Proprioceptor! (¡El Propioceptor!)

Written documentation of Proprioceptor! (¡El Propioceptor!)
October 2010
Manifesta 8 Biennial, Murcia, Spain, as part of the WooLoo New Life Residency Project

Link to the record of the process and residency

For the 8th Manifesta Biennial the Danish group WooLoo set up a series of residencies that paired artists with local blind people from Murcia, Spain to work in a completely dark room. The idea was to give a “tour” of the room, after a week of working together.

For Proprioceptor!, my collaborator, Maria Jésus Cascales, a profoundly blind massage therapist, and I worked on creating a tour where we invited the audience to perceive the world through touch and proprioception only. The “tour” of the space became a tour of their own internal space through a series of simple guided movement scores. (Propioceptors are sensory receptors located in the muscles, joints and connective tissues and proprioception is the sense of the orientation of one’s limbs in space. Without proprioception you fall down when your eyes are closed. People who don’t have eyesight often have a more finely tuned proprioception than sighted people as touch and proprioception become a new mode of “seeing.”) The theory was, that, as a sighted person, sound and space and physical sensation would come alive in the darkness.

Both of us used our different forms of expertise to create the experience. Cascales contributed her tools for navigating the world as a blind person, and I contributed my knowledge of the body and movement. We led one-on-one guided tours, talking through different methods for paying attention to internal physical life–sense of place in space, touch, and balance–using a few simple awareness exercises, a few simple theater and dance games, and some tricks for navigating blind (one section of rough tape on the floor that formed a pathway). For sighted people, these simple exercises took on much more weight in the dark, becoming part of some mysterious physical ritual.

There were many visitors throughout the process, and about 33 people, ranging in age from 7 months to about 62 years old, mostly from Murcia, but some from elsewhere as well, for the final “show” on October 16.

To record the experience I wrote a journal (in the dark) and I kept an online journal on the Wooloo site. I took two pictures of the dark spaces, to document the dark and otherwise I deliberately kept all documenting machines out of it–sound recorder, video camera, still camera, ensuring that there would be no record of the events aside from my words and the memories of the people who took part. Soon the piece will disappear entirely.