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Photo: The Parangolé, 

Irish Museum of Modern Art , Hélio Oiticica: Propositions  

Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica’s (1937-1980) contribution to physical performance was enfolded within the dimensions of the parangolés  he produced as wearable sculptures. The parangolés  were inhabited as a dwelling space for physical exploration and expression. The complex fabric dimensions of these tent like constructions embodied architectural spaces. The fabric also had associations to homelessness and the nomadic carrying of one’s own belongings. Foremost, the wearer entered into an experience which performed new sensations regarding one’s physical positioning within public space.

The parangolés supported non-conformist bodily actions. They were intended as political interventions within the social context of a military dictatorship in Brazil. The purpose of these cape like structures was immediacy during a historical period of constriction. Rather than behaviour within boundaries Oiticica proposed the wearer of the parangolé to exert an influence upon surrounding social conditions. The anarchy of wearing unstructured layers of fabric could be considered a camouflage, but also a banner. The parangolé experience was an intimate experiment, aimed at finding new routes of social movement within limiting political circumstances.

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Photos: A Forest Art Therapy Studio, Investigations of Movement

The consideration of fabric being worn as a supportive frame for physical disclosure and deterritorialization* is perhaps unusual within art therapy. The parangolé was not a costume, but a physical revelation. And still today it offers an inspiring example of how to interrogate physical presence. The wearer of the parangolé was both a celebrant and a dissident. Particularly evocative when worn outdoors, these draped dimensions of fabric facilitated movement patterns that were ambiguous and sculptural, punctuating public environments with sensory inquiry.

The choreographer, theoretician and dancer Rudolf Laban used the term living architecture to describe explorations of space and geometry through movement. By drawing the body through lines of travel, a mapping process occurs. These lines of investigation compose movement dimensions  – forward and backward, high and low, and diagonally across from side to side. Demarcating space with pathways and networks of geometry, facilitates not only the physical explorations of spatial possibilities, but also cognitive capacity. Embodying the full spectrum of environmental possibility stimulates both mind and body. By learning to move in more than one direction, the coordinates of how we travel through life are extended. We move into new places, new situations, new volumes and depths.

*Deterritorialization is a term developed by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, 1972) to describe the transgression of subjectivity from its routine formations, into a state of becoming  (being in a state of flux, in process, in transition). It also refers to political and social movements, and society undergoing disruption and change.


Useful Book: Stitching Resistance: Women, Creativity and Fiber Arts by Marjorie Agosin

Maxine Bristol (2012) suggests that touching wool, felt, threads, and fabric furthers self knowledge. Such fibers act as a silent witness to experience. Our bodies become  imprinted upon textiles throughout the course of our lives. Bristow understands ‘the somatic sensuality of cloth’ (Bristol, 2012) to be like a skin, an interface between inner and outer worlds.


Photo: Eliza Bennett, A Women’s Work is Never Done

A series of photographic works titled ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’ Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, which is traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of its opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ‘ancillary’ jobs, such as cleaning, caring and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’ (Eliza Bennett, Artist Statement, http://www.elizabennett.co.uk





Photos: Roxanne Evans Stout http://www.roxanneevansstout

Ann Futterman Collier (2011) believes that weaving, knitting, crochet, needlecrafts, felting, quilting and sewing are all threads of discourse that in essence ‘craft humanity’. Traditionally, these forms of fiber art production have taken place within communities of makers. Conversation, and processes of production have been interwoven within these collectives.

Wandering and collecting found objects from nature, within streets, or public places can infuse fibre arts with a journey of discovery. Textile artist Cas Holmes (2010)picks up discarded objects and bundles them as packages, or souvenirs of her travels. These collection of specimens for her art, are disused relics. She makes new meaning from her findings through reassembling them, re-packaging what has been forgotten or thrown away, and re-instating their meaning. She is transforming everyday objects into portable icons, each becoming a talisman to be carried for protection and guidance.


Photo: Judith Scott, http://www.judithandjoycescott.com

Judith Scott’s sculptures are made through binding and weaving wool around found objects. The physical mass of her sculptures are evocative personal landmarks made from repetitive acts of wrapping and tying. A collection of found or appropriated objects are hidden within the core of her sculptures. They resemble cocoons, nests, bodies, and are strong icons of a visionary artist who never repeated shapes or color schemes in her entire series of sculptures spanning eighteen years.

Fibre art can also influences styles of writing and communication; the stitching together of ideas as a patchwork of felt textures, colors and fabrics of living. Writing/conversation, like fibre arts, can be interrupted – picked up and set down – becoming a collection of different time frames, an assemblage of perspectives, an aesthetic that is stitched and taken apart repeatedly during its construction.


Bennett, E. Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.elizabennett.co.uk.

Bristow, M. (2012). Continuity of Touch-Textile as a Silent Witness. In J. Hemmings (Ed.),  The Textile Reader (pp.44-53). London: Berg.

Collier, A. F. (2011 ). Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holmes, C.  ( 2010 ). The Found Object in Textile Art. London:Pavilion Books.

Scott, J. Sculpture Photos. Retrieved from http://www.judithandjoycescott.com.


Header Image: Carolee Schneemann, Water Light/Water Needle (Lake Mah Wah, NJ) I, 1966, silver gelatin print, 18 × 24 cm, Hales Gallery, London


Carolee Schneeman: Kinetic Painting, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg

Carolee Schneeman’s experiments with flesh as material contributes to the idea that movement events can be part of art therapy. Her mark making body in motion, imprints flesh upon the surfaces of the world with vigour and intensity.  And while Schneeman is know for her intimate explorations of the female body, her paintings and performance pieces inspire foremost the abandonment of regimented forms and conditionings. Her flow of desire is ultimately a remedy for apathy and lethargy.

Schneeman’s paintings, assemblages and performances engage risk across a broad canvas of physical experience. Her career highlights how oppression sinks under the skin evoking conformity, and how art can liberate the body’s enunciation.

The history of her work is characterised by research into archaic visual traditions, pleasure wrested from suppressive taboos, the body of the artist in dynamic relationship with the social body. (New York Public Library, Book Launch Promotion for Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting)

Art therapy can offer a space for transformative action, a strategy for physical chaos and movements beyond social conformity. The potential to use an art therapy studio as a horizon of opportunity, to work beyond the confines of a table, is a chance to interrogate embodied presence and an energetic craving for life. The body’s changing multiplicity implicates identity pushing it forward into new dimensions of representation. Travelling through spaces with an instinctive wrestling, becoming entirely responsive to environment and its materials of expression, creates an art therapy approach dedicated to live art and physical authenticity.



Photo: Asheville Butoh Dance Theatre

Illustration: Merce Cunningham, Space Plan for Dance

Choreograph (v.): to arrange relations between bodies
in time and space
Choreography (v.): act of framing relations between bodies;
“a way of seeing the world”
Choreography (n.): result of any of these actions
Choreography (n.): a dynamic constellation of any kind,
consciously created or not, self-organising or super-imposed
Choreography (n.): order observed . . ., exchange of forces;
a process that has an observable or observed embodied order
Choreograph (v.): to recognize such an order
Choreography (v.): act of interfering with or negotiating
such an order

(Book of Recommendations, A Manifesto on Choreography by Michael Klien, Steve Valk and Jeffrey Gormly http://www.michaelklien.com)

Michael Klien was the artistic director of Daghdha Dance Company in Limerick from 2003-2011.  In 2012 he became the founder of the Institute of Social Choreography in Frankfurt. Klien proposes that the aesthetics of social change can be achieved through choreography as a catalyst for actions that re-negotiate communication through states of embodiment. Making contact with others, and our surroundings, through active physicality re-orders perspective and context. Through interrogating social structures that regulate physical and psychological states of being, desire can be released through choreography as a form of inter-personal and environmental re-adjustment.

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Photo: Perfect Flat Circle, Katrina Brown

Art therapy can draw upon the ideas of social choreography as a way to infuse the desiring body into therapeutic space. The social relations of psychotherapy must not only be talked about (or drawn out), but also be re-sculpted through the ways in which space is occupied and dynamically lived. The aim is to infuse movement with affect, thought and sensation.

Activating art therapy within the thresholds of physical experience is letting go of art therapy’s propensity towards order and containment. The dynamics of change are an essential aesthetic component of art therapy practice, and reside within the illustrations of movement as they manifest between therapeutic participants and art media. Art therapy evokes an ecology of circumstances, situations within which to explore movement inwards and outwards into the exteriors of personal and shared space. It is this combination, and the urge to process experience, that makes art therapy a somatic performance that marks out mobile forces of representation. The body is the living artwork, and imprints materials with surges of evocation that might be marks on paper, but equally can be made into sculptural forms that inhabit the art therapy studio. Ultimately, this instinctive choreography may result in redesigning the art therapy space through movement patterns that mark out paths of what Klien terms “ungovernable moments.”

All choreographies are the outcome of lengthy periods of research, so-called Field Studies. They are rigorous, poetic artefacts that aspire to engage ‘the unkown’, observational and reflective realms offered to the audience to sense reality beyond rationality and purpose….They change and grow whenever performed or situated; they are cradles of relations—‘organisms’—interacting with the world, affecting and being affected. (Michael Klien, http://www.michaelklien.com)


Michael Klien, http://www.michaelklien.com

Book of Recommendations: Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change by Michael Klien, Steve Valk and Jeffrey Gormly on http://www.michaelklien.com

Sensingsite: Materialities of Landscape and Place http://sensingsite.blogspot.ie/2013/10/perfect-flat-circle-katrina-brown.html


The poetics of fiber (fabric, paper, felt, wool, fleece, etc.) contains folds, which can metaphorically link to physical and psychological dimensions of space.

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader and Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Remderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art).


Philosopher Gilles Deleuze believed that the concept of the fold was an image of the mental and physical landscape. The fold is not unlike exercising the brain to perceive differently; it is experimental thinking, a creative activity that is triggered by a new encounter or conditions that are unfamiliar. The fold is tactile, embodied and sensuous. It is not an interpretation, but a response, a feeling of being ‘touched’ in a unfamiliar way. The caress of an unexpected happening can inspire and rejuvenate. The poetic fiber stretches out, enfolding a new set of experiences. The mental and physical sensation of being stretched (unfolded and unformed) through new ideas, new people, new places, and spontaneous activities exercises both mind and body to be more flexible.

The smooth space of experimentation, where ideas and body may flow is not unlike felt.

Because it is made by rolling fibers back and forth until they enmesh, felt can potentially extend in all directions, without limit, entangled in a continuous variation – a fabric, at least in principle without top, bottom or centre (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader.


Felt is a metaphor for extended space, an enmeshment of influences that shape our character and actions. The friction needed to produce felt, is indicative of the effort and force needed to create the material of our lives. Rather than uniformity, felt is entanglement. It also reflects the transformation of one reality into another, as loose fleece becomes a strong cloth through concentrated action.


Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader

Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Renderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art


Crocheted Seed Sculptures, Suspended by the Grand Canal, Dublin

Sheep’s Fleece from Finland, Sculpted in a Washing Machine, Ireland



The creation of an environmental installation by many hands, is largely an improvisation of collective desire. An installation can be a meeting place. Manipulating materials and physicality, re-shaping space and investigating possibilities, composes a landscape of ideas. The desire of each participant generates meaning as a production. The energy of actions with others, can reassemble an area, and become an installation of a new environment, that unfolds within a pre-existing environment. Another location erupts from collective intentions.

As we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform. When we begin to consciously frequent the wordless dimension of our sensory participation, certain phenomena that have habitually commanded our focus begin to lose their distinctive fascination and to slip toward the background, while hitherto unnoticed or overlooked presences begin to stand forth from the periphery and to engage our  awareness (David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous)

Poetry Fiber 2

Sculpting public space, through collaborative artworks, creates new arenas of exchange. Physical and mental affects are refreshed. Installation art can re-make a specific area into a new social ecology. Weaving the supports for new movements and new perspectives, can ignite the  adrenalin of experimentation. The desire to exceed pre-existing life structures, and make new formations broadens experiential dimensions. The architecture of life becomes malleable, a living art. Subjectivity is an ecology that involves a web of influences. Collaborative art can structure improvisation and new gestures of growth into a shared social assemblage.

The social context, is an ecology of human biodiversity. Relationships between people manufacture artworks that exude complexity, divergent paths of discovery and new areas of exchange. The collective takes us out of our habits, compulsions and routines. A social movement, can be a group artwork. Movement is a basis for perception; it can induce more fluid or lateral thinking that includes the ‘ands’ of the group experience.  Our own familiarity of how we do things, is challenged; it is not always ‘right’. Making art within a community of people, goes beyond personal limits, and we are challenged to create in ‘unusual’ circumstances.

The core of the movement experience is the sensation of moving and being moved. There are many implications in putting it like this. Ideally, both are present in the same instant, and it may be literally an instant. It is a moment of total awareness, the coming together of what I am doing and what is happening to me. It cannot be anticipated, explained, specifically worked for, nor recreated exactly (Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment)


Community sculpts us differently. Physicality and structures of thinking can be re-shaped and opened through contact with others and new experiences. Certainty is questioned, and the power of improvisation is the capacity to experiment with materials, conditions and people without knowing what will happen. A certain reverie enters through sensory stimulation that takes us out of our usual physical postures, ways of moving, and social presentation.

And even more important, this moment of surrender and new sensation can demonstrate to me that I am not permanently obliged to continue acting out a habitual compulsion. I can see that the habit is a habit, that I am something else, and that for the moment I can choose to repeat it or not. And if I can drop a compulsive behavior or attitude for a moment without causing a crisis, then perhaps I can dispense with it altogether (Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork).


David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies

Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork

Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment.


Petronas Gallery, Habitat Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1999

Body, Space, Image

March 8, 2013

Take an image, let it hang in the mind, let the sensation of the thought dissolve through the body. Let the movement inside the body…move outside. Allow the sensations their own time and expression…waiting for a space between the thoughts, an unlocking of the parts of the body – a gap into which something new can emerge (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).


Gilles Deleuze developed the concept of the fold in relation to developing an idea of space that actualized the body in different ways. Architecture has been influenced by his ideas of fluid space, which can influence the body’s capacity to move. Architecture is a frame or scene that can enfold the body within its dimensions. An inflection of space, can potentially be connected to improvisation.  Improvising movement in response to the topography of architecture experiments with the body in relation to the spaces of a built environment. Deleuze’s concepts of architecture understand it as a dynamic force which can influence physical possibilities. Architecture can direct physical formations and qualities of movement.

We improvise the moment we cease to know what is going to happen. Setting the mind loose from the ongoingness of everyday life (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).

Retreat 2

The surfaces of buildings and interiors, the spaces they inhabit and generate are the stimulants of exploring representations of the body. The body can repeat patterns of movement through space, or add on new ways of investigation spatial features. The desire of the body can be enacted within different kinds of spaces, that encourage instinctual expression. The body’s desire is about production, becoming and connecting. A community of bodies within a shared space will enact the space according to different desires. Each participant will go their own way, animating their shared space through their own interpretations. As animate forms, bodies imagine space differently.

Where you are when you don’t know where you are is one of the most precious spots offered by improvisation. It is a place from which more directions are possible than anywhere else. I call this place the gap. The more I improvise, the more I’m convinced that it is through the medium of these gaps – this momentary suspension of reference point – that comes the unexpected and much sought after ‘original’ material. It’s ‘original’ because its origin is the current moment and because it come from outside our usual frame of reference (Nancy Stark Smith quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Peformance).


Deleuze is interested in how we occupy different kinds of space within a social assemblage. Explorations of space using improvisation are nomadic, wandering through physical positions both familiar and unfamiliar with others simultaneously undergoing the same kinds of experiences.

Each person is at once responsive to others and independent of them, ready to be changed by, but not absorbed into another person’s activity. The skill lies in being able to include what another person is doing, while not losing one’s own momentum of thought. Each person must become an ingredient in the mixing and making of a piece. There is no place for manners or mannerisms. Social conventions, routine habits of polite or impolite daily life, suppress the sensory and imaginative world from which this work begins. (Simone Forti quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).


Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance. 

Ian Buchanan and Greg Lambert (editors) Deleuze and Space


Graffiti The Royal Canal Dublin

Pigment on Handmade Paper at The Creative Arts Retreat, Wales

Drawing with Words Exhibition, Ardee Library, County Louth


March 7, 2013

There is no being, which is separate from the processes of becoming. Our world consists of moments of becoming, the mingling of bodies, the meeting of forces, a constant interpenetration and interconnection of all phenomena. (Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation)


Simon O’Sullivan’s book Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation discusses how movement forms the basis of art that physically connects to instinct, impulse and improvisation. Movement connects locations of subjectivity, through transversal actions. Subjectivity is a becoming that can be appreciated more in the making of art than as a representation of an artwork’s meaning.

Meaning is always fluid and plural for Deleuze and Guattari, the self is never enclosed as an entity, but instead a work of potential becoming. Potential is in the production of “new plots of land”, it is not a re-tracing of one’s steps over what has gone on before, but instead creates a new landscape of connections. Each artwork adds on to identity as an accumulation, a series  of ands.

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Deleuze and Guattari use the word subjectivity to denote a system of environments that compose identity not as a singular entity but as an assemblage. Their plea is for everyone to experiment with opportunity, to realize potential in many different places. To embrace life as a learning system that grows laterally. In art terms this system of life locations, could be called an imagescpae, a collection of personal images that reflect a variety of life activities and circumstances.



Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Represenation


Textile Workshop – Stitching with Wire and Plastic, FE McWiliam Gallery, Northern Ireland

Scratched Line on Ochre Cliff, The Creative Arts Retreat Wales

Artist Book made with Sandi Sexton Book Artist, Ireland



Community celebrations can be improvised happenings where the spirit of people and the energy of the landscape combine to produce an ecology of meaningful associations. Cultivating new ground for gatherings and productivity can also create a new local landmark. Re-visioning and re-shaping the everyday, into something unusual and fascinating, can be both an art form and form of social activism. Our landscape is influenced by nature and culture, and our relationship to places. Enacting rituals, improvising with others, sharing stories, poems, and social history, celebrates meaning within diversity.


Within the thoroughfares of everyday life, growth emerges. The intentions of many people produce happenings, and an adrenalin rush aimed at living within the pulse of a social naturescape. The eagerness by which community members (of all ages) participate in celebrations, is like a craving to be engaged more deeply with the people and landscapes that surround them. The desire to create, nurture and act out in public is a feature of community celebrations within everyday places. The local landscape is also the terrain of guerrilla gardeners and artists. What we pass by everyday can be a canvas for social action.


Common Ground Rules for Local Distinctiveness 

Local distinctiveness is about landscapes, buildings, customs, folklore, histories, art, diverse natures (biodiversity), languages, and the many ways people inhabit common lands.

The ephemeral and invisible are important too: customs, dialects, celebrations, names, recipes, spoken history, myths, legends and symbols. All these things are folded into identity. Localities are always open to outside influences, new people, ideas, activities,  and just as nature keeps experimenting, localities must face the paradox of persistence and change…Often it is the commonplace things, the locally abundant that we take for granted and let slip through our fingers (Sue Clifford and Angela King, Common Ground, http://www.commonground.org.uk).



Refer to http://www.groundswell.ie and click blogs for a list of case studies regarding community gardens including celebrations.

Common Ground http://www.commonground.org.uk is an arts and environment organisation championing local distinctiveness, popular democratic involvement, and celebration as the starting point for improving everyday places.


Blackrock Playground Garden Celebration, County Louth, Ireland

Peace Pilgrims Parade, St. Peter’s National School, County Louth, Ireland

The Tree Tribes Parade, Launch of National Tree Week in Ireland