Short experiment

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

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

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:

21-06-2014 Bryllup Mie Lotus og Rasmus 203

Photo: Kirsten Lykke Madsen

Lotus og Rasmus Skovs bryllup 2014-301

Photo: Martin Wessel

Lotus og Rasmus Skovs bryllup 2014-11

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

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

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