The Distinct Body Part 1
“Engaging with attention to sensation is something we value with this project. As practitioners and participants, we’re being asked to feel something, and articulate it. We are not necessarily interested in the outcome, but more in how and why the participant engages with the actual process.”
– Catherine Truman and Maggie Slattery
Experiential Anatomy Workshop presented by Catherine Truman
This was the first of two experiential anatomy workshops presented by Catherine Truman at Bundanon. Both workshops used hands on exploration and physical ‘making’ processes to highlight important differences between representing ‘A body’ vs ‘your body …your felt sense of your body as an entity in place and time.
Catherine used a ‘compare and contrast’ approach, on both occasions, getting us to first create an image of ‘a body’ – then after an guided body scan and awareness lesson – to model an image of our own body, based on our either our immediate experience of our bodies, or a memory of how we felt in a specific time and place.
The resulting drawings highlighted the profound qualitative shifts that can occur when these perspectives are consciously engaged: with the later drawings on the whole possessing a far more life like, vibrant form.
Edited excerpts from Catherine’s Introduction to the Drawing Lesson…
This is a workshop that I’ve been teaching for a few years now, but it changes with each group that I teach. Working with a group of people like your selves, gives me the opportunity to really go into it a bit more. It’s incredibly simple, I’ve tried to pare it right back so that it seems to reveal more.
I’ll give a talk a bit more, then we’ll do some drawing, then I’ll give a [movement awareness] lesson – its not a traditional Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson – more of a long, detailed scan, with some movement, then we’ll have a break, and then there will be another drawing exercise in response to that [body scan] lesson. Tomorrow will have a similar format, only we’ll be working with clay.
I’d just like to begin with a few thoughts that Maggie and I had, about working on this project, and about working with the idea of interactive art and Feldenkrais – I’ll just read you a couple of the notes that emerged from our discussions about this:
Engaging with attention to sensation is something we value with this project. As practitioners and participants, we’re being asked to feel something, and articulate it. We are not necessarily interested in the outcome, but more in how and why the participant engages with the actual process. We also thought there needed to be some acknowledgement of [the observer effect] – that any phenomenon being observed is changed by the observation.
As practitioners of the Feldenkrais Method we normally remove as many external agents [distractions] that would interfere with one’s engagement with one’s self. The student becomes both the external and internal agent, and the boundaries in between.
So the questions that I’m curious about in this workshop, are about the relationship between Feldenkrais [Method] and self definition. Specifically, this workshop ‘The Distinct Body’ will give participants the direct experience of almost making ones self: exploring felt experience and perceived notions of the familiar and unfamiliar body. The themes we’ll work with [in today's workshop] will include, ‘Structure’, ‘Volume’ and ‘Outline’ – they’re the main, simple themes that will be running through these [two] workshops.
Normally I wouldn’t be this theoretical at the beginning of a workshop, but this is different, we have a group of people who are very attuned to theory, and I’m realy interested to go into that area as well.
So, driving questions that I have: ‘Can Feldenkrais affect ones perception and communication of the physical self, in relation to the interior, immediate and wider external environments [and] how that occurs’ (I don’t know whether we can answer that question, but it’s interesting to hold that question…) and I’m interested in someone’s perception of their own body, and their perception of a generic body: how clearly we can define our own body? how clearly we can communicate this to ourselves and to others? How do we define ourselves in relation to each other, and also the wider environment? and; are our definitions transient? …are we the same body?
Before we start, I like to mention that I do realise that some people aren’t used to drawing things or making things with their hands, it may feel unfamiliar, but that’s part of this process, particularly in Feldenkrais thinking: it’s about how to stay with that sense of the unfamiliar, how to realy absorb yourself in the process of questioning, not striving for answers so much, and so I would like you to approach the drawing in a similar way, and the clay work tomorrow in a similar way. Treat as your own process – I know its very difficult to not compare – but if you can absorb yourself in your own process it’s much more valuable.
So without further ado, the first instruction is very simple: it’s to draw an outline of a body, using paper and drawing materials supplied (I invite you to do this in silence, so you can immerse yourself in the process) and then within that outline, I want you to draw a skeleton…