Places Sensed and Imagined

Sensory Workshop

TT Journal, ISSUE 4, 12th September 2022

By Tereza Stehlikova

I want to share here with you a sensory workshop I devised for an art and science gathering MIND THE GAP , hosted at SISSA, Trieste and organised by Alessandro Treves and Noga Arikha, with the active participation of some of SISSA PhD students in cognitive neuroscience and in other fields.

Mind the Gap invited participants to confront and analyse multiple aspects of space, from the perspectives of physics, architecture, urbanism, the arts, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy.

Sensory workshops have been an ongoing part of my artistic research methodology. They are often connected to a particular location and help to explore a place through an embodied practice.

A map of the location.

Bellow is a list of simple exercises I prepared, in order explore our relationship to a place.

A brief intro

Landscape, places, spaces are also an extension of our psychology, they mirror to us emotions, and in turn they effect how we feel.

I think of this way: we have a kind of landscape inside us too. It has its own weather, effected by moods, physiological states, health. The internal and external landscapes intertwine.

As we walk through a place we not only encounter it through all our senses, we also imprint upon it our inner states, emotions, memories, imaginations. A familar landscape thus becomes layered with memories, imaginings, daydreams.

Taking a walk can thus inspire new associations, or remind us of long forgotten ideas.

Sensitisation/initiation 5 min (a guided group exercise)

Close your eyes.
Focus on all your senses. Try and do this for sound first, then smell. Finally touch.
Pay attention to your body too. The position of your arms and legs, your posture, aches? (kinesthesia/proprioception)
Now focus on your internal workings: digestion, temperature, heart beat … (interoception)
The outside temperature. Humidity. Air currents. The scent they bring.
Now your feelings, emotions…

A Walk

Take a 10- 15 minute exploratory walk (you can set an alarm so that you don’t worry about keeping track of time) wherever your curiosity leads you. Focus your attention on your subjective impressions, whether from inside or outside. Explore your feelings, external landmarks, your wandering thoughts. Said simply: allow the landscape to inspire your daydream.

SISSA park, Trieste

Places felt & imagined – An Instruction MANUAL

The instructions below are invitations. You are free to follow, subvert, elaborate, simplify them.

Chose at least one listed + your own.

  • Find a place of introspection. Your own subjective interpretation of this. Allow yourself to feel/sense it. Note down the word and any details on a sticky note. Try and remember the location.

Do the same for all or some of the following:

  • A place of aspiration
  • A place of discomfort
  • A place of ambivalence
  • A hopeful place
  • A liminal place
  • An emotion/quality of your own choosing expressed by the landscape.

Note: Remember to think on all scales. Can be micro or macro. Consider distance and close up. Consider height. Consider orientation. Involve all your senses, not just sight. You don’t need to do all 8. It’s up to you.

Bonus: Make a tiny intervention. It can just be stone placed somewhere.

Below is a short document from the workshop, where participants share their findings.