Project: Unknown Quantities
Unknown Quantities is an annual journal, and an experiment in publishing. It is conceived, designed, written, produced and distributed jointly by students of MA Culture, Criticism and Curation and MA Communication Design. This year’s UQ is the fourth issue, and after exploring art and politics, the abject, and ‘the normal’, this year’s theme is intimacy, especially in relationship to the public nature of this, or any other publication.
This is the second of three articles by students. The first was about researching and developing the project, followed by this second piece about the challenges and opportunities of delivering the project. A final article about the project’s completion will be available in November.
Reveal: Intimate Limits
On September 4 the Unknown Quantities publication team organised and delivered Reveal: Intimate Limits, an event on the topic of intimacy, at Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre. It was important for us to experiment with what intimacy means today and see how people react to different versions of it in real time. How do things merge from being ephemeral, the moments we spend with our friends and families, moments with strangers, to putting it down in something more concrete and physical? Does something get lost in that translation? Does it acquire more meaning? Is it just another way to document our daily lives (like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and share these private moments in the public realm?
Artists have long been preoccupied with the translation of emotion, but today there is a blurred line between an act of creation and the translation of the moment to documentation. Artists and poets have increasingly been playing a role in curatorial practices and getting involved in facilitating workshops and interventions. This shift in artistic practice led us to ask the question, through a series of workshops at our event: what does it mean to explore intimacy ‘as an art form?’
We wanted to find out what intimacy can mean on different levels: with ourselves, through meditation and our own thoughts, or with objects and the things we collide with on a day to day basis, like the book we are reading, the sounds we hear, or the food we're eating. We also wanted to delve into interpersonal relationships, how culture gets exchanged in an intimate setting (such as sharing food), or how much people are willing to open up about their personal lives to a group of strangers.
In order to explore these different levels we selected practitioners that we thought touched on the subject of intimacy in an interesting and innovative way. The event started with a Sound and Voice Tuning workshop by Alistair Smith, a sound-healing practitioner. Participants learned about how to be in tune with their own voice and how that can become a healing process. For us this was an important step to consider, as the voice is one of the most intimate things we can share with someone - through conversation, song and listening.
Next was a workshop on the practice of focusing, which pushed participants to listen to their intuition and explored the practice of interpersonal meditation. In this, participants are asked to accept the people around them in their personal realm, rather than focusing on themselves and their inner thoughts. The workshop was led by Derek Reid-Crawford, a practitioner interested in developing and cultivating inner experience. Derek has a daily spiritual practice that is informed by Tibetan Buddhism, the visual and the expressive arts, poetry, contemplative dance and somatic imagination.
During the afternoon, the event focused on activities that showed how intimacy is translated into the physical realm. The Visual Diary-Making workshop with Michelle Mildenberg aimed to provide participants with an opportunity to express their inner thoughts through visual language. The Poetry Writing workshop with Nik Way from Spare The Poets looked at writing and performing poetry as an act that can capture fleeting intimate moments. This workshop pushed the boundaries of finding and using words in individual ways to reflect and communicate personal feelings and experiences. Hyunjung Noh looked into how food can bring people together through a workshop about dumplings, their various forms and how they reflect cultural differences.
This workshop also facilitated conversations and exchanges about personal associations with food and memory. Lastly, Chloe Ting and Alexandra Chernaya, two MA Culture, Criticism and Curation students, led a workshop that examined what conditions are necessary to establish intimacy between strangers and if it is at all possible.