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

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.

On Love: OPENLAB session on Friday, 14 February 2014; facilitated by Jan Lee

This time OPENLAB happened to be on Valentine’s Day, and matched my theme of LOVE very well…
In this session I wanted to promote LOVE as an important part of performing, as a practice of seeing myself in the other, and seeing the other in myself.  As a performer I really want to connect with myself, my collaborators, those that direct me, the intention of the performance, and maybe most of all, the audience.  It’s a strong desire to feel affection and to affect others…
The OPENLAB question – what does performing entail?….  at the moment right now, it’s the fine balance of being in love with eyes without trying to control eyes…  Eyes as audience/witness, eyes as our own sense of ourself, eyes as the director on the performer, eyes as the group mind, eyes as the vision of the performance itself…
(Some of the tasks we did in this session I took inspiration from Peta Lily the clown, and neuroscientific choreographer Corinne Jola.)
In this session is myself and Thelma Sharma.
The first task – ‘I only have eyes for myself’.  We close our eyes and perform for ourselves, having the luxury of being the only eyes to see ourselves.  We do this a few times.  Each time, my outer shell dissolves a bit more.  My ‘eyes’ become less about vision and more about filling and emptying energy and spatial pathways inside my mass.  Filling and emptying myself with feeling and intention.
Sometimes my legs would become branches in the air, or my hips a boat rocking in the sea, and the rest of me were my ‘eyes’, still and silent, passive, watching the legs or the hips.  I wanted to fill every part of me with energy.  I wanted my legs to love my arms and my arms to see themselves as my belly…
The second task – to work in a duo, as performer and audience. The performer explores how the filling and emptying of energy and intention can affect the emotional energy of their audience.  Using breath and movement to impact the space inside us, to match our audience’s state or to change the audience’s state…
When does the audience need some change?  Has it been too long that they haven’t moved at all?  Can you change something in yourself as a performer?  Or… does the audience need some space from you?  Stop eyeballing them?  Or maybe they want to be looked after for a moment, give them some time to relax and calm down…  ease their troubles, make them laugh… make them stop in their tracks, think about life seriously…
Affection – to affect, to be affected by
I feel like I am being tickled by Thelma while I watch her breath rise and fall as if she is silently laughing.
I feel the suspense as I watch her almost fall this way and that, letting go, holding on, as I do the same inside myself.
As a performer, we look after the audience, accompanying and matching their physiology.  This is… just… before…. (!) taking them for a ride … !! up and down the rollercoaster till its time to rest.
We invite each other in, and reassure the other that they still exist.  Together on a journey to find tunnels into each other’s worlds.   Do I want to join in?

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: ).

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.

Summer Solstice—A special day: OPENLAB session on Friday 21 June 2013

Some days are special and this time OPENLAB took place on summer solstice, a day in which the ancient cosmic choreography between the Earth and the Sun arrives to a radical turning-point within their journey across space.

All of us present in the studio (Evangelia Kolyra, Thelma Sharma, Flora Wellesley Wesley as well as myself) agreed that a solstice then can be considered as a special day. I had come to this session  thinking about the big deal that special dates have for us humans.

When thinking of special times I usually remember about being a kid and having the sensation that “the special” could be felt… independently of what kind of specialness that specific day had. I am convinced that they day before returning to school after the summer holidays was special. I remember being at home the afternoon before and had this feeling of hyper-reality, calmness at the same time that I was terribly nervous,  and that time had certainly slowed down. I can’t explain why but that day was special and I just knew this because my perception of reality from the smells to the extension of the space surrounding me were different. And I didn’t think this was happening to me, but felt that belonged to the moment… as if something atmospherically had changed, something that was manifested in every particle that surrounded me as well as composed myself had changed, something structurally fundamental that would have the power to affect us, and so that that was what I would feel… the effect that fundamental change of everything would have over everything else.

However, I remember other moments which, although being considered special, didn’t arrived together with the feeling of special. I am thinking of (señalados) days such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Those days are obviously different, mainly because we behave differently in those days but and not because those days are different themselves (besides different and special aren’t necessarily synonyms). I remember myself as a kid thinking that there was nothing special at all about Christmas besides the made-up conventions of traditions and celebrations with which most of us ascribe to (whether knowingly or not).

Is then special something that happens or something we make?

As a supposedly special day the solstice was

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

February 12, 2013

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?

Seeing the good side when a pigeon bangs against the windows: OPENLAB session on Friday, 3 May 2013

Last Friday, 3 May OPENLAB was attended by Jiska Morgenthal, Thelma Sharma and myself.


Sometimes the things we believe as fact, and therefore the things we preach about, seem to have abandoned us. It is as if we were enlightened once but since then we have forgotten the way that enlightenment looks and feels like… its memory has become so fainted that we start doubting even if it was ever true.

I lead the OPENLAB sessions most of the time. For this reason, for me it is hard to do what I’m saying whilst I’m saying it. I try, but what I normally experience is that I cannot really dive into “the thing” as I’m focusing in the flow of my speech about the thing to help others to do so. Still, I keep on trying to be in “the thing.” That’s my task.

However, I cannot resist the temptation of push it to make it happen. So, there I can see myself: pushing, pushing, pushing… so much I push sometimes I think I have laid an egg. No, I haven’t become oviparous just yet but the thing is that the more you push the harder is to make things happen. The more you push the more jammed the whole system gets.

Last session on Friday, 3 May I was feeling this way. We have been working for a bit on becoming mindfully aware of one-self and becoming mindfully aware of the world we exist in, the hows and the whats we can feel. In the end I asked the group to find the place in between, i.e. the inter-relations between the how we feel and what we feel.

As I was finding the task impossible I reminded to myself as well as to the others that the absence of relationships is a relationship in itself and that we should accept the fact that we may not encounter relationships (other than one of absence) at every single instant. I asked for patience, to wait for that moment in which the relationship emerges…

Well, relationships didn’t emerge for me in this session; at least not in the studio. When I had given up and went to pick some paper for the others to write in, I saw that there was a pigeon in the main Studio at Chisenhale Dance Space. I went into the studio to make the pigeon get out but actually the pigeon was trying to escape itself… only that the pigeon was not really able to find the fire scape door (which was open to let the hot air of last Friday to come into the studio). Instead, the poor little pigeon was banging itself again and again against the windows in the studio. With it bunging not only the pigeon’s body but also my own one were clenching. My fibres felt like hard strings tensing and reverberating, my guts flipping over… it’s hard to put it into words but I can say that the noisy bangs were clearly happening in unison with the clenching of my body. Ey, wait a minute! That’s a relationship of the kind I had set myself to find before, isn’t it? And I just find it when I had stopped trying. That reminds me of something…

In any case, the session did continue after my experience saving a pigeon (yes, I did manage to shoe it out of the studio). We tried out then a little exercise related with overloading attention: “how quick/how many body parts/how complexly can other people move you before you lose the capacity to be fully aware of those movements that are happening to you?”

Don’t worry, we just started the exercise and so you didn’t miss it yet. Come next Friday (10 May) and you will have the chance to experience it for yourself! I hope to see you there.

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.