It can be hard to envision a hopeful future in politically dark times. People are overworked and stressed from a constant attack on civil liberties, rising income inequality, and impending climate disaster. Writers and researchers have responded to this hopelessness with frameworks that leverage today’s uncertainties to imagine tomorrow’s possibilities. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown describe “visionary fiction” in their book Octavia’s Brood as the work that organizers and activists do when they struggle tirelessly to create and envision another world (brown & Imarisha, 2015). Max Haiven researches the “radical imagination,” writing that it’s a collective political imagination that brings dreams back from the future to inspire action today (Haiven & Khasnabish, 2014). Yet based on personal experiences, pointing to utopia without addressing sources of hopelessness can lead to a replication of systems of power, burnout, and despair.
This work grew out of a series of visioning workshops imagining a future where artists could be a force of anti-displacement instead of agents of gentrification. Working on these issues, while Seattle topped the lists of the fastest growing cities in the United States, led to feelings of hopelessness and eventual burnout. Recently, I have come to see this as indicative of “cruel optimism,” what Lauren Berlant analogizes as believing you are swimming towards a beautiful horizon, when in actuality you are “dogpaddling around a space whose contours remain obscure” (Berlant, 2011). Hope on the horizon is not enough; we must also examine the systems of power that foreclose the future’s possibilities. Rehearsing Power sprang from the realization that in order to make headway and adjust the course toward an achievable future, we need to address the systems of oppression that created experiences of shame held in the body and subconscious.
This workshop is an ongoing participatory research project that examines how movement practices can shift one’s relationship with the future, and it identifies experience as source material to leverage for imagining and embodying tomorrow’s possibilities. It combines visioning tools, design thinking, anti-oppression, and performance workshop techniques to provide a framework to explore how we can use our bodies to shift our relationship with hope.
This work & publication serves as a starting point that shares methods, movement scores, and resources to aid people interested in facilitating similar work with their own communities. Each iteration of the workshop is adapted in response to collaborators, participants, and institutional partners, creating a constantly evolving and shape-shifting process. As we learn our way through this work we continually ask:
How can past moments of hopelessness be leveraged to imagine new possibilities?
How can movement practices be used to change one’s relationship to the future?
By formalizing our process and conversations in this publication, our hope is that this work's ideas can be used, adapted, and discussed by groups of friends, colleagues, artists, dancers, cooperatives, activists, unions, or any group that is working toward alternative visions of tomorrow.
Notes on Movement
Movement practices are essential to this work. Our body has a natural way of processing difficult moments in our lives, but many times our inability to physically act or respond causes experiences to be lodged in the body. By engaging our nervous systems and examining past moments of hopelessness alongside longings for the future, our body can create new pathways for information to be processed. Through the continued collective practice of vulnerability and activating our social engagement nervous systems, we can contribute to our resilience while making space for future hope and disappointment.
In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past. ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score
This workshop relies heavily on tools and techniques developed by somatic practitioners, more information can be found in the "Resources" section below.
The word somatics comes from the Greek root soma, which means ‘the living organism in its wholeness.’ It is the best word we have in English to understand human beings as an integrated mind/body/spirit, and as social, relational beings. ― Generative Somatics
It is essential for us to acknowledge and recognize that all of these ideas, scores, and tools have been borrowed, inspired by, or deeply influenced by the sweat and labor of others. Below is a non-exhaustive collection of references, resources, and suggested readings of our influences.
Readings on Art, Activism, Dance, Performance, and Somatics
- A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, Amber Hickey, 2012.
- Dance and the Lived Body: A Descriptive Aesthetics, Sondra Fraleigh, 1996.
- Dancing Identity: Metaphysics In Motion, Sondra Fraleigh, 2004.
- Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy, Guillermo Gómez Peña and Roberto Sifuentes, 2011.
- Lessons from Utopia, The Center for Creative Activism, 2017.
- Making and Being, Susan Jahoda and Caroline Woolard, 2020.
- My Body, The Buddhist, Deborah Hay, 2000.
- Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, 2015.
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, 2005.
- Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, adrienne maree brown, 2019.
- Somatics: Reawakening The Mind’s Control Of Movement, Flexibility, and Health, Thomas Hanna, 2004.
- The Art of Holding Space, Heather Plett, 2020.
- The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity, Alex Khasnabish and Max Haiven, 2014.
- Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, 1993.
- Using the Sky, Deborah Hay, 2015.
Tamin Totzke is a dance artist, educator, and Somatic Experiencing practitioner, whose work is rooted in her fascination with the body as an archival site of personal history. She is co-founder of the “Resiliency Project” with her collaborator, Amelia Reeber, which is a workshop blending movement, creative process, and performance practices that aims to enliven connection to ourselves within a shared experience with others. Tamin also performs and teaches with the Seattle-based dance company, AVID, who prioritize live-dance making through their refined improvisation practice. She holds an MFA from the University of Illinois and MA (LMFTA) from the Antioch University; her work has been funded by organizations such as 4Culture, Artists Trust, Duwamish Revealed and Knowles Fellowship.
Eric John Olson is an artist, technologist, and educator. His work explores systems of power and their relationship to lived experiences through interdisciplinary and socially engaged art practices. He collaborates with artists, performers, organizers, and community members to co-create projects and conduct participatory research. Recent work has examined hopelessness, movement, participation, displacement, and intergenerational exchange. Olson’s art has been supported by the Seattle Art Museum OSP Residency, MadArt Studios, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Eichholz Foundation, 4Culture, The Seattle Public Library Foundation, and other arts and civic organizations. His projects have been written about in The Seattle Times, Vice Magazine, The Stranger, and others.