Testing (the) Ground
— setting up the conditions
There is always a before. It is never the first. Creating a scene, it will come when the conditions are conducive.
— warming and flexing
Imagine carving a channel and then moving into it. Descending into it. Not just downward, dipping; maybe leaping too. The preparatory isn't necessarily one of knowing what will unfold. There is a letting go before you can let go.
Stretching — muscular, bodily. Pushing at the edges or the limits. This achieving and letting go — a reaching towards.
Entering the Arc
— trust, twist, torque
Forging a different relationship. Coming into movement, with confidence. Close your eyes to the normal sequencing of the world, the normal speed of the world. There is a gap but this is only temporary. Your eyes will be required again
shortly. You will not be left behind. There is much work to do not to respond habitually. It will take a while to acclimatize. The studio can be a space for building this resilience. Forces and currents, bending of energy: receptive.
A Commitment Made
— working against impulse
Purposefully engaged, not random, not some idle frippery. Mute, opaque, yet not secretive. Drive of the intuitive, to disobey the habit that would have us upright, to trip this tendency up. Renunciáre — put aside, hold back,
resist. Bring to bear, to concentrate on; intensify in effort.
— ilinx, inclination
Head strong, head long. Edging or a leaning into — willfully, to deviate from the strictly horizontal or vertical. Predisposition. Disposition. An attitude. Étude. Incline - to dip or slope downward, to scoop. Tendency towards.
First provocation…▽△ — trust the principle of back-footed-ness. Enjoy unruliness, (im)potent turn. Flow with an idea: intuitive and empirical, alchemical. Take the lesson: there is no weak/strong.
— the italic i
Geometry helps. Finding the right angle. From infinite permutations between the horizontal and vertical, hair thin lines comprise the fiber of the curve. The distribution of force is not a representation of time as space. A vector of force,
rising again — unexpected lift. The impression of exterior simplicity belies the interior complexity. Arguably, its sequential order is not consistent.
Counter-balance…▽△. Training against the corrective tendency. A different habit forms, cultivating second nature. Towards agile subjectivity: supple; lateral, lithe. Steps for working against — firm support from the side, beneath.
— tilt towards (the other)
The limit becomes a point of leverage, containing and controlling the tilt. To let go, repel, then to reach, a gesture towards a context. Involve — bring into intricate or complicated form. From involvere — entangle, implicate.
To be bound up with something from which it is difficult to become extricated.
Soft properties…▽△ — no tension in the plunge; de-territorialisation of the push and pull. Con-jure — to swear together, to recognise affiliation.
— mind body partition
The body makes phrases, exploratory gestures, bypassing the mind. Feeling its limitations, irritating blockages, wrestling with ways to articulate. Piecing things together. A whole set of mind and muscle activations, intermingling. Then
bifurcation: division and splitting, intensity and extensity.
Conjure forces to the surface…▽△, words into the air. Charge earnestly … to cause to exist, to bring about, render. Affect or influence as if by invocation or spell. To call upon, bring to mind. Summon, raise, invoke.
Caught between states, working the edges to become less solid. Becoming liquid, now steam; no, now moist particle—filled air. This blur between the self and the world is like the smoke and the air. Renouncing solidity. Light, precise — the I dissolves. Fleeting submersion, a momentary
loss of bearings.
A capacity for being porous…▽△, less dense; in the flux of things … the carrier of flow. Mesmer — a charge, magnetic, metallic. Between the spur and the lure, propelling forward and extracting. Teasing out.
— a liquid state
Immersion (in the undercurrent): becoming fluid, liquescent. Release. Flow. Optimistic collapse. Not thinking of the edges, but still, stretching the meniscus. There is a moment where it holds shape beyond the limits of its containment. It is totally to do with the curvature of dynamic motion. It could break at any point.
To convert from one state…▽△, condition or category into another. Not through irritation or agitation, rather to propel, to whisk. Fluid bubbling. To become more than. Effervescent.
— the jouissance of impuissance
Losing language. But you still have to talk about desire … without veering off course. Not wayward. This is where restraint comes in — a refusal to be seduced. Restrained rapture. Measure. Exercise discipline to maintain the sense of tension. A momentary loss of concentration; energies dissipate through lack of focus. Turned upside down or overthrown, over the helm. Overwhelm. This is not an end in itself. It is not about getting carried away. Groundedness is required. So, be prepared to stem the flow. Tone it round. Caution against (over) elevation: the excessive I, the elevated I.
Tenderizing of flesh and metal…▽△, sinews and skin; vulnerability in the rawness of transformation. Muscles can repair, ideas remold. Willfully shaping oneself through habit … undoing habit … a willful unlearning, making ready.
Folding of Attention
— a heightened subjectivity
Not disorientation but a shift in orientation. Elemental transformation. Composition. Composure. Compose. Fall into an arrangement. Going inward. Turned backward. Inverted. Inversion — to turn or change; turn inside out, to fold. To turn around on an axis; revolve — from volvere, to roll or wind. Turn over, rolling on the tongue; the release of language from itself.
— striking the right balances
Hand striking the floor, marking time. Push and pull; lag or drag. Tempering — to calm, to modify its properties. Restraint has positive force, a necessary tension. Keeping form, one foot on the ground. Anchoring, maintaining the equilibrium. Retaining the lightness, bring to ground without weight.
Binaries mark out the pitch…▽△ within which to play, enables the curves to happen, something to work against. Goading us. Hot/cold. Liquid/solid. Soft/hard. Levity/gravity. Doing/thinking. Attending to the interval — as an active space, against the desires of habit.
— ventilating the idea
Decompress. Distill. Cooling down but not towards resolution. Maybe it is useful to bring in fermata, the inverted arc … extended beyond normal duration. Beyond sustaining a note. Considered pause, return or realignment.
To tune, to make…▽△ tones available to different keys. Temper. Temperate. Temporal. Repeat the heating and cooling, softening and solidifying of language. Molten flex. Changes in temperature — plunge to cool, desire to distill, regroup. Melt it down again. Avoid the snap back into brittle form.
— return, yet charged
To bring to mind — to scan has haste and necessity, yet nothing about its swiftness is inaccurate. Rotational survey. To focus or centre upon, alert. Elasticity becomes extra–ordinary through exhaustion, a productive slackening. At that moment of relax and slack, extension; a hovering non–dispersal.
Something intervenes…▽△; temporary resolution — what can only be known in retrospect. Depths encountered through the whole of oneself. Take a pause.
Recalibrate … Loop
— desire to repeat
Revolve — to move in a circular or curving orbit, to keep the momentum. Recompose, with transformation. Reconfigure. Reassemble. Resolve — to bring more or less deeply into something. Steadfast, a recommitment is made. Temporary states, always having to be produced. Reset, retune — continuous present and a continual beginning again and again.
Not to start at the start…▽△. Infinite permutations. It will never be the same each time. Repeat to set a rhythm. No fixed destination. Return until one stops.
About The Italic I
The Italic I is a collaboration between writer-artist Emma Cocker and interdisciplinary artist Clare Thornton, for exploring the different states of potential made possible through voluntarily surrendering to the event of a repeated fall.
Our investigation of the fall operates against the context of a wider enquiry within which we are seeking new vocabularies for reflecting on the labour or endeavour within artistic practice, and the nature of knowledge(s) generated therein. Specifically, our respective practices address states of ‘not knowing’ within the creative process, focus on the act of collaboration itself as a site of desirable negotiation, or else examine tactics which somehow pressure the self towards its limits, towards the threshold where self/other begins to blur.
Our collaboration has emerged through shared interest in how an experienced loss of selfhood might activate unexpected forms of embodied, tactical knowledge and augmented subjectivity, in and through playful inhabitation of the perceived passivity and impotency often related to the idea of a fall (from the known, the normative, the certain or stable).
Rather than an accidental occurrence encountered by chance, within The Italic I, falling is apprehended consciously as an exercise of both mind and muscle, tested out in physical, cognitive, and perhaps even linguistic terms. By repeatedly staging a series of falls, The Italic I began as an attempt to slow and extend the duration of falling in order to suspend and elaborate upon its phases or scenes. Within The Italic I, the studio is approached as a gymnasium, a testing ground for rehearsing and interrogating distinct episodes within falling.
The conditions of the studio and the act of repetition both serve to dislocate the fall from external narrative, from the habitual rhythms of cause and effect. We address the micro-narrative of the fall itself. The fall becomes an investigative action, performance-as-experiment. A commitment is made to the event of repeated falling in and of itself, to putting the diagonal under pressure. A body falls over and over, again and again; a lens acts as witness. Each movement begins before the movement has truly begun; every move is preceded in an endless falling loop.
Beyond capturing what the choreography of a fall looks like, The Italic I involves an attempt to reflect on its interiority (the feeling-in-falling, the nature of its phases as lived experience). A fall is a period of passage, rather than a series of fixed steps or set postures that can be isolated. We are interested in reflecting on the intensity of the fall (its flows and forces, its speeds and durations – both visible and invisible), and in how to represent its passage without rendering the temporal experience of falling into any singular spatial form.
Alongside capturing the repeated fall through the prism of the lens, we have developed a taxonomy or lexicon for reflecting on the different episodes within falling. Our taxonomy is not one of identifying categories of fall (a trip, slip, drop, stumble, crumple, downward slide) or diagramming the anatomy of a fall. Through language we seek to address the becoming of falling (to fall – a verb, a process-oriented operation,) not the being of the fall (as noun), reflecting on the interior complexity of falling which its visual expression can only intimate towards. From lens to language, from exteriority to interiority, the focus shifts from how a fall looks from outside to how one might be experienced from within.
Parallel to exploring falling as a physical act, we have endeavored to practice linguistic or even cognitive falls, searching for a language adequate to the task of articulating the experience of falling, through falling – produced simultaneously to the process that it strives to describe. The lexicon attempts towards a language generated from within fall-like circumstance, produced from the dialogic free-fall of collaborative exchange. Like the body repeatedly falling, words can be pressured until they begin to stretch and flex, arc and fold.
The language of gymnastic training rubs up against poetic flourish; pushed to excess, then contracted. Over and over, terms are turned up and inside out, language rolled around in the mouth until it starts to yield or give. Singular phrases are co-created from hours of dialogue. Sentences form tentatively in the gaps as one voice falls or falters into another … as one thought collapses, another starts to rise. Our categories have porous edges, they leak and overlap, their sequence is susceptible to change. Non-hierarchical in relation, we conceive of the image and text in choreographic exchange, distinct yet inextricably interwoven.
We focus on the momentary disorientation within falling as a means for affecting a shift in orientation (rather than as an end in itself). Whilst the initial hesitation met within the act of falling might well give way to strange and vertiginous pleasures – the rapturous fall from self and certainty experienced as playful ilinx or as fainting's swoon – the dizzy delirium of falling's disorientation is not the focal point of our enquiry. If the middle (arguably even liminal) phases of the fall involve the syncopated loss of bearings, of boundaries, of self, the challenge is one of how these experiences might then be harnessed, converted, transformed. However, the arcing of our fall is not a narrative of redemption or salvation, of turning back or (re)turn (to a previously un-fallen state) or turning over (a new leaf), rather one of aeration, a generative act in order to conceive the situation differently. Unsettling for seeing afresh.
The issue perhaps becomes one of learning to inhabit the condition of the fall. Here, the practice of voluntary falling emerges as a tactic for inoculating the body to the imagined threat of the fall, for cultivating resilience towards its potentially negative effects. Administered in small and controlled doses, it becomes possible to gradually build one's tolerance, one's capacity to withstand uncertainty and become more accustomed to the unsettling experiences therein. Yet, significantly, the intent is not to become desensitized to the experience of falling, if this means becoming resistant or immune to its charge. Rather, through repeated exposure it is possible to become more sensitized to the experience, more attuned to its risings and falls, its intensities and durations.
Practice enables the falling subject to move beyond disorientation, where body and mind feel only at a loss. Whilst falling requires some loss of power and control, with practice the passivity and apparent weakness can be converted into a potential means of strength. Falling is thus practiced as a kind of alchemy, transforming its own perceived impotency or powerlessness into a productive force.
No longer considered an event to be avoided or protected against, within The Italic I falling might be considered as a kairotic site (of opportunity) for producing unexpected forms of embodied knowledge and augmented subjectivity. Key to our investigation has been the revelation that our emergent taxonomy for reflecting on the various phases of the fall, might also describe the nature of our collaborative and artistic practice itself. The generation of the lexicon becomes self-reflexive, approached as a manifesto of sorts for articulating the unfolding trajectory of its own production, for honouring the process.
We are striving to find the means for speaking about the experience of practice; wrestling with the idea of what it is to collaborate. Our experience tells us that artistic endeavour mirrors the arc of the fall. The motif of the fall thus becomes a foil through which to reflect on the habitually undisclosed, unnamed or even invisible episodes within artistic endeavour, the various tipping points within thinking and action. Falling. Artistic labour. Over and over, repeating gestures less for the perfection of a given move, but rather moves towards deeper understanding.