2 current works:
“And Maybe in the End Our Intuition Does Not Even Belong to Us”
This piece is an exploration of intuition and the **Enactive Approach through words and improvisatory dance. Apx 25 min.
Trailer. Video CLIP 1
CLIP 2 (with text in notes.)
** the enactive approach “aims to capture the underlying relations between the rational, the emotional, the self, the relational, the mind, the body, and experience” (De Jaegher 2013b, 22)
“Experience is suffused with spontaneous pre-understanding…pre-understanding itself must be examined since it is unclear what kind of knowledge it represents….”. “…Reason is what occurs at the very last stage of the moment-to-moment emergence… fundamentally something that arises out of the affective tonality…embedded in the body…It starts out from this soup.” (Francisco Varela)
I have a hunch that by investigating sensation-stirrings, which are continually shifting within us, we can gain greater understanding in how we make sense of the world and with one another.
To this end I hold somatic movement research sessions (more about my method below.) Following these workshops I interview participants about their sensation-based experience during moments of interaction.
The interview form that I employ seeks to cull out sensations; it is an investigation of “lived experience” or “this soup”, based heavily in the Micro-Phenomenological modality.
Examples of Research Interviews.
3 April 2018. MI5EWNY. Transcription. AUDIO.
23 March 2018. MI4JNY. Transcription. AUDIO. 20 Jan 2018. MI2LNY. Transcription. AUDIO.
15 Feb 2018. MI3EBNY. Transcription. AUDIO. 6 Dec 2017. MI1KNO. Transcription. AUDIO.
Evan Thompson writes “A second function of mindfulness is to counteract knowing wrongly. Through attenuating affective bias, we can gradually replace emotionally distorted perceptions, thoughts, and views with undistorted cognitions.“
In my own experience, I have some sense an “undistorted” understanding; I have experienced a vital openness, a home-coming quality, a “rightness” – particularly in sitting meditation and mindful improvisation.
Yet, influences of genetics (such as Huntington’s Disease or Tetrachromatic vision) and cultural influences (learned, habitual behaviors/movements, traumas, etc) inform us, inform our “soup.” Can we taste nuances in the (often multiple, simultaneous) sources of our “soup” sensations? (For example, in my own experience, some thoughts feel “true”, supple, warm; some taste acidic.)
Furthermore, during the same moment of interaction, what feels “true” to one person is not always similar for another. So what is our reference point for determining “undistored” cognition or affect?
Neurophenomenologist, Buddhist Francisco Varela notes “If everybody would agree that their current reality is a reality, and that what we essentially share is our capacity for constructing a reality, then perhaps we could all agree on a meta-agreement…”
I’ve become especially curious about such interaction moments of dis-similar realities, as well as moments wherein participants move into or out of feeling “connected” or “disconnected” with another. Specifically, what are the sensation-descriptions of such moments.
I hope that in learning more about the felt-experience this might inform pragmatic solutions for relating in moments of conflict during daily life/society; I hope this work can provide more information about how to navigate simultaneous and disparate realities with dignity for each experience.
As well, might these sensation-descriptions be used as flag posts for further 3rd person research? Along with investigating the brain, can these intersubjective descriptions be useful to guide investigations in the regions of the body which are experienced most strongly – as technology expands the capacity to research such regions in movement? Combining these interviews with third person scientific study may function to “constrain and modify each other as in a dance…it requires us to leave behind a certain image of how science is done and to question a style of training in science which is part of the very fabric of our cultural identity.” (Varela)
Last, often the participants state that the experiences of the movement work and the interviews felt “therapeutic,” helpful, relaxing, insightful. I do not enter these specific experiments with a therapeutic intent. These effects seem to rise forth simply through the work of rigorous, curious investigation. For this, I am glad. No matter the answers – or lack of answers – which arise from this research, it does not feel in vain. The process itself is substantive.
Basic outline of this Mindful Movement Research Method:
For this research I hold each class with the same basic structure. The participants are led in exercises created to awaken awareness of their subtle sensations. This is done through solo, partner and group work.
Following this is an improvised movement section which begins in relative stillness (standing, sitting or lying down.) The participants are invited to shut their eyes and bring attention to their choice of area-of-sensation to explore. Should narrative, thoughts or distractions arise, they are asked to let them go and to return to the sensations. It is the micro-movement that they are invited to follow, to simply allow – not force – this micro-movement to change. Once the movement quality of the area-of-focus is stabilized they are instructed to gradually integrate larger movement into what is already happening.
After some time the participants are invited to open their eyes. However, at any point, if they are unable to maintain observation of their own sensation, they are asked to take one step back, until they are capable to move forward with the task. Eventually, as long as their sensation-observation is stabilized, they are instructed to expand their awareness to include all in the space – moving, perhaps, in and out of contact (physical and otherwise) with the other people and/or objects in the space.
Some thoughts on similar movement practices.
As it is impossible for people to move completely ‘free’ of the cultural contexts which inform them, I often use the term less-inhibited movement. While similarities exist, I find this practice is different than movement improvisation possible in “trance dance” or Authentic Movement. I find this so because of its call to maintain observation of the unfolding sensations. (A comparison might be made here of the difference between sitting with your eyes shut, letting your mind do as it will, versus sitting with eyes shut, while bringing your mind to observe the breath.)
Regarding Contact Improvisation, I do find that very particular ways of moving patterns often permeate the movement vocabulary of the entire space. It is, primarily for this reason that I make some effort to separate these workshops from CI. (Additionally, there are many clear similarities with attention to sensation and the way I structure these improvisations. However, within CI there is nary an agreed definition of what people are actually doing when they dance CI together. Many times CI movers are engaging in completely different practices from one another.)
Indeed, there are a myriad of wonderful improvisatory movement practices and dance therapy practices which share great commonality in terms of attention to subtle sensation, creating space for improvised movement, creativity and/or group movement. This is also true of many prescribed mindful movement practices, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga – some of which I also practice regularly. My intent is not to be derisive of any. Rather, to be specific, to clarify what I am doing in relation to my own research interests.
As an artist, I find the dance which arises from this practice to be captivating. When it seems that people are able to stabilize and follow their sensations in movement and expand their awareness to include their environment, it’s at once full of agency and empathy – full of creativity, connection and capacity. The logic, the sense-making and relating-in-movement of this dance is quite something. The aesthetic beauty seems to shift from a more traditional, particular type of dance technique to an artistry of attention in motion and relation.