Sensorial meditation

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

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

Small stories of today II

Participants for the walks

Today I have received reservation nr. 2 and 3 from people who want to participate in the sensorial walks in April. These are people I haven’t ever met, and it makes me very grateful and excited that someone from outside my own network shows interest in my experiments. If you are interested in going on a walk, read the invitation in the latest blog post and contact me at mielotus@gmail.com.

Research question

So far, this is the reseach question that frames the overall thesis project:

This production thesis investigates sensorial perception and non-verbal, bodily experiences as a possible way towards a deeper understanding and awareness of relations and encounters in the local landscapes that surround us. With the creation of a series of sensorial walks for one person at the time, I ask: How can landscapes be understood as relations? And how can an aesthetic experience contribute to such an understanding? The goal of the thesis is to critically bring the philosophy of phenomenology into life in the production and analysis of the sensorial walks. The walks will serve as an empirical platform to investigate the significance of sensorial perception as a fundamental mode of being in and connecting to the landscapes we are a part of.

Motivations

Yesterday a was in a coaching session with a girl from my entrepreneurship course. She asked me about my motivation for working with sensorial walks. Answering that question made me instinctively aware of my personal drive and dreams. The cure of my motivation… is stories like this:

Last fall I did a series of blindfolded walks in Iceland. After the walks, one participant told me how struggling with cancer had made her body incabable of doing some specific movements with her arm. During the walk, a moment of contact improvisation between her and I had made her do some of the movements she could not do when she was sick. We both became very touched when she told me how these movements on the walk had made her feel free and relieved.

Last summer I did a small series of short, blindfolded walks in Mols Bjerge. During the walks I took the participants into a stable to meet a horse. After one walk the participant told me how she usually fears horses, but this time she had felt safe. Now she thought she would not fear horses anymore.

Two days ago I showed a blog post to two girls in a feedback group at uni. One of them told me she became so inspired by reading it, that she now wanted to consider how she can implement the things she works with in her thesis into her everyday life.

Small awareness practice: 

Since I am working with landscape as a relational and multisensory concept, part of my investigations is to test and practice how the term “landscape” can literally be used to describe something else and more than visual representations of beautiful, natural scenarios. In my theoretical starting point of the thesis, landscape is a concept of “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, cited in Benediktsson and Lund 2010: 2). Here landscape is relation. It is what continuously goes on between myself and my surroundings. In this phenomenological approach landscape includes “a consideration of fluidity, transition and motion” (ibid. 3).

Today I am working at home. And so, a moment ago I walked around the apartment and took some pictures to share my everyday landscape – my life world – with you. When I saw the pictures afterwards I discovered how I had unconsciously been looking for plants, window views and cozy scenery to present to you as my local landscape. Then I went back to my desk and decided to delete all the photos. Instead I sat on my chair while looking around. Bam. Change in view. Change in perspective. Change in attention. This is the task, and you might as well try to do it where you sit right now:

Stop. Look.

Look again.

What do you see?

How do you see it?

This is a main point in my sensorial walks: It is not necessarily what is seen that is of importance, but how it is seen. Or not seen.

Here is my current local landscape seen in a moment of awareness. All the photos except the first are taken from the chair (in the first photo) where I’m sitting right now.

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Now I keep discovering new details in this small world of two squaremeters.

I can recommend this small practice of awareness. Try to take a couple of minutes’ break from whatever you are doing, to open your gaze and look around. Perhaps something will show up that you never noticed before. Perhaps you will see things. And people, if there are any. I mean, really see them. Encounter. Engage. Relate.

Then I read this:

Awareness of the unfamiliar is, however, generated through encounters with the familiar (ibid. 6)

Perhaps this post could be an example of how the familiar has now, in a few moments, shown itself from an unfamiliar perspective.

Peace,
Lotus

Literature: Benediktsson and Lund, 2010: Conversation with Landscape, University of Iceland, Ashgate

Categories: Blindfolding, Landscape Dialogues, Material, Motivation, Playfulness, PR, Sensorial meditation, Short experiment, Thesis experiment | Leave a comment

The Farm II

This week I’ve been on a small retreat. The artistic leader of Secret hotel, Christine Fentz, has opened the doors to her home in Mols Bjerge and let me stay here.

Two days ago Christine went to Copenhagen to work and left the farm in my care. Since then I have enjoyed the farm land all by myself, with space to think, to dwell, to open up and to start the process of preparing the big work ahead. The contract for the final thesis is signed and delivered to Aarhus University. So now the thesis project has officially started.

So. Here’s another way to enter the proces:

Go away from the library, the reading halls, the desks and the usual procedures. Go to somewhere with lots of space and air.

Think.

Go for a walk in the woods.

Go for a walk around the house and look for poetic inspiration.

Get distracted by that same poetic inspiration.

Investigate the place. Take pictures. Take the temperature. Take a deep breath.

Share.

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In April, the first series of sensorial walks will be held here, around the farm.  The participants will be blindfolded, so they will watch the farm land with their hands, through their feet, ears and nostrils.

Exciting?

From three days’ work and life here on the farm evolves Process Lecture Nr. 1 for the thesis student:

It is good to go on a walk each day.

While writing this, I realize how this very simple thing – a walk –  connects to the starting point of the thesis. I propose that the physical act of walking/moving with a certain (aesthetic) attention through the landscape can become a way of connecting to something. That “something” could be anything around: the cold wind, the soft ground of the woods, a bird among the trees, my own breath or my whole body. Or it could be something less material: feelings of sadness, boredom, longing, a realization of confusion, satisfaction, tiredness, stress or the arrival of certain crucial reflections and thoughts. Here the moving, perceiving body in relation to the surroundings is what creates these connections.

So. Let’s have a look in the theoretical section.

There are several ways of describing this body-landscape connection theoretically. Rebecca Solnit writes about walking:

 Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body and the world aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be on our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being made wholly lost in our thoughts. (Solnit, 2001: 5)

Solnit’s ideal kind of walking seems to be peaceful and harmonic. What do you think about that?

In the foreword to an antology about landscape conversations, Katrin Anna Lund and Karl Benediktsson writes that the landscape is:

 …not comprehended as a predetermined, culturally contrived “text”, but as a conversational partner that is certainly more than human […] (Benediktsson and Lund 2010:8)

Now, if landscape connections can be seen as a (peaceful and harmonic?) conversation, how does the landscape communicate? DOES the landscape communicate? This is one of the questions I ask in my research.

At the moment the thesis process is facing a mountain of words yet unread. Not my words, but others’. Yesterday I wrote a very long literature list of things I want to read. Interesting books are lying in stacks, waiting to be read or re-read. Here are some of the works I expect to be key-works in the thesis so far:

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And there are many more. An interesting, but surely not very easy mountain to climb. I love and hate reading. It can be so tiring. Boring. And sometimes eye-opening! Words, words, dead and alive. New horizons. New land.

BUT. As this project seeks to move away from a system dominated by words and images by introducing an aesthetic perception mode with multiple sensorial sensations, my imaginative mountain of words wants to be combined with other inspiring landscapes. Like this farm land itself. Or in fields of artistic works by others.

Here’s the book I found most inspiring among them all yesterday.

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A short artistic work called “Slices of Wood”, with poems about trees and pictures of trees.

Words about trees on material made of trees. Underlining the belief that it is nonsense to construct a split between nature and culture.

Tonight I go back to the city. With slices of the farm on my camera and my mind. Next thing will be to open some of those books!

Another way to enter the process:

Close the computer.

Read.

Take the weekend off.

Go for another walk. Ideal or not ideal.

Be imperfect.

Litterature:
Solnit, Rebecca, 2001: Wanderlust: A history of walking, Verso

Categories: Country side, Landscape Dialogues, Material, Motivation, Process, Secret Hotel, Sensorial meditation, Silence | 1 Comment

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