an embodied discovery process.
Choosing to approach a difficult
subject in a difficult or convoluted
manner is a common strategy of
fine art. The underlying assumption is that to “free up” the creative
and expressive body to respond to
the unanswerable, we must first
“busy” the reasoning part of the
brain so that it will not interfere [ 5].
The sparse yet strict instructions
that we provide act as a structure
that engages the reasoning part of
the brain, freeing participants to be
spontaneous and to follow their aesthetic and creative whims [ 6].
The list of desires:
• Acceptance, the need for
• Curiosity, the need to learn
• Eating, the need for food
• Family, the need to raise children
• Honor, the need to be loyal to
May + June 2012
Setup and Structure
The OWL Circles are hosted in a
neutral, utilitarian space contain-
ing a large, shared worktable with a
selection of tools and various neatly
organized recycled materials. The
materials are chosen to afford a
large range of structural possibili-
ties and aesthetics. A small area is
also set up for video interviews,
with a video camera on a tripod in
front of a black wall. The Circles
are conducted with 12 participants
and two workshop facilitators. The
format evolved until it was reduced
to the following strict sequence of
• Introduction: Welcome and
brief introduction, including reading
aloud the above quotes from Arthur
C. Clarke and Meno [ 1, 2].
• The desires: A list of common
desires are read aloud and placed
on the table in the form of index
cards [ 3]. Participants are asked to
• Transfer to body: Participants
are asked to identify the body part
in which their chosen desire resides.
• The material switch:
Participants choose materials they
• Thinking with your hands:
Without knowing what to do in
advance, participants begin making.
• Being done: When they recognize that they are done, each
participant is led to the video interview corner.
• Description: While being fitted
with a microphone, participants
are instructed to tell us on camera
their name, their desire, what their
object is called and what it does. The
answers are filmed in one take.
• Debrief: A short debrief is performed to complete the process.
What Is Happening
We outline here the background for
these conceptual shifts. The main
driver is a series of estrangement
switches that shift the mindset of
the group away from the predictable
and toward a temporary moment of