Interactive Seminar 5 – Field Sensing

This was such an interesting exercise! Below I’ve included my responses to the challenge but at the bottom you can read the instructions themselves.

5 MINUTE SESSION:

Short video of my warm-up before doing the field sensing. I felt it was important for me not to film the actual practise as it changed my thought processes.

Questions:

  1. How did it feel? What was the experience in your body of doing this?

When I first started I felt quite tense in my legs and almost a stiffness as I walked. I was focussing very much on speed, slowing down the movement of leg as it swayed forward through my hip joint and pushed my toes to the ground. At times I found it hard to balance because of my weird physio problems but as soon as i resumed my focus to what my body was actually doing, I was straight up again. I took pleasure in the act of planting my whole foot slowly onto the earth. I felt I was planting myself and pressing into the grass, then lifting off again to progress onto new territory.

I found it very hard to stop myself from thinking throughout but the more I focussed on the three components(feet, hips and breathe) the more time slipped away as I deeply centred in on what I was doing. I became acutely aware of sounds as well. The wind was moving through my body like it moved through the trees as I took it in, it passed through my lungs and around my body, then slowly releasing back into the world.

I became aware of my existence. As airy-fairy as that sounds, this was actually a kind of profound revelation. To just exist. To be instead of do. I cannot control the fact that my body is. It breathes, it requires food and air and water to function. There is a peace that comes with acknowledging this. That it’s okay to exist alone. During quarantine especially this is a really important message. We live in an capitalistic, achievement-driven society which strokes us for doing more, ‘accomplishing’ more, consuming more. This is being. I slow down everything I do. I think through everything I do. I experience everything I do. I am aware of the impact of what I do. I am walking from one and of the garden to the middle; I am stepping on the grass slowly, breathing the air, releasing moisture, I have a presence.

2.What did you notice about the world outside your body?

I seemed to really notice the colours. My eyes drifted in and out of focus quite a few times – as I drew my attention to my hips, breathe or feet, meaning that when I refocused my eyes on what was in my peripheral vision the colours became pixelated. Then the detail came. It was amazing to have to focus on one area of detail, thinking what that one bit of fence consisted of. There are an infinite number of atoms in that that compose an unknown number of elements and compounds which create the wood, not to mention the bacteria and various organisms which reside in the cracks of it. There’s a micro perspective we fail to consider on the daily which was drawn to my attention.

I then started to notice how in my garden there is a clear barrier between our ‘nature’ and the next door neighbours ‘nature’. There is a physical barrier which stops the plants on that side of the fence getting over and contaminating ours. I then got thinking about why we wanted to much ownership and control. Nature exists on its own. In its own entity. It will continue to exist when I no longer live here or even when I die or humanity goes extinct. Why must we control it? There’s an element of stewarding yes. Encouraging and cultivating. But containing? I found that interesting. Then there’s the fact we contain nature using a natural barrier, wood.

10 MINUTE SESSION:

Some written notes on my experience (apologies if you can’t read them, I’ve been told my writing is ineligible to some haha)

Questions:

  1. How did it feel? What was the experience in your body of doing this?

During this one I seemed to loosen up quite nicely but was more focussed on how my muscles contracted and relaxed as my legs and feet rose and dropped. I felt the joint in my hip move which lifted my leg, tugging my foot slowly off the ground, causing lift. But this couldn’t happen unless the opposite took place on my other leg. The other leg was pushed, my body weight pressing down on my hip into my hamstring, softened by my slightly bent knees and then into my foot. The waxy, cold grass bent beneath me and slowly warmed as the other foot moved forward. Then it started again. It was a pattern. Cyclical.

I lost all sense of time most of the way through but towards the end it felt like a long time. It’s so strange the way the body measures time passing. Gives the phrase ‘time is relative’ a new meaning.

I remember at one point trying to focus on my breathe and then losing the thread of concentration because a bug started climbing up my leg. It took every ounce of self-control within me not to break the stance and knock it off with my other foot or hand. How far could I push my body in terms of self-discipline and control with this? There is a power in instinct. This was when I started thinking of horses with flies around their heads, smacking their ears around to get the insects out of their vision. Then I recognised this and stopped to focus on my breathe.

2.What did you notice about the world outside your body?

The connection I had with my surroundings increased massively. Although the sensory input was obviously more limited than I would be if say I ran along grass for a mile, slowing this process down and really processing what all of my sense were receiving brought me in touch with what was going on. I can’t help but think how limited my sense are. What if I could process everything that was going on in that garden at that one point in time? There was a black bird the kept on flying into and out of my vision with foliage in its mouth- perhaps it was nesting. If that bird was nesting, how could I know what it’s like to feel the need to nest? What drives it? I remember someone saying that birds see a whole different spectrum of colours and can hear different things; what colours cannot I not see in the garden?

I also started feeling fully immersed. I felt an ‘at-one-ness’ as I became more and more aware of my physical placement in that place. I exist only because everything else exists. Everything is merely a composition of recycled elements. I sound like I’m high now! But, these are genuinely things I was focussing on. You’d be surprised where your mind goes when you spend 10 minutes walking 5 metres! I am made out of everything around me. What gives me any authority or superiority to a blade of grass? This was definitely influenced by having read ‘Homo Deus’ (Harari) before doing this but was nonetheless accentuated by being able to physically reflect and engage with nature. What gives humans their ‘spark’? Is this just fictional? I belive it might be.

Everything is connected. That’s what I got from this.

A sketch using soil as a medium. Illustrating the sense of oneness I experienced. I loved drawing using the soil. It made me feel like a child again.

HOW CAN I IMAGINE THAT I’LL USE FIELD SENSING WITHIN MY OWN PRACTICE?

I feel that this is such a good way to ground myself in awareness of my environment. My whole practice is about where humanity places itself within the bigger picture and how they seperate themselves from other organisms on earth. By spending this time reminding myself of my own placement within the natural world, I can be mindful of nature as I create. Whether that be concerning the materials I use or my mindset on a certain concept, I believe it to be very important. I humble myself, through spending time with other life forms, to my placement within the larger networks that exist around me.

My most recent work is very computer based, being centred around AI development, yet I found this really helped to remind me of why I was doing this work – we don’t need contact with other humans through technology, we need physical contact with our natural environment. This is a need we have become so out of touch with. I am very fortunate to have a garden to do this in so throughout the rest of quarantine I’d like to start doing this more regularly.

Connecting to this, nature teaches lessons. Important ones. Field sensing has really drawn my attention to mindful ‘being’. Just existing and the peace that that can bring.

INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN BY FRUIT ROUTES ARTIST ANNE-MARIE CULHANE

Field Sensing – A practical task that can be done in your own time at home, outside in a garden or other outdoor space

Field Sensing Is a slow-walking practice which you can do on your own or with others as a way of sensitising you to your environment and heightening your awareness. Walks can last between 10 minutes to 30 minutes. You should find yourself covering around 50-75cm each minute – measure this out so you know how slow this actually is.  Field Sensing leads well into other activities such as observation of nature, outdoor drawing, writing. It is something I use a lot in my practice to ground me in a place, or to open up my senses so I can be more perceptive.

This practice has evolved from my experiences of Butoh dance training and has some similiarities with meditation practices and tracking animals in the wild. The phrase Field Sensing was coined by Buddhist writer Gary Snyder to refer to the perception of land as a ‘resonant landscape’ by Paleolithic Hunters.

Field Sensing involves:

  • Moving between awareness of inner and outer landscape
  • Bringing the focus to here and now in an dynamic way and becoming more receptive, attentive, awake, open.
  • Sensing a place more directly through the texture and angles of the ground, different smells, sounds, wind, sun or plants.
  • Slowing down and offer the potential for changing perceptions of time and space.

The task is to do one 5 minute sessions of field sensing and then one 10 minute session of field sensing wherever you are – you can be indoors or outdoors just make sure you have a clear space in front of you for 3 metres or more. Set an alarm on your phone so you can relax about time.

When you finish each session, answer questions 1) and 2) and write down or draw anything you noticed. At the very end, answer question 3).

  1. How did it feel? What was the experience in your body of doing this?
  2. What did you notice about the world outside your body?
  • How can you imagine that you might use Field Sensing in your practice OR share why you think Field Sensing is something that doesn’t feel useful to you and explain why this is.

This is the perfect activity to do in lockdown!  (or anywhere where you need to refocus or get a different perspective).  The whole task should take 30-40 minutes.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON FIELD SENSING TO READ BEFORE SETTING OFF

Walk in silence and if possible remove shoes and socks.  There are five points to use as a check list and guide before and while walking starting with your feet.

  1. FEET Use your feet as antennae. As you step forward, your weight falls down through your body, starting with the ball of your foot and moving through to your heel so your whole sole is in contact with the earth and you are supported and stable on the trunk of your front leg. As this foot becomes fully grounded you slowly peel the other foot off the earth’s skin in an endless flow.  Take small steps. Focus on the sensation of each sole in contact with the ground.   
  1. HIPS Bend your knees slightly, drop your weight down and sink into your hips. Feel your energy descending through the soles of your feet and try to stay on one plane while you walk rather than rising up and down.
  1. BREATHE Follow the sensations of air flowing through your mouth or nose as you breathe filling and emptying your belly.
  1. PERIPHERAL VISION Look out into middle distance and open to the edges of your field of vision. As you prepare to walk see how wide you can see. Do not look down or towards a point ahead but hold your gaze open, wide and soft.
  1. MIND Use any of the above reference points to lead you away from the busyness of your mind. In particular bring attention back to breathe and the sensation of your feet and you will find yourself edging along the unfolding present.

FINAL TIPS:

Do a little warm up going through all the five points above slowly. Just. Before you set off stand on the ground for a while and notice everything you can feel on the soles of your feet, you might want to rock them around, lift or flex them to help draw you focus to your feet. Each of your feet has around 7,000 nerve endings and contains 28 bones (x 2 feet = 56 bones)…almost ¼ of the total bones in your body. They are sensitive tools of perception!

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. (Leonardo Da Vinci)

For Field Sensing as part of an artwork see:

http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/PlanAVisit/Exhibitions/IntheBlinkofanEye/Commissions.aspx

Anne-Marie Culhane, 22 April 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close