Blindfolding

Reflections on play

These days of busy holiday businesses, long to-do lists, cold mornings and bodies in thick black winter coats rushing up and down the streets in relentless search for perfect objects to buy and consume, a word keeps rumbling in my mind:

Leg [ˈlɑjˀ]

In Danish, this does not refer to one of the two body parts that connect your feet and your torso. It means play, or game.

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Leg. Lege. Legende. Legesyg. Legeplads. Legekammerat. Legebetingelser. 
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Play. Plays. Playing. Playful. Playground. Playmate. Play conditions.  

The playful body

When was the last time you shared a playful moment with someone?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a four day workshop with two lovely teachers from Teatro de los Sentidos – an internationally acclaimed theater company, who for decades has been making immersive, sensorial theater plays with an actively involved audience.

Theatre play. The connection between play and performance is obvious here. In Danish, not the word play, but the word “stykke” (piece), is traditionally used about a piece of drama. However, the Danish word “forestilling” (imagination) can as well be used as a synonym for the theatrical performance.

So, we can say: “I saw the imagination (at this or that theater), and really liked it”

Imagination. Play.

In the workshop, Theatro de los Sentidos kept circling around the intention of creating an imaginary. How spaces can be transformed into imaginaries. How rooms, houses, nests, and other built spaces can encapsulate and evoke dreams.  How this is crucial for their method of creating sensorial journeys where the audience is the protagonist.

The workshop became such an imaginary in itself. For four days, we played countless games. Mostly they were plain, simple children’s games, but they made us laugh, sweat, loosen up and become better listeners. (When was the last time you played hide and seek with someone at your own age? Try it!). We immersed in countless blindfolding practices. And we explored countless rooms in the old, historical buildings of the workshop venue, and made short experiences for each other. Most of the time we worked inside, then at last going out for a while on the last morning. For me, the closed non-space of the theater black box was beautifully contrasted by a stunning winter landscape outside. There is magic in this dark, slow time of the year.

Thank you, Teatro de los Sentidos and Den Danske Scenekunstskoles Efter- og Videreuddannelse, for the (re)treat.

 

The playful city

In the unfolding of Sensescapes, my interest is mainly in how to implement methods from artistic fields of sensorial performance and body work in the everyday lives of everyday people, who work, move and live in everyday surroundings.

In other words: If embodied, sense-based knowledge is as equally important as rational, scientifically based knowledge, how can sensation, sensitivity and sensuousness become more present in our private lives, our homes, work places and  – not the least – in the public space, that we share?

In November, a shared sensescape was created in public, as a Sensescapes workshop was held at the water front of Aarhus, in and around the temporary urban space Dome of Visions. It was part of a three-day urban laboratory program, centered in the fundamental question: How do we create a livable city? (See the whole program here)

Familiar and unfamiliar participants came to explore the space and transform the area through sensorial intervention. The frame of the sensorial workshop was simple as always: After a brief introduction, the participants paired up and tuned into each other’s presence for a moment. Then they set off to investigate impulsively together, hand in hand, without words. One was blindfolded, the other not.

This time, a special emphasis was put on the equality of participation. In any game, so much power lays in the few sentences of instruction! In the intro, I therefore asked the participants to act on their impulses, no matter if their were blindfolded or not. The intention was to create a clear frame for potential curiosity and action to grow. Instead of a blind citizen, waiting for a seeing guide to lead them somewhere, the couples were encouraged to become one joined, impulsive, investigative, playful body.

The game began. Within minutes, individual and shared sensescapes arose.

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Sound play. Photo: Thea Green

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Role play. Photo: Thea Green

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Jump. Photo by Helle Arensbak, Dome of Visions. Take a look at Dome of Visions’ article about the laboratory, for more of her beautiful photos from the workshop.

Later the same day, a few of us blindfolded ourselves and curiously engaged the inside of the dome for a while.

Slowly. In silence. Alone.

 

In a debate on the last day of the laboratory, we re-posted the question: What is a liveable city?

Engaged debate participants suggested various answers to the question. A liveable city is a co-shapable city, a place with diversity, with green areas, with spots to breathe, with respectful meetings, a place where individuals have a sense of belonging.

And so on.

What would you answer?

What is a city worth living in, for you?

Homo Ludens

In 1938 the Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga published Homo Ludens. A study of the play element in culture.  In the book he argues that play is not only a fundamental phenomenon in human culture and society, in fact, “culture itself bears the character of play” (from foreword in J. Huizinga, 1949: Homo Ludens, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd). I have still to read the whole book, but as with many great theoretical books, reading the first couple of pages already brings plenty of food for thought:

[…]even in its simplest forms on the animal level, play is more than a mere physiological phenomenon or a psychological reflex. It goes beyond the confines of purely physical or purely biological activity. It is a significant function-that is to say, there is some sense to it. In play there is something “at play” which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action. All play means something. If we call the active principle that makes up the essence of play, “instinct”, we explain nothing; if we call it “mind” or “will” we say too much. However we may regard it, the very fact that play has a meaning implies a nonmaterialistic quality in the nature of the thing itself.

(Chapter 1, page 1)

… a nonmaterialistic quality in the nature of the thing itself! This corresponds wonderfully with the theoretical background of Sensescapes, where the aesthetic is regarded as an intentional search for impulsive perception with no other aim or agenda than the aesthetic experience itself. Thus, throughout the last months, is has become clear to me that the essence of Sensescapes is play. To playfully explore a relational world that is present in this moment, with and through the body, with and because of each other.

But what can you use it for?  Nothing! Sensescapes is useless! It wants to be useless! It intends nothing else than – borrowing Huizinga’s words – transcending the immediate needs of life in the here and now. No hidden evaluation forms. No efficacy measurement. No promise of life changing fitness results, and obviously no materialistic gains. Sensescapes intend to facilitate playful relations between bodies and their surroundings with no other aim than the powerful force of play in itself.

These are the good news.

The bad news is that this work-and-life philosophy is having a seriously hard time in real, actual, globalized life.

As I write these words, news are constantly throwing bombs of depressing information from all over the world. Horrified, dust-covered children from Aleppo. A truck driver killing randomly at a Christmas market in Berlin. Wars, refugees, climate crisis, natural catastrophes, terror, political madness, suspicion, inequality, trauma.

Have our world lost its playfulness?

Let’s hope not. Recently I met a great guy who is founder of the locally based Counterplay Festival. We chatted about play, and he said, almost in a side comment, that playing is highly political.

Of course it is. Perhaps more than ever.

In a time of too much hopelessness, despair and desperation, let us be deadly serious in bringing back playfulness to society. If playing together is transcending the immediate needs of life, play is not only for kids. It is for everyone. I dare even say, it is a human right to play.

With wishes of a seriously playful midwinter season,
and a New Year of hopeful togetherness,
Lotus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: aesthetics, Blindfolding, Cityscape, Playfulness, Workshop | 1 Comment

Without seeing you can be transported everywhere

Memories from a workshop session in Barcelona

About a year ago, a Sensescapes workshop was facilitated in Barcelona, in Parc de La Ciutadella, as part of Experimental Room Festival – a festival with human/time/site specific performances and workshops, curated and organized by Atelier Escènic Stoyanova.

Six lovely Barcelonian souls participated. One of them had brought her mother, who had never tried anything like this before. Some were artists in the performance field. Some spoke English, some not, so one of the participants also functioned as my translator.

We had two wonderful hours together. The participants curiously inhabited the park and investigated playful ways of embodied relation to each other, to the ground, the plants, other park guests, and to all other sensorial components in our momentary sensescape.

During our time together, each participant had the change to be led blindfolded and to be guiding someone else. Every exploration session ended with a short feedback, where the participants paused from their silence for a while, and shared three words to describe their immidiate impression of their experience. Afterwards I have had their notes with the three keywords translated from Spanish to English, so today I can re-read what they said.

Here is a glimpse of the atmosphere around our workshop in the park that day.

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And here are some of the feedback notes:

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I like the way impressions are mixed and open to interpretation in these feedback notes.

Listening. Frightening. The Unknown.

Hugging trees. Seeds. Water.

Wonderful.

Attention.

Tendernes. Trust.

Fantasy, memories, time travels. Why time travels? Because with eyes closed you can be transported everywhere. Countries, landscape, childhood…

The urge to speak and be in contact with something honest, primal and profound.

Sensescapes contains it all.

Thanks to Experimental Room Festival for making this happen. By the way, this years’ festival is just around the corner, so if you happen to be in Barcelona, you might want to take a look at their program.

With hope of many more blindfolded explorations to come,
Lotus

 

Categories: Blindfolding, Cityscape, Feedback, perception, Playfulness, Workshop | 1 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

From landscape to sensescape

What is a landscape? How do you relate to your landscape? How do landscapes affect us?

Departing in phenomenology’s notion of the body and the world as inseparable, I approach the term landscape as an entrance to a specifically embodied conceptualization through the following three statements:

A) Landscape as relation.

As the philosopher Christopher Tilley has pointed out, using the term landscape in a phenomenological perspective will appear antithetical to the conventional Western understanding, where landscape is “[…]implying separation and disinterested analytical observation, a particular way of seeing exemplified in the linear techniques of perspective developed in landscape painting since the Renaissance[…]” (Tilley 2004:24). A search in the Oxford Dictionary confirms that landscape is still first and foremost understood as a picture, a painting, a view, a scenery, a map, a background or simply just “the object of one’s gaze”, depicting a piece of mostly natural inland (www.oed.com). This understanding, argues Tilley, is turned around in a phenomenological idea of landscape defined as “perceived and embodied sets of relationships between places, a structure of human feeling, emotion, dwelling, movement and practical activity within a geographical region which may or may not possess precise topographic boundaries or limits” (ibid.:25). From such a perspective, landscape is understood radically different than visual representations of beautiful, natural scenarios. It is not some object in front of my gaze, but a continuous dynamic process of relation between my embodied being and the being of my surroundings in “a consideration of fluidity, transition and motion” (Benediktson and Lund, 2010:3).

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Relations. Participant: Søren. Photographer: Christine Fentz

B) Landscape as more-than-human.

Phenomenologically speaking, landscape can also be understood as a dynamic relation between the human and the non-human. In the philosopher David Abram’s ecology, this implies a form of radical conversation, where “[t]he landscape as I directly experience it, is hardly a determinate object; it is an ambiguous realm that responds to my emotions and calls forth feelings from me in return” (Abram 1997:33). Continuing this conversation metaphor, geographer and anthropologist Karl Benedikson and Katrin Anna Lund defines landscape as a continuous dialogue between interdependent entities, in which: […]landscape implies a more-than-human materiality; a constellation of natural forms that are independent of humans, yet part and parcel of processes bywhich human beings make their living and understand their own placing in the world” (Benediktsson and Lund 2010:1). Because landscape is both shaped by human but also shaping the human, it is a more-than-human constellation that, after all, remains undisciplined (ibid.:9). Benediktsson and Lund goes as far as to state that landscape is “not comprehended as a predetermined, culturally contrived “text”, but as a conversational partner[…]” (ibid.:8) Now, if landscape connections can be seen as conversations or dialogues, how can such connections take place and how can they be experienced? This is part of my investigation.

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More-than-human. Participant: Birthe. Photo: Rasmus Malling Lykke Skov

C) Landscape as multisensorial.

My intention in the process of creating and facilitating sensorial walks with blindfolded participants, is to test and practice the geographer Edmunds Bunkse’s concept of landscape as “a unity in one’s surroundings, percieved through all the senses” (Bunkse 2007:222). This theoretical starting point adopts landscape as “embodied practices of being in the world, including ways of seeing but extending beyond sight to both a sense of being that includes all the senses and an openness to being affected” (Dewsbury and Cloke 2009: 696).

Now, landscape becomes multisensorial. It becomes sensescapes. In David Howes’ anthropology of senses, sensescapes is defined as 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” (Howes 2005:143). An anthology by the philosopher Madalina Diaconu a.o., uses the term in the title “Senses and the city. An interdisciplinary approach to urban sensescapes” (2001). Surprisingly it does not seem to undergo any further definition in the book, though Diaconu do seem to encourage the same sensory revolution as Howes and Bunkse (Diaconu 2001:7, Howes 2005:1, Bunkse 2012:12). With Bunkse, however, the concept moves from an anthropological to a geographical-philosophical approach to landscapes as home. Departing in his own history as a Latvian emigrant trying to find his feet in the States, he states:

[…]contact with our primal nature is in more than pretty pictures or designs of landscapes. Pictures are abstractions, we do not enter the landscape by gazing at it and taking ever more pretty pictures of it. Having a handful of thorny needles from a devil’s club may hurt for a week, but it is thus that one becomes part of a landscape. It is how familiarity is acquired with many other sensory aspects of wild landscapes that Canadians fondly refer to as the “bush”. And familiarity makes the heart fonder. It then feels at home (Bunkse 2007:14)

Bunkse makes a crucial point that the dominance of pictures and words in our Western culture has moved us away from contact with our primal nature (ibid.:221). This refers to the phenomenology of perception as a movement back to a naive and sensuous contact with the world. Primarily I – the phenomenological “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, observe the ground with my feet and store knowledge about places in my nostrils. Bunkse’s sensory turn moves away from objectification and distance in a paradigm of words and images, and towards new (or old) ways of encountering and relating to the landscape as home. Inspired by this approach, I suggest a definition in this thesis, of sensescapes as a landscape inhabited and experienced through a multisensory mode of being with and in the world. My proposal of a movement from a concept of landscape to a concept of sensescapes, leads to the production of Sensescapes as a multisensorial connection between the self, other selves and the surrounding land, and as a method of inhabiting and experiencing one self and one’s surroundings in the same movement.

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Smellscape. Participant: Stephan. Photo: Rasmus Malling Lykke Skov

(The text is an excerpt from the introduction chapter in the master thesis I am currently working on, titled: “Sensescapes. The Phenomenology of Sensorial Landscape Connections”)

References:

Abram, David, 1996, The Spell of the Sensuous. Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, Vintage Books, New York

Benediktsson, Karl and Lund, Katrin Anna, 2010: “Introduction: Starting a conversation with Landscape” in Benediksson, Karl and Lund, Katrin Anna, Conversation with Landscape, University of Iceland, Ashgate

Bunkse, Edmund, 2007, “Feeling is believing, or landscape as a way of being in the world” in Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography: Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Volume 89Issue 3pages 219–231

Bunkse, Edmunds, 2012, Sensescapes: or a Paradigm Shift from Words and Images to All Human Senses in Creating Feelings of Home in Landscape” in Landscape, Architecture and Art. Proceedings of the Latvia University of Agriculture, Volume 1, Number 1, p. 10-15

Dewsbury, J.D. and Cloke, Paul, 2009, Spiritual landscapes: existence, performance and Immanence, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol , Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK file:///C:/Users/acer/Desktop/Dewsbury.pdf

Diaconu, Madalina, Heuberger, Eva, Mateus-Berr, Ruth and Vosicky, Lukas Marchel, 2011, Senses and the City: An interdisciplinary approach to urban sensescapes, LIT Verlag

Howes, David, 2005, Empire of the senses, Bloomsbury Academic

Tilley, Christopher, 2004, The Materiality of Stone. Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology: 1, Berg

Categories: Blindfolding, Cityscape, Country side, Landscape Dialogues, Thesis experiment | Leave a comment

Holding hands

“When I hold your hand I hold a miracle”

– British writer AL Kennedy, in a BBC radio programme 

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Photo: Rasmus Skov

Holding hands.

Something I do so instinctively, so intuitively.

To grab the participant’s hand and walk like we were friends.

When I reach for your hands, it is not only to guide and lead, but merely to say: I want to be WITH you in this, not ahead of you.

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Photo: Christine Fentz

I find that this simplicity of relation between hands does the difference in my guiding method.

On the blindfolded walks of Sensescapes, we explore the environment of everyday life as it is, completely out of the institutions art, with a minimum of pre-build constructions for the event, no fictional frame and no intended audience. For the staging of a walk I make either no, or very few, changes on the site.

And yet everything changes.

The change lies merely in the blindfolded experience, but this experience would not have such strong and emotional effect of etc. pleasure, relaxation, safety and playfulness, without the intimacy of the moving, breathing body of the “we” that is created in the connection between blindfolded and guide.

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Photo: Søren Gammelmark

Here at the farm or in the park, the meeting of your hands and mine change the experience of the relational space around us from everyday-like to something both familiar and extraordinary, both distant and very intimate.

In an abstract and curious dance between blindfolded and guide, our bodies merge into one.

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Photo: Angela Rawlings

It is all set in the beginning of the walk, in the radical shift from two strangers talking briefly in a yard or on a pathway, to the appearance of a vulnerable, curious pair of connected entities, through touch of hands and through a constant mindful awareness of each other.

We meet.

I ask you a few questions to get to know a little about you.

Then you put a blindfold on.

But then… I take your hands and we breathe together.

Both pair of eyes is closed, because I want to sense what you are sensing.

I want us to arrive in our bodies together.

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Photo: Rasmus Skov

Then we walk, hand in hand.

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Photo: Rasmus Skov

Perhaps the essence of Sensecapes can be summed up in the togetherness of hands being in touch, eccoing A.L. Kennedy:

“When we reach out for each other, we don’t just reveal our highly evolved and respectable selves. When hands open for each other, they open deep impulses, primate truths, touched before agriculture, before tools, before speaking.”

– A.L. Kennedy in the above mentioned BBC programme.

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Photo: Roland Schild

I find the feeling of deep connection and intimacy most meaningful when shared, like in this re-post of a reaction from one of the participants in the thesis-experiement:

“Even though I was blindfolded I could feel there was one hundred percent contact and attention. And that part is terribly strong! It was not until afterwards I discovered: oh my god, this is what I give my children. But how important it is to do this, because – wow! – how you lack this in real life! So, that was a pretty impressive experience”

– Stephan Gustin, participant on a walk in Aarhus, April 2014

I guess I fall a little bit in love with most of my participants. There is a powerful and mindblowing force in the freedom of being childish together, being brave together, being vulnurable together, being close together for a brief moment in life.

I love it.

Lotus

Categories: Blindfolding, Closeness, Hands, Thesis experiment, Touch, Trust | Leave a comment

Sense experiment at Bart Art Symposium III

 

 

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Here is a tribute to my grandmother, who recently presented a thought experiment of sensorial walks without walking. Her question was: “Could I, who do not walk well anymore, get the same sort of experience as in your walks, by just sitting on a chair in my garden, blindfolded?”

Thus, on Secret Hotel’s Barn Art Symposium III in Mols Bjerge, a short sense experiment of blindfolded sitting was facilitated two days ago. Elements of text, touch, guided walking and change of place was added. But mainly there was just sitting. Alone. With very few sensory inputs, such as (outside:) the wind, the trees, the bench, my hands, (inside:) the sound of a noisy projector, the chair, the floor, the momentary steps of my rubber boots.

Afterwards, contrasting reactions were at play among the participants, which made it clear to me that in a shared physical place, with the same verbal instructions, in the same condition of restricted sight and movement, blindfolding sitting itself can be sensed emotionally and intuitively completely different from person to person. For some, sitting alone on a bench with eyes covered, might lead to a deep meditation. For others, plain relaxation. For others insecurity or irritation. For some, deep fear or anger.

At the end, the eight participants were asked to verbalize their experience in three words each. Some had words, others not. Here is what was said:

Hard. Wind. Happiness.
Space. Inner/Outer. Movement.
Isolation. Caress. Breeze.
Warm/cold. Wind. Unsecure.
Deep. Blindness. Light.
Simplicity. Trees. Contact.
Listening. Enough that I am not knowing.
Birch.

(Said by the photographing participant:)
Looks like peace. Harmony. I believe in you.

Photographer: Roland Schild

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Thank you to all the participants for taking the risk!

 

Categories: Blindfolding, Closeness, Country side, Hands, Sensorial meditation, Short experiment, Silence, Touch | Leave a comment

Sensescapes at NSU in Iceland

In the end of July I was given the opportunity to participate in the summer session of Nordic Summer University, which was situated in Sáduarkrokur, Northern Iceland, this year. I became a member of the study circle titled “Crossing Contexts – interventions through artistic research”, where aprox. 35 researchers and artists (most of us having a practice of both) exchanged thoughts, work and experiences from morning to evening. The energy was loaded with creativity and mutual interest, Networks expanded, horizons broadened, inspiration flowed, and I am still contemplating the mass of material and impressions created in our shared space.

One night we had a LAB night, and within the packed programme of performances and participatory installations and experiments, Sensescapes was given 20 minutes to unfold. The night was chilly with lots of wind. Nevertheless we went outside, and after a short introduction to the simple concept of blindfolded walks, we paired and did 15 minutes of exploration around and inside the buildings. I was participating in the exercise myself, but NSU member Magda Mrowiec captured the event with her camera.

My deep thanks to all the wonderful participants! Hope to see you again next year.

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Categories: Blindfolding, Closeness, Iceland, Short experiment, Touch, Trust, Workshop | Leave a comment

Summer update from Sensescapes

A midsummer tale

Oh, what an unintentionally long pause there has been since my last blogpost!

Here’s the main reason:

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Photo: Kirsten Lykke Madsen

Lotus og Rasmus Skovs bryllup 2014-301

Photo: Martin Wessel

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Photo: Martin Wessel

Ten days ago Rasmus and I got married. We marked the event by establishing a DIY wedding festival in a big camp by the sea. Most of our friends and family stayed for the whole weekend and contributed in the making and celebration. The ceremony was held in an old forest of oaks and beeches in the national park Mols Bjerge – just a few kilometres from the farm were Sensescapes took place in april.

It was one of the most beautiful, meaningful and emotionally overwhelming experiences I have had in my life. We couldn’t have picked a better environment for our union of souls than between old trees, on an old hill, under a shining midsummer sun. Being barefooted in the forest, writing our own vows,  keeping the programme informal and getting friends and family to contribute in different ways… all this resolved in a wonderful, almost magical atmosphere of deep love, care and connection.

I felt completely in my right element, surrounded by rural landscapes and people I love.

And there were strems of tears. From joy, from overwhelmed senses and from gratitude towards the favours, food, words and positive energy exchanged between so many hands and hearts. We had live folk dance music and a great dj and the most luxerious cake buffet seen. We had the sea right outside the door. We had summer solstice and wind and sky. We had a tipi for the wedding night. We had a fine old car borowed from a generous stranger. I had a wedding dress made from hand dyed silk, so light and soft I could have slept in it. We had a room full of yellow balloons, we had tons of fresh strawberries, wonderful speeches, hilarious entertainment, home brewed mead, a lovely, easy-going priest, a choir made for the occasion, and unique rings made from several pieces of golden heirlooms.

I think we were all drunk on love.

It took months of hard work to prepare, and I decided long ago that in June this would be more important than thesis work. And so there has been a pause in the thesis department. A magical pause, that is.

Now, with all the exhaustion and satisfaction that follows such flood of emotions, a slow return to the more analytical and not completely emotional self has begun. Academic life is calling.

Not that Sensescapes had been sleeping entirely. No, there has been life underneath the surface. Still growing, still on its way.

So here’s a short report with news from the sensorial working field:

Debate weekend and a test workshop

By the end of May, Sensescapes participated in Secret Hotel’s Debate Weekend, where around twenty people from interdisciplinary fields in both Denmark and abroad met for three days to encounter, share, discuss and investigate thoughts, themes and pieces related to Landscape Dialogues. For me it was a weekend of profound meetings, bondings and mutual inspiration.

On the last day Sensescapes was tested and found fit for being practised as a workshop! Curious about the importance of shifting surroundings and urban landscapes, the group had moved from Christines’ farm in Mols Bjerge to the cultural production center Godsbanen in Aarhus. And new faces had arrived. Since we did not have time to go through a long introduction, I had Christine interviewing me about the thesis work. Then she was blindfolded and we made a short demonstration of guiding methods in front of the group.

Then they formed groups of two and explored the area for themselves for about half an hour. In each group, one was blindfolded and one was guiding. And there were no words, of course. Same as usual.

It sounds so simple. It IS so simple.

Just put a blindfold on, and you will feel the world change completely.

Since there was no prepared route, all groups went in different directions, which gave us all quite different experiences, facilitating our own urban sensescape. My blindfolded walker and I had great fun and shared lots of laughter, driving each other around in an abandoned shopping cart outside the buildings. When he drove me, we both were out of our comfort zone, which made it even more fun. I had to create a verbal sound system of alarming sounds to signalize danger and communicate with him as our roles of guide and follower became mixed and blurred. Since we had allready spent a couple of days together, and since my blindfolded compagnion was a theatre person who seemed quite comfortable in doing crazy things like this, it became one of the most impulsive and fun sensorial experiences I have facilitated.

I hope to show more pictures from that day later. For now these are all I have:

 

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Photo: Secret Hotel

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Photo: Secret Hotel

In the end we met to briefly share our experiences. One participant asked me:

“Who is experiencing this sensescape you are talking about? The blindfolded person or the guide?”

He suggested that the guide must be more open to a multisensorial experience of the surroundings, since the guide has to have every sense highly activated during the practise of guiding.

That made me think.

So far, guiding has been mostly about facilitation, in my mind. I think this participant made me realize how important the guiding practise is for the door to a sensescape to be opened AND stepped through. I will reflect more on this.

Iceland coming up 

It is a pleasure to announce that I have been granted a student scolarship for participation in Nordic Summer University (NSU) this summer! On their website it says:

The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is a long-established institution within the Nordic intellectual arena. During more than 50 years of existence it has provided a lively forum for academic and intellectual debate, and involved many leading academics, politicians, and intellectuals from all the Nordic Countries. The NSU has always been at the forefront of intellectual thinking, juxtaposing views from the international and Nordic academic arenas, and introducing new thinking and influences into the Nordic Countries.

Expectations are rising! It will be one week from July 24-31 and it will be in Iceland. I can’t wait to go back to the special landscape that has given me so much.

In top of all this, Secret Hotel has offered to cover half of my travel expenses.

All in all I will conclude that June 2014 has been a month of enourmous gifts. To give and recieve so much makes me feel as rich as ever.

May life affirming exchanges continue to flow, in Sensescapes as in the surrounding lives and atmospheres.

A great summer to all of you!

Lotus

Categories: Blindfolding, Closeness, Country side, Euphoria, Hands, Landscape Dialogues, Secret Hotel, Short experiment, Trust, Workshop | Leave a comment

To re-sense the experience. Reactions from a participant.

This week I will give the words to Stephan Gustin, a talented architect who went with me on one of the walks in Aarhus. Ealier I have posted some photos from Stephans’ walk. A week after the walk he sent me a short recording of his impressions, based on the six key words (or key sentences) he had come up with in our feedback session. The highlighted key words indicate immidiate descriptions of the overall experience and on the landscape (see this post for a collection of key words from all the walks). I have translated Stephans’ impressions from Danish, and bring the translation here.

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Stephan and I in the middle of the road. Photo: Rasmus Skov

”This is Stephan’s impressions from the sensorial walk, which was a very good and strong experience. Something I noticed was atmospheres in spaces. Obviously that is also because I am an architect. But your senses became sharpened enormously in relation to the atmospheres. Both in relation to different spatiality, types of acoustics when walking in open space – nature has its own atmosphere in its own space – but also spaces in space. Though I knew we were in a park and a natural resort, then in some places there was a lot of traffic noise, in some places there was echo and in some places sound fell complete silent. That was a fairly intense experience to get. But also to enter rooms. I mean, the tunnel was a room. Or an inflatable room. Or a dome. To re-sense it. You can register it logically, but to be blindfolded, be guided around and feel for yourself. That was a nice experience! To re-sense the experience.

Something I also noticed was the closeness between people. You had someone who had your full attention. It is not so often you experience that, besides talking about girlfriends and love. Usually that is one person, but between foreign people, other people, it can happen that you experience flirt, poetry, dialogue, social contact or friendship. But to have a certain bond… Even though I was blindfolded I could feel there was one hundred percent contact and attention. And that part is terribly strong!! It was not until afterwards I discovered: oh my god, this is what I give my children. But how important it is to do this, because – wow! – how you lack this in real life! So, that was a pretty impressive experience.

Some of the sensations that also lingered afterwards were sounds and light. When you are blindfolded, you obviously listen more that you see. But actually light was the stronger of the two, because it was such a thing that came sneaking in silently. You started outside, but even in the outside space – as with the sense of space – it varied. There were nuances, lots of nuances! To feel, before going into the tunnel, that now you approached another kind of light, another lightning, to suddenly walk under a bush and become confused – I did not know we were under a bush, I just knew we were outside in open air – and still there was a roof. Things like this that “stumbled”, and were light was tricking in some way. One moment all the light was… what I later found out was frosted glass, but I could not perceive that. It sharpens the senses to become a little confused. When your logical sense cannot register things precisely, then you kind of let the imagination rule. That is interesting.

Then I have written a note on urban nature. I am interested in the way we register nature. At one point I was standing, embracing a tree I the middle of a routing of a road, with cars rushing on both sides, and I experienced the bark smelling extremely of particles, that is, petrol fumes. And this gave way to mixed emotions; because the structure of wood is old and here, you were suddenly given hundred years of history from a person that was a tree… a personality… a personal tree… who has a huge history. But we shower it in fumes, and that was… that was damn unpleasant, actually! I like the urban nature, it is a breathing hole, and the place we were in was magical and enchanting. But it was also enormously forlorn. It gives some sense of being out in wild nature, but it is also a little difficult for me. That was my sense of the urban nature. Still I believe that the sensations you get are completely real and can be compared to wild nature. Of course there is no difference, because the body makes registrations in a way. But I do not think the body becomes relaxed the same way as if you were in a place with no sound of birds escaping from traffic, children playing, a lawn that needs mowing or a bed that needs to be leveled. I also experienced the area as very hilly. It is in reality, of course, but especially you feel it when you are blindfolded and have to feel your way around.  It too gives a new and quite peculiar experience of the landscape. Several times since then, I have driven by and looked at that landscape. Even though I see a lot of landscapes as a part of my job, this sharpened my senses enormously. Very well done! I called it semi-dramatic. On the border between… To rediscover that even little things in the landscape can be dramatic.

The last note I have made is a flood of emotions. No doubt an experience like this creates contact to ones’ emotions and emotional self. I do not know what words to put on it. You become grounded, you get yourself to the ground, you have time to breathe, you lower your shoulders and become less shifty-eyed, you are more focused, your breathing becomes deeper. Afterwards I instantly had the feeling that it is okay to just sit and look, to let the eyes drift and to get this calm feeling. It is okay to do it. There is something natural about it. But that is not the natural feeling you have with a deadline ahead of you, knowing that after deadline there are some kids that need to be picked up, and after picking up the kids there is a new deadline and a lot of things to be done. This here, it makes you get a more simple view of reality, and you see that “oh well”, at the same time as getting things done and do what you need to do, you can actually enjoy life and feel peace in your mind, your belly and your body. So thank you for this good experience”

Categories: Blindfolding, Closeness, Feedback, Landscape Dialogues, Material, Thesis experiment, Touch, Trust | Leave a comment

Sensescapes in Aarhus#3

On a hot and sunny Saturday in April, Tanja and I set out to explore the Botanical Garden of Aarhus together.

She was the last blindfolded walker of the 15 that have participated in my thesis experiment.

There were A LOT of talking, walking, running, curiously observing, playing and sun bathing humans in the park that day.
And bird life.
And dogs.
Horse carriages, even.
Do you know how distinct a smell such a thing has?

We walked through them all in silence. And from the feedback afterwards, it appears we both had a great time, exploring the sensescape of the busy park.

Tanja even climbed a tree and unintentionally swung herself in a branch!

I will take this opportunity to give my deepest thanks to all the involved hands, bodies, brains and other landscapes that has been a part of the series of walks hosted by Secret Hotel.

Thanks to Christine Fentz, Line Rostrup Henningsen, Rasmus Skov, Birthe Krag, Søren Fiskaali Gammelmark, Martabolette Stecher, Annette Trap Friis, Helle Trap Friis, Jacob Vibe, Ada Holst Pallesen, Anette Kærgaard, Malene Dyrberg, Tanja Schmidt, Stephan Gustin, Lauge Rasmussen, Tanja Vestergaard and Trine Vestergaard.

Thanks to the wind, the sun, the farm, the hills and the park.

You have all been wonderful to work with.

May your days be drenched in sensorial encounters!

Peace and light,
Lotus

Participant: Tanja. Photographer: Trine Vestergaard

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Categories: Blindfolding, Cityscape, Closeness, Euphoria, Gratitude, Landscape Dialogues, Thesis experiment, Trust | Leave a comment

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