Natalia Espinel

Bio

Natalia Espinel is a Colombian artist and educator who works at the intersection of visual arts, critical pedagogy, performance, somatic practices, and movement improvisation.

Natalia is currently faculty at the School of Art at Universidad Javeriana-Bogotá, where she teaches drawing and body-space creative practices. As a Fulbright scholar, she completed an MFA with an emphasis in Integrated Practices at Pratt Institute New York, where she also studied Dance/Movement Therapy. Her projects unfold from shared forces of resistance and resilience activated by situating the body in public space and initiating collaborative work.

Through this work, Natalia investigates how our bodies are mobilized and transformed by the proximity and contact with others, working with difference as a generative part of social encounters.
She enacts this research through public interventions, materials that emphasize experience of relationality, performative workshops, and experimental pedagogy.

Natalia Espinel has exhibited her work in places like the Peace and Reconciliation Memory Center in Bogotá, the main Bus Terminal in Bogotá, and the refugee camps of Western Sahara in Argelia (within the Art and Human Rights Festival of Western Sahara, Artifariti).

Moving Towards The Other
As my statement, my pedagogy, my art practice, my ethical inquiry

Select any of the areas above
1
The motivations or forces that push us towards others. Affective, ethical, creative forces that mobilize us towards encounters. I’m thinking about the first impulse that pushes our bodies towards an affective and ethical mobilization. A mobilization that in some way decenters our individual position to encounter the other. These impulses can have different anchors too. In order to jump, for example, we have to anchor our feet to the floor to take the necessary impulse to move out of the floor. There is a force that goes down—gravity—and a counterforce that goes up—muscular power. We can explore ethical impulses towards the other creatively— Identifying their anchors, internal movements, and external manifestations.
2
When we move towards others we unfold the space. The act of moving towards the other creates space and transforms the body. We can trace our movements in space. When moving towards the other we create a kind of drawing, a mark, a new path. There is, also, materiality in the space in-between the bodies. Palpable but invisible forces that shaped the encounter and at the same time are created by us in the act of coming together. When moving towards a particular being, we create a difference in speed, in rhythm, in the form our bodies take. We feel the anticipation of the encounter and change according to it. The elongation of an arm to reach the other, the opening of the chest creating space for the loved one, or the pronounced curvature in the back produced by the heaviness of a non-wanted encounter. There is an emerging space for each encounter that we have. We can explore these emerging spaces created by encounters while creating awareness of the transformations of our bodies in the process.
3
Encounters can take multiple forms. We can understand them as a material to create a myriad of different things. There is an incredible malleability in encounters. We can think about them creatively. I also understand encounters as a practice. Something that we have to explore continuously with lots of commitment and lots of creativity. If we explore encounters as an art practice we can discover other ways of coming together.
4
Moving towards the other implies also moving away from the other. We feel different after meeting or seeing someone. Our bodies are shaped by the contact we have with others. It is like each encounter has a particular texture that is printed in our bodies. Every encounter has a different impact, but we certainly know that each one transforms something in us. What if we could explore, through art, the textures of the encounters that we have? By giving a texture to an encounter, for example, we can probably understand something important about that encounter. An emotional, social, or political bond that we haven't been aware of. Moving away is as important as moving towards the other. We can deepen our creative understanding of encounters in the process of moving away from the other.

Notation
The graphs of Moving Towards The Other

In my practice I have developed a system of coordinates, a “kind of unique language halfway between gesture and thought”, as Antonin Artaud says talking about the use of language in theater.

Abstract ideas or forms that represent forces of care, affection, autonomy, and resistance. These symbols are a strategy to understand and link, in an abstract and intuitive level, some of the concepts that are at the core of my practice and research but which reside in alternative semantic systems. The inspiration for some of them come from collective and personal experiences in the fields of dance and dance/movement therapy. Others come from my work with communities in which a symbolic language has been developed in an effort to transmit pre-verbal and somatic experiences.
Finally, other symbols were created in order to understand how these forces are acting in the images that I use as references, those images or gestures, that talk to us in ways we are not always able to understand through the regular channels of our rational thinking. The graphs are multi-faceted, multi-layered, and multivalent. I can’t completely grasp them; they are always becoming something a little bit different, they are dancing.

Teaching and Social Practices
Work Areas

I share my work through workshops, courses, and guided collective processes in the following areas:

Select any of the areas above

Methodologies for Creative/Generative Encounters

I have developed a series of methodologies—throughout my teaching and community-based work—that facilitate emerging generative encounters. I've been creating (never alone) these open methodologies as key elements of my pedagogical, art, and social practice. They are part of my investigation “Moving Towards The Other”. These methodologies are based on our bodies in relation to other bodies and the space. They intend to open up the multiple possibilities and forms that encounters can take.
I think about encounters as a practice. A practice that we have to cultivate, think critically, and expand every day. There are multiple ways to make richer the practice of coming together. The methodologies for creative encounters help to achieve a more generative way of encountering others, weaving new relationships and community.

Interventions in Public Space / Practices of Space and Place

Projects like “Errantes'' (see my portfolio) are producers of new spaces and places. With this project, I made multiple interventions in public space. I worked with groups of women from different social backgrounds and with traumatic memories in their bodies at the Central Cemetery of Bogota, San Victoriano Public Square, the main Bus Terminal of Bogota, and the Western Sahara refugee camps. “Errantes'' allowed me to understand multiple ways in which our bodies create and transform—through relationships, behaviors, and emotions—spaces and places. I have been investigating, specifically, the ways our bodies create new spaces through encounters. I’m also interested in how we ‘read’, listen or sense the environment.
How we relate and register in our bodies, the forces that constitute the places we inhabit—feelings such as fear, anxiety or on the contrary, sensations of expansion and fluidity. I have witnessed that an expanded awareness creates a place—transforming the ways we inhabit. A careful listening, for example, immediately creates a vivid sense of a place. By expanding our listening awareness it is possible that a new place emerges. As part of my practice, I have developed strategies to understand these multiple aspects of space and place in relation to our bodies, and others.

Relational Somatics

I have studied somatic practices for many years, applying this knowledge to the ways we relate to each other. Developing what I have called “Relational somatics”. Somatics' approach to the body has opened me to the possibility of exploring how we use our senses, posture, and movements to relate to each other. Listening-sensing not only to ourselves (first-person awareness in traditional somatic practices) but to others.
I have also extended somatic knowledge to the ways we relate to the environment and the space. I combine different somatic techniques such as the Feldenkrais Method, Klein, Alexander, and Body Mind Centering to create somatic strategies to move towards the other

Movement as a Healing Practice / Therapeutic Yoga

The work that I have done with diverse communities and my students at the university inspired a deep interest about healing processes through art. I have studied Dance/Movement Therapy and therapeutic yoga teaching, however I don’t consider myself a healer. I’m rather interested in collective ways of healing where there is not a central figure in the process, but a community need of listening and supporting each other.
I have learned important strategies to facilitate the process of collective healing. I could say that I’m an artist that helps to articulate collective needs. From my experience, these needs are often related to healing. This is why I have considered it important to expand my knowledge about healing, and to develop strategies to accompany those processes when needed.

Expanded and Performative Drawing

Almost all my projects are silently based on drawing. I‘m a drawer, but not in a traditional sense. I draw in space with my body in movement, I draw through huge elastic fabrics, I extend lines through encounters making drawings of solidarity and mutual commitment. The spine of my visual arts training was drawing, my father was an amazing drawer, also my brother.
I grew up drawing and dancing. Later in my life, I discovered that I could intertwine them together. The intersection of dance, movement and drawing have opened a rich area of study, teaching, and art making.

Breath Thought

“The soul escapes through the mouth in words. But words are still the body’s effluvia, emanations, weightless folds in the air escaping the lungs and warmed by the body.”

Jean-Luc Nancy
Bachelard says, “Let us try again to attune our ear, our dream ear, to that unvoiced inner voice, the voice that is totally aerial, the voice that would fall silent at once should it stir our vocal cords and need only breath in order to speak.” This “unvoiced inner voice” is the word withdrawn - a return to a pre-verbal state which is only the power of breath. Breath that reaches its signifying and sonorous condition in its motion is conceived in the dance of the inhale and the exhale rather than in creating concepts. A breath-thought is all movement and nothing but movement.
Bachelard continues, “Vie [life] is a word that shows aspiration.” Breathing would be something like the microcosm of life and breath, the unifying matter that connects our being to the world. “Then it is really breath that speaks and the breath that is the primary phenomenon of our silence.” Breath allows us to move toward the other. Silence, still full of vibrations, suspends us between an inhalation and an exhalation. What formulated words have of air is their poetic power. Inner resonance, the vibration of the breath, travels through the bones and resounds in our organs.

Natalia Espinel 2018

Errantes

The errants continue their journey despite the obstacles they face. In each step of their journey, they rebuild their lives and transform their bodies; they adapt, they fight, they resist.

N.E.

It is life itself which creates resistance, thereby enabling us to discover what our bodies are capable of.

Consuelo Pabón
The project, Errantes, explores the plight of the errant beings - those forced out of their daily lives, homes, countries, dreams and dignity - by combining visual and body art performances in close interaction with the surrounding space. During these performances I try to exercise my artistic freedom while being restricted by an elastic fabric. The fabric acts as a membrane through which the forces in my body interact with the forces of resistance in the environment. This force interaction aims to bring consciousness to the plight of the errants, as they journey through environments that are familiar to us.
This project started as a series of drawings and engravings depicting the bodies of the errants. The idea of incorporating the body and its forces into the act of drawing came as a result of my own life experiences and curiosity towards dance and body performance.

Errantes del Sahara

It is a people whose country has been stolen and this scandal is not well-known in the world. The truth is that this is proof that in this world, countries can be stolen with innocence and impunity.

Eduardo Galeano
At the end of 2014 I made one of the most important trips of my life: I went to meet the people who were robbed of their home, their freedom and their sea. Without resentment the people of the Sahara live in the heart of the desert with hope brewed by every sip of tea and a distant memory of a deep ocean. They have been waiting for over forty years for justice to give them back what was stolen from them: their country.
Life in the refugee camps is subtly sustained by the awareness and the strength of errant people, wise and peaceful, that gaze towards the infinity of their life in the mirror of the desert. They resist their exile like fireflies: emitting tiny sparkles of light in the darkness of night, alongside the “big light” of the weapons and the war, the power and the corruption.

My Project, Errantes, grew to reach that place; it built itself (without knowing it) to be part of their desert, to join the light of the fireflies, to emit one more sparkle of light, one more sigh of indignation, of resistance and of hope for life.

Errantes de la ciudad

Para la vida miles de cantos de libertad. Para la vida miles de cantos de justicia. Para la vida miles de vidas. Para la vida dignidad.

Eduardo Umaña Mendoza
Errantes de la ciudad es la fuerza, la voz y el cuerpo de un grupo heterogéneo de mujeres de diversas edades, lugares de origen y localidades de la ciudad de Bogotá. Mujeres que han vivido y sufrido el desplazamiento forzado en nuestro país o se encuentran en condición de vulnerabilidad, así como también mujeres pertenecientes a Fundaciones Sociales que trabajan por el respeto a los DDHH, estudiantes, profesionales de las ciencias humanas, artistas, entre otras.
Creado por la artista Natalia Espinel en asocio con Inti Camila Romero Estrada, Sebastián González Dixon y con la colaboración de un grupo de artistas y pedagogos que trabajan desde el cuerpo, el movimiento y el sonido.

Errantes de la ciudad es un proceso de formación y experimentación desde el arte, encaminado a la creación de acciones escénicas en el espacio público.

Conoce nuestra intervención en el Terminal de Transportes de Bogotá aquí
Natalia Espinel

City

Ph: Adrián Serna
09 / 2013
Natalia Espinel

Desert

Ph: Nacer Douadi
11 / 2014
Natalia Espinel

Ocean

Ph: Sebastian G. Dixon
06 / 2014

Contact

Telephone
+57 312 701 57 81
Residence
Bogotá, Colombia