Welcome to Clover Trail!

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Hello!

You’ve just stumbled across a trail on which you can encounter the unexpected… A trail that lets you meander through fields and forests, past still lakes for reflection, and plenty of juicy droplets of inspiration… Take a moment to pause and breathe and come back to your centre…. (yes, right now!).

In this blog I share things that help me return and reconnect with meaning, so you’ll find a wide variety of tastes and textures, including (of course!) dance and other arts, research, play, nature, silence, spirituality, liminality, stories, symbols and the imagination, dreaming, literature…. Weaving the poetic and the academic with the sensuous multi-layeredness of our embodied nature, entries will search original openings towards more intimate participation in the mystery of the (extra)ordinary everyday.

Please treat this blog like a ‘living thing’,* as ‘partner’ with whom you are exploring a topic in co-creation. Engage with the text and images, not just from your mind, but also from your body, your heart, your intuition, and your soul. What responses do you notice? What fills you with longing? What challenges you? What voices call you? What supports you in times of darkness and despair? What makes your heart sing? Hopefully, in time, this then will become an interactive clearing for artful, poetic expression of experiences that move the deep currents within us and inform a rich and meaningful ‘interbeing’, so please feel free to share and play, and join me in this experiment of being a human being, rather than a human thinking!

This Blog Site is linked to my website: http://www.clover-trail.com where you can read all about Clover Trail activities, and where you can sign up for my newsletter as well. I hope to see you there!

For all our relations,

Eline

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*) Ensler, E. (2010). I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. New York, Villard.

Photo: Forest © Christoph Frei, 2012

BPS – Body Positioning System

Collage Web of Life

During a retreat with Sandra Reeve at Coventry University (March 2016), I explored concepts of orientation, location, and direction. I realised that moving for me is an act of locating myself in various conditions and unfolding layers, like a Body Positioning System (BPS). Where am I, in relation to this, and this, and this (inside-outside; concrete-abstract; seen-unseen, past-present-future). My body positions itself, or rather, through my body moving I become aware of my position ‘in relation to’ x,y,z; a position which is explored through concrete exercises, haphazard thoughts, and spontaneous encounters, as well as through metaphors and imagery.

Where GPS only needs to know where you are (present), and where you are going (future),* the BPS also acknowledges where you came from (history, past). It even affords time travel: My hand moves centuries / Layers fall away to that time when / this was a brand new building / proud and whole and solid / then disappeared, covered / and uncovered, brought to light again / when the bombs fell.

The retreat included led and unled movement, alone and with others, in the studio, in a park, a city square, on the pavement, in an age-old ruin. Some of Reeve’s invitations included to move with an awareness of angle/line/point, transition/position, proportion. Also, her concept of ‘affordance’ was useful to shift focus: what unique experience do spaces ‘afford’ you, give you? This cultivates a receptivity rather than a doing, as well as a dynamic understanding that the view from where you happen to be looking/feeling/experiencing is truly unique – no phenomenon looks the same from a different height, angle, or from a different pair of eyes. Aside from presence, we also looked at absence, seeing what is not here, who is not here, and what aspects of ourselves are not present in this moment?

I marvelled at the complexity of different dynamics within the urban environment, as well as slowing down to find space within the noisy busy-ness. People rushed past with coffee or lunch bags. Times of relative stillness followed by herds of students between one class and the next. Architecture, vehicles, birds, building activities, trucks collecting waste, all these different ‘dimensions’  shape the eb and flow of the cityscape. It opened my awareness to our interconnection in a very visceral way. Towards the end of the week I felt myself working with layers. Layers of materials, structures, time, sound and the spaces between sounds, activities and quietude, people, animals and spirit.

The moving body becomes an antenna, a permeating membrane, connecting, layering everything, all of us and all of time, in a seamless multi-dimensional whole. Perhaps the BPS is ‘only’ the first step, as we are so much more than body, and we could rather speak of movement as a Timeless Multidimensional Positioning System, an exploration of boundaries and meeting, here, there, where?  It is an ongoing becoming, a becoming familiar with the territoire of being human, spirit in body, in space, now, eternal.

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*) a thought-seed from Ya’Acov Darling Khan

KIEFT, E. 2014. Dance as a moving spirituality: A case study of Movement Medicine. Dance, Movement & Spiritualities, 1, 21-41.

Photo Collage: Web of Life, © Eline Kieft, 2009

Collage as Research?

IMAG0079I love making collages, usually exploring a specific topic that knocks at my door. This can for example be something I want to learn more about, something I’m struggling with, or something I like to celebrate or express gratitude for.

I never thought of my collage practice as a process of creating knowledge, or as research method, until I began exploring an exciting field of (relatively) new methodologies, called ‘a/r/tography’. This hybrid, practice-based enquiry transcends the lines between Artist, Researcher, Teacher (A/R/T) – Peter Gouzouasis (2013) even removed the slashes to underline the holistic integration of these various roles. Coming across a paper called ‘Collage as Analysis’ (HOLBROOK & POURCHIER 2014) spurred me to reflect on my own collage activities, and the (blurry?) boundaries between knowledge, inquiry and research.

Usually I start with lighting a candle and asking for support and inspiration to work with the topic. I then browse through a bag of pictures that I have accumulated over the years, taken from magazines (National Geographic and Happinez are favourites!), cards, newspaper clippings, and prints of my own photographs. They cover themes like nature, people, symbols, the four elements, and animals. I select images that resonate with the topic I’m exploring, and once I’ve gone through the whole bag, I spread them out, and let them speak to me. Do I sense a balance or a lack in some way? Is there a dominant colour? How are the illustrations relating to each other? What message am I picking up? Is something missing? The process takes many hours spread over weeks, sometimes months.

The one you see here, I made a few years ago. It is called HOME. I was reflective of having moved so many times in my life. Of what home is, and belonging. Of what characteristics make a home for me. I needed to find out how I could continue to cope with my nomadic life style, and how to deal with yet another upcoming move, despite my deep, deep yearning to root somewhere.

The collage evolves around the space in which Seagull flies free, which simultaneously reflects the egg she came from. She once told me to find an environment that fits my soul and to honour my needs in order to survive – just as she needs cliffs and air, Mouse needs a little earthy hole and Elephant a big wide steppe. On the sides I explore elements that make a home a home for me; a place to read, write, be with spirit; a space full of beauty, and silence; a place to reflect, dream, and dance; a place of earth, and stone and nature; a place of patterns, and art, and warmth and light.

Making a collage supports me as a way of learning, increasing understanding, and deepening insight. The process is healing in itself, a coming to terms with and integrating oddities and paradoxes, an increased peace. Also, the finished piece, which I aim to be aesthetically pleasing but most of all emotionally true, becomes a power object, a reminder of my search, a solace and encouragement in times of difficulty. In this case it became an anchor through the turbulence of moving and life unfolding in different places. Through the integrity of my engagement with it and its inherent power, it may have another uncanny effect. In the last three years, where I moved from Scheveningen, to Torquay, to Yelverton, to Coventry, each time just a few weeks before I was aware of the move, something would happen to the collage. It would fall off the wall, Seagull would fall off, or the glass would break (seriously!). Was that spirit knocking at my door, signalling a time of change? Twice it happened before I got a new job; once before my house was sold. For me this strengthens and deepens my connection to other dimensions of our everyday reality.

Although I do appreciate and consider the inclusion of ‘other ways of knowing’ through nature, the arts, movement, meditation or silence as absolutely crucial to academic research endeavours, it leads to a host of interesting questions, such as what is knowledge? How is knowledge created? Are there different types of knowledge? Are there types of knowledge that are relevant only to individuals? When and why do they become relevant to smaller or larger groups of people?

We use the word ‘research’ a lot in our daily life – for systematically, methodically comparing holiday deals, best prices for our favourite foods, train times, etc., as well as for varying degrees of self-reflection and inquiry, but that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting, useful, valid, applicable for others.

Reading Holbrook & Pourchier, while appreciating their effort of including the reflective arts, I cannot help but think: ‘so what? How is this relevant to me?’ And I fail to come up with any convincing answers – apart from a welcome nudge to look at my own collage practice (of which you, of course, might think: ‘so what?’).

To do justice to those important and creative ‘other forms of knowing’ and include them within academia as essential part of the human experience, we need a methodology first for facilitating similar journeys while documenting similarities and differences, and then for collating the ‘results’. This way the ‘simply subjective’ can grow into the inter-subjective, individual forms of knowledge creation become shared between many, and we strengthen the ‘other knowledge archives’!

I wonder what those would look like!?

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GOUZOUASIS, P. 2013. The metaphor of tonality in artography. UNESCO Observatory Multi-Disciplinary Journal in the Arts, 3 (2).

HOLBROOK, T. & POURCHIER, N. M. 2014. Collage as Analysis: Remixing in the Crisis of Doubt. Qualitative Inquiry, 20 (6), 754-763.

Photo Collage: Home, © Eline Kieft, 2014

Dancing the Lake

2014-07-24 13.37.44

Last week, the imaginary sound of wings flapping on the water transported me to a lake.* My face glowed with the warmth of the sun, although there was not a ray of sunlight in this windowless studio. I felt my body defying gravity as I took off from the water’s surface, playfully patting it in my early flight.

I became the water, as well as the clouds reflected on it. I could smell the muddy wetness and felt tall and willowy as my branches softly caressed the wind (or was it the other way around?). Following the pain in my back the water froze, and I imagined it melting in spring, softening the sharp shards of ice. I danced Dragon Fly and Frog and Heron. Their movements inspired mine as I hovered and leapt and stood patiently waiting on one leg.

The dynamics between all these wonderful life forms created such a vibrant tension. A concrete tension of eating or being eaten, of alive now and maybe dead tomorrow, but also a metaphoric vitality that comes with living according to our blueprint, as close to our nature as possible, expressing our individuality exactly as we are. Water is often seen as a shape shifter, because it can assume so many forms. It reminds us, so can we.

Translating that to my own story… dare I live all I can be? Dare I be different? Dare I assimilate different roles? Dare I dream big? I realised (not for the first time), that there really is no other way. Short of wilting and slowly diminishing, each of us simply has to live our unique expression, because if we do not, the world will be a dimmer, thirstier place. Can we encourage each other to do this?

I am curiouser and curiouser to the Power of Imagination, and its influence on our happiness and wellbeing. This is not to hide or deny pain or injustice, but to find a way that we can be radically inclusive of all experiences that make us magnificently and vulnerably human.

But hang on…

‘Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?’ asks Harry Potter, when he meets Dumbledore at King’s Cross station in the Deathly Hallows. A question I often ask myself, when encountering such experiences. ‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real’? **

And after the session, I danced on, into the rest of my day with a joyful spring in my step.

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*) The winged song is called Happiness, by Aaron Andreas Gantenbein on the album Deep Flight.

**) ROWLING, J.K. 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Bloomsbury: London, p. 579.

Photo: Falkenberg, Sweden, © Eline Kieft, 2014

 

Circles and Lines

DSC00003Following on from my dance with freedom and structure, I found myself working with circles and lines. Somehow these symbolised academic linearity versus the creative roundness of the arts.

The lines create a sense of purpose, clear vision from here to the future, strong poise of the intellect, efficiently getting from a to b. I do love the wide (neo-) classical ballet vocabulary of arabesques, defined arms, and pointed toes. The joy of covering space in long strides, walking backward, moving sideways. With tilts and diagonal expression I cut the space around me, mostly with a straight spine. A simple adjustment in focus allows for my whole outlook to shift, and I experience a sense of masterful confidence (even though, of course, my technique is unpolished). Yet I also taste rigidity, predictability and boredom; a superficiality to my being-in-those-movements; a not-quite-realistic and tiresome sense of always going onwards and upwards; a frantic ‘hanging in there’ because there is no obvious way ‘down’ but crashing.

The circular patterns on the other hand emerge organically, curving my body this way and that, effortlessly following impulses. Whirling, curving, spiralling, folding in over a changing centre, they have no beginning and no end. This more feels like a journey, a discovery of the unknown through listening rather than pursuing. Although the lines also move in three dimensions, the circles have a mysterious and orb-like multi-dimensionality to them. They exist outside of me, and without pressure I can dip in and out their flow. They tickle some deep curiosity of ‘what next’? However, if I overdo it, I become dizzy, disoriented and even nauseous, and it is difficult to find focus.

I realise how easy it is to get stuck in one or the other modality, and once stuck, how hard it is to find my way out. One without the other quickly becomes dysfunctional. The trick is to follow and honour dynamic emergence and fluidly move between the apparent polarities. They teach us about balance and interaction between going and arriving, intention and surrender, striving and yielding, active design and responsive listening, and it is this tension that invites effective and fruitful creation.

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Photo: © Eline Kieft, 2012

Freedom within Structure

IMG_1299 (1)Last week I danced with the polarities between structure (imposed, sometimes oppressive, but also supportive), and freedom (for wild pioneering but also with the risk of losing your way) within academia… There were 6 or 7 of us in the studio, all engaged in dance research, and each of us following our own movement practice. The background to which I move is the undefined space of just having started a new job, and finding myself pulled between old and new paradigms, between longing and despair, between excitement and fear.

Initially, despair engulfs me. Despair with stifling limitations of the traditional bureaucratic academic endeavour, where we get rewarded for answering the same old questions. I push into the wall that keeps me in. Invisible boxes squeeze the natural pull to explore out of my lungs. “Don’t put your toe out of line, or else you are not allowed to play with us!” Walking along the parallel lines of the wooden floor, there is an odd twinge of relief of not having to think, of doing what I’m told – despite the heaviness of impact and output pressure, which forces me to keep my head down. I realise ‘the system’ got me right where it wants me. Cowering in a corner I buried my dreams, frozen, too afraid to move, too afraid to take a risk, to not belong, to plunge into the unknown. I have a metallic taste in my mouth.

STOP! This doesn’t make sense at all! It feels off, curdled, ill, stuck, like stagnant water that slowly starts to smell… The disjointedness of limbs that don’t talk to each other, the unbridgeable space between here and ‘there’. Where is my breath? Where is the wildness, the adventure?

I let my deep longing for exploring new horizons quietly grow. First it gently bubbles inside me, then it ripples out, softly, fiercely. Moving away from the wall, its presence offers a cosy-ness in these stormy days. Power sockets provide the ability to play music and use other technology, or to simply clean the space. The presence of other dancers offers a more abstract support of shared explorations, shared vision, a shared dream. How can we live and celebrate the ‘art’ of research, appreciating (and widening!) the rules and requirements as supportive structures (yes please, bring in those grants), whilst not shying away from wild creativity?

Breath deepens and I find pleasure in listening to the movements that arise from nowhere, somewhere… There is an intense joy now and deep gratitude, for being in a place where path-finding is encouraged. For meeting people with similar passion for the unorthodox, for crossing and widening the academic boundaries….

Although plans for this blog were long in the making, this dance, this particular dance, fired the initiative for establishing a creative clearing full of soul, art and poetry, that bridges dance, academia, and the mystery of life. So thank you for joining me here, and I look forward to reading-feeling-sensing your experiences with the territory of freedom and structure art/academia/research…

Here’s to all explorers, pioneers and way-pavers!

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Photo: Lynton © Eline Kieft, 2015