by Hannes Bend in JAMAICA FLUX 2016
April 16 – June 4
Co-Curated by Heng-Gil Han, Project Director and Kalia Brooks, Co-curator
Organized by Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning
Jamaica Flux catalogue text by Floor A Grootenhuis:
“metaNoYa is an interactive collaborative performance that takes place in the natural environment of the streets with the communities of Jamaica, Queens. metaNoYa is inspired by the ancient Greek word μετάνοια (metánoia). This refers to psychological rebuilding or “healing.” It is a compound of μετά (metá, “after, with”) and νοέω (noéō, “to perceive, to think”), and means to change one’s mind, place or nature, and purpose.
Is this possible for those living on the edges of society? Those whom we have given up on? hannes bend has a scientifically creative art practice that merges processes from diverse disciplines, including technology and philosophy, to gain insights into understanding human happiness. He aims to create an open, free, interactive and communal practice. His experiential research tests this by using mindfulness, yoga, and meditation, as well as the techniques of contemplation such as the Wim Hof Method (WHM), Vipassana, Tonglen, and Tummo. hannes is curious how these methods can provide support for those who live on the edge of society. His passion is driven by his personal experience of transformation. Applying these techniques to his own life has helped him recover from and deal with childhood cerebral palsy, a birth trauma.
During the period of Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016, hannes bend aims to organize four mini-retreats for 5–8 participants for five days and four nights. metaNoYa is collaboration between hannes, the participants of the retreats, Jamaica YMCA, the community in the sharing economy (such as Couch Surfing, kindista, OurGoods and Craigslist – online networks where time, skills, and resources are shared in kind – there is no money involved), and people on the street who interact with each group.The streets of Jamaica will be the environment for the retreats. As a retreat participant you will receive an opportunity to experiment with current and ancient traditions of mindfulness, meditation, and contemplation. Reflection and contemplation and the impact of these practices on the body, emotions, and sense of self are essential to the work. They are open to anyone who is curious to immerse themselves in an unconventional learning format. hannes is interested in engaging people who are homeless, going through transition and may have destructive attachment patterns, or who have behavioral or mental disorders. He facilitates these retreats to support increased happiness, stronger health, and love.
metaNoYa builds on ongoing scientific research on the potential positive impacts on the health of the body (immune system) and reduction of stress levels by practicing these meditation methods. With Shawn Slater (University of Oregon), Robert Alexander, and Bella Shah (both University of Michigan) hannes has developed a mindful Virtual Reality (VR) device. This is a wearable biofeedback device that uses a person’s pulse combined with a VR headset. The device generates images that the viewer can experience in real time that reflect their current state of calm/stress, based on their heart rate. This will be a component of his piece.
The ongoing explorations of science show that what we perceive in the world is only a small element of what there is. hannes is leading us through an experiment where we connect our brains and experiences, to our immune and nervous systems. He researches how we can incorporate new habits and create a different perception of what is possible with our body. hannes invites us to participate, experiment, and have fun through intense exploration of what we actually need to be happy as people. Life is impermanent and in flux. hannes suggests that a less rigid sense of self, territory, and ownership might be beneficial for insights, unity, integration, peace, and happiness. This comes full circle to the notion of metaNoYa – changing our mind, our attitude, and perspective, ultimately transforming the wellbeing of people and our planet.”
– by Floor A Grootenhuis
“Questioning how life can be made more fulfilling, and how humanity’s collective sense of compassion and love can be made more robust lies central to artist hannes bend’s practice. At the University of Oregon, where he has been both a visiting scholar since 2014 at the Quantum and Nanoscale Physics Alemán Lab, as well as an artist-in-residence at its Institute of Neuroscience, bend has been afforded the opportunity to approach these philosophical inquiries from a scientifically empirical standpoint. With his project metaNoYa, he continues to evolve his longstanding interest in the conflation of human mindfulness and technological innovation.
During the run of Jamaica Flux 2016, bend will offer the local community the opportunity to engage in the full experience of a retreat without leaving its neighborhood. Putting to use his training in the meditative techniques of Vipassana, the Wim Hof Method, and yoga, and along with the expertise of additional instructors, he will assemble five-day getaways at the local YMCA for a half dozen or so residents at a time. Through ancient and contemporary contemplative and physical practices, each retreat group will have a chance to learn about positive methods to reduce stress and improve health. A key component of bend’s vision is making use of these intentional practices to empower local citizens to effect positive change in the wider community. During the retreats he intends, for example, to address ways to assist the local homeless population in Jamaica. Ancillary activities might also include workshops in writing, drawing, and other outlets that encourage creative expression. bend hopes that the change of location for the participating residents will also afford them a change of dynamics that will aid in embracing the types of non-judgmental approaches he espouses.
Participants will also have the opportunity to use a virtual reality prototype, which bend has developed in conjunction with his colleagues at the University of Oregon. The device tracks the user’s heart rate as it instructs them in guided, meditative breathing techniques. The ensconcing images, which along with the audio component, are in-sync with the physiological condition of the user, and morph as the individual’s breathing changes. An orb expands as the breath becomes more spacious, for example, and if the heart rate drops low enough, a boulder at the center of the screen suddenly disappears, revealing an azure sea. The experience is an exciting inkling of the potential technology has to improve human welfare on a grander scale.
Also elemental to metaNoYa is the creation of a permanent edifice that will provide amenities to Jamaica long after the exhibition has ended. bend imagines building what he refers to as a “mushroom structure;” that is, a tall pillar capped with a roof, which will function as an interface for sharing, learning, and shelter. Through means of a touch-screen anyone in the Jamaica community would be able to access a wide variety of information, from food kitchens to medical clinics to social assistance. The mushroom would also provide locals seeking connection with one another a means of doing so—to trade goods or services, or to arrange donations of food and clothing, for instance. A solar paneled roof and a wind turbine would harness natural energy to supply the mushroom’s power. If bend’s model becomes a reality it has the potential to become a permanent and lasting hub of well being for the neighborhood, its functionality the essence of the artist’s practice. For as bend asserts, “This is what art for me is also about these days: for education, improved happiness, insights, realizations about one’s existence and support of life forms.”
– by Jessica Holmes