Constructing Resilience with Ehud Darash

From the 17th of November until the 2nd of december 2011 I joined the workshop ‚Constructing Resilience‘ facilitated by Israeli performance artist Ehud Darash.

Ehud had come to teach this workshop after placing an action in the Arab spring in Israel where he and a group of collaborators had put a movement practice of falling into the context of various political demonstrations. And after this he had gone to New York and investigate the ‚Occupy Movement‘ and taken their group discussion rules with him that established an order of how to reach a consensus decision within a group. So he brought his practice of ‚falling‘ as an example of a movement practice that challenges the identity of the context it is brought into, that creates an otherness – as Ehud called it – and he defined the goal of the workshop to be a group process towards a consensus agreement on a physical practice to be placed in a public space.

Accordingly, in the first workshop week we did somatic movement work that helped to identify movement patterns present in the group and practiced deviating from these patterns. So, we dealt with approaches to establish a physical democracy in movement exploration, for instance. We laid down and practiced the rules for our discussion/ consensus agreement processes and discussed terminology from which I derived part of my understanding of the term ‘political’.

Constructing Resilience with Ehud Darash
© Darash 2011. Constructing Resilience

However, I questioned whether the political necessarily has to be something dissentually motivated, because I had these experiences with artworks that, from my point of view, stay with portraying what they criticise and do not facilitate a process of transformation like Joseph Beuys suggest in his art theory. Therefore, I added to Ehud‘s concept of deviating/creating an otherness, the ones of confirming present patterns and of implementing an action that projects a wish for the current context.

The second workshop week was then dedicated to develop a relevant action with the discussion tools and mutual knowledge built up in the first week. And here I picked up a resilience in the group to deal with content or themes as the group was asked by Ehud to bring personal items and positions towards social or political topics they were concerned with at the time and the majority did not follow this request.

There was an openness within the group to bring something different to a public space, but people held reservations against taking a thematic position or making clear proposals as to where and why people would want to place what physical practice. I suppose that one of the reasons for this resilience was that Ehud brought in his concept of deviation as a strong example that did not require to define a content or topic and leaves a high degree of freedom for interpretation to performers and spectators.

Constructing Resilience with Ehud Darash

© Darash 2011. Constructing Resilience

There was space in the second workshop week for some people to bring in tasks or personal material to share and work on that we thought could be relevant to the group. On this notion I decided to bring in my blog article ‘Dance communities’ about my first impressions at the HZT as working material and a score facilitating a process for the group of defining my position in language, taking an individual position towards it and then visualizing the formulated position by drawing, thereby taking a transformative step from language to drawing. You can see the minute drawings produced in small work groups in the gallery above, somehow as a response to my drawing of a half circle and as complementing positions towards the HZT.

I chose the medium of drawing, because I felt it would be the least intrusive and most expressive way to get a picture of the group’s position that they would also allow me to document and present on this blog and also because my intuition had already suggested drawing when I wrote the article.

The group found my style of writing affirmative and Ehud considered the task relevant to our process. I, for my part, was grateful for the chance to work on transforming positions and intrigued that the working groups were not interested in sharing their positions in the plenum. However, as our workshop was built on group consensus I accepted their attitude and also felt that I did not need a transformation back into language what their positions had been.

Transformative Drawing by Small Working Group I

© Gebken 2011. Drawing Out Politics

The final group consensus we came to in the middle of the third workshop week was to perform a group score which rules drew from the habits of a swarm of birds. Each person made their movement decisions in relation to other members of the swarm, passers-by and the distance and tempo perceived in their field of vision or radius and connected their changes of focus to these decisions. And although the workshop group never defined it I perceived the otherness we created in the awareness we established for each other, the other people in the space and the space itself.

The action was to be placed on Alexanderplatz on the first day of action and to be moved along the Reichstag on the second day of action which was also the last day of the workshop. Unfortunately, it was raining and we had to move to the Arkaden on Potsdamer Platz. So both times the environment was in tendency one connected to consume with a broad variety of passers-by, some at leisure, some with a task or a destination. And I found this a shame since I thought there would have been a stronger tension between the swarm and the context of a building with a named political function.

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In the concluding feedback round we shared what we overheard and perceived from the reaction of spectators, such as puzzlement, fear, amusement, anger, interpretation etc. and there was video, picture and drawing documentation produced. However, I found the evaluation within the workshop incomplete since the questions of why we did what we did? And why did we do it where we did it? were raised by individuals repeatedly throughout the process, but somehow the group did not give this discussion space or the majority and the facilitator saw did not feel the need to discuss a rationale.

Although more condensing my questions and enquiry rather than producing answers, taking part in ‘Constructing Resilience’ felt fruitful and rich. For future art work this workshop experience confirmed with me the necessity to communicate with potential collaborators about their artistic intention to make sure we can complement each other and share an openness towards playing positions – also thematically – as this is what I am looking for.

© Malin Gebken
Please also take note of:
My score to facilitate positioning and transforming
The score of the physical practice performed by the ‘Constructing Resilience’ workshop group


About gesellschaftstanz

Dancer, herbalist and banker by training and a curious, creative and political human being.
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