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non-verbal forum

Proposed by Douglas Bateman

Text by Irina Raskin

 Dimed Light. A group of about 30 people standing in a circle, holding hands, squeezing them one by one or standing spread within the room with closed eyes, trying to “make rain” through snapping one’s fingers un-simultaneously.

Regarding the “non-verbal forum” in a slapdash manner, this scenery provides the impression of a warm-up aesthetic associated by an overtone of esoteric amateurism. But this would be a misunderstanding. Already in the beginning of TryAngle at the first morning forum, Douglas Bateman raised the question of elaborating an alternative way of communication as a start for the working day, by such exercises as mentioned above or, for instance, by perceiving together a artwork and talk about that. This was part of a discussion about the function of the morning forum, which concluded in the rejection of the forum as the appropriate format to exchange thoughts and share experiences, but rather as pragmatic necessity to organize the day. Whereas language (in script and speech) seemed to be the right format or media for that, since it operates with a coded sign system that everyone is educated in and can more or less master. With the effort of trying another communication system, Douglas made a clear proposal of a “non-verbal forum” during the second week.

So what kind of communication was all this squeezing, clapping and stamping? Basically, it was reduced to the acts of transmitting and receiving impulses and stimuli. Though the signal was transferred from one person the other, there was always a modulation, which emphasized the constant transformation of the transmitted information through matter. As information in terms of impulses or stimuli is already an appearing difference within the physical system, this practiced communication could be described as moving transformation. It was a circulation of “pure” information without the intention of expression or understanding something else, without a symbolic reference to another meaning. Its ambition is just its transmission throughout which it creates a common event of sharing. The more information was passed into the group, the more the speed of transmission was raised, the more often the circulation of information collapsed. The transmission suffered from receiving too many things at the same time.

But is it really the factor of the non-verbal that encourages a shift according the intention of communication? Including also the game Chinese whispers into the “non-verbal forum”, demonstrated that it is maybe not so much about the media or format of communication, but rather its usage, its approach. For, although the intention of language as communication is expressing and understanding, it is more often the exception than the rule. The complexity of language as a format of communication and its diverse variability within its coded structure, which cause incessant experiences of misunderstandings, argues against a communication model that maintains the myth of an undamaged transfer of information by the conformity of language.

Possessing a certain amount of common signals through that session, different options emerged of how to continue with the “non-verbal forum”: (1) practice the transmission of these signals in order to avoid collapses; (2) trying out different forms of communication in terms of developing other common signals; (3) exceeding self-referentiality by transferring the signals into signs that effect in a coded structure, which allows a communication with the intention of expression and understanding.

To deduce from that, the “non-verbal forum” was not about playing the language system off against other media or format. It was more about exploring other possibilities of communication and testing their limits within that very group. Or at least, it was just a fun way to create good mood in the morning.