The most significant actions of early societies were performed and then literally translated as symbols onto objects of daily or ritual use, creating both an ephemeral and lasting narrative. These symbols and performed actions were part of a belief system that brought joy and hope to often perilous situations. Jessica Smarsch explores the negotiation between performance and symbolism from a historical and contemporary perspective.
When faced with a situation we conceive as threatening we react in instinctive, reflex gestures. We have evolved to have a fight, flight, or freeze response to alert us to danger. These gestures are instincts that are meant to protect us, for example, our arms can reach up and sideways in an attempt to block a possible physical injury. Fight, flight and freeze responses can appear in any situation we believe to be dangerous at the time. It isn’t necessarily a physical threat, it could also be a job interview. In those cases our brains transmit a sign of alarm and we react, for example freeze… stop speaking. Sometimes it is an effective reaction, but at the same time, this instinctive behavior feels as if our own reactions are out of our control, we do not control the situation or our body facing the situation.
The reflex may protect us physically momentarily, but the effects of the experience remain both physically and mentally. Physical therapy techniques for example, use tension to relieve tension; when a body is tense as a reaction to threat or anxiety, one way of helping the body cope is to create extra pressure on the body from the outside, this allows the muscle memory to release. In a similar way, by mimicking the very gestures of threat, we address fear with the physical manifestation of it.
This project creates an abstraction of reflex gestures, removing them from their natural context and placing them in a dance accompanied by upbeat music. The absurdity of dancing without fear, with the gestures of fear, allows us to actively take control over our physical and mental reactions.
While technology is advancing, decreasing in size and visibility, the ultimate mechanism remains the body. Slowly screens, keyboards, buttons and accessories are becoming obsolete; eventually technology will truly become an extension to the human body as an interface. Understanding that the body is more than a physical operator of technology will lead us to designing technology around the body, for our physical, emotional and cultural needs. In this crucial moment of hyper physical and hyper virtual, Aya Bentur and Bili Regev are examining the new physicality of everyday life. The body is our interface with our environment; our body gestures are expressions of presence, be it on the street or on youtube.
This project questions our body gestures as a cultural and social acts, attempting to counteract the emotions while facing threat, through a web based installation. The installation consists of a dance sequence choreographed by Ella Rothschild, based on gestures of facing threat in films and various youtube videos. The gestures, manifestations of the fight, flight and freeze instincts, compose a sequence re-appropriating those instinctive reactions of fear 1 and transforming them into an ‘Un-Fearing’ dance video.
The online platform ‘Un-Fearing’, invites visitors to learn the gestures of fear, film their version of it and add it to the website, transforming it into a collective dance, generating a pattern of gestures, losing and changing meaning. These gestures are taught online through a video tutorial, in a dance sequence composed of instinctive gestures facing threat. Visitors can learn the dance, film themselves and upload their own dance video to the website. The visitors participate in the re appropriation of our own reactions, generating a collective act of dance vs our bodily reactions to fear.__
Aya Bentur is a designer currently based in Tel Aviv, researching the interface of the physical and virtual through body gestures. She is a partner and designer at Reforma Eyewear, writes about design process for Portfolio web magazine and is a mentor at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Bentur holds a BA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and a MA in Social Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven. She is a co-founder of Fictional Collective.
Bili Regev is a multidisciplinary designer. She is currently working as service designer at SKIL Joint Open Lab for Telecom Italia in Trento / Italy and as well researching the interface of the physical and virtual through body gestures. Regev is a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven Man and Well-Being department.