Malleable Bodies

textiles, bean bags, bodies
Presented in Borestranda, Studio K (Kvernaland), Stemmen (Kvernaland), Galleri Ni (Bryne), forest in Orstad, Vågen Sandnes

«Malleable bodies» is an exploration of the human body, movement and materiality. Through site specific work, conversations and interdisciplinary collaborations, I explore materials and different environments in extension of the body. The project moves within the boundaries of what is defined as visual art, choreography and scenography. The work process exists in the dichotomies of the choreographed and the improvised, the curated and the intuitive. For example, I have chosen to use three keywords as a framework around the improvisational testing ground. The three words being breath, gravity and elasticity.

Breath is something active, an action coming from within, from my own body, from being alive, from being. In the book Joy, The Surrender to the Body and to life, Alexander Lowen talks about how it is essential to be connected to our body to know ourselves and to be fully alive. “Breathing is perhaps the most important bodily function, since life depends so much upon it. It has the distinction of being a natural, involuntary activity, but at the same time one that is subject to conscious control” (Joy, The Surrender to the Body and to life, p.24). He states that one can read a person’s emotional state by studying a person’s breathing.

Gravity is something imposed on us from the outside, a condition, a circumstance. “We experience body weight in relation to gravity while resting on the earth, or in resisting gravity while moving through space. An awareness of such body weight sensations characterizes our receptivity to experience. Informed by sensations of weight, we open to the possibilities of a situation, orienting to the present moment.” (Body of awareness, p.72) “How individuals experience their sensations of body weight determines how they experience themselves in relation to the other.” (Body of awareness, p.78). Body of awareness is written by Dr. Ruella Frank, who  holds a background and education within somatic psychology and gestalt therapy. I will come back to her and her theories later on.

Elasticity is found somewhere between breath and  gravity. It’s something of stretch and return, contraction and release. “Our movements are organized in terms of rhythmic contractions and releases. Muscles pull bones either away from or towards the body’s center. These recurring patterns of compression and expansion express an intention to move forward what is inviting and appealing, or to pull back and retreat from what is not.” (Body of awareness, p. 40) The experience of opening and closing, the ability to merge and separate from others, is essential in any healthy dialogue and in the process of relating.

I work with these ideas using textiles, bean bags and the human body as materials. Breath, gravity and elasticity also forms the foundation of modern and contemporary dance. Martha Graham (1894 – 1991) was an American choreographer and dancer, and is often talked about as the Mother of Modern Dance. She developed a technique based on contraction and release. This technique refers to “the action of the body at the moment of the exhalation of breath (the contraction) and the moment of inhalation (the release)” (The Oxford Dictionary of Dance 2). In this technique the body itself is the breath and elasticity. The body is the life, with all its grief and victories, carrying all of its history and potential.