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.
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.
Introducing ways of guiding. Photo: Secret Hotel
Observer (left), guide (in the middle) and blindfolded. Photo: Secret Hotel
Guide (left), blindfolded (in the middle) and observer. Photo: Secret Hotel
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,