By Anna Lawaetz & Gry Worre Hallberg
Sisters Hope is an art-educational method and a practice-led research tool, rooted in the construction of a fictional parallel universe revolving around the twin sisters Coco and Coca Pebber. Our work is rooted in the ambition to democratize the aesthetic dimension through ‘affective engineering’ and the establishment of fictional spaces outside the institutional art context. In the Unfolding Academia-context Sisters Hope investigates new forms of research and (re)presentation through the creation of interactive and affective learning-spaces. At Collective Futures Sisters Hope explored questions such as:
How can we create a ‘learning space’ or a ‘research lab’, where the participants are inspired to approach their project in a new way with the outset in bodily and somatic experiences within the space? And how can we understand and distinguish what we understand to be the exposed self and the poetic self…
The Exposed Self
By the exposed self, we understand the self of everyday life, or more precisely and madly generalized; the self of the Western World. The reason for this? – A reasonable direction to look could be in the direction of the psychoanalytical tradition revolutionizing the way we understand ‘the self’ or ‘the ego’ in the West. It is something suppressed by a superego, thus it is not harmonized with our true and instinctual desires. These are on the other hand hidden away somewhere in our the subconsciousm and one of our foremost aims as human beings is to travel down to the subconscious and allow the dark desires and intense emotions living and breeding down here to have a life in the bright daylight of our ego or self. Thus, we value the exposure or even explosion of emotions into everyday life. Not at least within the art world, and maybe even more specifically within Theatre and Performance Studies has this been the case. Thus, the grand old man of the art of acting in modern times, Stanislavskij, is planting his ideas simultaneously with Freud. Furthermore, the Method Acting Tradition inspired by both Stanislavskij and with a strong Freudian approach encourages the actor/actress to deeply sense and feel their innermost emotions and inhibitions, many of them based on childhood experiences, and not at least traumas, and then expose them on the stage. The aim: To make the audience expose similar feelings – To collectively get in touch with that what is inside, hidden away in the subconsciousness.
However, we question whether ‘the exposed self’ is actually a preferred place to be for the self. Rather we suggest and invite the participants of Sisters Hope to investigate and unfold their poetic self…
The Poetic Self
The term is based on our experiences with participants acting, behaving and living within the fictional framework that we provide through the enlivened narrative of Sisters Hope. Within this parallel universe we offer our participants to perform a new persona – A fresh character to build and explore – Fresh and full of new possibilities and potential.
Through the character the participants are offered a possibility to create a new self. It is a self that doesn’t have to expose itself, but can rise above. Rise to a position from which one can view the actions and emotions of the self from a higher position, and thus, from this position judge whether one or the other action or emotion is the better path to take. It is a self invited to act within a form, which is provided by the fictional universe. This is not to be confused with a disciplined self. It is a self, which is occupied with the creation of beauty and poetry and the activation of the aesthetic dimension.
We search through fiction…
… As orphanages the sisters left what they had known to be their home and drew into the yet unfamiliar and unknown world that to the two little girls seemed infinite. With them they brought their most treasured belonging: Their fathers book. They would read from it on streets and straits. In the beginning the sisters had nowhere to go, but as they begun to read and tell people assembled around them – they were drawn to them – curious and magnified by what they had to say. They found what the heard to be beautiful. As timed passed several followers surrounded them. They realized that they possessed the power to create and with-bring joy. And they found that this great gift should be systematized so that everyone could part-take in this joy. This was the foundation of the school Sisters Hope. As the motivation of the sisters is “to create and bring joy”. The world they are operating in is dominated by the spread of an epidemic. The story goes that when it strikes, the body of the attacked is slowly paralyzed from within. Every part of the dying body gradually turns numb and the senses dissolve. One will slowly but steadily lose the ability to smell, hear, feel, taste and see. However, one part of the body is left untouched – the brain. In contrast this part of the body is enlarged (leading to human organizations of very big heads). These remains are called Capita, as is the epidemic. To prevent the spread of Capita, the sisters focus specifically on the aesthetic, sense-oriented, mode of being in the world. Hence, the school teaches principles that activate this dimension.