'Tangled Joy'

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This webpage has been significantly updated in areas in January 2022

This project, working title ‘Tangled Joy’, is a performance piece facilitated by Alicia Radage. Together a group 3 of neurodivergent and disabled artists will form a dance troop, of sorts. 'Tangled Joy' brings together Neurodivergent experience, Shamanic practice*, Neurogenic Shaking and Histories of Segregation.

 

*The word Shamanism (origins with the Evenki people) is used here in light of Core Shamanism: the understanding that Shamanic cultures from across the world have common core practices and that Shamanism is one of the earliest forms of human spiritual practice worldwide.

 

Background:

Through an Arts Council England and Shape Arts supported project (October 2020 - July 2021) I have been researching the intersection between Neurodivergent experience and Shamanic Practice. Through my training in Shamanic practice, combined with my own artistic practice, I developed a movement I termed the ‘Worm Dance’: through repetitively and rapidly treading ground on the balls on my feet, I found it shook my whole body and prompted Worms to come to the surface. I also repeatedly sang the phrase 'When I Ran Wild and Clawed Backwards'. Here, I was exploring if the typically human trait of singing verbal language can be extended to communicating with other species, specifically worms in this case. Through the process of repetition as well as applying methodologies learned through my training in Shamanic Practice, a trancelike state was induced where interspecies communication can be explored. 

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I commissioned milliner Rosanna Gould to make a hat to perform in. Attached to the hat are old iron nails taken from my floorboards, making a sheer curtain around the body. The hat was developed to be worn whilst performing the dance, thus it transforming into both costume and instrument as the nails jingle with the movement. Around this time I started working with another artist and Trauma and Tension Release Exercise Practitioner (TRE®), Hayley Hindle-Williams. TRE® is the induction of Neurogenic Shaking, which relieves stress as well as induces pleasure and joy. Mechanical and neurogenic shaking links to stimming as well as shaking as an ancient and euphoric practice used in rituals.

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Project Outline:

This project would see this Neurodivergent ‘dance troop’ create an orchestra using their movements and voices whilst wearing the nail hats. As this movement is very taxing and can only be performed in short bursts, the piece would be an orchestra of endurance; as one dancer’s energy wains others start dancing and there becomes a sharing, flow and balancing of energy levels.

Large hats have a history of being used as a tool of segregation by subjugating groups, examples being those used on women (witches), Quakers (shakers) and neurodivergent people (the dunce hat). Being a group of neurodiverse/ disabled women, these histories will be explored and healed through this research process and practice. 

Alongside this movement practice, the performers will explore singing individually and chorally as a way of communicating on a deeper level with one another as well as exploring it as an avenue to interspecies communication.

 

The project speaks to:

 

  • neurodiverse processes

  • burn out

  • models of care 

  • histories of segregation 

  • interspecies communication and respect in light of the current Anthropocentric climate crisis.

Background continued:

The relationship between Shamanic practice, Neurogenic shaking and Neurodiverse experience is a connection brought together by myself, Alicia Radage.

 

I had always experienced Neurogenic shaking whilst journeying Shamanically but was unaware of what it was.

 

In March 2021, Ellen Booth (Coventry City of Culture producer) came across the ENN Online Exhibition funded by my previous ACE grant and introduced Hayley Hindle-Williams to my work. This introduction to Hayley's TRE practice caused me to make the the connection between Neurogenic Shaking and Shamanic practice. I became aware that Neurogenic shaking was a natural mammalian process that humans have suppressed. A large part of Shamanic journeying is shapeshifting into other species and life forms, in order to connect to that which is beyond human. I realised that a deeper exploration and intertwining of both practices could trigger the process of remembering and becoming animal, which is essential in the  debunking of the myth of human supremacy and the achievement of climate justice in the face of the Anthropocentric climate crisis. 

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TENSION AND TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISE (TRE)

Neurodivergence & TRE connection:

"TRE is the peer reviewed work of Dr David Bercelli. TRE-induced tremors originate in the limbic brain and are not under conscious control. Neurogenic movements are a natural mammalian regulatory mechanism that allows the organism to remain flexible to the unpredictable nature of a full 'life'. However, Western sensibilities and cultural norms tend toward a rationalisation of response, and a suppression of this mechanism of stress cycle completion, to the detriment of all.

 

ND people (1 in 5) tend to have poor 'vagal tone' (either under or over reactive or a mixture of both). This means that the ND nervous system is less well calibrated to a balanced reactivity or responsiveness to internal & external stimulus. Experience of trauma, which is more likely amongst this population, compounds the disabling elements of such a 'trippy' nervous system by further increasing reactivity and the myriad of physical issues that frequently follow.

 

TRE is particularly valuable amongst such a population; a regular practice develops the capacity of the organism to self regulate. TRE also introduces a meta-cognition of those balancing processes by which the soma develops internal coherence and 'wisdom'.  Increasing awareness and self mastery allows a person to 'embody' and utilise the strengths and capacity of that genetic ND 'sensitivity' for life bringing creativity and connection."

- Hayley Hindle-Williams, TRE Practitioner and Neurodiverse researcher 

Impala Neurogenically Shaking after escaping a leopard attack

Humans Neurogenically Shaking

SPIRITUAL SHAKING MEDICINE

"spiritual inspiration may trigger shaking that leads to a healing encounter" - 'Shaking Medicine' | Bradford Keeney 

 

Shaking is a spiritual and healing practice seen with Kalahari bushmen, Squaxin Indians, Schuckling in Judaism, Quakers just to name a few. Historically, and now, shaking was feared by the colonialist mindset and used as an example of uncivilised, primal activity. When Christianity spread across the globe, shaking was a threat; instead of a quiet, submission to hierarchical beliefs and dogma, the spiritual practice of shaking encouraged a visceral spiritual experience, essentially giving the individual direct communication with divinity and the more than human.

 

This 'power-from-within' mentality is the kernel of Shamanism.

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SHAMANISM 

 

Shamanism is the practice of Animism: the belief that everything is alive. Within this framework Humans are an equal part of the ecosystem. Through entering into altered states of consciousness (through listening to Shamanic drumming and entering into a spiritual world beyond our physical body and reality) we can journey to Shamanic realms, communicating with the more than human and receiving knowledge and healings.

 

There are 3 main Shamanic Realms:

 

  • The Lower World - the place of Mother Earth, The Soul (appropriated by Christianity as Hell)

  • The Middle Word - the world we live in, of physical iterations of life

  • The Upper World - the place of Father Sun, The Spirit (appropriated by Christianity as Heaven)

 

By demonising the Lower World, the Christian Church asserted the idea that communing with the divine could only be through the Church and its priests. This lead to a deep loss of individual power and a submission to hierarchies. 

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A Shamanic Drum, traditionally made from animal skin and native wood

NEURODIVERGENCE

 

When coming to Shamanism I found a deep connection to both my art practice and my experience as a Neurodiverse subject. In the process of training in Shamanic journeying and connecting to the Lower World I began exploring ways of communing with other life forms and rewilding myself. 

 

Through communicating with the more than human, outside of language and an ordinary state of consciousness, I found my senses to be more vibrant and that, as an ND subject, I experienced sensory overload much less. I was enjoying my body and my environment much more. 

 

Whilst Journeying I found myself shaking and through working with neurodivergent practitioner and researcher Hayley Hindle I found a clear connection between the joys and reliefs of Shamanic journeying and those of TRE. This project will explore this joy within a community of Neurodivergent artists.

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SINGING

We have come to understand singing as an activity that 'talented' singers commodify and sell or as a communal act when worshipping a higher power. Singing in public for most people is terrifying.  This shame that accompanies the embarrassment is akin to the Shamanic term 'power-loss': a disconnection to our animal selves and the rest of the ecosystem that would provide us with a huge energy source were we plugged in. 

This project will work with singing as an act of Shamanic 'power retrieval'; working to connect the artists and workshop participants to a fuller life source within the context of the contemporary climate crisis. 

Many animals as well as humans sing, including treefrogs, mice, katydids, birds and whales. Through framing our ability to sing within a decolonial and eco-activist intention the typically human trait of singing verbal language can be extended to communicating with other life forms. Unlearning civilised and tame ways and techniques of singing will act to reconnect us to other species. This is vital in a time when 150 species become extinct each day due to human activity. 

 

Singing has been proved to release endorphins in humans. Within this project, singing will work to empower those involved. Empowerment is important for the demographic taking part i.e. neurodiverse people who suffer traumas everyday in this neurotypical society and women who live with histories of, and within a contemporary, patriarchy. Singing with children within the workshop will aim to spread this empowerment and more than human perspective to the next generation who hold the survival of this planet in their hands. 

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HATS

 

Historically, wide brimmed hats can be traced back to Witches and Quakers. The conical hat has medieval origins in the induction of divine knowledge to the wearer, and conical and wide brimmed hats are used as a source of pride by certain groups to visibly differentiate themselves from others (the Quakers being an historical example of this). Such hats were transformed into markers of difference and separation for the purpose of discrimination by subjugating groups and the oppressed were forced to wear them, another example being that of the antisemitic Judenhat.

 

Witches, Jews and Quakers were accused of sorcery and using magic for dark purposes (essentially their existence outside of patriarchal Christianity made them a target for condemnation). Both Witches and Quakers overtly broke gender norms, with Quakers practicing gender equality (highly unusual in the 17th Century). 

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A 17th Century Quaker woman publicly preaching,

wearing the 'Quaker hat'

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An 18th Century depiction of a witch's hat

Quakers were named 'Shaker Quakers', due to their practice of shaking to connect to God in early colonial times in the USA. Their songs and dance of worship were not formulaic to the European traditions and were seen as primal and wild and akin to some spiritual practices of Native Americans as well as Africans who were forcibly brought to the USA with the transatlantic slave trade.

 

These shaking practices did not defer to the status quo and were performed so as to form a direct connection to the divine, bypassing the Church and its priests. Additionally, as non white peoples and their practices were dehumanised and labelled 'uncivilised' by white settler colonialist dogmas, Quakers were denounced in a similar fashion.

These dances were also seen as sexual and Quaker women were often labelled prostitutes. It is argued that the vilified Quaker woman morphed into the symbol of the witch. Witches, again, were seen as unruly and wild, demonic and lustful. 

 

Furthermore, the conical 'Dunce' hat became a symbol of idiocy, being used to mark out problematic children in the class room. Many of the behaviours that lead to having to wear a Dunce hat, such as lack of concentration, fidgeting, miscomprehension, are now understood to be behaviours of Neurodivergent people.

 

 

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TANGLED JOY

 

Within this context, 'TANGLED JOY' will reappropriate the emblems used to distinguish these stigmatised behaviours in an effort to empower ourselves, joyfully inhabiting this condemned wildness. Undoing neurotypical, patriarchal and colonial dogmas and oppression, neurodivergent bodies will tremble with joy through accessing altered states of consciousness. 

 

The hats, with nails going down to ankles, create a protective force field whilst also gesturing to the ground, connecting us to the lower world. The body inhabiting the space between the Lower and Upper Shamanic worlds will be a conduit for the current of shaking, allowing a reconnection to, and visceral acknowledgement of, an electricity passing through all life forms. 

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© 2021 Alicia Radage ​