• Alys

How can we talk about systems and complexity through embodied practice?



This was the theme of the lab recently held by TCC and facilitated by three guest artists. Instead of trying to find answers or solutions to the systemic issues we face, the lab was more focused on exploring the embodied language that we can use to communicate systems thinking and complexity theory. Being the first of this type of lab it was a step into the unknown. Each artist facilitator came from a different practice and shared exercises that revealed insights and questions, each artist opened up the opportunity to play.


Session one was led by dance artist Marga. We were invited to acknowledge that ‘we don't have a body, but we are body'. Using small stones we explored the feeling of weight on our bodies and the sensation that was left after the weight was taken away. We explored the vertical and horizontal lines, the dimensions our bodies take up in space, the sense of gravity and the constant negotiation our bodies have with it between resisting it and surrendering to it. By using huge pieces of elastic material we were able to play with the tensions between our bodies and others and to also move as one body with others.


Session 2 was led by Ali who guided us through a session exploring perception, to question the ways in which we are perceived and how we perceive others in a culture governed by image. We worked with a partner and, using our phones, took two portraits of each other. The first portrait was taken after talking to our partner while standing back to back with them. The second was taken after communicating non verbally with them. Each image revealed something different about our partners, the first was mostly a more literal portrayal of our partner, the second more playful and child like.


The third session was led by Claire. To begin with we had some time to explore ‘pedestrian’ movements; ‘sitting, lying, spinning, standing and walking’ and realise the range of options these everyday movements gave us. The space was then identified as a ‘village’ where we could continue to explore these movements along with a ‘bow’ which we used as a gesture of recognition to another group member when we encountered them in the ‘village’. The boundaries were set and the village unfolded, as each person stepped in they communicated something with their gesture. Things changed by connections, separations or disruptions. Each action and reaction affected somebody else. After the village was brought to a close we rated the success of the village, for different reasons each person in the group rated it differently, 1 being unsuccessful and 4 successful. An account of the village was shared by a member of the group who had observed from the outside, revealing interesting patterns, shifts, and key moments of change.


In summary, during the day a space was created where we could embody the exploration of systems and complexity theory, and unpack the questions that emerged. It didn’t give us any concrete answers, but that’s not what we were looking for, nor did it give us a clear tool set which we could apply to exploring this further. It did however enable us to acknowledge the complexity of identity, the ways our bodies travel between vertical and horizontal planes, the way we play with balance and control and how the velocity and proximity between us draws patterns in space that constantly shift and change. In summary it enabled us to think about how we can, through our approach, communicate deeper and more nuanced perspectives.


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