Looking back from the future, we might as well see the COVID-19 to be the global turning point, which forever changed how to relate to ourselves in global citizens of an inter-connected and complex world. As we are re-learning ways to connect in new possibilities can emerge. My dear mentor, teacher and founder of Dragon Dreaming, John Croft, shares that only 1 in 1000 dreams come true, and this loss of dreams is a loss of soul. Dragon dreaming through the wisdom of the aboriginal people of Australia teaches us a way to recover our soul by making our dreams come true. I feel that the current crisis can help us build new dreams, plans, activities and celebrations with which we could recreate the world.
Unfolding the Invisible Practice group is one such dream, an opportunity to collaborate with practitioners from across Italy and the world, holding space for research and exploration of social art. A space practice and cultivate our embodied knowing as a way to make visible and invisible and grow our intention, creativity and wisdom collectively.
Our online meetings started in early March, when Lockdown measures began (in Italy), holding us in place, and nudging us to explore the different ways of connection and practice. Italy has been my adopted country for almost nine years. It is a historically and culturally diverse and vibrant country; every town and city seems to have unique cultural components. This diversity affects the perception of distance. And so it sometimes feels that Milan and Rome are further away then Milan and London.
In our meetings every Saturday since March we experienced the possibility of connection. We shared awareness from a distance, transcending the physical space limits and tuning into the awareness possibilities that the social distancing and lockdown have sent on our ways. I feel the practice group can support our capacity and will to bring this work to broader and more diverse groups of people, also locally. To recreate this knowing and learning spaces which can support communities and society, as it is facing the current moment of great transition and transformations.
The opportunity of Unfolding the Invisible is to connect those different parts inside as outside, feeling into the limits and possibilities of connecting online. As I practice, I’m attending with a soft gaze to the awareness which lies beyond the screen; I become aware that eyes can lead us as they can mislead us. I feel the aliveness of this research when we tune in to each other, sharpening our capacity to “see” the invisible social landscape of our encounter. Sensing our collective presence, even with eyes closed or with a poor internet connection.
Descartes’s “I think. Therefore I am” (cogito, ergo sum) is a landmark in western scientific thought and philosophy. Yet who is doing this thinking? Where is my thinking coming from, what is the source of my awareness?
Social Presencing Theatre practices invite us to listen to the embodied experience of being right here and now. To attend to the “we space” in which as human beings, we continuously attune ourselves to the unfolding movement between layers of reality and imagination, dreams and societies. As thought is emerging from how we perceive here and now, this sensory perception of the present moment tells us who we are. Exploring SPT research is opening us to the subtle, pre-verbal experience from which thought emerges from being, moment after moment.
I felt that meeting online is not enough to bring this wisdom to the world, that it is necessary to hold spaces to bring down this down to earth to our local communities. And so, as the lockdown measures have begun to relax (after 3 months of lockdown), I reached out to a small group I practice with near where I live in Lake Trasimeno. We met to practice at “Campo del Sole”, on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, the largest lake of central Italy.
The last time we met as a practice group was almost a year ago, and with the previous months of Social distancing and COVID-19 outbreak, it seems that all of this was ages ago. Three of the members are teachers, and as we gathered around the stone table shaped sculpture in the middle of the field, they started to share their experience of online teaching. It was interesting to note the different experiences of quarantine time. The high school teacher was exhausted and spoke of long days and hours in front of the computer. The middle school and elementary school teachers have, on the other hand, spoke of lighter workload and time to spend in nature and with loved ones. Another member shared that ironically in the lockdown she has found a new job, designing a herb garden for a rural estate. I share my experience of the lockdown, slowing down of the local project working with regional authorities for social inclusion of migrants, and an explosion of online gatherings, events and practice groups I was participating in, holding space for and co-creating with others around the world.
It took time for us to move into the actual practice; it was “a long pause”, and the will to verbally unpack our personal experiences. When we finally start to let the body speak, making images with our whole body, “living sculptures”, of how we are, a new quality of silent presence arises. We are sensing into each other’s images, naming both the visible as the invisible. “I see fingers touching the ground”, “I feel the ocean”, “Thank you.”
The teacher moves to the middle and turns outward with hand forward; her sentence is accoglienza “welcoming”. “Parent”. The parent moves into and then out and far to the back of the teacher and the imaginary circle we have to expand to include her new image.“Pupil/child” both the two remaining members raise their hands. I decide to go with that and invite both an “Italian pupil/child” and “Foreign pupil/child” roles to enter one by one. After they added their sentence, the image started to move.
The movement begins with the “teacher” that turns toward the Italian pupil, the “foreign pupil” starts to move on the ground and then turns towards the parent. The parent pulls as with an invisible thread the giant cement column standing in front of her. In the second image, the teacher and Italian pupil were closer to each other, and on the other side, the parent and the foreign pupil are near on the other side in the shade of the cement column. I invite a sculpture three, as I feel more “wants to happen”, teacher and parent face each other, the Italian pupil sits with its back to all “Che Noia/what boredom”. Sharing in our WhatsApp group the video, Marta (who took the role of the foreign parent) adds, I now see I was always in the shade. Only in the last sculpture, with much effort, I moved out slightly to get my child.
I feel that many open questions which emerge, questions I hope to explore with the new meeting of Unfolding the invisible social arts practice group and with the local group of practice.
What are we learning from this time?
What potential reveals itself in this period of physical distancing?
What new possibilities can emerge from our period of distancing?
From an article originally published on Medium