Movement Workshops

Observations and Findings Associated with the Methodologies Employed to Conduct Movement Workshops

Katie Schetlick, Project Co-Director

As Rebecca Solnit aptly notes in Nonstop Metropolis, “Each of us is an atlas of sorts, already knowing how to navigate some portion of the world, containing innumerable versions of place as experience and desire and fear, as route and landmark and memory. So a city and its citizens constitute a living library.”  The methodologies employed during the movement workshop process not only provided a means through which participants (citizens) could excavate this living library, but also a way for their experiences and the human body itself to remain visible within the consideration of the landscape. Recent humanities-based atlases have included traces of humans through symbology and content, but often fail to feature the body itself as both part of the process and of the product. The methods employed through RPBW attempt to prioritize the body as the instrument through which we come to know a place.

During the research phase, prior to designing the movement workshops, it became difficult to find models that included elements of community engagement, movement-centered processes, and subjective data collection. There were examples of community mapping largely driven by quantifiable/objective data collection.

The methodology of the movement workshops, therefore, drew largely from the mindful movement practices of Anna Halprin and Barbara Dilley and the research-driven movement approaches of Jennifer Monson and Zena Bibler, Brandin Steffensen, and Katie Schetlick’s practice of Relationscapes. The mindful movement practices would not only heighten participants’ awareness of self and environment, but would foreground the importance of the present verses future thinking/design (Tuning & Noticing). The research driven approaches centered the human body as the carrier of knowledge, maintaining direct connection between site and sensorial experiences (Conversing & Sharing). Following the beta workshop with the research assistants, it became clear that an adaptive model would be necessary to work effectively with varying demographics.

Below are featured moments of clarity and challenges that remain unanswered following the facilitation of the movement workshops.

Moments of clarity:

  • Making a singular, immoveable methodology would not take into consideration the various peoples and abilities of a large community. The challenge was to make a malleable methodology with consistent framing where the particularities of languaging, modes of interacting with technology, and physical accessibility could be altered. Thus making the facilitation of the workshops necessary verses a wide invitation to the community to engage with a set of instructions and a mobile application.
  • The direct engagement with community organizations like JABA, Clark Elementary, and the Walkable Watershed proved to be a more effective strategy than an “open to the public” event. By plugging into programming that already existed within these organizations, the project became an offering opposed to a logistical burden. Particularly in the case of JABA and Clark Elementary, the workshops helped to fill out activity schedules by meeting during the times these activities were typically held.
  • Although quantifiable evidence cannot be made, several participants noted that the tuning exercises were effective and did in fact shift their perspectives while walking through the landscape. One participant described it as a buzz that opened up his ability to notice things he had not before even though he had walked down that same path many times.

Challenges that remain unanswered:

  • The biggest question that remains unanswered is how such a methodology, which includes non-technology driven components, could reach a larger population and therefore provide a more thorough living library of this landscape. Does this project expand upon and remedy some of the limitations of the Halprin Take Part process or does it just use 21st century technology?
  • Another question is one of inclusion. Beyond reaching a larger population, does this method including the use of the mobile app provide a means for differently abled bodies to par take fully? Is the fact that the conversing phase is heavily weighted by the ability to write limiting? What if the conversing phase also offered the opportunity to record voices? How could this information then be fed into the digital atlas?
  • A question that came up from time to time during the workshops was whether or not the participants had to be in the photographs with their reflections on the dry erase board.  To honor privacy the option to not be in the image was welcomed, but from this question emerged a larger concern about the seeming ownership that the combination of place, person, and comment elicit. Many participants shared their unease about moving through a space that they felt slightly detached from and commenting on their relation to it. The question remains, how can this project move away from modes of colonization?