Naturopathic Somaesthetics | 
Workshop & Installation
by Lou Croff Blake (they/them) & Madelyn Byrd (they/them)

I wear the earth, the earth wears me.

This is the first in a workshop series started in Blanca, Spain during ROTA Festival, December 2023. Naturopathic Somaesthetics is an exploration in tactile knowledge; it generates a bodily conversation with earth. It is a place-based practice; in its first iteration, we got to know the southern Spanish landscape through the surface of our skins. Leading this workshop on a sunny morning, we asked our participants to fashion foraged organics onto their bodies, and to fashion their bodies onto the earth. It could be as simple as lying down in tall grass, or squeezing a pinecone. As they adorned themselves, we asked practitioners to pay attention to texture, temperature, pressure, movement, sound, and smell. We also gave a loose schema to consider when experimenting with material: hard organics (i.e. tree branches), soft organics (i.e esparto grass), hard minerals (i.e. boulder), and soft minerals (i.e. mud).

‘Naturopathic’ alludes to wellbeing conjured from natural substances. ‘Somaesthetics’ is embodied aesthetic experience; it flips the hierarchy that privileges verbal, narrative experience, and instead centers knowledges that cannot be conveyed in words. We pair these concepts with the practice of automatic fashioning, which, much like automatic writing, channels stream of consciousness; it is an intuitive process of getting dressed. The resulting methodology uses a locavore material palette, and can be transposed into any region and biome. The learning objective is, in a broad sense, a heightened empathy for earth that incites environmental activism. More acutely, we seek the body's knowledge of place beyond verbal description, repositioning the ‘second body’ (earth) as the ‘first home’ (clothing). The somaesthetic memories we hold of Blanca can be described – such as the tickling pressure of wrapping one’s forearms in the pink peppercorn tree’s viney branches, or the sound and texture of inserting an entire hand into a massive aloe steak – but they must be felt to be truly known.

Before beginning our workshop, we shared some light theory with our participants. We ground this practice in biophilic theory, queer theory, regenerative sustainability, and in indigenous wisdoms. We shared Kimmerer’s Honorable Harvest,¹ which sets tenets for foraging with humility and without causing extractive harm. We also shared Halberstam's definition of bewilderment: a queer, rebellious “process of becoming wild by shedding knowledge.”² After a few supplementary points of theoretical reference and a guided somatic presencing exercise, we launched our practitioners into playspace.

Our provocation: can we queer environmentalism through somaesthetic knowledge sharing? What do we learn when the body, othered and deprioritized by hegemonic systems, is given the space to speak and to listen?

¹Kimmerer, Robin Wall. The Democracy of Species. Green Ideas 10. London: Penguin Books, 2021. 40.
²Halberstam, Jack. Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Perverse Modernities. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. 31.

Photos by Pics by Tereza Bartůňková
Text Written by Lou Croff Blake
Special thanks to AADK, ROTA Music Festival, Selu Herraiz, Diane Barbé, Giuliana Grippo, Abraham Hurtado, all participants, & the people of Blanca, Spain