Listen to the conversations of others

Listen to the conversations of others from Somatic Experience Workshops (2013)

Listening to other people can help you understand them and yourself better.
Listen to a conversation that is happening around you. It might be someone that you know or a stranger. Choose a conversation that is about bodies, if you can. Think about the particular topic they are discussing. Consider if they are speaking candidly or secretively. Notice if they are using any particular words to describe bodies and it they are using their bodies in any particular way.  Observe the responses and input from other people in the conversation. Reflect on why a person might speak about bodies in this way and what kind of constructs might underpin their ideas.

 

Participant Responses

I work at a cinema that is screening a retrospective of Hong Kong action films. Saturday night was a Bruce Lee double: The Return of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon. I caught the end of the first from the projectionist’s room, and the fight scene between Bruce and Chuck Norris in the Colosseum seemed even more epic through glass. Between sessions I spoke to an older couple, patrons for the evening, and learned that they’d come to the cinema for the first time in years to see the Bruce Lee films. I made a passing comment about the splendour of the final scene, and the woman commented on the sheer muscle definition of Bruce’s body compared to the solid, woolly chunk of Chuck’s torso. I smiled and, expressing a sentiment similar to hers, commented on how handsome he was. She immediately objected to this. It was a jarring, mortifying moment. She went on to explain: “He’s a bit too dark.” I must have looked totally wide-eyed and could only manage an “Oh!” She casually said that she travelled the world when young, and that through sheer life experience, she has come to know that “dark men” harass white women. She gestured to her husband, who was sitting silently by her side, and told me that she prefers fair men. The constant harassment, she said, really puts you off “them.” I realise that she must have seen me as a young white woman and felt that she could speak to me in confidence. I told her that I am half-Asian and I that I would have to disagree with her. She smiled and said, as politely as ever, “Oh, of course, it’s all subjective.”

 


 

One of my favourite things is listening in to other people’s conversations, which has led me to be incredibly paranoid about other people listening to mine, especially on public transport, in case someone like me is sitting nearby.?Listening out to hear something specifically body related, or for something that compromised the body was not as easy as thought. Out for dinner one night, I was casually listening to what was happening at the table nearby as the waitress taking their order and was quite loud (making listening in difficult not to do). At the table were a young couple, the waitress apparently recognised the man from high school and excitedly greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and half hug over the table, she then proceeded to try and hug the girlfriend, who clearly didn’t want to hug but awkwardly half stood up to receive the hug, but then couldn’t quite stand up as she was on an immovable bench seat and the table was too close to allow her to stand fully. It’s hard to explain how awkward this interaction was. Added to this, listening to their talking it was clear the waitress had never met the girlfriend before but had initiated this weird semi-hug thing anyway, when a handshake or polite nod of meeting would probably have sufficed. Especially when it then turned out that the waitress and the man hadn’t seen each other in quite some time and didn’t actually seem close at all, the waitress made some comment that he looked really different, commenting on the well groomed hair (I’m not sure now if I added this detail in my head but I got the feeling he may have lost some puppy fat post-high school). She also asked how long they’d been together and I think it was three years! So they were clearly people who were not in touch with each other. Anyway he was a nice looking guy, who I got the impression was just average (or worse) looking in high school, the waitress had the feeling of someone who may have been popular but is now just waitressing (without some redemptive side career, maybe I’m getting too judgmental?), and the girlfriend was quite lovely looking (which I think bothered the waitress).

I feel like in the minute or two of awkward interaction taking the order there was quite a bit of compromising of the various bodies; the waitress commenting on the man’s former physique, then leading the girlfriend into an unnecessary and awkward not quite standing hug, plus the tension of the waitress being in a serving role but still having the power to make the pair uncomfortable.

 


 

Notes found on the train.

 


I went to visit my mum and she told me how she was having a fissure cut out of her anus. We spent a while talking about how people get them and how people get rid of them. We were wondering how she would have to lay during the operation. Would she need a special cushion afterwards like with haemorrhoids? She told me about this cream they use to treat fissures where you squirt an inch of cream up your anus. The way that it works is that it contracts all the blood vessels. The pain is relieved but it carries the medicine all the way to the brain. It causes severe headache because the blood vessels contact there as well.

Mum said the doctor told her that the best way to not get a fissure is to do a solid poos to keep your anus nice and stretchy. Soft ones will tighten it up too much, so that when you do have a solid one it may tear your anus a bit.

I shared all of this information with my friend over coffee. The man at the next table commented to his companion that he could remember why they had come in to the cafe in the first place.

 


 

 


Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.

Touch yourself

Touch yourself from Somatic Experience Workshops (2013)

Feel your own body in three different ways. First, touch your skin lightly and focus on the texture of the surface, the oiliness, hair and press on it slightly to feel its thickness. Second, press a little harder and feel the muscle, fat, tendons etc. notice their thickness and density and how this might change in different places on your body. Think about the relationship between the skin and what is underneath it, how they move together. Third, press harder and feel the bone under the muscle. Think about the size and shape of your bones. Notice how the muscles fit around them, the joins in the bones, how they move together. Then, feel how the three layers are together.

Try this on different areas of your body. Notice the differences and similarities between these. If you can, try this on someone else as well and see how this changes the experience. What is different or similar about another’s body? How does it feel to observe yourself and another in this way? Allow them to do the activity too if you like. If you don’t have access to another body, it’s okay not to do this part.

 

Participant Responses

For this task I thought it would be easy enough to do the activity with my boyfriend, however hes never very responsive to something once artis involved. I figured it might be better to just engage him in the activity without his knowledge. We were lying down on a Saturday afternoon, and I just started pressing his body the way Leena had talked about, using different pressures to first feel skin, then muscle, then bone. I tried to make casual conversation about how interesting that you can feel these different things, but he wasnt really listening, though he did let me continue poking. The whole thing made me feel a bit sneaky and weird, as I didnt reveal that the reason I was doing it was for the group meetings, so it almost seemed like a naughty thing to do, even though that kind of touching would have been completely normal otherwise. I justified not explaining it figuring he wouldnt have been that interested, but then the next day he actually asked how the workshops had been going, I had a split second thought of coming clean that actually the day before Id used his body for a workshop task, but then I didnt. So there is a bit of guilt there. The sad part of it then is that I also didnt get to have the experience of someone feeling my body in that way.

 


 

 


 

I completed this task by myself. No one immediately came to mind as a person who I would feel comfortable with initiating this attentive kind of touching. This is because it, as a deliberate act, is implicitly intimate to me. Viscerally and not intellectually, active curiosity about the body strikes me as being almost entirely sensual. I do not know if I would agree to the same situation if somebody else (who I was not already intimate with) proposed it, regardless of conditions or intent.  This photo is of one of my elbows; it is the roughest skin on my body partially due to brutal encounters with concrete in childhood. When my arms are extended, and the skin becomes flaccid, it is totally repulsive to touch. The process of carefully feeling the composition of my body is foreign in itself. I try to not let it correspond to mental images of the internal systems that make it up, which unsettle me. I am self-conscious about my body in an abstracted, visual sense, and strangely not aware of it in physical terms.

 


 

It was nice to touch myself and feel my limbs in this way. I felt like an object to myself. Usually I feel like a whole piece or many disparate pieces. It takes time to truly appreciate the different bits that we’re made from. My foot particularly interested me. It has so many fragile little bones. I like it because I can pull it close to my face so I can inspect it properly. I enjoy its soft underside, like a gut. And the roundish bullish bits that go at so many angles when we walk and dance. I have a toe with a corner from wearing flat shoes with unforgiving soles. Sometimes I cut the corner off. I had a partner who was fascinated by it. He played with it sometimes. It was both enjoyable and freakish to him, I think.

 


Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.

Colour your shit

Colour your shit from Somatic Experience Workshops (2013)

Consume something which will colour your poo. I have been wanting to do a rainbow using synthetic dyes but I decided it was a better idea to give everyone the opportunity to choose something natural if they wanted. There are some beetroot and some corn as well as blue and green food colourings available to choose from. Making a rainbow was kind of a by-product of the task to begin with. The main part of it is to eat a reasonable amount of a food with the motivation that you are consuming it as an experiment, not just because you’re hungry. Then, to see how long it takes for your body to process it. There might be a day or two of monitoring your bowel movements a bit more attentively than usual. So feel free to choose what you would like to do, or if there is something else bowel-y that you have heard of and would like to try, you’re most welcome to do that. I am happy to provide your food of choice and can drop it to you somewhere. Beetroot and corn do work best, as does blue and green food colouring.

 

Participant Responses

 


 

I did not do a coloured shit. From the outset of these workshops, it was the task that my ears pricked up the most at. I did not evade doing it entirely purposefully, but I was pretty relieved that my life circumstances for the week did not allow me to prepare and eat coloured food and wait to shit. I feel very unaware, somewhat deliberately so, about the processes of my own body. It is uncomfortable for me to think about its insides. This is not because it is a reminder of mortality; hypothetically, I feel total acceptance about death. I know that it’s important to understand that humans are animals, but our biology nauseates me. I have always had a queasy, bodily reaction to thinking about the body in anatomical terms. I won’t pretend that I don’t find something gross about shit. But this is perhaps because it is the visible externalisation of those internal, invisible, ignorable processes.

 


 

Two of us devised a plan to do a rainbow shit. In the end, we both cooked up corn kernels in different colours. We hoped that the kernels would absorb the dye but remain undigested so that small flecks of colour could be seen in our shit. The husk of the kernels would not absorb the colour very easily even after 20 minutes of boiling in dye. I ate a lot of corn that breakfast! We both had similar results where the green and blue dye was present in our shit but the red dye was absorbed somewhere in our digestion.

 


 

I didn’t have the intention of skipping this task, but somehow that’s what happened. Initially it was the most confronting to me but I was looking forward to something that would be challenging. The week of the task I was headed to my parent’s place for the weekend. They’ve actually started growing their own vegetables and I know the beetroot had been doing well, so I planned to eat lots and lots of it and see how that affected me. Unfortunately going regional for the weekend meant I promptly forgot any responsibilities and ignored anything on my to do list. It occurred to me later that I could make it up easily by guzzling a bottle of food colouring, but as yet I have not done this.

 


 

Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.

 

Blow bubbles

Blow bubbles from Somatic Experience Workshops (2013)

Blowing bubbles is a way to start thinking about your body’s relationship with the world. You are blowing your breath into the bubbles and then your breath is contained, floating into the air.
Make bubbles using the bubble wand provided. Try blowing them and also creating them by moving the wand through the air. Do this inside and outside, with people and alone, at night and during the day. Notice if there is any difference in these experiences. Think about why they may be different. What is influencing your experience?

Participant Responses

This is my friend Makeda being cheered by the unexpected introduction of bubbles to our morning. I haven’t given her much context, I just ask if I can we can try them and take photos. I am happiest observing – it would have been the same if we were children. They are much bigger than the ones I experienced as a child and I’m glad we are outside. They have room to be carried by the breeze. They sustain their imperfect shapes for longer than I’d expect.


 

 


 

The best part of this activity for me happened immediately after the workshop. I went to my partner’s house and was explaining to him our task for the week, I had the bubble wand out and as I was repeating your comments about how bubbles are usually more accepted indoors because everyone likes them I started making bubbles. This was met with an anxious ‘What are you doing! Stop that! If any bubbles get on my laptop…!’ Perhaps not everyone is so keen on them. Sadly I couldn’t get any photos of this.

Later in the week, I played around with bubbles in my own home. I found I preferred blowing bubbles over creating them through waving the wand. It was a pleasant way to spend some time, but the bubble experience was somehow lacking without a second person. It was also sad to watch them float down to the carpet just to pop.

I went outside and found it much more enjoyable to blow the bubbles into the sky. They seemed to last longer too. It was night time so the bubbles reflected the lights coming from the Inner City Bypass.


 

I was sitting at a familiar bus stop waiting for the bus. I knew it was going to be a while because it always was. I pulled out the bubble wand and started blowing bubbles, then whistling, then whistling and blowing bubbles at the same time. It didn’t feel like the right kind of setting for bubbles. It was night time on a m

ain road during peak hour. The traffic was unfriendly. The joggers going by enjoyed my bubbles and seemed amused by my whistling, which I maintained even when they drew close. I noticed that a couple of the bubbles had drifted onto the road. Then a car went past and they whipped up into the air. My whistle breath was floating up there with the cars below and the power lines above. I was inhabiting this inhospitable place. I was putting my body into it.


 

 


 

Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.

Somatic Experience Workshops

Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Tasks included:
Blowing bubbles
Using a neti pot
Eating food to colour your shit
Listening and analysing the conversations of others
Touching yourself.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.

 

Use a neti pot

Use a neti pot task from Somatic Experience Workshops (2013)

A neti pot is a small, tea pot like device used to irrigate sinuses. Warm, salty water is put inside the neti pot which is then poured through one nostril, irrigates the sinuses and comes out the other nostril. Its purpose is to flush our mucus and debris and kill bacteria in the sinuses that may cause infection. The neti pot originates from Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medicine of India. Use your neti pot. Notice how the water moves up through your sinuses and out again. You might be able to feel the water in your head and ears. It may come out of your mouth. Adjust your head until you can find the right angle for the water to come out of your other nostril. Think about the fluid that has just passed through your body. Notice if you have expelled any mucus. Monitor how your sinuses fee l after using it. Try doing this with someone else if you like.

Participant responses

 


 

Receiving my own neti pot was incredibly exciting. I regularly have sinus issues and a blocked nose so I was hoping this would revolutionise my whole life. I boiled some water, added the salt, mixed it in and waited expectantly for the neti pot to cool enough for use. I carefully read the instructions and when the water was no longer scolding hot I took it to the bathroom to test out. It took a while to get the angles right but then I felt the water go in. Immediately I was taken back to childhood, I grew up on the coast and it felt something like being dunked under at the beach. It was a similar sensation you would get when dumped or churned out by a wave. So that was unpleasant but I pushed on and waited for the water to come out the other side. It didn’t. I tried the other nostril. Less successful than the first. I tried the first nostril again. Didn’t go any better. At one stage I felt the water dripping down my throat, which from reading the instructions I knew was not supposed to happen and I had a moments terror that I would drown while using a neti pot. I called it quits after a few more attempts in both nostrils. It was a bit disappointing but I will try again. I suspect the water didn’t get through as my nose may have been too blocked. Earlier that day I’d flown back from Sydney so I was very sniffily from travel.

The image is of the neti pot cooling down on my dresser before use.

 


 

At first, I felt like I was drowning. I cannot swim and have mostly uncomfortable memories of the beach. I felt quite alarmed at the sensation, which was a compound of being unable to breathe and choking on saltwater. I thought I was adhering to the correct technique but some of the water came out of my mouth, which was a kind of unexpected and unpleasant. The feeling subsequent to this was a revelation! I felt much greater clarity in my breathing and an odd awareness of the sinus passages in my forehead and ears. After initially being weirded out by the concept, my mum observed and wanted to try it too. There was a lot of laughter.

 


 

The first time I used a neti pot I made sure an experienced friend supervised me through the process. I felt like I was going to drown! And it was coming out in all the wrong places. I thought my sinuses were not normal. Then gradually over time I kept using it, and got the hang of tilting my head and relaxing, and breathing all while letting the warm salty water pass through my head. It was so satisfying to see murky contents leaving my body and horrifying to know that it had once occupied my delicate nasal passages. I have used it a lot over the years and it has changed my relationship with my sinuses. No more hay fever and no more sinus infections.

One time at a house party, a friend of mine was getting people to line up in the bathroom and try the neti pot. People would use it and yell, “I’m cured! I’m cured!”

 


 

Somatic Experience Workshops (2013) promoted discussion about bodies by experimenting with each participant’s attentiveness to their individual bodily experience and the experiences of others. The workshops ran for a six week period with weekly group meetings. Participants received a take home task to complete in their own time. Each participant was given the opportunity to share and reflect on their experience of the task during the meetings. Tasks included using a netipot, focused attentiveness, bodily enjoyment and observing bodily experiences of others. Participants were asked to document or respond to their experience in the form of a still image and/or written response. These responses can be read here.

The workshops were held during Leena’s residency at LEVEL ARI’s Residency Program, at Metro Arts from July-September 2013. The outcomes of the workshops were exhibited at the end of the residency at the exhibition More Human in October 2013.

Thank you to all of the participants who completed the workshops, LEVEL ARI and Metro Arts.