Bodies and Breath: Embodied Research & Writing

part of: Body and power(lessness)
It is through our bodies, our senses and sensibilities that we encounter and live through our world. It is through a hierarchy of senses that we separate and compartmentalise our modes of experience and discard the multitude registers contained within our bodies. We are taught to look at maps and cartographies, whereas the world moves and transforms with the winds, cracks, breaths, whispers, and chants between us. Embodied inquiry is not only method, but a way of being, relating, moving and transforming, with and through the many relations we have at a given time.

Bodies and Breath: Embodied Research & Writing

This dossier has been created through rich exchanges and encounters we have had with our invited guests who were asked to host workshops on embodied writing and research, and to share with us the relations they have forged through their practices in writing, research, and making. In their workshops, each contributor invited us to acquaint ourselves with our sensibilities and bodies through writing, movement, and storytelling. Embedded within cultural practices that often deal with ancestral memory, magical realism and mythmaking, these contributions trace archival processes and historiographies by reviving sounds and images, and myths and stories that are affective, sensorial and experiential. It is out of desire and necessity that we reckon with our inheritance, and to live in relation with one another that we begin to speak to the most delicate aspects of our lives, which not only changes us, but also those who can hear, feel and move along with us.

We invite you to engage with the multitude of voices, textures, places, pauses, colors, breaths contained within the pages of this dossier.

Essay: dis-membered / re-membered by Asli Özgen

This entry in the Bodies and Breath dossier is a wonderful essay in which the other works in this dossier are also picked up, turned around and handed back to us in a different light. It is at once a concluding essay and an introductory essay.

Moving in and out of the confines of state archives, Asli’s approach to research and writing directs us how to be attentive to the vast and deep frequencies of everyday life of people whose boundedness to histories exists beyond the presence of the silence in the archive. It is along with them that we can remember our own boundedness to history and what it means to exist with one another.
essay Asli Özgen – jul '23

dis-membered / re-membered

contested pasts, archives, and counter-memories of diaspora

In this essay Asli Özgen, urged by the irretrievable loss of her grandmother's memories of displacement, as a member of Bulgarian-born Turkish-speaking Muslim minority who experienced displacement and exile from Bulgaria in the 1950s, pieces together a complex map of items scattered across various archives. To encounter the fragile memories of Turkish diaspora in the Netherlands.

Film: The Timeless Morphs: 3 Body Sessions by Kexin Hao

Through the film The Timeless Morphs: 3 Body Sessions, visual artist and designer Kexin Hao takes us through her memories of growing up in Beijing, and her experience of alienation that resulted from the pressure to perform in dance and athletics. Kexin folds her recollections into (collective) histories of the moving body, and asks: What is a disciplined and an undisciplined body? Weaving the personal and the collective body, and patching family footage and historical archives, the film not only observes the body in motion, but also looks into how the body is disciplined, and how it escapes disciplining measures through movement and memory.
interview Rana Ghavami – nov '22

Body Sessions

Visual essay by and interview with Kexin Hao

"To remember, is to position oneself sound and still in the great flood of history. To remember yourself, is to ask others not to forget."

Interview: Soft Histories & Text: My body is a house by Jeanine van Berkel

In the textual contribution Soft histories, Jeanine van Berkel’s prose moves us from inside her mouth to the core, along dust and bones, listening to memories and silences as they slip between dreams, inherited histories, and imagination. We spoke to her about how her body houses her urge to listen to ‘archival silences’ and memories residing within herself and the (un)known histories of her motherlands. We asked her how she sees her ongoing work—the workshop Soft histories and the text My body is a house—as part of an ongoing research to shape these silences through words, materials, pauses, readings, workshops, and installations.
essay Jeanine van Berkel – nov '22


"Mama couldn’t talk for ten years after we left the island. She left all her words behind because there was nothing left to say. Sometimes grief is slow like that."

interview Rana Ghavami – nov '22

Soft Histories

interview with Jeanine van Berkel


Color is not merely a pigment or a material property. Helena’s textual contribution Muddy Fields and writing workshop Muddy Fields and Pink Possums: field work and color work as an entry point for embodied writing begin with a simple question: What is color? Starting with her own body floating down the river, the question of ‘what’ is put aside, and color itself is encountered.

Slipping between the practical and the symbolic, economic and aesthetic, contemporary and historical, in her text color is a carrier that takes us through a vast array of relationships between the world and our selves. Made of desire as much as necessity, color takes us across lethal mining sites, global economies, and aesthetic hierarchies, prompting us to attune ourselves to the many registers and positions our bodies occupy at a given time.

Coming back to the question what is color, and resisting any single interpretation, can color, kaleidoscopically, prompt us to attune ourselves to our multifold experiences and registers of meaning—to the many worlds—we already inhabit? In the words of Helena: “…if one language or another limits us and censors how we are able to narrative our stories and history through inherent bias, then can color provide a tool through which we can sing ourselves back into the world?”
essay Helena Sanders – dec '22


““When we look out into a field, muddied and swamped with coal ash slurry in the dead of winter, the first thing we are struck with is a seeming absence of colour. What was green is now flooded with lifeless greys, rancid-butter beiges and cold blue-black. Is there a way back from burnt coal?”Helena Sanders”[/i]

Project: The Archive who Breathes by Hannah Dawn Henderson

The Archive who Breathes departs from a prose essay that addresses the tropes that have historically shaped the field of archive science, often resulting in gaps in institutionalised archives — and, by extension, sociological imagination. Hannah proposes a re-imagining of what may constitute an ‘archive’, addressing how testimonies of intergenerational traumas often elude formal documentation, and are otherwise materialised through psycho-somatic expression. Interweaving accounts from her own biography with theoretical and lyrical analyses, the essay asserts that the body can also be understood as an archival vessel – both hostage and host to aphasic legacies.

“This is the embodied archive — the archive ever circulating within you, for which you are both the abode and the custodian. It exists there, along the tide of your breath, cradled by your ribs, always present and animated — confirming that amongst the ghosts, there is surely life.” Hannah Dawn Henderson
essay Hannah Dawn Henderson – nov '22

The Archive who Breathes

On the circumstances and consequences of archival gaps

The Archive who Breathes is a project by Hannah Dawn Henderson. You are invited to take a look at the website that belongs to this project. It is specially designed by Lotte Lara Schröder, and you can meander through a collection of annotations, footnotes and marginalia by Hannah's friends, close relations and peers, relations that have been forged over longer periods of time. On the website you can also find Hannah's essay.

Essay: De schrijver als lichaam en het lichaam als schrijver by Moosje M Goosen

Illness is neither a pose you can strike, nor something you can renounce: that is what defines illness for Moosje M Goosen. Illness therefore requires not only emancipation in practical terms but also structural changes, such as different ways of writing. For instance, Goosen tries to introduce forms of writing that include the weight of the body. This essay is in Dutch.
essay Moosje M Goosen – nov '22

De schrijver als lichaam en het lichaam als schrijver

Hoe opnieuw te leren leven en schrijven met ziekte?

"Wanneer ik aan Virginia Woolf en Susan Sontag denk, denk ik aan vorm. [...] vorm geven aan een nieuwe situatie. Gedachten, gevoelens, ervaringen, door het lichaam ingegeven."