Education, Research

Free bodily movement in a creative process: an autoethnographic inquiry

May 31, 2019

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Katia Shklyar, Media Management MA student, Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS

Supervisor:  Elisabeth Öhman         Examiner: Dr. Jan Nåls

 

Most people underestimate the value of bodily movement in their personal creative process. It is not a surprise since the concept of Cartesian split has been dominating in philosophical and scientific thought throughout the centuries: “I think therefore I am”. Body has been objectified and disfavoured over the mind, while mind has been considered the positive “true” self. Moreover, mind and body became two separate instances while in reality they are one.

In a tiny room in Temporary, a collective space in Helsinki, we are stretching on the floor after the rehearsal. Anna, my creative partner in UtoUto theatre duo (www.utouto.fi), and I. It is a production meeting; we are discussing opportunities and practicalities of being involved with one festival. It is not the first time when we discuss the “business” side of things while moving in space, spontaneously and unintentionally. I’m feeling clearer and more fluent with my “business” thoughts and ideas after and during the improvised movement session. When I’m giving my body space-time freedom to be independent, ideas become fluid and at times unexpected. It is the first time I consciously realize that there is a very strong bodily movement – ideation connection. Free movement and free thinking/ideation are the part of one process, they are interconnected.

(Extract from Field journal, 21.10.2017)

“Somatics and human creativity are fields of study that reflect inner processes” (Green 1993), this is the reason for choosing the autoethnography as a method. Autoethnography allows an immediate, holistic and intimate access to the primary data source – the self and provides an opportunity of an in-depth data analysis. In this study I put myself onto a research table as a sample to find out what trigger creativity from a bodily movement perspective, how environmental adjustments can support a creative process.

The purpose of this study is to raise awareness of the fact that bodily movement has a significant role in a creative process. The objective is to investigate bodily movement influence on a creative process through personal experience. This study investigates the influence of the bodily movement on a creative process by addressing the following research questions.

  • RQ 1 What is creativity and the creative process?
  • RQ 2 What is the connection between body, mind, and a creative process?
  • RQ 3 What is the connection between bodily movement and a creative process?
  • RQ 4 What is the role of the environment in a creative process?
  • RQ 5 How can a creative process be enhanced with bodily movement?

Research questions 1-3 are addressed in the theoretical part of this study with an overview of interdisciplinary research on creativity, the creative process, and the connection between bodily movement and creative processes. The empirical part of this study addresses the research questions 4-5. It is conducted in the form of an autoethnographic inquiry, which includes reflections on free bodily movement experiments where the movement-creativity connection was investigated.

The first part of my thesis work contains an overview of interdisciplinary research on creativity, the creative process, and the connection between bodily movement and creative processes. The second, empirical part is conducted in the form of an autoethnographic inquiry, which includes reflections on free bodily movement experiments where the movement-creativity connection was investigated.

The structure of experiments was developed from a personal bodily movement experience, observations during the preliminary 6-months empirical phase, and the literature review. Gill Green’s doctorate research “Fostering creativity through movement and body awareness practices: A postpositivist investigation into the relationship between somatics and the creative process” (1993) had an especially significant impact on my study, along with Rosalinda Ruiz Scarfuto’s “Investigations into the impact of tactile perception on the artist’s creative process” (2018). During my research journey I had a chance to meet Dr. Rosalinda Ruiz Scarfuto at the conference “Creative bodies – Creative Minds” (https://creative-bodies.uni-graz.at/) in the University of Graz, Austria, and talk to her personally. I also had valuable conversations with Tuija Liikkanen (an assistant professor of Movement Interpretation in Stockholm University of the Arts), Mats Nylund (the Media Management degree program director at that time), and last but not least my supervisor at Arcada – Elisabeth Öhman. Thanks to their advice on literature, methods and content, I stayed focused and made my way through this thesis.

A free bodily movement enhances the unity of the body-mind. Through that, the entire body becomes part of a fluid and spontaneous creative process. The creative process is individual, but it is influenced greatly by environmental factors. The challenge is to provide an effective framework supporting the process, the key elements of this framework can be grouped into three interconnected topics: space-time, safety, and constraints, which were investigated during the bodily movement experiments.

During the course of my research I discovered that the larger shifts in the social structures are needed for enabling the holistic body-mind attitude in creative processes. Though this research was an individual journey, the findings and ideas emanated from it can be applied on a wider basis. As an example, I would suggest free bodily movement sessions as a means of helping Master’s degree students struggling to write their theses in a socially isolated and sedentary environment.

 

Key readings:

Chang, H., 2008. Autoethnography as method. Walnut Creek (Calif.) : Left Coast Press.

Green, J., 1993. Fostering creativity through movement and body awareness practices: a postpositivist investigation into the relationship between somatics and the creative process, Ohio State University.

Runco, M.A., 2014. Creativity: Theories and Themes: Research, Development, and Practice. San Diego: Elsevier Science & Technology.

Scarfuto, R.R., 2018. Investigations into the impact of tactile perception on the artist’s creative process expressed on a 3D Poetic Canvas using the methodology of a ‘Forest Flaneur’. University of Sunderland. Available from: https://www.academia.edu/37378899/Investigations_into_the_impact_of_tactile_perception_on_the_artists_creative_process_expressed_on_a_3D_Poetic_Canvas_using_the_methodology_of_a_Forest_Flaneur. Accessed: 15.5.2019.

Slepian, M.L. and Ambady, N., 2012. Fluid movement and creativity. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 141(4), pp. 625-629.

Images:

  1. Free bodily movement session of the experiment 9, one of the eleven sketches by S. Peltola, Helsinki, 2019.
  2. Creative movement workshop organized for the participants of the IFLAcamp #5, a two-day satellite meeting of the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wrocław, Poland, 2017. Photo by author.

 

The full thesis may be downloaded from Theseus.fi from June 2019.

Are you looking for tools to manage the rapidly changing media industry? Or do you find yourself in the media industry struggling to see the bigger picture? Learn more about our MA in Media Management here: https://www.arcada.fi/en/master/media-management