Subterranea experienced through the body and the body experienced through Subterranea

Visualização da imagem
picture by Daniela Ramos Arias

On the 28th of June 2020 I had the chance to join a very cool workshop in Hordaland Kunstsenter.
The dancer Noam Eidelman Shatil guided us through a different way of experiencing art.
In the room the exhibition Subterranea by Lene Baadsvig Ørmen.
Lene’s art was put in relation to Noam’s art thanks to the initiative of Daniela Ramos Arias, the curator of the mediation program for Hordaland Kunstsenter.
It was announced that the the workshop aimed at being a medium through which we could experience Subterranea and the space where it is installed. But for me, it was much more than that. It was also, a medium to relate to my own body and seed to invite reflection regarding the places of human bodies and the function of art.
Visualização da imagem
picture by Daniela Ramos Arias
Noam invited us, six diverse women, to put our bodies in the center of that experience. For me, it was the first time that I went to an exhibition of sculptures without letting my brain be the first one to have the right to see (and to be seen). I don’t know about you, but I often felt misplaced, at times even displaced, as an audience of visual art. I often felt like a pretender. “I need to look smart” _ I would tell myself. This uneasiness and this mistaken idea of how one must relate to paintings or sculptures, this assumption that after seeing art I must have something deep or smart to say, got on the way of me been able to truly see the art. And by ‘truly’ I do not mean that there is one right way to relate to art, one truth to be accessed. Instead, I mean the possibility of being able to be in the moment and experience the art, instead of pretending to do so. During the workshop in Subterranea I had a real experience.
It did not start easy, because I arrived there with all my prejudices and old habits. My brain was fighting to be the first one to enter the room again. But this time an unknown activity was on the way, and my tendency to overthink was going to be challenged. Noam first invited us to walk around the room for a few minutes and see the exhibition, collect our first impressions. Then she asked us to stop and close our eyes. Next, she asked us to try to visualize what we just saw. In her guidance, she created awareness not only to the pieces of art but to other elements of and in the room. The walls, the ceiling, the windows, the other bodies. Noam invited us to move. She gave us directions on how to move, but without making us feel too constrained. Among her invitations were the invitation to exploring our bodies becoming heavy and then finding ways to be light again. She introduced the concept of wind and invited us to move with it. One of the directions that were more meaningful to me was the one about moving our focus from the space in the room to the space inside our bodies.
I felt like I had time to truly arrive in that space, to truly forget what I left behind me. All the pieces of my life that were not happening at that moment could be paused. The invitation to let my body exist in that room, in relation to Subterranea and to Noam’s obsessions as an artist, slowly was accepted by me. At first, just my feet, then my hair, my legs, and my hands started dancing a few minutes later. At some moment I realized that I had embraced that invitation as a whole. My body was no longer simply a vehicle that I was using to carry me to places. I was seeing with my whole body. At that moment I was in my body. I was my body. I was in the world in and as my body.
            The workshop in Subterranea gave me four gifts. As I already mentioned [1] it gave me a chance to truly experience art, and not fake it. Also, [2] it enabled me to let my body see the art. More than that, [3] it also interfered in how I see my body; and [4] it invited me to re-start thinking about what does it mean to be a body instead of having a body and why art is relevant. To make it an even more fruitful experience the workshop ended with us around a table eating cake and sharing our thoughts about what we had just experienced.
            Drinking coffee and eating a banana cake I had time to listen to what the other women had to say. They mentioned that the workshop made them more curious, more engaged, less bored, more aware, more playful, more present… Listening to them I felt understood. I was not the only one to had experienced in the past that heaviness born from “pretending” that you understand the piece of art. Perhaps art is not something that one might “understand”, but instead, experience, appreciate.
            For a long while, I held the fragile certainty that art should have a social function. In the sense that it should be about social problems like inequality and that it should help us to see and understand such issues. Then, this summer I joined a philosophical workshop on art and otherness. A recurrent argument there was that art is not supposed to teach us anything. They insisted that it is dangerous and useless to engage with art in this way. They also argued that from that does not follow that art is useless. Art has a fundamental function in helping us to think and to create (including to create a better world). Art serves to remove us from our everyday places. Art has the power to enable us to experience time in a different way. For a moment, while we experience art, we are removed from our functioning mode. Such experience creates space inside of ourselves. It makes it possible for us to remember that we are more than machines that function from 8.00 to 17.00 and that need maintenance. Art then has the power to interfere in how we relate to ourselves and to the world, and because of it, it has the potential of helping us change the world. During the workshop in Subterranea, such ideas somehow resonated inside of me. Perhaps because for the first time in a long while I focused on experiencing art instead of understanding it.
            For today that is all. I will be writing more about points 3 and 4 in the future.
Hugs and until next time


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