Empathic reflections

Antarctic Pedestrian
Antarctic Pedestrian
Antarctic cross
Antarctic cross

Two Perspex engravings I made recently reflect my sense of Antarctica.

Last night, in a workshop conducted by dance therapist Mircalla Havier, these images manifested as ‘authentic movement’.

The first image represents me with my mind as the shape of Antarctica.
The crossing point between my shoulder blades is where I broke my back (T8 vertabra). This point connects to the heart. This image reflects a sense of balance I now feel between thinking and feeling. I have just finished the animation, Energies, which visually unifies biological and physical in Antarctica with my sense of being part of it. The film reflects my sense of Antarctica through gestures of dance, drawing, and animation. Circles and spirals are drawn and danced as empathic reflections on structures existing within the Antarctic ecosystem. The elemental human form within this system reveals the form of a cross. The cross, as Carmel Bird writes, is a powerful metaphor.

Metaphor is a powerful force in human behaviour and meaning. For example, why Christianity has such a strong hold on our imaginations is because the cross is central in our human physical structure. The symbol of the cross superimposed over the human heart reverberates into our psyche. It was a brilliant gesture of Christ to get up onto the cross. He became a stake through all our hearts. Getting up on a cross was a brilliant gesture for Christ to do. He became a cross. He became a stake through all out our hearts.

(In con, May 2009)

The second image represent a view of Antarctica as it can appears on a map, with the cross marking the geographical south pole. This cross, marked many times over on other maps by lines of longitude, has captured the imaginations of many expeditioners.

The shape of Antarctica is more or less circular, which lends itself open to metaphorical readings. It can represent a sense of unity and wholeness.

The Antarctic dance that arose last night represents a transformation. I moved from feeling I could never represent Antarctica because I do not have objective knowledge about how it works, towards a profound bodily sense of Antarctica, based on an experience of being there, and empathically reflecting on the insights of others who know it in different ways. I now feel my body as an instrument of knowing its place in the global environment. I understand that objective knowledge of the world is impossible, but that connecting with what I know intellectually with what I feel through my senses has a different kind of authority from hard science. I also know, from listening to scientists, that science does not always happen through pure reason. As one scientists has said,

I think that in order to do the sorts of things that we do,
we have to have some sort of appreciation for what goes on out there,
some sort of feel for it.

Steve Nicol, Hobart, 2009

Conversely, in order for me to do what I do as an animator, I need to have some sort of scientific understanding of how the environment works.