writing and sharing practices
how can somatic movement proposals be shared and passed on ?
dear friends and readers,
I’m writing from an over-heated and under-hydrated area of Northen Italy, and I hope you are doing good in these hard times.
For those who are new to this newsletter, this is a space where I share some aspects of my research and practice between somatics and design, hoping they may be of some interest to you. If you want to know more about es_ design somatics you can read this post.
how to “write” and share movement practices?
Somatic movement is usually done in person, with a teacher/facilitator guiding participants through practice; its focus on internal awareness makes it also a difficult subject for visual documentation: images can usually only reveal one side of it. There are also a number of situations when teacher and participants do not share the same time-space: in these cases other ways of preserving and transmitting a movement proposal are needed.
I recently thought about this quite often: it happenedfor instance when I sent Lotte van Gelder my notes for a movement activity I had prepared, and when my physiotherapist gave me his rough sketches for the exercises I have to practice to fix my aching right knee – joking about his poor drawing skills. In both cases I realised how these notes lacked a lot of important information.
Somatic movement is not simply about moving parts of one’s own body: quality, intention, focus, many other factors need to be conveyed in order to allow participants to be aware of all the layers of the experience.
I decided to take some time to re-examine my pratice from this perspective. When I design a workshop, I usually start by imagining which kind of movements could connect with the theme I have in mind (in the photo below, I was working on the exploration of a space). At this stage I move back and forth between practising these actions and trying to write them down on paper, following an intuitive flow; then I break these notes down into smaller units, write them on cards, and rearrange the cards to find the right sequence; when this sequence feels satisfying I take a photo of it. I then usually write one final condensed version of the structure, hoping that I will not need to use it during the workshop: going through these steps usually helps me remember what I have planned to to. In case it doesn’t, I can resort to improvisation.
Strangely enough – and despite being a graphic designer – I use few visual elements: words, at least at this stage, seem to me better suited to convey nuances such as the quality and intention of a movement. But still, I feel like I’m at the early stages of a process that needs to evolve and include different tools.
If you feel like having a conversation around this topic, write at firstname.lastname@example.org.
using the voice
Documenting, sharing or passing on practices is part of what I’m trying to do with es_. The form I’m using most at the moment is the podcast: to me, the voice feels like the best tool to guide a practice without invading the visual space of the listener – rather leaving it free for their imagination. This might have something to do with my experience as a radio host from many many years ago. And yes, the podcast requires a lot of writing, too – and it’s resahping the way I write about the body.
By the way, the latest podcast episode, Arrivare, was just published. I you understand Italian you’re invited to listen and let me know about your experience.
improvisation summer school
Thanks to Barbara Boiocchi, designer, artist and dance improviser, I found out about the Improvisation Summer School, that will take place in September in the South of France. This edition is centered around the theme of Transmission: how can improvisation be taught, or better learnt? is this even possible? As improvisation is something I’m particularly interested in, I’m looking forward to this intensive learning and sharing experience.
a book: Centered and Connected
I discovered Thea Rytz’s book Centered and Connected a few years ago at the BeJam in Bern, one of the main Contact Improvisation events in this part of Europe. Thea is a therapist using body awareness as a tool to overcome the disconnection between mind and body, and to come to trust one’s own body. Centered and Connected collects her theoretical an practical research into this field. In fact, one of Rytz’s concerns is the lack of involvement of somatic practitioners in research.
The core of the book is a set of exercises covering topics such as the senses, different parts of the body, sensations and psycho-physical notions.
Centered and Connected is an excellent resource for self-guided somatic inquiry. I used it in my own practice, and suggested it to some students (including Mariachiara De Leo, whom I interviewed in the previous newsletter) as a supporting tool in their body-centered design research.
In writing about her practice, Rytz says: “(…) we speak of empathy, presence, and resonance. We support people to rediscover and develop their skill to attune their awareness toward themselves, others, and their environment, in silence and motion, in a friendly, gentle and accepting manner.” In these few lines I found a clear reminder of why we need somatic practice in design.
The English edition of the book dates from 2009; those of you who can read German will find an updated edition of Achtsam bei sich und in Kontakt, which was published in 2018.
That’s all for this issue. I hope the summer will bring some positive changes to all of us on a small and big scale, and look forward to hearing from you.
Till next time,
es design somatics was initiated by Silvia Sfligiotti. You can receive updates on the project through this newsletter and es design somatics’ instagram profile.