Collaborative Sound, Draw & Pose

 

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by Irene Lafferty
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by Kathy Dutton

A fusion of art forms, experimental creativity, and a healing space.

Meditation circle to begin; focus and calm.

Slowly moving as a group, in a circle

Like flowers growing towards the sun.

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by Kathy Dutton
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by Steve Carey
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by Philip Copestake
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by Irene Lafferty
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by Irene Lafferty
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by Kathy Dutton

A pregnant woman and a midwife pose together.

A large paper everyone draws on

Outlines of women on top of each other, coloured in.

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by Kathy Dutton
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by Kathy Dutton
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Women’s collaborative drawing led by Kathy Dutton
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Men and women collaborative drawing led by Kathy Dutton

Playing instruments we didn’t know the names of

Spread out on a picnic rug to sample.

A group symphony of sound, and a tableau of nudity.

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by Philip Copestake
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Women making soundscape

Here is the women’s collaborative soundscape, led by Sarah Kent.

 

Some feedback from the women’s session

“I can see retrospectively that my belief and trust in myself got totally wrapped up into the dynamic of my relationship with my ex. And I had lost my faith in myself. I didn’t think my body was mine anymore. When shit hit the fan it was my body that I blamed and victimised. When I gave myself permission to process what had happened, I had the revelation that I don’t exist to please anyone else. When I posed for Spirited Bodies I felt liberated. To be naked, without sexual purpose, was the ultimate declaration of self. This is ME. This body is mine.” Ellie.

“I really enjoyed the day, key thoughts:
– very alternative
– open and welcoming
– a bit experimental which is probably not for everyone e.g. Joint drawing was a bit 1960s art ‘happening’.
– the music and movement component was interesting and Challenging to draw.
– I enjoyed the modelling experience and felt very comfortable. I guess I also realised how comfortable and at home i felt in my body and pregnant. it felt therapeutic in some ways.” Philippa.

Here is the mixed collaborative soundscape, again led by Sarah Kent.

Kathy Dutton writes of the day

“#drawing #live capturing the essence of continuous movement #observing each second and putting it onto paper #softly drifting into sound and seeing only. #spiritedbodies

1 minute #drawing capturing the #curve of the body and a #moments #movement #spiritedbodies

During the event ….I felt our minds connected in a way that made it easy to work in silence…with only the sound and our intention. The circle at the start and the spiral within the meditation rippled into our consciousness subtle yet present… it surprised me how a few people drew the spiral we connected with in the visualisation
The soundscapes reached into us and made us melt into energy… connected by the sound into each moment, and the intense heat of that day.”
And here is Steve Ritter’s blog post about the mixed session (for a more accurate description of what happened!)

Life modelling workshop at Islington Arts Factory

I had an opportunity to cover for an existing life drawing group, as coordinator, and jumped at the chance. This was the RAM (Register of Artists’ Models) audition session on Wednesday 13th January, at Islington Arts Factory. I knew this could be a chance to bring in a bit of Spirited Bodies, as new life models were auditioning, and I used to facilitate this at my own workshops in the past. Where I used to have about 8 models present however (not all auditioning for RAM mind, perhaps just one or two), this was going to be a smaller session. This was on account of the size of the space, and because it was my first time there, I wanted to see how the regular artists responded.

Rachel Welch who usually runs the session, arranged for two audition models to be present, and I invited someone who had recently contacted me about trying modelling. All three models were to pose for the first time, and we had two men and one woman. I decided to follow Rachel’s suggested pose time schedule, as it is fairly standard and would maintain continuity for the long standing artist group. I came up with some themes for the poses, and other than that did not have to prepare very much, as everything I needed was at the venue. The space turned out to be bigger than I had imagined, well heated (for a very cold January evening), and with plenty of cushions as well as art materials. There were ten artists – a friendly group who helped me by letting me know where things were and what they are used to. I recognised a few of them from when I have been modelling elsewhere, and at least one had been to Spirited Bodies.

For the first 3 five minute poses, I asked the models to take turns at each creating an expansive, a compact and a connecting pose. The idea was that the model who was connecting, was energetically bringing cohesion to the three, joining the otherwise opposite stances. The models shared a platform, with a small mattress on one side, and some cushions available. I instructed them to pose in different parts of the space and face in alternate directions, whilst maintaining an outside eye myself to check each overall tableau from all sides, as they were in the round.

There followed two ten minute poses; the first I suggested to represent some sort of dance, as these shorter poses are more ideal for standing and being a bit dynamic. The second saw them as if casting a spell together, focused on a scarf which they each held snaking between them. I encouraged them to experiment with levels – whether standing, sitting, crouching or reclining, and to find expressive shapes with their bodies. This sometimes inevitably found them pushing themselves perhaps unexpectedly, a little over-ambitiously. I tried to talk them through their agony, which was evident from the outside – shaking was visible. I have been there all too often, still find myself in such predicaments after many years experience. Each day and every pose is new, and particularly a new space or group, can catch us off-guard. I may feel more energetic than my body is in fact capable of. I know it doesn’t matter though, that rediscovering comfort is important, so I remind the novices of this. “There is a fine line between challenging yourself and torturing yourself; try not to cross that line too much!” I warn.

 

The next 15 minutes becomes an awkward silence – I ask them to pose as if there is an elephant in the room. This is about energetic and atmospheric connection. A pose may be simple, yet convey a great deal of drama.

 

For the final 15 minutes before the break, I ask the models to regard the artists with suspicion; it’s all about the tension, the sternness. They are excelling themselves, and I can really see how one model especially is getting into his flow. It looks potentially painful the way he is leaning on an elbow, with the rest of his body contorted in interesting diagonals, so I advise him to focus on a single point ahead of him. Before this, he had a tendency to move his head around a bit more than is ideal. Focussing the eyes will hopefully aid finding a meditative zone, or moving beyond the pain barrier. It is a mental exercise and not for all, but worth trying, especially if you do want to be a life model.

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To another model, again I try to encourage when I witness pain on his face. “With a pose as interesting as that, you don’t know which bit of you is going to feel the agony first, you just can’t predict it. But the angles are brilliant. Feel free to drop your extended arm if it is too painful.”

And warning against another danger, “Some numbness is better than others! Some is outright painful, while others you don’t notice until you stand or try to, afterwards, and then collapse without enough blood to support you!”

I keep my comments to a minimum, being mindful of the artists’ concentration, whilst trying to sense what will be helpful for models, and artists to hear. I decide not to give a theme for the longer poses after the break, as I think it’s important that the models find their own pose for their bodies, without trying to focus on too much else. For 20 minutes, one is standing, which I remind them can be easier than other postures which make it harder to stretch for body parts being stacked upon and across each other. Another is lying belly down, and one sitting, with considerable poise I would add.

“In longer poses we sometimes find a way to secretly move, without the artists noticing. Subtley shifting where our weight is, so that we can have a little break internally, and the artists may carry on drawing,” I mention during a sustained pose. Finally, there is half an hour left for a last pose. Two models want to stand, and at first the other does too, as he pushed it in a seated pose just before. He then settles, sitting on the corner of the dais upright, alert. I give him a cushion for his bum, having described to them just earlier the varied etiquette around sheets and bodily fluids. It’s a matter of personal choice, often left to the model. As ever in the moment, we models often go with the flow. If we weren’t so relaxed, we probably wouldn’t be doing this.

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I feel less pressure than when I ran workshops regularly a few years ago, as there’s enough artists here, and they are not expecting to model. It’s the right balance with the necessary reverence towards those posing. Also, I have discovered that with just three student models, I feel I am giving enough attention to each. At the end we give a round of applause to our models, and I ask that we may look at the artwork, which is the first time that these models have seen such. It turns out that at least one of the artists is very shy about showing this, and I think it reminds the models that everyone is nervous about different things.

I really enjoyed this evening; it was a genuine pleasure to welcome new models into the life drawing arena. I had taken the unusual step of inviting a new male model, who wasn’t a RAM auditioner. He had contacted me and been informed that I had lost faith in accepting new men to Spirited Bodies. Well I had, for a while. But something told me that with such a small group, and not having to be concerned with finding the artists (which may consume attention), I would be safe (we all would). Plus an instinct about his messages put me at ease. What a relief and even a breakthrough! I had taken care, been watchful, and I will continue with that, in I hope the appropriate measure for each new instance. (Re)building a supportive foundation for Spirited Bodies – women, men, or humans beyond gender.

Tampering with Nature, & the Making of Ritual

I knew that Leytonstone wasn’t so much about the people I don’t know. My focus is definitely concentrated on the artistic and therapeutic direction, while my marketting skills are falling behind. On that front I really miss Lucy, but I wish her all the ground-breaking success she deserves in overcoming the skeptics and the nay-sayers on her quest to become a teacher – with a life modelling past. I mean it’s not like she can erase her name from press quotes relating to Spirited Bodies, so better to be upfront. I have a lot of faith in her. She is a great teacher and showed me much on the path to growing this project. The English education system is missing out enormously if it discriminates against those who have been or are life models. If it won’t accept her on those grounds, it is because it is not worthy of or ready for her. A pox on those naked fearing bureaucrats. If they knew Lucy they’d rewrite that protocol. It is time that any anti-naked religion took a hike. Early Christians knew that nudity meant being closer to God, free of society’s masks. This lingering, prevailing Victorian attitude needs to be dropped in a country, well a city at any rate that is more multi-cultural and integrated perhaps than any other on the planet. Let’s adopt some more timeless values. We are human animals for Goodness sake! Living in fear of man’s savage behaviour denies our higher feminine principles.

Back to Thursday evening. It was largely about my friends. I have the privilege of interviewing them, after all some have taken part in numerous Spirited Bodies events, and being friends I might catch them at more opportune moments. Other participants I didn’t know so well before, but now I do. Maybe we are friends now after sharing so much, but regardless I am grateful for the personal intimacy shared and aired. This ritual is growing as I learn incrementally how to work it.

These people have landed in all kinds of uncommonly normal circumstances. Overdue on their credit card payment, reacting unfavorably to high blood pressure medication, stuck in a job with the NHS administration that gives just 30 minutes for a lunch break, unable to chew their food properly, broken stomach, sexually abusive family, didn’t face their biggest fears till their 40s/50s/60s, tall but can’t walk without a stoop, have always had just enough so never been pushed to challenge themselves more, know there is something massively missing in their lives but no clue how to remedy.

If you are stuck in a rut, there seems no way out, just a long waiting game. A series of expected hospital appointments, courses of medication, rounds of relatives paying their respects. A gradually diminishing diet, bank account, and circle of friends. A partner oscillating between losing interest and reaffirming her raison d’etre. Just a few things are constant, you really get to know what they are. Maybe there is never really a partner, just a Mother, reluctant, unavailable and always in absentia. She can’t moan about you because she can’t even remember your name.

But if you have a chance you may describe the rut, listen to your voice, and watch others listen as they try to draw you. Do they get it? Do you gain something by hearing your voice amplified in a hall with others listening? Does it make the words sound more real, or like you are watching it on Jeremy Kyle? You hear the silence, sometimes a laugh when your audible sincerity hits a mark of recognition. Perhaps you sound daft, insecure or indulgent; but if you didn’t you wouldn’t sound like anything at all, and from awkwardness, at least you emerge with a voice.

There is responsibility; are these people vulnerable? Being exploited by me for dramatic material? One model reveals an undiagnosed personality disorder on tape. He has a nervous stutter, and describes a most unfortunate, horrific life, but is in the later portion of it. He is candid and unbothered by the consequences of openness – what does he have to lose? Not a lot I think. And he may gain more people understanding his shy, reserved character. Not just looking past him, perhaps imagining him as a creep – so quiet and nude, more than a little awkward. His voice has been heard, not overly edited to be politically correct. It is borderline but perhaps we need that, and to hear about mental health as it really is instead of carefully packaged to avoid lawsuits.

He stands alone, but he is supported by the others who are more comfy characters on their respective journeys. They are either artist or model, gaining experience or utterly professional as Ursula is. We hear their insights – on colleagues discovering their life modelling life, on the horrifying prospect of trying life modelling themselves, on the idea that men cannot help but look at women as objects; we hear advice from one who has overcome her fears to become a respected professional life model involved in theatrical events.

At some point I long to return to having a big event of the scale we have had with London Drawing in the past. I just need to be utterly sure of how that could manifest. Now that I have rebuilt the event with a therapeutic model, combining that with a stronger view of artists’ interests may come next. My shaman friend who attended on Thursday was inspired to write as well as draw during the session. She started describing to me a vision of how this could grow into a big healing and art event, with different types of artists, poets and alternative therapists joining in. That is a very beautiful idea.

Something else which enhanced our Leytonstone gig, was a playlist of music tracks to accompany each interview. After all, the zone of life drawing is a meditation, and too many words could get in the way of that.

Some pictures from the event; poses were between 1 and 20 minutes long

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Many thanks to all who made this event possible. The other thing I realised about how to run Spirited Bodies is, no one should make a profit from it, it is a labour of love. All proceeds are going to an orphanage in South India called Goodwill Homes (it turned out not to be the right time for the charity in Guatemala we originally had in mind). This is because the models are posing for free, and this needs to be for a higher purpose. I gain plenty in other ways from making it happen.

Welcome to the Nude Revolution: A Model’s Words

1. Have you done any life or other nude modelling before?

I have done modelling only once, this was just on Wednesday this week.  It was the first time ever.  I was by myself, there were four artists drawing.  I was very nervous.  I am not a natural in the nude, it is something very strange for me probably because of my upbringing and because of my height.

I feel a strong need to come to terms with my own body, and especially how it is (or how I am) perceived by others.  This is why I want to model – not for money, but for my own health, mental balance, to discover another way of simply being there in the present, and also to contribute to an artistic way of empowering models, artists and creative spirits alike.

2. Why do you want to participate in Spirited Bodies?

I want to participate in Spirited Bodies for at least four reasons:

First, I find the notion of empowerment through life drawing and art very good. I have worked as a mentor for younger adults, as well as a teacher and professor for some years now, and often I come across situations where disharmony and dis-empowering situations can be rectified by sharing appreciation of art.

Second, I have past fears and deep embarrassments about nudity that I need to address in my own growth (and ageing), and I believe that this is part of personal empowerment as much as it is a liberation from past bad experiences and memories.  While I have never been seriously abused as a child or young adult, I have been in very difficult situations where only later I understood the implications and hidden intentions of others.

Third, I also love to draw things and landscapes, but because of the strong and deep inhibitions about the naked body, I have never been able to draw a human being.  I am now determined not only to learn drawing human bodies, but also to learn being the model for other artists, because being the artist oneself and being the model can be one and the same for a wholistic approach to art, to healing and to empowerment.

Finally, to remain healthy is not merely a question of nutritious food and exercise.  While I now go to a gym several times a week and eat mostly healthy things, health is perhaps foremost a mental issue.  To reconcile with how others see my body and how therefore I see myself amongst others is vital for me to accept the body I have and the only body I will remain in and grow old in.  Health for me, therefore, is something intimately linked to perception, acceptance and satisfaction about our own bodies – regardless of how they compare to the “ideals of beauty” often represented in classical art and modern commerce.

3. Do you have experience as a performer or artist?

No formal experience except from high school theatre.  However, I do have professional experience in public speaking. This is not art, but it is experience of “being in front of a crowd”.  I have also sung in various choirs (classical music) and again, I have had to confront inner discomfort about my body and how I am perceived by the audience.

4. Do you have experience in martial arts or sport/fitness?

No, I only began going to a fitness centre in February in order to work on changing my perception of myself and my body – an element in my attempt to come to terms with the body I have and to finally feel good in it.

5. Do you have experience in meditation?

Yes, I have done a bit of both Zen and RSSB-Sant-Mat mediation.  I also do a bit of yoga when I have time, as well as after the fitness training at the gym.  I have a flexible body, I think, and fortunately do not have any physical ailments.  Besides, as concerns meditation, a wonderful discovery for me last Wednesday was that strong concentration is useful when modelling, and this seemed a welcome inner challenge that I believe I need to explore much more.

6. What is the longest length of time you think you can hold still for?

This all depends on the posture, I think.  If the posture allows for very slow and very minute shifts of body weight to allow different parts of the body to rest while others work harder (without this being visible to the artists), then I hope I can perhaps remain still for an hour or so.

7. Do you mind touching another model whilst posing e.g. holding hands?

I would be nervous, but actually I really want to try and feel.  I would appreciate it very much – human touch is so precious and we have far too little of it, perhaps especially amongst men in Western countries.  Touching another model might be risky, but I am confident that it is also infinitely satisfying if all individuals are relaxed about how the different bodies react.

8. Do you mind or want to be photographed whilst posing, and if so to what degree i.e. identifiable or not?

I am not sure.  From a health-therapeutic perspective for me, yes, identifiable photos are welcome.  However, so long as these pictures are not published on the internet for everyone to see.  This is because from a social perspective for me, as I am also a teacher, many students browse the internet, and being easily recognised may be a risk.  My face could be hidden, for example, if a photograph were to be on the internet.

9. How old are you?

50 years.

10. How would you describe yourself physically?

Very tall, a bit overweight around the waist, in need of long-term fitness training (which I now started to work on).

Thank you for these questions that pushed me to express things I have never expressed before and to think and reflect about them.

Olivier.

Guestblog: ‘When Atlas Dropped the World’ by Lucy Saunders

It was just another day, nothing special, Atlas said.  After all these years, I’d got the job sussed – I could do it with my eyes closed, and frequently did.  It’s a matter of resting individual muscles, one after another, without losing position – if you look, you won’t see me do it, relaxing and then tensing.  The trick is to get all round the body, be fair, don’t miss one muscle group out, even ones that don’t seem obvious.  Just because a muscle isn’t telling you its in pain doesn’t mean it is capable of staying in the same place all the time.  Muscles are designed to be various, to change their state from extended to relaxed.  So I have to do that within a pose that requires my stillness.  Of course I do move a bit, but very slowly, you’d probably never notice.  Its not like I do big stuff – I never change the side my head is under the world, for instance.

The original pose was something that came naturally to me, I do wish now that I hadn’t left the toes on the foot on the extended leg touching the floor – because that’s where the vulnerabilities come in, where you stop the blood in its journey and create pain.  Its any point that bears weight eventually.  Even if you were standing straight up on the ground, normally, not carrying anything, eventually your feet would talk with pain until you moved.  We are naturally moving creatures – and the situation I was in was an unmoving one, for all time.

Meditation helps.  You send your mind elsewhere, detach yourself from your thoughts, feel the universe within, the inner darkness like the space between stars.  Time doesn’t have much of a meaning in a situation like that.  Walter Benjamin was right, boring tasks free the imagination.  I would divide time up, have times when I thought furiously about concrete things, like maths, statistics, science, even who said what to whom back in the day, and other times when I would shut down thinking, reaching for just existing, which was a hugely challenging skill, because once you’ve realised that you’ve achieved it, you are just existing, then you’re back thinking again aren’t you, its like some tricky fairground game.  Giants, like humans, need input – if it doesn’t exist, your mind creates it.  there’s me, kneeling in the eternal void, forever, carrying the world on my shoulders, and all I’ve got between me and madness is my brain.  Its an entertaining thing, a functioning brain.  This was in the days before headphones or iPods or audio books.  I rather envy anyone who gets in the same position now, they’d have all that entertainment on tap.

You ask the big questions, in such a situation.  Forget about the obvious, like why you are here – is it worth wondering about?  No, I thought more about what was specifically giant, human or god, what was the stuff of life.  What was death like.  As an immortal, I am never going to know, it’s a mystery, something that living things do so easily, they just stop breathing, they just stop the chemical factory going – well, the chemical factory keeps going, it breaks down the body into its atoms eventually – but that little strand of electricity, that spark, has gone.

Anyway, it was a day like any other, no better, no worse, and from deep down a yawn emerged – I tried to control it, I held my jaw together, but it was topped by a sneeze so I lost it, and once I’d started losing it, I lost it more and more and more.  It didn’t take much to knock the world off its place on my shoulders, it rolled away like a drunken marble, I just had time for a quick stretch and rubbed my eyes, then I was after it, like a dog after a rabbit.  It was damaged, once I’d caught it, of course it was, but its an enigmatic little thing, it is full of ingeniousness.  Once I’d parked it up again, a bit twisted round so Africa wasn’t in the same place anymore – well, once we’d got that far, a change of view for me seemed reasonable – I could get to thinking about how it would all turn out.  Just a few millennia and life will be buzzing around the planet.  I wonder what they’ll call this moment.  The Precambrian happening p’raps.