PERFORMANCE ART & SOCIAL COMMENTARY
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.
Body Literacy // Everyone can have the experience of feeling their own and listening to s/o else’s (we all first heard our mother’s while in the womb); we feel our own heartbeats more strongly when we hear someone else’s. When we tune in to our heartbeat, we are directing our mind to the movements of our internal body; doing so repeatedly is a way to learn about our own rhythms and their effects. This is the difference between learning about the heart and body intellectually and directly embodying it. We need both.
Live Sound // We are not using recorded sound. By using a living, physically present, responsive heartbeat, the soundscapes become a foil to our society’s increasing ability to, and penchant for, communicating in ‘disembodied’ ways. It’s a foil because an amplified heartbeat is in fact a ‘dis-embodied’ sound–something very private and meant to be unseen is, for a few moments, placed into an unconfined space.
These soundscapes ADD a living sound to the environment. We like that by simply introducing a sound, rather than taking sounds away or physically altering the space, the ‘mind’ of the space and our relationship with it changes so dramatically.
By making obvious that the heartbeat is both intimately personal and universally shared, the living soundscape gives a direct experience of the universality of humanity and acts a mirror to those experiences that are not in real time.
Living Spaces//Environment What does it really mean to place the sound of heartbeat into public? It gives that space a heartbeat. By bringing a living aspect into public space, we make space for it’s shadow aspect: the lack of living aspects in public spaces and the implications of living in such spaces.
These soundscapes are about relationship. By tuning in internally to our heartbeat, we begin to know ourselves as mini-environments. What is the heartbeats relationship to the lungs? To the breath? What are the relationships between the heartbeat and your muscles? If I can feel my heartbeat in this way, what else can I sense directly? When we continue to think about relationships within our environment, it’s easy to expand that to our outer environment~ me as environment relating to you as environment. Likewise, we can extend this line of thought further to actively engage with the natural environment. Rather than objectifying the environment, we emphasize a living, responsive relationship with our natural environment.
Spaces of Belonging // We’re co-opting our societies defining narcissistic nature, our endless fascination with ourselves & the privatizing nature of how that plays out in public. So much of our public space is taken up by commercial enterprises that create/exploit feelings of lack or need—‘you need to buy or experience X Y Z so you will be prettier/stronger/smarter/more cultured/more like an unreachable and in fact undesirable ideal (if we reach it, we will want for nothing and no longer become an ideal consumer).
We take a radically different approach by saying “You belong,” and here’s a direct experience of y/our profound belonging. What happens when you really feel yourself, your uniqueness and the fact that uniqueness is a common characteristic in every person around you at any given moment? New values are embedded into the public experience when we consider the Heartscapes as spaces of belonging. Which values? Agency, mutuality, generosity, responsibility and a warm reverence for each other and our living environment.
Safety // When people are prompted to become conscious of their internal rhythms (i.e. the heartbeat~a common denominator of humanity) many times a day, in public, our embodied presence in public increases. An increased embodied presence equates with a base neurological undertone that allows us each to feel more safe and thus be more responsive—rather than reactive—to our environment. (See polyvagal theory). This leads to more meaningful public experiences and the ability to play a more active part in the whole.
Expanding Boundaries // When we make something so innately private public, we expand our personal boundaries in a way that makes them less capable of being transgressed. We become bigger. And we do so in a way that actually makes others feel more safe. Our own expansion paradoxically creates more space for others to do the same. When I project my heartbeat, ’I’ have the agency to bring more of myself into public space. ‘I’ become the ‘be-holder,’ as much as the one being ‘be-held.’ And so do you—simply by tuning in to your own heart. Through the universally shared sound of the heartbeat, this ‘I’ and ‘you’ almost instantaneously also becomes a ‘we.’ As such, our sense of autonomy & belonging, of inviting being seen and seeing, and of our own and others agency increases. This basic—though foundational—shift in perspective undermines so many assumptions, rules, terms, ideologies to which we directly or indirectly participate in.
Body Literacy as a Social Lens // Let’s not be too cynical, we are always interacting with ourselves and each other as living beings; as often as Apple or Yoga Journal products suggest otherwise, we are never dis-embodied. Nonetheless, over a very short period of time we as a society have grown our capacity to bypass ourselves by looking to ‘experts’ and using products. Our movements have changed. And perhaps more importantly, the quality of our interactions and our ability to refine our sensitivities are slowly but dramatically being affected by changes that are generally embraced by our culture; this is worthy of our consideration.
Spaces of Beauty // These soundscapes are beautiful. Encountering enchanting and unexpected public spaces is in and of itself valuable and necessary.