From ordinary to extraordinary: workshop iteration

‘The thing is to learn from your own art because it is much farther along than you are.’ (Marina Abramovic quoted in Richards, 2010, p. 68)

Prompted by reflections on the feedback from the second part of the deconstruction workshop, I decided to revisit some of my research from as far back as end of Unit 1. The second session of the workshop did not engage the participants as much as the first one, and although this was partly because these participants were familiar with activities that focus on writing, it did help me think about ways in which the second part could be made more interactive and how the overall workshop could be further developed.

I am fully aware that the workshop is only a very first version and needs much more development. Because the main objective of the  workshop is to explore individual narratives and engage with the creative process as an activity that derives purpose from within itself, it would be beneficial to include as many different sensory experiences as possible and to bring ritualistic elements into the process.

This brings me back to the research I did on the philosophy behind Marina Abramovic’s work during the first phase of my research.  A big part of Abramovic’s work is informed by ritual and ancient spiritual practices, which has resulted in a whole range of different exercises used for meditation, reflection, and creative energy. Her purifying rituals take a holistic approach to making and according to Abramovic, it is only by preparation of the mind and body that a true receptiveness and responsiveness to the flow needed for the creative process can be obtained (Richards, 2010).

During Unit 1, when I started working on shaping my final project, my first ideas for an intervention where that of a creative ritual. The idea was to create a workshop that comprised three different stages: stillness, making, and performance. The current workshop method does already partly draw on these three themes, however, prompted by the latest test of the workshop I am now returning to these ideas more in depth. The workshop method could benefit significantly from more ritualistic and meditative elements, both because it has potential to enhance the experience of creative flow and because it can help with the emotionally triggering topics that arise. Taking into account observations made after the visual deconstruction during the first part of the workshop, I would confidently say that a meditative exercise before and after would be beneficial for the individual process. Drawing attention to stillness could also help some participants let go of a goal-oriented focus, making it easier for them to engage with the process for the sake of the process.

‘…you go through the ritual and you’re not the same after; you learn and become different.’ (Marina Abramovic, 2016)

I am going to trace my steps back and explore some of the concepts Marina Abramovic uses in her method, such as ‘the power of repetition’ and ‘making the ordinary extraordinary’, and read more about the philosophy and inspiration behind the Abramovic institute and method.

I am also hoping to schedule a small session with a couple of MA students from Central Saint Martins to test an iterated version of the workshop method during this month.

 

Resources

Marina Abramovic in Brazil: the space in between (2016) Directed by Marco Del Fiol [Film]. Brazil: ELO Company

Richards, M. (2010) Marina Abramovic. New York: Routledge

 

Pain, love and the ritual of creative expression

‘Pain is love, love is pain. 

And it’s out of pain that I create. 

…In my life I’ve turned my biggest heartaches into songs.’  – Lykke Li(WeTransfer, 2018)

In the process of becoming a mother and simultaneously losing people who were close to her, Lykke Li was also losing herself ‘as a woman and as an artist’ and that she felt like she needed ‘to start all over again (WeTransfer, 2018).’ Losing something or someone important to us, is not only about the physical and practical – the literal empty space – it also affects our identity; in the process of loss we lose parts of who we are, and we may need to find ways to recreate parts of ourselves and adjust to the now empty space.

‘Love is pain, pain is love. And it is out of pain that I’m reborn.’  – Lykke Li(WeTransfer, 2018)

These words by singer-songwriter Lykke Li can be linked back to a paragraph in a previous post about self-portraits and therapeutic photography, where I briefly discuss the ‘healing power’ of art referencing Cristina Nunez (2013) and agreeing with her that difficult emotions are the raw material of art. Tragedy and pain has fuelled many creative works throughout history (Langh, 2018). The concept of pain and raw emotions being a starting point for creativity and rebirth are also echoed in the philosophy of alchemy, as mentioned in the previous post. During a creative process, such as the one Lykke Li is describing, something complex and dark is strengthened through a careful process that results in a ‘purification’ or ‘rebirth’.

 

Resources

Langh, H. (2018) 'The photograph and self-therapy', Magical fragments: emotional objects as a source for self-reflective storytelling, 24 August. Available at: http://henrica.myblog.arts.ac.uk/2018/08/24/the-photograph-and-self-therapy/ (Accessed: 19 October 2018)

Nunez, C. (2013) The self-portrait as self-therapy, in Loewenthal, D. (ed.) Phototherapy and therapeutic photography in a digital age. East Sussex: Routledge, pp. 95-105

WeTransfer (2018) We Transfer Presents Work In Progress: Lykke Li. Available at: https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/story/work-in-progress-episode-3-lykke-li/ (Accessed: 19 October 2018)

Emotional alchemy

 

‘Everything comes from the One and returns to the One, by the One, for the One.’ (Klossowski de Rola, 1973, p. 14)

 

Alchemy is commonly known as a form chemistry of the Middle Ages that was mainly concerned with transmutation of matter, such as base metals into gold (Oxford Living Dictionaries, 2018). However, researchers such as Stanislas Klossowski de Rola have for decades argued that this is a much too simplistic view of the subject, stating that alchemy is a much more complex system which is understood only through careful examination. The secret science of alchemy conceals ‘the means of penetrating the very secrets of Nature, Life and Death’ (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). In other words alchemy was/is concerned with philosophical ideas and questions and is strongly linked to ritual and magical thinking. The Oxford Dictionary (2018) also defines alchemy as a ‘seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.’

Earlier during my research process I briefly touched on the topic of alchemy because of its close relationship with ritual, magic, and transformation. I also used alchemical illustrations as inspiration to define and structure the main subject areas and core of my research.

I have now returned to alchemy as a means to illustrate the deconstructive workshop process. Because the workshop method is somewhat complex and I am in the process of defining the mechanics of it, I decided to clarify the structure through illustration. Drawing inspiration from alchemy I created the following illustration, which shows the different stages and elements of the process. This also prompted me to read more in depth about the secret life of alchemy and I ended up finding several ideas and concepts that reflect the core ideas of the workshop method.

 

 

In the words of Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (1973) true alchemy, ‘fashions a most precious thing’ out of ‘a small quantity of vile matter’ (p. 13). Similarly, the deconstructive workshop method has the potential to take, not necessarily always or only vile, but raw and complex emotions and through a creative process turn them into something ‘precious’ for the participant.

The quote at the beginning refers to a loop of creation or symbol of eternity and is what the snake or dragon Ouroboros represents while biting its own tail (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). This quote places itself perfectly within the workshop process as the journey is about the individual; everything, the raw material, comes from the participant and returns to the participant in an altered form through a creative process. Furthermore, the process is done by the participant for the participant.

In alchemy, the practitioner has to overcome the obstacles and difficulties of an intricate process that culminates in the production of the Philosopher’s Stone (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). This is the so-called stone that has the property of transmuting basic matter into something precious. During the deconstructive workshop the idea is for the participant to go through a complex process of investigating feelings and identifying and editing different elements before arriving at a poetic outcome.