group work

Task designed by students from the RCA Social Practice Group, 27/04/2022

Recently I’ve been doing some group performance work around embodiment / play / sound / connection. This has taken place so far in a series of workshops (February-April) at Tuke School, a school for children and young people with SEND, with Everest Class, Year 12, through South London Gallery, and most recently at the RCA for the Social Practice Group run by Hannah Coulson and Sadie Edgington. Sessions will be coming to Turf Projects – Little Turf – in June / July, see here for more information.

The sessions are about creating a brave space focused on: connecting to the body; embodied experimentation and risk-taking; community: a shared, group experience of movement / sound / sensation; embodied choice-making: working out preference / choice-making through our bodies.

In my own experience, materials such as tin cans, metal ducting, foam noodles, metal drums, ping pong balls, scaffolding poles, help me to come out of dissociation and back into the present moment. This is something to do with their sonic sensitivity to touch, to my body. There is also something for me that is connecting about the absurdity of trying to relate to these mostly clunky, industrial materials, and a humorous, gentle acknowledging of how difficult it can be to connect with ourselves and with other people.

I’ve seen in my previous work with vulnerable adults / young people / children, that we all respond differently to materials, depending on our own experience of embodiment. In the sessions we hold space for making choices about which materials suit our own bodies.

The sessions look at how task-based play can facilitate a space of haptic discovery. What sorts of tasks can we develop that suit our own bodies and the material, tasks that can hold space for relationship / discovery / playfulness / risk-taking to emerge? 

These tasks were all devised by RCA students in the Social Practice Group in a session on 27 April.

The above visuals represent a group of people with bodies that are abled, but I have a lot of experience working with people with bodies that are disabled, e.g. in hospitals / in special needs schools / in community spaces etc.

The ideas for the session structures come from my own performance practice; work with people in a variety of settings since 2012 e.g. in hospitals / community spaces / galleries / schools, etc., and also from thinkers / artists who inspire me such as Pauline Oliveros, Joanna Grace, Thich Nhat Hanh, bell hooks, Paolo Freire, Marginal Consort, Tehching Hsieh, Yvonne Rainer, Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Photo credits: Sadie Edgington, Katherine Smith, Hannah Coulson. With huge thanks to McChina (Haydon’s Road) / Domino’s Pizza (Merton Park) / Imm Thai Fusion (Wimbledon Broadway) and Cafe Montego (Church Street, Croydon) for the tin cans.