Patterns in our Hands workshop

29 09 2018

Catching up after a whirlwind couple of months and the beginning of the semester… but these ideas are still percolating and I expect to keep exploring them in the months ahead.

In late summer, I had the opportunity to run a workshop for 25 international artists in Berlin, on the theme of “Patterns in our Hands.” I continue to be interested in the ways that we share knowledge through our bodies, and how such embodied knowledge facilitates ways of learning that break down boundaries of gender, age, personality, and language. Donna Haraway, in Staying with the Trouble, conceptualizes string figures, or what I grew up calling string games, as a process of “giving and receiving patterns, … of relaying connections that matter, of telling stories in hand upon hand…” String games, this “rhythm of accepting and giving,” becomes a form of collective knowing, of learning and knowing together.

The International String Figure Association collects string figures from all over the world, laying out in detail how such patterns are used by children and adults, to bring good luck, or bountiful harvest, or safe passage to the afterlife. Their books, however, are full of diagrams and remarkably complex instructions for how to create each figure. How much easier, then, and more satisfying, to share the patterns hand upon hand.

So after some discussion of ideas, we turned to sharing patterns – and the joy and concentration and openness were so much more than I had expected. I saw artists rediscover knowledge in their hands from decades earlier. I saw artists who struggle with a common language learning from each other. And I saw the patterns open up space for knowledge sharing in unlikely pairings.

Thanks to Flutgraben e.V. for the space, to Kate Hilliard for her assistance, and to Jo+Michelle Piper for the photos. 

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