Side 2 Web of Silence

please click here to breathe

Close the doors, light the lights.
We’re stayin’ home tonight,
Far away from the bustle

And the bright city lights.
Let them all fade away.
Just leave us alone.
And we’ll live in a world of our own.
We’ll build a world of our own
That no one else can share.
All our sorrows

We’ll leave far behind us there.
And I know you will find
There’ll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own.[94]



Opening Stanzas, A World of Our Own (The Seekers), soundscape, Journey to Con-fusion3 (2002)

During rehearsals for Journey to Con-fusion the final stage of the NYID/Kaitaisha project in 2002, Pledger took the combined company of actors through a workshop exercise called Body Listening. It required concentrated group movement in which the actors are clusters of dispersed bodies alternately stopping and walking forward. Each cluster has a unified force determined kinesthetically with the result that some groups stay together surging forward while others become fragmented and widely distributed. Pledger describes this as ‘diasporic’ movement, a greatly simplified image of massive population flows. What is significant however is that the image he gives them in order to remain connected to one another is that of the body as an ear. Instead of representing the human body as willed forward by its head (Western) or by its centre (Eastern), this image suggests the whole surface of the skin becomes a fleshy receptor towards others. If performance is a form of cultural rehearsal for action, this corporeality of listening may be a means of negotiating the infinite violence possible when persons of different social and political histories must co-exist. Although we struggle to justify corporeal violence in contemporary theatre it is also a place to practice and to imagine in the most limited and minute of circumstances – creative, political, social – the action of bodies needed for the continued commitment to what Arendt calls a civil society.[95]



Rachel Fensham, Violence, Corporeality and Intercultural Theatre in Alternatives: Debating Theatre Culture in The Age of Con-fusion. Edited by Peter Eckersall, Tadashi Uchino, Naota Moriyama. Bern. Peter Lang. 2004. P 103

Michael Long simply stopped. He was on the boundary line of the MCG. Four opposition players surrounded him. They were doing what they were trained to, keeping their eyes on the ball. Michael seemed oblivious to their presence. His eyes were on a horizon, not a single point but a diffuse line. He was sensing rather than seeing.

This disabled the opposition. You could see their confusion. He was inhabiting a different relationship to time which they could not process. The crowd felt it too.

There was a lull, almost a hush in the stadium creating a thudding silence louder than any kick of the football.

Then Michael made a decision, re-entered the real-time of the game and played on. With an elegant handball that seemed an impossibility moments before, he mended the rupture in the silence-noise continuum.


Deep down.

Beneath Logic.

And Time.

Lies our facility for sensing.

We sense what we can neither smell, see nor hear.

We sense ourselves. We sense others. We sense our bodies and theirs.

Put your hand in the air.

Now put your hand in the air with an awareness of your environment.

Now put your hand in the air with an awareness of your environment that is honed to the presence of another body in that environment.

Now put your hand in the air with the intention of directing that action to the other body in the environment.

Now put your hand in the air with the intention of directing that action to the other body in the environment in such a way as to get them to put their hand in the air in exactly the same way as you do.

Try again.

Refine your action and energy.

Try again.

Now you see the body whom you are directing your attention to, raising their arm in the air. Except it’s the opposite arm.

Try again.

Now they have made a deliberate movement which feels connected to yours but it is not the same movement, it is more like an echo of yours.

Try again.

Now they have made a movement that has multiple parts, all of which feel connected to yours but as a collection is more like an extrapolation of your physical action and your intention.

Try again.


Try again.


Try again.



Try again…


     body listening is a process which prepares the body to register and utilise spatial and performative awareness.

               At its core is the notion that the body is a discriminating organism (sometimes referred to as ‘a discriminating ear’) able to send and receive physical information; it explores the body’s relationship to performing spaces and to other bodies and develops movement and vocal patterns in relation to refining the performer-presence in the space.

                     body listening locates the performing body in a spatial-aesthetic construction where bodies are not neutral and their physiological presence is explored.

     body listening operates on the premise that all properly functioning bodies have a sense of physical presence (proprioception) which when amplified confers a heightened sense of awareness on itself and the external world (sometimes called exteroception).

     The process of amplification through a refined set of exercises cultivates a capacity for sensing shifts in the space without seeing or hearing them.

                                         Whilst           the proposition is tested in the context of training performers – actors, dancers and musicians – it is contingent on an understanding that all bodies whether in the service of live performance or daily life have this innate capacity.

                               body listening arose out of a desire to understand the inner mechanics of the transmission and reception of physiological intention. Its originating contexts are team sports, contemporary performance practice, architecture, landscape, the Suzuki Acting Method, live engagements between performers and between performers and audience.

                                         There are two main training protocols or exercises that define body listening. They are Conversation and Web.


                                                                                             Quantum theory
posits that to understand ourselves and indeed all matter as individual entities
is a falsity, that at a base level we are all mutually dependent and intrinsically
linked. What appears as a person or an object is actually, densely packed and
quickly vibrating particles of energy. Theories and experiments to support
this line of thinking have crystallised in scientific realms through the last
200 years, but the ‘experience of all phenomena in the world as
manifestations of a basic oneness’ is one of the most important
characteristics of eastern world views. [96]



Marina Abramovic: In Residence, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney 2015. p 35-36

Japanese theatre director Suzuki Tadashi created the Suzuki Acting Method, drawing on influences such as the martial art Kendo, traditional Japanese theatre and the Russian theatre director Meyerhold’s bio-mechanics.

                          Suzuki talks to the importance of the body in a performing space and its potential to be an agent of design. In his theatre, however, the actor is not only an agent of design; the actor is the performance, is the space.

                                His approach concentrates on the development of an actor’s centrifugal-physical facility in order to connect with an architecture unbound by the proscenium arch, a wholly Western invention. 

                                            As Suzuki taught me his method and how to teach it, I concluded that its best exponents have a low centre of gravity and a capacity to absorb intense vocal and physical challenges. His actors have an animalistic power; they breathe the sense and sensibility of nature into the art of performing.


In 1991 I was an accidental student at the Centre for Research into Human Movement in Moscow. These were the very last days of the Soviet Union and Moscow was a city in which there was a striking and disturbing absence of colour. At first it was a relief from the visual noise booming around the cities of the West but the drabness created by the erasure of colour seeped into my bones creating depressions in the marrow. The day before the coup against Gorbachev, I flew from Moscow to Tokyo, a city for whom electronic colour is a byword for ‘life’. On the Shinkansen, I almost wept at the violence of colour around me so thankful was I for its presence. My soul craved advertising.


In 2011, I initiated an artistic research program called AMPERS&ND, which had its third edition in Chuncheon, Korea in 2012.

As part of the program we offered an open workshop of Body Listening to the local artist community.

In the Q and A afterwards, one observer remarked how difficult it was for him to believe that a Western artist could develop a system that was ‘essentially Asian’.

In my working life, I’ve tried to avoid making and accepting such broad generalizations but here was one staring me in the face and I did not know exactly what it meant.

Some years later a Chinese-Australian colleague opined that her Asian friends accepted that Anglo-European Australians simply did not understand them. It was all to do with the cultural protocols of communication.

She used the example of a ‘contract signing’.

In Asia, the contractor lays the contract on the table and says, at most, “Please…”

It is an opportunity for the client to indicate if they have any issue with the contract.

If they do not sign the contract then the obligation rests with the contractor to discover the client’s reservations.

My colleague describes this situation as ‘you come to me a little way, I come to you a little way.’

Australians are much more direct, she says. They put the contract in front of you and simply say, “Please sign it.” There is no space for ‘contemplation’, no space for ‘culture’.

In the body listening work, the premise of tuning into each other is founded on this notion of ‘you come to me a little way, I come to you a little way.’ Culture is intrinsic to the practice.


I , I       AMPERS&ND,       C, K  . A        ,     B L,          I        . I  Q  A ,                      ‘ A’.

I    I          z           I       . S    C-A     A    A-E A     . I     .

S      ‘ ’.

I A,           ,  , “P…”.

I               .

I               ’ .

M      ‘      , I      .’

A    . T           , “P  .” T     ‘’.

I    ,              ‘      , I      .’ I    I       z   A .


            I am curious as to how less noise, or a lack of noise, not exactly an absence of noise, but perhaps the presence of silence, in a form that’s porous, as in a web, can operate as an antidote to the noise-production of our present political culture.

            I’m interested in the idea of ‘noise’ and how I have used it in the context of body listening and how in the political sphere the creation of ‘noise’ seems fundamental to the politician’s objective of maintaining power. I’m thinking that creating less noise in this performative environment and the democratic process is fundamental to the success of both the artistic and the social project. This is the crux of my dissertation.

            Its carriage relies on a synthesis of theory and practice – in that the acceptance of my argument is carried as much through theoretical rigour as an aesthetic endeavour. I am attempting to create a dissertation that allows these ideas to be felt as much as they are understood.

            Let’s take Side 1 as an example. The aesthetic tools I employ are word, sound, image and graphic text. As you make your way through Side 1, the ‘noise’ of the graphics, image, sound and word increases in proportion to the ‘noise’ of the argument. By the end, the emotional state of the individual (disabled by the aesthetic noise) aligns with the intensity of the argument that the ‘noise’ of neo-liberal capitalism disables democracy.

            Side 2 (what you are experiencing now) begins with the presence of ‘noise’ generated by the four media – word, sound, image and graphic text. Over the journey, the presence of ‘noise’ will de-materialise into each medium’s version of ‘silence’.

            For example, the text graphic you are currently reading is paler in colour and of a different font than at the beginning. By the end, the text will appear in a form closer to braille.

            The white-canvas background, on which these words are writ, will render into a distinct visual, moving image that reveals to its landscape, the possibility of time.

            The sound you are listening to has decreased in volume from when you first activated it by tapping the screen. It will be transformed by the reader into their own version of the sound of silence.

            All this is to integrate the aesthetic dimension and journey with the theoretical trajectory and argument so that what I am writing has a deep consequence in emotion and logic, in feeling and understanding.


A: What is silence?
B: Silence is the absence of sound.

A: What does silence sound like?
B: Silence sounds like listening.

A: What is listening?
B: Listening is processing information other than what one’s body produces.

A: Can you listen to your own body?
B: Yes.

A: How?
B: By processing the information of your body that sits above and below its surface, and the information within.


Shaun Gallagher has usefully distinguished between our body image, which involves “a system of perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs pertaining to one’s own body,” and

                                  our body schema, which is “a system of sensory-motor capacities that function without awareness or the necessity of perceptual monitoring”[97]
It is
                                  our body schema that hides from our view, even while it is what makes possible our perception, bodily movement and kinaesthetic sensibility.

                                  our body schema is “a system of sensory-motor functions that operate below the level of self-referential intentionality. It involves a set of tacit performances – pre-conscious, sub-personal processes that play a dynamic role in governing posture and movement”[98]



Gallagher, S. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford. Oxford University Press in Johnson, M. 2007. The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London. P.24


Gallagher, S. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford. Oxford University Press. P.26

Exercise One
The following

steps take the participant
through a process of refinement
whereby they cultivate their innate ability
to ‘listen’ with their body. This is done by concentrating
on and exercising their physical centre to heighten their awareness
of their body in the space, and in relation to the architecture of the space and
other bodies in the space. An essential principle is that of ‘carving out’ the space.
This is done through directional tasks within the exercises (including vocalisation).
In some readings, this may be called ‘spatialisation’ with the qualification that the process
begins with defining one’s presence in the space, by connecting with all the concrete and animate elements in the space, and moving towards the concentration of one’s primary energy to another body. This is a relational process refining direction, emphasis, quality
and intensity of energy within the intention to (a)effect and be (a)effected by animate
shifts. The key principle of Steps 1-5 is that movement is initiated by and from the
participant’s centre and the movement of the body follows from that, and not
vice-versa. Steps 1-2 have been adapted from basic exercises of the Suzuki
Acting Method to prepare the body for the later stages of Conversation by
creating and focusing energy. However, they should not be considered
exclusive to other modes of preparation. For example, Steps 1-2 of
Web may also be used. Another possibility is a running
exercise, based on the shape of a cube, created for this
purpose. The mode of preparation is dependent
upon the participants’ experience level,
their chemistry and the desired
dynamic within the group.


I know there are people,
sensitive and intelligent people
for whom there is
no lack of silence.

I cannot but assume they are hard of hearing.

For in the forest of symbols
– which aren’t any –
the little birds of interpretation
– which isn’t any –
are never silent.[99]



Samuel Beckett from Disjecta. John Calder, London 1983 (English translation of Beckett’s so-called ‘German Letter’ to Axel Kaun)

…just asking the question “How are body and mind one, not two?” frames our whole conception of the relation dualistically, since it presupposes that two different kinds of things must somehow come together into one.[100]



Johnson, M. 2007. The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London. P.7


Research Journal Entry
February 11, 16

So today I finally sat down to read the latest issue of Scientific American.[101] The cover story The Brain’s GPS caught my attention. There was a fair amount of ambient office noise – people in meetings, on the telephone, loud clicks of keyboards – so I took myself off into the corridor and sat solo at a long table. Understanding neuroscience requires a lot of concentration on my part. I needed a quiet space.

The article was written by two Nobel Prize winning professors in psychology and neuroscience, May-Britt and Edward I. Moser. They detailed their research deducingtions that the human brain uses a sophisticated GPS-like tracking system. I use this analogy kind of language when talking to the more challenging aspects of body listening.

Because body listening works towards the individual being able to sense what they can neither see nor hear, I came to my own nonscientific conclusion that the body – and my conception of the body is a body-mind, what Mark Johnson calls a ‘non-conscious unity of the human person’ – operates a spatial awareness and orientation system not unlike a GPS. This is also consistent with the philosophical idea that that the things what we create, make and produce are manifestations of the way our physiology (including the brain here) work. Our external world is a reflection of our physiological being and our existential self. I often say that the internet seems to be a representation of the infinity of our mental capacity our infinite mental landscape and faculty much of which has is not been used. discovered yet.

I digress.

So here’s the Moser argument. Our brain makes mental maps of our environment through the production and interaction of place cells, grid cells, head-direction, border and speed cells. Place, grid, direction, border and speed are words and concepts that live in the language and activity protocols of body listening (NB> cross refer architecture, pattern, orientation, speed, intensity, location). The place cells help form spatial maps tailored to specific environements while the grid, direction border and speed cells are universal so that they can operate in multiple environments. I think of it as superimposing a number of evolving vectors over a more stable (but still living active) plate.

As such, locomotion is a process of the body’s calibration and re-calibration of location, distance, speed and direction and recognition the transposition of across multiple and evolving spatial landscapes.  

Apply this definition of locomotion then and subtract the senses of seeing and hearing then you begin to understand the sensorial world of body listening.



May-Britt and Edward I. Moser, The Brain’s GPS, Scientific American, Nature Publishing Group, January 2016

Meaning traffics in
and eventually concepts and propositions.


The American TV actor, William Shatner, suffers from tinnitus. I heard him talk about it once on the American talk show, Late Show with David Letterman. I don’t know if I’ve remembered this correctly but I’m pretty sure Letterman asked William Shatner whether his tinnitus was a result of the intrusive telepathy of Doctor Spock, the Vulcan on the Officer’s Team led by Captain James T. Kirk (played by Shatner) in the TV series Star Trek. Fair question. Spock, with those Vulcan ears, seemed to have a distinctly alien way about him, and it would not surprise if he left behind a residue of his self in each telepathic subject.

Tinnitus is a type of noise that occurs in the ear, in the form of buzzing, whistling, chirping, an insistent ringing. In most cases, it is brought about by prolonged exposure to loud sound. The loud sound causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. [102] But it can also be caused by blockages or infections of the ear, drug use, ageing and stress. In my case, the condition is not attributable to a single cause.

Tinnitus is a dis-ease of modern living, a thoroughly modern response to the noise we experience in 21st C daily life. [103] Noise is a by-product of over-consumption, the more stuff we want the more noise we create to produce it, and the louder it seems to get, not individual noises per se but a mass of noise, growing larger and louder. The noise of manufacturing, of building, of putting up and pulling down, of roadworks, air-conditioning, traffic, trams, trains, computers, i-pads and phones, the whirring and ticking of machines, and the noises we don’t ‘hear’ – the noises that stop us hearing altogether.

In George Steiner’s analysis of culture as ‘post-culture’, he talks about the subordination of the word to image and music. Popular music, in particular, has created a space that envelops us, he says, in which all forms of communication both public and private ‘now take place in a field of strident vibrato’. [104]

The noise of society causes its own form of tinnitus. This ‘social tinnitus’ runs neural interference for the ‘social brain’, disrupting, interfering, intervening, displacing, derailing, switching. It has a neurotic aspect, constantly shifts tone, location, frequency. Its cause is the stress created by desire. It’s worse at night when silence is most possible, and when the desire for novelty created by the habit of consumption is at its pitch. Social tinnitus is the enemy of the silence that democracy needs to function well. It is the wall of sound that threatens to collapse the web of silence required for uninterrupted sleep, the space for processing, dreaming, reflecting, resting and reason, the space democracy requires for its citizens to restore themselves in order for them to reinvent it on a daily basis.



In 1962, surgeon Samuel Rosen conducted a study on a Sudanese tribe called Presbycusis Study of a Relatively Noise-Free Population in the Sudan. It is the basis of a broader research trajectory that identifies the effects of rising noise-levels in modern society on hearing loss. The study was published in American Otological Society, Transactions, vol. 50, 1962 


Steiner, G. 1971 In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture. P. 90 in Llosa M.V. Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society. Faber and Faber. London. P.11

A: What is silence?
B: Silence is the absence of image.

A: What does silence look like?
B: Silence looks like the memory of sunlight flickering through trees.

A: What is a memory?
B: A memory is produced in the process of remembering.

A: Can you remember your own body?
B: Yes.

A: How?
B: By allowing it to remember itself.


a substantial body of evidence
             from the cognitive sciences
                       supports the hypothesis that
                                    meaning is shaped by the nature of our bodies
                                                 especially our sensorimotor capacities and
                                                              our ability to experience feelings and emotions [105]



Johnson, M. 2007. The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, P.9

What first impresses in this gloom is the sensation of yellow it imparts not to say of sulphur in view of the associations. Then how it throbs with constant unchanging beat and fast but not so fast that the pulse is no longer felt. And finally much later that ever and anon there comes a momentary lull. The effect of those brief and rare respites is unspeakably dramatic to put it mildly. Those who never know a moment’s rest stand rooted to the spot often in extravagant postures and the stillness heightened tenfold of the sedentary and vanquished makes that which is normally theirs seems risible in comparison. The fists on their way to smite in anger or discouragement freeze in their arcs until the scare is past and the blow can be completed or volley of blows. Similarly without entering into tedious details those surprised in the act of climbing or carrying a ladder or making unmakable love or crouched in the niches or crawling in the tunnels as the case may be. But a brief ten seconds at most and the throbbing is resumed and all is as before. Those interrupted in their coming and going start coming and going again and the motionless relax. The lovers buckle to anew and the fists carry on where they left off. The murmur cut off as though by a switch fills the cylinder again. Among all the components the sum of which it is the ear finally distinguishes a faint stridulence as of insects which is that of the light itself and the one invariable. Between the extremes that delimit(s) the vibration the difference is of two or three candles at the most. So that the sensation of yellow is faintly tinged with one of red. Light in a word that not only dims but blurs into the bargain.




excerpt from annotated work version of Beckett, S. 1972. The Lost Ones. Grove Press Inc. New York. Ps 36-38 for Strangeland Triptych (2006-2009) highlighted in yellow; additional notes highlighted in green for side 2, wall of silence (2017)

A: What is silence?
B: Silence is the absence of words.

A: What does silence read like?
B: Silence reads like a book with nothing written in it.

A: What is a book?
B: A book is a receptacle of ideas written down.

A: Can you write a book on your own body?
B: Yes.

A: How?
B: With textas and tattoos.


Research Journal Entry
February 18, 16

The problem with Rupert Sheldrake is simple: that he simply does not use the right words at the right time in the right way. So It makes him sound less authoritative, less sure of his theory and so more opene susceptaible to criticism.

By saying “what I’m saying is outrageous!” he attracts the thought police, the ‘serious’ scientists, the ‘academy’ and they slam him. I mean what is he saying exactly that most of us don’t know intuitively – telpeathy is a distant feeling we all experienec to some degree, dogs that know when their owner is coming home, sure some pets have an uncanny connectioncon with their owners,

Mario Llosa Vargas is in my head today. He has displaced Rupert Sheldrake. I’m sorry Rupert but Mario has me convinced that the role of the intellectual is a fatuous one and that knowledge, real knowledge, new knowledge can no longer be recognised because we don’t have the tools for it any more because in the world of the spectacle that characterises our this version of civilisation we now live in, everything is as good as anything else. No one can determine value, there is no authority other than than the spectator. The individual is dead. The citizen is dead. The spectator is the only effective agent in culture and society and politics, and all the spectator is interested in is entertainment, sweet satisfaction, being ‘in the moment created for the moment’ with no morality or ethics or determination of any kind to decide whether it’s good or bad other than the words ‘yes it’s good’ or ‘yes it’s bad’. Like, like, like. Okay so I’m only fifty pages or so in but it’s not looking good for my democracy or equity or justice. Instant Gratification 10-Past Present Future 0. That’s today’s PhD scoreline. So I’m going home. I wonder if my dog senseknows I’m coming….


In 1952, John Cage composed 4’33”, an aesthetic space in which the composition was                created by the audience responding to the fact that no sound was produced                               by the artist. Cage had been curious about this space for quite some                                           time, proposing it as an idea some years earlier. But he                                                                     wanted it to be an enduring idea and so                                                                                              waited until he had a solid                                                                                                                    connection                                                                                                                     between the idea and his practice
                                                        which he himself understood. Artist Robert
                                         Rauschenberg spurred him on with his minimalist white
              paintings, and Cage duly paid inspiration to him. In 1951 Cage had the visceral experience of stepping into an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. Such a chamber is constructed so as to absorb all sound through the bottom, top and side vectors. So the expectation is that one will experience silence. In 2004, Donald Stein quoted Cage’s response: “I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge,

                                                            he informed me that the high one was my
                                                                                         nervous system in operation,
                                                                                                      the low one my
It seems that this experience reassured Cage of the impossibility of silence and therefore the future of music.

I want to pass through this experiential space described by Cage. So I’m going to ask you to put yourself in a comfortable sitting place, rest your hands on your upper legs, keep your back upright, and your posture engaged. I’d like you to turn your attention to your body, more precisely to the inner workings of your body. I’d like you to breathe into your body. Begin with a place that is a little tight or sore. Breathe into that space and allow the body part to fill with the blood you bring to it through the oxygenation process that accompanies your breathing. Follow the path of the blood in your body as it circulates. Tune into its frequency, the sound of it circulating. Now allow the breathing to accommodate your emotional landscape. Breathe into whatever emotional state you are experiencing in the same way that you breathed into that particular part of your body. Breathe into that emotional state and tune into its frequency, the sound of your nervous system operating under and around the actions of your daily life. So the sounds you are listening to now are a combination of the high and low sounds of your nervous system and your blood circulation. I have invoked the visual inspiration of a white screen of Cage’s friend, Robert Rauschenberg, to help convey this ambience of silence. But if you prefer not to look at a white screen then feel free to close your eyes. In 4minutesand33seconds the page will refresh….



































Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence. [109]



Lyrics to The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon. USA. UMP Group (1964)

Paul Simon and John Cage had different ideas about and uses for silence. Which begs the question: “When people talk of ‘silence’, what exactly do they mean?

          Do they mean Quiet, or do they simply mean ‘less noise’?
          Does silence describe a state, as in, the state of quietude? 
          Does one experience silence environmentally or mentally?

                                                   For my purposes silence
                                            is an active state, of diffusion,
                                    connection, and interconnectedness,
                                 a state in which one is mindful of one’s
                             surroundings, wholly receptive and wholly


We must understand in a realistic way that
might not be practised in the correct way by




Saddam Hussein. On Democracy. New York: Badlands Unlimited. 2012. P.64


Exercise One
Carving the Space
is concerned with
structuring and shaping
the energy the body creates
into a presence that can be
sensed by others.

It incorporates the notion of ‘leading and following’ or ‘sending and receiving information’.

                                                                                                                                                                   This process asks the participant to remain in connection with the architecture of the room (the positive and negative space of its concrete elements) and the other bodies in the space whilst selecting one body to communicate a specific intention to.

                                         It is concerned with building actions that have a
                                         different ‘value’ and ‘meaning’.

          For example, if the Sender wishes to communicate with one body in a group in a space, they will need to construct a specific presence and intention for that one body whilst making their specific action clear to the other bodies (that is, that they are not the subject of their intention). 
The Sender must do this whilst remaining connected to the concrete elements in the space.

The position of the bodies                        in the space can vary according to                      proximity and geometric arrangement.                    These may include                                                 bunches,
flocks, circles etc.                                       and be spaced at                                                   short
or                                                                 long                                                                         distances.

                                                                    Degrees of difficulty may incorporate the following
sending-and-receiving tasks:

                       Variation 1 Leader sends, Group receives
                       Xthe leader sends his/her specific intention to the groupXXX
                       Xthe leader sends his/her specific intention to a body in the group blocked by
                       Xthe leader sends his/her specific intention to a body in the group at a distance——X

                                                         Variation 2 Dialogue within Group

                                                                                     Other Variations
                                                                                     <Change sender and receiver>
–Send multiple signals–
Experiment with ++++++—— distance
^Role of Leader (Sender) rotates within Group^


Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam riffed off George Orwell’s 1984 in his 1985 film, Brazil.

Robert de Niro plays Harry Tuttle, a lone terrorist who targets the air-conditioning infrastructure

of a dystopian city. Air-conditioning leads a double life in the meta-metaphorical world of Brazil.

It mirrors the malignant managerialist cancer corrupting government and it breeds a capillary

network of ducts that threatens to strangle the city’s networks.

Excess and havoc are the underlying states of Brazil.

The irrational pushes back hard against the masquerade of reason that

the government-of-the-day attempts to project.

And no-one is safe.

Sam Lowry, the hero, succumbs to torture at the hands of another Python, Michael Palin,

whose Jack Lint is a pillar of the community.

Terrorist Tuttle meets a strange and beautiful death as he attempts to elude capture on the


consumed by a willy-willy of papery litter that sticks to him, suffocating him, finally ‘disappearing

him’ and disappearing itself as if an illusion all along.

Gilliam is intent on telling us that dissent, resistance, heroism

will be destroyed by

the over-production of things,

air-conditioning, paper, violence –

the noisy marriage of capitalism and totalitarianism.


The 2000Watt Society is a strategy developed by scientists at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) to assist in the reduction of energy in society. A watt is a unit of power that indicates the rate at which we are using energy. The ambition of 2000W is consistent with the need to reduce energy consumption in the world which at its current rate risks global warming of 6% by the end of the century. Current rates of Swiss energy production are 5000W per person for public transport, public infrastructure, food and consumer items, living and office space, air travel, automobile and electricity usage. The concept aims to achieve an average use of 2000W by 2050 without compromising living standards and mobility. [111]


A: What is noise?
B: Noise is a particular presence of sound.

A: What causes noise?
B: Energy. An over-production of energy.

A: What would happen if the production of energy was in balance?
B: This would cause a hum.

A: What does a hum sound like?
B: Go to Switzerland. Listen. Maybe you can hear it coming.


Research Journal Entry
March 3, 16

Cross with myself for not making it to The Joneses a new house built on the City Square inspired by the whole idea of reducing one’s consumption footprint. It’s linked to the same initiative around ‘not buying anything new for a month’. Weird because yesterday I went to Chadstone and bought a whole lot of clothes and shoes, something I do once every two years so I don’t embarrass myself wearing the same pair of jeans for two years which is what I’ve been doing. This time I only bought one pair of jeans, a pair of chinos, a good pair of trousers I can ‘wear out’, two pairs of shoes, some socks, two black polos, one that I am wearing today (I am wearing the chinos today too!), a collared shirt. The problem with the shoes is that shoes really aeffect my back, I’ve got a bad back, but I don’t know until after wearing the shoes for a full day whether they are going to effect my back so I just have to buy them and hope. Last night I wore one pair of shoes to dinner with Agnes who has come from France to attend the Australiasian Performing Arts Market where she trefused to buy any art as a form of quiet resistance. She teaches at Paris 8 now and is researching cultural rights which is something of a story in the French cultural scene at the moment – at least that’s what Agnes says. She is meeting two of my colleagues today to ask whether one of them will be her supervisor. I know at least one of them buys Australian art so I wonder if that will influence their his decisiion to supervise her – y’know, the fact that she didn’t buy any Australian art in Brisabane. What’s clear to me today is that just as we must all try to reduce our connsumption footprint and our environemental footprint, it is also important to reduce our intellectual footprint which is on refelection seems very high in this journal entry. Aside from the quite a while whether they


Exercise Two

The steps of Web are:
developing individual body
awareness; developing an individual
performer-presence in the space; developing
an individual performer-presence in relation to other bodies
in the space; developing a group sensibility; developing a networked
group sensibility, extending this networked group sensibility to those watching,
audience, observers, witnesses.
Through the practice of walking, the following takes the participant through a process
whereby they ‘tune their body’ to the animate and inanimate elements in the space.

 Tuning The Body
Step 1 Walking
Participants are asked to walk from one end of the space to the other with attention to:
the movement of their centre-of-gravity with respect to speed, intensity and location;
the interaction of their feet with the floor;
the consequences in the upper body of the lower body generating locomotion.

 Tuning The Body
Step 2 Signature Walk
These instructions are designed to formulate for the participant a distilled version of their
body in motion, less bound by habit, more available to input and more capable of
processing information. Participants are asked to make the following four modifications:

Drop or raise the centre or maintain the centre level with the floor;
Go faster (to a run) or slower (to an incremental pace);
Adjust the relative position of the feet towards ‘parallel’;
Reduce the impact of the actions of the lower body in the upper body.

The core instruction to participants is that the objective of these exercises is
not to neutralise or alter one’s own sensibility but to distil it
so that it is a readable and identifiable signature in the space.

The idea that the exercises reduce the ‘noise’ of the body
whilst achieving this distillation is a recurring one.


To David Marr from Gerard Henderson:      

David, the issue’s not resolved by emoting on television.

From David Marr to Gerard Henderson:      

I am not emoting, I am very angry but I’ve done a bit of work on this.

 This exchange between two of Australia’s best-known public intellectuals – on the treatment of ‘asylum-seekers’ in the Australian Government’s detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru – occurred early in 2016 on The Insiders, a popular (but not populist) program on ABC-TV, Australia’s main public broadcaster. It was quoted in an article in The Guardian discussing the role of emotion in public discourse, and prompted the author, Reverend Dr Michael Jensen, to ask:

Is emotion an obstacle to clear thinking about serious ethical and political issues?

In answer, he provides two key positions that are not antipathetic. The first is that “careful and logical consideration is needed to provide…a just and compassionate solution in any given debate.” The second proposes that, “to eclipse emotion in our consideration of what matters most in human life, of justice, and of what is the right thing to do, is a profound mistake.”

What he says next is most interesting:

Our visceral reactions, rightly considered, give to us convictions about what ought to be done.

Here, the good Reverend implies that ethics have a corporeal dimension, that our body plays a part in their generation and formulation through the interplay of instinct and intuition. This lines up with Mark Johnson’s suggestion that meaning traffics in feelings before concepts and propositions. The meaning we derive from our existence, our being, the meaning that forms our beliefs and morals – our ethical systems – is located in our organs (visceral), and so is ‘in and of the body’. To separate our emotions from logic is to separate our heart from our mind thus diminishing what distinguishes our species from others.


I use the words you taught me. If they don’t mean anything any more, teach me others.
Or let me be silent.[112]



Endgame. Samuel Beckett. Faber and Faber. London. 1958

                                                                         Noise reduction
                                                                         is a key element
                                                                         in body
the noise
of the body
in the body
and between the body and another body
is a corollary for articulate processing of corporeal information.

                           When undertaken in chronological
                           order, the protocols of body
are designed to achieve
                           this reduction, this distillation.

        The protocols are singular to this objective. They do,
        however, resonate with the work of other
        practitioners and their investigations into the
        potential of the body.

For example, the methods of Joseph Pilates and Moshe Feldenkrais have been used in the development of body listening as preparatory tools or ‘warm-up approaches, and introduced by artists who have participated in the research.

Both methods inform the body listening vernacular in word and action. From Pilates, the idea of the ‘powerhouse’ – that area of the body that includes the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs – has proved useful in developing the corporeal architecture of the ‘centrifugal-physical sensibility’ of body listening.[113] From Feldenkrais, the emphasis on proprioceptive awareness has added to the experiential information derived from sports and martial arts practices.[114]

Another influence is that of meditation practised in the form of ‘active listening’ by myself for ten continuous years. Although it predates mindfulness, ‘active listening’ aligns closely with its advice to the practitioner to remain attentive, moment by moment, to any experience without focussing on anything specific.[115] A second relevant genre, focussed-centred meditation, ‘aims to tame and centre the mind in the present moment while developing the capacity to remain vigilant to distractions’ [116]

In the world of contemporary performance, the artist whose practice echoes many of the concerns of the body listening protocols is Marina Abramovic. This relation is explicit in two exercises outlined in the Abramovic Method: Slow Walk and Platform.

To me, Slow Walk is a derivation of an exercise developed by Japanese pedagogue, Suzuki Tadashi, whose influence Abramovic readily quotes as do I: “The body establishes its relations to the ground through the feet, (that) the ground and the body are not two separate entities.”[117] For Abramovic, “Concentrating on walking allows us to intensely feel our bodily movement, internally and through space.”[118] This intense feeling is deeply connected to the development of our proprioceptive awareness, a key element in the transmission of body listening. The exercise Platform is an expression of ‘group meditation’, the experience of communal stillness, a state which is a transitional mode in Web.

Slow Walk and Platform are like book-ends to the protocols of body listening. Slow walking is the starting modality of the protocols and continues throughout until perceivable movement almost ceases in Web as it does in Platform. Whilst Abramovic’s concerns are broader than civil society, they do deal with the relationship of the singular to the many, the idea that ‘all units were equally important to the whole’,[119] an echo of the relationship of the citizen to society and the value of all individuals to a democracy.

Of additional interest to this discussion is the deeply ironic space which Abramovic currently inhabits. Having recently crossed over from the cloisters of experimental art into mainstream celebrity culture, the noise she creates as an artist in the public domain is in stark contrast to the quietude of her artistic practice.



Louise Taube worked with NYID as a performer from 1996-2001. A registered Pilates teacher, Louise contributed regular workshops to the company’s training explorations in performance preparation and body listening.


Ingrid Weisfelt worked with NYID as a performer from 2006-2009. A registered Feldenkrais teacher, Ingrid contributed regular workshops and discourse to the company’s training explorations in performance preparation and body listening.


Richard Matthieu, Antoine Lutz and Richard J. Davidson. Mind of the Meditator. Scientific American 311. 2014. Ps 38-45


Richard Matthieu, Antoine Lutz and Richard J. Davidson. Mind of the Meditator. Scientific American 311. 2014. Ps 38-45


Suzuki Tadashi. The Way of Acting: The Theatre Writings of Tadashi Suzuki. Theatre Communications Group. NY. 1986. p 9


Marina Abramovic: In Residence, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney 2015. p.35


Marina Abramovic: In Residence, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney 2015. p.36

If you are silent about your pain,
they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.[120]


           Whenever Russia engages in a new round of military hostilities – Chechnya, Crimea – Tchaikovsky is placed on high rotation and nationalist sentiment soars. This does no service to the music of course. Played continuously day-in day-out, week-in week-out, the 1812 Overture is reduced to background noise, audio wallpaper, sonic-prozac, a drug you no longer notice you are taking. This is the communist way.

                                                                             Americans are a different breed. When it comes to music and warfare, the American style is at once managerialist and externally directed – they turn the music onto their enemy and insure against any domestic blowback by making unlawful laws. As the ‘war on terror’ rolled out, in 2006 the US Government set aside the provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and legislated that acts of torture and indefinite detention without trial could be carried out by its military.[121]

                                                                            One torture tactic, called ‘futility music’, entails playing songs repeatedly and at high volume in a small enclosed space in which a prisoner is housed. Explaining the strategy, one former senior US military figure righteously invoked no lesser figure than God to whom he attributed the creation of ‘torture by music’ citing Joshua’s horns at the Walls of Jericho.[122] I am not sure God had in mind “I Love You” by Barney the Purple Dinosaur but it was the most widely used weapon in the torture-by-music arsenal.

                                                                                              Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held in Guantanamo Bay, claims the extreme pain he suffered under physical torture was lesser than the fear of sliding into madness brought about by such psyops methods.[123] I often wonder how I would deal with such an assault. Would I resist, surrender or just go mad?

                                                                                                                                     In my darker moments, I feel myself to be a weird concatenation of the Russian citizen and the American prisoner. I am subject to a background noise devoid of meaning that I no longer consciously hear or feel as anything other than a strange and persuasive pressure, like a cooling mask adjusting itself to my twitches of resistance, drawing all the oxygen out of my pores, my mouth, suffocating me slowly, rendering me an impotent citizen, drugged and tortured by institutional indifference, hyper-consumption, absent of empathy.

                                                                                                                                                                 In Blowback (NYID:2004), I created an antidote to this condition, a moving image simultaneously broadcast across the nation’s screens, a moving image imprinted in the hearts and minds of all Australians who grew up here. The point of view is a child’s, looking out from the backseat of a car driving through the countryside at dusk, the low sun flickering rays through the gum trees, a quiet hypnotic light that is so specific to time, place and landscape that it arouses a sentiment so powerful that its meaning alone overthrows the American oppressor.

                  Can a silent, moving image change the world, change the course of history? In art-making, the artist confers this power on the audience. As he does here…



US Congress legalizes torture and indefinite detention. Editorial Board. World Socialist Website, September 29, 2006


Clive Stafford Smith. Welcome to ‘the Disco’. The Guardian. June 19, 2008


Clive Stafford Smith. Welcome to ‘the Disco’. The Guardian. June 19, 2008








The eye – it cannot choose but see;
we cannot bid the ear be still;
our bodies feel,
where’er they be,
with our will.[124]













Wordsworth, William. The Complete Poetical Works. London: Macmillan and Co., 1888;, 1999. [Date of Printout].

Exercise Two

Building a Matrix Participants
are arranged in lines in two groups
X at either end of the working space. When
they walk across the space, they walk towards each
other – side-by-side in their own group and between each
other’s group at the point of crossing. The key objective is to
maintain connection laterally, frontally and dorsally. Grid Formation
These variations are then applied to a grid formation in which the participants
X are configured around the four sides of the working space. Maintaining the integrity of
their lines, the participants walk to the opposite side of the space as if on a grid. Then, as the participants employ the turning options of 360, 180 and 90 degree turns, a Matrix repeatedly
forms and dissipates. Ideally the exercise develops to the point where the participants stop
in precisely the same moment, and remain in this configuration, building the energy of
this state in which the desire to move and stop is held in equal measure. Web The
objective of this Step is to distil all the information of the space into a workable
system of understanding and communication in which no piece of information
has greater value than another. The intention is to create an ecology in which
the fundamental element is an applied and visceral interconnectedness. If,
X by the end of Building a Matrix, a point has been reached whereby
it is ‘productive’ to move directly into Grid Formation,
the participants are asked to:

Open the stance
Close the eyes
Drop the arms

mark the shift from
Grid Formation into Web.

X By taking these steps the participants will have
shifted the geometric shape from that of a matrix to
an open network in which the lateral, frontal and dorsal

connections are now dispersed centrifugally through the space.
The participants begin processing the information created by this

If there is any discernible shift of energy in the space then they respond in proportion
to the intensity of that shift. The mode of response is moving the body either by stepping,
centre-shifting or weight-shifting, the latter motivated by a responsive change in a part of the
body and processed through the centre. The shift of energy in the space comes from any
human presence within the space and any internal or external non-human information,
for example, floorboards, traffic or building noise. Once this has been established,
X the participants are asked to concentrate the energy created between themselves
on those watching – the audience, observers or witnesses – with a view to
creating a web of human presence that is kinetically palpable. This
process is for those watching to experience, in a less
adulterated form, the underlying precepts
that govern their mobility in daily life.
marks the bodies in the space.


The democratic practice
is thus the genuine principled vision and expression of the people’s will and conscience within the framework of sound revolutionary perception, which avoids in its calculations the fall into the illusions of liberal ideas, and defines the spheres of this practice in their proper conscious tracks. 




Saddam Hussein, 2012, On Democracy, New York: Badlands Unlimited, P.69

We hear sounds from everywhere.

Without ever having to focus.

Sounds come from “above”,

from “below”,

from in “front of us”,

from “behind” us,

from our “right”, from our “left”.

We can’t shut out sound automatically.

We are simply not equipped with earlids.[126]



Marshall McLuhan, Quention Fiore, Jerome Agel. The Medium is the Massage, Gingko Press. USA. 2001. P.111


Research Journal Entry
March 3, 16

As above, I’ve set aside Vargas for MacLuhan. It was Vargas’ idea. He started talking abouyt MacLuhan. I thought MacLuhan, are you kidding? Who invokes MacLuhan these days? But it’s like that saying: ‘why is a cliché a cliché ? Because it’s a truth!” – or something like that. MacLuhan has got it all going on when it comes to the future. Take this for example:
Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experienece co-exist in a state of active interplay.[127]
Once again: “all factors of the environment and of experienece co-exist in a state of active interplay.” He could have writ that about the internet, about or William Gibson, or globalisation, or inter-disciplinarity, or about how I’ve been practising as an artist for 30 years, or about how I’m writing these words in 2016 but when he wrote those words. He wrote that in 1967.
We hear sounds from everywhere. Across time.



Marshall McLuhan, Quention Fiore, Jerome Agel. The Medium is the Massage, Gingko Press. USA. 2001. Ps 44-63

From 1999-2003, my company NYID engaged in a 3-part collaboration with Japanese contemporary dance company Gekidan Kaitaisha called Journey To Confusion. Our aesthetic intersection was the body.

                                                                                                                                           Kaitaisha explore a corporeal sensibility evolved from the Japanese post-atomic, dance-form ‘butoh’. Their idiosyncratic training incorporates the ‘animal’ into a psycho-physical regime. This is characterised by an exercise that roughly translates as ‘pack of dogs’. It asks the performers to tap into the sensibility of a group of animals whose culture is defined by the participation of its members in the kinetic connection with and between each other’s bodies. The world it creates is hierarchical, primitive and constantly evolving.

          NYID acknowledged the potential value in the ‘connective tissue’ of this exercise for developing the capacity of ‘social sensing’ which characterises the Web exercise (formerly referred to as ‘atomisation’). In research mode, my impulses were to dissolve hierarchy, absorb the primitive and maintain the open-ended nature of the exercise, creating a continuum based on exchange, adjustment, sharing, active listening, and sending and receiving information. What eventuated – Web – phrases the mind-body discourse into a unified space that reflects key mechanisms in the contemporary social formation we call democracy.




A: What other kinds of noise are there ?
B: I can’t really hear you. Can you speak up?

A: I said, ‘What other kinds of noise are there?’
B: Nope…Still nothing.

A: What. Other. Kinds. Of. Noise. Are. There?
B: Oh that’s much better. I can hear you now. Trolls.

A: What?
B: Trolls. Another kind of noise. Trolls. (beat) Russian Trolls.

A: You don’t mean Russian Dolls?
B: No. Trolls. Russian Trolls. They operate in networks set up by the Russian Government to develop mis and dis information.

A: For what purpose?
B: To unsettle the consensus of truth.

A: I wasn’t aware there was one.
B: It’s implicit.

A: In what?
B: Our universal values.

A: I didn’t realise we had any.
B: They’re implicit too. They’re in the hum.

A:(silence) Oh. Ok. So how does it work?
This network of trolls?

B: It’s very simple. The trolls operate in teams under the supervision of the Russian State Security Service. They manipulate online discussions to favour the Government agenda. They target and ‘troll’ public figures like investigative journalists who are exposing the Government and its methods, trolling for one.

A: It’s an information war.
B: Yes. But it’s more than that.
It’s not straightforward propaganda.

A: haha, LOL
B: I am serious. It’s a very new kind of noise.
It deceives the ear.
It sounds like democracy but it’s the antithesis of democracy.

A: How so?
B: The trolls say they are exercising their freedom of speech by saying exactly what they like when they like however they like. To be allowed to behave freely is a longstanding principle of democracy. The problem is that what they are saying is not true, and how they are saying it intimidates others not to speak freely.

A: Go on.
B: To support the disguise of freedom of speech there is no explicit propaganda objective like “Vladimir Putin is really a good guy”. The objective is to make you disbelieve everything. Which is not the opposite of ‘believing in something’.
If you can create a society that disbelieves everything
it becomes rudderless and not really present.
Then it’s much easier to manipulate.

A: I dis believe you.
B: Exactly.


Some of our new practices must be accepted by us with a certain number of losses in order to bring them to maturity, particularly, on an issue like
We must also accept a certain number of losses in applying
because it is not possible to apply
without expecting some minor losses. Such Losses should not scare us,
because when we look at matters in their final outcome defined by the objective and central means, we will see that what is certainly required from us is marching the practice of
toward the achievement of
and toward the struggle for
Arab unity.[128]



Saddam Hussein, 2012, On Democracy, New York: Badlands Unlimited, P.53

Research Journal Entry
May 3-4, 16

I’m reading Saddam Hussein’s writings On Democracy, and if you take away the whole space around him being a couple of kangas short in the top paddock if we can put aside the fact that Saddam Hussein he was a couple of kangas short in his top paddockit he Saddam Hussein is a reminder hammer that constantly pounds the idea that of democracy is not as a Western product at the end of a commodification process begun manufactured by the Greeks. it is something that needs to be re-invented on a daily basis in order to remain effective and Nor it is not it democracy Or a relic of a Judeo-Christianity legacy mummified around realations between Church and State. 35 years later, Fact is, the Arab Spring has taught us that defusexploded the expor myth of the American export model of democracy trade approach to of exporting Democracy fails time and again because it seeks to impose one set of values on another – square peg values, round hole values – is as little more than an extension of the old ‘sphere of influence’ foreign policy approach. Is Hussein’s appropriation of democracy as an implement of control just a regional version of America’s entrepeneurial global approach? Whether it’s in the hands of a dictator or a neo-liberal cabal, democracy can be a means to a non-democratic end. Y’see how it’s so easy it is to get stuck on the instrumentalisation of democaracy – as a tool of political power – rather than the ideal that inspires community, cooperation, conversation which is what I need to be talking about here. It creates panic. It enables the disablers.

Let’s begin with the idea that Democracy is not a fixed thing that applies singularly to modern Western societies. Let’s say it is pliable, adaptable to local conditions, an open source idea to be transposed and recalibrated for multiple cultural conditions – including religious. Democrcay is as applicable can be adapted to societies governed by other religions, such as Islam.

Belgian theorist Chantal Mouffe strikes a real genuine chord with her examination of how a democracy can operate in the present day. Her line is interesting fore-telling because she talks about giving up on the idea of a democracy in which there is consensus and no conflict and talks about a ‘conflictual consensus’, about democracy asa a Adversraila adversarial (agonsitic) in a process in which opponents share some commonality but disagreed on the means by which things should be done. I’m thinking about this in tyerms of my dramaturgical proposition of that Body Listening and my proposition as is an operating system which reflects that of a functioning healthy democracy. She talks about the agonistic encounter as ‘a confrontation where the aim is neither the annihilation nor the assimilation of the other, and where the tensions between the different approaches contribute to enhancing the pluralism that characterizes a multipolar world.’ It is a fair way of describing in a political paradigm the experience of the initial point-of-entry state into the Atomisation Web exercise. Conflict is present but not disarming, difference is acknowledeged but not prohibitive but enlarging, expansive. re-write


Saddam Hussein’s On Democracy records three speeches to official meetings of the Arab Baath Socialist Party that took place from 1977-1978. His conflation of democracy, socialism, totalitarianism and Arab unity foretells the confusion created in the West by the Arab Spring, a series of events that should not be underestimated in amplifying the conundrum of Western society as it struggles to understand and value democracy in its current and multiple formulations.

The instruction within Saddam Hussein’s speeches is his use of democracy as a pretext for acquiring political power. It is a relative of the strategy used by various neo-liberal cabals that operate the cross-party alliances which constitute many Western governments. Further, Hussein’s appropriation of ‘the idea of democracy’ as a mechanism of control is a regional variation on America’s entrepreneurial and global theme of world domination through the practice of exporting ‘American democracy’. Whether in the hands of a dictator or a neo-liberal cabal, ‘democracy’ is invoked as a means to non-democratic ends, indeed an end to democracy itself.

In this frame, our purpose is to provide an antidote to these multiple and burgeoning forms of ‘democracide’.

Let’s begin with the idea that Democracy is not a fixed thing that applies singularly to modern Western societies, that Democracy can accommodate states of varying economic development, religious adherence and non-empire based nation-state formations, that Democracy is pliable, adaptable to local conditions, and an open source idea to be transposed and recalibrated for multiple cultural conditions.

Re-imagining Democracy in these elastic and adaptive terms, it is worthwhile visiting the provocations of Belgian theorist Chantal Mouffe who strikes a chord with her proposition for how Democracy might operate in the present day. She talks of relinquishing the ideal of the European democracy formation in which there is consensus and no conflict, and instead talks of a ‘conflictual consensus’. Mouffe’s democracy is described in adversarial (or agonistic) terms, as a process in which opponents share some commonality but disagree on the means by which things should be done, a democracy practised and evolving within adversarial parameters. Mouffe talks about the agonistic encounter as:

a confrontation where the aim is neither the annihilation nor the assimilation of the other, and where the tensions between the different approaches contribute to enhancing the pluralism that characterizes a multi-polar world.[129]

This evokes in political language the experience of Web, the framing exercise of Body Listening. Conflict is present but not disarming, it is for processing. Difference is acknowledged but not prohibitive, it is expansive. Individuality is appreciated but not overwhelming, it is connective. In every move, the signature of each citizen is written time and again. And the act of writing inscribes in society, its values, in time and space.



Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically. London Verso 2013: P.41

24/7 In August 1998, I took my performance company, not yet 5 years old, into the Central Australian Deserts on a research undertaking called The Desert Project.

It was my conviction that the training protocols we had been developing had their origins in my own travels through remote Australia as a teenager in the late 1970s-early 1980s. We drove for 3 days in 3 land-rovers from inner-city Melbourne to the Anangu PitjantjatjaraYankunytjatjara (APY) lands in northern South Australia arriving one stormy night at a new homeland community, a fragile node on a triangle joined by Fregon and Ernabella. I had spent a month there three years previous on the invitation of an Aboriginal elder who wished to establish a garden before moving his family from Fregon.

His country typified for me a sensibility that I could not express in words but which made sense in the unified way my body and mind responded to it. It tied my teenage experiences of remote Australia to my adult self and embodied them in my search, as an established artist, for answers to questions about relations between culture, place and landscape using the body as connective tissue; a sensibility which was, for me, centrifugal to the evolution of Body Listening.

However, the journey to understanding the multiple meanings of this sensibility was, in this project, littered with failure of leadership, misreading of artistic signs, bad luck, misguided enthusiasm and ignorance.

Throughout those 15 days I dreamed, lived and re-dreamed the conditions of the making of the film Aguirre Wrath of God by German director, Werner Herzog, a brutal production experience of an aesthetically brutal representation of murderous colonialism and its insane consequences. I was Klaus Kinski, a mad and uncontrollable leader looking for my Herzog both on-set and off, in search of my artistic El Dorado, an Antipodean Peter Brook in Ned Kelly’s ill-fitting cultural armour, a living, breathing nonsense of artistic and cultural analogies.

I fought with my lead-collaborators, demanded physical feats of the performers in the harshest conditions and drove them relentlessly to a place of not-knowing – anything. Respectfully they pushed back, compromise was reached, re-negotiated, reached again. Each evening we unpacked the day’s work of the exercises – running, walking, statues – in the strange and beautiful landscape dominated by tonnes of cowpat, thousands of flies, oppressive heat and extreme isolation. At Painted Desert, 120 kilometres north-east of Coober Pedy, lead performer Paul Bongiovanni said out loud: ‘This is not my country.’ But it was mine, I thought.

Why? Because there was a mercurial interplay of the abstract, the ephemeral, the irrational, the illogical. I desperately wanted to make sense of this alchemy, to discover it, name it, identify it. Here was so much noise in such a quiet place. And I had brought it all. Where was the silence?

I did not find it there.

Once I ‘left’, which took some years of art-making, I did find a road.

I began to understand that an absence of sound was simply the first layer to be peeled away in a search for silence. Noise manifests in multiple modes, shapes and practices, and is often carried forward by those seeking to divest themselves of it. Silence cannot be found in culture, place or landscape because its essential element is Time. Time that is not linear but simultaneous, Time that bends and refracts, Time whose dimensions are multiple, Time which is forgiving and inclusive, Time that hums, resonates and vibrates.

And so it is possible to crouch on a mountain on one side of a valley, facing another human on a mountain across the valley, and rise with the intention of communicating that physical action to the other a hundred and fifty more metres away, and for that other to receive your intention 6 and 7 Times out of 10…

It is Time that creates the Silence needed to carry intention from one person to another.

It is Time that defines Silence and allows it to occupy space, landscape and culture simultaneously and in multiple dimensions.

It is Time that accompanies Silence in its mediation of the human expression of Democracy, 24/7.


A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick
B: Tock
A: Tick


Deep down.

Beneath Logic.


And Emotion.

Lies our facility for sensing.

We sense what we can neither smell, see nor hear.

We sense ourselves. We sense others. We sense our bodies and theirs.