Workshop

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.

2016-09-20-13-32-24

Leg. Lege. Legende. Legesyg. Legeplads. Legekammerat. Legebetingelser. 
//
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.

img_0031

Sound play. Photo: Thea Green

img_0045

Role play. Photo: Thea Green

dov-hellearensbak-vildsans-d2-045lr

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.

20150626_113052

20150627_104913

20150627_110519

20150627_110947

20150627_112432

20150627_112627

20150627_114051

20150627_114128

20150627_114627

20150627_122108

And here are some of the feedback notes:

20160617_13313920160617_133224

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.

20160323_134123-1

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.

IMG_3690

Introducing ways of guiding. Photo: Secret Hotel

IMG_3719

Observer (left), guide (in the middle) and blindfolded. Photo: Secret Hotel

IMG_3727

Guide (left), blindfolded (in the middle) and observer. Photo: Secret Hotel

IMG_3712

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

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.

20140729223344(1) 20140729223344(2) 20140729223344(3) 20140729223344(5) 20140729223344(10) 20140729223344(13) 20140729223344(15) 20140729223344(23) 20140729223344(26) 20140729223344(27) 20140729223344(31) 20140729223344(35) 20140729223344(38) 20140729223344(39) 20140729225224(2)20140729225143(2) 20140729225224(3) 20140729225512(8)

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:

 

10264256_10152425824369712_4769716880609690731_o

Photo: Secret Hotel

10321671_10152425823519712_4235200543652331884_o

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

Today I started in a course of entrepreneurship, facilitated by the university. We took one of those silly personality tests, and I was quite skeptical in the beginning, but it turned out to be a really useful tool to show important aspects of what I am good at doing, and how I function when I work. I hope the course will help me to better understand my needs as a project maker, and to bring me closer to ideas and decisions for the future, including the life of Sensescapes.

Before that I was at a workshop about supervising in the master thesis process. During the workshop we were given the task to walk around and tell each other about our dreams for our thesis. A powerful action. Often when I speak with other master students we’re too good at telling each other how difficult this and that is. It is hard to work alone. I don’t know what to write about. I can’t find my discipline. I am stressed by the burden of the reading material. I don’t know what I am doing. And so on.

Hey. Let’s start telling each other about our dreams and wishes instead of staring at the difficulties!

These are my dreams:

I dream of a successful production.
I wish that someone will be touched.
I wish to learn something.
I wish to be shaken.

And I wish for peace in the process.

Right there. Back on track.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a speach for positive psychology. It is a speach for the act of sharing honestly and curiously what lies beyond the surface.

This morning was hard. It seemed like it would never end, like I was lost in my own negative thoughts, staring at them, exactly like that. I had to speak out loud, tell my body to behave, to get up, to accomplish something. I didn’t help much. Then I went to the workshop and told a woman about my dreams. She became touched. She touched me back and her words stirred something fragile and strong within, and THEN the negativity ended. Instead: energy.

Tomorrow I will meet my supervisor for the second time and I will have to show him some VERY unfinished writings. The perfectionist in me hate that. But I am fighting her. I am fighting her hard.

I have decided the time for the sensorial walks in April. Can’t wait to be out there. Investigating. Playing. Being in the presence of the various landscapes.

See you.

Categories: Dreams, Feedback, Motivation, Process, Thesis experiment, Workshop | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Gry Worre Hallberg

Life flashes by in an instant

The Plant Intelligence Project

Us, them and our bushy dendrites

Artcademia

A philosophical exploration of the potential of combining academia, art and critique

Cinesthetic feasts

practice based research into multi-sensory perception, embodiment and cinema. By Tereza Stehlikova

Representations of the Other

Language, Body and Space in Cross-cultural Performances

LOTUS&SKOV

en logbog om landskab og sanser