Empathy For Those Under the Ice

Thursday, November 17, 2011

After the initial ice experiment under the trees by the Writer’s cottage, the participants regrouped and discussed impressions and concerns.

Vicki says that she was pretending to be an oppressor and “really enjoyed my role, I must admit.” She notes that Latai’s position (with her hands bound behind her back with rope) was “loaded. The other positions were like science experiments.” She also talks about how when Cat was sitting in the chair, her head was not fully supported and Fitri had to move her arms at some point.

Latai says that when the ice was swinging, there were moments of recovery. “On the same spot, it’s relentless. But the music was soothing.”

Latai is primarily concerned with the effects of the experiment on the participants. “Is it necessary to push that boundary of the person?” she asks. “Is it necessary to make you feel like you’re losing your mind?”

Leigh agrees that there is some involvement in the part that you play, and maybe this kind of boundary pushing is indeed necessary. He says actors can get too involved with the work, and mentions how Doris Day does mostly comedy because she can really get carried away with the role
“What you want to convey doesn’t have to have the same danger,” he warns.

Rhiannon asked what the people would be wearing. From her own experience, she thinks that if there was more bare skin, “you’d have more multiple points of contact.” Latai has been thinking of using the naked body and using binding techniques. Though having seen Cat and Rhiannon in the heavy clothing caught her interest also.

Leigh has a list of observations made during the experiment and promises to send this list to Latai.

Simon admits that he tried his head first and couldn’t go on with it, that he couldn’t cope with the sense of loss of control. Later he tried his feet, which he felt had more to do with Latai’s bigger picture of the sea rising.

Doris suggests the idea of the audience getting their feet wet as well, so that they can also feel that discomfort. She also asks Latai if she intends to go on with the bonding, given that it can look perversely disturbing.

Latai says she’s seduced by some ideas concerning bondage. Leigh affirms that the binding had a somewhat religious aspect to it.

Latai also discusses how she wishes to impact the audience in another way. “I mean, would they see what their choices do to other people. Did anybody have empathy with anybody?” Vicki says she didn’t, and how it would be difficult to empathize with anyone presenting themselves as a spectacle. Leigh comments that needing to pay someone to go under the ice changes it, and Vicki half jokes that they’ll have to be paid, “Because nobody in their right mind would do this voluntarily… Except us…”

To this, Latai agrees and says she feels as if the stakes have to be dangerously high. She asks if this will create more feeling for the subject or just serve to demonize the audience?

Leigh tells her it’s good that we should discuss what happened today, but not expect to solve the problems of the performance yet.

Doris shares how her father underwent water torture which furthers interest in Latai, because the point is how the body is shaped under these conditions.

Fitri shares that she was quite comfortable until Ron started asking if she was feeling all right. Suddenly started feeeling the oppression of the ice. With her eyes open, she could see what she was dealing with, but still easier to see what she was dealing with.

Vicki poses, what if everyone did it everyday? She adds that in performance, if wetting the feet is out of the question, Latai could “offer the people an ice cube to hold.”

Fitri contributes that there is a sinister idea that ice blocks are suspended from a tree, as that’s usually where people are hanged. Rhiannon reiterates that there is something odd about having ice on the landscape.

Vicki suggestd that it could also be helpful to discover the everyday tasks that can be done alternatively to address the situation, an everyday mundane event. Simon pitches in about using objects that are washed up and not organic from the sea. Jerome shares an experience where his home was flooded, prompting Vicki to suggest an “alternate task is to take stock what’s in your house floating around.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There were new rules for the ice experiment on the evening of Saturday. There will be silence (broken sometimes by people walking in late), addressing the concern that it should feel like there aren’t people around, and an external voice changed the experience of being under the ice. Latai was going to bind people, and Cat offered to do the experiment topless.

Doris helped Latai string up the blocks of ice on the beams over the welcome platform outside the Dorothy Potter dance studio. Inside the studio, Doris set up the projector to produce the only light in the area while Jerome set up some very ambient music. In contrast to the contrapuntal music that he played earlier, this was more of a drone of sound, serving the eerieness and creepiness of the moment.

Ly Ly and Cat started out under the ice, both lying supine. The ice hit Ly Ly’s forehead, while Cat was receiving her cold drops on her bare chest. Cat’s hands were bound in front of her while Latai bound Ly Ly’s feet. They were joined by Rhiannon, who lay down on her stomach, exposing her back. She pushed the top of her dress down to feel the impact of the ice on more bare skin. Her arms were tied behind her.

Fitri sat down under a block of ice, crouched forward so that the ice hit the nape of her neck. Later, she would lie on her back to receive the ice full on in her face. Latai tied her own hands behind her back and sat in a similar way beside Fitri, but topless. When Cat got up, Latai moved to her block of ice and lay on her side, to receive the drops on her neck.

Everyone agreed that the darkness, the music and the new setting changed the situation of the experiment, there were more allusions to torture and pain, and definitely more, much more empathy (Maybe except from Margie who stood over each participant and, devoid of emotion, snapped photos, more concerned with the shots she took than with the bodies at her feet). Leigh Warren called them “Very brave girls.”

At one point, Latai would look up from her position on her side, and she must have just been checking on everyone, but the visual image she gave off was as if she were in a desperate amount of pain.

Ly Ly, who stayed there the longest, and didn’t get up even after people would ask her if she were okay (because she was shivering like crazy) likened the experience to having an operation. The first time she had an operation, she was very brave, but the second time, she was scared to go under the knife because she knew what to expect. In this instance, she probably would think twice about going under the ice again.

Although it was indeed very cold, while they were under the ice, it became less about the cold and more about “being in a vulnerable state.” Fitri wasn’t bound, but it she felt very afraid of being under the ice this time around, whereas she was “a superhuman” (Vicki Van Hout 2011) the other day.

I took several photos but have decided not to post them all, and sent them to Latai for her use. If any of the participants in the experiment would like copies of these photos, please just let me know.

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