How can we explore in meaningful ways how languages construct concepts related to the sacred?
Looking for creative means to approach this rather abstract question, I came across the work of Active Inquiry (http://www.activeinquiry.co.uk/) and contacted Gavin Crichton its artistic director to see if techniques from Image theatre might be of any help. Gavin thought that this was certainly possible and was enthusiastic about giving it a try. We discussed theatre techniques that had been developed by the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Baol (1931-2009) and whether these could be used to pick apart and analyse concepts considered central to religions. When we use certain words in conversation with people of faith or no faith, do we know exactly what we mean by them? How certain can we be that we understand each other? Image theatre, Gavin thought, was a way to move beyond language and use our bodies to visually represent how each of us interprets words linked to faith or religion. Translating concepts directly into bodily images will allow us to breakdown what we think words mean or what we want them to mean!
Soon after, it was exciting for us as a research team to win a place in Being Human Festival 2016 (https://beinghumanfestival.org/). This UK-wide festival seeks to make humanities research accessible to the public. What an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our research through a free event open to the public which will also allow us to test some of our ideas. A Being Human Festival event seems just the right platform for a participatory image theatre workshop, taking our research to a non-specialist audience, to explore a key ‘human’ activity: how we use language. And collaborating with Gavin meant that we could engage people creatively with what might otherwise seem dry academic research!
We’ve advertised for weeks through social media and conventional posters and we have people signing up for the workshops. The most important criteria for participants was that they should have considered or experienced conversion themselves or have been emotionally affected by the conversion experience of any family or friend they were close to. This involved emailing each person who first signed up to find out what their interest in conversion was. We now have a good list of participants that we are looking forward to welcoming on the day.
We’ve also worked with the World Kitchen Team of Leith Open Space to come up with a delicious menu for dinner that will get participants to reflect further on how conversion in faith may impact our eating habits but more of that later…