People often say that the eyes are the windows to the soul for a reason. The eyes are one of the main filters of our experience (the others are of course hearing, smell, taste, touch, but also the two often unmentioned senses: equilibrium/movement/vestibular, and body awareness/proprioception).
The following list comes from an Australian butoh artist and good friend Michael Maso Ellis (his website is also a wealth of information).¹
This first list set involves simply noticing and is more passive.
Sweeping – When we first enter an experience, the phenomena/objects that we are first aware of (this could be external or internal).
Sensing– This is the first time we notice a specific object or phenomena.
Focusing – This is really focusing our attention, giving it enough time to take effect.
Attuning – Imprinting the phenomena, or object in the neural map (memory).
Remembering – Recalling the phenomena/object and making it present.
Spacing – Focusing specifically on the space between objects and others in proximity, the negative spaces.
Sizing – Noticing how big or small a thing is compared to it’s neighbors (or oneself or anything else)
Volumeizing – The space the object takes up.
Detailing – Focusing on particular details.
Tracing – Following lines and edges.
Coloring – Noticing particular colors or contrasts in a field.
Lighting – Noticing the way light reflects.
Shading – Noticing the absence of light and shadows cast.
Relating – Comparing and relating one or more objects or phenomena.
Weighting – Noticing/feeling the weight of object/materiality.
Materiality – Noticing what the material is made of.
Histrionic Kinesis – Feeling the kinetic sense of the actions required to arrange/build/manipulate the objects and materials.
This second list is more active and involves shifting/altering perception or space-bending.
Scaling – Shifting the scale of the object/space, experiencing it as an enormous landscape or very tiny.
Timing – Related to scaling, we can alter the time of the object by noting that human time is purely conceptual: the object exists in eternity.
Sequencing – Shifting attention and awareness through a series of characteristics. (Shadowbody Note: This is like utilizing vaporizing with jumping wild but on a perceived object/phenomena. Such a skill can be a good prerequisite for exercises such as prop metamorphosis.)
Physical Imagination – Placing oneself in, on, near or holding the object/phenomena. (Shadowbody Note: This can also be viewed as a form of vaporizing.)
Object Manipulation – Manipulation of the object using the body. Sensing weight/size/temperature/texture. (Shadowbody Note: For the purposes of this section, utilize with physical vision, else, open up the other vision–the third eye. This will help cultivate synesthesia.)
Disappearing – Resonating with the object or phenomenon so heavily that it disappears. Think of when you repeat a word over and over and it loses significance.
This third list opens up the thinking or psychic channel, and allows more of judging or discerning.
Enchantment – Engaging with sense of intrigue and mystery.
Significance – The object or phenomena has specific meaning or associated narrative to the context.
Personalizing – The element is associated with a person, entity or character, or has its own autonomous personality.
Emotionalizing – Association, catalyzing with a felt emotion.
Autonomizing – The object/pheonomena is making itself known to the senses of its own accord: an omen or a messenger.
Blessing – Full acceptance and cherishing of the phenomena/space or object.
Deifying – Treating as Sacred or Divine with the awareness.
Attachment – Admitting or assigning importance to the phenomena/object, to an identity.
Identification – Identifying with the object/phenomena: identity in some way defined by the existence or condition or character of the object.
Naming – Classifying, labeling. Also the reverse is practicable (removing labels).
Unification – The object(s)/phenomena are one and the same with the psyche/identity, to a greater or lesser degree.
Disassociation – The object/phenomena means nothing and the psyche is not resonant.
Exercise: Child Vision
With any object, go into its every dimension without passing any judgment. Forget even its use or title, unless you are creating a new name or title for it. Lose yourself in the object. Become the object. The object can be the center of your world. In a hologram, any part has within it the information of the whole. If you stare hard enough, the item may disappear. Resonate deep enough and a dance of the totality of The All might emerge.
We can utilize ink blots on paper (Rorschach tests), clouds, and a number of readily available sceneries to take a glimpse of what the subconscious is currently curious about or fixated upon. Once we see the patterns or visual interpretations, we dance the qualias.
Exercise 1: Shifting Optical Illusion Perspectives
This is a prerequisite to the next exercise. Once we learn to shift from the perspectives of two or more images from an optical illusion or visual pun, we can expand our shifting.
1. First shift from one image of the visual pun to the other.
2. Then shift from seeing both simultaneously as if it were a chimera. For instance, in Figure 13, we can force both images to become one, so the young woman’s necklace will automatically also be the mouth. It’s a mouth-bracelet. A mouth-bracelet is one solid thing just like the ear-eye. This will create a new (or child) image of the two images in the visual pun.
3. Now shift between the two images in the visual pun to the chimera image. We are now shifting between three different images.
Exercise 2: Jumping Wild Vaporizing
This is a pattern recognition exercise, and is not easy likely for most. Once we find an image that the subconscious mapped out, then shift to the next image. This requires a massive amount of focus and allowing information to enter.
By limiting the two usual eyes, we exercise the third eye, which is the pineal gland. Any number of activities and obstacle courses especially, will exercise the third eye as well as sense of body equilibrium.
Find any various edges to trace such as ropes or small tubes. If you have several hula hoops, align them on the ground forming a line of hula hoops. Blindfolded, you can travel along the hula hoops making a sine curve, but you can also circle around the hula hoop as much as you wish.
We can always use art to inspire a dance. Hijikata, for instance, was very inspired by Hans Bellmer and Francis Bacon.
“It is possible to make a superb dance with the eyes alone.” – Tatsumi Hijikata
Just like any position in butoh, if we are to do them, they are not to be forced just for aesthetic or anti-aesthetic (grotesque) purpose, but because it’s a natural manifestation out of what is already happening inside.
Glass Ball Eye – Like a doll’s eye, these eyes are immobile. Place your gaze near the horizon. Or you can form a parallel line from eye level to ground without placing attention to any particular area, but all the area in your field. At the same time, do not build an interest in the field. Eyelids are relaxed. Pupils do not move. Try not to blink too much, and if you do, let it be a subtle flash. Third eye can be focused on instead.
Joan Laage says of this eye: “[its] diffused or non-seeing focus allows the head and, in particular the face, which in the West is so communicative, to be equal to the rest of the body.”²
Closed Eye – It is easier to go inside the body with eyes closed. Only one eye can also be closed.
White Eye – Relax the eyelids and look up at your third eye. The goal is to appear with only white eyes.
Crossed Eye – Extend your arm in front of you. Look at your finger as you bring it between your eyes. This is the position of your cross eyes.
Half Crossed Eye – Do the Crossed Eye (See Above), but then straighten out one eye. This may take a bit of practice but it is doable.
Rotten Eye – The eyes are dysfunctional and moving in random directions as if it were taken over by bugs.
Thunder Eye – Look side to side then pick up the speed till you reach a vibration/tremble effect with the eyes.
50/50 Eye – Close your eyes half way so that you see half dark and half light. Be 50% inside and 50% outside.
Emotional Eye – The eyes (with the assistance of the eyelids and eyebrows) can embody all the emotions. The main emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.
The focal spot ranges from way far in the horizon to our own body. The eyes can also be useful with on-the-spot qualias if we resonate with objects or persons that we see literally.