This was the first in a series of collaborative workshops run by the Oceanallover team, including Alex Rigg himself, for the young Dumfries and Galloway artists of Blueprint100 creative network at the Stove. The series was to culminate in a exhibition and the Blueprint100 members taking part in Rigg’s new piece of imaginative physical theatre Orographic.
The workshop led by poet and creative facilitator Em Strang invited young artists to look into how the spoken or written word responded to landscape. Her interactive style of poetry teaching aimed to gently ease the participants to produce their own written pieces to be later used in an exhibition in the printed material related to the collaboration.
To release the creative juices we were asked to move in random directions, imagine that we climb high mountains, bond as a group by touch one’s elbow to someone’s knee, shout out our own names, chant a tune that reflected one’s impression of the past day, etc. Strangely, the cacophony of sounds turned into a strange humming harmony of sorts by the end of our efforts.
It was a hilarious but rewarding experience resulting in lots of laughs and spontaneous silliness, easing tensions and possible embarrassment of performing in public.
The somatic/sonic workshop activities were beneficial for my photography as well. The shared shenanigans allowed me to develop a rapport with the group enough to get people to relax around me and stop paying attention when I occasionally raised my camera to my eye.
On the other hand, I was resolved to fully participate in the workshop and, rather than being an observer, adopted an almost POV stance, mostly shooting from my chair position with a standard zoom lens.
Em introduced us to a wonderful poem Conversation with a Stone by Wislawa Szymborska. After a group discussion we were asked to chose a stone that appealed most to us from a selection on the table and try to write our own individual authentic piece of written word in response to that stone.
My stone looked a like a little soft grey animal with light smokey spots that folded his limbs and hid his nose. It is strange that I imagined it as soft although, as a stone, it was cold and hard to touch.
I felt privileged to document these young artists in the throws of creativity – everyone was so different in how they handled and treated their stone!
After we shared our poems/prose pieces to the group we were split into pairs to deliver our written work orally, first standing up facing the partner in the exercise and speaking normally.
The next step was to perform the same as if to a piece of furniture while being witnessed by your partner. The subsequent task added a somatic twist to our delivery as we were invited to address our own body part, belly, feet or heart, and try to feel it with this body part.
Finally we had to translate our words into a sound that would convey the overall emotional content, i.e. grief, joy, sadness, etc.
Thus, we had a brief taster into Em Strang’s signature technique of Embodied Poetry which enriched our perception of the written or spoken word by shifting it to a sonic or somatic realm. It was a very appropriate approach referring to the intellectual and philosophical background behind Oceanallover Orographic show.
I had a pleasure of hearing the most delicate and beautifully worded piece by Emily Tough produced by her on the spot (!) and was really impressed by the welcoming openness, spontaneity and creativity of the Blueprint100 group as a whole.