Abdul Hadi Sadikin / Bandung – West Java
by Abdul Hadi Sadikin
Bandung – West Java
Anyone who has ever travelled by plane, before takeoff, must have heard the following instructions::
“Please put on your own mask first, before assisting others.”
I think it’s the right analogy to describe what happened to me: that I’m currently not totally okay because I forgot to “put on a mask” first.
I feel like I live my life running marathons. I work a full-time office job from Monday to Friday, plus work as a coach every two days on weekends. This everyday’s dense rhythm of life is not a simple situation to manage.
The situation becomes even more challenging when we have to deal with a pandemic, and it puts us to be mentally alert. To calculate action to avoid complications. To endure is now a universal experience.
However, my walls of defence eventually collapsed, and I was declared exposed to Covid-19. This incident happened right at the time I was undergoing the Bodies of Care (BoC) process. Together with 6 Indonesian artists and 3 German artists, I was selected as one of the contributors to Series #3 BoC. COVID-19 not only harmed me physically but also destroyed me mentally. I was struggling hard to follow session after session. Ough! I had a fever, Ough! I’m dizzy, Ough! I become slow, and so many others.
After being declared negative for Covid, the absurd physical sensations that my body often feels still left traces. My hands and feet were sometimes shaken even though it felt fake. My muscles were stiff, even my brain froze. Creativity should arise since the materials in the BoC trigger consciousness, but what I found was a dead end. I should be able to easily get ideas in this workshop space, but I wasn’t.
I then discussed it with the DokumenTari team. From those discussions and conversations, the idea struck me in using the physical sensations of Covid survivors as the basis for movement instructions. Covid, which was initially damaging, was manipulated into instructions that might have an ability to treat. I divided my movement instructions into two parts: vibration and touch.
The vibrations were inspired by the shaking/tremor sensation I experienced as a Covid survivor. As I researched here and there, I finally learned that this is a natural response known as neurogenic tremors. In this phenomenon, the nervous system releases a shaking sensation to reduce tension and anxiety that are often trapped in the body.
Unfortunately, as humans, we are so ingrained in self-regulation by controlling emotions. Thus, in my instructions, I try to facilitate a safe and open space for participants to vibrate their bodies consciously and repetitively. With the hope that the emotions and reactions often held in the body can be released.
The second approach in my instructions involves skin-mediated touch. Our skin senses sensations, textures, and returns us to the awareness to be in the present moment: not faster, not slower, not in the past, nor the future. Participants are directed to recognize a figure who faithfully accompanies them: themselves.
“Can you feel how your hair is rooting out of your scalp?
Imagine how the sound you hear is welcomed by your eardrums.
Can you feel every fingernail stuck to your fingers?
Notice how your tongue often tastes and moistens your mouth.
Can you feel the weight of your body right now rest entirely on the soles of your feet? And also feel the sensation of your skin in contact with the surface where you stand.
What is your skin touching right now?”
Sensation through the skin is also expanded and amplified by imagining the skin as more than just an external attachment to our body. But the ground on which we stand, the wall on which we lean on, or even the sky as an infinite roof, are also skins outside the body that constantly interact with the human body.
The imagination and sensations of the participants’ bodies are accommodated to play. Released from thoughts that tend to limit themselves by imagining how the “outer skins” were manifested into a creature that has shape, texture, colour, skin. Whose identity we can freely imagine. On this occasion, participants were invited to imagine themselves as entities that unite and dance together in the form of “skin creatures”. It’s the imagination and sensation that makes this instructional work entitled The Skin Creatures.
The idea in The Skin Creatures instructions is actually not a breakthrough. The effort to restore self-awareness through the body that is connected to the present moment, and re-rooted with the natural surroundings – in the world of psychology and therapy – is known as the grounding technique.
The creative process in Bodies of Care provided an opportunity for me and my choreographers to realize the instructions that had been made into activation. Through the form of instructional performance art, I involved specially invited fellow participants. I actualized the moment on Saturday, September 25, 2021, taking place in Bandung, Jakarta, Riau, Bali and even to France and Germany.
I am grateful to activate my work in the city where I grew and developed, namely Bandung – City of Flowers. Located in a beautiful and qualified site called Insypro Moves, assisted by 12 dancers who are close at heart is a blessing in itself.
The Skin Creatures instructions (by Abdul Hadi, Marlene Pfflueger, Yasmina Lamler) are carried out on the 1st floor, an open space with a concrete surface. It felt right to start the activation session with self-focused instructions.
After I was filled with energy and sensation, I invited participants to establish relationships with other human beings. This is where the instruction with the title Togetherness (by Nyoman Krina Satya, Ela Mutiara, Eva Borrman, Izabella Maria Herzfeld) takes place on the 2nd floor, which is the dance studio Inspyro Moves!. The design of this studio is so spacious and privacy is maintained, allowing participants to let go of their inner child. It is as if the burdens and limitations the adult humans usually carry are gone, and they established relationships with each other based on love.
I believe there is no better way to close this session than by activating the instruction titled Thank You (by Mekratingrum Hapsari). Performed on the rooftop on the 4th floor, accompanied by the caress of a gentle breeze, and the warmth of the sun. Touches and hugs from fellow participants closed the instructional performance in a solemn atmosphere full of gratitude.
To be honest, I don’t hesitate to say that I’m proud that after months of in-depth discussions with mentors and choreographers online, I could finally compile an instruction into a dramaturgical series. Hard work in the creative process gives deep meaning to everyone involved in this project.
My instructions have their own function, but the benefits don’t seem to be complete on their own. Therefore, the care that is formed from other instructions also adds to the meaning of a process of reflection, which basically starts from oneself, with others, and to the universe.
Through instruction, the care spreads to other bodies. So many sensations, feelings, meanings, meanings, and deep feelings are finally given space to be felt thoroughly. Through instruction, many minds are inspired, many bodies are activated. But what about my mind and body?
Life can’t wait, although sometimes I wish that time could freeze for a moment. To wait for me a little longer while I was lying stiff. Can time sympathize with me who is grieving? So that I could bathe my wounds for being left by a loved one.
Sometimes I feel unable, even numb and want nothing. Negligence is indiscriminate, causing everything to feel rushed.
I recently returned to counselling and therapy. Experts I met said I was in the third of the five stages of burnout. This burnout point makes me feel like I’m at a crossroads.
It’s ironic, during the Bodies of Care program, I tried to find forms of caring for “others”. I forgot that there is someone so close and needed to care of, that is myself. I then see this entire process as a reminder that not everything needs to be considered a running track. I need to practice giving myself a break and taking a slow pace to rest.
From the BoC process, I see that human bodies are challenged by the demands of the times. The body often needs a way to release fatigue and stress. The deep involvement in the Bodies of Care project has given me some reasonable faith that art can be a therapeutic form. Medium for modern humans for recreation and self-renewal.