Knowledge base

Reflections on Formless Arts

Text by Bruno Caverna
I see life as an interplay/dialogue between form and formless. Like mind and body. Through the form the formless qualities can be outpoured. To make it more concrete let's take a look into a field familiar to me, the domain of movement practices. The diversity of styles of physical activities are so vast that it would be inconceivable to learn all of of them in one lifetime. Even when we zoom in into one single art-form, let's say capoeira to make more experiential, the differences that appear from group to group are substantial. Even within any particular group, each teacher will express that a style in own way. That's quite obvious since we are all unique individuals that carry qualities, points of views and perceptions that can't simply be copied. The myriad of forms is what actually makes our existence here on Earth so rich and meaningful. It is like navigating an an ocean of endless possibilities, flavours to be tasted, experiences embodied, dreams to be fulfilled, ideas to be expressed, and so on.

I understand that the formless is the source/mother of all forms, the non material world that sustain all physical manifestations. Such a perspective invites us to look at the differences on the appearance level as the top of the iceberg. The lack of full understanding that there is a common source common to all of us (even science claims that all was generated from the Big Bang, the explosion of the one expanding and generating the many) may give may be one of the justifiers to further spread a state of segregation and annihilation. While intelligent discernment is honorable in order to avoid undesirable outcomes along the path, today we in live in times where the ethos is state is disrespect and intolerance towards those whose cultures, opinions, perception, beliefs, preferences are not in resonance with their own. There has been much cumulated fear towards what doesn't flow along with our opinions, forgetting that opinions are just made-up ideas, like a game, volatile and subject to be changed anytime.
All these conflicts and disputes take places on the form level, the so called reality. If you are born in a certain culture, you will be given a name (form-sound) by your parents. During many years of your infancy you will pass through a process of cultural indoctrination through which a serious compartmentalization of your perception into boxes will take place. In my case the identity of my "I" defined by a family name, Bruno, by a nickname from Capoeris, a masculine gender whose mother tongue is Portuguese and so on so forth. It could go on endlessly. For me I can't be any of these attributes as they are labels acquired from external sources. What I truly am is intrinsic to my nature that has no name or/and form. It sounds quite obvious but it shocks to me see how easily blind we go about giving too much importance to things which has no substance in itself. If we take as a play, the relationship to this built sense of identity would have a completely different meaning and flavour. This is a shift in consciousness, not into any generated concept that could fill the gap of not knowing but the honouring of the not-knowing as the very source of our beingness. Think well, we are none of these labels we are given can really define you. You had happened to be born in any other country by geographical accident, for instance, all attributes we cling into would have probably no relevance. We would have been programmed to perceive life in a completely different way. We would still exist. Who are we then who could be this or that, who could be covered up with so many layers that are not necessarily in tune with our soulful purposes. No We can't be defined by the body since the body is ever-changing, never the same from moment to moment, like a living process. Bodies can't provide a reference to who/what we are since it is always always changing. The mind neither since we are always changing our minds. Despite this transiency you are always you. So what is this you that never changes despite of all the changes? This inquiry lies at the core of the Formless Arts philosophy.
Back to my field of expertise in physical practice, I have always been very curious to interact with all people of all kinds on this level, which I call formless for the sake of convenience. The structures of my teaching, play-fight and liquid-body, are simply channels to access deeper levels of communication, starting firstly within oneself. A river needs the edge in order to be a river. Without the edges and its riverbed a river simply could not run, it would be just water spread all over the field. I see that we are like formless rivers that needs the physical structures to be able to express our power and uniqueness. To what I have been experiencing throughout the years, most of the teachings focus almost solely on the structure, on what is measurable, countable, controllable. To dismiss the other part is to compromise the wholeness of our humanness. What I am inspired to share with people may provoke some shift in their perception but it s not my intention to create such shift. I honour individual's journeys so in this respect I see my role as a sower rather then a reformer. Back again down-to-earth to practicalities: in the dance studios.dojos, sometimes we need to execute certain movements several times in specific ways in order to understand the underlying principle that governs it. Not to perfect it with a mind that is concerned about how good it looks like. I see practice as a very practical way to give us an actual experience about all this intellectualism here. We truly don't need it. Use it as pointers and once you get it, then nothing matters any more. It is very difficult to talk it and even more so to have an embodied understanding of the formlessness without using form as a stepping-stone, it'd be too abstract for mostly.

Form follows function (formless) and allows embodiment through physical experience, which can be illuminating/revealing. But to get trapped into the over identification with the physical experiences will inevitably prevent one from going into deeper inner landscapes. The structure leads us into the principle and once the principle is not a mere idea but a living experience we shall be ready to destroy the form to explore life boundlessly. This in the empowering process I love to share with people because I feel if they get right into the principle then they what may burst out of this embodiment can be deeply transformative. In the last Play-Fight workshop in Brussels one guy told me that what/how we were practicing is exactly like some guys are currently redefining joggling, deconstructing the traditional techniques to rebuild a new way of relating to the object that allows the exploration to keep a direct line of communication with what I can formless state, freedom of being to create within the flow. There was also a lady who told the way the way we were exploring the pushing on each other's bodies was intimately related to how she learned Shiatsu. These are concrete examples that indicate Play-Fight appears as a common denominator for several art-forms. The question here follows as such: what is the relation between Shiatsu and contemporary joggling? Apparent would be difficult to related both art-forms but to me the connection is obvious. In the Play-Fight is becomes evident for many but only because it vibrates and dialogues from the formless level.

And that's why this path has been utterly interesting for me. It never stops to inspire and colour my daily life. I keep on digging wholeheartedly into a language that can potentially connect more and more the dots. A very challenging endeavour indeed to speak about something so abstract and yet paradoxically tangible and physically experiential as well.

Text: Bruno Caverna
Photo: Victoria Nazarova