when soft cyborgs do yoga (it’s not what you think)

My idea has changed. Again. My original idea was interesting, would have no doubt been visually stunning, and was also so friggin’ esoteric that I liked thinking about my concept more than I actually cared to make it into a physical artwork. Fortunately, a series of recent challenges in my life have helped me to connect to my artistic/academic/holistic practice on a deeper level. For the past three years I have been trying to negotiate the grey area between my yoga practice (something that is restorative and grounding) and my artistic/academic practice (something that is strenuous and demanding). My making practice seemed so far removed from my body. Last semester I took a big step when I created soft robot (reveal) and once again opened myself up to a very visceral and physical need to perform. I’ve spent the first part of this semester juggling multiple intentions in my various and seemingly disparate practices. At the beginning of break everything came together quite suddenly when I was faced with the challenge of spending time, the last I would have, with an dying loved one. As someone who has spent the past three years letting go of a different kind of pain, I found that I was able to reach out to my loved one an alleviate some of his suffering. I’ve been entertaining the idea of pursuing Drama Therapy at the Master’s level ever since I started the Theatre and Development (TDEV) program at Concordia Unversity years ago and the possibility of this path once again presented itself to me.

On a side note: I’m sitting at a computer on the 3rd floor of 100 McCaul. I just finished having a conversation a woman who is at OCAD from SFU to discuss the possibility of initiating an Arts for Social Change minor at the University. She knows Ted Little and Rachael Van Fossen, two of my most influential TDEV profs from Concordia. We talked for a little about the importance of a relevant art/design practice the extends itself beyond the walls of an academic institution. The TDEV program did/does just that−many of my courses involved creating work with, for, and in the Montreal community. So curious that this interaction took place just now. Maybe it is a sign that this train of thought that I’m riding is going in the right direction.

I think that my work at OCAD is turning into an exploration of art’s ability to be a healing/therapeutic practice. It seems that my yoga practice and my creative practice might find common ground yet. Now to root that large, abstract idea into a tangible project to be completed in the next 6 weeks. This is my next challenge. Instead of thinking about the end result (as I did previously) I have resolved to keep the project open until I have fully constructed my soft cyborg which will be happening over the next three weeks. I have already made the base for the soft cyborg (a 6 hour felting process). Here’s what I’m going to start working on now:

The eye’s of my soft cyborg are going to remain camera-less (a camera in the eye is too sensational at this point) so that you can look past the mask and into the eyes of the performer if you get close enough. I’m going to be putting all of my energy into exploring facial expression using motors and armatures. I just ordered a DIY animatronics book from Amazon.ca called Animatronics: A Guide to Animated Displays. There isn’t a lot of literature out there on animatronics so I’m also going to see if I can hunt down some cheap robotic toys this week that I can dissect (a Furby would be ideal). My goal is to have the mask frown/knit its brow and also smile/raise its eyebrows. Sorrow and joy; you know, the basics. While I am going to be able to control my soft cyborg’s facial expressions internally (not sure how yet) I also want the audience to be able to connect to the mask/cyborg body. So I’m going to be weaving a ‘costume’ for my soft cyborg and will be embedding conductive felt in the textile to create pressure and stroke sensors. The ‘body’ of the soft cyborg will be connected to the face/mask of the soft cyborg. The idea is that the audience members can, through different types of touch, change the soft cyborg’s expression/way of being.

Next week am going to do another process-work performance to start to explore various ways the audience may respond to this soft cyborg.

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