Trauma & Transformation Creative Hub Laboratory – July 2017

What happens in crisis and how do new ways of being come about? Open to all artists who want to explore themes of trauma on a personal and global scale.

We met at Exeter Phoenix for our first Trauma & Transformation laboratory on Tuesday 11th July 2017. Amerie and Samantha, EncounterTT Co-Artistic Directors, our first brave artist-participant Laura, and Vip our resident Audience Impact Researcher from the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University came together to explore, in a creative laboratory environment. This marked the beginning of an ongoing project open to all artists and the creatively curious in Exeter and further-afield.

We don’t know how the collaborative group will develop so when it came to planning our first session, we started where we were most inspired to begin – sharing theatre practices with the group and considering some of the aesthetic formations of trauma through bodies, voice and use of divisions in space.

A variety of reasons for joining the group were aired – to share and to learn, to make meaningful art/performance, to work as a community of artists, to consider trauma and its implications in our professional lives. How could what we do in this room support someone on their journey toward working with young people in Palestine for example, or help to bring some personal context to our relations to trauma of a global scale?

And as I write this from the safety of the Phoenix basement, drinking a nice warm mug of miso soup to cut through some of my more challenging experiences this week, I wonder if we are asking too much of ourselves? How can we make a difference to people going through crisis or traumatic experiences from the studious cocoon of a Laboratory? Why the need to address such big topics? (Isn’t that what artists do, ask important questions?) A hint of overwhelming expansion, dissociation and potential disempowerment seep into my consciousness (come to mind and body and heart)… This potential reminds me to turn inward and to notice the knowing within that we change the world one connection, one moment at a time. Overwhelm is one of the sticky risks of trauma that we are coming together to address.

We mirrored each other. We found places of mutual understanding and moved into building individual ‘action-memory scores’. We drew upon the everyday – a familiar placesomething lost – (and) – an action performed every-day – comfortable or ‘safe’ places for repeated recall. Threading these together and playing with their intensity led to a playground of reflections. We had changed the nature of time, of communication, sharpened our senses and loosened the boundaries of narrative, time-based recall and of our daily performances. Memories came flooding back, described as both typical and uncharacteristic of their origins.

To make these shifts more explicit within the context of our exploration (with the help of some handy bamboo and fabric), we divided the room into distinct performance and witnessing spaces. We named qualities of a ‘crisis space’ from which we would perform, and an ‘ensemble space’ where witnessing and directing would take place.

Within the holding of the group we embodied togetherness, the richness of being in community, being supported, nourished, accepted and loved (yes, love has its part to play in healing trauma as it does in all significant transformation that moves toward freedom and opening of the human heart). We projected into the crisis space, naming wars, dark pits, holes, inescapability, breaches, leaks, loss and then moved to perform our scores within this unknowable arena. We were witnessed with kind, loving attention from the ensemble space by our fellow intrepid adventurers.

After our closing reflections and the end of the session, Amerie and I discussed our working practices with Vip who had both observed and taken part in the lab from her perspective as Resident Audience Impact Researcher. We considered A Disorienting Dilemma, a facet of the Transformative Learning Model that we will be looking to as a framework to help us understand what motivates us in our work, what impact we intend to make upon our audiences as this project develops, and that may even shed light on what transformation we and our audiences have experienced.

The laboratories themselves as provocations, the creation of a crisis space, even the repetition of daily actions subjected to new and unusual conditions each present a new and disorienting dilemma. We are interested in how we can make meaningful performance-art together, how transformation of the human spirit can arise from unremarkable or traumatic conditions and beginnings.

There will be more to share as we go along. We hope that some of you will join us on this journey.

Samantha & the EncounterTT Team


By way of p.s. Here is a wordle of the session courtesy of Vip’s wonderful documentation:

Click here for Vip’s thought of the day


Lower Groundfloor, Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, EX4 3LS

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