By Eleanor Ryan, PhD Researcher, University of Cambridge
Throughout this past pandemic year, the necessity of an enforced physical dislocation from each other has, by its very absence, brought to the fore questions around the affect of collective embodiment, the coming together ‘in-body’ and embodied, the creating of a body collective. It seems fitting that as the Arts and Creativity Research Group meet together in the virtual zoom space for the final time this academic year, on 7th June 2021 at 7pm, and as we look towards possibilities of meeting together in person again, we focus our final event of the ‘Performing Research’ Series 2020-21 on an exploration of the power of collective embodiment. To register for ‘Performing Collective Embodiments of Theory / Practice’ please visit acrg.eventbrite.co.uk
What is the impact of the body – our motions, gestures, expressions, postures and energy –on us as individuals and as individuals in relation within collective groups? What are the potentials for social transformation within collective aggregation, the coming together of individuals, into a body of collective intuitive intelligence grounded in the body – collective embodiments?
Collective embodiment is a powerful gesture of physical togetherness within human social life. Collective embodiment as always been a part human arts and creativities, being one of ways in which ideas, stories, impressions of the world, emotions, the importance of place, the shifting of energies is performed, re-enacted and imagined. Within the interactions of collectives of bodies we find the force of affect, arising in the midst of the in-betweenness of bodies, in the capacity to act collectively and to be acted upon (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010). There is a futurity within this, an endlessly creative potential arising out of the always different effect of multiple individuals interacting collectively and collaboratively. We might think through collective embodiment as creating the conditions for a diffraction of the various forces of bodily affect which each individual brings to a given space. As Donna Haraway writes “diffraction is a mapping of interference, not of replication, reflection or reproduction. A diffraction pattern does not map where differences appear, but rather maps where the effects of differences appear”(Haraway, 1992, p. 300). This is perhaps where the power of the artistic collective lies, in a space in which individual bodies and their expressions and differences overlap and where unforeseen possibilities arise, recalling Spinoza’s famous quote from his Ethics; On the Correction of Understanding ‘No one has yet determined what the body can do’’(Spinoza, 1970, p. 87). In a world where the cognitive, ‘thinking’ and ‘thought’, has tended to be privileged over the intuitive intelligence of the body, we might even see a focus on the body, and a recentring of mind-body connections as being fundamental within the development of collectives and as a powerful pedagogical tool to bring people together in action
An exploration in collective embodiment also takes us into the realm of political and socially transformative action. Collective embodiment often emerges spontaneously in events, evident in activism, advocacy, rituals, entertainment and social celebration. The ‘laws’ of such moments are usually unscripted, often improvised, a force of non-verbal communications which do something, containing the potential for creative becomings and unforeseen collaborations. And for this very reason it is also evident that such collectives are often feared by those in power, controlled or restrained by governments or figures of authority in general. Philosopher of dance and movement theory Andre Lepecki, writing during this past year, has suggested that ‘the conditions of possibility for action, the conditions of possibility for imagining and enacting action are predicated on the ongoing struggle around difference, aesthetic, philosophical, and political conceptions of what movement is, of what movement does, and of who owns movement’ (Lepecki, 2020).
It is important to consider the political and symbolic impact of collective embodiment as it has emerged in this past year this past year in the UK, within Black Lives Matter marches and, more recently, gatherings focus on the safety of women on the streets. Here the mind is engaged in critical thought, and the body in critical action within embodied collectives. These are spontaneous and urgent collective embodiments which contain within them real possibilities for social transformation.
This month’s ACRG gathering, featuring a telepresence of collective embodiment in Zoom-i-Verse, will feature three segments and variations around the theme of Collective Embodiment as explored and experienced in a wide variety of contexts. These include collective embodiment in the cypernetic, technological spaces, within experimental film making, and pedagogically as a process of exploring leadership and management through embodied, experiential learning.
Ghislaine is an award-winning speaker, curator and director, specialising in the future human, body responsive technologies and immersive experiences. She is Co-founder and Creative Director of body>data>space. With a background in dance and performing arts and a long-term focus on the blending of our virtual and physical bodies, she engages in highly topical and future digital issues for our living bodies, including personal data usage, and sees a future in which we connect ourselves into a networked “multi-self,” an “Internet of Bodies” enabled by hyper-enhancement of the senses and tele-intuition.
Ghislaine co-presents bi-weekly as a Studio Expert for BBC World Service Digital Planet (formerly Click) and is also a Reader in Digital Immersion at the University of Greenwich. Her research explores “The Internet of Bodies”, the evolution of our future multi-selves through gesture and sense interfaces, augmented realities, immersive experiences and embedded digital body connectivity, pointing to the rapid blending of the virtual and the physical body.
Neuf Film Collective
Anna Cady, Ernest Dalton, Helena Greene, Susanne Jasilek, Helen Judge, Trisha McCrae, Steve Russell, Sally Connie Todd
Neuf Film Collective is a diverse group of individual artists working together with the common purpose of experimenting with the digital medium, the collaborative process and the installation space. Neuf aim to challenge existing modes of production, curation and installation to explore the viewer’s relationship to the viewing experience. There are interested in an on-going question of how and where to locate experimental ‘film’ work and how the ‘viewing space’ can alter the work.
Neuf sprung out of an Arts Council funded experimental video art course (in 2006, run by Tim Sidell, ARU; Trish Sheil, Cambridge Film Consortium; and Kettles Yard) bringing together artists from different disciplines (performance, sculpture, painting, theatre, curatorial practice and writing) with a keen interest in the language and possibilities of film. The collective have been meeting monthly ever since at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. Neuf are the only experimental video art collective based in East Anglia engaged in the collaborative exploration of video art in the expanded space and inclusive of performance. Their unique perspective as a group offers insight to the collaborative and experimental process. Neuf avoid predictable paths and are dedicated to pushing our own personal boundaries and knowledge as artists working with film.
Dr. Tatjana Dragovič
Dr. Tatjana Dragovič has obtained a Master and Doctorate in Education (EdD) in the fields of adult education, knowledge transfer, professional identity and continuing professional development. Dr. Dragovič has been affiliated with the University of Cambridge, UK since 2007 in teaching and researching roles in education, dialogic teaching, technology-enhanced teaching and learning, creativity, creative leadership, coaching and research methods for practice research. In addition, Dr. Dragovic has also been teaching qualitative research methods for doctoral (EdD) students and leading doctoral research community ‘Leadership, Educational Improvement and Development (LEID)’ at University of Cambridge since 2015. She has been a guest lecturer at many international Universities including at the University of Applied Science in Oulu, Finland, at the Katarina Gurska Institute, Spain, and at the Falmouth University, UK. As a research consultant at the Open University, UK, she has researched professional identity, possibility thinking and creativity. Along with her academic career Dr Dragovic is also a renown international executive educator and coach in the field of leadership and management.
Gregg, M. and Seigworth, G. J. (2010) ‘An Inventory of Shimmers’, in The Affect theory reader edited by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.
Haraway, D. (1991) ‘The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others’, in Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge.
Lepecki, A. (2020) ‘Movement in the Pause – Contactos’, Movement in the Pause. Available at: https://contactos.tome.press/movement-in-the-pause/ (Accessed: 30 May 2021).
Spinoza, B. de (1970) Spinoza’s Ethics, and On the correction of the understanding / translated by Andrew Boyle ; introduction by T.S. Gregory. London: Dent