The secret of the shells
‘A shell’ is our new project which had started at the beginning of July 2018. As the name suggests, an inspiration was born out of the fascination with shells. This fascination is associated with the fact that the shells are ancestral objects which were used greatly in the past for both materialistic and spiritual purposes. In order to revive those archaic objects, we employed an analytical technique used in psychology, namely, active imagination. The method was coined by C.G. Jung in the attempt of understanding the human unconscious and its dialectical relationship with the consciousness. Essentially, the method is based on two stages such as gaining access to the unconscious (the raw material of the unconscious) and giving the unconscious form via letting the consciousness to lead. This is to uncover and make visible what is concealed deep in our unconscious onto the bodily surface.
The first way to ‘talk to’ our unconscious was through an emotional state. Having the shells as the theme of the project, our emotions and sensations came to be as following: calmness, peace, protection, home, warmth, cosy, continuity, other world, sea, beautiful, dreamland. The next step was to depict bodily those notions. The corporal results mirrored the above associations, i.e. touching the lips, walking without taking the feet off the ground, a crouched position while turning around with the hands pointing out in different directions, leaping, circularity, pressing the head against the floor and generally - grounded and low movements including the usage of voice (letting the voice out when needed).
The following day, the unconscious was accessed via focusing on the physical appearance of the shells. The outcome turned out to be pretty remarkable. The visual aspect resulted into bringing their symbolical manifestation into light. The shells resembled the night sky, the sun, galaxies, planets – the universe. Interestingly, an unusual idea emerged that the shells possess a symbolical key to the universe’s riddle, the riddle to the mystery of life and death with regards to their visual charm. This could be linked with the previous emotional state which contained such connotations as ‘other world’ or ‘dreamland’...
Apart from the resemblance of the universe, the similarity with a painting as something of a magnificent beauty was also pointed out. Moreover, a spiral shape was remarked as well as a pattern of a tunnel when looking from the the bottom of a spiral shell spontaneously evoked some memory concerning Neolithic culture of a feminine figure (being seemingly controversial - I am to conclude this blog with its maternal significance). Our corporal response to this verbal reaction presented a set of movements, particularly, grounded, heavy and animalistic steps, swinging hands, off balance and falling movements, circular and spiral motions, running backwards, turning and whirling in fast pace (transmission of energy and playing with forces).
After merely three days of the research, we had selected a series of bodily and vocal movements which ultimately constituted our piece. The structure of the piece represented a ‘skeleton’ of a man’s lifespan – the order begins with birth and childhood in which the body proceeds with peace and curiosity, adulthood with its dynamic almost ritualistic explosion of female and male characteristics, all mingled in a rampageous act of repetition. The finale dedicated to death being in fact a flow of energy that never dissolves but remains undisrupted, constant and penetrating life again.
As promised before to complete with some anecdote - the bottom of spiral shells depict an entrance to the shells’ inner part. That entrance looks like a tunnel or chamber leading to... Where does it lead to? Can you hear the shells signing when you take them close to your ear? Does it mean that shells conceal some secrets? Perhaps a clue to better understanding of the mystery is concealed in the spiral which symbolises the constant movement of life energy (where there is life, there is also death). Could it be that the tunnel inside the shell is in fact our symbolical passage of life towards death?
It could also be that a shell is a personification of a womb where we all come from. ‘The tunnel’ is simply our mother’s internalised home. When we are born, we become ‘externalised’ and detached from the inner world. We are outsiders guided by the spiral of energy which is the only connection with our past home. As the time passes by, the spiral spins around being increased in size. Ultimately, the precincts are greatly enlarged in such a way that they become oneness with the shell itself and return into the entrance of the tunnel, the womb again.
Photography: Rafal Mielczarek
Key words: other world, dreamland, the universe, riddle, life and death...