Emovere: Romantic Love between Touch, Hearing and Affection

Published on April 9th 2016 by Poly Rodríguez
While I make coffee, I organize my writing materials; I move around on my bicycle, I get some sleep… I can’t stop thinking about the relationship between romantic love and my experience as part of the project Emovere. I will use this rapture like a game to see what comes up.
Some analogies: Emovere = affections = involvement = insistence = transformation = risk = sensuality = madness = lack of control = love = multiple = contagiousness = uncertain = arousal = desire = intensity = unrepeatable = kairos = indeterminate = uncoded = unknown = terrifying = addictive = blind = synesthetic = fiction = creation = excess = expulsion.
When I was invited to the project Emovere, I felt deeply attracted when I learned that in connection with its field of interdisciplinary experimentation-investigation, this project would have emotions as a foundation; that we, the dancers, would have to provoke and disarticulate these emotions and that this construction would be captured by physiological sensors that would record the electrical signals of the body in order to produce an interactive design that would build the sound environment. This invitation trapped me because between the lines, this project spoke to me about a cross between science and art from an affected body and its perceptive-emotional overflows, about a process and the possibility to dive into an uncertainty that would be built on collaborative multiplicity in a laboratory setting, without defined expectations besides our urge to discover and develop a performance in the course of one year. That is, it spoke to me about immersing myself in the intimacy of shared self-knowledge, in a field that would create sensitive imaginaries.
Something transformative had to happen. It smelled like discovery, like pleasure, games, intensity, experience, risk, complicity with me and others. It was similar to romantic love, which gives us the time and the opportunity to become intimate with others in order to learn about ourselves:

“Festivity. The amorous subject experiences every meeting with the loved being as a festival.” 1

The laboratory was developed by complementing two different procedures that were merged in the course of the project. On one hand, there was an immersion in the practice of Alba Emoting, an emotional activation process from postural and respiratory modifications. On the other, there was an immersion in sonority through the interaction with physiological sensors that captured electrical signals of the body, whose signs translated into a sound design that allowed us to explore the use of the sensor based on tone and cardiac variations while interacting with the sound environments detonated by corporality, yet created by the sound team in a dialogical relationship.
The Alba Emoting Laboratory was a process that initially allowed me to transcend my fear of not being accepted due to my “little stage experience”. In this sense, it allowed me to dissolve my ghosts regarding know-how. Discovery: feeling diminished before experimenting does not contribute to the creative process; a creative process must generate methodologies that deconstruct expectations and promote affectionate divergence:

“Anxiety. The amorous subject, according to one contingency or another, feels swept away by the fear of danger, an injury, an abandonment, a revulsion – a sentiment he expresses under the name of anxiety.” 2

That is how I found in the practice of Alba Emoting the freedom to bring out the unknown. All of us dancers didn’t have any experience in this practice, so we were all emptied, sharing ourselves or encouraging each other to try. The beauty of shared openness.
Without meaning to, I started my practice with a view that associated working with emotions with my idea of representation (bringing preconceived ideas into the present) versus the idea of presentation. When I experienced in Alba Emoting the activation of the body effectors that triggered emotion, I was able to understand that my view was too simplistic, as the embodiment that entails emotionally activating oneself implies a present that doesn’t leave room for preconceptions, but at the same time, it is a process of insisting in this coming and going (being/not being) until you are “taken by emotion”. Both the coming and going in order to arrive and the act of arriving are equally interesting potentials for change at a creative level, due to astonishment and the difficulty of achieving it. This journey allowed me to “familiarize myself” with the ideal emotional state of being “taken by emotion”. In turn, this delving into emotional inhabitance opened other sensations-imaginaries, tasty when experienced3. Some of the sprouts from this experience derived in the expansion of corporal, emotional and intensity-related registers. Body and space-time unification when being “taken by emotion”. Affective contagiousness. Permeability between the unconscious and the conscious, between having and uncertainty:

“Experiencing this potential for change, experiencing the condition of event and the singularity of each situation, even the most conventional ones, does not necessarily consist of mastering the movement; it means navigating the movement. It has to do with being immersed in the experience that is already happening, with being corporally in harmony with the opportunities of the movement, going with the flow. It is more similar to surfing the situation or subtly adjusting it than directing or programing it.” 4

In addition to wondering about the limits between representation and presentation, this lab allowed me to think about the intersections between daily life and art. Being an emotional activation procedure, Alba Emoting, generated a very deep process of relational self-analysis. Apparently, we don’t experience basic emotions in their daily nature with as much clarity as when they present themselves in other stages of our life (like in our childhood). Therefore, the fiction of re-experiencing them allowed me to recognize those affections and effects in order to update my daily life. Discovery: the experience of training emotional activation increases the thresholds of our awareness regarding how you want to live and also increases our sensitivity to resounding with others. In the words of Bartolomé Ferrada, it allows us to decentralize:

“The expansion of the receptive capacity…will probably be much higher as the subject decentralizes, remains on the sidelines, abandons their usual position of direction and control and prioritizes listening to what is happening and to what is happening there, where he is immersed and is part of, because it constitutes their own life.” 5

Interactive sound laboratory. I emphasize the complexity of interaction, which comes from the body – internal stimuli (electrical signals captured by postural and cardiac changes) that activate the external stimuli – sound. But at the same time (perceptively), the latter provide feedback to the corporality, generating a loop:

“…To be engulfed. Outburst of annihilation which affects the amorous subject in despair or fulfillment.” 6

A hallucinatory, amazing present. I enter an indefinite state by having to fragmentarily contract/expand myself in order to activate the sensor7. A universe of “conscious” ranges that introspectively nurture me thanks to the attentive tuning of the adjustments (changes in tone), which appear more frequently the more we practice; but at the same time, a multiple attention by “proposing to myself” a corporal integration (not only the segment that activates the sensor), which awakens other possibilities, like zooming in and zooming out. Then my perception/imagination submerges in unexpected routes, I can create from sonority, adjusting body intensities (from the outside to the inside), from what I am corporally feeling when having to activate the sensors (from the inside to the outside), from both without having the clarity of being in one, in another, in between or in both, or from a collaboration with the sound team that is renewing the sound environments in a dialogue with my experience; among other unnamed creations.

Electromyogram. A sensor that uses, among others, a sound interaction mode by layers8. This means that the sound was generated by different sound layers that, when activated, varied their compositional framework due to the tone intensity of a muscle in a specific body segment. And in turn, this could become more complex because there were other body segments connected that were carrying out other functions, for example, volume and turning on. This complexity continued to foster a fertile exploration field due to dissociative bodily astonishment, due to the unattainable difficulty of controlling every factor simultaneously and due to the multi-attentiveness proposed by a singular corporality. This layered interaction mode supported by quadraphonics generated a feeling of spatial continuity (of being inside) while also generating perceptive confusion because there was no clarity regarding the appearance of the different sounds of the layers. This homogeneity supported the feeling of continuity, which also persisted in silence. This spatial totality enabled the feeling of containment, of time-space unity, of tri-dimensionality and buoyancy, as if the sound waves were able to sustain the falls/movements:

“Embrace. The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being.” 9

Electrocardiogram. A sensor that uses an interaction mode that captures and translates heartbeats, contouring the boundaries of what is possible. Hearing your own heartbeats amplified while you feel them is an eclectic experience, so to speak, because the mere fact of hearing yourself compromises the rhythm you are keeping, unconsciously modifying it. For the same reason, any intention to modify has a wide range of uncertainty. We could train varying our heart rate within the possible limits, but any external stimuli (sounds, images) or internal stimuli (thoughts, nervousness) will unconsciously change this achievement (in microseconds). Metaphorically, the heart is directly linked to emotions; subtle affections modify the heartbeat, impossible to capture. Hearing heartbeats, whether or not they are my own, transports me to primary and binding states. My desire to alter them takes me to productivity states by wanting to control the uncontrollable, but also to abstraction states by changing the focus from achievement to the process; vulnerable and altered states of consciousness from activating respiratory variations that modified the heart rate.

Both devices, the electromyogram and the electrocardiogram, manage to generate porosities between the senses, creating a synesthesia that allows entering the sensitive field, which was constantly being updated by body and sound interactions. Simultaneously perceiving internal-external sound and touch generated a magical-astonishing process of hyper-conscience and hyper-delusion, managing to try the unknown, enabling me to hear with the muscles, move with sound, touch with the heart, amplify my contractions, smell silence…renewing my memories.

“Atopos. The loved being is recognized by the amorous subject as ‘atopos’, i.e., unclassifiable, of a ceaselessly unforeseen originality.” 10

Aftertastes, longings, vestiges that wander around once the project is finished: sound sensibility, pleasure for tuning acoustic contact –a journey to subtleness- a potential for encountering the unknown. Laboratory procedure: being seduced by experimentation in order to experience surprise, establish transformations that organize the path of a creation. Technology: in Emovere physiological sensors with sound devices, the possibility to be enchanted. Insisting on lack of comfort enables experiences. Collaborative creation: what is barren for one member might not be so for another, and that empathically removes you from stagnation in order to join creative continuity, movement, multiple sensitivity, expansion. The scene: ragged moment due to its affective permeability, unleashing instability from the encounter; moving from embarrassment-secrecy to attraction-openness with the spectator: a new lab to continue creating. The stage experience as a game between contingencies and the scene in the words of Barthes:

“Contingencies. Trivialities, incidents, setbacks, pettinesses, irritations, the vexations of amorous existence; any factual nucleus whose consequences intersect the amorous subject’s will to happiness, as if chance conspired against him.”11
“Scene. The figure comprehends every scene as an exchange of reciprocal contestations.”
12

If I observe Emovere in retrospective a few months after “finishing”13 the project, I can continue to insist on this relationship between romantic love and experience in Emovere-creative process, as something that creates a discontinuity in historicity/memory due to its intensity. From different points of view: the mobilizing impulse of any creation, the vital transformation that these processes entail, the experience of risky encounters, the excessive dedication where something happens, the desire to retain the unrepeatable, the uncertainty when crossing the usual thresholds affects my perceptions, my smell, my sweat, my tone, my heartbeat, my temperature. Getting involved. Inhabiting.
From the figure of the lover, my experience in the project Emovere also allows me to underline my convictions regarding creation from collaboration. It is not only an amorous state that pushes me individually, but rather an amorous loop that feeds itself and feeds multiplicity. Therefore, it is political. Sharing ourselves from these levels of intensity in a creative-scenic process is to share ourselves in any dimension of our lives because it proposes a way of connecting that, due to its performative nature, bets on an existence from sensitivity, from profusion, from vulnerability and uncertainty, from the destabilization of what we are. Therefore, in order to survive, the only option is to appeal to an affective reciprocity, in order to find each other and prevail. In some way, it appeals to a freedom that becomes more complex and more tense in the present with the sole purpose of having an encounter and…creating new possible worlds.

“It seems that when you are faced with someone that is completely unknown to you, and therefore your relationship with them does not have the weight of any memories, the exercise of attention that you make turns out to be much more direct and creative.14
Maybe we should insist on adopting a general attitude close to innocence also in the presence of others in order to mobilize what on so many occasions has become too stationed and even motionless in a concrete relationship.”
15


1 BBarthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso (A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments). Ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 103.

2 Barthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso. Ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 29.

3 Imaginaries from emotions. Anger: entrapment, it takes me by the genitals, erect, precision, cannibalism, supreme, terrestrial, vertices, transgenic, only seeing the desired object; my feet, my genitals and my head are moved – my head is moved –. Sadness: disappearing, falling without end, spasms, infertile, empty, excess, I am dying of sadness, hanging from behind, motionless, apnea, squeezing, pierced, only seeing my sadness, flaccid hearing. Tenderness: contemplating, creating, openness, emptying, present, community vision. Eroticism: insisting/feeling, deforming, devouring, multiple, discontinuous, zoo, multidimensional, death, suffocation, entry/fall, suction, fractal gaze – moist-wrinkled, potential listening, bordering distortion. Fear: exacerbating, hypertonic-fast vision, living ear. Laughter: madness, absurd, creativity, slippery, distortion of control, excess, surge, only seeing my laughter, covered ear. Mixed emotions: android, kitsch, daily nature, strategy, grotesque, perverse, unnamed.

4 Rozas, I. Y Pujol, Q. (eds), Ejercicios de ocupación. Afectos, vida y trabajo, ed. Polígrafas, Barcelona, 2015, p. 30.

5 Ferrando, B., Arte y cotidianidad hacia la transformación de la vida en arte, ed. Árdora, Madrid, 2012, p. 84.

6 Barthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso. Ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 18.

7 Specifically, sensors located in the muscle cores that we wanted to explore, as we also experimented with another sensor located on the thorax in order to capture electrical changes in the heart rate.

8 I will only focus on the interaction mode by layers, although several interaction modes were used in the process/piece.

9 Barthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso. Ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 20.

10 Barthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso. Ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 32.

11 Barthes, R., Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso, ed. Siglo Veintiuno, Madrid, 1993, p. 57.

12 Ibid, p. 84.

13 “Finished” with quotes because although the project was finished, the residues keep transforming and being the source of new relationships.

14 Understanding creative as creation, not creativity, in the words of Alejandra Pombo and Marten Spangberg: “Creativity remains in the realm of what is possible, it is intelligent but continues to be reactive, it is always justified, and it is productive, good; a creative solution is a solution, not a radical change, it is only a matter of the degree… Creation is something completely different, it is a production that only has one need, but it is a need that creativity does not have, and the nature of this need is being necessary, something that is not so far from the capital and yet so different. Creation itself is debasing, and in this debasing, in this moment of destruction, something can emerge”. (“Hablar de ello no basta” in In-presentable 2008-2012, ed. Genèric, 2015, p. 121).

15 Ferrando, B., Arte y cotidianidad hacia la transformación de la vida en arte, ed. Árdora, Madrid, 2012, p. 77.