SPECIES. Barbara Berti
Text by Barbara Berti and Simone Rose
Through the sensory, physical contact, improvisation, and somatic practice the work with animals becomes a kind of embodying of the other: an interspecies intersubjectivity and inter-corporeality in which, through a process of shared activity, one internalises the state of the other. As with improvisation in dance or music the more we know about the other, through awareness and doing, the richer the practice may become. The same is true with animals as we develop our practice as a shared, living thing. It is an interspecies practice with bodies. The encounter occurs in a new space, in which negotiation begins – where two lands meet at a border, each softening into the other – searching for movement, rhythm, sensation, presence, and forming – remaining in that space, with trust and unknowing openness, as a new language is forming. Rather than ‘thinking outside the box’, this practice is to do with the absence of a box and, ultimately, non-definition is key; mind and perception need to remain open and fluid. With the overarching aim of broadening awareness through the practice, from personal to global, the unknowing openness is an achievement. And our construct of selfhood becomes questioned by the experience of sharing attention with the non-human.
The initial interest in working with animals was primarily instinctual. The interspecies work has developed through an ongoing research process and I’m continuously learning more about the significance and resonances of this work, which is multi-layered. The personal engagement I’ve developed with animals is the basis from which the practice with animals forms a performative response to contemporary environmental questions. Even young children now articulate how the humans have a very destructive relationship with other species, and we are reminded daily of the catastrophic outcomes of this (for example: through the meat industry; the transmission of diseases resulting from human endeavour; manifold extinctions resulting from to human activity; and more). The performance work with animals through dance opens a discourse in which other ways of understanding the relationship between species can be explored by questioning how we are perceiving, experiencing and thinking about ourselves in the world. We’re actively seeking to involve public and audiences in different ways that open new experiences. Creating encounters of awareness in which inherited, damaging attitudes to individuals and the world become questioned.