Zahra Killeen-Chance: MAP Reflections Week Three, 11 May 2015
My research has continued to explore the relationship between breathing and moving, and the play between controlled breathing and automatic breathing.
This week I placed the research tasks within a sci-fi framework to create an imaginary context for this exploration. I have also been experimenting with different levels of focused awareness while ‘performing’, in order to discover
how this affects the audience. Moreover, I am extending my research by exploring the effect of breathing into the limbs. This exploration has in part resulted from attending two workshops with Iratxe Ansa who was running them
for Atamira Dance Company last week. One of the tools that she uses to create different qualities within her body is to associate a sound with a certain movement. I wish to explore this technique more next week. I am shifting the
premise slightly by exploring how breathing into the limbs can affect the quality of a movement, rather than using sound for this purpose.
As well, I have been doing further research into phenomenology in order to become more skilled at
using this methodology as a research tool. I discovered that placing the research tasks within a sci-fi context created
different movement energies. However, I think that I need to make the framework even tighter and more specific in order to create more intention within the improvisation. Each person took on ‘alien’ movement qualities,
however I felt that the task was still too broad and the reasons for the movement were not specific enough (the participants created their own specific imagery within the sci-fi construct of how they were in the space, or how the foreign space affected the way they could exist/be in the space).
I am interested in narrowing the tasks down even more in order to create a reason for moving in a
specific way, rather than having the participants create an image of how they think a creature in a sci-fi world would move. I would like to invert the process, and explore some movement tasks before experimenting with these movement states in the sci-fi context to see if this is more effective.
We discussed the different levels in which the performer can be present while moving in the space. We did a range of tasks and variations such as holding an awareness of the room, of each other, and the breath while moving. This
required a lot of concentration on the part of the performer, and created an awareness of both the outside and the inside. This state feels as though it requires a lot of practice to be able to hold it. We also explored the difference
between focused and unfocused movements, and observed the difference. The unfocused movements had the effect of looking like a disengaged image. While the performers appeared to represent the thing, they weren’t actually being it. We found difficulty in being able to actively switch between being present with the movement, and being unfocused while doing movement.
I have been reading Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology by Suzan Kozel who is a choreographer, performer and academic. She uses phenomenology as a method for her choreographic and performance practice,
and has created her own personal variation of this methodology. She states: “A phenomenology begins with a set of concepts and a set of starting points that are fundamentally akin to dance, theater, performance and other dynamic processes for expression” (50). This statement not only reinforces how dance is able to do things that I am exploring, but it also highlights the purpose of exploring breathing and connectivity. Within this phenomenological framework, Susan
Kozel talks about how phenomenological methodology can be useful: firstly, it can help the performer to embody their senses; and secondly, this embodiment of the senses can affect the audience. I am interested in how drawing attention to your own senses and way of being in the space as a performer, can affect the
audience. Phenomenology allows for the engagement with the “raw sensory data received immediately from the senses, as well as memories and imaginative constructs” (52). So far we have been exploring the senses through breathing and ways of being as a performer, and I will continue to extend this exploration.
The tasks that we have been exploring during the sessions feel very much like a meditation practice at times. Kozel quotes Varela, Thompson, and Rosch who make an analogy between the practice of phenomenology and the practice of meditation, with the difference being: “it is about creating a new way for cognition to coexist with inner and outer experience” (51). This feels akin to the breathing and presencing exercises that we have been playing with, but it requires further practice in order to be able to fully develop this new “cognition”.
Reflections are an important part of the phenomenological method, and they can be a written, drawn, or vocal account of what has occurred. The aim is to help the performer give expression to their experience, and validate what is happening in that time of practice. The MAP requirement for reflections reinforces this phenomenological model of experience/expression/validation of the practice, and I have found it beneficial for processing and articulating this research.
See below for an article which has influenced Zahra's Research.
Research Series 2015 - Auckland, NZ Series # 2 - Artist: Sean Curham - Research Performance & Final Reflections
Sean has signed off with MAP Research Series by sharing his videos of his Research Performance and some detailed reflections. Well worth a read: "Invention not innovation is what appeals to me – crazy, unjustifiable, life affirming, energetic inventions – inventions that take on all the resources of thought and practice, plus the demands of all that remains active yet obscured".
Alice has her own blog - click on the button below to tune into her Research Series Experience - and please note if you want to read from the start, start at the bottom!
Summary of Research: 8th May 2015
My focus for this research series so far has been on the dynamic of breathing. This investigation has been sparked by an article by David Abram (1990), “The perceptual Implications of Gaia ” found in Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in
Buddhism and Ecology, edited by Allan Hunt Badiner, and published by Parallax Press.
In this article, Abram discusses the Gaia hypothesis, as formulated by James Lovelock, which states: “The entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, capable of manipulating the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.” This hypothesis engages with the notion that all living matter on earth is interconnected.
Breathing entails a reciprocal exchange between our environment and our bodies, and it is a reminder that our relationship to the world is part of a dynamic ecosystem. Breathing is the constant, ongoing communication between the organism that we are, and the living world that we are in. I have been experimenting with different ways in
which a performer can engage with their breathing while moving on their own, in pairs and as a group.
Tasks that I have been using are:
1. Noticing and being present with your breathing without judgment or trying to
control it. Then moving while being present with your breathing.
2. Watching another breathing at close range and from afar.
3. Moving with another while being present with your own breathing and the other
person’s breathing. Allowing yourself to move if your body wishes to do so.
4. Controlling your breathing patterns. Moving how ever you wish to do so.
5. Controlling your breathing with another while being conscious of your own
breathing and theirs.
6. Choosing to either control or let your breathing be while on your own, with others,
or in a group.
7. Overt, performative breathing while moving to pop songs.
8. Seeing the difference between breathing and moving, not breathing and moving,
pretending to breath but not actually breathing and moving.
9. Moving to a pre-made breathing sound score.
NB Through out this practice, breathing was first and movement was second. I was thinking about the body following its own story and taking care of itself as I/others concentrated on breathing.
Some thoughts and reflections:
Because the above mentioned tasks were undertaken on one’s own, in pairs and as a group, I was able to observe and experience different energies and ways of approaching the tasks. This allowed me to gain different perspectives.
When I was controlling my breath with one other person it felt performative and external while retain a conscious presence with the self and other. There was difficulty in being with your own breath and being with another’s breath because of the dynamics that occur within a relationship. If one moves then you may want to react to this movement in response and allow that shift to occur. This requires more practice as it can take a lot of concentration just to be with your own breathing and with another’s, let alone moving with another in this state.
When I was observing the group situation, the way in which they approached controlling the breathing was subtle and only occasionally ‘showed’ the breath. The group was able to maintain a strong connection whether they were close or far from each other. They began to utilize other senses besides the breath, in order to stay
connected when they could not see or hear the other performers breathing. Being able to choose when you control your breathing and when you were let your breathing be, enabled more dynamics within the improvisation.
I am interested in combining the somatic breathing state with the controlled breathing state further. Next week I am curious to create some new tasks, which are more specific and allow for both non-controlled and controlled ways of breathing to occur while moving.
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