On October 9&10 I attended the Body, Space, Translation Workshop hosted by the team who put on the QTOPIA Queer Arts Festival. The invitation for the workshop read as follows.
Memories are both bodily and spatial. Our bodies remember the places where we have been. As Leslie Kern beautifully puts it in her recent book Feminist City: “My gender is more than my body, but my body is the site of my lived experience, where my identity, history, and the spaces I’ve lived in meet and interact and write themselves on my flesh.”
This workshop will start right here, with the material – the body. We will study the body by moving with it and feeling with it, looking at spaces around it and by asking, how did they shape me? Who is my body, where has this body been?
Venla Miila Kaarina (she/her) is a Finnish queer architect dancer. Her practice evolves around bodies and spaces that are always simultaneously universal yet unique. Through movement and by moving, her practice studies public and private spaces as well as the bodies occupying them.
instagram: Venla Miila Kaarina
Workshop 1: Introduction and getting to know the ‘body’.
The workshop that spanned the weekend consisted of a mixture of sessions in movement and also reflection. The aim was for it all to culminate in an ‘intervention’ event. We kicked off the Saturday by getting to know the 8 participants and then did some warm-up stretches.
We then had to reflect on the body and write down our stream of thought. My ‘ass’ is a recurring theme when I talk about my meat vessel.
Following the writing exercise, we returned to studio for more high-intensity movement. We were allowed to move freely to the tune of intermittently changing music. As the music shifted between different genres so did the mood and movements. This exercise lasted around 40 minutes and was extremely cathartic. We were rewarded with lunch after this arduous session.
Workshop 2: Exploring space
After lunch we were led around the building blind folded. We walked in a kind of tango line around the building, each person grasping the shoulders of the person in front of them, all following the instructor, the only person who could see. We were led into a room and left to explore for 20min. I proceeded to walk around the outskirts of the room, feeling my way along the edges. I was too scared to let go and venture into the middle where I had no sense of what lay ahead. The atmosphere changed as from dark to light as I ventured closer to the window. It was exhilarating having the sun flick through the blinds onto my skin. It was the strongest sensorial experience while I had to move around without sight. I noticed the textures of things the most as I explored around the room. In one corner I was ‘brave’ enough to leap forward without holding on to something. The sensation didn’t last long though and I sound found a solid object to support myself again. It was a bit unnerving going around the room and touching stuff. I knew from an earlier in the day, which room we were in and I also knew it was filled with artworks. I was deathly scared of knowing over something. On my way around the room I also encountered 3 people. I think one was crawling along the floor.
When we returned to our workspace, we were tasked to draw the room what we experienced. My brain is programmed to think quite logically and my output reflected that. Upon visiting the room again I realise that some of my schematics didn’t reflect the true layout of the room, but it was close. I have come to enjoy using words to describe my thoughts. The instructor issued a challenge though, maybe don’t use words and try to draw the textures next time. This comment frustrated me slightly.
Part 3: Space and routine
Our next assignment was to draw a space in our house and indicate our daily routine. I tried to be less literal this time. The room I currently live in has a weird shape. It is 2 meters wide and 7 meters long and divided into 2 parts. I call it the snake room. Because of the weird size, I can only fit a single bed in it. I don’t sleep well on the single bed, my back is always knotted and my next stiff. I also have A LOT of clothes, so my room is filled with stuff. It’s actually quite suffocating. When I am in the room I am normally sitting at my desk and typing on my computer. To indicate this I had to use words. I wrote a nice note to the instructor about why I had to do this ;). In my room I also have a tap, so at least there is a source of water.
After discussing everyones musings and rumination’s about their spaces we concluded the day.
On Sunday morning, after some stretches we jumped right in. Our first activity was to write about our safe spaces. I don’t really have a safe space cept the body I live in. We also had to write about a childhood memory. A lot of my fond memories from childhood, was at a holiday resort/safari park called Dikholo. One of my earliest memories there was when I was 6 and we discovered an oddly colored worm called a Shongololo. Even though we had 2 wriring assignments we only discussed one with the other participants. I choose to share my Shongololo story.
The next exercise was to draw the memory 4 times. For the first iteration we were given 8 min, then 5 min, the 2 min then 30sec. On all my drawings the Shongololo, even thought small, takes centre stage.
Workshop 5: Practicing emotions
For the 5th part of the workshop, we practiced some emotions by moving while soundscapes played. It got very emotional as we had to reach deep and find memories to tap into to express emotions and feelings. My emotions always manifest in a big way are not very restrained. Most of them were easy to perform.
After this exhausting session we had a break. During our break we also had to choreograph a short performance that we would present in the afternoon.
Part 6: Intervention Performance
The intervention day deepens the understanding on the themes presented during the workshop day. We will speculate, where will the body go? What does it want to be? We gather this information to create a performative ending for the weekend.
Below is what I performed for the intervention performance. I really enjoyed the fact that I had to lycra onesies with me and that people gasped when I took the one off, just to be surprised that what I revealed wasn’t my nude flesh but another onesie. It’s fun the play around with this performance in a performance concept. It’s also fun to think about the multitude of layers and values we wear that is not even our own. We have to strip a lot away to reveal our true selves.
While I was performing, the on lookers had to draw what they experienced.
Below are the observations for everyone else’s performances.
It was a very in tense and emotional 2 day workshop. Everyone who attended had the opportunity to bond deeply. There were workshops running for the next two weekends as well, but regrettable I could not attend these.
These types of workshops are very interesting for me, this knowledge combined with the more formal knowledge in Context Mapping I gained during my RIP will definitely find it’s way into my praxis in the future.