Marie’s Introduction to the Project

From Life partner to Creative partner

‘Parameters and Practices’ is a project platform for myself and my life partner, Alan, to investigate methods and shared interests in artistic and academic disciplines. The set-up of the project allows us to work together – in parallel – through a task-based format that integrates our respective expertise as an academic/artist. It is a preparation for a creative partnership for future joint collaborations. We are directly and indirectly embedded in artistic practices through our work as scholar of film (Alan) and dance artist (Marie) and together in a shared passion for yoga and body-mind questions. We have often made use of each other to help, challenge and discuss our work but this is our first joint venture. Because Alan has sabbatical leave for the academic year 2018/2019, I relocated from Leeds, UK, to Denmark with our daughter Lisa in 2017 and we now live in Horsens – a small town near the city of Aarhus. Alan joined us in August 2018.

The model for ‘Parameters and Practices’ is a project called ‘Two Trainers Prepare’ I embarked on this time last year (September 2017) with lecturer Maria Kapsali at University of Leeds – a year-long creative exchange between Denmark (me) and UK (Maria). A thorough introduction to this project and how it has shaped ‘Parameters and Practices’ can be found here.

The incentive for the project is a number of shared interests like filmmaking, yoga, movement and much more. However, there are two core interests that recur in how we approach both artistic and academic disciplines. These are ‘practices’ and ‘parameters’.

Practices

Alan and I have since we met in 2010 shared a passion for practicing Ashtanga Yoga and the self-practice form called Mysore. Talking about ‘the practice’ – ‘how was your practice today?’ – has always been a frequent topic of conversation. Perhaps this mutual appreciation of practicingas a shared value has helped form the basis of ‘P&P’. I consider most of my work as a kind of practice. My ‘portfolio career’ as a dance artist, yoga teacher, life coach and more connects and intersects through practicing and investigating of overlapping ideas and themes. Here are some definitions of what I consider ‘practice’ to be:

  • To practice is not to have an expectation of a predetermined outcome but to acknowledge the effort and work that is put into the moment when engaging in/with the activity;
  • To practice is to apply an idea or a method into a hands-on and practical investigation or a way to develop a concept or more abstract theory through the body;
  • Practice is open-ended and without a fixed outcome;
  • To practice is the main purpose of the practice.

For ‘Parameters and Practices’ we wish to explore how we can engage with different practices, combine them and challenge them by keeping our focus on the processrather than the result. For this reason tasks and responses will be regular and concise to resist dwelling on outcomes.

What are the practices that we will be investigating for the project then? It felt important to start out without a value judgement of which practices were more ‘right’ or ‘important’. Are our practices of dance and writing more essential to this project than parenting or travelling? We came up with an non-exhaustive list of practices we do – using the -ing form. See the full list of practices here. The reduction to a final six was done by focusing on the core practices that foreground our expertise and shared passions. Here are the practices that represent the foundation of what we will be working with (in no particular order):

  • Observing
  • Mark making and drawing
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Moving
  • Filming/Photographing

This does not render the other 29 obsolete: in fact bringing the full range of practices out in the tasks will be a fun part of the project. Embracing all our practices and not judging their individual value does not mean that we will attempt to pass on skills to one another but rather that we will inhabit the edges of our respective competences and reach towards each other through the tasks. One rule for carrying out tasks is therefore to ‘start with what you know’: we begin by responding within the disciplines we are familiar with and then apply practices or methods that are more peripheral to that place.

Parameters

I began writing a blog about my dance and yoga practices in 2012 (prompted by Alan). The first blog entry was a piece named Creating New Routes To Workwhich took its starting point in an article called Constraint Satisfactionby Stephen M Kosslyn. It discussed how ‘constraints’ can help generate ideas by limiting options and therefore obstructing habitual thinking. By reinforcing our habits through daily routine and repetition of activities, we can fall in to grooves when we go about our daily lives; grooves that are helpful for routine and day-to-day life but less so for creating new ways of seeing or doing. Constraints obstruct these pathways and challenge the body-mind to come up with novel solutions. The idea of using constraints/parameters as a way to create new ways of seeing or doing is a cornerstone of our project. The idea is not simply to challenge habits or pathways but to stimulate creative impulses and to work in new ways in familiar situations. How can we—within the parameters of our love relationship, our house, our commute to work, shared parenthood etc.—find a way to spur creative activities? It is not that the mundane becomes the topic we explore in itself but rather that the texture of daily life infiltrates and drives the response to the task.

I ask:

  • How can setting parameters work as a way for a life partnership to become a creative partnership? What will change in our relationship, if anything?
  • How will a model like ‘Two Trainers Prepare’ translate from being a transnational online encounter to being carried out between two people sharing a household and a family?

Do not talk about the project

The first rule of ‘Parameters and Practices’ is: we do not talk about ‘P&P’ tasks privately! ‘P&P’ is our first steps towards working creatively together and it felt important to investigate how this may work with some distance between our private relationship and the work we embark on together. In this way our respective experience will be acknowledged because the task-based exchange divides time equally between us and because no response or investigation is more valuable or ‘right’ than the other. The inequalities of our relationship (status, income) and the roles we have taken on/been given (parents, main breadwinner) will be laid bare and negotiated. And hopefully time will reveal how we in the future will be able to collaborate directly with each other. The idea to ‘go public’ by publishing the project online is to create a forum that ensures consistency and coherence in responses. If it is published online, it has to make sense to a potential audience.

What ideas and patterns of how we work will overlap or create new hybrids? Will we enjoy the same methods or style of setting tasks or responding? My hope is that it will become clearer by the end of the project (August 2019) how we can continue our creative partnership and move into artistic practices with appreciation and understanding of each other’s strengths and be able to launch something that is greater than the sum of our respective fields of work.