On Walking, and Canadian-based choreographer Melanie Kloetzel. The handbook is designed to be a response to the psychological onslaught from screens and algorithms. Appearing when these pressures have been redoubled by lockdowns, the book proposes a philosophy, a process and techniques for protecting and nurturing subjectivity as it comes under assault from invasive digital platforms.
Do you ever feel that you are on a one-way train with no station stops? That you’re hurtling along with no time to pause or ask important questions? That you live in a world where people regard your online presence as more important than your physical one? Have you ever felt lonely or just unsettled and then caught yourself scrambling for a cell phone or a tablet to ease that feeling? And have you noticed that satisfying such frantic urges with screen time doesn’t really make anything better in the long run? Rather, it just reinforces the sense that you’ve shared your most precious feelings with a giant, faceless machine?
We are not the first generation to experience loneliness or a sense of alienation from others and the world. But what is different this time is that our isolation and unhappiness emerge not from distance or separation, but from intimacy, not by closing down but by opening up. The monster that generates our dependence is not a bully or a dictator, but our digitized friend. Though its servers may be built and managed by huge corporations, the digital machine is fuelled, maintained and sustained by us. We are both the producers and consumers of this monster. By feeding it with our posts, sharing with it the most thoughtful, emotional, and personal parts of ourselves, we are the ones allowing it to claim greater and greater intimacy. Instead of cherishing and cultivating our feelings and contemplations, we deliberately turn ourselves inside out for the machine.
Covert is a reminder that, despite all that, we have more control than we think. It reminds us that our whims and hopes, concerns and inspirations need to be appreciated, treasured, protected and cultivated. Not least, by ourselves. Further, Covert prompts us to carve out the time and space to nurture that inner life, and it warns us that if we don’t actively protect and use it, we will almost certainly begin to lose it.
In short, Covert offers a constructive path for defending and preserving ways of being in the everyday world that do not leave us under constant scrutiny. As a handbook, Covert advances a method for sidestepping or even evading invasive gazes, gazes that want to know not only our purchase patterns, but also our hopes and fears, preferences and pursuits. And it does so through a highly practical process that both respects and cultivates us as grounded, multidimensional beings.
To do this, Covert prioritizes the body. It highlights the body’s role in our most private contemplations and the part it can play in nurturing and protecting our inner creativity – insights, visions, musings and epiphanies – as they emerge from dreams and imagination into consciousness. It firmly welcomes and embraces all bodies – in whatever shape, form, or ability – as the key means through which we can know both the world and ourselves. Starting from the premise that our bodies are the medium of our feelings and thoughts, this book suggests ways for us to re-integrate ourselves – body, emotions, thoughts, fantasies, memories, dreams, mind – with the non-virtual world that surrounds and embraces us.
At its simplest, Covert is a collection of ‘movement meditations’, straightforward and basic physical activities that aid inner reflection. Using its exercises, done with your fingertips or your whole body – for two seconds, two minutes or two hours – Covert offers the means to seek out present, pleasurable and complex experiences that resist being reduced to a pixelated pattern or to a hashtag that gets a ‘like’ from a Facebook friend.
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