Listening Drawing, Talking about ‘A meaningful place‘
For this workshop, I combined the exercise of Radical Listening with a drawing exercise. Couples tell each other about a meaningful place. Afterward, they visualize what they have heard from their peer. New meaningful places emerge from radically listening to each other.
Inspired by Radical Listening (link) one of the PIMDI master students Hans Hoekstra designed this workshop where he invites his adult students to practice Radical Listening, taking turn in pairs and then drawing what they have listened to. The workshop aims at collaboration between two people that get to know each other through sharing some (possibly) intimate information. Hans asked his students to talk about ‘A meaningful place’, a place which meant a lot to the talker or a place where they felt at home.
There were two sessions of Radical Listening, so both participants would experience being a talker and a listener. The listener would listen carefully without interrupting the talker and observe carefully which non-verbal expressions the talker would make. When the students have taken turns in speaking and listening for 10 minutes each, the silent drawing session (10-20 minutes) follows. Each participant draws the meaningful place of their peers. Hans encouraged his students to make a subjective translation of the story they have heard, freeing them from the urge to represent the story accurately. The drawing is a translation of the place described in the way it resonated with the listener.
After showing each other both drawings, Hans encouraged his students to go further with the drawings and to make a collage out of both drawings (10-20 minutes). His students were able to create a meaningful place together by cutting and gluing the parts of the drawing into one new work.
Variation: educators could give students the homework of making their own ‘meaningful place’. When they come to school, they can do the exercises of listening and drawing each other’s place. Then the couples can compare their own (homework) translation of the meaningful place and the version made by their peers.
Set-up and/or rules
First, we form couples which sit together around a table. The couples choose a first talker and a first listener.
The first talker describes ‘A meaningful place’ in 10 minutes and is encouraged to talk about this place in a subjective mode, as the talker wishes to. The listener listens without interrupting and eventually makes notes of meaningful things which are expressed. Not interrupting is important because sometimes the talker needs some silence before a meaningful aspect can be described. Then the first talker becomes the listener and vice versa.
After talking and listening every couple starts to draw the place described by their peer. Freedom for very subjective visual translations — 10–20 minutes.
After showing each other the drawings, every couple investigates if a collaborative collage can emerge out of the two drawings. There are scissors and glue for each couple — 10–20 minutes
Sharing of the experiences.
10 minutes: Introducing radical listening
8 minutes: 1st talker talks, 1st listener listens and takes notes.
8 minutes: 2nd talker talks, 2nd listener listens and takes notes.
10 minutes: couples draw each other’s ‘meaningful place’, based on their listening.
10 minutes: couples investigate if a collaborative collage is possible of the drawings.
14 minutes: sharing of the experiences.
Total: 60 minutes
For this workshop, I got inspired by the exercises in Radical Listening which we practiced during our PIMDI week in Iceland. During the exercises in Iceland we were encouraged to have dialogues in pairs. There would be two sessions, so both participants would experience being a talker and a listener. The listener would listen carefully without interrupting the talker and observe carefully which non-verbal expressions the talker would make.
For the workshop that I organized in Drachten I took this radical listening exercise as a starting point. The talker would tell the listener about ‘A meaningful place’, a place which meant a lot to the talker, or a place where they feel at home. After both participants have talked about their meaningful place there is time for a silent drawing session. Each participant draws the meaningful place of their peer. This can be a very subjective translation of the story they have heard. There is no need to try to be accurate about what was where etc. The drawing is a translation of the place described in the way it resonated with the listener.
After showing each other both drawings there is the possibility to make a collage of both drawings. By cutting and gluing the parts of the drawing together in one new work all the paired participants try to find a visual shared place. A meaningful shared place.
In principle (how do you relate your practice to brave space?):
The radical listening exercise is a beautiful tool for getting to know each other better and investigating for yourself how much you want to share with your peer. There is the outward movement of reaching out and sharing your story and simultaneously there is the inward movement of investigation and inquiry. The next step, visualizing your peer’s story as it resonates with you, makes both parties vulnerable. When you draw your version of someone else’s story you enter a very intimate area; this is where both courage and sensitivity are required.
I think the last step of making a collaborative collage can also be unnecessary, because the drawings that come from listening are already a wonderful output. More time can give a lot more possibilities. One can for example first give students the homework of making their own ‘meaningful place’. When they come to school they can do the exercises of listening and drawing each other’s place. Then the participants working in pairs can compare their own (homework) translation of the meaningful place and the version made by their peer.
An interesting variation might then be to use the four works (2 x homework of meaningful place and 2 x a listener’s version of it) of every couple as a starting point for a collaborative work in another medium.
Connection to PIMDI:
The workshop aims at collaboration between two people that get to know each other through sharing some (possibly) intimate information. The most delicate part of this collaboration is that you don’t want to overrule the other and at the same time you don’t want to mute yourself. This balance between not wanting to injure your peer and not wanting to mute yourself is at the core of PIMDI as I have experienced it. It is the ground in between ‘world-destruction and self-destruction’ as Gert Biesta describes it. What arises from this ground is a dance of giving and taking.