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

Advertisements

Fieldwork on fieldwork, day III

See my former two posts in this ‘trilogy’:
Using my body as an analytical tool – is there anybody out there?
Necessary mistakes on the path to an embodied analysis

Read/see/listen more about my methodological reflections here: –>

 

 

ikke-inde, ikke-voksenstyret, ikke-statisk

Necessary mistakes on the path to an embodied analysis

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:

screenshot-2408

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.

 

 

 

Using my body as an analytical tool – is there anybody out there?

“I have conducted an ethnographic fieldwork in a public school, in a reception class, with children aged 7 – 9.  I now have a lot of empirical material to analyze. I have fieldnotes, sound recordings, some photos etc.

Read more about my studies in Educational Anthropology

I have a question to you, and I need your help

I am going to do a ‘traditional’ ethnographic analysis, where you mostly use language as a tool, using codes, categories, etc.

I would like to use some other methods as well
One method, I would like to try is to use my own body as an analytical tool. What does that mean? It means that I for example listen to a sound recording of children eating fruit during the morning break. By listening to this recording, in a large room, with space for movement, I am going to do a video recording of my movements. This way, I am using my body as an analytical tool in the sense that I listen to the sound from my field recording, and move my body accordingly

I want to do this, firstly because I am interested in movement as a phenomenon. Secondly, I think that by starting the analysis by applying terms, codes and categories there are many important things left out

So my question to you is:

Do you know of anyone who has worked with a similar approach?

Someone who has used movement, maybe dance, or choreography with the analysis of ethnographic data? … or something along these lines

You might wonder why I am standing here.. I am in the Winter Bath. I’ve just been to the sauna and I’m feeling great. It’s a snowstorm. My point by choosing this place is that it makes sense as a place to ask this question about the body and what the body can do, and so on.

Thanks for listening and watching

I hope you will share your knowledge

Now, I’ll jump into the water”

Dance: finding the balance of the self within the group

I stumbled upon this video on the Internet, and I was immediately overwhelmed by it

I wrote Becky Siegel, who is the choreographer behind the project, and asked her if I could do an interview with her, and luckily she said yes.

Casper: Becky please tell us something about the path that led you to start working with people with chronic illness and/or disability.

Becky: I had a growing sense that I wanted to help people that were suffering, through dance. It was so clear to me that dance is so therapeutic. All dancers know how we enter the studio and how much better we feel when we are finished. So I thought that if dance was so helpful for people who are basically healthy, the effect on people who are struggling with serious health problems had to be tremendous. I had a student who is a physical therapist at the Navarran association for Multiple Sclerosis and I asked her if she thought that they might be interested in trying some work with dance and she thought they would be. And that was how it began.
But I think on an even deeper level I had a sense that having been able to dedicate my life [to dance] was a tremendous gift and that somehow I wanted to give that gift back.

Casper: Thanks, Becky! I guess this raises a question about dance as therapy versus dance as an art form. Do you have any points on this?

Becky: That’s something that I think about a lot. And it can be very delicate. I think it’s a question that must be addressed head on in this kind of work. I am not a dance therapist, have no training in that area. I’m a trained dancer, improviser, choreographer, and teacher and try to bring all my experience – of about 40 years – to this work that I have started doing in the past 2 years.
On the one hand it is clear that dance is always potentially therapeutic, and that even the more therapeutic practices are also very artistic, but I see very clearly that in the different facets of the work that I do sometimes it is fundamentally therapeutic, and therefore totally about process and not intended for an audience, while other groups that I work with consider themselves dancers, or come to consider themselves as dancers, and have a desire to perform.
I myself am much more interested in the process than in the “result” (i.e. a performance), but often the work is so exquisitely beautiful that I am very interested in sharing it, feel that it is worthy of being seen by an audience.
So while I feel that dance always has that element of therapeutic benefits, I don’t feel that all dance needs an audience. I think that dance that is primarily therapeutic is a private experience. In the case of my work, it is a group experience so it is shared and witnessed by the other dancers present and that is enough. On the other hand, when one sits down to see dance as an art form, ideally one is not focussing on the fact that there are dancers of different abilities but on the beautiful dancing and the great choreography. So the great challenge for creating dance that is art when there are dancers with limited movement possibilities is being able to transcend those limitations, to really push their technique, as with any dancer, and to bring the greatest compositional skills possible to the creative process. I work primarily with improvisation, so all my students are given tools for finding their own languages as well as discovering choreographic possibilities.
In my work with illness and disability I find a difference in the way I teach depending on whether it is more “therapy” or more “art.” The therapeutic focus implies that these are people who need help and are, in some ways, dependent on me and my assistants to help them have a positive dance experience. The closer that we can get to my students’ being actively engaged in the creative process the closer we are to creating dance as an art form. The more that these students are able to get beyond experiencing themselves primarily as disabled, the more they are able to get beyond the self, the more that they are able to create art.

_MG_4874

Casper: I would like to move on to the core of my interest in your work, namely the collective. Could you say a few words about what happens to group dynamics in your activities as a choreographer, teacher and dancer?

Becky: Being born and raised in the U.S. and having lived and worked in Spain for the past 28 years I have the opportunity to understand these two very different cultures, and their very different realities when it comes to the self and the group. The U.S. is an essentially individualistic culture while Spain is fundamentally social. Working in dance, I am very focussed on the relationship between the self and the group and place great emphasis in my training on the dancers’ being able to reach their fullest potential as individuals, attain a true consciousness of the self, and at the same time have a total awareness of the group. Attaining this balance can be very challenging: there are people who are not able to transcend the self and others who are so focussed on the group that they lose themselves, but my work deliberately addresses this question.
As a choreographer I find it most difficult to achieve this balance in the group: I have expectations that are perhaps beyond the dancers’ capabilities; the dancers are often immersed in their egos, trying to get the choreography “just right.” It can be a very long road before the dancer is able to transcend the self, get beyond their focus on their own performance and truly understand the whole.
When I myself was a young dancer I used to get terrible anxiety before performances. Then I remember the first time that I made a piece of choreography that I liked: I felt part of something larger than myself, that my performance wasn’t what mattered but rather the work itself. And I stopped getting so nervous before a performance.
In my teaching of group improvisation I feel more successful at helping dancers to reach this happy balance than when I am directing my choreography projects. We work on it everyday, starting out with individual exercises to explore each students’ possibilities. The transition to group work can be difficult, changing that focus from inward to outward without losing the self. But we all see the results when we are able to make that shift and they are very beautiful.
Curiously, the work with disability seems to make it easier to make that shift. It seems that the challenge of the difference of languages awakens the outward focus: without turning into condescension, there is an automatic empathy and excitement, equal on both sides of the mixed ability spectrum. At the same time, this challenge requires that the dancers be able to count on their own technique, so they are immediately in tune with their finest abilities. Somehow, this work brings out the best in all my students and brings them closer to this exquisite balance between the self and the group.
Another interesting thing happens in these groups: the students with more experience instinctively “teach” the less experienced ones: through their good example they instruct the newcomers in the art of choreographic improvisation (this is true regardless of whether it’s a mixed-ability group or not). Over the years I’ve loved witnessing how naturally the more experienced improvisors take on this role and essentially welcome the newer students through dance. They become teachers in a way; it’s like a passing on of knowledge from generation to generation.
As for how these group dynamics carry on into the other areas of our life, I’ve seen how my students have become dear friends, will sometimes go on vacation together, will welcome any occasion to dance together. They are my dear friends, too. And we all notice how much we need to apply the lessons that we are learning in the studio to our lives outside the studio, namely the ability to maintain that balance between the self and the other in our relationships, in our families; how to have relationships without losing ourselves.
And I’ve also seen how my students have carried on these ideas into their own teaching as they, in turn, have become teachers.

Becky Siegel has been teaching dance for more than three decades, both to professionals as well as to beginners. She was born in Denver, Colorado, but was raised in New York City where she received her dance training, studying classical Ballet and the modern techniques of Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham, and where she performed in the improvisational dance company of Richard Bull for several years. She has a degree in the Arts from Barnard College (Columbia University, New York) and a Masters in Performing Arts from the University Rey Juan Carlos (Madrid), where she wrote her thesis on the Sacred and the Profane in Dance. Becky has lived in Pamplona (Spain) since 1992, where she directs the companies Tempomobile – for whom she has created fourteen productions – and Kon moción, a semi-professional improvisational ensemble. In 2013 she created a dance program at the Navarran Association for Multiple Sclerosis (ADEMNA). In 2014 she created a similar one in the Navarran Association for Parkinson (ANAPAR). And in 2015 she began to collaborate with Lua, the dance group affiliated with the Association for persons with physical disability of Southern Navarra (AMIMET), teaching them modern dance technique, choreographic improvisation, and creating a collaborative improvisational project with the dancers of Kon moción.

dance nonverbal cultural sustainability

That is me, in the wheelcha-cha

(To see the video with English subtitles, click the Youtube icon)

This is a very moving and inspiring project. I have seen the video about 10 times, and I find that what I am seeing is something that we need more and more in our time: empathy, creativity, acceptance, trust, and meaning. This is of course a bunch of plus words that can seem a little easy to just put into text, but what can I do? This project is something really authentic, inclusive and respectful of what it means to be a human being.

The project Dancing from who we are started in 2013 as a spinoff from the dance association Kon moción, with the aim of expanding the association’s scope to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Dancing from who we are is trying to break down barriers, bring dance to everyone, and discover the dances that are sometimes hidden behind our limitations in order to find languages that bring people together.

In the documentary we hear and see the director of the programme, Becky Siegel and her helpers. As for the participants, we hear the individual perspectives from two of them, a man who suffers from Parkinson, and a woman in a wheelchair. The documentary clearly makes you feel that these people are simply just people, like you and me. That it’s me in the wheelchair, having to face some altered conditions when it comes to the whereabouts of my arms, my legs, my head, my body in time and space.

What leaves me with curiosity after seeing the documentary, is to know more about what impact the project has on the collective. We see that the individual participants seem to have a transformatory experience. But what happens in the group? What happens to the people with whom each participant interact before and after the creative bodily experience this project provides?

In the exercises we are witnessing, there seems to be a huge creativity going on. There is a wealth of ideas being generated and shared. These are cultural patterns, created on the spot, building on the experience, philosophy and energy that each participant brings to the collective. But what happens to these patterns? Are these people building a collective culture together? Are the patterns being stored in the collective and are they building on top of each other, accumulating immaterial wealth to the group? Or are the simply just there in the moment, and then gone?

And lastly: what is the balance of initiative between facilitators and participants? How much influence does the participants have on the format of the activities? Being non-dancers, and being thrown into their specific conditions, do they see themselves as legitimate co-creators, and are they being invited to pitch in?

Dear reader, what do you think? Please comment, share and pitch in with ideas below

Building sound collectives – a workshop concept

//
upgesture

So, we want to work with sound as a means of building a culturally sustainable collective, and we want to do it in an open, intuitive, sufficiently challenging, though comfortable way. This workshop is designed for groups of adults and young adults. It is aiming at providing the group with tools and methods for building the collective through non-verbal means.

The workshop is intended to be a supplement to contexts where people are working with new ways of living, towards economical, ecological and social sustainability. This might be in connection with conferences, festivals, theme days in education, or seminars in organisations.

midgesture

Basic info
Name Building Sound Collectives
Duration 1 – 2 hours
Target group Young adults and adults
How many? 12 – 20
Where is it relevant? In organisations, in education, at festivals and events with a focus on sustainability
Location A larger room with free floor space. If outdoors, in a quiet, private place.
Equipment used Computer, audio interface 8 in 8 out. Four microphones. Four (homemade) instruments with (contact) mics. Four smartphones. Wifi. A “magic square” 3×3 meter on the floor marked with adhesive tape. A pair of loudspeakers.
Aims 1) to find the groups “common core gesture”; 2) to develop new gestural expressions from the core gesture 3) to find our way to imitate gesture through sound 4) to create a collective electroacoustic composition
Learning keywords Collaboration, non-verbal communication, other-centeredness, gestural and sound imitation, sharing ideas, improvisation, collective creativity.
The workings

Expressing ourselves in sound is one of our most efficient modalities to reach out to each other, and to try to understand each other’s worlds.  But there is no sound without movement. This is true on a fundamentally physical level. It is also true on what we could call a meta level. When we are  expressing emotional content, we are imitating physical movement with our voices.

Therefore, we want to start with gesture. We want to explore gesture as something that members of the group are already using as a means of expression in their everyday lives. And we want to experiment with ways of imitating our gestures through sound.

The workshop comprises six parts.

  1. Our first aim is to search for what I would call a common core gestural phrase
    • In pairs. A comes with a gesture. Any gesture. B imitates it and adds a variation. A imitates B’s variation and add another variation.
    • Each pair present one gestural phrase that they liked. The rest of the group imitates.
    • Now everyone moves around in space. Each participant performs the gestural phrase they have selected, and when seeing another participant he/she will try to merge to two gestures.
    • All gestural phrases will eventually merge into one.
    • This is group’s core gestural phrase
  2. Gesture jam.
    • In this part we will improvise in different ways with gesture based on the core gestural phrase. Imitating with other body parts; varying the size of the movements; making supplementary gestures, filling out the “blank spaces”.
    • This way, we develop a common new gestural grammar, and a living library of movements for the group.
  3. Sound on top. This is where we work with imitating gesture through sound
    • in pairs. A performs a gestural phrase from the ‘library’. B imitates with sound.
    • In the whole group, the pairs give samples of their work, showing a gestural phrase and the corresponding sound phrase.  The group imitates the sound phrase, with sound
  4. Sound from the bottom
    • The group records one sound from each of the four homemade instruments. This might be done in a break by some of the participants.
  5. Collective electroacoustic improvisation
    • The group is divided into three groups of four: a gesture group, a voice group, and a remote control group.
    • The gesture group will move around inside and out of the square, using gestures from the collectives’ library.
    • Each member of the sound group will imitate one of the gesture performers with their voices. Each of the four sound group members has a microphone, and their phrases form the previously recorded sounds from the homemade instruments, live.
    • Each of the four members of the remote control group use a smartphone to follow the movements in the magic square of one gesture person.
    • During this improvisation,  in the loudspeakers we will hear the sound of the four homemade instruments
      • formed by the voices of the sound group (intensity and pitch)
      • moving in soundspace according to the position (left – right, back – front) of the sound group members in the magic square
  6. The collective improvisation is recorded. After the collective impro, everyone listen to the recording.
    • New impros can be made. New experiments tried out. New sounds from the homemade instruments used.
    • For each new impro, people switch roles. Ideally, everyone tries all the different roles once.

down

If there are enough people, a possible variation is to have a group of “musicians” adding new sounds from the homemade instruments, according to the movements of the gesture group.

See an example of a street performance using a similar approach, in Cali, Colombia, here.

Follow our page on Facebook.