The University of Aberdeen
Department of Anthropology
G05 Edward Wright Building
College of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Aberdeen
AB24 3QY Aberdeen, Scotland
- Web Links
- Running North
- Go Daddy! The dream of the marathon - Prison of Bollate (MI) 2013
- Il Bipede imperfetto – workshop with Danzarte 2011
- Frail Prayer - 2014
Anthropologist - Feldenkrais practitioner ® - Marathoner
If you want to go in a place that you don't know
you have to take the way that you don't know.
St. John of the Cross
After more than 15 years as a landscape architect, I turned to anthropology. A quote by Heidegger in my student notes, saying: “Only when man is able to dwell only then can he build”, signed a turning point in my life ten years ago. I stopped with architecture and started running! A crazy idea that changed many things in myself and in my life. My ongoing life-research concentrates into the notion of limit focusing on movement, body and touch. The practices of the limit are inspiring actions which give expression to my personal way of care of the human.
The limit is the topic of interest on which I focus my life-research. Limit is life, being alive (Ingold 2011). The experience of the limit raises the sensation of feeling alive embodying an existential posture of openness and of exposed solitude. It is an experience that has potentialities either on the level of the personal life or on that of knowledge, where, in my opinion, it is possible to understand what is a human being and more in general what is life. Starting from my biographical experience on the marathon, my research aims to analyse the potentialities of a “limit experience” (Foucault 1994:43) that undermine the subject, directing the gaze towards a void of meaning. The limit experience is an existential challenge for humans and at the same time a possibility of care. Facing emptiness demands a movement of exposure on the edge of meaning in a desert place, where freedom lies (Weil 2008). This movement raises a strong feeling of life and presence (De Martino 1997, Abramovic 2010). Limit is a movement of exposure to keep into consideration when you pose the anthropological and philosophical question of what is human (Nordic network for philosophical anthropology).
To lead out into the open (Masschelein 2010), and to face the limit is a possibility of care for the human as a learning process of education. The intention in my research is to propose and get involved in different practices of the limit, as in the case of the marathon. This is not an abstract speculation on the idea of limit itself, but an existential engagement with life in the first person. Running the “wall of the marathon runner” in my routine practice of the marathon has become, in the last years (since 2013), running the walls of a prison through an educational project of pedagogy of resilience, Run the limit. This project, where I work with prisoners through marathon running (Bollate prison-Milan),is now developing in Scotland in the prison of Peterhead in collaboration with Familiesoutside (NGO from Edinburgh). The practice of running walls and facing walls as limits will now concentrate through this specific PhD research on the elusive phenomenon which is barely visible and resists reproduction, of the whiteout.
Limit, a movement of exposure is the title of my PhD research which is based on movement (running, Feldenkrais method ®) and will explore the limit-experience of the whiteout as a “wall of light” through different practices of the limit (Feldenkrais workshops, Running north, Art performance), aiming to a poetic of dwelling.
How can we live when everything flattens?
Polar explorers often get stuck in the whiteout. They describe the meteorological phenomenon almost as a mystical experience: the landscape disappearing into a void, the dissolve of all matter into light, a place where emptiness plays a principal role. 'Whiteout' can be seen as a phenomenon of losing gravitational, vertical and spatial orientation. In the whiteout there is no horizon and it is impossible to have depth perception despite having a wide range of sight. One is actually blind in total light. When the depth of the world flattens on a surface and everything becomes white. It is a cognitive, psychological, cultural breakdown.
Whiteout is a wall like the “wall of the marathoner” or the wall of the prison or furthermore the white wall of depression or contemporary economical dismay, where we, as westerns, are disoriented and challenged in the impossibility of having goals and seeing far. How can we live without depth and perspective? From the individual to the collective facing the whiteout demands a different epistemology. It is a limit-experience with the potentiality of reconfiguring our perception of the world and our life.
The research is an experimental project between anthropology, art and education exploring the whiteout from the point of view of movement. How can we move without the possibility of moving forward? What is being still? Where should I direct my attention, inside or outside? How can we use laterality? Is sensory deprivation a possibility of increased awareness and attention? What is this experience of disappearing in light? Whiteout is research into the human potentialities of facing a "wall" and discovering new possibilities of movement. The intention is to learn how to live the whiteout developing life strategies to face it and to survive.
How to do it
Through different practices of the limit (Feldenkrais workshops, Running north and an Art performance), the project will investigate the “whiteout” as a movement. The practices of the limit are creative actions taking the form of art-performances and at the same time of inquiries in the possibilities of leading groups of people through creative processes of education where body and movement are the core of the experience and a source of knowledge. They open the possibility of a science in first person (Varela 1996, 1999) where art and science converge in the poetic of dwelling (Heidegger). The project will help to understand the potentialities of knowing that are performative and will explore the impact of “performance without audience” where what is central is not a representation in front of others but a practice of freedom in Foucault’s sense, "pratiques de libertè". Whiteout seeks a process of education in which performance is not a “show to watch”, but a quality of presence and awareness that opens up to “knowledge to practice” and “wisdom for life”.
The Whiteout project argues for an experimental, speculative and future-oriented anthropology (Miyazaki 2004) as a counterpoint to positivism and a way to tackle scientism in both research and teaching. Performance from this point of view, suggests a new conceptual idea for academic inquiry opening to an anti-disciplinary approach (Ingold 2013) to knowledge. This way of doing anthropology constitutes an investigation on the anthropology of the limit and is part of my larger program of research that investigates new possibilities of freedom in a neoliberal era. In seeking ways to answer to the world, the practices of the limit give expression to an anthropology through movement of hope, care and inspiration.
2014-2017 Elphinstone Scholarship
2016 Development Trust funding (Running North)
2014 Tutor AT1003 Introduction to Anthropology (University of Aberdeen)
2015 Tutor SX1501 Humans and Other Animals (University of Aberdeen)
2012 - 2016 Contract Professor-workshops Pedagogy of the body (University Milano-Bicocca)
- Further Info
Prof. Tim Ingold
Dr. Jo Vergunst