towards the study of improvisation as a subject for this session but to embrace our inherent capacity to improvise our way through our emancipated learning. Does that make sense?
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe I feel that I haven’t touched all the points that you have but I’m afraid I have to go now. I would love to continue the conversation though.
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Antonio, for me the fun of reading such philosophical works is that all the formula that is often confered upon works can then be reversed!, and in Rancieres Politics of Aesthetics he speaks of the need for an art form to be recognised as art by the ‘masses’. ‘That is to say that they first need to be put into practice and recognised……’ Hmmm this is a lengthy discussion – interesting though in light of your comments. I would just like to leave with a quote from Maurice Merleau Ponty – Phenomonology of Peception – Sense Experience where he say’s, ‘ The sense’s translate each other without any need of an interpreter, and are mutually comprehesible withot any intervention of any idea. …My body is the seat or rather the very actuality of the phenomenon of expression, and theere are visual and auditory experiences, for example, are pregnant one with the other, and there expressive value is the ground of the antipredictive unity of the perceived world, and through it, of verbal expression(Darstellung)and intellectual significance(Bedeutung).My body is the fabric into which all objects are woven, and it is, at least in relation to the perceived world, the general instrument of my ‘comprehension’. It is my body which gives significance not only to the natural object, but also cultural objects like words. If a word is shown to a subject for too short a time fr him to beable to read it, the word ‘warm’ for example induces a kind of experience of warmth……meaningful halo..Before becoming the indication of a concept it is first of all an event which grips my body…words have a physiognomy because we adopt towards them, as towards a person a certain form of behaviour which makes its complete appearance the moment ach work is given. ‘I try to grasp the word red in its living expression; but at first it is no more than peripheral for me, no more than a sign along with the knowledge of its the meaning. It is not red itself..the word itself on paper also takes on an expressive value…..’
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney These ideas engage me also in my work. Apologies for the lenght of discourse above….I am ploughing through the work of Merleau Ponty which seems to me to have such relevance for my work as an Interdisciplinary Artist – whether working in collaboration with dancers/actors/singers, or in solitary work in my studio with paint/clay/canvas…….there is an immediacy/ a physicality/ an energy (of different dynamic intensity that has to impart itself into a work inorder to create successful communication. This is in my view relevant across all art forms. This immediacy is ‘felt’ ‘physically’. This though cannot in my view come through unless the ‘idea’/’meaning’ is worked through from conception -improvisation – realisation. Kind Regards Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Antonio I will respond to your comment of two hours ago when I have given extra thought. Interesting……
Antonio de la Fe
Antonio de la Fe I’m interested in reversing in the practice certain phylosophical discourses too. Is that what you meant? In any case, I think that conception – improvisation – realisation could be inverted or permutated. Totally valid but not the only valid route? No need to permutate but at the same time why not? This is personal and has to make sense to a personal enquiry I think…
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Yes, through starting the process of ‘improvisation’ with a playful approach I know from experience that idea/s can take form. the same can happen in the engagement in other art forms, and yes, this is personal enquiry, as is fundamentally in my view the only honest way for the artist to work.
Fiona Chaney
Fiona Chaney Ref to ‘improvisation’. It is very much an art of the present with no seperation between thinking feeling and writing. My heady experiences of improvisation came in the sixties and seventies and linked to the sense of openness and possibility. With Alwin Nikolais, the elements of time, and space, and shape were isolated and explored as the elements of dance composition. But, back to the ‘personal enquiry’, I think the point is not to accept other peoples revelations (ref -dance/movement, but applicable again to other art forms) about their own body instead of finding one’s own movement sources within oneself. Its about working from in inside in the recoveryof ones own body’s language. (although of course any discipline can have its own usefullness in strengthening, and training one’s body -) I also question my work with the words you use above, ‘and why not’. Oh, enjoy your Improv session today, its been an engaging discourse here. Kind RegardsFiona Chaney

Another interesting project inspired by The Ignorant Schoolmaster:

Oh Antonio, I’d love to be able to come ! (but no, too far)
Jacques Rancière’s “Le maître ignorant” has also inspired this :,
a very interesting workshop to experience, very much lacking of body work however ! (quoi qu’il en soit, on this page you’ll find a link offering the chapter XXI of “Le petit prince” de St Exupery in 50 languages, nice to share)
“improvising translation” heart emoticon Enjoy !

A random poem I wrote yesterday: 

Who wants to know will doubt forever. Who actually doesn’t want to know will believe that s/he knows. I’m probably an ignorant for saying this. I’m probably proving it so… by saying this.

We don’t know, we just think to know. I must admit I know less than I believe I do. How could it be otherwise?

“I’m always right!” I say, and I must embrace being right only in a place of full ignorance.

Can I enter that space?

OPENLAB sessions on Friday 11th September 2015: “Out with the eyes – A sensorial smorgasbord” with Manou Koreman

openlab 11 Sep_1

Last Friday we re-took the weekly sessionS in the studio at Chisenhale Dance Space, and for this re-start of OL’s academic year we had the pleasure of enjoying of Manou’s proposition to have a long session during which we would be blind-folded… e basta così.

In the studio we were Manou, Thelma Sharma and myself.

I have done many different types of sightless explorations and taken many classes, workshops and creative process in which I have been asked or I have chosen to be devoid of the visual input.

However, you can’t never expect what is going to happen. I think most people tend to fall by expecting to have a similar experience to the one they had in a previous encounter with the blindfold. But the expectations are rarely fulfilled, whether for better or for worst.

It is hard to put into words what a blindfolded experience was for you. The raw stream of sensorial input and stream of thoughts and emotions that arise from them are normally very vague when remembered after; even if at the moment felt extremely intense, or even transcendentally profound at times.

However, blindfolding feels to me such a great practice to put into tuning the set of skills that can make your performing richer.

This session with Manou didn’t felt any different in a way but because of that also felt such an important work to do in the studio.

However, my tendencies where at a point overturned by something that Manou suggested. My experiences with blindfolding have had always to do with getting to a much more primal state of mind. I think this is influenced by my previous experiences with authentic movement, which has its roots in psychoanalysis, and looks for the person practicing it to follow her or his inner impulse(s).

Contrary to that other approach, at a certain point I manage to hear a suggestion from Manou to try to do any activities that we would normally would do with the eyes open. My mind suddenly changes from a subconscious-attitude to a superconscious-attitude toward the exploration. And my choices where to write something (picture at the top of this blog) and to take pictures (at the bottom). Both things I managed to do without having to even take the blindfold to find what I needed to find (it was handy that I am a bit addict at using my phone), and the result of both pictures and text impressed me… in an unassuming way, but when I saw them I was quite happy with them even if the are just what they are.

IMG_1002 IMG_1004 IMG_1005 IMG_1001 IMG_1006 IMG_1012 IMG_1011 IMG_1010 IMG_1007 IMG_1009 IMG_1019 IMG_1016 IMG_1014 IMG_1013

The mind works in mysterious and inscrutable ways and today I came out OPENLAB remembering suddenly there is something called The Long Table.

I cannot remember how long ago it was but Chisenhale Dance Space organised a sort of dance artists and producers mixer day.

There were several guest speakers and Natasha Davis was one of them. After giving a talk about her experience as both producer and self-producing artist, she decided to use Lois Weaver’s Long Table as and activity for all attendees to join.

The Long Table is part of a series of projects grouped under the title Public Address Systems. These projects aimed to create “spaces that are hospitable and open, where alternatives can be modeled and critical questions staged.” (from the Public Address Systems’ website)

Rather than me writing about it, you can read more about the Long Table and the Public Address Systems by following that link.

I just thought that the “etiquette” of the Long Table was great. It looked to me like a great inspiration for OPENLAB and for form that facilitate open spaces constructively. The inspiration has been there as a sort of background reference but I today came out of OPENLAB thinking that I should more directly used this inspiration and make maybe one or maybe more sort of OPENLAB session’s to take away… maybe of the sort of guerrilla actions (although polite, respectful and addressing responsibility… obviously, whatever people do with them or not – whether the decided to be polite, respectful and responsible or not — it is entirely up to them; I can only respond to my own actions taken and not to the actions taken by others).

For the time being I haven’t written these potential take-away sessions (watch this space) but I would like to share with you the Long Table’s Etiquette. Who knows, you may get inspired by it too, or maybe want to try the Long Table (or any other of Public Address Systems’ projects) for yourself.

The Long Table Etiquette

  • This is a performance of a dinner party conversation
  • Anyone seated at the table is a guest performer
  • Anything is on the menu
  • Talk is the only course
  • No hostess will assist you
  • It is a democracy
  • To participate simply take an empty seat at the table
  • If the table is full you can request a seat
  • If you leave the table you can come back again and again
  • Feel free to write your comments on the tablecloth
  • There can be silence
  • There might be awkwardness
  • There could always be laughter
  • There is an end but no conclusion

Thoughts after OPENLAB’s session on Friday 13th March 2015: “A Sequence of Events: Doing, Thinking… and Then Watching… and Then… ”

by Sharon Drummond – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (

“#ds353 – Uninspired” by Sharon Drummond – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (

Now and then I have to continue asking myself, “why did I start OPENLAB and what is its present purpose.”

As a shared laboratory for self-professional (or self-personal) development, OL has changed because the constellations of people visiting and participating always changes and because we all change throughout our processes as performing artists (or ‘performing’ individuals).

In answering those questions above, welcoming at the same time the fact that everything changes, I come to notice things. Asking and answering those questions taket time and effort but, at the same time, help me to realise which things, from those I notice, could be addressed to help the lab to change accordingly.

Does the lab still covers my needs? What about other people’s needs? Does it create a space within which my curiosity is able to dwell and reverb?

I guess it all comes in cycles…

Today’s session started with me saying something like this:

I want to propose a sequence of events; this events being proposed as different activities that would frame our practice but that are not meant to serve as the content of our practice. This may be a contradiction on itself, but I’d like to offer a frame which doesn’t frame you (and maybe I should have added, “and it’s up to you to make sense within that frame without trying to understand the frame as a series of tasks to understand” but I didn’t add it).

I think my way of dealing with this idea of offering a frame which doesn’t frame is important for me right now. I would like to offer a freedom that neither scares nor blocks, therefore a frame within which to operate, within which to orientate oneself, is necessary (or so I believe). At the same time, I think this frame has to offer a blank canvas, so there is still a relative space within which to get lost (even if just only at a smaller scale within the larger order of things).

I’m in the process of developing this. It will need some clarity in my intention and make mind space to sit and work it out… even if ti is a new template or draft, a new step within the ongoing work-in-progress in which I’m immersed.

I’m writing this after having had some correspondence with Laura Doehler about Shared Practice and OPENLAB and the ways we operate differently but with a common ethos and purpose.

With Laura’s permission I’d like to share some extracts from this. I am not entirely sure whether this will be interesting for you to read (the reality is I’m not entirely sure anything I write here is interesting for anyone to read but the important thing is that it’s written in case it ever becomes material of any interest for anybody).


Some words/thoughts that Laura shared with me:

Antonio’s lab is different [to the work we undertake in the Shared Training/Practice] but we like our differences – they accomplish each other – and we [have] ended up taking each others classes. Antonio has come during the Trip Encounter and we have been going to his lab. … We do get along very well and inspire each other with our work and research at the moment. I believe we would like a bit more of each others work because it works well together, I think.

The difference between our formats is that we, Shared Training/ Practice, propose a space where people follow their own enquiries entirely. Our facilitation lies in proposing different spatial and dynamic stages so that people spatially and dynamically share a journey, but HOW [this is done] is entirely up to them. We keep time as a means to encourage focus and we mention ‘palettes’ – which are like reminders on how time can be used in case people are at loss about how to access independent work and would like a little guide. It is pretty much the same every session, only that each facilitator slightly changes the kind of palette they propose – however, the palette is in the background so people can access it or leave it quite freely.

Antonio speaks his mind: his thoughts, his enquiries; and he encourages people to develop a moving body but also a moving mind – to not only follow is propositions, like one would in an improvisation class, but to consider and define a more personal enquiry about performance. However, it is still linked to his proposition of subject and, by talking it through, he continues to guide one’s journey. So when coming to Antonio’s class I still follow someone’s directions to quite a large extend. Although I enjoy his directions very much, and also I know I can make it my own at any time and I feel free to do so.
So, I suppose the degree of how much structure and guidance we propose, as well as how much independence we give, varies. However, the bottom line is: we [both] want people to use the time and space we provide to do research and develop in performance, to reflect on the why and how and what for, and we hope to do this regularly [emphasis added].

Those words from Laura triggered in me the following response:

It is true that OPENLAB and the Shared Practice/Training, which you [Doehler] and the girls [Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome, Tania Soubry and Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot] propose, are quite different… but I think they are two strategies with a very similar purpose.

[I think] I also try to propose a space where people follow their own enquiries entirely although I do it by creating a frame that frees them from having to figure out what (which could become haunting) and how (which could become very cerebral… although I welcome the cerebral too, yet there are ways and ways of being cerebral) and they can focus just on it… the doing, the performing. Maybe, I see it in this way because I think the enquiry that isn’t addressed so often for performers to undertake is on performing itself, and not necessarily on the subjects or content that would ‘tint’ their performing… but performing in all its possible forms… and in a way each person does its own idiosyncratic performing. This is the only way I can understand how to propose a self-directing training/practice for performers that will potentially feed their performing practice independently of whether they create their own work or they perform in works choreographed or just directed by others, improvising or performing set material, or anything in between [all of those].

Do I succeed? Probably not entirely but I don’t think I fail either. In any case, this question isn’t useful unless it allows us to continue to move forwards with our experiments.

When I have to chose the content for myself (when for example I followed your shared practice) this feels very difficult to me. For this reason, I like it but still I found it very difficult… I struggle with going into doing it and I used the time thinking about it, and it brings me to a place of performer as maker/choreographer/director/etcetera. I appreciate it and I found it useful, but I also know that I would find it more useful if I could go deeper into it by having more time… I would love to create also an environment that allows this, and that at the same time allows the possibility for individuals to exchange, to collaborate, to put themselves as a help for the others and not just develop their own work, but finding new ways of creating shared practices (not only in space and time, but in common knowledge).

I think this [creating an environment like this] will need resources, space and time, and the possibilities of the performers to be committed beyond to the feeling of what they feel they get immediately. Making things by yourself are time consuming and frustrating (learning has this potentiality to frustrate, when you can’t really do it). I think that if we want a space like that the performers will have to be paid for it… just a thought.

I think OPENLAB is a frame that enables a part of what I’d like to share within the limitations that a 2-hour long practice, once a week, has… I know that it’s very much about me talking and sharing my process ‘live’ and proposing it as a way for others to use it… or not, abuse it… or not, misuse it… or not, confuse it… or not, forget it… or not, manipulate it… or not, re-posses it… or not, distort it… or not, etc. but there is a constant and open invitation to any other person that comes to the lab to facilitate it too.

For me in the end what I want to share is also this state in which you can operate whether you’re told little or a lot about what you should be doing but that you make it work for yourself; daring to do even when you don’t know what you are doing or what you are ask about; learning to be OK with not knowing, not understanding, etc. and still make something out of it.

I’m still working on better ways to do this and I have a few ideas I want to try this year but this ideas will mean I need to sit down more mindfully and plan a bit.

I’m now losing track of what I’m trying to say so maybe I should stop.

I’m also thinking I could use this text to add in the OL’s archive.

OPENLAB session on Good Friday 18 April 2014: Off-site session out and around the QEOP

QEOP off-site OL

What are Good Fridays for?

About to turn 33 and being mid-named Jesus, I’m trying to forget their intended aim. Maybe that’s why this year I saw the opportunity to bring the lab outdoors, something we haven’t done now for a long time.

Chisenhale Dance Space, our usual HQ, was ‘Closed for Holidays’ and having opened the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park a few weeks earlier (and having not visited myself the parklands within the Park despite of living in it) the question of what would have happened to OPENLAB on that day was immediately answered.

So there we were at Hackney Wick station waiting for all of those who were attending the session; We were: Galina Kalichin, Susam Kempster, Debbie Kent, Jan Lee, Alisa Oleva, Amaara Raheem, Thelma Sharma and myself.

Soon after our meeting at the station we quickly moved inside the park area and decided first to get a hot drink at Timber Lodge, a community centre/café inside the park. Once there, I shared my plan for the day with all of us. We agreed to stay longer that we first had planned because we were already running an hour late, so we could dedicate a full hour to each of the two tasks I proposed.

For the first hour, we had a simple task: stroll around the park lands whilst being co-independent, i.e. staying together but undertaking each of us our own exploration of the park. The only two prescriptions for the stroll were to stay silent whilst ‘being in the present moment’ and to find moments of sharing our experience with the others.

This first hour felt, at lest to me, like a wonderful present. Aiming towards staying mindful for a long periods of time, leaving aside deadlines and to-do’s, having the chance of fully tasting reality without having to be a step-ahead constantly, always feels like both a luxury and a daily essential for the soul. I really needed this after the last months in which I have been very busy.

The exploration during this hour kept on reminding me of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the Wonderland, having Alisa telling us her name in English is Alice like the one who had gone through the mirror, and being in a park called after the Queen, filled with all kind of holes (like those in the picture above) for all kind of rabbits… the only difference is maybe that we weren’t actually late, on the contrary time passing became the less important element.

In any case, every time OPENLAB comes off-site a new element is always gained. I don’t mean the obvious element of being in the real world full of real objects to interact with. I mean the element of having other people, witnesses to our actions who haven’t chosen to be one of them, although that’s always the case within the public sphere. Some witness other people and neither group has chosen that… and it is still completely normal because, how could it be otherwise?

But every time OPENLAB happens outdoors the same questions arise: Where does real life ends and performing begins? What are the differences between performing and not performing? Are there any at all? And if so, what are their common characteristics?

These questions lead into the task we explored during the second hour of the lab. These questions and more:

What do I need to do in order to be performing? Does it have to do with the idea of doing things that look different to every day life actions? Or, can I perform despite any type of actions? Is it performing an action in itself? But if so, does the action of performing need to be accompanied by a specific set or type of actions? Can I perform by being every-day-life-like? Aren’t we al,l after al,l performing all the time? At least this is the way in which Erving Goffman talks about human social interactions in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

So, the way we tried to explore this questions for ourselves during the second hour of the lab was by creating an instant outdoors theatre. Although the park was very busy by this time (and therefore full of potential witnesses), we have decided to support each other by having a group of us watching whilst the rest were performing. The only limitations were to have at least two people at any given time in each group, and that we will finish by 1pm.

The experience was… well, it was hard to grasp because the way we were performing with each other, and the way other people unaware of what were our intentions did interact (or rather pretended not to be interacting) with us was constantly changing.

Goffman’s idea about face-to-face interactions as theatrical performances returned to my stream of consciousness, specially whilst I watched the others performing. What I experienced then wasn’t so much that we were imposing others to become audience members of a performance they didn’t asked for but rather that we have made them accidental performers of a piece they will never know it had taken place. There an idea…

With Delay – OPENLAB session on Friday, 10 January 2014

I write this OPENLAB update with delay. Just as I often do things. I know they keep sitting, lying, sedimenting, ongoing for longer. And by this I try to make an end. An end for now.

In that session starting off 2014 for OPENLAB, I wanted to explore a sense of time, and a feel for the way we need to punctuate the infinite continuity of time by constructing and observing beginnings and endings, as some sort of ritualization. By this I made a plan like that for the session:   plan OL

Taking part in this OPENLAB were Antonio, Debbie, Jan, Manou, Mark, Robert, Thelma and myself.

I thought that a stream of consciousness for a start would allow me to get everyone into the same place eventually;  people would start themselves off and filter the information they needed from a series of associations coming from my body and mind. Through this streaming I keep remembering how different we are. How much we share in common. Why time and space are so important in the art of performing. Involving us in The Here and Now with more awareness for it, as well as for everything that is Not Here or Not Now. I think the capital letters make these words look like some vultures above a landscape.

2 vulturesLeft to right: Here, Now

I observed that when one speaks in a space, a certain amount of people will want to know exactly what this person is saying; that it is often what goes unnoticed from your big map that gets picked up by others as references and milestones. That concentrating on the contents of our speech and movement contents while trying to answer a question [what did Heidegger mean when, after speaking about a new, more simple way of thinking, he quoted himself: “I step back before one who is not yet here, and bow, a millenium before him, to his spirit”?] through a collective move and talk brainstorm is practically impossible. This, however, has pros and cons. That pre-planned endings bring a sense of expectation and therefore space for disappointment and a certain stress for time, that a kettle full of water needs more time than it feels right for the water to boil.

It is and it was time for what became somehow the core of this session: practicing monotasking, and being watched while practicing monotasking. As I monotask I make a radical choice to not listen to plenty of present elements, I do surrend to letting what I do or perceive reach an end, and not controlling when this happens exactly, I let a thought popping and going, like a bird, and I find fun and hard to have no gap, to keep bringing my consciousness to be aware of something, to notice what one is already doing. What I decide and what happens are constantly crashing and meeting. Here, now. Consequences of the past on a variety of levels. Some projection into a near future, some work towards what one wants to become.

I wanted to keep things simple and I realize how much it is a matter of concentration, hard work and letting go at the same time. You need application to keep things simple.

Images and stories popping back in:

The eggs. The woman is delayed, her eggs are older. To make a step back you need some space behind you and space in front of you.a killing. passing water. all directions, one direction. wimmin. the cyborg who couldn’t see colours but could hear them. tickling. framed stills. the corners of the space. the heat of the radiator and the cold of the window. sweaters flying. these are now only memories.

While observing my partner in monotasking, I became aware of how much the intention and clarity of the activity of the performer and the inner inviting the viewer to watch will direct the senses of the viewer. This is the essence of performing for me; attending to senses meeting, thus creating meaning or lack of meaning.

My teacher Valerie Preston-Dunlop has talked about a binocular vision while describing performance and the act of spectating: during a performance, a display of signs linked to cultural references is established, charged with symbols and meaning, but a phenomenon is in place which can’t be replaced by any other experience The combination of both is the performance.

the end for now.

Is it possible to come back to basics? — OPENLAB session on Friday 17 January 2014

Fragata PortuguesaIs it possible? Can one come back to the origin of something, to the beginning?

Today we were: Debbie Kent, Martine Painter, Thelma Sharma, Flora Wellesley Wesley and myself.

I started from the idea that I wanted to make a session with the aim to invite anybody to follow their own practice, their own exploration around the same question but within their individual history, applied to their own past baggage and future desires. I thought my task was only to construct a session that gave this freedom… and at the same time could provide a certain sense of anchoring or structure.

I still wish to follow this task in the moment of the session… I think the session will result very differently. The thing is that I prepared myself ahead and thought that the answer was to divide the session in closeform and openform.

Openform would serve to invite every individual to explore the possibilities they want to explore. Closeform will allow us to get there, by creating a sense of togetherness and also an opportunity to share with people my own vision of things… to develop my guruness proudly without any prevention of being followed by, but rather hoping that some reactions, resistances, and counter propositions would arise, creating a exchange of ideas, allowing me to continue to develop and mutate my view of what and how things are in this whole mess of performance and what it is ‘to perform’, what does it take…

I rarely use the words performance and perform/ing during the session. But I wondered why not to do so. I tend to think these word resist to be defined, they are sort of ineffable and so I rather to work around them. We work normally with mindfulness, perceptual explorations, mental tasks and scores… you may come with a different list or add other elements (please do, comment on this if you feel like).

Today however I started the session by using that very forbidden (self-imposed prohibition, of course) words. What follows is a series of random elements I suggested during the session, specially during the closeform (beginning) part. The are also a series of thoughts that arouse during or after the session and may relate or not directly with what we did:

“What does define you as a performer?”

The answer doesn’t need to be a final, it can always change. It can be an answered of the past until now or of a desired future. Can be as simple as “I’m a dancer” or as complex/sophisticated as we want to get with it. It doesn’t need to be expressed verbally, it can just be a feeling.

“So, which actions and skills you may want to explore and use as such a performer?”

My idea was to connect this with the openform part of the session. The idea was to give freedom to anybody to explore what does their personal view of performing entail and how they want to develop those entailings.

“So, does it mean that just by deploying those actions and skills that define you as a specific kind of performer (or as a specific distinct performer) you are actually performing? They way I see it you may either be deploying those actions and be performing, or deploy those actions and not be performing. So, does it mean that performing is something else that you do in simultaneity to the actions and skills that you deploy when performing (including actions such as just being, silence, stillness, etc.).”

Here is where many of us may disagree or have different visions to answer the question… I would like to propose here and now an open conversation similar to the one that happened in the session and after the session.

I could talk about specificities of what we did during the closeform part of the class but, to be honest, I think they won’t tell you much… they are the sort of things that need to be done. We worked from the key word ‘relationship’ and we applied to tactile, extended tactile, visual and aural ways of making contacts. It seems that the image of being a Portuguese man o’ war was also helpful; a jellyfish-like creature that it’s actually a colonial organism whiling their time away in their communal floating journey, a group of individuals “attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.”

(Source of picture and quote about Portuguese man o’ war: ).

Start, live, decay: like fire: OPENLAB session Friday 13 December 2013

OPENLAB Friday, December 13th


Present: Antonio de la Fe, Tara Pilbrow, Verena Schneider, Thelma Sharma

To notice the beginning, development and end of movement

This session raised some questions about what counts as a beginning, how we endow an action with the sense of it beginning, choosing to separate it from the ever-present flow of the moments.

If there was a sequence of repeated actions, how much did that dull the sense of a new start? When was it possible to experience an ending? Could there be a real pause or emptiness of some sort between actions? Were there satisfactory and unsatisfactory endings? Was the idea of musical structures useful?

I attended to the adjustments of my body in space and leant into them, expanded from one place into another, was caught by a sound and took that as a new beginning, while seeing it lie on the momentum from the past. I watched my focus shifting, allowing a mood to expand through the body. The endings of each impulse were cut off , as the new one took over: there was no bell-shaped curve of start, fulfilment, decline. Collage, rather than narrative. I could experiment with seeing an impulse lead to a complete phrase. Within that, always overlapping aspects of breath, mood, spacial occupation, relationship to the environment, including others.

Exercises of leading a partner with eyes closed and pausing, began the session. Andrew Morrish uses these to increase attention. We wrote to assimilate in some way what had been experienced.
There were also exercises to focus on what we attended to or chose to attend to. Rosalind Crisp introduced this type of exercises to me. In partners, we were director and mover, and the directions I used were: leave that, stay with that, let that fade. What I noticed to stay with or leave could be different to what the director might be thinking of. The satisfactions of staying with or letting go of varied too.

It seemed that beginnings were often easier to embrace and realise than were endings. The session also gave only passing attention to the whole development and flowering of the impulses.
So an investigation on the borders.

Thelma Sharma

Making sense of things: OPENLAB session on Friday 6 December 2013


This session, I decided to bring along my newest toy -a service bell, in the shape of a dome, with a button on the top- one that usually sits on a desk to call someone to come to you. We all gave it a go, pressing it, imagining who or what we wanted to arrive. Or as doorbell, waiting for our friend to answer the door for us. Nothing to do, just wait, and expect, or feel how we feel.

This session we were myself, Valentina Bongiovanni, Natasha Weinberg, and Antonio de la Fe.

We practiced a score of moving and noticing the beginning of things (inspired by a score from Rosalind Crisp). Each time I thought of a new thing, each time the detail stretched further and expanded out.  The waiting becoming the doing.

We shared our physical sensations through talking, to our partners.   We talked out loud what we were physically doing, in real-time, while we moved.  We mirrored each other’s face expressions, trying to find the journey together… ‘Do I really look like that?’… The continuing feedback from ourselves and each other gave more detail, more colour, sensation and feeling emerging from the gaps. It was like a metronome of my attention, telling me about my sense of time and action, moving them in and out like a kid playing with a long spiral slinky.

We practiced automatic writing and shared this in speech and movement with each other. Pouring out our body, images, strategies, and conversations through the labyrinth of gaps. I wondered how much of my selection and choice was affected by how I ‘knew’ my witness. Waiting at the door and thinking, what do I know of this person I am meeting, who is meeting and seeing me? I played with different angles of looking and interrogating a thought, of cajoling it or grooming it into becoming present for myself and my audience.

Then, we ended with another score. One person moved, while the other witnessed and let out a stream of words describing feelings and images. I was inspired by Authentic Movement to use a non-imposing phrase to start each sentence, to emphasise the interpretative (rather than prescriptive) nature of the description- “I see you… (e.g. feeling excited) / (e.g. as a bird in flight)”. I wondered, who is making the meaning? ‘You, me, talking?’

Reflections and decisions: OPENLAB session on Friday 8 November 2013


Leading the session on Friday 8th November, I was interested in looking at what happens in our mind while performing, making or improvising.  Therefore I suggested working with a series of reflective ways and seeing what that makes to our performance and how it affects the decisions we make.  We used reflection upon reflection upon reflection upon reflection…  We reflected while acting (doing/moving), and then we reflected (by writing or talking) on what we acted, and then we reflected (by writing or doing/moving) on what we had reflected (by writing or doing/moving). We focused on ourselves, we watched, and we were watched.