Border thinking is the epistemology of the exteriority;
that is, of the outside created from the […]
it is the epistemology of the future
without which another world will be impossible.
Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006.1
My artistic practice and reflections as a performer and an author are closely linked to the moving body as an existential condition. Moving here means mobility of the body as such in terms of locomotion through space and time, as well as micro-movements like breathing, the heartbeat or impulses and neurophysiological patterns in the body, which we hardly notice in our daily activities. Moving here also means the possibility to pass national borders, to move around our globe.
Moving is a radical transformative action for every body. Relations change, cohesions are destabilised, and conditions shift; patterns are disturbed and new ones are created and emerge. Working with the moving body means dealing with the necessity of the body to keep its boundaries (physically, mentally and emotionally) as a way to keep one’s integ- rity. At the same time, one has to deal with the given fact of continuously transgressing these boundaries, i.e., borders.
I like to see dancing as a way of dealing with, and tracing borders: between the inside and the outside of bodies, between bodies and the environment, between individual
and collective bodies, between the human and the non-human, between different socio- and geopolitical inscriptions and expressions in motion.
The borders of our physical bodies are continuously being transgressed by our senses and the nervous system. The conscious control of these phenomena is limited. The con- scious awareness of the activities and speeds of our trillions of cells transmitting messages, coping and organising our existence is in fact not really high. As bodies, we get used and adapt to the changes of our environment, and with a different timing than our verbal thinking proposes. This is an important aspect of what we call “learning”. Our bodies have an incredible ability to learn and to create new ways to exist. This is one of the many reasons I keep turning to the body as a source of intelligence and wisdom. We can learn how to learn through listening to our body in all different ways. My practice is led by the assumption that by learning to listen to our bodies, we can exercise listening to the manifold manifestations of real- ity we are confronted with.
This contribution especially unfolds by tracing, shifting and playing the borders of experience, representation and perception. To shift these borders reveals unexpected similarities, overlappings, interferences of phenomena, which are conceptualised as separated from each other.
Our physical conditions are always woven into language and, above all, into their situated act of writing. Languages are embedded in the body and in the (geohistorically located and informed) memories of every person. Language is an important part of how we construct and perceive the world around us. My approach to language is inspired by the processing of impulses by our nervous system, and how it creates new connections and combinations: to affirm what is here and from there to explore different ways of doing to create different connections. In writing this firstly means for me to stay close to the body of the word (instead of what I want to write). I look at the letters and syllables a word is made of, and how it sounds. My writing unfolds through the fragments and melodies, through the rhymes and similarities, the jumps and slides; through associations relating to different languages and the etymology of a word. Writing then becomes a way of singing and slips over into liminal, latent meanings and potentials. “Poetry is the art of attempting to convey the hidden, the unspoken, it draws upon the extra resources that lurk in the outer fringes of language” 2, the philosopher Hélène Cixous says. For me this kind of writing is a way to subvert the authority and power of the written word and an act of recognising multilingual and “illiterate” ways of sense-making.
In my writing I translate a physical micro-vibration, an excitation into a combination of lines and curves. It starts with a sensation, a silent gesture. Writing starts before the word. It is deeply physical. It is a kind of mutation, a kind of matter. A kinaesthesia, a pressure, and therefore a very special way of getting in touch with. A way to get in touch with the culture of language and its branches through times and cultures; in touch with the writing instruments and how they inform the body. Getting in touch with a memory bigger than oneself and the other, such as the unknown reader. For me, this getting in touch is the intrinsic coalition of dancing and writing as a poetic practice. It is a practice of tracing borders by means to detect different ways of sense making, to playfully approach different cultures, modes, morals and existences. To create emergences and practices, to read different entanglements. Writing and dancing as ways of listening, reading, translating, guessing, scribbling, fumbling; as ways to change register in order to perceive some of the multiple aspects of our reality and ways of existing, which we are usually not aware of.
On the following pages I collected some traces of this artistic practice, which in its core is a practice of collaboration and investigation of how to live and work together. These traces were created within my research called “materiality of writing”. My research was supported by “Stoffwechsel – Ecologies of Collaboration”, a biennial transmedia research project.3
The photos 4 are tracks of collective maps, playing with the writing of movement and gestures done by visitors of my performances, when I passed on my writing materi- als (chalk, chalk dust and aluminium). The text is a rewritten version of a text which I read in a research presentation as a voice-over. It is based on a dream and unfolded from a note written in the dark.
Dreams are my favorite mysterious accomplices, and I invite you to enter this dream by giving the text a voice, either by reading it out loud – even if it is whispering – to another person, or to yourself. Please take the scores as playful instructions to experiment, enjoy and explore. It is an invitation to depart on a sensorial journey aiming to travel, shift and share the moveable borders of (your) body.
1 Mignolo, Walter D., and Madina V. Tlostanova. (2006) Theorizing from the Borders—Shifting to Geo- and Body-Politics of Knowledge. In: European Journal of Social Theory 9(2), Sage: London, 205–221.
2 Blyth, Ian, and Susan Sellers. (2004) Hélène Cixous Live Theory, London: CONTINUUM.
4 Please have a look inside the reader to view the photos p.14 -p.19. What does it take to cross a border?
It was a dream that brought her there. A dream of a space. A dream of space and time that brought her there.
There was a gathering. A getting together in a happy gathering. In this space there was this “we”. A wave of “we”. A “we” wave. A “we” weaving.
She was a stranger. In this dream. Her “I” had a strange dream. Her “I” was welcome, but. She kept being strange. A strange being. As always. As strangely running away. As a stranger from far away. A far away stranger. Coming from afar. A running away stranger. A running stranger, suddenly being here. Her “I” was here. But, what did her eye hear? What did her ear hear? Her taste taste here and her smell smell? All these little things, which in-form an existence.
Her eyes and ears were listening. To all these lists and listings and lines and crimes. The eye of the ear was part of this. Asking. What? Asking. The skin. Because the eye of the skin felt the space. Like a trace. Like a river. A stream full of traces and places and times. All around. Whirly. Wrinkly. Like she was. Her skin eye could feel this gathering. This forgathering. This forgetting. This “we” came together to forget something. What was it? Her skin eye extended. Never ended. The space was full of darkness. Like the darkness inside. A body.
Suddenly she heard a voice. Something started to speak and suddenly got a face. And again. Another voice. A voice. A void. A volume started to speak. And got a face. With the phrase came the face. Only with a phrase the other got a face. In this phase of existence. People and things were becoming when they spoke. When they started to speak they were becoming. They got a face. With the phrase. They became a phrase. Like music. They became a song. Singing faces. Vague. Untouchable.
What is a face? A surface with holes. Different reflections of light. A neverending glowing darkness. These surfaces and places. Face, a living presence. A precious present. An expression. An impression. An imprint. An impatient brightness. A bright eye. A bride’s eye. A proud I. A no-face I. A trace. A trigger. Covered sometimes. Vaguely veiled. What is a body without a face?
A pulse. A heartbeat. A pulsing beauty. A breath of air. A belly. A dance coming from within and spreading. A movement. A reflex. A ripple. Softly appearing and disappearing. A reflection of light. A collection. A collective reflection. A reflection of memories. Collected to create something. New.
She was captured by a dream. Of stones. Of bones. Of a pit. She perceived. The pit was a boat. A boat like a coat, whose sleeves are bound on the back. She could not leave. Could not go back. Everything she had was her body unheard. Everything she had was her body. Her body was a boat. A boat full of people. Permeating her. Holding, squeezing and squashing her. Crushing her bones. Burying her. Carrying her. To the ground. Into the sea. Groundless boundless sea. She decided to dive. To keep her head above the water was no option now. She had to go deeper. Deeper than what? Deeper than the surface. Subsiding through the eye of the other.
There was a way. To remember. She knew. How. To start. To sense. To become. Someone. In this surrounding. To feel. The feet. The ankles ready to jump. The leg bones. The knees prepared to bend. The hip joints forever to swing. The pelvis basket. From where the stars are thrown onto the firmament. An ummi merry go round. The rattlesnake spine swinging upwards. A doubles feather snake. Rip feathers. Ribcage. With cartilage to connect. To the breast bone. A puppet stone. A little wrapped amulet. To let go of fear. To be here. To shrug the shoulders and swing the arms. To do no harm with open hands. Hanging from the shoulder blades. Swinging and singing, like birds.
With this body. This body font. This bone script. Script of life and death. Which is. Part of this. Horizontal writing. This silent sensitivity sent to the horizon. The horizon as the birth and expansion of all bodies. The border. The threshold. To hold on to. The fine line. The lace. The loop. The luscious curve. The lucid body. The luminous shade. Shadow of all bodies. This darkness out there. Beyond this horizon. This border. To go abroad. To render to the road. To read the way. To travel through time. To unravel. To recall and recognize this existence. To respond. To be with. A body. Becoming. An extensive extension. Full of intentions. Full of sensations. A senso-motoric rhetoric.
Reading and writing through touching. Through distance. Through this dance. Connecting closely. Through a touch. A timeless writing. A wrestling. Becoming. A writing tool. A writing toy. An instrument to witness. A weirdo. A widespread whisper. A scratch. Scripting from scratch. To be with. To be through the other. Because of the other. To bother and embody. To become body. Moment for moment. Matter that matters. Porous matter. Porous sensitive thinking bodies. Vulnerable, able, multiple.
In this space. This place. This gathering. This we.
YOU ARE INVITED TO
- With every move, with every step you take, you expand the border of your physical space while at the same time taking your physical space with you. Take a little walk through an in side space with this awareness. Find moments of rest and stillness to feel your physical space around you. Then continue to walk again. Do the same experiment in the streets.
- Very slowly approach with your hand the surface of a body part (the other hand, the chest, the lap; whatever you want). Start from a distance of fifty centimeters and gradually move closer, feeling every moment of the distance. How do you feel the in-between space? Do you feel that it is full or empty? When you feel the warmth of your body? What changes at the moment of touching? What kinds of different cultures of touch do you know?
- Explore and play with this awareness, slowly approaching another person step by step in the room. When do you feel you are far, when are you close? When are you so far that you lose contact? When are you too close? Do you feel like touching the other person? How?
Explore this in public spaces.
- Explore to affirm your physical existence and boundaries by
— Rubbing your skin.
— Little in-between squeezing massages.
— Briefly pressing your feet to the ground and feeling yourself rise. — Creating space through the spine and around you.
— Swinging your head in a tiny, nearly invisible figure eight around your neck.
- Lie on your back and trace the parts of your body touching the ground. Do it in a friendly way without changing your position. Just witness what is. Start with your heels, travel upwards to the lower leg, the upper leg, your pelvis. Feel how it rests on the surface. Continue with your lower back, the middle—where the ribs start—and travel upwards to your shoul- der girdle connecting to your arms. How does your upper arm lie? Your elbow? Your hands? Your fingertips? Trace your surfaces back to the neck and feel how your head lies. Take a deep breath and imagine seeing your whole body cast, as if you created an impression in the sand. We could call that a global impression. Continue to feel whether there are any differences between the left and right sides, between upper and lower body. Are there differences in intensity, weight, concreteness? Which body parts do you feel more clearly? Where do you feel the borders of your body parts, and where you feel yourself spreading and dissolving? What differences do you sense? How would you describe them? Describe them again and again. This is where the dream could start. This is where a notion of a social body could start. This is where the questions of how to support the substances of the different localities could start.
- Remember the movements and gestures of one or more persons who were / are dear to you. Let the memory rise in your body and actualise it according to your state. Make the movements bigger or smaller. Travel them through space and place them in relation to a specific environment. Do this at least 3 times. See what remains. Play with it and dedicate your dance to all these people.
- Listen to and read to a person who does not speak your mother tongue on the streets, in the train or a cafe. Create a dance writing your memories and dreams through this person. With each movement you do, you dream this life of the other. Create a dancing text. Listen to the words and the space around you. Listen to their depth, their flight, their rhythm. Listen to your voices. Let them sing a song to you. Go for the unknown.
- Never forget that whatever you can touch, also touches you.
- Enjoy that with every movement you do, you caress your darkness within.
Please find the whole reader here. You’ll find also the photos, which are part of this text: What does it take to cross a boder?