INTRAPLACES: dialogic experience of place and geographies of difference

Lecturer: Dr. Elena Cologni

Delivered in February 2021 in the frame of Home of Performance Practices master program at ArtEZ University of the Arts, Arnhem, Netherlands.

Landing Intimacy (2021) is a video created from the documentation of studio practice of the Landing Intimacy score.

rock. milk. soil. skin. stone. clot. ita. heart. rana. blood. magma. kidney. mountain. gland. soft. meteorite. viscous. hard. hot. land. escape. scope. body. gravestone. weather stone. stepstone. touchstone. philosopher’s stone. hard rock. sisifus. breast. monolith. fracture. gland. amulet. roll. touch. art. air. sound. atom. molecule. vibration. wave. time. compression. texture. bounce. hit. space. medusa. stoned. woman. power. sharon stone. surface. peak. porous. this. other. same but different. frequency. scale. breath. metamorphosis. maze. a-mazed. sedimentation. a-stonished.

password: abysmo

The Landing Intimacy score is a dialogic practice between a human and one or more extrahuman thing(s).

In this practice, all materials are relevant and useful.

Keywords: attention / vitality / displacement / forces / capture / transmit / thisness

Guidelines

to human: Listen to the music and rhythm of your breath

to thing: Perceive the contours of your partner’s physical body. Sense the air you exchange. Sense the intersections of your electromagnetic fields

to human: Place you ear to the ground in order to listen to your partner’s voice. Say out loud fragments of what you hear.

to human/ thing: Observe each other’s multiple textures. If you feel like experiencing touch, now is the time.

to human/ thing: Whether you are touching or not, notice what makes your partner describable as “this one”. Can you name this quality?


The creation of Landing Intimacy has been a continuation of my practice of developing dialogical choreographic scores that include humans and extrahuman things. Such practice is central in my current practice-based research project “Amazonizing Practices: processes of thinking/moving with a landscape”.

Within a field of investigation at the intersections between choreography, dance, Amazonian studies and philosophy, the research starts from the urgency of reconsidering and learning with ways of knowing, being/becoming and moving in the world that have been invalidated by colonial processes. The research proposes the approximation to a possible Amazonian landscape as a decolonial practice; focusing on the dimensions that actualize indigenous knowledge systems as they contribute to form the geographical, cultural, socio-political, affective and mythic meshwork that shapes the contemporary Amazonian landscape.

In this context, the verb (to) amazonize, addresses the interest in the doing, in the construction of new spaces that are not necessarily functional spaces, but multidimensional landscapes to be practiced. In new spaces the power of things is summoned by acts of reenchantment.

In order to create Landing Intimacy, I have displaced traces of the Amazonian landscape (in this case, three rocks) into a performance space and practiced the score with them. By questioning the affordances of such displaced rocks, I have attempted to design a score drawing from Ben Spatz ideas regarding “embodiment as first affordance” (2017). I aimed to generate a dialogical relation that would point towards bodily experiencing, imagining and speculating on the rocks’ haecceity, i.e., what makes each of them recognizable as “this one”. By approaching each rock in its “thisness” as well as my own body as landscapes, I explored relationality between materials, between organic and inorganic, between micro and macro, noticing how different distances between things suggested possible topographies of intimacy.

Noticing that the relation rising between human and extrahuman landscapes could also be perceived as a thing, I became interested in the quality of intimacy. Their intimacy did not necessarily demand close proximity, but a specific quality of attention, which I connect to the act of “tunning” proposed by Spatz (2017). The idea of perceiving matter as continuous to the human body turned the practice into a sensual, erotic experience, which is also an extension of the experience I had in the Amazon during the Fall 2020, when I collected the rocks. Practicing a landscape through both dialogical dynamics and memory has reminded me of the explicit connection between the female body and natural landscapes explored by Brazilian pop culture in the 1980s and 90s. I recalled the transforming, merging and overlapping of beutifully designed mountains, hips, trees, breasts, butts and felines. Probably all created by male directors who, either consciously or not, emphasized the patriarchal perspective that connects women to nature and man to culture, in this hierarchical order respectively.

In Brazilian Portuguese there is the popular expression “to milk a rock”, which refers to a pointless endeavor. When imagining and practicing, at times in a quite literal gesture, breastfeeding a rock, I realized that such inversion—giving instead of taking— to an extrahuman thing had a direct link to the Amazonian philosophies I have been researching. The inversion of the dialogical dynamics between a human body and a thing, the human offering rather that taking from, or even proposing a symbiotic connection could be an entrance point to such philosophical stance.

I have also considered the intersections between the fields of geology and biology, particularly when reflecting upon the affordances of rocks. Both the human body and rocks contain high amounts of minerals, these being one of the four groups of essential nutrients humans need for survival, but which they cannot synthesize. The rocks I correspond with in the Landing Intimacy Practice would be situated within the field of geology. However, any type of rock created by my own body though the amalgamation of things, would be situated within the field of biology. This is one of the divisions between epistemes constructed by Western modern thought, which proposed a separation between nature and culture. The Amazonizing Practices operate within a paradigm that intends to un-do such borders, as proposed by Donna Haraway when adopting the term natureculture (2016).

Wondering what knowledge could be transmitted, or even generated in such symbiotic relation, I have also recalled a situation that happened the year I relocated to Poland to join a dance company. Of course, as a Brazilian person, I was freezing during the Polish winter, specially living in an apartment that was never warm enough. One day I told an older woman that I was constantly cold at night. She then suggested that I collect rocks from the streets, keep them near the radiator for them to absorb the heat during the day and place them under my blanket during the night. At the time, the idea amused me, and I did not sleep with rocks. At this moment, I no longer need such strategy, but I finally get the idea of reconnecting to our environments in ways that propose modes of collaboration, modes of relating that may reveal affordances.

According to the cosmologies of many Amazonian populations, geographical formations, animals, rivers have a human background. In the beginning there were only humans; some of them transformed into things and extrahuman animals. There is kinship and familiarity between species and things that Western culture considers non-living. Considering such Amazonian perspective, I began to experiment on ways to think, become and move with the rocks in order to open space for attachment. In addition, rocks have been central in cosmologies and mythologies of many different cultures for thousands of years. For a long time I have been connected to certain rocks as amulets and I view the relation between myself and such things as kinship. Therefore, by becoming with a thing, affordances are revealed.

I realized the nuances of the Landing Intimacy practice could not be perceived through the screen and demanded a non-frontal spatial relation to the spectator. Working with “landscape dramaturgy”, as proposed by Anna Vujanović (2018), I intend to avoid imposing a single point of view to the spectator, what conflates the dramaturgical choices and the political implications of the research. Therefore, I decided to use the documentation of the practice to create a video inspired by Brazilian pop culture, particularly soap opera’s video introductions. However, I have transposed it to year 2050, as if it would happen in a new space intersecting Amazonian ancestral knowledge and posthuman philosophy in 2050. By shifting perspective and temporality, I attempted to delve into an erotic dialogue with extrahuman matter, partially exposing my own body-landscape, whilst subverting the male gaze. As proposed by the score, I have worked with air and sound as means to bridge the bodies across the space, proposing breathing, listening and voicing as alternative forms of touch during the current pandemic times. Landing Intimacy became a dialogue between human and extrahuman things that are amalgamations of substances with unknowable histories.

References

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Spatz, B. (2017). Embodiment as first affordance. Tinkering, tuning, tracking. PERFORMANCE PHILOSOPHY, vol. 2, no. 2, 257-271.

Vujanović, A. (2018). Landscape Dramaturgy: Space after Perspective. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/37812064/Landscape_dramaturgy_Space_after_perspective (Accessed: 6 March 2021).