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The Body of Objects

by Jennifer Kayle

*I learned a version of this practice from Terry Creach (Bennington College) who told us he learned it from Susan Rethorst (Susan refers to the score as The Game). Here is my version for remote collaboration.

To prepare:
  • Make an appointment to have a 30-minute video conference with your partner using a phone or computer – FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Hangouts, whatever you prefer.

  • Choose a 3 to 6-foot area like a coffee table, dining table, bed, sofa, countertop, foyer, whatever is available.

  • Figure out how to frame this area on screen with your phone or computer camera.

  • Gather 5 very different ordinary objects – different in size, shape, color, texture, rigidity/flexibility, functionality, etc. (i.e. an extension cord is long and skinny and it can change its shape, a small porcelain pencil holder shaped like a cat’s head is short and fat and doesn’t change its shape, a fuzzy hat has a different design personality than a big plastic chip-clip, etc.)

35-minute video call:
  • Begin by putting the 5 objects in an arrangement. Then keep re-arranging them spontaneously, staying curious about the process, trying to interest yourself in the “scenes” you create. 5 minutes

  • Perform this process for your partner silently. Keep going no matter what happens.

  • Try being clever. Try being messy. Try making characters. Try “designing.” Try using accident. Try being meticulous. Try putting things together. Try taking things apart. Think about “transformation.”

  • Think about how your body feels when you’re touching, moving, balancing, testing the body of the objects.

  • Observing Partner – your assignment is to take at least 3 screen shots of the arrangements or the process.

  • Switch roles - Arranging / Observing - 5 minutes

  • Then repeat- another five-minute round for each of you, except this time, play some kind of sound in the background that is “accidental” – like a radio station you never listen to, a TV channel you don’t watch, or a podcast you’ve never heard. 5 minutes

  • Switch roles – Arranging / Observing, 5 minutes

  • Then repeat by putting your own body into the scene with one, some, or none of the objects – moving your own body (either your hands, arms, feet, head, or whole self) into and out of the picture – creating “scenes” that now include you. You may give permission for your partner to take screen shots, or you may forego this part. 5 minutes

  • Switch roles – Arranging / Observing, 5 minutes

  • At the end of the 6 rounds, discuss. 5 minutes

Prompt for Response:

1. Post a 2-paragraph reflection on the process and your experience. You can ask yourself: What arrangements you were drawn to - Why certain scenes appealed to you more than others - How you went about it, and what ways of arranging you tried - Which ones were familiar and comfortable, which ones were unfamiliar or uncomfortable? Did anything surprise you? What happened when you included yourself in the scene?

2. Post 6 screenshots

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