Birth

Exciting summer news from Sensescapes

A New Era

WITH GRATEFUL SHOUTS OF JOY, it is a tremendous pleasure to announce the long awaited birth of Sensescapes as a sense laboratory, officially organized as an association where YOU can become a member.

This is our fundament:

  • Sensescapes is a laboratory for multisensorial exploration.
  • The aim of Sensescapes is to inspire people to become more sensuous, sensible and sensing in their everyday life.
  • The laboratory seeks to provide, facilitate and develop sustainable activities with aesthetic quality. 

Everyone who agrees with the above principles, can become a member of the Sensescapes association.

The official founding happened last week. On a wet summers’ day, six dedicated souls joined around the wooden dining table in my living room on fourth floor in the middle of Aarhus. Our purpose was to bring the work of Sensescapes to its next level.

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Regulations for our association where written. Papers where signed and a wonderful board constituted itself. The leaders of the Sensescapes association are now:

Chairman: Inger Kærgaard, teacher, biologist and environmental activist with special love for trees (read an interview with her here)
Vice Chairman: Lauge Rasmussen, MA in Experience Economy and co-founder of Pitcherific.com
Treasurer: Jacob Vibe, forester and owner of Vibes Træpleje
Board member: Ida Krøgholt, lector and Ph.D. at department of Dramaturgy, Aarhus University
Board member: Pernille Kølbæk, Ba in Aesthetics and Culture, MA in Experience Economy, project manager at LEGO

 

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Signing the regulations of the association of Sensescapes.

With this lovely, diverse leadership group, and with myself as daily caretaker and developer of the laboratory, Sensescapes is now open for new experiments, new encounters, new immersions and new horizons.

Thrilling.

Would you like to become a member and supporter of the laboratory? Then read more about membership here.

Exploring taste – eating the local

In the spirit of sustainable, sensory encounters with the everyday, a little experiment was made for the meeting. It began with a restriction: All servings was to be made only from locally grown ingredients. Usually my shopping basket contains lots of things that has been shipped from all over the world. By changing my natural behavior with this one-time restriction, I wanted to explore the personal changes in food perception and eating experience. Since I live in the middle of the city and own no garden, this seemed like a fitting challenge for an exploration of the local.

It was midsummer. I took my bike and a couple of books about edible plants and went along Brabrandstien, a path running alongside a lake just outside the city.

This is what I found and brought home:

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What Brabrandstien could not provide, I found and bought at the local farmers market and in local stores.

Coming home, another major change appeared. Usually I do not spend hours in the kitchen. Here there was no choice but to follow the speed of slow preparation. Chopping, baking, cooking, mixing, washing, cutting, spreading, sniffing, arranging, saving, waiting, tasting.

As hours went by, food preparations evidently became a sensory meditation. Not meditation in the sense of relaxing wellness, but in the sense of focused awareness of the present beings, movements, scents, colors and emotions in the here-and-now.

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In my living room the board meeting was at its end. In the kitchen, food was ready.

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Dinner was served

Værsågod (here you go):

Cherries from Brabrandstien.
Homebrewed mead from our wedding two years ago. Strawberries from Samsø. Apple juice from Fyn, and beer from Den Gamle By.
Beets from a nearby field, slowly baked with onion and chili from a family member’s green house.
Nettles and beet tops stewed in homemade butter from the local farmers market and cream from the south of Jutland.
Salats with potatoes from Samsø and goat cheese from Horsens, topped with rapeseed oil from the north of Jutland, and various flowers from around.

Plus some more.

In my home we have an everyday ritual of holding hands and saying thanks for the food before eating dinner. Not as a religious prayer, but as a mindful verbalization of the long procedure of growing, picking, sending, buying, making and sharing the food.

This night, performing the daily practice of gratitude made deeply sense. For the first timer ever at a dinner table, I had an actual, embodied knowledge of the origin of nearly every single ingredient on the table. The presentation took a while, as I listed all the things and the places they had grown or been made.

After hours of talking, the atmosphere shifted as we started eating. Collectively we fell into tune with each of our sensation of the time demanding preparation and the appearance of the food for our eyes, tongues and hands. It was a pleasure.

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A few days later, I read a short book about taste by the Danish food anthropologist Susanne Højlund. She describes taste as a multisensorial phenomenon, not only a sense located in our mouth, but involving all parts of our body. Besides the sensory stimulation of eating, she adds, taste is also a culturally situated experience, colored by our expectations, the history of the food, and the social aspect of sharing it (Højlund, Susanne, 2016: “Smag”, Aarhus University Press). This approach stems perfectly with my experience of our meal. For me, the meal became a full-body sensation of eating a piece of Danish summer.

With great hope for future projects and explorations to come!

Lotus

 

 

Categories: aesthetics, Birth, Cityscape, Country side, Dreams, Euphoria, Gratitude, Motivation, PR, Process, Sensorial meditation, Short experiment | Leave a comment

Dreams, openings, connections

Today I did a guided baby walk in my neighbourhood. Nine mothers with nine babies in nine baby carriages made a spectacular body of moving legs, wheels and heads in the grey morning of Aarhus city centre. Together we explored some local gems: an old crypt, a hidden garden, a hip street transformed from slum, a mysterious pig monument and at last a café with more breastfeeding customers than not.

Doing guided walking tours the classical way is not directly connected to Sensescapes, but the stream of intention underneath is the same: To raise awareness of our everyday surroundings, getting embodied experiences of the things, beings and events that are already there. As the test walk today was a success, I intend to do a series of them this coming summer and fall. If time and space allow it. So stay tuned!

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As days come and go, new connections appear. I was honoured to be contacted by my main theoretical inspiration source for the master thesis about Sensescapes, Professor in Human Geography Edmunds Bunkse from Latvia. A kindred spirit, he concluded from our chat.

Yes. New dreams and visions of local and cross-country connections are slowly, slowly being formed:

A former fellow student, asking to pair up and share the depths of knowing life and death from a sensitive mind’s perspective. A soul to walk with in the everyday challenges.

A British artist in the inbox, encouraging Sensescapes to visit a festival of senses in London next year.

Sudden meetings like this one. Sudden openings.

A visit in the beautiful building Dome of Visions, which will soon move from Copenhagen to Aarhus to become a frame for experimental practices, dreams and creative events. Perhaps Sensescapes could and should contribute…

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A gift from a generous landscape enthusiast and artistic director: 4 days residence in the soft landscape of Mols Bjerge in June, on the farm where I have been researching, playing and working so many times now. I will go there with my little family and see what creativeness the land will inspire.

Gifts, ideas, encouragement, sprouts.

And through it all, a constant state of motherhood relations, preoccupying the mind with strangely down-to-earth impulses: Little one, are you tired? Hungry? Bored? Impatient? Hands, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feet completely immersed in tiny sensations. Now we dwell in the living room together, now the bed, or the bathroom, or the local park, or a train. Without further notice, I have become an all-time facilitator of the babyscape created and maintained by the presence of my daughter’s curious discovering of the world. My world becomes her world and vice versa. What a responsibility.

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Next week we will travel across the Atlantic to make new experiences and reconnect with older generations. There is still some time before maternity leave ends and I will have an opportunity to turn (some… a few) dreams into real projects. Let’s see. Let’s see.

Oh, and did I mention this blog has been referred to in a (not-very-intellectual) Danish weekly magazine for middle aged women doing needlework and handicrafts? No kiddin’. A journalist from “Hendes Verden” called and asked to use a photo of a cairn my husband did in Iceland in the magazine. I said yes and so Sensescapesblog.wordpress.com is now to be found in a cheasy section about creativity online, along with adds for DIY table cloths and coffee scrub:

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Surprises and openings in all directions! To be continued when summer is around the corner.

See you!

Lotus

 

 

Categories: Birth, Cityscape, Country side, Dreams, Motivation, Playfulness, Process | Leave a comment

Spring news 2016

After my last blog post, spring turned into to summer, and in a glimpse of an eye, summer gave way to autumn, autumn quickly became winter, and now my little Nordic country is in spring mood again, with blooming windflowers and days of constant rain-sun-rain-sun-rain…

In all this time, things have happened. Jobs. Workshops. Travels. New encounters. I have become a mother. A newborn life has enriched and transformed the aesthetics of my everyday into tiny sensations. Baby-sensations. A world of experience and learning. A full-full-full-time job.

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Little Iris and mother Lotus enjoying spring time

But Sensescapes is not far away, neither dead – only resting, like a sprout in the soil, and I am waiting with eager curiosity for time to be ripe for new actions and reactions in the field of landscapes and senses.

Here’s a reflection of one of the activities done in 2015:

Sensescapes as Experimental Anthropology 

A Sensescapes workshop was facilitated in April ’15, as part of a one-day’s programme in Secret Hotel, on the old farm in Mols Bjerge. The participants were a small group of Master students from a course in Experimental Anthropology, Aarhus University, and their teacher. The workshop was intended as an experiment of Experimental Anthropology in itself, investigating the potential of adding the role of an observer to the usual blindfolding exercise of a guide leading a blindfolded participant in a given landscape.

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Introducing ways of guiding. Photo: Secret Hotel

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Observer (left), guide (in the middle) and blindfolded. Photo: Secret Hotel

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Guide (left), blindfolded (in the middle) and observer. Photo: Secret Hotel

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Guide (at the back), blindfolded (in the middle) and observer (in front). Photo: Secret Hotel

With observers as part of the one-on-one practice, a radical shift was created in the character of the concept as I have facilitated it before. First of all, two became three, which makes the relational side of the practice more complicated. But more important, the active bodily sensation of the landscape, performed and experienced by the duo of blindfolded and guide, was now accompanied by a more passive third body, who followed the couple closely and silently.

As the photos show, the observers seem to take a specific position in their engagement with the surroundings. Hands stored away in pockets, bodies standing or walking upright. Yet their eyes carefully follow every action of the investigating couple. Perhaps a tension between intense observation and intense blindfolded sensation was created. Perhaps a double layer of reflection was established. The duo knew that they where being observed, and the observers knew that they knew.

In response to the exercise, I asked each participant in the workshop to share three words describing their experience. Now, an example from this feedback session can open a reflection in relation to the development of the practice of Sensescapes so far:

Lotus: “Write down the first three words that come to your mind, describing your immediate impression of what we just did. Read them out loud to us.”

Blindfolded participant: “Childlike. Playfulness. Trust.”

Guide: “Vision. Responsibility. Inventiveness.”

 

When I asked the participants to explain their feedback keywords in plenum, it appeared that all the participants, including the observers, has found the workshop fun and interesting. Even if it could feel a little awkward and perhaps slightly intimidating, the observers, felt they had been part of the exercise as well, and they had felt inspired by what they had seen. Thus, a general feedback from the whole group was how they wanted to do something like this again.

Now, if blindfolding can be a direct door to multisensorial encounters with a landscape, how can an embodied position of ONLY seeing contribute to the multisensorial space of here-and-now? In other words: why add an observer in the practice?

For me as the facilitator, the short experiment became a successful statement of how observation cannot and should not be separated from sensation. By seeing, the observer, too, is sensing. Only it is a different sensation, just like the sensation of an audience in a play is different from the sensation of the actors on stage. Still, they are all contributing to the event as a whole. By attaching observers to each couple of blindfolded/guiding explorers, the overall sensescape was not decreased, but expanded. In total, defining three, not two, roles in the exercise, can show how both being blindfolded, being a guide and being an observer can potentially contribute to the creation and exploration of a given sensescape, as a landscape inhabited and experienced through a multisensory mode of being with and in the world (read more on my definition of sensescapes here.)

With the hope of sharing more reflections and actions with you soon,
Lotus

 

 

 

Categories: aesthetics, Birth, Blindfolding, perception, Secret Hotel, Short experiment, Sight, Workshop | 1 Comment

A beginning: or Ways to enter a Final Thesis

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This picture may be a typical social media post for a home-alone-with-my-thesis-situation. I have seen similar pictures posted often on facebook. Candles, food, drink, computer, indicating a surplus of personal resources and creating a feeling that NOW things are rolling!

Perhaps they are. Rolling, I mean.

Tonight I’m the protagonist in this tale of the beginning of a final academic production, and this picture shows the scenery I face at the moment in my living room.
(Although while writing this the blueberries and cheese are long gone.
And the other half of the table is really messy.
And in spite of the candles it’s a little chilly in the room).
Things are much more than what meets the eye.

Anyway. There are much I want to share with you.

First of all I want to tell you about the birth of Sensescapes.

The name was conceived in my mind one day in Iceland when I read the title of the text that lies here next to my computer. It is an article by the Latvian geographer with the quite special name Edmunds Bunkse. The title of the article is:

“Sensescapes: or a Paradigm Shift from Words and Images to All Human Senses in Creating Feelings of Home in Landscapes”

A few days ago I finally got to actually read the article. It is only five pages and I can recommend it to anyone who is interested in landscapes and perception theory. I started a note book for reading notes for my final thesis. Here’s what the first pages of the note book looks like now:

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After reading I was left with so many associations on the subject that I didn’t read much more that day.
(I am learning that slow reflection and time to contemplate can sometimes be more effective than tons of input. This is not what the education system teach us. They teach us to read, read, read, be updated all the time and gain as much knowlegde as possible.
But what is knowlegde?)

Back to the birth story. Last week Sensescapes was born, shaped like a word on this blog and in the title of my production thesis. The thesis has been mentioned in a couple of official announcements today and yesterday, which makes me feel that things ARE beginning to roll now – whether I like it or not. Most of the time I love it! Simultaneously there are lots of nervousness, fear and doubt. Complexity. Paradoxicality. Of course.

In all this, it feels crucial to try and keep things simple.

A simple question was given on facebook today, when Secret Hotel linked to my project under the title:

“What is Sensescapes?”

Spot on.

Here’s the first of several answers-to-come for that question. Directly derived from Bunkse, who is becoming my main inspiration at the moment:

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What do you think of the statements in the pictures?

Here’s what I think:

About sight:
I am going to discuss a little with Bunkse. I don’t agree that we cannot enter a landscape by gazing at it. Who has not been lost for hours in some other-worldly food for the eyes? Films, photos, paintings, drawings… visual art offer whole worlds to enter and explore by sight and imagination. As the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere has stated, seeing can be an action in itself, and thus every spectator has the opportunity (and according to Ranciere also the ability) to jugde and associate from what he sees (Ranciere p. 13).

About all the senses:
What I DO agree with is Bunkse’s crucial point: that the dominance of pictures and words in our Western culture has moved us away from contact with our primal nature. Primarally I am a sensing body. I smell. I touch and grab things. I eat. I am cold and warm. I constantly orientate myself by my senses. I hear directions, taste if the food is good or bad, I search for signs in other people’s faces or in the sky, observe the ground with my feet and store knowlegde about places in my nostrils.
What I DO agree with is Bunkse’s suggestion for a sensory turn away from objectification and distance in a paradigme of words and images, and instead moving towards new (or old) ways of encountering and relating that includes all the senses. This is why I make sensorial walks. And this is why my walks are designed to focus on all other elements than seeing and speaking.
I will of course elaborate on this as the research goes on.

In Bunkse’s theory the concept of sensescapes is defined with the anthropologist David Howes:

“[sensescapes] is the idea that the experience of the environment and of the other persons and things which inhabit the environment, is produced by a particular mode of distinguishing, valuing and combining the senses in the culture under study” (Bunkse p. 13)

What is Sensescapes? It is the center of my final thesis. Well. Calling it a final thesis seems a little off the point. Sensescapes is not anything final. It is not even the beginning of anything final. Others have began the work in the same fields I am investigating, doing things related to what I am doing, for decades (perhaps centuries, or if you look at it philosophically, likely for ever). Part of Sensescapes is to become aware of relational matters, like the one of belonging to a history of senses and sensorial investigation.

This is the beginning of my final thesis project. And it is not. In real life and in primal nature there’s no strict beginnings or ends, are there? Things change, they take new shapes and forms, they die and give life to something new.

There’s no beginning or end. Only the beautiful, terrible, fun, frustrating, revealing, radical, intense, never-ending proces.

Or: on micro levels there are perhaps only beginnings and endings.

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Literature:

Bunkse, Edmunds: Sensescapes: or a Paradigm Shift from Words and Images to All Human Senses in Creating Feelings of Home in Landscape in Proceedings of the Latvia University of Agriculture, Landscape, Architecture and Art, Volume 1, Number 1, p. 10-15

Ranciere, Jacques: The Emancipated Spectator, Verso 2009

Categories: Birth, Landscape Dialogues, Material, Motivation, Process, Sight, Thesis experiment | 2 Comments

The farm

Two days ago I was at a meeting in Secret Hotel’s land in Mols Bjerge. Every time I arrive at the farm I get struck by a special silence and peaceful atmosphere that seem to dwell here. It’s an old, historic place and a great playground for a landscape explorer! Everything on the farm land seems to be different from the sensations I usually encounter in my daily urban landscape. The smells are different, the sky is bigger, the night is darker, the snow is more clean and the cold somehow more cold.

At the meeting we were a group of mixed artist, academics and culture workers who came to listen and share thoughts about Secret Hotel’s project Landscape Dialogues, which Sensescapes is a part of.

It’s always interesting to visit other people’s homes.  Next time I arrive at the farm I will stay there for five days to study and get to know the place better. First part of Sensescapes’ sensorial walks in April will be held here. I am so excited!

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Categories: Birth, Country side, Gratitude, Landscape Dialogues, Process, Secret Hotel | Leave a comment

Welcome!

Welcome to this new blog. It will soon become a logbook for my proces and reflections connected to working with landscapes and senses. Until posts begin to fill the page, you can read a little about my work and who I am.

See you soon!

Lotus

Categories: Birth, Euphoria, PR, Process, Thesis experiment | Leave a comment

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