Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Maggi Phillips

Second Advisor

Michael Whaites

Third Advisor

Dr Renee Newman Storen

Abstract

Gravity understood scientifically is normally accepted as a dictate, however when encountered creatively, the possibilities for playing with and learning from gravity in natural environments are plentiful.

This practice-led research explores gravity in both artistic and functional contexts. Two nature-specific sports (ocean diving and rock-climbing) and then later, aerial silk work, acted as springboards for explorations of creative expression derived from the states of submersion and suspension. To ‘really feel’ gravity, I decided to explore its effects and impressions, physically and emotionally, in environments that draw attention to its presence. Attempts were made to capture gravity in a series of poetic and performative artefacts, performed in their respective environments; the research culminated in a final performance, Sea Inside in a classical theatre setting. The management of gravity is fundamental in all movement, thus, understanding gravity’s psychophysiological aspects can extend the parameters of performance. Locating physicality underwater and in the air provokes a deep sense of falling and sinking into being and allows both body and mind to access a stiller place of being. Discoveries in natural environment laboratories led to an appreciation of embodied inner verticality and new perceptions about aptitudes for states of flow and “being-in-the-world” (Heidegger, 1976). Submitting to and tuning into kinaesthetic experiences through relations with gravity generated feelings of being enwrapped in the environment, and cultivated a rapport with the myriad landscapes; that are geographical, psychological or metaphorical of Landschaft.

Embodied outdoor experimentation led to the realisation of the significance of applying an ecological lens to investigate my affinity to gravity. I explored when the performer’s body learns to incorporate unconventional experiences like being underwater or up in the air, finding therein emergent opportunities for artistic expression. These possibilities have the potential to impact conventions of training/awareness and thus translation to performance/articulation.

This thesis contextualises the larger project that is my relationship with gravity which includes the often imperceptible poetic aspects of our environment. Additionally this research wrestles with the tension of theatre and ecology but makes no attempt to solve this problem, rather touches on how the arts, in particular performance modes, may contribute to a dialogue on ecological awareness.

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