This video wishes to offer an audiovisual introduction to the book Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond (Kapadocha, 2021), released on October 22, 2020.
In response to the current circumstances, this alternative book launch is a compilation of material produced using easily available technological means. The intention is to warmly “welcome” the readers (listeners-viewers-movers-voicers) to the multi-experiential world of the book. This practice-research project sprang out of times without physical distancing and it is shared at a very critical moment which I would argue that for multiple reasons suggests a new “somatic turn” (Kapadocha, 2021, 2-3).
The reading experience of the book is complemented by a Routledge and a CHASE webpages.
Hope you will enjoy the project!
Thanks to the contributors who enthusiastically responded to this last invitation. Thanks to the current actors in training at East 15 Acting School (MA Acting), who gave me permission to use footage from our second physically-distanced class.
Kapadocha, C. (2021) Introduction: Somatic voice studies in Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond. Oxon and New York: Routledge.
This is an illustration of how Mike
Medaglia received my practice in the opening of The Somatic in Theatre and
Performance Research Gathering.
When I first saw my illustrated self, I felt
uncomfortable with how I seem ‘bigger’ and ‘higher’ than the group.
Hierarchy, I thought, the exact opposite
of what my work and this project aims at.
I sensed though that my physicality and
my expression (or, in one word, my soma) carry something completely different.
I felt my witnessing.
Now I see me and feel the warmth of
looking back at people and processes that still grow in me.
Now I see me growing and imagine the next steps.
Introducing the project
The above illustration-text dialogue, to which I will return in the second part of this post, is part of the dynamic interactions between modes of practice-research documentation and my reflections on a four-day gathering project that took place from the 23rd to the 26th of August 2018 in Kato Garouna village in Corfu, Greece. It opens this discussion as the intended nature of this post is to allow a form of a present re-enactment of the project through the additional contribution of your own input. It also aims at setting the ground and inform the shaping of a longer reflexive article that will focus on a theme that became mostly present for me during and after the gathering.
I would intentionally like not to name this theme here as I wish to test out if and how it may resonate with your own witnessing. To do so, I use the dynamic potentialities of this blog and more specifically the ‘Leave a Reply’ option in order to invite your witnessing on some visual documentation of the project. I explain how in the second part of this post. The chosen documentation does not aim at conveying the content of the explorations from which is drawn but some overall qualities that emerged from the nature of the project as a whole. Before moving forward to details on how you are invited to offer your input, I wish to go through some information on the context of the gathering.[i]
The Somatic in Theatre and Performance
Research Gathering was the
first of a series of practice-research meetings that I hold as part of my ongoing
research on somatically-inspired practices in the field of theatre and
performing arts, beyond the relatively established dialogues between somatics
and dance.[ii] My curiosity and
investigations are part of a current burgeoning interest in the dynamic
interrelations between somatic methodologies and contemporary research on
embodiment in multiple fields, within and outside scholarly environments (see
among others Shusterman 2012, Farnell 2012, Hockley 2014, Eddy 2016).
was simultaneously a series of workshops offered by nine contributors as well
as a Practice-as-Research (PaR) project developed around two main questions: what
can be somatic in arts praxis? What can be the difference between a body and a
soma? Subsequently, as the title suggests, I am looking at why somatically-informed
research in theatre-performance and beyond may be significant here and now.
these questions to the group in the welcome discussion. Without using any
definition, apart from acknowledging that the word soma in Greek is used to
identify primarily every living body, I invited contributors and participants to
allow the two main questions to be present in their explorations throughout the
activities. In this way, I wished to activate openness to what the practices
would evoke for each individual, beyond what may be already familiar in various
somatic discourses, within and beyond the so-called field of somatics.
I connected my
intentions with three main qualities identified in Performance as Research
(PaR) by Jonathan Heron and Baz Kershaw (2018), which I also find relevant to somatically-inspired
methodologies: 1. the openness to the not-yet-knowing, 2. the significance of un-learning
and 3. the importance of somatically-informed reflexivity (2018, pp. 46-47,
54-55). In resonance to these qualities I also explore various modes of
documenting practice research in order to most productively reflect and
disseminate the distinctive nature of each project.
specific gathering, I used video documentation (with simple means such as a
portable video camera and smart phones), stills, written reflections (by both
contributors and participants) and some sketches. Particularly in relation to sketching,
I invited an additional side documentation by the illustrator and contributor
Mike Medaglia, whose work is included in this post. I was very interested in
Mike’s perception of the activities as his comic arts and design evolve around
practising meditation and mindfulness through a combination of illustration and
writing (Medaglia 2015, 2017).
Apart from the opening image, which will reappear with a different focus later on, for the practice-oriented purposes of this post I also use a short video, two photos and one of my own sketches. Similarly to my intentions in the opening of the gathering, I wish to navigate your attention towards you own understandings of how the chosen documentation of the project might evoke for each one of you perceptions of somaticity and its possible significance within or even beyond artistic contexts. The only piece of information I would like to add here is that I explore the notion of somaticity, the literal translation of which is corporality (the state of being in or having a body), in order to expand upon perceptions of embodiment in the twenty-first century.
Based on the above, this post could primarily be of interest to practitioner-researchers, artists and advanced students in theatre arts and performance practices. The invitation, however, does not require any sort of expertise and it is open to every person that has access to the material of this blog and would be generous to offer their invaluable witnessing.
Introducing the invited witnessing
my work, as both notion and practice, is inspired by processes studied in
Authentic Movement as part of my training with Linda Hartley.[iii] Briefly, witnessing in
Authentic Movement and other somatic practices, suggests an individual’s
integrated perception that is not confined in one’s cognitive understanding or
interpretation. Instead, it aims at supporting an interrelational, multilayered
and experiential reception that draws from one’s intersubjective experience by combining
an individual’s senses, feelings and imagination. Therefore, it is usually
navigated through the following structure, which I will further explain in the
end of this section: I see…, I sense…, I feel…, I imagine….
As practice, witnessing could be applied in multiple dynamic situations and contexts that aim at shifting focus on one’s embodied perception. For instance, in Authentic Movement, somatically-inspired witnessing contains the verbal and/or physical interaction between movers and witnesses primarily towards therapeutic potentialities. In my work, it aims at heightening each actor-mover’s present perception during improvisations and mutual explorations as well as allowing a sensitive verbal interaction between actors while avoiding a possible sense of judgement.
During the gathering, the specific mode of witnessing was used by Fabiano Culora in the second workshop of the first day of the activities. Working on his Orientation Score as embodied and relational practice for interdisciplinary performers, Culora divided the room into performing and non-performing space. Based on this clarification the participants were also invited to become either performers or active spectators and they were offered the structure indicated above in order to navigate their verbal input. In the following video (39 seconds) you could observe the interaction between a moment in performers’ improvisation and an offered witnessing by an active spectator.
Returning to Figure I and the text in italics in the opening of this post, you could notice that I use the exact same practice but in a more flexible and free form. Through my direct experience of the project, I also combine my past and present witnessing of the same illustration. I would like now to invite each one of you to attune to your own present experiences while witnessing the images below.
If you wish to offer your witnessing, you could choose one of the following options or allow a more flexible combination between the suggested modes: a. write a theme that comes up for you as you receive the images b. offer your responses in any sort of mode you would like to. Feel free to play around with words and possibly your own audio-visual material c. use the following verbs in first person and present tense for the opening of your sentences and complete them drawing from your own experience. The questions below could be of help. You may also refer to my own witnessing on the first illustration or the active spectator’s feedback in the video.
I see…: could
you focus on what specifically draws your visual attention?
I sense…: could
you expand your attention to the rest of your senses and any possible physical responses?
I feel…: would
any feeling come up for you?
I imagine…: how
does this trigger your imagination?
You could offer your witnessing on the content of each picture, the ones or the one that draws most your attention using the blog’s ‘Leave a Reply’ feature at the bottom of this page. Feel free to combine your input with attention to practice-research documentation, if this is part of your interests.
Many thanks for
your time and invaluable contribution!
LIST OF WORKS
Eddy, M., 2009.
A Brief History of Somatic Practices and Dance: Historical Development of the
Field of Somatic Education and its Relationship to Dance. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, 1 (1), 5–27.
Eddy, M., 2016.
Mindful Movement: The Evolution of the
Somatic Arts and Conscious Action. Wilmington: Intellect.
2012. Dynamic Embodiment for Social
Theory: ‘I Move Therefore I Am’. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Heron, J., and
Kershaw, B., 2018. On PAR: a dialogue about performance-as-research. In: A. Arlander et al, eds. Performance as Research: knowledge, methods,
impact. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 43–61.
2016. Being an actor / becoming a trainer: the embodied logos of
intersubjective experience in a somatic acting process. Thesis (Ph.D). Royal Central School of
Speech and Drama, University of London.
Kapadocha, C., 2017.
The development of Somatic Acting Process in UK-based actor training. Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices,
9 (2), 213–21.
2018. Towards witnessed
thirdness in actor training and performance. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 9 (2), 203–216.
2015. One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated
Meditations, London: SelfMadeHero.
2017. One Year Wiser: An Illustrated Guide
to Mindfulness, London: SelfMadeHero.
2012. Thinking through the Body: Essays
in Somaesthetics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dr Joseph Dunne, Research Assistant at Rose Bruford College
The impetus for organising the Practice, Reflect, Share at Rose Bruford comes from a recognition that the research culture in UK HEIs is undergoing significant changes. The program for the day included a keynote presentation by Miguel Mera, a plenary, and round table discussions on the subjects of mentoring, networking and publishing, collaborating, and practice and research.
Taken together, the REF, the increasing student demands on resources and contact time, technological innovations, new government funding formulas, and the as yet unknown impact of Brexit compel academics to reappraise the ways practice, teaching and research activities can co-exist and, indeed, enhance each other. The definition of “practice research” will remain ongoing, fuelled as it is by innovative methodologies and diversifying outcomes of projects. However, it is important that we try to articulate some common understanding of the term in order for genuine knowledge exchange to take place.
In his presentation, Miguel cited Nicolas Till’s critique of artistic practice as research. It is well worth reading for its highlighting of the dangers inherent for artists in justifying their process in terms of theoretical investigation in order to work in a university. This runs the risk of artistic practice being subsumed into a system that overwhelmingly values text-based products over embodied or visual material. Moreover, argues Till, many of the activities described in the rubric of practice research are in fact examples of professional practice, not research. He concludes that a new method of evaluation is required for practice research distinct from theoretical scholarship.
Till’s analysis is intertwined with questions relating to how the value we attribute to knowledge is dependent upon the form such knowledge takes. In order to prove one can ride a bike it is not sufficient to merely state it, it must be done. Books and articles remain the dominant form of evidence in the academy that a research process has been carried out and knowledge has been produced as a result. But documents are more than evidence of a past process; for the reader, they often come to constitute the research because it is the only material made available to them. The means by which the author produced it are not usually made public. For many disciplines this is entirely appropriate; it is in fact difficult to see how a historian or a physicist could open their work out. But all artists know that much of their process is the work itself and so attempts to transcribe the sometimes messy, random, and – especially for performance practitioners – collaborative nature of investigating through practice into text can distort the knowledge they have generated into a codified system that risks distorting it’s meaning.
Issues pertaining to documentation of process and dissemination of outputs was a subject that came up consistently. There was a general recognition that the internet create many exciting new avenues of public engagement but a culture shift needs to occur if it is to be fully utilised. Specifically, the authority of written text acts a barrier to experimenting with the visual formats of video and photography as a means of positing a theory or citing evidence of process. A related issue concerns the publics to which research targets and reaches. Open access online publication platforms are a potential way of increasing the impact of one’s research, but there are risks involved. The inability to oversee the transmission of the knowledge one has generated can lead to its distillation. Moreover, it is worth asking what the other functions dissemination can fulfil beyond impact. Ben Spatz opined that an awareness of the publics a piece of research is intended for can enable academics to build constituencies and communities. This approach certainly increases the likelihood of research being a catalyst for collaborations between different disciplines. It was also mentioned that dissemination can be expressed as a form of inviting people into an ongoing process into knowledge production. The public, in this context, have a reciprocal relationship with an author’s developing corpus.
A page on RBC’s Theatre Futures website has been set up for delegates to share information.