Impact Lab and The Halprin Life Art Process: A Practice-Based Approach to Creative, Affective, and Political Mobiliation

  • Helene Vosters


 From July 1 (Canada Day) 2010 through July 1 2011, I performed Impact Afghanistan War [Impact] a alternative memorial project in which I fell 100 times a day in a public space for one year. Each of Impact’s 36,600 falls was done in recognition of one of the tens of thousands of unnamed and uncounted Afghan dead. Impact was an attempt to reach beyond the numbness produced by abstract numbers, political ideologies, and media spectacularization, and to allow myself, and invite others, to be impacted. In spring 2011, five York University students — Christina Demuda, EmilyAnne Fullerton, Rebecca Hooton, Melissa Lepp and Samantha Niaraki — participated in Impact Lab. The project combined public performances of Impact with in-studio post-performance reflections based in the Halprin Life Art Process (HLAP), a method for creative exploration developed by postmodern dance pioneer Anna Halprin. Impact Lab sought to extend Impact’s scope in two significant ways: First, by adding a collective dimension, and second by incorporating a process of creative and embodied reflection. Through an examination of Impact Lab, this paper explores the potential of activist performance, in concert with a reflection process rooted in a multi-modal expressive arts approach, as a model for the facilitation of both personal agency and political mobilization.     

HELENE VOSTERS is a PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University where her research focuses on the role of public mourning practices in constructing narratives related to militarism and war. A long-time student of postmodern dance pioneer Anna Halprin, Helene served for three years on the core faculty of Tamalpa Institute (co-founded by Anna and Daria Halprin). In 2012 Helene was awarded the Robert Lawrence Prize by the Canadian Association for Theatre Research for her paper, “Between the Worlds: Reflections on a Year of Falling.” Helene has performed her durational performance meditations Impact Afghanistan War and Unravel: A meditation on the warp and weft of militarism throughout Canada, the US and Europe.