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Geopoetics: The mindfulness (sati) site-specific performance practice (PhD)

 

view the whole PhD thesis in performance practice.

Geopoetics is a site-specific performance practice which examines the lived experience of a place. It does not exclude its contextual frame but prioritises its somatic experience before becoming integrated with the cultural practices embedded on site. The practice elaborates the performance / site interplay as a discipline of ‘presence’. It suspends, discloses and demystifies the ways through which the self (selves) alongside with the practices installed in space formulate the experience in situ and signify a place. It develops an experiential listening of site upon which an awareness of the processes of knowing and understanding in space is cultivated as a narrative.‘Geo’ comes from the Greek ‘-γεω’, which means ‘coming from earth’. ‘Poetics’ derives from the word ‘ποιητική’, the practice for creating an artistic product.

 

Geopoetics has four focal points:

  1. The exploration of the physical, emotional and mental experience of the body (-ies) in situ, grounded on the notion of presence as a dynamic, reciprocally active movement between the self and the environment.
  2. The notion of the practitioner-site interrelationship not only as an experience but also as a dramaturgy found between the body and the cultural practices of the site.
  3. The investigation of the urban/rural division; the approach of site not through a standardised classification but as an open-ended system of signifiers based on the experience of the present moment.
  4. The discovery of a place through events of relationality and connectivity; through the revelation of inter-relational patterns between the self (-ves) and the narratives of place.

 

Geopoetics is an interdisciplinary inquiry of a geographical and Buddhist concepts. It explores notions of ‘identity’, ‘home’ and ‘sense of belonging’ as ‘dreams of presence’ (Rose, 2006). Based on its methodology of mindfulness (sati) [1] these notions are seen as individual or collectivemodes of attachment in space which altogether co-formulate landscape’s ‘trans-historical Dreaming’. Geopoetics examines place by re-negotiating the bodily presence with the large-scales narratives of history and culture. It approaches space as a continuum within which the performance event attempts to manifest the cardiograph of a perpetual effort to ‘dream the world as a whole’.

Methodology

Geopoetics is organized in two stages. The first stage quietens the psychological and social self in the landscape and establishes a practice of direct experience.It builds and grounds the practice of mindfulness (sati)in situas contemplations of breathing, walking, the four bodily postures and everyday activities. The process is further extended via the performance disciplines of Somatics, Grotowski-based actor training and Barbara Dilley’s Contemplative Dance Practices.Movement in the practice is neither stylised nor technique-based. It operates as a vehicle of listening to the experience of space.Geopetics is accessible to all levels of practitioners. Its rigorousness is disclosed in attending the ways through which the moving body interconnects with the environment and stimulates meaning.

In the second stage of training, place is being examined as a combination of individual experiences and cultural narration. It exists in the bodily experience of relating with the place and at the same time it narrates the perpetual movement of interconnecting with the landscape. The experience of space is being established as a web of interrelationships and creates a narrative of place as the enactment of one of these. Performance material is organized intoa dramaturgy of such an event in order to create a ‘meta-narrative’ (Smith, 2008: 95) of place. As a structure it is formulated as a walking participatory event and it becomes a performance score of connectivity,creating a communal experience in situ, motivating the participants / audience membersto re-position themselves in the specific site and in the world.

Geopoetics creates the appropriate distance to relate with a place. If the participant is an outsider the practice creates the intimate space to become familiar with it. If she is an insider it creates distance to experience it as unknown. Instead of reaching out to place as a set of given labels and agendas, Geopoetics aims to disclose phenomena between their means of being experienced and their meaning. Itdevelops a performance process inclusive of all environments. It is not interested on stated classifications of a site. On the contrary, it aims to uncover non-pre-conceived, experiential meanings of it. In this way, the practice escapes from binary identifications of place and examines borderlines which construct such divisions. As a contemplative discipline it acknowledged identities as socio-cultural practices and created space for them to be explored psychophysically. It positioned the subject in situ as an actor empowered to interact with them and not to be educated by them.Geopoetics does not revolve around identities to devise its event. It elaborates all elements which stand as / in the present moment in order to enactin situ the mechanisms and the processes that establish place as reality.

[1] Specifically, the practice of mindfulness awareness(samatha vipassana). The word samatha signifies “inner stillness” (Rahula, 1974: 68) and vipassana “‘insight’ into the nature of things” (ibid.). These are complementary qualities practiced through the same technique known as meditation: sitting still in an upright posture with an object of concentration, usually the breath; each time the mind wanders, acknowledging it and returning back to the point of attention. Samatha facilitates a bare witnessing of the present moment and creates a platform of concentration where upon vipassana arises and is cultivated.