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  • Writer's pictureSunita Asnani

#3 Table Conversations: the language of our hands.


Application of Art-based Facilitation. Second example.


The end product of an artistic project can be brilliant, but it can also often be disappointing compared to the process behind it. Or only accessible to a handful of art enthusiasts. On the other hand:

The creative process in the making is potentially a highly interesting field of learning and experimentation for many.

If it involves creative collaboration, even more so.


My partner and husband Chris and I started looking for ways to share the experience of creative collaboration. This resulted in several art-based events for groups - "Table Conversations" being one of them. In all of these works, movement is central, our fulcrum. We use movement as a means to (re)understand ourselves and the environment.


Thinking hands

Did you know that "talking with our hands" supports our thinking processes when we speak? We move our hands when we speak not primarily to make ourselves understood - we also wave our hands when we are on the phone and no one sees us - but because our hands help us think. Even our 400 to 800 daily (and since COVID19 infamous) self-touches on the face have something to do with our memory: Hand touches seem to help regulate cognitive overload and feelings of stress.


But rather than exploring the psychological interpretation or the skillful use of body language we are more interested in the question: How can we re-experience ourselves in encounter, negotiation, collaboration through the expression of our hands?


What reveals itself that otherwise remains hidden?

Courage and vulnerability

In the last ten years, many of my collaborations have been created together with Chris. We have learned that a successful collaboration requires more than a well-coordinated team.


In collaboration, people or groups work on different parts of the deliverable. The contribution of a person or group is traceable.

In collaboration, the people or groups work together on one part of the deliverable at the same time.


Creative collaboration takes time, courage, trust, allowing vulnerability, shared values and vision, and being able to endure interdependence.

The payoff, however, is something priceless. A vision and a work is created that is more than the sum of the individual contributions. Something new is created, something I could not have even imagined on my own. I experience such collaborations as a renewal and expansion of myself. This experience is incredibly valuable and inspiring, and I am eager to share it with others. "Table Conversations" provides a safe playground for that to happen.



"Table Conversations"

is a hybrid between performance, workshop and play. It creates a series of facilitated encounters and collaborations in the audience. The centerpiece is the table. It serves as a platform of exchange, a navigational tool, a miniature stage for our hands. The hands become actors and spokespersons.

The encounters are guided by proposals for action, questions, prompts, codes and strategies from art. The participants who come together in this installation take on different roles and build a series of performances for each other.

Each performance explores the boundary between distance and proximity, self-determination and alignment, outside and inside perspectives.


Context

We have performed "Table Conversations" in a variety of contexts and with a variety of groups - in a coworking space, a former library, a seminar room. With participants who knew each other and participants who were strangers. The ages were also extremely mixed, ranging from 6 - 76 years old. The group size varied from 15 to 50 people.





Impact

In all the "Table Conversations" sessions, a safe space was created in which mindfulness, creativity and humor could unfold. Those present were visibly touched by this unusual way of meeting, listening to each other and being seen. After the "game", each time there was a trusting bond between those present as well as a great need for conversation and reflection. This is the best starting point for change and transformation - be it in the context of change processes, cultural change or new work.


"Table Conversations" is suitable when a group wants to meet in a new way and promote a collaborative attitude. When dialogue and empathy are needed instead of more brainstorming on post-its. Hand on heart:


At times when we are looking for a breeding ground for newness, a breaking of old patterns of behavior, we need to tap into forms of knowledge that are not stuck in our heads, but connected to our feelings and bodies.






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