Decision making in perception

Framing attention

with: Louise Ahl, Greta Heath, Dana MacPherson, Skye Reynolds

Perception Games research workshop at The Work Room (TWR) Glasgow 5-9 November 2012, like the previous workshop at Siobhan Davies Studio London (see blog Moving and thinking ‘towards a reactivation of Xavier Le Roy’s Project’), followed an open call for participant collaborators.

TWR research workshop brought forward some specific concerns that came through the earlier research workshop on Project. I was interested in maintaining a game-like approach including working with rules and consequences. I was also interested in removing the competitive aspect of game play as a motivator for action. I felt that the competitive aspect, the focus on winning, tended to produce automatic action and re-action. I felt that, though this in itself could be interesting, often highly skillful and at times amusing, it tended to mask the awareness of the player/performer (in her/his) making a decision to act.  I wanted to work with the types of rules (or constraints) that forced a particular attention in players/performers towards the arising and carrying out of decision making. This motivated an orientating of the rules more explicitly towards perceptual sensing and towards constraints that held the players attention in a mutuality of sensing and acting. I began to use the term ‘perception frame’ for this type of constraint rather than the term ‘rule.’

The first frame we work with is ‘change when you recognize.’ This is a frame for movement requiring the mover to continually orientate her activity away from what she already knows. It is arguably impossible. It is a task in thinking and action. We spend a lot of time on this frame approaching it through what it’s not eg don’t copy, don’t repeat. Through doing, watching and talking a sense begins to grow of the impossibility of restraining such a perceptual activity in a verbal discourse that attempts to define what it is and so make it recognizable. Accepting the difficulty of this immerses the players in the processual task and moves the work forward. The players/performers notice what they do in their attempts to manage the difficulty (and often impossibility) of conscious perceptual activity and share some strategies:

From my notebook day 2:

“On change when you recognize: What do different strategies produce?

What does A’s ‘the baby knows nothing produce? And is it by necessity slow?

What does B’s follow the direction that the body is going in produce? And how can you keep on resisting recognizing direction…? Does direction continue to shift as you keep on following? Does speed shift…? What changes?

What possibilities does C’s just move produce? Is the apparent breaking of a rule (by ‘just’ moving) creating a frame in which to engage in immediacy: an already being in an event of movement. And is this perhaps a kind of starting in the middle…?

How does D’s change before the form completes differ in perception from change when you recognize? Does completion of form occur in movement? Can you work with this strategy with stillness…?

Does awareness of perceptual sensing produce slowness?

How does sensing become action (that is untethered from the sensing of sensing)?”

We form more rules that attempt to organize perception in a way that does not orientate towards specific known outcomes while also being specific in their framing of attention.  We include frames based on if x then y. We include frames based on language and memory: frames that articulate an actual memory in a present sensing. We layer ‘rules’ at times into one frame. 

On the last day we perform 8 frames, each 3 mins, each with spatial configuration as indicated by the perceptual frame itself i.e. I attempt not to make spatial decisions based on aesthetic taste or desire but rather on the material conditions we are dealing with – the particular perceptual frame itself in performance / choreographic realm. ‘change when you recognize’ is present throughout. This exists more as a sense/sensing growing out of our experiences together rather than a defined state.


During the sharing I keep time, announcing each frame by its number. Some way into each frame the verbal articulation of the frame is projected on screen.

More research and development on this to follow ...

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