Thursday, 26 July 2012

Get up out of your comfort zone and dance...!

Relu events have often been designed to jolt academics and stakeholders out of their comfort zones, so when Claire Pencak, our choreographer/artist in residence here at CRE, announced a seminar about her work entitled "Because bees don't read the same books as we do", it seemed only right that I should risk going along.  I really wanted to find out more about the work Claire has been doing, particularly in relation to a project on beekeepers, but I was rather anxious that dancing might be involved.  I'm glad I went (even though there was indeed dancing) because it raised quite a few new ideas.  The work included video, installations and wax face masks as well as music and it prompted us all to think a bit differently about knowledge and how we share and exchange it.   Are books barriers or enablers to knowledge?  The video installation could be read either way.   We contributed our seminal thoughts on the subject by chalking them up on a graffiti wall.  Walid Oueslati, our French visiting professor showed hitherto unsuspected graphic talents, portrayed his work on rural and urban interconnections with coloured chalks.  Alan Hunt, a colleague from the US wrote about butterflies and bees as "pollinators" of knowledge which made me wonder why we view the two insects so differently.  To be "a busy bee" is generally seen as laudable, but "a butterfly" flits from flower to flower without purpose or real application.  We had an interesting discussion about the different attributes and attitudes towards insects.  Could this could be turned into an exercise at some future event where we all opt to be "crickets" or "mosquitos"?  Possibly not, but it did give us an opportunity to think about things in a different way.   The music was particularly enjoyable, performed by Jonathan Lloyd who is researching the role of folk music in rural communities.  And, yes there was the dancing, with my CRE colleague Carmen Hubbard leading everyone in a frenzied finale from the Romanian folk tradition.  This was a challenge for those of us without any sense of rhythm or balance, and I don't think I was the only person well out of my comfort zone at this particular point.  Creative activity can be a great equaliser and, I think, particularly for academics, it's not a bad thing to be put in a situation where they are no longer "the expert".

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