‘Situated loosely in a land based/water based, performative arts practice, my work looks to engage with ideas of embodiment and liveliness, as potential frameworks to provoke an exploration within the natural watery environment, inclusive of pressing issues.
As my work attempts to negotiate itself in a place that is fraught of watery and tidal synchronicities, it grapples with a metaphorical abstract of a durational and performative journey, concerned with space, time and embodiment. Surfacing, somewhere between endurance and ethical concern, this work floats in a cave that is bestowed to a language of a phenomenological nature. Close calling echoes of feminist discourse and practice provide powerful undercurrents that support this work, specifically that of hydrofeminist thinking (Astrida Neimanis) and ideas of trans-corporeality (Stacy Alaimo), in relation to thinking about being with the other. Both poetic and brave in response, I strive to produce work with a resonant, penetrable and honest voice, that attempts to facilitate a meaningful connection between the performer, the site and the witness.’
Adapting a practice – Rewriting a practice? For me it wasn’t enough to put pre -recorded material on to the internet – I really wanted to consider the space – what it was, what it meant as well as what the live space was now.
Over the past few months I have been developing works around the idea of ‘watery meditation’. This work, for me provides a sense of clarity and resolution to some of the questions I have been thinking about with regards to live moment in the digital space (in light of covid), but also when attempting to situate the work in a wider framework of Astrida Neimanis’s ‘hydrofeminism’ and ideas of Stacey Alaimo’s ‘trans-copreality’. This the work can be considered as a performative response to the situation of covid and lockdown – creating a work that acknowledges an identified need for embodiment, autonomy and a sense of quietness or listening within this situation, as well as with regards to translation on a digital level.
Drawn from a wealth of workshops and meditations undertaken throughout my studies and professional development in a performance discipline, the meditations here create a space where the participant can explore the body as a place of connection and stability – As somatic movement practitioner Miranda Tuffnel said in a recent workshop which I attended in Dundee (2019) ‘it is, in fact, the body that keeps us safe’. I think this is important to remember, in times when we may be experiencing a wide array of emotions with regards to the pandemic and its implications. This exploration of our own bodies, the ones we inhabit daily, and just taking that time to consider them, especially with regards to the breath, can help to remind us of our connection with them. Understanding a sense of the rhythms in our bodies, noticing how and what they do can assist us every day to feel safe and grounded.
It was through the sessions I held in June 2020 ‘Waterworks’ that I was able to realise the potential of the watery meditation. The participants really seemed to appreciate the space offered and held for them in this situation. As one participant said ‘Despite using an online platform, Angela miraculously managed to induce an authentic live and truly shared experience. This was evident throughout, but, particularly during a guided meditation.’ The workings of the zoom session provided participants with the opportunity to do an intimate activity in their own, safe space of home environment, whilst still keeping a thread of collective matter – (vocal offerings and collective activity and water) that held together the space. This is one of the most performative ways in which I have witnessed the zoom (online) platform operate throughout my research with regards to performance and the live (online) moment. Since lockdown has been imposed, I have been attempting to underdtand what the notions of live performance is within the online space and what the implications of this was on my practice. This space, as created through the sessions ‘water works’ seemed to offer the live online performative moment (different to the live in the physical sense), and lead to something of an articulation surrounding these attempts to re-situate the work in this re-imagining of practice. I think this is due to a number of contributing factors, one of the most obvious being that the participant is in their own space, offering comfort and a deeper sense of security that could be achieved during a studio session. The ability to use this setting also contributes to easing any feelings of anxiety a participant may feel around self awareness, and by offering the option for participants to turn their camera or mic off, I felt aided in the autonomous sense of space that was open and concerned with the care of the individual participant – again leading to an easing into the exercise. The live performative moment here came through the connection felt between participant(s) (who ware indeed performing something) and my own facilitation, using a type of vocal scoring – the intent listening and response in that space and indeed the connective quality of the collective watery activity, created a sense of liveliness. This was heightened by the ideas running throughout the meditation, specifically those of watery connections – could the water have also been a factor in the facilitation of this live space? Throughout this session, I noted a sense that this nurturing and stabilizing activity was in somewhat necessary, perhaps more than any of the other of the sessions (and so much so the participants asked for another session of watery meditation). The pandemic has been challenging on so many different levels, for me this work offers a place for time and reflection giving opportunity to ‘check in’ and situate ourselves within our own bodies, providing a vital sense of relief from the noise happening around us as well as giving us a sense of grounding and wellbeing in a collective space.
Bringing the water aspect into the meditation was really about providing an oppotunity to attempt to consider and connect with it in a diferent way. Within my work I had been thinking about the domestic situation of water and how that is different to the waters that are set in natural environments – how we consider, use and regard it. It is indeed through lockdown, and through taking on alot of the domestic tasks – that I have been able to consider the water of the everyday. I also wanted to think about what it meant to be in water, submerged in water but in an embodied and metaphysical way. I wondered what the meditation space could offer to the understanding of water and our relationship to it. Thinking of the space as a place of heightened awareness, could there be some form of knowledge that could be accessed through an experiential or embodied way. This speaks directly to written work in dissertation when attempting to connect and develop knowledge of an environment by situating oneself within. One of the key parts in the meditation was developed when considering in my work the idea of the entry point. This interests me in both an ethical and physical way as well as engaging a thinking around the idea of intimacy within the water. Part of the meditation speaks directly to the work of Astria Neimanis when it asks participants to imagine the water contained in their own bodies and how this is in communication with the water in the bowl/bath/shower. Wider context situates the work in the hydrofeminist ideas such as the ‘hydro commons’ (Astrida Neimans) and Stacy Alimos ideas of ‘Trans-copreatlity’. Links to texts will be included within the blurb for the meditation- enabling users to situate the meditation and their considerations in this wider framework if they choose.
The ambition of this work is to offer participants a space to just be with their bodies whilst also developing a connection with water. This gentle approach may lead to a thinking or consideration of their own relationships to water, but is no way meant to be anything other than providing this space for exploration. During water meditation 2 – ‘I have a bowl of water in front of me’ I open up the opportunity to capture some of the thoughts, feelings or energy developed through the meditation by either drawing or writing but again, this is of course optional. In the workshop with Miranda Tuffnel this was a part of the physical explorations that I found extremely valuable in terms of expressing and documenting the journey I had been on, giving opportunity to bring this text or image based response into my work. Here we see another opportunity that the platform offers – this after activity can be carried out with participants’ own materials and tools and can be extended out as much as is wanted.
Meditation 1 ‘I m a water particle in the river dee.’ sees the participants led through a visual meditation from the source of the river Dee on Braeriach, all the way to the north sea at Aberdeen. I developed this meditation whilst working with a group of senior citizens in my job as an activities coordinator (Deeside care home 2018). I developed this in response to identifying a need or desire for the group, who had differing physical disabilities, that offered an opportunity to get closer to experiencing the outdoor environment, using their own knowledge and memory of place. The work inspired and informed by Nan Shepards ‘Into the Mountain’, and my recent research for the performative work ‘River’, worked really well in the setting and seemed to offer the participants a real sense of journeying. I choose to include it here as an accessible way of being intimate (even if this is through the memory) with water as well as providing an experience for participants – this can be drawn on in the same way as above, creating artworks in response to this exercise. Meditation 3 ‘I am completely submerged apart from my nose’ This is an extension of meditation 2, but offers participants the opportunity to perform this in a bathtub or even outdoors in the natural environment.
The three meditations will be offered in a downloadable audio file enabling the participants access to them in their own time, but also offered as a live participatory event during the post graduadte show case. this speaks to the performative, collective and live aspects of this piece.
The resolution in these meditations to my MA practice considers the place we are now with regards to the global pandemic and what I an able to make as an artist, not only to respond to an identified need but also with regards to finding a way of using the tools I have available (digital) to create a work that is live, performative and translates in an integrative way.
Response to – What was/is needed. What I could offer as an artist. Taking into account the live moment and creating something that is live on a digital platform – but also something that people could take away – commitment – do when they needed/wanted.
This work recognises influences from Miranda Tuffnel – but also other sessions I have attended througout my own professional development, including A+E Collective an Artists Network event curated by Tendency Towards, Aberdeen 2018.