Performing the world

While in New York I went to the performing the world conference on a recommendation from my friend Esben, who has been actively engaging with the community for around five years. I went to do a lecture on Nordic Larp and to get inspiration for work, larping and personal development. In the following text i have tried to describe some of the important experiences and ideas that I will be bringing with me from the conference.

Movement therapy and listening
I went to a workshop on movement therapy were we did a bunch of physical/dance exercises together. Particularly I was positively surprised by the conceptualization of “negative space” (the space a person does not occupy) and how to work with that in dance; very similar to some of the work I do with taiji. The workshop also resonated with my ideas of body-being and the interconnectedness of the physical body and the mind. It seems to me that being truly present means being in the body and I can understand the idea that focusing on the physical body can start a healing process if performed in a safe space. Furthermore i liked the notion that physical “happy places” can help people who are mentally ill (in the broadest sense) to get rid of their neurosis and become grounded in the world, or in other words to “move out of the happy places in their heads”.

I also participated in a “kinestethic listening” session, where we in groups tried to to move in union, creating a collective image by letting go of the tendency for leading. For me this resonated with my taiji practice, where the listening with the body and connection to others is key for both yielding and issuing. It implies suspending judgement and actually feeling into where other people are to find flow. In some ways i guess that listening can be conceptualized as the opposite of doing, doing less to achieve more.

Movement therapy workshop (Photo by Sandy Friedman)

Giving voice
A large part of the performance is connected to work with opressed or underpriviledged groups, which I have never been much connected to in my practices. However it is striking to me how performance can work as a tool of empowerment for these groups. In a panel on friday one of the panelists said something like “nothing angers me more than seeing people that have been put in a situation where they cant act, being told that they cant speak out about it”. This resonates very well with me and was a good wake-up call to actively work to end the silencing of the problems that are presented by people who feel limited in their performances of self. This goes for any form of oppression, be it based on gender, sexuality, race, political opinion or faith.

Nordic Larp
I did a 1 hour lecture on Nordic Larp at the conference, focusing on using specific larps to examplify the different aspects of the scene and put particular emphasis on two elements: That larp helps to reveal the socially constructed character of the world for the players and larp is a tool for experiencing (and an opportunity for recreating) yourself as something else. I had between 10 and 15 participants who seemed intrigued by the scene. Slides can be downloaded here.

Friday night panel (Photo by Sandy Friedman)

Working a bit with storytelling and writing at the conference was intriguing. We worked with simple techniques for telling stories and i was particularly fascinated by the notion of storysourcing, where a group of participants will tell their personal stories related to a specific question such as “what is your favorite time a day”, which allows the participants to hear and see eachother in a new way.

Performing the world is full of amazing facilitators from different walks of life and the conference for me was a great opportunity to get inpired and expand my own repetoire of facilitation methods and tricks. I wont go into detail here, but I was intrigued by the idea of the facilitator as a director who sets the stage and thus can also “retake scenes” if something has been going bad. The metaphor of the director seems to be very useful.

Creative marketplace
A specific idea I want to bring with me home is the “creative marketplace”. A space for people who wants to sell, trade or give away abilities, secrets, links, hugs, items of importance, books or personal stories. The marketplace idea was presented to me as a performance peace, but I imagine that it can be a great approach to getting people to meet in new ways and learn for eachother.

Kinetic listening workshop (Photo by Sandy Friedman)

Performance and change
The last couple of years I have worked with the idea that “awareness precedes change” presented to me by Peter Ralston. For me this idea has opened my eyes to the amazingly powerfull notion that every time we notice a difference in the world (mostly problems or things that bother us) it is a potential for change, as we have the opportunity to make a conscious choice (as opposed to just rolling along) to perform ourselves differently. In the performance language you could talk about “not getting stuck in your repetoire”.

However it is dawning to me that awareness also comes from experience or in another conceptualization “the performance of self”. By performing ourselves in new ways we become aware that what we are doing is not the only option we have, we have a choice to perform ourselves differently. Allowing people to test new performances of themselves in this way for me seems to be a very essential source of personal growth. In other words “the process of becomming is connected to the realization that you are not one thing”.

All in all performing the world provides a very lively and inspirational setting for people who wants to perform the world in a different way and I hope that I will be back in 2016.