A method for corporeal analysis? (You’re not alone)

After three days of experiments with corporeal analysis, I can see some patterns for a possible method :

  1.  Pre-analysis. What are the most important parameters at play in the material? In my case, I found 3: 1) Initiative. Who decides what to do (in the detail), A. the children themselves or B. the adults? 2) Bodily position. A. seated. B. free to move on the floor /ground. 3) Place. A. indoors. B. outdoors.
    This approach made me think about John Cage and his experiments with I-CHING. By chance, my analysis came up with three parameters each of which has two states (although the relation is not binary). This gives 8 combination (2+2+2+2)I-ching.png
  2. Corporeal analysis. A) define energetic elements. (In the case of my two case field recordings, it was a) noises and b) voices (high and mid pitched). B) For each element do an incorporation / bodily rendering of the flow of energy. The processes are documented, resulting in a video, where the elements are combined in one screen. Like this:

    … or this:


  3. Verbal analysis. The resulting video from the corporeal analysis is now subject to a third layer of analysis, where I purposefully blind myself from the knowledge of the original material (ie the field recording), and take a fresh look at the new materiel, putting words on what I experience, when perceiving the (inter)actions.

This process results in a list of words / descriptions, which – combined with the former 2 layers – can be used as a point of departure for a further analysis, along more traditional ethnographic lines.

You’re not alone

Oh no love! you’re not alone/ You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair/ You got your head all tangled up but if I could only/ Make you care/ Oh no love! you’re not alone  (David Bowie, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide)

In a former blog post, I asked ‘Is there anybody out there?’. To my relief, there is! You’re not alone, there are intelligent life forms out there!

My fellow students, and other people from the environment around Educational Anthropology, have luckily been responding, on Facebook.

From there, I came to hear about Erin Manning, who is a former dancer/choreographer, and who is now a scholar within philosophy. A career path similar to Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s. Manning has written some really interesting texts and has done some exciting projects, so I am going to dig deeper into this.

In her recent book, The Minor Gesture (2016),  she writes about ‘research-creation’, and here is what she has to say:

“research-creation […] generates new forms of experience; it tremulously stages an encounter for disparate practices, giving them a conduit for collective expression;”

Research-creation is another way of saying ‘art-based science’, and what’s interesting about Manning’s thinking is that she succeeds in breaking free from the typical pitfalls of combining art with science. This combination most often either becomes science-about-art, or it becomes art-that-illustrates-science. The combination ‘art’-‘science’ can at its best challenge the whole question about what knowledge is, and, as Manning puts it:

[Research-creation] hesitantly acknowledges that normative modes of inquiry and containment often are incapable of assessing its value; it generates forms of knowledge that are extralinguistic; [ …] ;  it proposes concrete assemblages for rethinking the very question of what is at stake in pedagogy, in practice, and in collective experimentation.

Words on movements

At Forsøgsstationen, ‘The Lab Station’, I met Rikke Jeppesen Rod. She is a dancer/scholar, and just recently has done a project, Embodied Immediacy, with dancer-poet Catherine Magill (AUS). Rikke gave me a booklet they had done about the project, and this is what inspired me to the 3) part of the method, see above. The two dancers have each done a dance/movement improvisations, and then both have written words/poetry about what they have experienced/witnessed. What’s interesting is to read the two accounts about the same situation, and reflect about differences/similitudes. What happens, when we experience something? Do we experience the same things? Of course not. This is as true for everyday life as it is for science, and it’s a fundamental problem in both.

See my former posts about my experiments with the body as an analytical tool:
Using my body as an analytical tool – is there anybody out there?
Necessary mistakes on the path to an embodied analysis
Fieldwork on fieldwork, day III

Necessary mistakes on the path to an embodied analysis

ikke-inde, ikke-voksenstyret, ikke-statisk

Day one in ethnographic fieldwork into my ethnographic material.

These are my video journals from today, where I document the process of my analytical work:

As you can see in Journal I, above, I have used a logic of parameters to do a pre-sorting of my material. What are the most important factors in play in this specific context? The answer to this question might change as I go along and dig deeper into the material, but for now, there seem to be three overall factors. The first parameter (symbolised by the red cloth) has to do with initiative. The norm  is when the adults are setting the agenda. The exception (at least from a quantitative perspective) is when the pupils are deciding what to do and how. Second parameter (grey cloth) has to do with what you can do with your  body. The norm is to be sitting on a chair. The exception is when the pupils are alowed not to sit, ie walk, run etc. The third parameter (blue cloth) has to do with being indoor vs outdoors. The norm is being indoors.

Since I had so much space, i chose to represent these three parameters using large pieces of cloth and chairs. An uprigt chair = the norm. An upside-down chair = the exception.

These are the 8 combinations of parameters

To be read this way: image 1: adult initiative, seated, outdoors. Image 2: Adult initiative, seated, indoors. Etc.

For today, I chose the combination BAA, ie: child inititive, seated, indoors. This combination is at play in the situations, where the kids are eating ‘fruit’ everyday from 8.50 to 9.00. I decided to start off my analysis with this combination partly to make things easier for myself. Had it been for example the afternoon ‘own time’ playing sessions, it would have been much longer sound files (up to 1½ hours), and although it would be withing the ‘child initiative’ mode, it would be a mix between seated and freely moving (though not running or jumping). Is this an important distinction? I guess my further analysis might shed some light on that.

So I chose the ‘fruit’ sessions, of which I have 10 recordings, each with a duration of appr 10 minutes. A simple, ritualized activity, with a clear framework for the distribution of time, space and energy (cf Rancière).

In Journal II, I show some of the results from the experiments. The basic idea is to create a kind of being (using my body ‘masked’ by a green ‘second skin’ suit); this being reacts to certain sounds. I made an easy choice, and decided to divide the sounds according to who made them. I was able to identify the persons from the timbre of their voices, and I selected three children to be represented. For each child I made a video recording of ‘the green being’ gesturing in imitation of the voice of the child. This gave me three individual recordings. I made a fourth recording where the green being incorporated the noise sounds. I combined these four video recordings into one single movie, this way:


Back home, after showing this work to a selected audience (my better half and her friend), with their feedback, I have the following conclusions:

  1. The being who moves according to the noise sounds should be using the floor more. When doing the ‘performance’, I was imagining this being as being at the scale of what produced the noise. So a crackling sound of a plastic bag would result in many small and fast movements in all directions. This way, I imagined the source of the noise to be emanating from the center of the body. Alternatively, one could imagine the noise emanating from the floor level, and a sudden, sharp peak would result in a sudden movement, like an arrow shooting up from the floor.
  2. Following the logic of the ‘noise-being’, it would make more sense to get rid of the one-to-one-logic of the ‘voice-beings’. Instead of having one being re-enacting one specific person (by identifying his/her voice in the field recording), it would be more interesting to have beings respond to the voices in a certain register. This way, I could have a being responding to voice sounds in a high pitch register (ie children’s voices) and another being responding to voices in a middle register (which coincidentally would correspond to the women’s voices).
  3. Concluding, there would be three beings, a noise-being (like before), a high-tone being, and a mid-tone being. This way, the whole spectrum of the soundscape would be covered. At the same time, the logic of ‘de-personalization’ from the noise-being would be expanded, and we wouldn’t have this direct and redundant representation of specific persons, that basically doesn’t add to the analysis.

Getting rid of the impersonification of my first attempt, in future attempts, there will be an extra possibility: working with spatiality. The sounds of voices are coming from different places in the stereo soundscape, and this dimension of the soundscape can be extracted by the analyzing body, by moving bodyparts or the whole body in the corresponding direction.

Is this also a one-to-one logic? Maybe. But not in the same sense as above. Representing a specific person by one ‘analytical body-being’  doesn’t ad anything to what the typical language-based analysis is perfectly capable of. We don’t need an embodiment to do that, since we can simply just say: “Peter says ….”.

Basically, what I think I understand now, is that choosing the all too obvious direct impersonification has probably been a necessary step for me to realize, that for my experiments with the body as an analytical tool to make sense, I must abandon the representational stance, and instead take into account the level of materiality, so to speak. In this case – where the material is sound recordings –  the materiality  of the material consists in sounds and noises developing in time and space.