HYPNOMOTOR / what is normal?

HD moving image, 11’37” / 2020


The ‘situation’ has been dragging on for months, lockdowns, confinement, social distancing. If it’s a crisis, it’s moving at the speed of a slow implosion.. “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper” (T.s.Eliot, The Hollow Men). Is that it?Will things ever go ‘back to …’?

But what is normal?

Have you seen Trisha Brown’s solo Watermotor (1978) filmed by Babette Mangolte?

In the first part, Brown’s swinging choreography is fast, playful and free. In the second part of the film, Mangolte captures the same solo but now in slow motion.

I love this piece. During lockdown I’ve been watching it again and again. It makes me remember my sensuous connection to space and freedom of movement. It also made me wonder about speed, dynamics and what the ‘rhythm of freedom’ is?

‘Going back to normal‘ is the phrase that keeps buzzing around. But what is normal?…was there ever a tacit agreement about what exactly constitutes ‘normal’?

Drawn to this riddle about the ‘rhythm of freedom’ I got into watching free-diving videos: they enticed me at the cellular level, through the zero gravity movement that water affords. I felt I was craving that: to be supported by some thing much larger than myself. One of those larger entities that has its own ways of touching and holding: water, wind, earth.

I made the film Hypnomotor as a way to think ask through my body: what is normal? what is the ‘rhythm of freedom’?

Hypnomotor follows the logic of Watermotor. Hypnomotor is also separated into two different dynamic sections.

But Hypnomotor reverses the logic of Watermotor…In Hypnomotor it’s the first part, (up to 3’37”) that is speeded up (in post-production), while the second part is the actual speed of the sequence, no editing, no ‘slo-mo’, just the movement as it is.

‘Slo-mo’ in fact refers to a technological function devised to alter the speed (frames per second) of a moving subject. It’s often used as a tactic of desire-stimulation, for example in the ‘falling in love’ scene of a film or in showing the details of extreme sports, or ofr selling asprational lifestyles — champagne, beer, flowers and ice-cream. Why is slo-mo associated with desire, and often joy and sensuality… and so, why does our world move at such a frenetic pace?

Is this normal?

Hypnomotor‘s languid dynamic is steered by breath, that moves, and composes the rhythm of the dance. Breathing is essential to ‘freedom’, not just ‘my freedom’, but a freedom that breathes with the spaces and the environments that each of us inhabits: how can we change the ‘total climate’ (a term used by Christina Sharpe to describe structural racism) with our collective breathing?

Inner landscapes

When I danced these sequences, my inner states felt affected. Being immersed in this hypnotic (and highly challenging) dynamic for long periods of time, induced in me a warping sense of spacetime. ‘Slow’ movement has been shown to have powerful, regenerative effects on the brain, by stimulating activity in the cerebellum, the back part of the brain. With reduced distraction and mind-wandering, which is associated with pre-frontal cortex dominance. Slow movement can really be a resistance to the state of distracted busy-ness that is often thought of as ‘normal’ in modern technological societies.

Hypnomotor (2020) was filmed at Chisenhale Dance Space an artist-led space. With deep gratitude to CDS, this was the highlight of lockdown (1).

With thanks also to Arts Council England Emergency Fund.


BREATH / freedom to breathe / clean air / what is ‘normal’ is the freedom to breathe, to breathe-with

with the environment, the trees, and also and especially each other

‘I can’t breathe’ he said / and we were locked inside so that we might survive / our lungs are at the heart centre

and that says it all.