Mercedes Boronat’s new project, Stillness, is a continuation of her previous line of research: thinking the body as a “place” for transformation and as the path to every being’s essence.
As something natural, she gives continuity to the work To Vibrate*, in which the meditation of 24 performers and their apparently imperceptible vibration generated a field of beneficial energy – an intimate act shared with the audience of Es Baluard in order to create social harmony.
On this occasion, and assuming the premise of beneficial vibration, Mercedes Boronat goes back to the old idea of sound as a creative power and as a source for transformation and healing, and presents an audiovisual work with great aesthetic power and individual and collective transcendence. Full of mysticism and spirituality, Stillness draws again an analogy of an intimate process experienced by the artist, this time with Tao Healing (The 6 Healing Sounds), the therapeutic practice of Dr. Sun Si Mao (581-682), an expert in medicine in old China during the Sui and Tang dynasties. In the background of this work lies also the reading of the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle (Lünen, 1948) and his teachings about the search for stillness and spiritual silence as a means for the true being within us to emerge.
Influenced by these two perspectives, Boronat created a work that deals with spiritual tranquility, the relevance of the sound and the need to experience stillness or, in other words, the stability of the soul. This research is complemented by her regular engagement in educational practices with kids, youngsters and adults called Keep Moving. Contradictory as they may seem, in the background of her theory about body movement as a means for transformation we find the need to detach from emotional instability to transform oneself and evolve in every aspect of life.
This work merges PERFORMANCE and VIDEO INSTALLATION
Stillness occupies spaces. It transforms them. It expands them.
Stillness is a path to calm, to peace, able to transform the visitor’s emotions.
The Six Healing Sounds
Stillness is a proposal inspired by Qiqong Liu Zi Jue, also known as Medical Qiqong. It is about the healing power of six sounds and their wave frequencies capable of bringing balance to the Vital Energy (Qi) of organs such as the liver, the heart, the lungs, the pancreas and the spleen, the kidneys, as well as the “Triple Heater” (which provides full relaxation).
Each sound (SSS, SHUUU, SHHH, HOOO, JUUU, HIII) relates to a season, an emotion, an element, a color, and – in its creator’s words – a soul. The therapeutic methodology consists in emitting these vibrations consecutively and consciously while breathing, together with a simultaneous series of specific movements related to each organ’s meridians. Both exercises combined aim to reaching a correct flow of Vital Energy.
This practice finds its roots in Chinese and Hindu traditions, which use rhythm, dance and music rituals to communicate with ancestors and spirits in order to obtain wisdom and healing. And although this isn’t our source of tradition, Nora Spinedi shows us how the European scientific tradition can give us some clues about Medical Qiqong. If we consider proven that all universe is formed by atoms, and that matter is unstable – electrons revolve around the nucleus at high speed – therefore we can deduce that all universe is vibration. Depending on the frequency -amount of vibration per second – different types of waves are generated and made visible as light, sound, color or shape. When we try to give an explanation to these levels of density, we generate an illusion of static phenomena. The universal reality, however, is that they are continuously vibrating and dynamic by nature.
Sound is therefore essentially vibration and its propagation speed depends basically on the medium through which the wave is traveling. Given that the propagation through a fluid medium is five times as fast as by air, and bearing in mind that water represents 70% of our body composition, our body is therefore a good environment for sound transmission.
Yet, although we can feel the vibration, our ear can’t perceive it. These sound frequencies can’t be perceived due to our less sensitive auditive response, although this doesn’t imply they have no effects on our organism. Our body senses sounding or musical stimuli not only through the auditive system, but also by the touch, the solar plexus and other auditive and muscular receptors. Cymatics prove that every sound near the human body can generate a physical change inside the organism, as well as in every stratus of its electromagnetic field. So if every vibration triggers a more or less important body reaction, the perception of adequate sounds can thus generate order and inner harmony.
MACBA Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona
On 26 September 2015, one of the latest proposals of artist Mercedes Boronat was lived: Stillness. Halfway between meditation and the Keep Moving method created by the artist, the performance is based on awareness of the healing power that emanates from the sound vibrations of the Six Healing Sounds that Eastern wisdom relates to six vital organs, which inhabit the space and the body that pronounces them when emitted, generating emotional balance.
vibration – subtlety – harmony – creation
The verb is ‘live’ because all of Boronat‘s artistic creations are sensitive first-person experiences. And on this September day, the experience was also communal and transgressive because everyone present participated to varying degrees of intensity, and the community revealed and observed enormous transformative and creative potential.
The proposal was structured using two concatenated formats. The beginning of the first part focused attention on the artist, who engaged in a ‘confrontation’ with the audiovisual proposal in the purest Abramović style in a designated rectangular space on the ground floor of the MACBA for a limited period of time. It is a videographic work, and in the recording the artist, using the colors associated with the Six Healing Sounds for her clothing, plays with body movement and speeds to create a state of quiescence. It was a large-format projection accompanied by Boronat emitting the six sounds live and by a vibrant sound emitted live by musician Mario G. Cortizo.
A perfect tuning, sound, vibration, presence and image. All aligned to establish a state of collective presence in an energy field of alpha vibration.
As the artist has been knowledgeable about the therapeutic practice of healing sounds for some time, the proposal for the particular approach she takes that was set up that day had a double intention: firstly, the search for internal balance, and as a result of the first search, preparation for a physical opening, here communal, that is able to reactivate the creative freedom that inhabits us, which is often hampered by the daily dynamics of obligations and thought suppression.
Thus in this first part of the proposal, where Boronat was the center of attention, the ‘traditional’ division between artist and audience—show and spectators, each in their respective place of action—seemed to hold, but soon it could be detected that the atmosphere generated was moving towards a different concept of community and harmony. Mercedes Boronat found the moment to break this barrier, and thereafter the boundaries between the observers and the creators were definitively blurred. Wordlessly, with only the gesture of inviting, the artist invited everyone who wished to to enter the space of creative quietude, the space of Stillness. The guests gradually entered the space without resistance, enjoying walking, sitting and looking at each other from the stillness of being, from their beings. The space expanded as the number of people co-creating freely and collectively increased in such a way that the spatial limits became less defined because the interactions between them and the space were more and more apparent and less subtle.
It is difficult to define the amount of time during which a very large group of strangers opened their notion of the body and creation together in a public space. The fragility of the ephemeral that took place there had an extraordinary power. Everyone became a performer; no one was brave or cowardly. A game grew from a proactive action that sought to generate not a reaction but a change manifested in corporeality.
Inside and outside. From the space, from the public, from the private, from the body and from the active mind. And when Mercedes Boronat began to dissolve what was happening there and did so by symbolically cutting the ribbon that separated this space of creation from the rest of the museum so that the space would be real and belong to everyone metaphorically, there was applause and confirmation of the end of an intense experience. Proof of success came in the form of collective gratitude towards the artist.
And regarding the setting where it took place, there may be questions about why the action was undertaken in a museum setting rather than in a theatre or on a stage. To the artist’s credit, she worked on this space weeks prior to the action, turning the museum, a place of exhibition, of static sensations often arising from contemplation, into her home, a place of comfort where energy is embodied in a the form of a collective that vibrates, that opens, that loses its shame and sloughs off taboos. This hypnotic silent disruption of the museum space that is finite in time because it begins and ends, blurring the lines of the expected and possible and transgressing expectations, is where Boronat proposed an opening for creation and where on 26 September 2015 she succeeded.
Clara Laguillo Abbad, New York, April 2016
Centre de producción i recerca arts visuals (Barcelona)
Video production residency. September 2014 & January 2015
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Palma De Mallorca
Research residency. From 1 to 6 July 2015
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona
26 September 2015
Performer: Mercedes Boronat
Audio: Mario G. Cortizo
video production: Valeria Stucki
Text: Clara Laguillos
Photography: Valeria Stucki, Danilo Pioli
Production: Danilo Pioli
After a long training and career, Mercedes Boronat’s work can be clearly placed between dance and performance, especially during the first decade of the 21st century. Her research revolved around the significance of movement and body dynamism as a driving force to physical, psychical, spiritual and collective transformation. She now suggests a nuanced redefinition 0f her research in a piece that focuses on her quest for Stillness.
For the last 14 years, Mercedes Boronat has been using resources that belong to the dance field – which tend to be rather conventional- in an unconventional manner, with ambiguous linguistic structures typical of performing arts. Hence, her work is not dissociated from body control – a characteristic feature of dance – yet it refrains from the strict Cartesian discipline in order to reach an essential and liberated mental and physical state. A research that tries to reach the essence beyond performance, where the performers are presented as they are and live a personal and intimate, yet public, experience.
In the background of Mercedes Boronat’s work lies a profound interest in spirituality and its permanents links with the body’s physical acts – aspects that are necessarily linked with Oriental thought and with some archaic cultures’ initiation rites. Her researches dig into the most fundamental matters of human essence, which prove intrinsically linked to body experiences and lead to highly symbolic transcendental mutations. Mercedes Boronat delves into mysticism by defining her creations through physical and worldly experiences that bring together the human spirit and the sacred.
Among her last artistic work, five pieces stand out as they represent the theoretical and creative origin from a perspective of transformation and change.
BUTTERFLY (Sevilla, 2008) explored the liberation from restraints through the process of transformation. The body movement was the key to progressing and attaining any mental, physical or spiritual state by means of a physical transition in space and time in a single body experience through different states of awareness.
The TRILOGY”COLD/FRED/FRÍO–THE END.OFF–TO COOK FOR” defined three stages within a personal liberation process in three consecutive performances between 2008 and 2010. In Cold-fred-frío (Barcelona, 2008) Mercedes Boronat researched into powerlessness as a physical state through the metaphor of congelation and as an analogy of the lack of awareness about our own body’s full potential. The performers were unemotional beings whose survival consisted of two simple gestures -falling to the floor and standing up again – even though all wanted to reach out for the light and the heat and therefore slowly moved forward. Movement was simple, yet considered a means of survival. This piece denounced the state of powerlessness -represented by the synchronic repetition of two movements – which suggested ignorance of our organism. Only the own perception of it allows us to progress. The experience offered by this performance is doubtlessly reminiscent of the art of ZEN meditation, whose ultimate goal is the increase of awareness.
The end. Off (Lisboa – Coimbra, 2009) was a purification process, a farewell ritual from all preconceptions and the obsolete, conceived as a burial in which performers were still prisoners of their bodies’ “unawareness”, although they were able to make more gestures and movements. The process of loss leaves a space for a future acquisition: Boronat’s proposal represented a purification ritual to give away all loads accumulated throughout life, which implies reexamining the past. The idea that stems from the performance is the need to detach from the past, even if only partially, in order to be able to live the present, and leave space for the future.
And finally, in To Cook For (Barcelona, 2010), the body – nondetachable from the spirit – was ready to receive and, specially, to give. The performance made use of the two dimensions of gastronomy, as a cultural common element (on the one side, the need to be nourished; on the other, its relation with creativity, pleasure and tasting what is delicious, involving not only the cook, the creator, but also the guest, who tastes it). She introduced, hence, the concept of generosity as a virtue that is acquired after the shaping of the spirit and that finally results in the unconditional donation to the Other. Once again, she refers to the creation as a fulfillment attained through the use of the body. This time she focused on gastronomy, a field that stimulates each one of the senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch), and encourages the interplay between what can and can’t be seen as metaphors of materiality and spirituality. The performers feel through their body movement: they enjoy, laugh and spread their liberation, and become aware of their own being.
The last of her performances related to the process of transformation through movement was TO VIBRATE (Mallorca, 2010), the culmination of her research on the field of Zen meditation. In relation to this discipline, which allows the enlargement of our awareness and the capacity of understanding our own existence, Boronat assumed that self-perception is altered by the everyday life’s stimuli so we necessarily need to bring the awareness back to an essential and fundamental state. Her work focused on the goal of attaining a state of balance by the simultaneous meditation of 24 performers. The action was based on breathing as the bridge between the body, the mind and the frame of mind. They produced a harmonious vibration that aimed to have a positive influence on the visitors entering and leaving the center where it took place. Once again, the movement is the driving force. The inner vibration generated a beneficial atmosphere – an aware and calm state that allowed the visitor to feel their reserve of inner energy.
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