Looking Ahead While Coming Back To Our Senses

All of my work aims to make that which is always influencing us but usually goes unnoticed—in our bodies and in the city—directly and surprisingly felt; in doing so we experience and reexamine circumstances of place, self and other anew.

Creating spaces that support and reference PEOPLE is gaining momentum world wide. In San Francisco, city planners, urban designers, artists and institutions alike are considering concepts of temporality, playfulness, sustainability and flexibility in projects in which ALL of our senses get to be involved.

One ongoing project that speaks directly to such concepts is our Heartbeat Soundscapes. I have set variations in galleries, plazas and on public radio. Next I’d like to work with the city of San Francisco on a large-scale project to create ‘round-table-like’ listening stations in which people can sit down across from each other and listen to each others’ heartbeats. The beats could also be amplified into the surrounding space, as well as on the internet. With multiple ‘listening stations’ installed nationally/globally, people could share and hear each others’ heartbeats in real-time across borders.

Hearing a live heartbeat softens, slows and enlivens people, in turn softening, slowing and enlivening the space they occupy. To take this most intimate, individualized reverberation and make it loud enough to be heard/felt by strangers is to gesture at something tangibly profound and undeniably shared. It is direct. It is immediate. It cuts through representation, metaphor and belief. (While then prompting and lending itself to exactly that.) Environmental psychology, most recently the influence of the vagus nerve and its role in the development of human social engagement systems, informs these designs.

“I thought the body had been mapped…” (Or–Body Literacy Wake-Up Call!)



“I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” he said. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

— Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG)

Fifty years from now perhaps this kind of statement will be shocking to everyone, not just those who study and work with the(ir) body. While many people still think about, imagine and experience their bodies in vastly out-dated ways, the relevance of body-literacy is becoming more and more recognized as studies in biomechanics, neuroscience, psychology, movement, art, dance and other disciplines stretch the field.

As this is just a quick post, here are a few take-away points:

  • The essential aspect of studying living bodies cannot be understated.
  • When dissection is used to expand our knowledge, it is now recognized that the mind and decisions of those doing the dissection directly effects the conclusions we draw from the dissection.
  • A vast amount of research about the body demonstrates that many of the popular beliefs about the body are either incomplete, need to be reworked or are myths all-together.
  • Body workers, movement educators and practitioners of various practices are beginning to be recognized as a resource for scientific studies. (For example: http://www.fasciacongress.org/2015/)

Read the article here that prompted this post about researchers who have found that the immune system is directly connected to the brain.

Bluetooth Headphone Soundscapes

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.16.04 PMThe little boy pictured above ran, stood and sat around in a huge gallery watching painters paint, dancers dance, musicians play, writers speak…while the sound of a live heartbeat (my own) colored his perceptions. Anyone who attended the Illusion Show this May at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts had the opportunity to explore the gallery while sporting a white blue-tooth headset, one synched with a stethoscope I was holding to my heart. Because my whole body became a ‘receiver’ of sound-waves, and the space was filled with the activity of 60 artists performing over five hours, the strong sound of my heartbeat mixed softly with the ambient sounds of the room to create a unique auditory experience, a true heartbeat soundscape.

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Art & Peace-Making Through the Lens of Embodiment

I recently attended a discussion lead by Roberto Gutiérrez Varea at the Red Poppy Art House in the Mission district of San Francisco. Varea’s “research and creative work focuses on the intersection of performance and peace-building in the context of social conflict and state.” (FB Red Poppy) He has co-authored & co-edited a two-volume anthology “Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict,” amongst myriad of other efforts, achievements and accolades. We listened and learned about the experiences of people in the places he visits and his often intensely intimate, difficult and inspirational work; Caleb Duarte, current artistic co-director of the art house, suggested that we consider how we might apply such principles and practices to our own work, as well as to the current climate of unrest & change here in the Mission. He offered what it would mean to think of the Red Poppy itself as “Artist.” Later, Todd T Brown, founder, asked how we could apply Roberto’s approach to art/peace-making specifically to what is being created at The Red Poppy. 

What follows is my ever shifting response~

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Interview on Mutiny Radio’s Women’s Magazine




“Essentially many of my questions about public space fall under one question: is this a healthy space? What I mean by ‘healthy’ is: Can people be engaged there? Can we be playful there? Powerful? Can we feel our agency? Can we be, in a sense, loving?”

On March 6th I was interviewed by Val Iberra on Women’s magazine on Mutiny Radio, broadcast in collaboration with KPFA. It was my first time being interviewed; it was also our first airing of a Radio Heartbeat Soundscape. There was a lot I wanted to share; below are some of the ideas about public space that were discussed in the interview. 

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Why the heartbeat in public space?

“…She may again make herself visible by bringing back the power of perceptibility.”

 -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 3.21, as translated by BKS Iyengar


It is not the seeking of information, the seeking of products, the seeking of prolonged life, the seeking of nourishment, the seeking of comfort, the seeking of the right-of-way, the seeking of validation, power nor speed, that this exhibit will satisfy.

This project is an act of making something that is dimly perceived perceivable, because doing so is useful, applicable to many spheres, and an experience complete unto itself.

The heart is a common and unique denominator that transcends so many other differentiable signifiers—color, gender, age, nationality, language, experience, socio-economic status, intellectual acuteness, deaf, dumb, blind, limbless, -ness.  To perceive the heart—to feel it beat, to hear it beat, to have your rhythm literally sync with another by being with another’s— is to perceive without question what Paolo Virno deems a relation between “the highest possible degree of communality or generality and the highest possible degree of singularity.” This is one intent of this public space.

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To Retire Old Ideas: Relevance of Embodied Public Spaces

In a recent post on Washington Post’s Know More blog, they sited a video that edge.com made asking prominent scientists “What scientific ideas should be abandoned?” While the video introduced some intriguing subjects on big data, microbes & the Big Bang, I found it’s underlying point most impactful: abandoning long held beliefs is an important part of progress—it’s just as important in fact as the embrace of the cutting edge. It’s from this place that I write today about public body knowledge, or what we term ‘BODY LITERACY.’

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Embodied public spaces offer direct experiences of: Physiological Safety, Using Body Literacy as a Critical Lens, Live Sound, Living Spaces, Expanding Boundaries, Environmental psychology, Spaces of Belonging, Spaces of Beauty, Spaces of Agency. Each experience prompts us to consider how public spaces and trends effect us physically & physiologically–how they direct our physical habits, choices and attention.This kind of awareness is an important part of body-literacy. Below I postulate on the above list as they pertain to the heartbeat soundscapes.

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Modern public spaces are considered an essential component of sustainable cities, the goals of which focus on uniting a diverse public in social, civic, political, economic and biodiversity activities. “When we think of public space in terms of our embodied presence, 

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