Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Suspension of Mental Programming in Favor of Sensory Experience

I gotta call that guy. Too bad I might just find out that he is a whiz on paper, an asshole 'in person.' Journalists. . .

Newsweek provides a fair share of interesting ideas to consider, even in it's flimsy weekly magazine format. I guess I kind of take that back - any publication managing to produce any sort of physical format right now should be lauded. Boy, this is all kinds of not the point.

The point, yes, that is where I was going - is that, among these interesting ideas, there was an article that explored, and in the end blostered, art that 'has no meaning.'

Now, 'art that has no meaning' is somewhat of a misnomer. The dual act of creation and then observation is purposeful in itself. But I'll move beyond that; art that is viewed as 'having no meaning' is often the kind that allows you to suspend mental programming in favor of sensory experience.

In writing this, I am afraid of sounding dangerously as though I am in favor of not thinking. This is in no way what I am meaning to suggest. Rather, I pose that allowing an amount of time in your mind each day for wandering, sensing and feeling is a rather grand idea. Now, art that makes you think hard about something specific is joyful in it's own right, just as art that asks you to clear your mental slate in favor of sensory reaction to what you are experiencing in the moment holds its own set of cards.

This 'defense' of sensory-based art comes during a time that I have been thinking a lot about physical and mental health, and short-term memory loss. In thinking through options for what I'd like to learn about more and work in as a daytime support job to my pursuits as a dance artist, I have been researching and thinking a lot about public health and work/ leisure trends that have come to dictate how we take care of ourselves. Overarchingly, a couple of key ideas continue to surface throughout;

- We are asked to lick up (without even tasting) and process more information than ever at faster and faster paces
- We spend too much leisure time on activities that ask very little of our brains and bodies (perhaps in response to being asked to process TOO much during work periods?)
- We have been inundated with tools that are, while arguably helpful sometimes, a great hinderance to building mental capacity for memory (for example, the ONLY cell phone numbers I have memorized are my own and my mothers)

I feel like I am creating bullet-points to support the 'Slow Food' movement. There must, then, be a 'Slow Brain' movement? Now, that just sounds not-PC.. . . .

After taking a little time to look into this idea, I came to see that there are several different thought arenas on this (as I should have suspected, with everyone and their mom able to publish web content on a near-immediate basis these days. In fact, what exactly is it that I am doing right now than? Hmm...). A couple things to look into;

I'm aware that bolstering these ideas is ridiculous coming from me, a great example of 'time deficit as status symbol,' but I am working consciously to change that. The best way to do this for yours truly? Art.

Creating, performing and watching dance are a thing of patience for me. I find, time and time again, that the quicker I try to get an idea from my brain into dancer's bodies, the less defined, dynamic and interesting the idea becomes. These are among the things that deserve the amount of time they need to develop into what they could become. And should that also be true when we are considering our own selves as the subject?

Returning to dance, I'd like to posit that the positive benefits of these larger ideas of slowing down and really tuning in can be reaped by engaging in dance that simply asks you to be a part of the moment; to be a visceral, sound-hearing, emotion-experiencing machine.

Colors, rhythms, movement patterns, accents, dynamics, spacial reorientation, emotions, shared experiences, bodily connection.

Jazz and rhythm-based dance forms encourage viewer enjoyment and creativity in ways in which other dance forms seem to often feel uncomfortable. By allowing individuals attentions to focus on what they are drawn to rather than asking them to look for something extremely specific, they are able to become involved and let their imaginations wander down various paths, encouraged by what they are taking in. Many people I speak to who are not regular dance-goers cite their reasoning as 'I worry the whole time about whether or not I am getting 'it.' Do we really want attending an evening of dance to be another place where people are forced to jam more into their already crammed heads? If your answer is yes, more power to you (I can, after all, appreciate the benefits of this kind of dance). If your answer is no (which, mine often is), please help me continue to encourage the 'yeses,' that the 'no's' have some pretty serious logic to their methods, too.

Suspension of Mental Programming in Favor of Sensory Experience. Now, take in some rhythm-driven, emotion-laden, visceral-feeling dance about nothing, and tell me what you feel.

Nothing? . . . Didn't think so.