The research project shortly explained in this page refers to the work carried out in the frame of the Master of Arts in Artistic Research at Accademia Teatro Dimitri, SUPSI (scuola Universitaria della Svizzera Italiana), Switzerland, 2017-2019.

The research projects consited in investigating the effects that the 2-day workshop The Urge of Being has on participants (students of Accademia Teatro Dimitri).

The Urge of Being is a 2-day workshop offered to performing artists which aims to access the biological core of energy and emotions, channel and express it. It works with movement, voice, text and songs both under the theatrical and scientific points of view.


Grounded on the recent dialogue between Science and Art, this research project aims to investigate the relation between physical theater and recent biological and neuroscientific theories of emotions, feelings and embodiment, such as Biochemistry of Emotions by Candace Pert and the theories of Antonio Damasio. The most influential theatrical approach of The Urge of Being is the research of Jerzy Grotowski in the form of the "Plastiques” and “body-voice training”. The relation between theatrical practice and life science was developed with the aim to explore the possible effects and advantages that performers can gain both by knowing such theories and by engaging in training inspired by them.

The mentioned theories of emotions have been selected to inspire, inform and support the specific approach to the theatrical work on emotions that it is conducted during the workshop. This approach is strictly physical because the workshop leads the performer to access his expressivity and emotional sphere from his physicality and through the work with his inner impulses, with the intent to work with his biological source of expression and
channel it into an artistic communication.


The interdisciplinary approach of The Urge of Being aims to let the trainee experience that the artistic expression can be accessed through the dialogue between the tangible and intangible aspects of the human being: biology and art.


Full thesis here

Urgency | Expression | Embodiment

This project investigated how the performer experiences authenticity when authenticity is in relation to the biological need to express oneself.

Urgency: the push to survive. In the frame of the workshop the the ugency is called " artistic survival mode", a condition in which the performer consciously generates the own urgency and works with inner impulses.

Here more info about Artistic Survivial mode.

Expression: (ex-press = press-out) > manifestation/actuation of one's needs – from inside-out.

Embodiment: (em-body = put in or into the body) how the person perceives the world and experiences it – from outside-in.

The workshop creates the condition to build an energetic process (of several natures) trough which the performer can work with the emotional system from the inside-out. This way of working with the emotions supports the biological role of emotions: in biology emotions needed to be expressed, (ex-press = press-out) and disclosed from the inside-out in order to accomplish their role of survival. This is why in the workshop the performer works with different urgency patterns to reach the source of emotions rather than representing emotions by adopting fixed physical pattern from the outside-in. In this way the performer experience himself/herself not as an interpreter of emotional state but as a channel of emotional impulses.

Artistic Survivial Mode and Urgency

In 2018, the studio of a Theater Academy is obviously not a jungle where trainees need torun away from predators to save their lives.

There is artificial light, a roof over their heads, heating and no predators looking for food; the life of a theater trainee is not in danger as itmay be for a man alone in the savannah. Nevertheless, the workshop The Urge of Being tends to put the performer’s organism inthe condition where its homeostasis is continuously challenged to quickly self-regulateand react to the immediate moment. The training attempts to generate a mental, physicaland emotional off-balanced state in which the trainees are required to make decisions and actions very quickly, based on physical impulses.In a real situation of danger these impulses are the impulses to survive and develop into running away, killing, eating, etc. In the workshop these impulses don’t develop into these type of actions but the source of energy is the same: an urgency. In the workshop the impulses come rapid-fire from an inner intention but they are not yet visible as emotions or complex movements, but they have the potential to develop into a more readable expression. The artistic survival mode is therefore the condition in which the performe consciously generates her own urgency and works with inner impulses and energy in a conscious way. 


From a biological point of view, urgency can be understood as the basic motivation that pushes living creatures to verbally and non-verbally express themselves. The more the urgency, the more effective the communication and the higher the possibility to survive.To better picture this equivalence one can think of a newborn baby crying for hunger or cold; his vocalized call for food reaches the mother or the people who immediately provides food. The child instinctively modulates his vocal expression depending on the degree of the urgency of his hunger (Linklater, 1976, 20).


>> In the workshop urgency is triggered and maintained in different ways:

•  Fatigue and high concentration

The high speed of the work, the absence of long pauses (maximum three-four minutes) and extended duration sessions of work,  together create the first support for the insurgence of fatigue, followed by the urgency to constantly rearrange the organism in response to it.One of the concepts that have led to the development of the approach and the exercises of the workshop, is that in a situation in which fatigue, tension, relaxation,  anticipation, drive – the background emotions defined by Damasio (see Damasio, 1999) - are solicited, the organism self-regulates and adapts to these conditions by investing a type of energy connected to these emotions.

• Instruction and suggestion given by the trainer.One of them is “you have to fuck yourself”. This expression may sound aggressive at first, but far from being offensive, it is an invitation to explore the unknown by breaking the physical, emotional, spiritual, relational cliché and limits, by consciously generating a condition of unpredictability for oneself and for the group.“Fuck yourself” becomes a sort of mantra to refresh the work, to generate syncopations, to break the physical rhythm that corresponds to breaking predictable thought patterns. Paraphrasing the expression one can say: “fool oneself into going beyond oneself to find a new self”.

• High energy level and dilatation of energy.The trainees are asked to mobilise a huge amount of energy and to experience the extreme possibility of expression in order to face their own limits, overcome them and gain energy from their limits. Once they have accessed this dynamic of energy, the trainees are requested to dilate the energy and transform it into an artistic process, rather than liberate it as it is. This dilatation and transformation creates the

difference between a liberation (sometimes therapeutic) process and an artistic one: in the latter, inner impulses go through a conscious transformation and are shared through an artistic language which is comprised of movement, actions, text and voice work.

• Group and partnering work.Urgency is also triggered by work in and with the group and in partnering and by the give and take process, all elements that require a high level of alertness and reactiveness to external impulses.

Main conclusions

From the analysis of the results, one of the most evident effects of the workshop is that ittriggers an artistic expression based on an emotional way of working and articulation thatis non-representational and it is experienced as authentic by participants and trainer. Authenticity unfolds itself through several aspects and dynamics such as theestablishment of real energetic and emotional connections within the group, the sensationof freedom and urgency of expression, the fact that the workshop is a research project, thephysical access to the work with the text and the fact that the workshop accesses theartistic expression through the biological core of expression.


Analyzing the results, a dynamic that touches all these aspects of authenticity was found, and it is the “work in opposition”, a condition in which the performer establishes a dialogue between two extremities, two opposite dimensions or forces.How does the “work in opposition” influence the feeling of authenticity of the participants?The work in opposition allowed different dynamics: the opposition between “(energetic, emotional, freedom) attachment and detachment” allowed the give and take process; the opposition “voice support and resonance cavity” consented the development and expression of emotional states; the opposition “structured exercises and improvisation phases” allowed the sense of freedom, urgency and authenticity of expression; the “muscular contraction and elongation” allowed the emergence of emotions and described a physical sensation of freedom; the opposition between “inside and outside of the organism” allowed the real connections in the group, so the establishment of a nonrepresentational communication. The opposition “body and mind” allowed the trainee to explore the condition of self-controlled loss of control, a situation in which the activities of brain are organically integrated in the artistic expression.Each opposition acts as an organized unity in which the very dialogue between the parts generates artistic meanings. In this context, also authenticity is experienced as an alive and mutable channel of impulses that works in dialogue between the parts and in the real moment.Hence, if the first conclusion of this thesis is that the workshop provoked a feeling of authenticity in the participates, the second conclusion is that it does it through stimulatingthe interaction between certain components in the “work in opposition.”The reason why the performer experiences a feeling of authenticity is that by working in opposition, the trainee is in the condition to continuously re-arrange his homeostasis, his adaptation capability, so to accesses expression by the homeostasis.In the specific interaction between individual and the group, between the muscular elongation and contraction, between in and out in the give and take process, between freedom and structure, the trainee experienced a personal, free and authentic way to express herself, because her expression is based on the alive, necessary and real interaction between certain components.The dynamic of the “work in opposition” observed during the workshop, supports the fact that the workshop's design itself originates from the opposition and interaction between two disciplines, science and art. As in biology the dialogue between inside and outside of the organism is the basis for adaptation which is necessary for survival, the artist who works in the artistic survival mode, stimulates her self-regulation and obtains an expression triggered by her urgency.In this way of expressing oneself, also the emotional states are experienced as functionally integrated in the communication between the parts: in fact emotions are not the goal of communication, but they are tools of communication and the trainee doesn’t represent them, but uses them to communicate the urgency.So the third conclusion of this thesis is that participants experienced that emotions originate themselves from the interaction between the intangible impulse to survival and its tangible actuation: between the urgency and its actuation.

As a general conclusion of this thesis, I can say that the dialogue between physical theater and life science opens the possibility for performing artists to reach a source of energy made of inner impulses, and channel it into specific performative needs. In this way the artist can experience his work as urgent, free and authentic, as a work in which the tangible and intangible needs of expression unfold themeselves into artistic impulses organically integrated in a communication process.

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