PhD Thesis: The Ecological Body ~ extracts
Borders of Humility and Humiliation
Borders of Humility and Humiliation reading
Photo: Dave West
Bowing and Scraping ~ Naming and Shaming ~ Giving up and Letting go
Shame on you
We are in intimate relationship with all around us. Humiliated, we lose face. We can feel shame about feeling shame, humiliated by our own humiliations, but it’s hard to be humbled by our own humility.
Humiliation is the plutonium of the emotions, a terrible state that can provoke vicious retaliation or utter despair. But humility is a relief. When we can gracefully accept that there are limits to our power and importance, and not collapse into despair, shame or impotent rage, it marks the move from fantasy to reality, from omnipotence to competence. Unlike humiliation, humility restores our dignity and equilibrium.
When we can move from the brittle, narcissistic belief that we are in control of everything important in our lives, to a humbler acknowledgement that the human condition allows for little pockets of control, at best, we are able to adjust and adapt. This is where humility affords relief from humiliation.
Photo: Greta Berlin
Borders of Humility and Humiliation was a movement–based ecological performance
Devised and performed by Sandra Reeve
In collaboration with:
Greta Berlin - sculpture
Andrew Carey - words
Eleanor Davis - music
Jenna Kumiega - words
Sandra Reeve - movement
Dave West – images
Thorvald Aagaard, Alissa Clarke, Lindsay Gear, Gregory Young
Guest movement artist:
I would say that true humility is knowing ourselves precisely – knowing that we have come from earth (humus) and knowing that in every moment we may return to earth and living life in a way that embraces that truth. Also knowing that we are in intimate relationship with all around us, and therefore complicit with all that is happening in our complex world and not ‘above’ any of it. (Kumiega, 2007)
I had realised that the theme of bowing had been present throughout the movement studies (2004-2006). As I often work with opposites, on the basis that psychological material which is difficult to address often remains hidden or denied and to broaden my movement vocabulary, I wanted to identify and acknowledge the opposite of bowing. What was it? Standing upright? Refusing to bend? Arrogance? Self-aggrandisement? The phrase: ‘Bowing and Scraping’ came to mind, swiftly followed by the word humiliation. I immediately felt that humility and humiliation might be sisters; that they might have taken different directions, but shared similar characteristics.
Click here for Drew Yapp's photos, taken during the performance.
I had identified an autobiographical theme which was potent enough to emerge in each movement study, through an ‘etic’ exploration of movement dynamics. In terms of ecological performance, I wanted to see how a hierarchical attitude like humiliation, which disrupts any possibility of an ecological approach to life, (that is, of a sense of being a valued and intricate part of a broader context), might be transformed in an autobiographical performance through being identified, acknowledged, embodied, witnessed and then let go of, whilst humility, potentially a more ecological attitude, could be practiced and embodied as a real alternative for communication, without appearing to be pious or irrelevant. This transformation of attitude would be embodied in the movement of the performers.
I hoped that, by engaging with the theme through image, movement, location, sound and text, I could create a multi-sensory situation through which the audience could be affected by the power of these attitudes through one or more of their senses. Click here for a sequence of Dave West's photos, projected during the performance.
My hypothesis was that the audience could reflect on, react to or respond to the proposed theme, as attitudes of humility or humiliation were stimulated within themselves. ‘Reflection’ would correspond with a more intellectual approach to the material, ‘reaction’ a more somatic approach and ‘response’ a more affective approach. Each of these preferred ways of co-creating meaning within a changing environment was consciously engaged with throughout the ‘process’ of devising and scoring of the piece, as a way of ensuring that the final ‘product’ or performance would integrate these preferences.
There is a sense of the environment as a powerful (and sometimes unpredictable and uncontrollable) player in the process. I feel more powerful as a spectator in the outside environment– I feel freer, and more at home, and closer to the possibility of personal presence and authenticity. Somehow being an audience member in an indoor performance environment tames me.