Collaboratory #2: Social Practice – a mini-symposium with Spatula&Barcode and Sarah Bennett exploring relational and aesthetic processes of cooking, eating, conversing, and moving – was an enlivening and resonant experience. Thirty people attended throughout the day, spanning disciplines from English, Art, Theatre, and Art History to Spanish & Portuguese, Design Studies, Geography, and Public Affairs, as well as local artists and community members. Each workshop explored social practice with a dynamic integration of theory and practice!
For their workshop “Cooking with…Spatula&Barcode,” Spatula&Barcode (the collaborative identity of Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson) invited workshop participants into their home to experience food, hospitality, and conversation. Each participant was asked to bring a question for discussion related to food, art, scholarship, and the everyday, as well as a knife and cutting board. When we arrived at their home, we were welcomed with warmth and Spatula&Barcode aprons. Next we were seated at the dining table, which had place settings with gorgeously arranged vegetables – cauliflower, kohlrabi, mushrooms, green beans, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, eggplant, and more! Laurie Beth and Michael immediately served us delicious hot pork buns and yummy homemade warm soy milk, as well as herbal teas and juices. Next, dumplings and pot stickers. We were asked to write our question on a piece of paper, and to begin chopping our vegetables. Then a deliciously rapid-fire succession of moments ensued – slicing, chopping, eating, speaking, listening, thinking, and being together. Laurie Beth and Michael had devised a recipe that required the vegetables to be cooked in a particular order, and each participant’s choice of vegetable place setting determined her or his order in the sequence. The participant with the first-to-be-cooked vegetable read her question aloud, and everyone discussed as the vegetable went into the pot. After the vegetable had cooked for a bit, the timer rang and the passing of the sauce ritual began (with an equal number of sauces to participants, we passed our sauce to the right every time a new vegetable and question began). For two and a half hours we were nourished and delighted with endless scrumptious dumplings, a revolving panoply of savory, sweet, and spicy sauces, and continuously appearing vegetable dishes in their newly cooked state. It was a veritable feast, and Spatula&Barcode’s generosity was really incredible. Meanwhile participants’ questions – from “What’s your gastro-ethnicity?” to “Is ingesting and digesting an act of scholarship?” to “Tell me about the last meal you ate. What was it, who was it with, and where were you or what was the situation?” – sparked discussion and debate, as the theorist-practitioners sitting around the table shared conceptual insights and affective narratives. A main course of seafood soup was served, and then a moment of pure aesthetic magic: Laurie Beth and Michael invited us to eat the pieces of paper we’d written our questions upon. They revealed that the paper was made of rice and the marker’s ink was also edible. WIth total delight we consumed our language, a perfect materialization of theory and embodiment as words became material objects to ingest – a surreal moment of eating language in the midst of a very real, social practice of cooking and discoursing and relating together over a delicious, aesthetic, resonant meal cooked with Spatula&Barcode.
Sarah Bennett’s workshop, “I’ll follow your lead: experiencing and mapping our movement relationships,” operated at the intersection of performance, cartography, space, kinaesthetics, and relationality. Dynamically activating the geography of social and gestural relationships, the workshop invited participants to attend to their own relational movements in everyday life. First Sarah introduced the framework of Laban’s Effort Qualities : direct and indirect space, sudden and sustained time, strong and light weight, and bound and free flow. Next she asked participants to mime common kitchen movements with a partner and estimate how these qualities were operating. We had fun exploring embodied memory in our reenactment of unconsciously performed everyday tasks. Then, stations in the room were activated for participants to move between them, performing actions such as mirroring (to explore offering and receiving), shadowing (to explore attunement, allowing, and looking ahead in time together), and tug of war (to explore balance and power relations). Sarah even brought a gyroscope – a super cool momentum activation and measurement tool – made of a bike wheel! Participants really enjoyed having the space to play, experimenting with different ways of moving and being with each other. The space was lively and activated with diverse movements – bold, tentative, fast, slow, circular, angular, fluid, controlled, resistant, synchronized. Following a deliciously lengthy exploratory period of performance, movement, and serious play, Sarah asked participants to discuss their experiences: what they saw and what they felt and how the dynamic between the two partners developed throughout the series of actions. We discussed the qualities, skills, and experiments of relational movement: attunement, following, resisting, allowing, surprising, flowing with, predicting, balance, power/empowerment, preparing, finishing, signaling. We discussed action-reaction, synchrony, and effort flexibility, and the ways in which we might visualize and map power relations that are activated through movement in space. Finally, Sarah showed examples of static cartography and symbolization methods of mapping animal migration, dance, and other types of embodied movements, and asked us to draw maps of the movements we had performed – visual traces of our relational movements in space.
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