Posted March 25, 2022
We’re one week behind on our blog entries due to illness, but we’re catching up. Today we have a longer, two-part blog entry. Our blog entry for week 4 will be published next week.
Part One includes reflections from working group members who co-led IwIP sessions during week three. Please see below for thoughts from Malin Kivelä, Hanna Raiskinmäki, and Jenni-Elina von Bagh (in alphabetical order). I've edited these slightly for clarity.
In Part Two, if you’re up for a two-page, 10 minute read, I delve more deeply into the dramaturgical and pedagogical process of Openings and (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner, the principle methodology we’re working with. This week my text is called: Developing the Group by Cultivating a Supportive and Encouraging Atmosphere through Wishful Attention: A Non-directive (and Indirect) Approach.
-Alexander Komlosi, Culture Current's and Opening's Artistic Director
P.S. In the texts below we use "IwIP" as an acronym for (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner.
Part One: Reflections from working group members
It was exciting because I have never led IwIP before. Fortunately Hanna, who is really experienced and nice, was with me. I also led the warm-up and tried out some new stuff that I’m interested in, a sort of mixture between all the movement things I’ve been doing for years myself, focusing on relaxation, playfulness in your own space, ”public solitude,” which, actually, was something I happened to read in one of Vyskočil’s text before class.
I found the group impressive and inspiring. Grown-ups with their own stories, bodies and questions. I really enjoyed myself. The IwIP:ing felt strangely advanced already. The discussions and doubts were intelligent and full of life, especially during coffee break. I sense something fruitful is emerging from this friendly experimenting.
I am very inspired by this work. These questions burst out of me:
What questions are opening up?
You won’t eat before biting?
What does unconditional support and enjoyment of other people’s existence open? And make possible?
What does profound, deep, honest, profound self-reflection open?
What does sincere curiosity in the moment towards bodily communication open for us others?
What does it mean when somebody lets their voice come out in a big way, and lets their body surprise themselves almost uncontrollably?
Somebody wants to destroy: What does that open for us others?
Movement you yourself can’t deliver or do?
Jenni-Elina von Bagh
We found different levels of connection with each other.
I also felt that IwIP started to speak and mean something to everyone.
It was great to meet this group for the first time. It seemed to me that there is some fresh warmth and strong sense of empathy here. Maybe this is because so many different cultural backgrounds are present. That was very touching and strong to witness.
There was a lovely openness and acceptance towards one’s selves and towards one another.
In the warm up and IwIP practice, I think it was interesting to witness various tendencies of being between languages, between states. Also, it was interesting to see the various ways of getting in contact with directions of communication, as a constant dynamic process.
Part Two: Artistic Director’s reflections on dramaturgical and pedagogical process
In this blog entry, I’d like to begin develop a strand about group dynamics in IwIP and the Openings workshop process. This may have relevance to other creative and artistic workshop processes as well. Any supportive feedback on these are welcome. Thanks!
A title for this text could be:
Developing the Group by Cultivating a Supportive and Encouraging Atmosphere through Wishful Attention: A Non-directive (and Indirect) Approach.
Needless to say, developing group dynamics intentionally and consciously is essential in a creative and pedagogical process like the Openings workshop. It is also something I personally find interesting to work with.
Opening up group dynamics in a fruitful direction is a particularly vital building-block for the social aspect of this work. By social, I have in mind the etymology of social from the Latin socialis, (allied) and socius (friend). I see the work we’re doing as cultivating friends and/or allies in a voluntarist and voluntary manner. People practice what it means to come freely, stay freely, rehearse freely, leave freely, and come back (perhaps) freely. They can, but they do not have to. One could see this as related to the ideal of anarchy.
Intentionally working with the social of artistic work - its sociality - is essential for human’s as a cultural species, so we can cultivate individual and group freedom. By freedom, I mean it primarily in an existential sense, though the economical-political sense is also crucial. Freedom, in turn, is essential for opening up artistic work. So, in my mind, sociality and freedom are entwined. It is no coincidence that these notion of social and sociality, and their impact, are an essential part of Culture Current’s mission.
Working with sociality is, of course, culturally specific. So, it is helpful to be sensitive to how we perceive and experience each culture’s different frames of sociality. (My experience of New Yorkian sociality in my NY social network is different than my experience of sociality in my social network in Finland.) It is important to pay attention to, and dialogue with, each individual’s personal experience of sociality in terms of their personality, which is a function of their psychosoma and culture(s). Openings consists of a beautifully diverse group of personalities and cultures, so an interesting question for us is how to cultivate a “shared” sociality through this diversity, first for Openings participants, and at some future point, a shared sociality for and with others (like an audience).
With this sociality in mind, consider that (Inter)acting with the Inner Parter (hereafter: “IwIP”) is a solo improvisational activity. You are alone on stage in front of onlookers. Despite the fact that it is primarily (originally) individual work, sociality plays an important role in IwIP practice. So how does this solo experience groove with sociality?
One way we work with sociality in IwIP and in Opentings is in terms of the atmosphere of the group. The practice of working with atmosphere in IwIP comes from its founder, Ivan Vyskočil.
In the various public and professional situations Vyskočil participated in (e.g., performances, lectures, classes, and his work as a psychologist), he intentionally strived to create, and co-create, an atmosphere that would encourage people to discover and play with and through their being and doing in a public situation. His premise was that in a supportive atmosphere, participants would be more willing to risk experimenting, researching, investigating what and how is it for them to be, and the possibilities of that being, in the world. In this way, Vyskočil sought to support the playful exploration of basic existential questions like how we are “thrown” into the world, how we are “thrown” into IwIP, and how we act and interact, and could act and interact, through our being in freedom. This perspective understands being in an existential sense, rather than (primarily) in the sense of identity (politics).
How do we create a supportive atmosphere in IwIP and during our Openings work?
We practice co-creating a supportive atmosphere in IwIP by working with the way we watch (observe) and respond to others on stage by cultivating wishful attention. Wishful attention is a whole person, psychosomatic, kinesthetic attention and response - with those mirrors neurons firing. N.B., it is not a “gaze.”
In order to cultivate wishful attention, we are asked to practice infusing our attention and responses with an empathetic hope for the person on stage rehearsing to “do well.” Wishful attention is based on the fact that all the practitioners are in the same shoes: Everyone will eventually take the risk of rehearsing in front of the group, so each one needs the wishful attention of the audience. This “shared predicament” cultivates sympathy and empathy in onlookers.
Wishful attention can be colored by specific hopes. For example, it can include a wish for the practitioner on stage to meet and get to know her inner partner, a hope that they establish a mutualistic relationship where all partners benefit from the interaction. It can be a wish for her time on stage to be full of spontaneous and playful interaction; that they surprise themselves and makes new discoveries about how they act; that he gives something to his inner partners and notice what they offer him; or that she goes beyond the limits of her inner fourth wall.
Focusing on on wishful attention also means paying attention to how we as onlookers perceive and respond to the person rehearsing IwIP. For example, if we laugh about something they did on stage, are we laughing in a conscious and sensitive manner? In other words, does our laughter help them understand and experience their situation more fully? Or, might our laughter (or other audible response) about what a practioner does on stage be drawing the practitioner's attention towards us and away from what they are doing? Audible responses are a very concrete signal we send out. Especially in the begin stages of IwIP, as an onlooker, it is fruitful to be curious about how our attention as audible response affects the performer.
Paying attention to how we respond as onlookers can tell us a lot about ourseles too. Working with responding in a sensitive way develops our ability to perceive and to work consciously as onlookers and responders, which sometimes may mean leaving space for the person on stage to hear (or otherwise perceive) their inner partners instead of giving space to our own responses. Finally, our responses also affect the other onlookers, and their attentitive connection to the person on stage. So observing how our laughter, for example, affects other viewers can teach us a lot too.
Many performance situations, especially ones that are new to us, like interacting alone with your inner partners on stage in front of an audience, are often nerve-racking and debilitating, full of stress and tension, at least initially. In time, however, a performance situation, and IwIP in particular, can become an inspiring and creative experience. In fact, IwIP is very much about studying the preconditions for a performance situation to become spontaneous, delightful, and creative – an experience that gives something meaningful back to you (and your inner partners). Practicing wishful attention plays an important role in this progress.
Practicing sensitive and supportive wishful attention encourages an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement, and empathy. Wishful attention also helps create the possibility of connection and support (including energetic) between performers and onlookers.
In these ways, wishful attention cultivates a non-directive and indirect way of working with group dynamics by developing an atmosphere in which people feel willing and able to chose to take the risk of being, and being “thrown” into IwIP… and our worlds. It cultivates sociality. It also makes working together fruitful and fun.