exstasis (2006)

Following on from the experience of making and performing my solo re-member (3) which explored loss, I found myself wanting to explore aspects of the state of ecstasy. This led me to propose a research period and associated funding to the Arts Council of Wales for a piece with the working title EXSTASIS.

The research was funded by Arts Council Wales and supported by Aberystwyth Arts Centre and the Centre for Performance Research.

Exstasis explores fullness and emptiness (of spirit, of experience, of sensation) and how these relate to the state of ecstasy.

It also explores how ecstatic experience can, or cannot, be translated into performance and communicated to an audience without resorting to cliché. I am interested in a broader concept of ecstasy (than the relationship to highs achieved through sex and drugs) i.e. one that arises from a heightened awareness and sensitivity to our selves, to others and the world around us. My ongoing training in Bodyweather and 5 Rhythms (and now Movement Medicine)  and interest in the nature of ‘presence’ in performance become very relevant in this line of enquiry

The research was in two stages involving myself as director of the process and 5 other artist-performers: James Kennard, Rowan O Neill, Deborah Procter, Steve Robins and Mel Shearsmith.

Stage One

Individual research by all 6 artists including myself and a chain of creative responses by e mail incorporating aspects of the artists’ individual research:

Over a  month all the artists made a log of ecstatic states/moments from their own experience and  the experience of others e.g. friends, people we came across or specifically sought out: artists, writers, philosophers alive or dead. We considered the question: Where does or can ecstasy dwell in the ordinary and everyday as well as in the extra-ordinary?

Everyone also made a ‘site visit’– the instruction was: to attend or visit at least one event/site/place where ecstatic experience dwells (from your own definition) – experience what’s there on your own or with others, talk to others there. (Sites included a sweat lodge, an ecstatic dance weekend, the religious experience research centre in Lampeter, an attic and a theatre project by BTEC students at Coleg Ceredigion entitled The Ecstasy Project)

We kept e mail contact and sent observation and experiences to the rest of the group at intervals and allowed information from others to inspire and change our individual research journeys.

Stage Two

Research and development in the studio and in the natural environment on a residential at Pen Pynfarch in Carmarthenshire

This took the form of further exploration of some of the themes and interests that arose from the individual research and e mail responses. Specifically how these are explored and manifested as performance and through collaboration.

A wealth and richness of material has resulted from this research and development period.

The mode of living – as a creative community in stage two of the research – became very rich ground and took on a significance in the research which I hadn’t expected. The process of the research became as important (and relevant to the exploration of ‘everyday ecstasy’) as some of the performance products.