Hypnomotor

HD moving image, 11’37” / 2020


This ‘situation’ has been dragging on for months, lockdowns, confinement, social distancing. If it’s a crisis, then it’s moving at the speed of a slow implosion. Is it as T.S.Eliot predicted: “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper” (The Hollow Men).

Will things ever go ‘back to …’?

What is normal?

I adore the solo Watermotor (1978) danced by Trisha Brown, and filmed by Babette Mangolte. In the first part of this work, Brown’s swinging choreography is fast, playful and free. In the second part of the film, Mangolte captures the same piece but this time in slow motion.

During lockdown I watched this piece over and over, imbibing it, I missed space and freedom. It also made me wonder about speed, dynamics and the ‘rhythm of freedom’. The phrase buzzing around was about ‘going back to normal‘. What normal?…was there ever a tacit agreement about what exactly constitutes ‘normal’?

Pondering the ‘rhythm of freedom’ I whiled away many hours watching free-diving videos — I love swimming and diving — they made me thirsty… at the cellular level. I was craving a kind of zero-gravity movement. To be supported by some thing (and not some one). Missing contact, touch, interactions with people, but at least the sky and trees are still there, drifting by, swaying about. Those larger entities that have their own ways of touching and holding.

Hypnomotor (2020) follows the logic of Watermotor a pays tribute to Trisha Brown’s delicious movements. It too is separated into two different dynamic sections, to move my way through the questions: what is normal? what is the ‘rhythm of freedom’?

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’ actually refers to a technological function devised to alter the speed (frames per second) of a moving subject and is often used as a tactic of desire-stimulation, for example in the ‘falling in love’ scene of a film or in showing the intricacies of extreme sports, or in selling champagne, beer, flowers and ice-cream. Why is slo-mo associated with desire, and often joy and sensuality… and if it is, why does our world move at an ever more frenetic pace?

Hypnomotor’s liquid, languid dynamic, is steered by breath, an oceanic breath that moves, and composes the rhythm of the dance, because breathing is fundamental to ‘freedom’, not just ‘my freedom’, but a freedom that breathes with the spaces, with 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?

When I filmed these sequences, I experienced altered states of consciousness. Immersed in a hypnotic dynamic for long periods of time, induced a warping sense of space and time in the studio. ‘Slow’ movement — at least not fast, production-driven — has been shown to have a powerful, regenerative effects on the brain, by stimulating activity in the cerebellum, the back part of the brain (I call it the spinal eye). This means that there is reduced distraction and mind-wandering, associated with pre-frontal cortex dominance — our ‘normal’ state in ‘modern society’.

Hypnomotor (2020) was filmed at Chisenhale Dance Space during lockdown. CDS is an artist-led space and had to close its doors due to COVID and struggled to survive beyond lockdown – thankfully it did. I was able to use the beautiful studio for a whole day and it was the highlight of the last six months.

With thanks to Chisenhale Dance Space and 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.