A project centering the body in design practice and education
Dear friends and readers,
let me introduce you to es_ design somatics, the space where I’m collecting the ideas and outcomes of my ongoing research around the possible connections between design practice and education and somatic, embodied and movement-based practices.
I think this project is necessary for many reasons: the design field is undergoing important changes, but it still lacks, at least at a broader scale, a deep and meaningful connection with our embodied experiences. My experience with somatics, the study of the body from a first-person perception, has conviced me that it can help us reach this much needed connection and provide us with a ground where other levels of knowledge can be integrated.
If you are interested in reading the other motivations behind es, you can find them in an essay I published earlier this year on Medium: Why we need more somatic culture in design.
what happened so far
es_ started as a series of research workshops which took place in 2018-2019 in Milan, Italy. The current pandemic conditions made me decide to pause this part of the work – which I hope to resume as soon as possible – while developing other forms of dissemination, mostly through writings and a podcast.
The podcast (currently only in Italian) is called esperienze somatiche and can be found on all the main platforms: the five episodes that were so far offer proposals around the themes of Standing, Looking, Exploring balance, Touching, and Situating oneself.
Last June I had a nice conversation about my experiences between dance and design with Sara Azzarelli of a Dance mag, a publication founded by a group of dance anthropologists, with an expanded concept of what dance is. They have so far published three issues, Transcendence, Furor and Touch, which I recommend reading for the great variety of points of view on movement they present.
Around the same period I wrote an article (in Italian) with my friend Alice Devecchi, art history researcher, for RootsRoutes magazine: Educazione somatica per insegnanti (Somatic education for teachers). It’s a conversation where we argue that educators should acknowledge and reconnect to the roots of their somatic learnings in order to change their approach to teaching. We hope to publish an expanded English version in 2022.
Finally, last October I invited architect, stage designer and dancer (and dear friend) Claudia Broggi to give a somatic design workshop at ISIA Urbino, one of the design schools where I teach. In four days of work, Claudia guided the participants through a deeply thought-out process, which ended with a collective performance.
creating a network
I strongly believe in the necessity of sharing these ideas and practices in order to make them available to as many people as possible. That’s why I’m starting to reach out to researchers and practitioners whose work and writings I was lucky enough to encounter during my research; this has already brought to some very interesting online meetings. I would like to create a network of kindred people, to support each other in the development of our practices. If you are working in this field or know someone who does, please do get in touch at email@example.com: I would be glad to have a conversation.
The writings of designers, dancers and movement practitioners have profoundly shaped this project. That’s why I want to pay homage in each of the issues of this newsletter to some of the authors and books that have influenced my work in this field and broadened my understanding of it.
The book I want to start with is Ann Cooper Albright’s How to Land: Finding Ground in an Unstable World. It was published in 2019 and still keeps its relevance, probably even more so. Albright is a dancer and scholar, and her book beautifully shows how ways of thinking and ways of moving through the world are deeply intertwined. Connecting to personal and collective traumas, but also opening to the rich opportunities for learning we can access through our embodied experiences, she guides us through the different stages of Falling, Disorientation, Suspension, Gravity, Resilience and Connection with great subtlety, and with attention to the many layers each one of these concepts has. Reading this book to me was a continuous re-revelation of ideas and experiences I encountered but was never able to understand and connect with such clarity and honesty with the real, as Marina Garcés would put it.
I hope that this newsletter can generate an exchange with its readers, so please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have comments, suggestions, ideas or questions.
Thanks for reading!
es design somatics was initiated by Silvia Sfligiotti. You can receive updates on the project through this newsletter and es design somatics’ instagram profile.