Years ago, someone told me that my body rejuvenates its cells every seven years. Every seven years I get a totally new body filled with new cells; each of these cells packed with memories and beliefs. I imagine myself swimming through my cells, bumping up against the clear liquid walls of the cell membrane and peering in to see the mitochondria hard at work. Deep at its centre lies the powerful nucleus, the brain of the cell. Estimates published in 2013 in “Annals of Human Biology” suggest that there are 37.2 trillion cells that make up the human body. That’s 37.2 mini-brains (ie. nuclei) that hold memories of our life and relay information up through our central nervous system to our brain.
I’m curious how I might swim up to one of these cells and move with it. As I care for myself, I would ask it, the cell, what it needs. I would take what they say and do the dance of the cell, incorporating breath and movement in order to bring to life the needs of this cell.
Deep down there are cells in my body that are hurting — carrying/caring the weight of some long distant pain that was inflicted on me. Gone unseen, I walk, unconsciously through life projecting and repeating this pain onto others. Furthermore, the same cells that make up me came partially from my mother and father; my grandparents and great-great-grandparents. My ancestors live deep inside these cells. Thus, I am also carrying/caring the histories of them inside me. I speak to my ancestors through the cells in my body and as I bring breath and movement to them their pains are allowed to be seen and released; helping me move through this life in a more authentic and aligned way.
Over my 20+ years as a performer, I’ve come to understand this history and knowledge that lies within my body. As I commit myself to developing methods of using art as a means of bringing about change, I now bring experience as a Somatic Practitioner to this field in an attempt to not only bring about meaningful change to communities but to individuals also. Both these branches of change will inevitably impact a system and I wonder how we might need to do work on both in order to see meaningful systems change.
As of writing this (Nov 12, 2021), I am completing my Somatics Educator and Coaching training through the Tamalpa Institute. I am trusting and listening to the body and its knowledge. I welcome anyone reading this, who is inspired by this work, and who might see the benefit in exploring the body to confront and release anything in their life or to merely find alignment with themselves, to please reach out and/or book a Somatic Coaching session with me.
I want to offer you medicine that you have been carrying/caring all your life right inside of you.
It’s difficult to talk about any sub-genre of social art practice without referring to Joseph Beuys. Beuys was a German mid-century artist who was seen as radical in the contemporary art scene of the time because of his belief that “everybody is an artist.”
For Beuys, the spaces we live in are art; the work we do is art; the conversations we have are art; everything is art and everyone is an artist. In total, we as a whole build part of the "social sculpture".
Beuys created the term "social sculpture" to describe the way art can transform society. Art isn’t merely for institutionalized curated work, but rather, it is everywhere and everyone is making it. We are all constantly shaping society and the environment with our words, actions, thoughts and objects we create. He believed that society as a whole was one great big masterpiece that each person could contribute to individually.
In 1973, Beuys wrote:
"Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power. Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build ‘A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART’… EVERY HUMAN BEING IS AN ARTIST who – from his state of freedom – the position of freedom that he experiences at first-hand – learns to determine the other positions of the TOTAL ART WORK OF THE FUTURE SOCIAL ORDER."
I’ve been thinking a lot about how artists not only reflect society but also offer up solutions to the problems they refelct. Beuys went as far as taking this belief that everyone is contributing to the social sculpture we live in and forming the “Organization for direct democracy through plebiscite”. Mixing his work as an artist and politician he co-founded this organization out of Düsseldorf in 1971. Today, Johannes Stuttgen continues to spread this idea through the project “Omnibus”.
Read more about Johannes Stuttgen’s Omnibus project here: http://www.omnibus.org/fileadmin/omnibus.org/PDF/Sonstiges/4_Seiter_2008_engl_web.pdf
Beuys once said that “every sphere of human activity, even peeling a potato can be a work of art as long as it is a conscious act.” Every action you make should be in an attempt to better society and contribute to the work of art we call society.
What’s great about Beuys' perspective on art is that it humbles people into seeing that they are an important part of a larger whole, but, each individual has the creativity to contribute what they can to this larger whole.
It’s important to note that initial creativity in humans can be traced back to the Homo erectus phase of humanity, which occurred 1.8 to 0.3 million years ago. Signs of evolutionary cognitive and social abilities began to form such as the building of sophisticated, task specific stone hand axes, seasonal homes, long-distance hunting strategies and the migration out of Africa.
See more on the evolutionary history of humanity’s creativity here: http://computationalcreativity.net/iccc2012/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/203-Gabora.pdf
Beuys died in 1986 famous for his work as a German Fluxus, happenings, performance artist, sculptor, installation artist, graphic aritst, art theorist and pedagogue of art. And although he is not alive today to carry on his beliefs of social sculpture, he is highly regarded as one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century. His work is synonymous with early social art practice and civic engagement. “Everyone is an artist” — a radical thought in the 1950s, and yet, still a radical view point today because it demysetifies our glorification of the art gallery or the theatre. It democratizes art for everyone and sees the useful/meaningful as something creative and for everyone.