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  • Writer's pictureSunita Asnani

#5 Art-based Facilitation: Tuning.

Tuning is one of the main approaches my partner Chris and I use for art-based facilitation. However, writing about Tuning is a big challenge for me. To find words for something that actually cannot be put into words:-). Here we go.


The approach consists of simple, tangible instructions and questions about perception and movement. Tuning is suitable for every-body. No movement experience is required. At the same time, Tuning has a very profound effect on one's own world of experience, on a personal level, but also in being with others.

Tuning illuminates how our actions are inextricably linked to how we see, hear, touch, smell, taste, feel, sense, interpret our surroundings.

Tuning is an important component of the so-called Tuning Scores. These are improvisation and composition practices from contemporary dance and movement research, initiated by Lisa Nelson.


The senses as the physical basis of imagination


Our actions are not based on how the world is, but on how we perceive it. The quality of our perception therefore has a decisive influence on the quality of our behavior and actions.


There is no such thing as "objective" reality - it is created in the eye of the beholder. Our perception does not passively map "reality" like a camera, but forms an excerpt from the existing flood of data. This filtering and compiling is based on learned patterns, conditions, expectations, preferences and interests.

Our perception actively creates our own world from the raw material that reality provides us.

What happens when this shaping of one's own world becomes a creative act instead of a largely automatic process? This is exactly where Tuning comes in.


Through Tuning, the play of perception, imagination and comprehension can be experienced as a physical phenomenon.

By imagination I mean

the ability to produce or perhaps better - to allow the diversity and ambiguity of our moment-to-moment experience.

Open your own view

To become aware of our own perception and construction of reality we invite you to the following:


1. We tune our senses for perception.

Similar to how one tunes a musical instrument before playing music on it. Through simple instructions, we direct our attention to what hides usually under the radar: how we see, hear, but also touch, taste, feel, sense, comprehend our surroundings from moment to moment.


2. We change how we use our sense organs.

We start with very simple changes of one sense organ. For example, we close our eyes while we continue to move, and open them every time we are still. We lengthen the times when we do not open our eyes. This allows other sensations - like hearing, smelling, skin sensations, tasting, or movement - to be properly perceived. Our entire world fills up with sensations of all kinds. Gradually, there is a playful fanning out of the possibilities of how we use our senses.

The way we usually see, classify and weigh ourselves and our environment changes and expands. And all that without drugs!

Changing the conditioned and automatic ways in which our eyes see things is particularly worthwhile. Because we have specialized in visually grasping the world, we orient ourselves almost exclusively through our eyes. This means besides the gain also a distortion of our perception of the world.


By changing the way we use our senses, we soften our usual mechanisms of reality construction. This gradually creates a gentle chaos.

Consciousness begins to offer the possibility and freedom for different ways of looking at and experiencing things.

Tuning Scores: composing the moment together

It becomes exciting when we now begin to interact with each other. When we pursue our desire to share our perspectives, our preferences, and expose ourselves to the social complexity of the world. The Tuning Scores provide the right framework for this, a laboratory-like safe space where we can try, play, test, and fail.


In this space there are several elements: players, play field, viewers, directors and very simple rules and tasks that organize and constrain the game. The rules provoke spontaneous compositions that reveal how we perceive and make sense of movement. Together we uncover our views on space, time, action, imagination and desire. We discover poetry, humor, and a sense of the absurd. And we experiment with democratic and self-organized decision-making.

Finding your way into the Tuning Scores means finding your way in a shared, complex world with others. With them, thanks to them, and in spite of them.

This becomes concrete and tangible in the application of tuning.


Use of Tuning. A case study.

Our colleague Andi Otto, a super exciting musician and media scientist from Hamburg and lecturer at the Y-Institute of the Bern University of the Arts, invited us as guest lecturers in his Y-Tool-Box a few years ago. The Y-Tool-Boxes are interdisciplinary weeks in which students from all directions deal with an overarching theme.


Andi's Y-Tool-Boxes are well-known and popular - and yet he told us about his wish that students would participate and contribute more actively in class. His goal was to have them self-motivated to develop an artistic mini-project as a conclusion to the week. After we had successfully tilted the entire group dynamic for the better twice as guest lecturers, the third time we designed the whole week together with Andi.


The overall theme was "Mimicry, Mimesis and Camouflage". Every day, Andi gave short theoretical inputs on how these animal survival strategies can be transferred to other areas such as music, fashion, architecture or visual arts. In the practical part of the workshop, Chris and I translated these ideas into the Tuning practice. In a third part, students were given assignments for their own research and experiments.


The participants came from very different fields of study, had different nationalities and were also linguistically diverse (German, English, French, Italian). Most of them had had little or no contact with work in the body or contemporary art. Many were not particularly interested in movement.

There were a few students who obviously didn't feel comfortable in their skin, in their bodies, and had to be introduced very gently. But this changed completely in the course of the week.


When we wanted to skip the physical warm up exercises on the last day, the whole group resisted - and the loudest were those who had been embarrassed to move in front of the group to begin with.


The effect of Tuning

The group became more awake and alive every day. Tuning brought the whole groups together. The trust among each other, the level of participation, the creativity, the self-determination of the students - everything grew. From the group dynamics to the final papers: It was a highlight for everyone involved. After the presentations of the projects, we celebrated the graduation with an aperitif. It was as if we had spent a trip abroad together.

Many felt that working with Tuning Scores was like a laboratory for real life. A metaphor for how life works.

During the week, the students had become so accustomed to working with the body and the senses that they found it extremely strange how little space the physical has in their normal study routine.


Our bodies, the senses, are the physical foundation of our creativity.

How strange that we spend most of our lives pretending that everything is not built on our perception.


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