Reflections on Task 27 and Task 28 – Inconspicuous

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 27. You can find my reflections below and then the instructions for Task 28.

Let’s start with a quiz.Have a look at the two pictures below and tick the right answer (pictures by visual anthropologist Vanja Celebicic):

a.

.

  1.  the posture shown in both pictures is Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I).
  2.  the posture in the left picture is a variation of Virabhadrasana I, whereas the posture in the right picture is the ‘classic’ pose.
  3. the posture on the left is a bad version of Virabhadrasana I, whereas the posture on the right is done ‘correctly’ (or at least this is the intention).
  4. the posture on the left is the original Viravhadrasana and the posture on the right is a later, more athletic, development.

b.

  1.  the posture shown in both pictures is Garudasana (eagle pose).
  2. the posture on the left is a variation of the posture on the right.
  3. there is no connection between the two postures.

I hope you got my drift by now…

It is funny that in some ways I started doing task 27 before you set it for me. On Sunday the 22nd of April I went to a yoga class after 7 years. It also happened that this was the first  non-Iyengar yoga class I attended in 19 years. I enjoyed the class a lot, but I often caught myself thinking ‘this is not yoga’. Of course, since I had not attended any classes for 7 years, it is highly likely that I am out of touch with developments in the curricula, let alone the emergence of new schools and approaches.

Then I received the instructions for Task 27  and I decided to attend the same class again and try to capture how what I was being taught mapped onto what I knew already. And the answer is that the relation between the two is neither direct nor definitive. Yes, both the thing I know and the thing I encountered the last two Sundays are called yoga; yes, we all had a mat and a bolster; yes, we all placed ourselves in neat lines and a teacher sat in front of us; yes, there was reference to a set of postures I knew already and invocations of OM.

But apart from that the class was very very different to everything I knew. Which is very annoying for someone who is tasked with finding the ‘right’ posture. Moreover, I feel that your question about the conditions under which a posture is right, as opposed to ‘wrong’ is at the heart of a larger question: what is yoga? And I mean the question in two ways: what is this thing called yoga? Which of the things we know and do would count as yoga?

To this question, one might say that the postures – their shapes, their lines, angles, duration – is less important and what counts more is the intent, the frame of mind with which one practises these postures whatever they might be. In fact, in its aphorism of yoga, the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios said precisely this: ‘in the same way that genuflections are not simple movements of the body, but they are related to a wider belief system and express a specific attitude and psychic disposition that has a spiritual purpose, in the same way – as far as this kind of comparisons can be made – the more complex yoga exercises are related to Hinduism  and aim towards spiritual, religious experiences’ (quoted in Savvidis, protothema.gr, 21/06/2015, translation from Greek mine). 

Not bad for someone that has never practised yoga, right? There is, I find, in the Archibishop’s statement  a certain clarity and  insight, in that he acknowledges the  nexus between complex physical movements, spiritual experience and religious belief. And although yoga practitioners might not be comfortable with references to Hinduism, if we substitute Hinduism for a more open, ecologically driven New Age spirituality, then I don’t think the Archbishop is far of the mark! (It is also worth noting that exclusionary tactics are not restricted to the Orthodox Church. One of the teachers I was taught by not only would deride any other school of yoga other than Iyengar; she would not permit her students attending the classes of other Iyengar Yoga teachers. At least, she knew what a ‘right’ Virabhadrasana looked like and had no doubts about what yoga was.) 

I, on the other hand, don’t. And I don’t even know to what extent the rightness of the posture matters in the end and to whom…When we do a posture badly, do we still practise yoga? Can we practise yoga without doing any postures at all? Does the practise continue when we get off the mat? When does yoga begin and when or where does it stop? So, with these questions in mind, I invite you into Task 28.

Task 28 – Inconspicuous

Your task this week is to practise as many postures as you can in public and/or social settings as inconspicuously as possible. So you have to find ways to do postures of the existing syllabus in public places but in way that allows you to merge with your surroundings and thus preventing others from recognising what you do as ‘yoga’ or indeed as anything else other than what is expected in the specific social situation you will find yourself in. Pay attention to the moment you start the practice of each posture  and the moment the practice comes to an end. Your reflections on the task can be in any form.

Reflections Task 28 and Task 29 – Female + yoga = ?

Dear Maria,

Thanks for task 28. See my reflections below and your new Task 29 – Female + yoga = ?

Reflections on Inconspicuous

Transcription of audio recording while carrying out task 28:

(Im at a busy opening event of beach front in Horsens (Langelinje) with events, games and stalls. Imagine kids running around and loud music playing)

‘I just spotted one of my yoga students about 20 feet away…

(pause)

I decide to attempt an inconspicuous Sun Salutation – knowing I will probably fail – or at least have to amend the movement to not ….

give away that I’m trying to do yoga.

There’s something about the environment here as

being around kids, being around play makes the yoga practice

less visible…

Parents play with their kids – pick them up – there’s lots of physical activity happening. Perhaps I can blend in…

(pause)

The first moves are easy, I can stretch my arms over my head and have a little yawn. Second movement is easy enough. I bend forward and pretend to tie my shoelaces. I lift my head up and extend … and look… out over the sea … and then it gets tricky.

How can I …

do Chaturanga and not clearly be doing a yoga posture, or I suppose any exercise posture. I crawl forward and pretend to be looking for something in the grass. I skip Upward Dog as this seems to be too obvious. On walking my hands back, I lift my hips up a little bit and come into a half-hearted version of Downward Dog. Eventually I come back to checking my shoelaces again and then rise up to standing.

I think I got away with this one.’

NEW SCENE

(shopping in the local supermarket. Music playing in the background and there are sounds of trolley wheels and occasional chatting.)

‘I’m self-consciously continuing my testing. Luckily it’s Saturday after 6 pm so it’s not so busy. I am – nevertheless – aware that there might be CCTV cameras everywhere. I look around… yes there are cameras.

I’m in the vegetable department which is empty. I look for spring onions and decide it’s a good idea to test whether I can get away with the three postures I have decide on: Tree posture, half moon posture and mountain posture

I do tree posture. I can hide behind the cucumbers.

Half moon posture… I bend forward and raise one leg up…

(here I realise that it’s partly a question of how long I stay in postures that makes it inconspicuous or not. Anyone can drop an apple and bend over to pick it up with one leg raised and get away with it.)

I do mountain pose. Again –apart from looking like I forgot what I came into the shop for – I can get away with this pose.

(pause … with the clicking sound of trolley wheels)

I’m in the coffee department. I’ll try it one more time.

When does the yoga practice become something else…?

(sound of my breathing)

And again… I walk and I did it.

It’s quite satisfying actually. It’s completely changing how I experience my food shopping. I suddenly hang out in the supermarket. Spend time here. For the first time ever, I notice the ceilings and the changes of temperature between different areas.

(the task makes me forget what I came to the shop for and I browse around for a while up and down the same aisles.)

I map the layout of the frozen goods and the tinned food. I notice that there are different types of pasta if I look further down.’

(pause)

Task 29 – Female + yoga = ?

Since task 26 and your reference to the work of Polly Penrose – ‘I was never good at yoga’– (and perhaps also thinking back at a blog post I wrote years ago together with some female yoga friends about women and yoga) my thoughts have been circling around the subject of gender within the practice of yoga.

It has been a condition for our project from the outset that we were two women working together. I am curious to bring this aspect to the surface for this task. It may be an interesting subject, it may also be completely irrelevant for what we’re doing. It felt important to acknowledge it, though. I’m conscious of the weight of this subject and so am trying to make this task as open and non-prescriptive as I can. Here it goes…

For your next task I want you to consider the following:

What is it to do the yoga practice in the awareness of being female? The task does not prescribe a certain understanding of what ‘female’ means (to you or the world) and whether this applies to biology or politics or social conventions. The task is to do your usual practice with this question in mind.

I am interested in you exploring the multiple ways one can both physically test and mentally consider this question. How can these multiple ways of considering the two words ‘female’ and ‘yoga’ create a network of possible ways to understand their relationship?

Bring back any aspect of your reflections to the blog.

Enjoy!

Reflections Task 29 and Task 30 – Lore (Invented)

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 29. Below you can find my answer to the equation and further down the instructions for Task 30.

Reflections Task 29 – Yoga + Female=? 

Reflection 1: If there ever was a can of worms, this is the one! I have no idea where to start, and I am worried that whatever I say or do will inevitably cause offense. This probably says quite a lot already!

Reflection 2: I decide to take menstruation as the most obvious way in, most obvious to me that is! Menstruation, pregnancy and more generally ‘women’s health’ is an area that is well covered by Iyengar Yoga.  There are clear do and dont’s, but then again there is discrepancy in the way these guidelines are followed.

Memory: In classes with Silvia, we had to go and tell her when we had our period. Then she would ask: ‘Beginning, middle or end?’ and according to the answer she would say something like ‘take it easy today’. If you were found out doing strenuous standing poses on the first day of your menstruation, you would get a proper told off. In a class with another teacher I trained though, any aberration from the class she was teaching was unacceptable.Everybody was doing like everybody else and if you had your period and didn’t feel well, you should have stayed at home!

Reflection 3: There was something empowering about going to Silvia and letting her know about my menstrual cycle. There was an intimacy I enjoyed but also a sense of pride: yes, everything is working, everything is tick-tocking, I am a woman and yoga is doing me good.

As my way into the task, I revisited the short essay The Practice of Women During the Whole Month written by Geeta Iyengar and published by the Iyengar Yoga Association UK in 2009. This was probably a lecture Geeta gave for an Indian audience but through its publication it also reached practitioners in the UK.

Reflection 4:I am surprised to find that Geeta sounds a bit tentative at the beginning, maybe she had the same walking-on-egg-shells feeling that I got when I received the task. She asserts that ‘as far as the practice of yoga is concerned, there is no difference between men and women’ (2009: 1). And then she continues: ‘however, we must recognise some basic differences as far as the biological body is concerned’ (2009: 1). The question then is ‘how we adapt the practice so that it brings a proper balance’ (Iyengar 2009: 1). The rest of the essay gives a brief account of the hormonal changes that the female body undergoes during a month and then offers suggestions and programmes of practice specific to the various points of the menstrual cycle.

Reflection 5 (With apologies for over-sharing): I roughly calculate that I am in the middle of my menstrual cycle, and since I haven’t experienced problems with my fertility, I can do all the poses without adjustments. Again, there is a sense of empowerment and pride: I feel good that I am able to take care of myself and that I am doing something which seems designed to keep me healthy, and would I wish for it, fertile.

By this time, the equation is looking something like this: Yoga + Female = Mother.

Reflection 6: In view of the psychological and physical toll that infertility can take on men and women, it would feel callous to find anything wrong with this. What can be at fault with a practice that has a good understanding of the reproductive system, it is non-invasive and can help with the maintenance or restoration of hormonal balance?

But something nags me.

Reflection 7: There is something Apollonian in the equation. I see in it the glow of health, I hear in it the laughter of children (to come), I sense in it the deep satisfaction that comes from a body that works well. Hormonal imbalance is to be treated; yearnings, misfits, bad moods, pains and aches are to be minimised; the body, and with it the woman who owns, is, and takes care of this body, needs to be regulated.

Reflection 8: Add a bit of early Foucault in the mix, and the equation turns into a recipe for governmentality. Yoga becomes a method for disciplining the (female) population. But this is early Foucault and if anything, we know now, as Foucault understood, that there can be (em)power(ment) in discipline. But the nagging continues.

Reflection 9: It crystallizes around a sense that not enough space is made for suffering. Not that yoga shields one from it.  Rather, that the practice does not offer the space to sit with it, to acknowledge it, to see it, to find meaning in it.

Why am I surprised? Yoga, is after all, supposed to shed light onto our darkness. But what happens to our darkness, I ask? Does it by default remain that which we are running away from, one sun salutation at a time?

Task 30 – Lore (Invented)

Publications on yoga asanas tend to consist of photographs and written text.  This often describes how the posture needs to be done, then there is a list of the health benefits and in some cases there is a bit of information on the name of the posture and its position within the Hinduist pantheon. B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga is probably the first publication that set up this model.

With this task I would like to invite you to invent your own lore for postures of your own choice. Feel free to arbitrate on what a posture may be good for, when it should or should not be done, which parts of your culture it might echo and which aspects of your history it is connected to. You have to choose existing postures, but you can choose any ones you want. You have total freedom as to what can go in the text.

Reflections Task 30 and Task 31 – Installation of your research topic

Dear Maria. Thanks very much for this Task. See my reflections below and your next Task 31– Installation of your research topic.

Reflections Yoga Lore

I immediately knew how I wanted to carry out this task: I envisaged my own yoga book. How would it look? Which postures would I include and what would I say about them? Would I talk about their alignment, their do’s and don’t’s, their origin, would I ponder my relationship or history with the postures? Would I get spiritual and philosophical or simply practical and pragmatic? Since starting my MA I used an app on my iPad to take notes because I like that I can combine writing, drawing, taking pictures and recording audio. The note-taking-app I have used to make the images below are from this app, it’s called Notes Plus.

My Yoga Lore is a ‘Desert-island-Discs’ of the postures I would take with me if I was stranded somewhere. If I can hold onto these ones…

The full PDF of the Lore is here:

Yoga Lore

Task 31 – Installation of your research topic

I have begun a collaboration with an anthropologist in Denmark and we are currently looking to do some work that explores the bodily knowing in patients who are undergoing treatment or surgery for back problems. It is opening up a new and exciting  avenue for me of working creatively between movement and science/medicine. I know you have been/are working outside your primary discipline with technology and digital forms. I am curious to find out more about this work. And so, this next task involves your own research.

For task 31 I want you to think of your current research topic or an area of it and make an (art) installation that reflects or captures (some of) your ideas or questions. Use materials or environment that inform your work and put it into a spatial relationship. If it makes sense to move with or around the installation you can add a movement score to the instruction. You can photograph or film the outcome or dance and bring back any aspect of your installation to the blog.

Enjoy

Reflections Task 31 and Task 32 – Breath

Dear Marie,

many thanks for Task 31. Below you can find my response and below that the instructions for Task 32.

 

You asked me to develop an installation that captures the research I am currently undertaking. That got me thinking: what is the research I am actually doing? Yes, I am writing a book for nearly two years now and I am doing research as part of this. But is this my research? It feels to me that my research is a lot less defined; something I have been involved in all along and still remains inchoate and without a name. Yes, it involves writing and performance making and practising yoga, and dancing but is neither of these things alone nor all of these things together. In a way these practices feel incidental to something more urgent, more fundamental. In some ways, this project feels part and parcel of this ‘research’. Employ an interdisciplinary methodology, play at and with boundaries, and sharpen a practice of yoga that has been nourished for so long and now at long last it feels available to me, serving me at every turn of the yellow brick road.

What you will see below is a game/installation I played with a group of second-year theatre and performance students at the University of Leeds. It is informed by an exercise by American choreographer Susan Redhorst and described in her book A Choreographic Mind (2015). Redhorst’s exercise is simple: in a pair you choose a set of objects, and you take turns arranging them in a space marked between you. I love playing this game, and every time I invite others to play it with me it is totally absorbing. In the beginning I thought of it as a way to develop compositional skills, but as I went along I realised it also exercises responsiveness, imagination, new ways of seeing, and an appreciation of affordances. More importantly, the exercise is extremely gratifying but without being competitive or strenuous; maybe because it develops a sense of co-presence between human as well as non-human partners in a situation that continues to unfold.

So Redhorst’s exercise formed the basis of a piece that a group of students were creating for a larger performance that took place at the Leeds Art Gallery in May 2018.

Their piece, called Re-arrange’ was a response to Anne Hardy‘s installation Falling and Walking (phhhhhhhhhhh phossshhhhh crrhhhhzzz mn huaooogh) that was shown at the Gallery during the same time. Responding to Hardy’s piece, which used made and found debris to create an installation the visitor could walk in, ‘Re-arrange’ similarly used mundane objects. Unlike Hardy’s piece, though, the visitors at ‘Re-arrange’ were invited to move and position the objects in the space. Also, unlike Hardy’s piece that had a prerecorded soundtrack of found sounds that marked the duration  of the installation, the objects used in ‘Re-arrange’ could produce two types of sound: natural sounds generated out of the object’s material and movement and recorded sounds that were generated by sensors located in the objects, which responded to the visitor’s movements (at around 2:50 of the video you can see both sounds working together).  The video captures an impromptu play that took place, when we were testing ‘Re-arrange’ prior to its installation in the Gallery. I consider this to express my research as articulately as it can get (which is not very much): my research is the process that unfolds between people as they engage in a creative exploration, which has neither a pre-determined shape nor expected results, and seek to relate with whatever reveals itself to be on offer.

Players are: Ed Coulden, Jacob Justice, Joe Kent-Walters and myself. Video by creative technologist Christine Farion.

Task 32 – Breath

It suddenly struck me that we have been doing this project for some time now and we have worked with the breath very little, if at all. I know the breath cycle is part of the asana practice in Ashtanga, but in Iyengar the approach to the breath is very different: you leave it alone for the first few years, and then you begin to practise Pranayama (Breathing exercises) in a meticulous and technical manner on par with the postures. I studied Pranayama for 4 years with Silvia, but the practice never felt mine. I experienced the breath like a wild horse, kicking and running away the moment I tried to tame it. The last couple of months, though, my breath surprises me. It comes and sits cross-legged right in the middle of my awareness. It fills me, and lifts me and occupies me with a clarity and generosity I never felt in the Pranayama practice. Maybe it’s the spring.  So your task is this:

On day 1, decide on the spot and say ‘this is the moment I will take a breath’. Wherever you are, close your eyes and take one breath. Try to inhabit and be present to this one breath as best you can. On Day 2, do the same but take 2 breaths instead. Increase one breath per day until you get to 5 breaths. You can do this anytime of the day at any place, and it should not be planned in advance. Bring back to the Blog traces of what happened.

 

 

Reflections Task 32 and Task 33 – ‘What if…?’

Dear Maria,

Many thanks for your task 32. Find my reflections on the task below and your new task 33 – ‘What if…?’

Reflections – Breath

Shortly after reading your instructions for task 32 – Breath, I opened an email from Independent Dance in London that advertised a workshop aimed at dance artist named The Breathing Archive. It is described thus:

I was intrigued by the sound of this work and wanted to attend the workshop, but alas, it being in London, that was not an option. What I could do was adopt some of these ideas and fuse it with my Breath task. I don’t know of Anouk Llaurens’ work, so the adaptation invented below is purely from what I imagine components of the workshop might be like.

What I did

Three ideas came to mind from your task and the workshop description:

  • Breathe once, twice etc and inhabit and be present with the breath
  • ‘Crumple and un-crumple printed A4 pages’
  • Texts, scores and pictures that represent a physical manifestation of ephemeral work

I print out 6 pages (I was going to print out our entire 71 pages of Two Trainers Prepare correspondence but didn’t feel it was justified to exploit nature for my reading/crumbling experiment) and lay them out. How can I breathe and be present with the work and relate directly to the documents?

I begin by crumbling the first page while I read out the text. I notice the connection between reading out loud and breathing. Was I ever aware of how/when I breathe when I read? On page two I make a little ‘tick’ on the text for every breath I take while reading. Page three becomes a mark-making experiment where I keep the pen on the paper, I follow my reading with the pen and make a little peak for every breath. Page four takes into account your instruction to breathe more than once. So instead of taking one I take three breaths when stopping to inhale while reading the text out loud. It becomes a question of ‘words-appearing-between-breaths’ rather than the breath merely being a necessity for speaking. Page five is an image from my yoga lore from task 30 and portrays Surya Namaskara A. I practice Surya Namaskara A while crumbling and un-crumbling the page for every breath. Finally, I combine them all for the last page; I read out, I breathe three times when I run out of breath and crumble and un-crumble the page and lift up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. The (un)crumbling reveals a pattern of how the paper folds when the action is repeated. The breathing that connects with this action has a similar quality and I connect with the image Llaurens gives above about the cells breathing and moving. The folds create a landscape across the page and the pages laid out together become an illustration of the stages of the breath.

Task 33 – ‘What if…?’

Thinking about cells and the body as cellular draws my attention to Deborah Hay. Her work has been very influential in my thinking and approach to my own choreographic work. She practices exploring questions in her dance beginning with ‘what if…’, allowing the response to be open and playful. I will borrow a question of Hay’s and give it a twist to satisfy my idea for your next task:

Explore your yoga practice with this question in mind:

‘What if every cell in my body at once has the potential to perceive every breath passing?’

Enjoy

Reflections on Task 33 and Task 34 – The Breath and the Gaze

Dear Marie,

many thanks for your reflections on Task 32. As it happens often with this back and forth between Task and Reflection, your response to Task 32 took me entirely by surprise. Reading the post again, it strikes me that you have put together a score and I do wonder how this score could with different kinds of material, say torn pages from a diary, and how it might shape into a piece. Maybe something to return to?

And thank your for Task 33. Below you can find my reflections and below that the instructions for Task 34.

Reflections on Task 33

The task still doesn’t make sense and I suppose this is part of its charm: an incredulous ‘What If?’ barely making it through the barriers of meaning. I wonder if it is precisely because the task is unwieldy to intellectual understanding that it may open up different ways of making sense.

I have no idea how to go about the task. Perhaps, the easiest way is to let it be. I read it once, I get confused, there is so much information coming at me that day, I turn the Blog off and move onto something else.

Every now and then, the task reminds itself to me. What if…the words jumble, what are the instructions again? What if every cell could feel every breath? Before I even manage to put the words in order, or check on the Blog to read the task again, something has happened to the breath. One breath, this one breath  becomes fuller and seeps deeper. So breath in-breath out, a week passes again, punctuated by Task 33, which –  it seems more accurate to say – engaged with me, rather than the other way around. This leads me to think about the duration of the tasks. Is Task 33 finished then? Have a I done it? Is it done with me? Is this reflection a marker of its/my accomplishment? Or, once planted, the Task takes a life of its own, demanding to be done, meddling with the horizon of those things that rise to consciousness? Maybe something to return to?

Task 34: The Breath and the Gaze

I am aware this sounds like the name of a pub and maybe a pub should be named thus. This task takes you back to Task 33, which this time I would like you to do following the instructions of the task and adding one more step.

Without planning in advance, you decide on the spot and say ‘Now I am going to take a breath’. Wherever you are, close your eyes and take one breath. Try to inhabit and be present to this one breath as best you can. The first day you take one breath, the second day two and so on until on day 5 you take 5 consecutive breaths.

I invite you to pay attention to the impact this task may have on your gaze. How do you look at the world before and how  do you look at the world after the task? What happened to the eyes and the musculature around and behind them? What is the connection between breath and gaze?

As an additional and final step to this task, I would like you to  photograph the first thing you see once you open your eyes after the breath. You don’t need to take the photograph straight away. You can go back and search for this exact thing you looked at and take a photo of it later. Bring the photos and any other aspect of your response back to the Blog.

 

 

Reflections Task 34 and Task 35 – Syncopation

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 34. Find my reflections below and you next Task 35 – Syncopation

Revisiting task 32

A few weeks back I received task 32 in which you asked me to decide ‘in the moment’ to close my eyes, focus on the breath and inhabit it. When I received task 34, I understood that in my reflections of the first task, I had subconsciously sidestepped your original intention. Here is why: There was a temporality issue in the task I could not solve. From the moment of reading the instruction I would await the task to happen but, in that anticipation, hinder the possibility of surprising myself in the action. It felt significant to the task (in my reading of it) to not plan the moment and for the week of testing task 32 I had daily flashes of thinking ‘now I will do the task’ but feeling untrue to it because I had planned it. It did give rise to a real-time exploration in timing and breath which was very fruitful. It left me with questions such as:

When am I being present in my breath and can this be planned?

When does the breath begin and end?

What happens to my sense of timing when I realise I am now in the moment of carrying out the task?

How does the timing of a task interfere/interact with my own timing and daily rhythm?

Reflection on Task 34 – the breath and the gaze

So I welcomed the prod that asked me to reconsider this task as it prompted me to reflect on it again. At the same time, you gave me a second even more unachievable task, which was to photograph what I see when I open my eyes. Unachievable because I was only interested in the immediate gaze I would have after completing my breaths, I did not wish to postpone taking the photograph.These are (some of) the photos i took:

It became awkward at times as i remembered  the task half way through practicing yoga

Sometimes obvious when enjoying a moment at the beach

And dangerous when it popped into my head while cycling

and driving…

Task 35 – Syncopation

It strikes me now that my task 33 ‘what if..’-task was a response to my own inner struggle to grasp your instruction for task 32. Yes, it was incredulous and unwieldy to intellectual meaning. Like something out of synch that doesn’t beat to the same rhythm.

For this reason – and further on from the question that arose from reconsidering Task 32 – I want to think of timing out of synch. 

Consider this image showing a beat-level syncopation

Decide on two (or more) actions that you do throughout the day that has different sense of rhythm. They could be breathing or running down the stairs, playing with a child, reading an article etc. Now try and do the actions at the same time or overlapping and explore how it changes your sense of rhythm of the synchronal action. Bring back any traces of reflections from this.

Enjoy

Reflections Task 35 and Task 36 – Composition

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 35.

I engaged with the task quite a lot during the week through the way it conditioned my intentionality (this is a fancy way to say that I basically started noticing a lot more the rhythms around me). However, I only got round to actually doing it yesterday. It was then that I discovered that the task required quit a bit of skill, which I evidently do not have (I did suspect this earlier in the week but I was hoping that I will find a short cut. I did not).  The video below shows a very poor attempt to at least keep two rhythms at the same time: with my feet a rhythm that is mercifully recited for me, and with my arms another one (it doesn’t matter which, as long as it is different!). Having these two actions in a syncopated relation was beyond the tricks I can master in a week, or indeed this lifetime. 

Beyond my apparent failure, your task made me think about both syncopation and rhythms. First of all I thought about the various rhythms that go on in the body: circadian rhythm, menstrual cycle, the heart pumping the blood round the body, the secretion of insulin and other hormones etc.  So, the body is made of rhythms and is of course situated within rhythms; day and night, the seasons, the cycle of the washing machine, the football world cup every four years and on and on. However, syncopation is slightly different, because, from the little I figured out yesterday, in syncopation the two rhythms are in relation to one another, the syncopated rhythm fills the spaces between the full on. It complements and complicates the rhythmic structure. I tried to listen or feel instances of syncopation arising spontaneously but I did not manage to trace anything.  The following task is partly an attempt to continue with this search but in terms of visual rhythms, rather than auditory ones.

Task 36 – Composition

I saw an image by Joan Jonas dating from the 1970s. A performer is standing in Vrksasana (Tree Pose) holding a piece of paper that has a painted triangle on it. The performer is part of a wider environment, and probably the still is an image from a recorded performance.

This, and my experience of Task 35, form the basis for Task 36.

Develop structural forms/sculptures with your body in one of the yoga postures positioned in relation to an aspect of a background, foreground, texture of your environment and/or in relation to something you hold or wear, for example an object, a painting, a drawing, a costume etc. Think of a. your body-in-yoga, b. the surrounding environment around and behind the body, and c. the object, if you decide to use one, as one composition. Do this with as many postures, objects, places as you wish. Take a picture of the compositions and bring them to the blog.

Reflections Task 36 + Task 37 – Composition reconstructed

Dear Maria,

Many thanks for task 36.

Blog format

So far it has been mostly an advantage to post tasks and reflections on the TDPT blog where the layout of how we post has its limitations; it has meant that thinking about how the blog entry appears was not something to be concerned about. However, my reflections for task 35 is one of those entries where I feel the blog format restricts my reflections. With composition as the central point for this task, the pre-set font, layout of text and limited ways of adding photos means that there is not much scope to play with the composition. I would have liked to place the images side by side and blow them up much bigger. Anyhow, for today the layout of my reflections below will do.

Reflections on Composition

I did not manage to track down the exact image from Joan Jonas work that you were referring to so I took the instruction from your task and paired it with what I imagined the still image to look like.

Image made on self-timer


Photo by my dad, Niels Andersen

Photo by my mum, Kirsten Hallager

a) The body-in-yoga

The yoga posture I chose for each photo was inspired by how I felt they would work best compositionally in the surrounding environment: what shape would either contrast or mimic the objects in the space, what was actually physically doable and be visible within the frame.

b) The surrounding environment

I did not have time to construct a set-up for the photos and as a result my everyday activities and surroundings had to suffice for photographing myself doing the task. Inspired by the yoga photos by Polly Penrose and other artists (like Julie Blackmon who photographs everyday life in (sur)real set-ups), I used places and spaces that I pass through and interact with daily. I was particularly interested in how the yoga postures were sometimes camouflaged in the untidy and ‘busy’ surroundings yet adding an ‘oddness’ to the photo. It was an interesting process for me to compose the photographs with myself in a yoga posture and relate to my bodily experience of this position in a new environment.

c) The object

The object was not at the forefront of my mind so I would mostly just grab what was there on the scene. Holding an object as part of the posture removed any remaining experience of doing yoga. I was simply posing with an iron, a brick or… a child. I did consider what I was wearing for each of the photos. Mainly that I wanted to avoid yoga wear but again, time limitations meant that I would pose in whatever I was wearing, which then became part of the narrative of the image.

Without having paid much attention to it while composing these images, each of the elements (a, b, c) add their own visual ‘rhythm’ to the images. I was so glad you clarified in your reflections for task 34, that syncopation is not rhythm out of synch but different rhythms  in relation to each other that either compliment or complicate the overall pace. I want to play with this further for task 36.

Task 36 – Composition reconstructed 

I loved the idea of visual rhythm and have in my reflection on task 35 discovered a different way of ‘seeing’. Composition as a manifestation of rhythm between objects, bodies and environment is an obvious choreographic tool where movement is central but I had not articulated to myself that rhythm could apply specifically to images.

For your task 37 I want you to reconsider one or more of the images I composed for task 36 and reconstruct it/them as close to ‘my original’ as you can. For obvious reasons the environment and objects will be completely different so try and resolve the compositional challenge rather than matching objects. Perhaps think of it as a commutation test where you investigate an image by identifying ‘signifiers’ that you substitute with your own environment, body, objects, colours etc. How does keeping composition (more or less) intact but exchanging elements in the frame agitate the visual rhythm of the image? Bring back to the blog the image(s) you create and any reflections on the process.

Enjoy

Reflections on Task 37 and Task 38 – Modern Relational Yoga

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 37. Below you can find my reflections and below this the instructions for Task 38.

Monday: I am excited and inspired by the pictures you post and look forward to doing the task (which I am not sure exactly what it asks, because I read the instructions very quickly).

Tuesday: I do understand that the task has to do with some form of re-construction, re-staging, adaptation. I am thinking about the re-creating of past choreographies and the function of scoring. So, the photos are my score and I can change anything I want in the composition. A little something nags me, but I am not too preoccupied with it: I have never done, or be taught,  Natarajasana, the posture you are doing with the diggers. I will have to find a way to somehow address this.

Wednesday: I do a bit more reading on the commutation test. It sounds a very interesting methodology. How might the thing, or series of things, I will change in the composition reveal insights about both the original and its reconstruction?

Thursday: SNAP. My back goes and with it all the plans I have for the task.

Friday: I can barely walk or stand. I am medicated to my ears and have no idea how I will respond to the task. Dazed by the pain and the effect of the painkillers, I am thinking about asking for an extension. But this has never happened before. The frequency (yes! the rhythm of the posts) is one of the threads that makes this project what it is. One thing, however, becomes clear: my injury reveals the very thing that was taken for granted in the task and the photos: ability.

Saturday: The pain has eased somewhat and with it comes an idea. What will be changed is scale.

Painting by Margarita Samara

Task 38 – Relations

The last practice I had before I injured myself yielded an insight. Asanas are not postures, they are relations. This may not sound particularly groundbreaking on paper, but it took me nearly 20 years to break the mould of the idea, and practice, of postures and realise that what is going on is in fact relations. What is the difference? Postures are fixed, relations are fluid. Both the translation of the term asana as posture, as well as the photographic representation and instructions of ‘Modern Postural Yoga’ (see De Michelis’s excellent History of Modern Yoga 2004 and Singleton’s Yoga Body 2010), create the impression that yoga involves the doing and holding of fixed positions (even if in practices like Ashtanga Yoga there is a lot more emphasis on the movement between the postures).

Here is your task then: what kind of visual and linguistic representation might we have if we think of yoga asanas as relations? Relations between body parts, between the body and the space, between different weights and pressures, between inside and outside etc etc. How might a relational yoga practice be represented and disseminated  through language and imagery?

Reflections task 38 and task 39 – A body of work

Dear Maria,

Many thanks for task 38. Below you will find Task 39 – A body of work.

Reflections Relations

This task is clear and to the point and completely central (I feel) to what we’re trying to do and for that reason I have been a rabbit in headlights trying to work with the question. ‘How might a relational yoga practice be represented and disseminated through language and imagery?’ No matter how I choose to respond I will not do the profoundness of this question justice. How can I create images that represent not the postures but what happens in the relation between them? And how can I talk about the relation without reducing the experience of it to a simple word play?

Here are some tentative reflections:

Imagery

Layering the images in goes some way to answer the question of a relationship between postures, between the body and the space etc, but it is still flat and two-dimensional and too literal. The postures – although now in direct relation to  one another – are still fixed and static.

Language

 

SIRSASANA                                                    SAVASANA

 

Virabhadrasana classic Virabhadrasana correct Virabhadrasana athletic

 

 

TRI     KO       NA    SA     NA    TRI    KO     NA     SA    NA   TRI    KO  NA   SA  NA  TRI   KO   NA    SA     NA    TRI     KO    NA    SA   NA   TRI    KO   NA   SA   NA    TRI    KO

 

Task 39 – A body of work

At the end of your reflections on task 37 you state: One thing, however, becomes clear: my injury reveals the very thing that was taken for granted in the task and the photos: ability. I wanted to add to that: the body is taken for granted.The body – and its abilities– are the pivotal point for this project even as sometimes the written reflections and visual outputs take centre stage. This insight is not ground-breaking on paper either but nevertheless one that affirms my experience that Two Trainers Prepare is not a ‘project posted on a blog’ but an exchange between two bodies.

These thoughts lead me to an idea for task 39. For this task I want you to think about relations not just in asana but in a wider context of this project. We have worked together two people in a pair, that is one relation. We have worked individually with our surroundings, that is another relation. There are numerous other relations to mention but I want you to focus one particular one… We have used reflections and writing and uploading and posting and created a more intangible relation with something that is not physical: the blog. I want you to explore ways that the outcome of the project (the blog) can be considered a tangible element in your relationship with it? Where is the blog and how can you work with the proximity/distance between you? Is the blog a deposit of written material, photos and videos or do all the tasks and reflections add up to something more? A body of work?

Imagine this: if the blog was another body how could you dance with it?

I look forward to your response and to seeing you in Leeds very soon.