Academic journal article About Performance

Triplealice 1: A Participant's Perspective

Academic journal article About Performance

Triplealice 1: A Participant's Perspective

Article excerpt

[This article is a slightly revised version of the long essay written by Sarah Dunn as part of her MA in Performance Studies in 1999]

For the last two millennia there has emerged in western thought an increasingly complicated range of theories of the 'self.' These ideas, anchored in the Old and New Testament and Classical philosophy, have undergone various alterations over time, yet Arjun Appadurai identifies an "elementary Western topography of the 'person'", in which the "biologically anterior 'self'.. .through the vicissitudes of... 'personality development' becomes a recognisable though idiosyncratic... 'individual'" (Appadurai, 1990:93). While he feels compelled to call into question the 'constraining master image' (93) from which Western metatheories emerge, it is not my intention to interrogate this model. My purpose, rather, is to explore how the practice of Body Weather, as it was experienced in a three week intensive workshop in the Central Desert of Australia, provides a strategy for expanding one's perception of human possibility and how, by doing so, it affects a person's particular 'topography of the self.' (Appadurai, 1990:92). To do this I am calling upon my own experiences and observations as a participant in the Body Weather Laboratory at Flamilton Downs, one of three laboratories that comprised Tess de Quincey's Triple Alice 1 in 1999.

This essay explores the various layers of 'framing' at the event, arguing that this strongly influenced the way of perceiving the experience, both in real time and in hindsight. It will look at the possibilities of the practice as a gateway into a 'subcultural' level of human experience, and review the various ways a person can arrive at a 'knowledge' of something, with particular interest in the role that time plays in 'Western' and 'Eastern' process of learning.1 I will explain how the concept of place was integral to the shifting perceptions of 'self' as 'individual' (Appadurai, 1990:93), and compare the process to van Gennep's processual 'rite of passage' (Turner, 1982:24). My experience suggests that Body Weather is a potentially transformative process, the effects of which come out over time and are difficult to measure. Those who participated in the Body weather Laboratory within Trip le Alice 1 would doubtless agree that it brings about a 'catharsis' of some kind, which I believe, in various degrees, affects a 'topography of self.'

Colin Counsell convincingly argues that everything in life is bound within a 'frame.' He describes frames as culturally derived categories which, 'in defining what we see, determine how we see it' (Counsell, 1996:210). Frames take many forms, and there were a number of different framings, conscious and less conscious, larger and smaller, at Triple Alice 1. Firstly, Tess's choice to have the workshop at Hamilton Downs set up the locational frame. Participants were displaced from their usual city dwellings and replaced in the unfamiliar desert environment. Secondly, the time frame of three weeks for the laboratory was also specifically chosen by Tess. Three weeks, Tess claimed, was the right amount of time to maintain a high level of energy, work through much of the process, and see some effects become visible: 'there's a level of definition that can begin to form over three weeks that is virtually impossible over a shorter period of time.' (de Quincey, 1999). By the same token, four weeks takes people into a period of exhaustion that makes them unable to function productively. Within this larger frame, another 'framing signifier' (Counsell, 1996:18) came in the form of the architectural arrangement of Hamilton Downs. Despite its vast open surroundings, it was not a large homestead, and people lived in close proximity. The physical space within the place was divided up in a purely functional way. There were spaces designated solely for Body Weather work: the bush tennis court for MB training in the mornings and a wooden frame covered in green netting for Manipulations. …

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