play: Field Studies Workshop - London

An extraordinary workshop which needed a few days after to allow for the sediment to settle down so to speak before even attempting to write about it! 

The workshop titled:  'Cours de Poétique' was organised via the MUSARC group - research group around Architecture & Sound based at London Met university. 

I didn't know what to expect, initially i presumed that it would be doing field recordings and making work as a group. Part of it was, if you were part of certain workshop subgroups of which there were 4 to choose from. Mine however, which I chose, was one run by Michael Klien whose work is around choreography and interdisciplinary thinking. 

Sessions we engaged in in our subgroups involved 'Parliament Choreography', 'Personal Cosmologies' and 'Social dreaming'. 

Parliament Choreography enabled a set of rules within the space (being the room) for the participants i.e. the group. These included: 
- being in the space for 3 hrs
- no leaving the space within the 3hrs  (unless you are desperate for the bathroom)
- no talking/touching
- freedom to move how you wished within the room
- no 'performing' i.e. just moving how you feel
- not to be creative with your movements

'Parliament' - participants in action
It was a simple idea but the process of it and being 'within' this controlled though freedom enabling space produced interesting dynamics. Ideas like power, group within groups, being an outsider, perceptions and judgements as well as the notion of 'performing' all come into play. A very interesting exercise where at one point I actually wanted to leave the space and head to the cafe but I stuck with it and very glad I did so that I could observe the whole exercise and reflect on it in its entirety. 

The next sub group session was 'Personal Cosmologies' which entailed one person of the group sitting at the front and we the group asking questions - but there were parameters i.e. nothing personal and nothing which would bring about a yes or no answer. Questions asked included meaning of truth, role of ghosts, beliefs in life after death etc etc. Nothing in the realms of what you ate for breakfast!

The last session - 'social dreaming' involved us a group sitting or lying down in the room, fairly close to each like you would be in a classroom. Everyone would have their eyes closed then anyone can start by relating a dream they've had. Everyone else is then free associating to that dream and either speak of a dream or of other thoughts they might have had in association with what they have heard. Again seemingly simple but brings about all sorts of things into the mix. For me personally, more than the  what its about/purpose (to free thinking etc), I was interested in the what the process of doing it brought up. One of them being that a few of the participants couldn't remember their dreams so the outcome then becomes a bit skewed towards those who do. Also, certain dreams people wouldn't probably be comfortable in relaying to a group of strangers so that brings another controlling factor. Me personally found it generally difficult to allow free association when not engaging in any meditation prior.
I almost think it would be better if people were given time to relax and meditate even to a minimum level as you do in certain yoga sessions. An fascinating session but am apprehensive about the method. 

Asides the sub group workshops there were talks by a range of fantastic inspiring sound artists/musicians - Claudia MolitorSam Auinger; Aki Onda & Akio Suzuki. Far too much material to talk about in relation to these artists. 

One particular group-as-a whole activity involved getting into pairs and staring into each others eyes for 15-20m. One of the most intense and challenging experiences I have ever done. Incredibly uncomfortable regardless of the fact the other person is virtually a stranger. Throws up all sorts of questions.

The main things about the workshop wasn't really about picking up technical skills or 'acquiring' a set of knowledges. It was more the activity as a whole, as a cumulative affair in 360 degrees, wide angle and 3d. It was about the process of learning, the process of acquiring ideas and knowledge but questioning and reshifting your notions of how you learn and what you consider to be 'useful' and this usefulness doesn't have to come through direct tacit knowledge. There were definitely a shift in my thinking/process as it was almost like a snow globe being given a good shake. 

"knowledge as systematically developed as this clearly cannot relate just to practical, purposes…." - C.Levi Strauss - The Savage Mind (one of the texts recommended as part of the workshop)

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