the tea break series at BIBAC

7 July, 2016

2nd International Conference on
‘Building Interdisciplinary Bridges Across Cultures’
(BIBAC 2016)

Monday 1st August (10.45-11.30 am)

‘The Tea Break Series: Practicing A Dialogic Approach/The Inside And The Outside’

Elena Cologni with Paul Connerton


to listen to oneself listening… (Dolci 1988:144)

Bodily practices of a cultural specific kind entail a combination of cognitive and habit-memory (Connerton, 1989: 88)

Elena Cologni has met with Paul Connerton a few times over a cup of tea, to discuss shared interests from the artistic and the sociological contexts, around the body, memory, and place. This session, including a practical element, will retain the  informal approach and open the discussion to participants.

2015-07-11 17TOUCHEDWhite

Can we learn to listen? Or allow silence to speak to us? Can we visualize the space among us and inhabit it with our memories? these are among the questions raised by, and embedded in, Cologni’s participatory art project ‘lo scarto’ (2015), which evolved through the relational dynamics within the group. It was informed by the Reciprocal Maieutics Approach (RMA Dolci, 1973), a pedagogic process based on collective exploration of individuals’ experience and intuition. This enabled inter-subjective exchange, the activation of history and memories, and the construction of a narrative related to the mass migration phenomenon and the related current intercultural process taking place in South of Italy. In Cologni’s subsequent project Lo Scarto (Touch) (2015), participants connect in pairs through soft clay. This eventually becomes distorted in the process of manipulation, while defining the space between them into unique objects. Such a socially negotiated practice allows embodied memories (Connerton 1989), carried in gestures and habits, to be exchanged as a form of tacit knowledge of one another conveyed through touch.

This form of engagement, of prelinguistic dialogue, is a reciprocal dynamic of question and response. A ‘question’ already implies an openness towards the other’s background and differences (cultural, gender). In particular, in the encounter the question informs the blank space between hands, which has been inhabited. The distance between two people, a materialized topography, a ‘place memory’ (Connerton 2009),  acts as point of contact, exchange and separation.

Participants feel and listen in order to respond, a necessary condition for the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (Dolci 1988, Cologni 2016) as a way of sharing one’s own experience to inform the other’s. This is also how “communicative memory works, through the integration of different traditions, an aspect of which will be lost or discarded along the way… ‘lo scarto’, offcut, scrap, residue of culture…” (Cologni 2016).

Paul Connerton will respond to Cologni’s participatory practical exercise and explore some aspects of the relationship between the inside and the outside in society and with respect of the human body. He will include some of the following topos:

the aperture of the body; Lucy Harigary critique of Aristotle conception of the body as a container; the idea of internalization as developed by psychoanalysis; agrophobia; anorexia; Batkin’s idea of the grotesque body; and some features of female adornment, which, though external to the body nevertheless have radically damaging effects on the inside of the body, that is to say bone structures.


art projects

Cologni, E., lo scarto (touch), #TransActing: A Market of Values, presented by Critical Practice Research Cluster, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Graduate School’s Public Programme, University of the Arts London, July 2015

Cologni, E. (2015) lo scarto, Castelvetrano, Sicily (IArt Residency Unesco, European funding)


book publications

Cologni, E. (2016) ‘A Dialogic Approach For The Artist As an Interface in an Intercultural Society’. in Burnard, Mackinlay, Powell (Eds). The Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research New York, London: Routledge

Connerton, P. (1989). How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Connerton, P. (2009) How Modernity Forgets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Dolci, D. (1988) Dal trasmettere al comunicare, Non esiste comunicazione senza reciproco adattamento creativo, Casale Monferrato: Ed Sonda

Cologni’s research  is generously funded by a Grants for the Arts, Arts Council England

Elena Cologni has a PhD in Fine Art from University of the Arts, London Central Saint Martins College, 2004 (CSM). Her academic positions as artist include a Post-Doctorate Fellowship at CSM (Arts and Humanities Research Council UK 2004/06), a Research Fellowship at York Saint John’s University (Arts Council of England, 2007/09), she contributes to the Creativities in Intercultural Arts Network (University of Cambridge). Process is central to her ‘research as art practice’ approach, which is also intrinsically interdisciplinary, and she often collaborates with academics and professionals from other disciplines. Her work include dialogic undertakings resulting in drawings, sculptures, video and text, and has been exhibited in the US, Europe and the UK. She is the founder and director of Rockfluid, umbrella interdisciplinary project outcome of a residency at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Experimental Psychology, awarded with two Grant of the Arts, Arts Council of England, and Escalator Visual Art Retreat at Wysing Arts Centre, Escalator live art, Colchester Arts Centre. This includes many international site specific interventions, investigation the relationship memory, perception and place, including the upcoming at MuseumQuartier Vienna, Austria, and at Centre for Family Research, and New Hall Collection, Cambridge.

Paul Connerton is a research associate in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. His books include How Societies Remember (Cambridge University Press, 1989), How Modernity Forgets (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and The Spirit of Mourning: History, Memory and the Body (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Connerton’s first book, How Societies Remember (1989), opened the discussion of collective memory (per Maurice Halbwachs and others) to include bodily gestures, finding in clothing, manners, musical performance, and other socially negotiated practices locii where memory is “silted” (to use his verb) into human corporeal consciousness and praxis. Connerton followed up this work with How Modernity Forgets (2009), which emphasizes what Connerton calls “place memory,” or memory that is dependent upon topography and particularly upon topography as it relates to the human body. Connerton argues that modernity is characterized by a particular sort of forgetting “associated with processes that separate social life from locality and from human dimensions: superhuman speed, megacities that are so enormous as to be unmemorable, comsumerism disconnected from the labour process, the short lifespan of urban architecture, the disappearance of walkable cities


ROCKFLUID is awarded Grants for the Arts, Arts Council of England, within the Escalator Programme. ROCKFLUID is supported by Colchester Arts Centre, Wysing Arts Centre and the University of Cambridge, while opening up to other collaborating institutions.


Studio: Wysing Arts Centre
Fox Road, Bourn, Cambridge, CB23 2TX

Supported by:


Copyright © 2011-2017 Elena Cologni. All rights reserved.

Made by Temple