Questions: a response to Tanja Woloshen and Deanna Peters’ Research
By Callie Lugosi
“I need more arms.”
In Tanja Woloshen’s research, she raises questions such as: What is the body? How could
investigating limb consciousness inform ecology and freedom? What do our limbs carry? How do I explore our relationship to the future through the body?
These questions are big and esoteric in nature. When asked to clarify what she’s exploring and finding in asking these questions, Tanja said this:
“These questions, honestly, are very intuitive. I’m just beginning my foray into what I’m researching. If I start to investigate these questions of limbs, does that open potential for connecting to the earth? If I’m just thinking about stuff or thinking about myself, if I start to question or investigate what’s happening there, does it change the relationship? It’s philosophical, but I don’t really have answers to these questions yet, they’re very open ended questions.”
On “What do our limbs carry”:
“That is an ongoing, essential question that continues to orbit and don’t have any answers to it.
You know when you’re going about your day and you’ve got all these bags? Like, you’ve got your computer bag and textbook bag, and you’ve been to the library and you’ve also gone to Sobeys, and I’m always like, ‘I need more arms.’”
“It began with considering what our limbs are physically carrying, but also what do we need to let go of, what are we holding on to spiritually or practically, psychosomatically, what are we carrying and what we are holding onto … This was kind of the impetus for the question.”
“These questions are still clarifying as I’m working. They’re these big, overarching things that need an immense amount of clarification as I dig into the process. When I say “our”, I’m thinking “our” in terms of human, but of course I’m coming from only my perspective, my portal … It’s part hypothesis and part science fiction, how we as humans, potentially relate to the world and to the earth through the human body, and what potentially might morph and take shape over time.”
“I want you to hold the angry part.”
In Deanna Peters research, they question the form of the duet. What happens when we turn our gaze to one another? What sorts of impulses arise from this intimate state of seeing and being seen? What kinds of spaces do we create together? How does this focus on each other invite others to see us?
On ‘What part of your body do you want someone to hold’:
“We’re talking about how to take it from something that’s very literal and physical that has mass in space and thinking about releasing part of your body that’s causing tension, this sort of thing,” Deanna says. “Yesterday I said to Less, ‘I want you to hold the moody part of my body’, which leads it into a more abstract exploration.”
“In terms of the audience, I’m interested in our shared experience. Although, not everyone’s body is the same, there are things that we share. If I say ‘I want you hold my jaw’, I feel like it connects energetically through the parasympathetic nervous system, or mirror neurons. It asks the audience to consider their own jaw or their own body.”
“There’s a transmission that happens though the audience witnessing our experience, and invites our questions into their own minds, because they are seeing us problem-solve them in the moment. When I say to Less, ‘I want you to hold the angry part’, he’s literally looking at my body and deciding in that moment what to do, and they’re seeing that happen live. It’s like we’re all thinking together in a way, and maybe our thinking will diverge, but there’s also the satisfaction in seeing what we come up with live in the moment. It doesn’t come across as hyper sentimental or organized in a way that’s supposed to pull people’s heartstrings.”
On ‘What kind of spaces do we create together’:
“(Less and I) do this thing called mirror touch where we are creating a symmetrical center. The shapes that come and go are kind of psychedelic, in a way. Through an effort to be symmetrical, we reveal an asymmetry as well. There’s energetic space too, and for lack of a better term, aura. Where does our body end and where does it begin?”
“With intention, (we’re) considering how we can hold that connection energetically. In one part we’re quite entwined for a period of time, and then we really slowly move apart from each other. What we’re trying to do is try to stay connected even though there’s distance between us is becoming greater. That also triangulates with the audience because each one of them have a perspective on the shapes between us or the shapes around us.”
“I gutted the living room.”
I pushed myself to personally explore a few of Tanja and Deanna’s research questions, in particular ‘How do we experience the future through our bodies’, ‘What do our limbs carry’, ‘What part of your body do you want someone to hold’ and ‘What kind of spaces do we create together?’
Unsure of how I would approach personally answering such abstract questions, starting with a stream-of-consciousness style of writing seemed appropriate, if only to see what ended up on the page. I got comfortable and let go for a bit. Entering a weird calm, I held the aforementioned questions at the front of my mind, with the output coming from as far back as I could channel it.
The advice that Tanja gave me was to ‘just trust the work’. I took this to heart.
When I stepped back to look at what I’d done, I realized that I’d written a piece that, more than anything else, resembled a script. It was instructional in the way that script is, but it told a story.
This is the unedited draft of that writing:
“I gutted the living room.
Standing squarely in the middle of the space, I surveyed the room and decided what to do first. First I took the curated selection of coffee books off the table, the potted plant and the art deco cigarette holder and ashtray and put them on the floor, exposing the naked surface of the coffee table.
I wiped it down slowly and with intention, careful to not push the light dust of soil from the potted plant onto the white carpet. Lifting the table onto my shoulder, I portaged it out of the living room, down the hallway and into my bedroom.
Next I rolled up the carpet and did the same. Then the couch, bookshelves and hundreds of books, onward ad nauseum until the room was completely empty, except for me and dust.
Sitting squarely in the middle of the space, I waited. I asked my body questions. It started as a whisper and the more I listened, the louder it got and the more I learned.
Something it said:
“The only one that could ever really know me is you and if you don’t try, then there is a possibility I could die not knowing what it’s like to be loved,” it said. “I don’t want to die like that.”
We continued to talk. We renegotiated our relationship, established boundaries, forgave each other.
We talked about our future.”
Creating that piece of writing felt like the real and literal response. Given that it was the first output I’d produced so far, it felt inspiring and hopeful. There was something to this.
I felt compelled to pursue it in a literal way for the sake of what I’d been commissioned to write. I felt that if I could do this work, I could produce an authentic and deeply personal response to the artists in residence’ work. The thought of filming it and cutting it together would make for an interesting and convenient presentation at the endnote, given my distaste for public speaking.
I did the thing.
I filmed myself following the prompts this writing was guiding me to do. Over the course of several hours, I methodically took the living room apart and sat in the middle of the room and waited.
I felt nothing, and then completely disillusioned.
Why didn’t the right thing happen?
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Upon reflecting on what I’d written and performed and the failed experiment therein, my interpretations and answers to Tanja and Deanna’s questions became clearer. It was apparent that two questions in particular resonated with me the most.
From Deanna, What part of my body do I want to be held?
My interpretation of this question concerned the conversation I wanted to have with my own body, and making and holding space for my body to communicate its needs or desires. The question led to another: what do I have to do in order for this to happen?
This was explored further, through my interpretation of Tanja’s question: ‘What do our limbs carry?’
We, and by extension our limbs, carry our possessions and rearrange them, to clean and curate the spaces we inhabit in order to feel in control and more comfortable. I took those means and used them toward a different end. I wanted to pick up my entire living room, not for the purpose of cleaning or rearranging, but to create a new space that existed solely as an arena for my internal dialogue to take place. What would I discover if I situated myself in a space removed of all worldly purpose?
My hope was that, by taking the ‘living’ out of my living room and temporarily freeing myself of that perpetual need for control, I could allow myself time and space to explore Deanna’s question: ‘what part of my body do I want to be held?’
I still have questions.
Why didn’t this work? Am I really so ignorant of my body and how it works, feels and interprets stimuli that I couldn’t produce the results I set out to achieve? Is introducing my body into my writing and visual arts practice in a very literal way simply not for me? What even is my relationship with my body? What is my body’s relationship with space? The space I live in? Where do I end and where does my body begin, and if there is a wedge between us, where did it come from? Are we the same?
When my experiment didn’t deliver the results I sought out to achieve, I realized that dance, and all art by extension is just asking a lot of questions that, more often than not, lead to other questions.
Allowing space for experimental methods of inquiry is at the heart of the Young Lungs Dance Exchange Research Series. It creates opportunities for artists to creatively question, but it also opens up conversations around bodies in movement to the greater community. Through workshops, presentations, and endnotes, people are given opportunities to explore their own movement theories, to challenge what dance is, and ask hard questions about the body.
The following questionnaire functions as a springboard for probing deeper into the significance of movement and our relationship with our bodies, and the place in time and space we occupy. It is also a meditation on the act of question-asking itself.
Questions beget more questions.
Do you consider yourself to be a creative person?
How do you make space for yourself?
When was the last time you communicated with your body? What happened?
How do you experience your gender identity through movement?
Whose gaze do you appreciate most and why?
How does other people’s perceptions of your body inform the way you move?
How do you make space for other people?
What do you notice most about the way other people’s bodies move?
Can you be more specific?
How does history inform the way you move?
When was the last time you danced for or because of someone else?
How do you experience your relationship to the future through your body?
How aware are you of the physical space you occupy, everywhere you go?
Why do you think that is?
How much do you forget? Where do you think the forgotten stuff goes?
How much do bodies remember?
What is your body’s relationship with nature like?
What part of your body would you like someone to hold?
Are you your body or your mind?
What is a body for?