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Documenting what is in a flux

Dear Reader,

This month’s editorial from the Reflex Research Group will take you to a sunny April evening in Outokumpu, Finland. The snow has been melting the whole day, but as soon as the sun will set, it will begin to freeze again. Your guide tonight will be me, Ulla Mäkinen, contemplating on the fluidity of documentation as I am waiting for the sauna to heat up and watching the transformation of water to ice occurring outside. When documented, something of the experience freezes. It takes a shape, it becomes limited to the tool chosen and to the frame given. The nature of things is to be in a constant flux - what is stagnant, stiff, indicates sickness or even death.

When documenting our work, I believe, we rarely mean to fix it, to stagnate and stamp it to a definite form. However, what is documented will inevitably become history. This creates a challenge: how to document what flows and changes, without stopping it, without defining it to death?

Documenting is a process of choice making: of tool, of perspective, of form, of goal. The choices we make will start to define the documented experience. When we return to our notes, we remember the experience through the lens we documented it with, and actually next time our nervous system visits the memories of that particular experience, it will relate to the memory created in our experience of the documentation rather than the memory of the experience itself. So the documentation, consciously or not, becomes the validated history of the event. With documenting, we do not only write history - we also affirm it.

How can we let the practice of documenting serve us, even when we want our practice to keep changing and developing, and not to become stagnant or defined? How to let ourselves create new experiences from the place we’ve once reached? So that our stories and our bodies can stay in flux as the April weather - in one moment frozen, only to be melted anew, and creating unprecedented tangible shapes the following day. Maybe we could see documents like this - like stories and proposals related to a certain moment of the process, reminding us of where we have been and of the innumerable options of what might take place next.

Soon the snow will be gone and Spring will arrive also to these northernmost parts of Europe. As the nature around us transforms, and as we transform, it is a good time to ask ourselves what kind of marks do we leave behind. Capturing a moment, tracking it down, might serve you later but it might also serve the whole community. It is part of the patterns of history we all weave together. So let it be mercurial, meandering, even contradictory, proposing something today that might develop into something different tomorrow, as a whisper or a manifesto, a contribution to acknowledge the flux we all create together.

PS: finalizing this text in the Research Group meeting - another sudden shift from witnessing the landscape in the icy North into picking organic oranges in Southern Turkey, and from having Skype meetings into talking and dancing together in person. Plenty of new ideas and progress in the REFLEX project taking place, and planning the Symposium for the Summer. Looking forward seeing you all there!

Ulla Mäkinen, April 18th, 2016 - Fethiye Turkey