CATALYST: Sarah Browne
This workshop was carried out during a day-long visit to Lurgybrack Open Farm, Co. Donegal. The exercises require that you work at a location where you can develop close observations of animals. Wherever this may be, ensure you wear weather-appropriate clothes.
Catalysing the Seed – Sarah Browne on Tim Ingold & Naming
Chapter 14 – Naming as Storytelling: Speaking of Animals among the Koyukon of Alaska, in Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, 2011 by Tim Ingold.
In a languaging language – one not semantically locked into a categorical frame but creating itself endlessly in the inventive telling of its speakers – animals do not exist, either as subjects or objects; rather they occur. The name of an animal as it is uttered, the animal’s story as it is told, and the creature itself in its life activity are all forms of this occurence. Animals happen, they carry on, they are their stories, and their names – to repeat – are not nouns but verbs. [p. 175, 2011]
Writing Constraint No. 1: Popcorn*
A: Responding Each person in the ensemble is given a plain sheet of A4 paper.
On the sheet, write down one word in response to the conversation catalysed through the seed – in this case Tim Ingold’s writing & Sarah Browne’s images.
B: Reacting Next comes the Popcorn bit:
Quickly pass your sheet to your neighbour in an agreed direction (anticlockwise, clockwise, or otherwise). Then write the first word that comes to mind in response to a word already on the page that comes to you. Pass that page on again and receive another in its place, continuing to respond with new words on each page. Do this rapidly until every page is full.
C: Listening: When each person has been returned their original sheet, take turns to read aloud all the words on your sheet. As a group, listen to the words collected on each page of Popcorn. Write down in a list any words you are attracted to and would like to write with.
D: Writing: Write individually for about 20 minutes, using up all the words gathered in lists through the listening process.
E: Reading: Whoever is comfortable, read aloud what you have written. Often people like to read aloud the list of words they’ve used and then read the text they’ve written.
Writing Constraint No. 2: Context sensitive writing
Context Sensitive Writing involves inventing constraints for writing that are relevant to context and place, to the participants and to the seed and catalyst of the session. It is a holistic technique for generating writing.
A: Observing Animals
Choose an animal or a number of animals to observe – using all the senses – for about 20 minutes, making notes and drawings.
B: Observing Self
Gradually then begin to shift your observations to yourself: pay attentions to what feelings, sensations of the body, emotions, you may be experiencing.
Then switch back to observing the animal again.
C: Reflecting & Diagramming
Move somewhere else to read, observe and further develop your notes. Make a kind of a sketch or diagram of where you were in relation to the other animal, working from memory.
D: Naming Animal, Naming Self
See if you can rename the animal, by way of its being and living in the manner of the Koyukon of Alaska?
See if you can rename yourself?
Gather together again – share of your experience if you are comfortable to – read what you have written.
* This exercise was adapted from Wreckio Ensemble when the participated in The Writing Workshop in 2009. It’s a strategy used by this innovative theatre group to co-write scripts together. This technique is a catalyst that gets ideas flowing and can generate surprising, often surreal, associations. It’s worth doing this at the top of each session as it’s a great way for people to become familiar with each other’s ways of thinking and sense of humour.