ESR 7 Blog January/February 2023: Noa Mamrud

Every movement in space, be it a standard practical walk or what we would call a dance, brings the mover together into work with contradictions. Contradictions allow us to move effectively and with minimal effort. Does it sound like a contradiction, in and of itself? Then let’s experiment.

Stand or sit neutrally. The space between your legs will be identical to the width of your pelvis. Raise a straight arm until it reaches the height of your shoulder. When it does, it forms a 90-degree angle in your armpit.

Drop the arm.


Now, we will supposedly do the same action only we will concentrate on lowering the scapula of that same arm that is rising. Try.


The arm float upwards.


Let’s experiment with one more exercise.


Rise from your chair and start walking in space. A simple, normal, pedestrian walk. Allow your arms to dangle freely as they normally do.

Have you noticed the direction of the arms in opposition to the direction of the legs? When the left leg steps forward, the right arm is extended forward, and vice versa, when the right leg steps forward, the left arm is extended.

Now, we will practice the same simple walk only this time we will coordinate the direction of the arms to the movement of the legs. That is, when the right leg steps forward, the right arm is extended forward. Try.

You will likely notice a strange feeling. The physiologic arrangement of the pelvis and spine provides an artificial organisation that you feel you need to maintain with discipline and awareness.

These two exercises help us to sense the differences in how movement runs in our bodies. I am convinced that a sense of flow was felt only when the movement combined contradictions. Namely, something had to go down for the other to come up, our twisting spine during walking had sent our limbs in opposite directions and allowed our body to exercise a walk. Interesting to think that it is precisely through contradictions that we experience movement harmoniously, effortlessly, and effectively. In some cases, contradictions are even a prerequisite for the possibility of generating a movement.

An unresolvable contradiction was described by Irit Rogoff and Nora Sternfeld as a thought-provoking and fertile ground to start an investigation. Their presupposition that some contradictions cannot be resolved but that the work within them can nevertheless generate meaningful and knowledge that aids us still resonates with me. Because indeed, the interface of activism and policy is very slippery, contentious, and paradoxical. While I have not entirely forgone the desire to propose policy recommendations, or to (at least) indicate a direction for policy making, I have directed part of my attention towards building a more inclusive framework to think about the contradictions that my project abounds in. A set of conditions that will allow a staying with and working from the places of contradiction. A space that is inclusive of the varied types of knowledge that necessitate some distance, or rather zooming out, of the concreteness of work in the vector of providing solutions.

With this quality of thought, I begin my work on the practice of movement and the practice of the body as matter. The word ‘begin’ does not do justice, however, to how I have been exercising these movements and their related knowledges up until now, both in the PhD and in my former PhD-life. But it does mark a very exciting shift of focus from data collection and analysis of institutional and funding practices, toward the instigation of how sensuous and corporeal practices, so distinctive in the arts’ ‘turn’ to the social, might lend themselves, to working with contradictions and towards the envisioning of a supportive infrastructure.

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