Achter de Ramen / a work-in-progress display

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Françoise van den Bosch artist-in-residence blog and sorry for the protracted radio silence! 

The studio here in Stuurmankade has been buzzing in the past two weeks. Last Monday I had the chance to present the developments of my project to the members of Arti et Amicitiae, a renowned artist society founded in 1839. The talk was hosted by Myra Winter and Goony van Oudenallen from Pareltjes in de Stad, a cultural programme with a focus on contemporary jewellery. During the evening we discussed the idea of jewellery as a sensory experience involving the body as a whole and the definition of jewellery not only as a symbolic object but also as the trace of a conceptual process.

A few days ago the work-in-progress display of my research also started in Achter de Ramen, the window space in Feike de Boerlaan kindly made available by the residents of the building where the studio is located. The display will be running until the end of June and my intention is to use it as a visual collage of my investigation in body mapping that is updated regularly with new elements. Indeed this post will give you a deeper insight into the ideas and reflections behind the objects and drawings exhibited.

First, the title. Where did your strength go? might sound like a provocative question, almost suggesting that the subject of this installation is our weakness instead of our energy. But while this phrase does set a slightly ambiguous tone, it mainly points to the primordial motivation behind the idea of mapping the body and its energy. This project was in fact born from the wish to understand and counter-act the state of constant exhaustion that seems to characterize the life of a growing number of people in our societies. What the title of this window display is then really asking is: what do we do with our energy? Where does it go? How much of it does our daily routine require? How does the environment we live in affects our energy?

The best part of this installation is made by drawings and other works on paper. This might come as a surprise, but drawing is indeed a predominant medium in my practice. As writing down my thoughts and making notes, drawing is for me the first tool to understand the things I depict. Drawing is also a way to fix ideas and test them in their visual form. And ultimately, drawing is tracing a shape – which brings it very close to mapping.

The subject explored by the work on display is of course the body, but in particular the areas of the body where the passage of energy is more sensible, in my perception: the back, the torso, the neck, the shoulders and the pelvis. In the coming days other sensible parts will be investigated.

After experimenting with energy-based practices such as Reiki and meditation, I seem to have identified specific points of access or exit of energy in my body. The feet and the pelvis gather it from the ground, moving it upward through the torso and to the head. The head indeed feels like the main destination of my strength, where most of my energy gets burned and consumed. But several points of dispersion are scattered along the way and part of energy produced or sourced is lost because of these energy leaks: the belly and the upper part of the back.

In general the movement of energy seems to follow circular paths - starting from the bottom, moving up, falling back down and getting up again – but its stream is obstructed by some areas of stagnation. These points seems to be perceivable because they correponds to muscular knots, points of tension and congestion. Once these spots are recognised, a first reflex is to stretch and try to relax them, so that the way is clear again for energy to flow.

Part of my practical research is dedicated to movement - particularly rhythmical movement and dance - as a trigger for physical energy and hence emotional and mental energy. In my opinion dance is a very interesting ground of investigation for what concerns movement, as although it is a physical activity, it is commonly practiced outside the frame of training and sport. Dance make us sweat, but we often dance because we feel like it rather than doing it to work out and keep fit. As well, dancing is at the same time a social ritual and a very primordial behaviour to awaken the body. 

Dance too seems to function as a technique to facilitate the circulation of energy: ondular shapes, symmetrical gestures, shacking and jumping feel to me as instictive attempts to evenly spread energy in every corner of the body. Another fascinating aspect connected to movement is breath. The act of inhaling and exhaling is, in a way, what connects our inner space with the outter one, opening up our organism to the outside.

Finally, one last element that would deserve a closer look is the link between sound and energy, their analogous riverberation through space and bodies. For now my speculations terminate here, but in the coming week I will be able to explore these subjects further. 

Before you go though, pick up your organiser and write down a note to keep the evening of the 23rd June free: to mark the end of the display in Achter de Ramen the Foundation is organising a finissage in front of the window space at 5pm. Expect friendly faces, artsy talks and of course - drinks!


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