Performance and Mindfulness Symposium
Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research
University of Huddersfield
Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June, 2016.
Since Stanislavski in the late nineteenth century, Western theatre practitioners have demonstrated a fascination with Eastern philosophies and with mindfulness practices. Lee Worley, Nicolás Núñez, Meredith Monk, Marina Abramovic and Pasquale Esposito are some of the contemporary artists who have been exploring the theoretical and practical relations between theatre and aspects of meditation, including mindfulness. Whilst there is now a growing body of research into applications of mindfulness in clinical and educational contexts, there are few studies explicitly examining the role of mindfulness and meditation in theatre and performance. Aiming to gather together scholars, practitioners and artists interested in this study and practice, the Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research at the University of Huddersfield invites proposals for a Symposium on Performance and Mindfulness.
We invite proposals in four different categories:
Papers: 30 minute presentations followed by 15 minutes’ discussion.
Working Groups: Short papers, to be circulated within the group in advance, presenting statements of practice or provocations relating to one of the following themes. The working groups will be chaired and tasked with feeding back to the whole conference in a closing plenary.
1. Research Methodology and Evaluation: Which research methods can best interrogate and capture experiences and articulations relating to mindfulness and performance? What contribution might source traditions, such as Buddhism, offer to the development of methodologies for research in mindfulness-based performance practices?
2. Ethical Considerations: In what ways do the ethics of various meditational source traditions play out when mindfulness practices are transposed to the secular context of theatrical performance?
3. Creative Practices: An exploration of the role and practice of mindfulness forms in generative creative processes (including, but not limited to, improvisation, devising, performance writing, collaborative practice).
4. Contemplative Performance: How might meditative experience be invited or generated through theatrical performance experiences, for both performers and audiences? Is it possible to conceive of a contemplative mode of spectatorship?
Performances: We invite proposals for performance pieces requiring only basic technical resources. We particularly welcome short performances (20 – 30 minutes) but can consider performances suitable for studio theatres or non-conventional spaces.
Workshops: Three hour practical workshops, exploring integrations of meditation/mindfulness and performance practice.
Proposals should include:
Proposals will be considered between 1st and 15th March 2016, and decisions communicated by 4 April. Please email proposals or enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicolás Núñez will offer a two day workshop before the Symposium on the 31st of May and 1st of June. More information, please contact: email@example.com
Symposium registration information:
Registration and Booking will open soon and further details will be available.
The full symposium cost will be
£140 Not including related costs e.g. accommodation or dinner
£100 Student rates (limited tickets for full-time non-funded students)
We are also allocating a limited number of bursaries to attend the symposium in exchange for symposium support (e.g. ushering; written reviews / written blogposts or feedback on the symposium; other). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to propose a bursary application.
Tibet’s Secret Temple Exhibition at the Wellcome Collection
The world we see is a painting
Born from the brush of discursive thought.
Within or upon it nothing truly existent can be found.
knowing this one knows reality;
seeing this one sees what is true.
Second Dalai Lama (1475-1542). Quote reproduced from exhibition
Tibet’s Secret Temple Exhibition continues at the Welcome Collection until 28 February 2016. Tracing body, mind and meditation in Tantric Buddhism the displays examine the history of Tibetan Buddhist yogic and meditational practice and their connections to physical and mental wellbeing. The Lukhang secret temple built during the reigns of the fifth and sixth Dalai Lamas provided a sanctuary for the Dalai Lamas to use on their journeys towards enlightenment. The heart and inspiration of the exhibition contains virtually recreated images by Photographer Thomas Laird of three of the 17th century murals which adorn the top floor of the temple’s meditation chamber. The murals contain visual instructions into practices and beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism.
After a freelance day of facilitating an arts meeting in London I thought I might not have the stamina to fully engage with this exhibition. I’m glad I trusted that the exhibition would inspire and lift my spirits. The exhibition is wordy and has a wide-ranging focus, but it is elegantly curated and immersive. Beginning with a contemporary film by David Bickerstaff capturing the journey by boat to the Lukhang, the film situates the Lukhang in context to Lhasa today with the sights and sounds of devotional life in Tibet’s capital city. Twelve themed rooms then lead on from each other, filled with 120 artefacts including scroll paintings, statues, manuscripts and films each exploring a different aspect of the Lukhang; Tibetan Buddhist belief systems; and contemporary understandings of meditation and wellbeing.
Themed areas are:
Radiating a sense of continuum and a plethora of dynamic practice, the exhibition will offer different highlights to different folks and includes documentation of performance practices. I particularly enjoyed the room of yogas of fire and light; depictions of Chöd practices; and images of the adepts of Tantric Buddhism, the mahasiddhas, who follow their own independent paths outwith a more uniform monastery route and look joyfully maverick in the photographs. I was enchanted by the sense of a wilder perhaps more autarchical way of being rather than following a linear path.
The image above is of an 18th Century depiction of Garuda. (Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum). I loved this particular Garuda!
To some extent the display commodifies its subject and exaggerates the ‘secrecy / unseen’ element of the murals and practices in order to tantalise a lay audience. Yet this is a high quality and considered exhibition which has many rarely seen objects on show. It is also an expansive exhibition with joyful and intimate sculptures on show and intriguing depictions of unfamiliar meditation methods.
Wellcome have a variety of events associated with Tibet’s Secret Temple exhibition including:
This exhibition overlaps with a new Wellcome collection exhibition States of Mind: Tracing the edges of consciousness beginning 4 February until 16 October 2016.
States of Mind will ‘examine perspectives from artists, psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists to interrogate our understanding of the conscious experience. Exploring phenomena such as somnambulism, synaesthesia, and disorders of memory and consciousness, the exhibition will examine ideas around the nature of consciousness, and in particular what can happen when our typical conscious experience is interrupted, damaged or undermined.’ The show features a series of changing installations. The first one will be ‘The Whisper Heard’ by Imogen Stidworthy, from 4 February until 24 April.
Zazen is beyond words. It is experience. Just sit.
However, how difficult it is just to sit and instead of fighting with reality to dance with it!
Pasquale Esposito is an Italian actor and is also a Soto Zen monk. What an unusual blend! Actors usually are seen as extroverted people, who like to pretend, to show off. On the other hand, the popular image of a Buddhist monk is someone isolated from the world, introverted, a low profile person searching for the truth. In some sense they represent two ways of seeing: sight inward, sight outward. Breathing in, towards the centre of oneself, breathing out, the internal meeting the outer world. How could Pasquale put together such distinct paths?
Arriving in the rehearsal room in London, after running through a park and spending several minutes lost in front of the place where the workshop would happen; after going up the stairs, I could see a man dressed in monk’s robes with a large smile and bright eyes. I confess that it caused me a strange feeling, as if some heresy was about to be done. Is not acting a profane action? I found myself wondering why that man – with whom I had spent a couple of hours before the workshop having nice coffee and nice conversation – was dressing like that? Wasn’t the workshop supposed to be a theatrical thing? Why dress in his traditional robes in a non-traditional context? And then, my mind started its chatting, judging, labelling, sorting.
We sat and did few minutes of zazen. A time to observe the crazy monkey mind jumping from one concept to another, from one sensation to another, from one feeling to another, one expectation to another. After that we did some different explorations for the next three hours. Each one of the exercises was an opportunity to experience the interdependence between mind and body, internal and external space, me and other. To experience!
Zazen is beyond words, so it is performing. I can remember an exercise, a kind of gentle fight between me and Esposito. The rule was that the first one who fell down onto the floor would lose. For me it was a fight, but actually it was a conversation.
Trying to be active into the passivity, to reach the place of fluid resistance, not resisting and not carrying out, I could explore the boundaries between the me and the Other. At the middle of the dance of oppositions I could experience my dualist thinking, my resistance to the full experience of reality, the fear of being exposed. The “I” in its fully fragility was exposed, the cocoon made of concepts and self-created characters was threatened. In the solid touch of a body against another, I could see as clearly as seeing my face in a mirror my automatized responses, the behaviour patterns, the constructor who builds the ego.
No, it wasn’t a mystical experience, a romantic revelation of the self, or a kind of enlightenment experience. It was more like a soft touch in a bowl of cold water. Something very humble, realistic, material. It reminded me of the fight between Jacob and the angel, and the revelation of the power of being human. During the exercise there was nothing to be done, no rational decisions to be made, just feeling and allowing the movement to flow its own way. Beyond words. Judging, chatting, sorting, labelling…There was no place or time for that. I was invited to come as I am. But who am I?
At the end I had no answer for any of my questions. I felt a little bit shy, as when we do something very stupid. But, please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the exercise was stupid. It was the sensation of not being able to hide myself.
How could Pasquale put together such distinct paths, theatre and meditation? I could get just a glimpse of that: from external work going straight to the inner space and coming back. In the middle of the fight, allowing oneself to dance. No aggression, no past or future. Just being, resting in the now. Zazen. Theatre as vehicle to (auto)knowledge.
And the mountains were once more mountains.
Link to Pasquale website: http://artandawareness.net
MINDFULNESS AND PERFORMANCE