Amsterdam and Nijmegen

A report by Stephen Whitmarsh

Dear you,

I almost recovered from the weekend. The body is now just tired and my mind has burned off some kinetic energy, settling into a comfortable haze of memories.

Every participation to an OuUnPo meeting has been an exciting and opening experience for me. This one was had a little bit extra of course, giving me a lot to do and new energies to manage: A ‘Don Stephen’ still in its infant stage, A ‘Scientist’ still without the (Emperors) robes, and ‘The Artist’ still just a concept. Thanks to you all, it remained an exploration and discovery and not a standoff. For me that is priceless.

Snejanka’s performance got me fully by surprise. A surprise of an encounter with something I recognized: An awareness of the stage, of the mental theater and the single-pointed focus towards holding that space. A fresh encounter every time it is entered. To see it embodied in such a fragile situation was indeed a courageous act. I felt it circumscribed an intuitive purpose of Ouunpo – the generation of a place/space/relationship of trust where something unknown can happen.

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The anatomy museum and brain dissecting was amazing thanks to Dr. Amanda Kiliaan. Her patience and your enthusiasm permitted the chance of going beyond a simple lecture and create something new. She, or for that matter her predecessor in all the years before, like you, never had an encounter like this before.

Sometimes you can only show an intermediate result, not the end, not the beginning and not the process. The fMRI experiments were the result of a concrete collaboration between Samon and Miriam. While it was an example of combining science and art it even more so shows the ability of sharing the investigation where we are at the same time both experts and novices. More will come where that came from.

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Happily surprised by your interest Paul Gaalman was able to talk openly about his doubts concerning the praxis of neuroscience while at the same time displaying techniques and knowledge that inspire awe and amazement.

In the MEG room I could show off my toys in true nerdyness, while inverting the whole experimental setting: The object of study was the group, observed by Alessandra in the measurement chair, recording and directing the meeting. Her brainwaves were your stimuli, her eye your focus, her button presses stimuli for you to interpret. For the social meeting there was no mediator, no initiator except the group itself. Here the group was taken fully out of the art context and given nothing to work with but streams of energy and information circulating through the room like through a body-without-organs.

Throughout the day as well as the days before, Miriam moved around like a shaman taking care of 20 people at the same time. I don’t know how she did it but we owe our hemodynamic state to her sweet attention.

Back in Amsterdam we ended the hard day’s work with my crucifixion. I can only reflect on my own perspective, which sadly could not include yours. But at least I have the pictures.

Many new people were introduced to the group throughout the weekend and during the preparation. For now I want to sincerely thank Arnisa and Antonia for taking on the mixed honor of hosting two evenings of Ouunpo while at the same time feeling like an outnumbered audience of two. I hope it heralded the opening of their studio as a wonderful place of many more intimate conversations, exhibitions, exhibitionisms and parties.

Thanks so much Jacobo for taking care of the esthetic aspect of the evening and transforming it into something beautifully grotesque.

And there my memory starts to fade…

I want to thank Per for making it happen and maintaining my confidence throughout the preparations with his kind words of encouragement. For all the work, insights, conversations, dedication and offering his brain to science I owe an awful lot to Samon. I am left with this enormous big lump in my chest of gratitude, respect and love for A: and all she did. Applause!

Mostly thank you for being there and sharing your time and space!

Applause again!

(December 2010)

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