Touch, movement and drawing

I am starting to prepare for my next residency at The Point, Eastleigh, at the beginning of January 2012. I plan the time to be a laboratory of experiments working in collaboration with visual artist, Kimbal Bumstead, and a collection of dancers and sound artists. We will look closely at 3 shared research strands: touch; movement and drawing; and the interplay between process and product.

As a central point of departure, we plan to use a touch based improvisation tool ‘sacrum dances’ that I first came into contact with through working with choreographer, Rosemary Lee in 2010, and then adapted and used extensively during the process of creation of The Nature of Things.  I have been wondering why these dances are so resonant. What is it about them that time and time again bring dances that are so rich both to witness and to be inside? On the train to London one Friday last month to meet with Kimbal, and having just read a fantastic article by Gill Clarke ‘Mind as in Motion’ and re-visited the notes I made during rehearsals this summer in Hamburg, something clicked – something about touch which I will come to in a moment.

Sacrum dancing operates primarily in a felt space. It is a process and therefore draws our attention to the nature of process itself. In moving from process to product, by finding a way to create drawings through these intimate touch dances, work in a new medium unfolds. The drawings that are made during these experiments are equally both process and product, and thus, can be considered artefacts/works in their own right. Such drawings might then be used to create new choreographic and visual art work, in an environment where the creative decisions are informed by touch – felt experiences and are handled through intellectual (more cerebral) processes. In this way, we integrate a variety of mental spaces – noticing how our intellectual decision making is more embodied, more lived, more intuitive.

Having recently visited Siobhan Davies Commissions exhibition at The Bargehouse on the Southbank, I was delighted and excited to observe a likeness in this interplay between process and product, between movement, choreography and drawing that was shared in the work that Sarah Warsop and Tracy Rowledge produced.

Touch is a sensory experience. The vast number of nerve endings in our hands enable us to read and give information far more immediately and accurately than when a directing, primarily intellectual space intervenes. Touch is intimate and personal and is therefore a potent mechanism for bringing us into a different relationship with our physical/sensory experience(s) and, as social entities, therefore potentially closer to others. This micropolitical awareness changes us and our relationships with people and our environment. It changes the people we touch in our professional and personal lives. In turn, it changes the people that they touch from the change in our touch and so it ripples outwards into the world through an endless chain of intimate interactions. In this way there is huge value and potential contribution that movement/ embodied knowledge can make to broader social and environmental concerns. This touch puts us, our audience and our participants in a more receptive and responsive space to be able to make radical changes in our lives.

This research is about people, journeys and tracing, about using touch to tease out greater connectivity between different brain centres – both intuitive and intellectual spaces. It will examine how we can use touch and drawing as a way of capturing the sensitivity of intuitive interaction between dancing bodies without undermining the intellectual brain centre. Our aim is to produce rich food for further choreographic, visual and performance art work that emerges from a more tactile way of working, re-affirming the importance of touch, movement, eye/hand practices to enable fuller integration of multiple mental spaces.

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