SOUND ON PLEASE

In history there are great names, who have practiced their daily life in a city environment and came up with deep meditative notifications, for example Guy Debord`s drifting practices around Paris or Georges Perec`s experiments to write exhaustively everything he experiences in one place in Paris or how he describes the streets of Paris. Oppositely to Debored and Perec, Valdur Mikita, who is an Estonian writer, semiotician, professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Tartu, (In 2013 he wrote a book called “Linguistic forest”, it is a work what highlights and plays with the boundaries of the nature and the culture, connecting it closely with Estonians inherent attitude to keep near contact with a nature and especially with the forest), rather disregards writing as a perception interpretation and strongly believes in physical experiences, while being in the forest. 

Mikita speaks a lot about synaesthesia, the physical body and its bonds with the forest. He believes that it goes against human nature to live in a global cultural space, that there is a lack of knowledge, about how to develop your own personal world and evolve personal physical sense perceptions. He believes that it is necessary to spend some time alone in the forest. He thinks that to deal with forms of individual consciousness, it is necessary to have isolation and traditions, which are rather impossible to achieve under the conditions of global culture. (Mikita, 2013, p205, 233)

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SOUND ON PLEASE

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Synesthesia

is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of colour. Since synesthesia can involve any combination of the senses, there may be as many as 60 to 80 or subtypes, but not all have been documented or studied, and the cause is unclear. (Phychology Today, no date)

Synesthesia eliminates the difference in oral and written expressions, because `writing is a somatic practice`, such as gesticulation and finger drawing: `Rituals, spells and magic signs are ancient written systems, written with fingers and invisible ink, with great excitement` (Mikita, 2013, p. 45) `Culture and language, rather, harmonize the sense of human cognition rather than develop what is actually present in people`. (Mikita, 2013, p. 27) Mikita explains his thought by discussing how the brain might retain its adaptability, when the physiological variability is rich. He gives example how in archaic culture smaller group of people still needed to find a way to maintain cultural diversity as in bigger groups, yet, in smaller one the people must have been more contrasting, while in bigger groups people may have been allowed to be part of the mass. (Mikita, 2013, p. 27)  Mikita thinks that people are tired to exist in two civilizational systems, which are Hellenistic institutional culture and writing system. That there is a personal inner call [italics original] in every human, it is a symbol system, superseded to periphery of human perception by writing and cultural development. (Mikita, 2013, p. 35) 

Mikita has his own forest practises, where he lets his creativity to fly and combines his visual sensations, what triggers spontaneous sensations of touch, with a movement of his hand or all body. I would like to map out some of his practices, some I will combine together, some I will leave as they are:

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  • Finding dance scores inside of the three bark patterns, what bark beetles have left.

  • Finding dance scores from the cloves, soil fractures, dropped down pine needles, tree rings ect.

  • Thoroughly sketch a personal signature on sand or soil, and later on make the same with words.

  • To find “nature neumes” inside of trees, which were medieval musical notation. The name probably meant breathing (Greek pneuma - 'wind', 'breath'). Trying to sing through them. (Mikita describes this skill more in his book).

  • “Monkeywild” - tree climbing visualization

  • “Dancewild” - Creating the world by waving, typing and drawing with your hand.

Personal background

As a child, I spent whole summers in the countryside, deep in the middle of the forests and fields of Estonia. When I moved out from my small hometown, situated on a peninsula, always gently smelling like the sea, to the university town in the middle of the country, I still found myself enjoying southern Estonian forests and the big lake. The Lake of Viljandi was visible from the city centre at the top of the hill and also from my home window. I did not lose anything, just learned a new way to see the water from a high distance, and still continued my walks to the forest and close to the water. I did not question different realities that somewhere might be different, it was so natural sometimes to choose to be alone and find myself in the forest or close to the water. Parks are different, even when they have a lot of trees, they are not forests, maybe because of the knowing that you cannot be alone. There is always someone walking a dog or reading a book. It feels like it does not give a chance to be “lost” and practice some strange movements, or scream loudly if you get the feeling to do so.

 This research idea started to grow from a hazy feeling, way back when I moved to London in  2017. I suddenly felt that there is not much space around me and where ever I go I cannot be alone. Although, I felt socially isolated in the city, I was still looking for a physical space in the nature to be alone. I can say that this strange feeling, sensation was physical and sometimes „painful“. Now, I am sincerely thinking that there must be a different way to make space around someone even in a buzzing city situation like London. The way might be unusual and perhaps a practice what is still undiscovered. In this project this is one of my interests to be found: how to “make space” and manage the city “noise” in the street in a way that makes me feel like I am in the forest.  Here is my petite romantically hypothetical research question: Can the city be my forest? Through this question I formalised a pray-like title: Noise management: City be my forest  which already forms and manifests itself every time I will say or think about it.

Two different isolations

Mikita thinks that it is necessary to have isolation and traditions of spending time in the forest,  yet, this might be rather impossible to achieve under the conditions of global culture. Guy Debored in his book called “The Society of the spectacle”, speaks about isolation as well as an outcome of capitalism:

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The reigning economic system is founded on isolation; at the same time it is a circular process designed to produce isolation. Isolation underpins technology, and technology isolates in its turn; all goods proposed by the spectacular system, from cars to televisions, also serve as weapons for that system as it strives to reinforce the isolation of "the lonely crowd." The spectacle is continually rediscovering its own basic assumptions ­­ and each time in a more concrete manner.  (Debored, 1994)

In my research, besides dealing with the street and physically experiencing the city to evolve personal physical sense perceptions, I will also discuss isolation and globalisation and ask the question how one creates another and do we actually need to feel isolated in order to cultivate our individual consciousness.

Performance and everydayness

 `Any and all of the activities of human life can be studied “as” performance.` (Schechner, 2013, p29) According to Schechner, performances occur in eight sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping situations: in everyday life (cooking, socializing, “just living”), in the arts, in sports and other popular entertainments, in business, in technology, in sex, in ritual (sacred and secular) and least in play. (Schechner, 2013, p31) This research proposal will look specifically at performance and performativity in everyday life context.

It is understandable that human performances take place as action, interaction, and relation, but does performance take place also in objects? According to Schechner we can treat any objects, work, product “as” performance, as it means to explore what the object does. How the object interacts with other beings or objects and how the object relates to other beings or objects. Schechner argues that performance isn’t “in” anything, but it is in “between.” That the performer in ordinary life does or shows something – performs an action. (Schechner, 2003, p30) This research proposes to study both human and object performances as a relationship to place, space, other humans and objects.

​Everyday life acts are happening in various locations, in private places, lonely places, in nature and in the city, in different public spaces. In this research, to be able to grasp something specific and unclear, I will take into account everyday life situations happening in one public space condition – on the street.

The street - space vs place

The street is a space and perhaps sometimes also a place. According to Michel de Certeau a space exists if taken into account its vectors of direction, velocities and time variables. Therefore space is composed of intersection of moving elements. He said `…space is a practiced place [italics original]. Thus the street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers.` (Certeau, 1984, p117) From here is a question arises, when its walkers are absent and there isn’t any fast movement happening, how does the street changes itself? Does it stop being a space and turn into a place? Can I dedicate myself to this transformation? How does it make me feel when the street is a space and when the street is a place?


In public spaces, on the street, there might also happen collective performances – what are the actions of public life. These are sometimes hidden movements under the surfaces, but sometimes full of turmoil, they might take large dimensions starting from political sanctions and street demonstrations to develop to revolutions. (Schechner, 2003, p29)

 

I am curious how could these subtle everyday collective performances on the street influence and affect me and my cognitive research?

​I find it relevant to explore the importance of both human and object performances as a relationship to place, space, other humans and objects through different tension and cognitive practices. I am curious when and why one emotion / movement becomes another one. I will take an example from some well-known and not so well-known artists and thinkers like Georges Perec, Guy Debord, Valdur Mikita, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Kalle Kataila, Peeter Laurits etc.

I am questioning the city environment. I am questioning whether we really know what are the consequences of living in the city? I am questioning the need of silence, natural order, the necessity being alone physically, the need of taking time to respond, rather than making impulsive decisions day by day by pulling them out faster and even faster form our guts and brains. Why do I feel anxious and stressed within the city environment, but calm and steady in the country or forest? If it is impossible to change what the urban spaces, cosmopolitan cities, can not offer to us, what forest does, how can I change myself? Can I even do something about it? Here is my naively romantic research question:

 

CAN CITY BE MY FOREST? 

Certeau, M.d. and Rendall, S. (tr.) (1984) The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Debord, G. (1967). The Society of the Spectacle 3th edn. [Online]. Available at: http://www.antiworld.se/project/references/texts/The_Society%20_Of%20_The%20_Spectacle.pdf (Accessed: 3 September 2020).

Mikita, V. (2013). Lingvistiline Mets. (Linguistic Forest). Välgi metsad.

 

Psychology Today (no date). Synesthesia. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/synesthesia (Accessed: 21 August 2020).

 

Schechner, R. (2003) Performance Theory. London: Routledge.

 

Schechner, R. (2013) Performance Studies: An introduction.Oxon: Routledge.

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