Sight

Forest encounters with little people

Greetings from the late summer forest Risskov, where the performance figure Flora is wandering this month.

Flora is a curious and playful nature explorer, who loves to go for a walk and see what happens. She likes her own company as well as being with other childlike souls.

This time, she has invited groups of 4-5 year-olds and their pedagogues to investigate the forest with her. She has brought her backpack, a blanket and a basket, and she has brought her most important tool:

All the senses.

Come along and get to know what experiences the forest will provide today!

Read more (in Danish:) here

Photos: Marianne Duus, Børnekulissen, Aarhus Kommune

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Categories: aesthetics, kids, Landscape Dialogues, perception, Playfulness, Sight, Touch | 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

A beginning: or Ways to enter a Final Thesis

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

Perhaps they are. Rolling, I mean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is Sensescapes?”

Spot on.

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

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What do you think of the statements in the pictures?

Here’s what I think:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Literature:

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

Ranciere, Jacques: The Emancipated Spectator, Verso 2009

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

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