Projected Imagination. Or: Cos life’s more fun when your bus is a transparent luminescent jellyfish. (a guide in progress)
This continuing ever developing inquiry originally came out of some thoughts on meditation, that whenever I have been asked to close my eyes and empty my mind I do the exact opposite and fill my mind with as much rapidly changing imagery as possible. It is more fun. I find basic suggestions are always amplified- Instead of “lying on a beach with waves lapping at my toes” i might instead find myself swept high into the air by a huge wave, giving me a incredible tumbling view of all the islands around before then diving back into the sea and washed back ashore into my original position, where the next suggestion takes me off on another tangent. Instead of smiling all peacefully and relaxed I end up grinning from ear to ear. Originally i called this approach chaos meditation, which would vary from in depth abstract self guided imagery to Koyaanisquatisi-like high speed constant transition between scenes.
In the book Be Here Now I had read a story about someone taking LSD out to India to give to a yogic master, it having no effect on him because he was already in such a state of cognitive creativity. This idea fascinated me and having never tried acid I became interested on how much we just sideline psychedelic experience and potential into drug states alone. I was also previously heavily influenced by reading The Revolution of Everyday Life which (as well as very definitively setting me on a career as a playworker) strongly advocated the life of Walter Mitty, a hopeless fantasist whose inner world projected outwards, created magic and playfullness in all things.
The inquiry from here has been theory into practice and whether it is possible to recreate a state of childlike vividness of imagination projected onto the world by practice alone and whether it would become automatic if practiced enough.
During a period of complete media social blackout, an enforced hermitage if you will, I began projecting basic visualisations onto a blank wall with my eyes open. This developed into visualising in great depth and constructing all manner of scenes overlayed and using the world around me as a camvas.
During this time I was also part of the very wonderful Bristol Feral Choir which routinely gave me surreal meditations as a way of facilitating vocal improvisations. We would inflate our bodies like Violet Beauregard, then project our voices onto the skyline and trace every recieved bit of visual information into sound. Similarly we would create imagined events using sound, using rising microtonal shifts and dissonant harmonies therein to ‘explode’ chimney stacks for example.
I got quite addicted to visualising things that weren’t there, projected onto things that were there. I was consuming no other media so thats all there was, observing, taking in everything and creating. This type of activity differed from daydreaming in the style of Walter Mitty (as portrayed in the recent film) as it was all observed infront of me as a part of the existing world rather than being imagined solely in my mind’s eye. The observed world was the canvas rather than something being escaped from.
I had and still have two modes of doing this which I have tried to distinguish- firstly practice, secondly automatic. I have written the below as a guide and a ‘progress so far’ which is by no means finished. Nor is it necessarily indicative of how I go about doing this on a daily basis- practicing imagining certain things is always interlaced with freely imagining. The two dinstinguished are useful for the purposes of explanation however.
Practice takes the form of consciously projecting certain effects or things onto the world. Having read very little about this for two years, I have recently found a vast amount of material on this from all kinds of things on the internet, from personal development and manifestation, to honing latent psychic abilities, to mnemonics and creating tulpas-(benevolent imaginary spirit guides that help you through life)- these approaches to visualisation tend to always have a purpose though and never just for its own sake I.e fun. As such, these guides miss out on a vast number of things that can be imagined because they only focus on what is empowering or soothing or healing or motivating. Which goes back to my original impatience with lying on a beach when I could be tumbling through the air. However they are very good sources for learning the basics and visual imagination is greatly encouraged by imagining basic objects or effects but in high detail, which these guides advocate. Search for “open eye visualisation” and see what comes up.
Over the last two years I have practiced visualisation a lot- Any time is an opportunity. Transitionary times where the mind wanders, on walks, train and bus journeys, at conferences, in queues, essentially any time where others might be looking at their smartphones, doing sudoku, waiting for things.
I put together a list of effects I have practiced, this list is ever expanding the more I see or talk about what is possible. I include a lot of references to film or things I have seen as a loose guide to the effects I generate. Generally what I imagine is playful or grandiosely spectacular or just really weird, and made up of some of the following elements combined together. Some of the things are quite common and easy (e.g the suggestion of imagining an audience or interview panel naked or on the toilet in order to deal with nerves is commonly accepted as being easy) and some are more tricky.
Sproutings – of insect legs, plant tendrils. Excellent example (and of projectsd imagination in general) here – http://imgur.com/gallery/RHBDi
Luminescence and illuminations. Colour variations. Examples in bioluminescence and lightshows
Jellification- all becomes wobbly
Ripple effects- can also incorporate using a real finger or throwing a real pebble onto a surface which ripples out
Inversion – the impression of 3 dimensional things being indentations on the landscape. A pseudoscope as an actual example of inverting protruding or receding objects
Underwater – with distorted visual perception and things floating around
Mirror effect – can be along a whole line, on the end of a hand or foot, down the forehead, at the waist. Good example in Inception city scene
Animalisation – people and objects as animals- really fun and quite easy.
Material aquisition – aquiring the texture of that which has been imagined or touched, example from Termninator 2 end scene in metalworks. Additionally imagining that material taking overthe entire body. I’m looking at incorporating this into a workshop with lots of different materials, it extends well beyond visual imagination
Looping – repetition of movement any time after the event. Gif/vine mental capturing!
Stopping time / speeding up
Dismantlings and rearrangements – taking apart objects and reassembling them in another order. I have spent hours taking apart cars and reassembling them in different ways, some car adverts like doing this also
Atomisation – Splitting objects into individual particles – some examples in Lawnmower man and the Day the earth stood still
Shape change – individual objects changing their structural shape, into primary shapes, cubes, spheres, or the whole aspect changing shape, e.g. fish eye – brilliant examples at http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/12/photographer-victor-enrich-imagines-the-same-building-in-munich-configured-in-88-ways/
Sound reactivity – imagined sound corresponding to visual imagination or observed visual field, or visual projected imagination corresponding to actual sound and music. – examples of very visual music and synaesthesis which I go into more of below
Upside down – gravity shift e.g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nwgcgVLmP0 or whole perspective flipped upside down – thornapple scene at the end of this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7eq_0cJXiI
Anti gravity – objects floating
Melting, often I do this with footsteps which leaved melted wet sand as if on a beach in the tarmac
Transparency/ physical opacity, and solid to gas states
Painting on the observed physical world, with an imagined physical applicator or using actual physical movement with different imagined applicators
Self projection – e.g. elongating limbs
Changing standpoint / viewpoint – zoom, pan, observing from 2 standpoints silutaneously (borders on a departure into purely imagined realm, although practicing viewing from other angles also helps with mental rotation skills)
Shattering – I do this a huge amount with windows. With walls, actually anything. Theres a brilliant example in Inception – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgqHKk-yriI
Vibration and shivering
Giantism and Microscopics – the sense of whatever is being viewed being huge or tiny – associated references e.g. rivers as microscopic veins, wrinkles as mountains. Which leads onto..
Alternate uses – Streets as grooves for ski slopes or vinyl record grooves, lamposts as hockey sticks, tunnels as gun barrels. I’m not so good at these conversions but this is what I’m aiming for more of.
Bouncing. I’m pretty jolly when everything is bouncing
Folding / unfolding / unravelling
Attraction / repulsion
Animation of static pictures – especially wonderful with large street art murals
Spinning – any way – individual objects or the whole aspect – watch Gravity for long scenes of this!
Tearing – ripping the world as a 2 dimensional bit of paper
Crystallisation, e.g ice spreading over a scene
Stuttering and after echoes of moving objects
Anthropomorphisation of objects – and objects taking on human expression / expressiveness and emotion in relation to each other, e.g. jelousy, superiority. also applying emotional state to whole visual apsect, good for playing with emotional state and how things would look if so. Using one’s own facial expression to effect this. This also goes more into synaesthetic suggestion which I’ll go into a bit more.
People – People in the corner of the eye can take on more change, but it is very strange playing with people’s shape if observed directly. Less so with colour changing clothes or applying ‘facepaints’ with a finger
Playing with relativity – on a train, the train is staying still while trees are spinning by as in a flood, and platforms speed by on conveyer belts. People walking past cafés are actually walking on the spot
360° observation and peripheral vision training – look up Douglas Harding’s Headless Way for the very very strange world that is being without a head
Adapting focus of eyes in line with where things are projected onto the visual field, right infront of eyes as opposed to where eyes are naturally focussed- this allows for more detail to be generated if the eyes are ready focused
Visual effects are mostly covered above but other categories of sensory processing are equally valid as a model of developing projected imagination, could be based on other sensations e.g. touch, felt texture, sound, emotional states, thematics and scenario
Lucid dreaming if you can do it
Imagining something or someone which is then imagining something else – by distancing ourselves from the Do-er, we can also break down the permissions inherent in our identity
When not projecting, noticing and mapping everything in fine detail
Synaesthetic suggestion – Again going into other senses and integrations between them, projecting each of these depending on combinations of each other in input and effect, e.g. seeing sounds, hearing smells, tasting colour. Experiments with this between sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, balance and movement, temperature, self location, emotion, concepts. I’m gradually learning more about synaesthetic suggestion and cortical neuroplasticity which although not True synaesthesia, can habituate the brain to make new pathways even in old age.
In my practice of these effects there is a combination with automatic visualisation, where unexpected things happen, where whole scenes are constructed with multiple things happening at the same time. This goes back to the visualisations of the beach, but in more of a lived reality.
If I could remember them all I could describe a huge variety of interesting journeys I’ve made to work seeing huge floating gyroscopes made out of car parts, cars and buses turning into shoals of fish, windows shattering everywhere I look, times I’ve sat in talks with huge whale sharks swimming beneath me, times I’ve found myself moved at the beauty of multicoloured leaves being blown around me like starling formations or can’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of hundreds of kitten heads all around me exultantly singing rainbows into the sky.
I chose appropriate times where there are few distractions and because my reaction is often grinning manically, laughing out loud or looking around myself very suddenly, flinching and sometimes looking wide-eyed in horror at things. Often to get into this state I use music – instrumentals which provide a soundtrack, this creates a lot more detail. Other than that, I simply project but without a plan, like autowriting- it is still me moving the pen but with no plan- it is still me projecting imagery but I have no idea what will happen. I also don’t do it for very long- its not only that it gets boring and the vividness of the visualistions becomes dull if done too much or all day, but I find the experience itself better as intense and concentrated for a short time.
As my skill in automatic visualisation progresses I become much more aware of my inputs e.g. If I go to an art exhibition on certain styles, my automatic projections will reflect those styles. If I have recently been watching ultra-gory anime or horror, I then will create more visualisations automatically where I flinch and experience disgust. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing! And actually I wonder how much visualising of spiders for example forms the first part of aversion therapy for extreme phobias.. Emotional state has an effect on what I project – a down-ness recently has manifested in large swathes of destruction, mostly slow motion shatterings and multiple sharp pointed edges all around glistening and spinning- really beautiful actually, where if more confident in myself the imagery has a lot more fluidity, with an amorphousness and roundedness to things
As to how to make automatic visualisation stay interesting for longer and without additional musical input, by practicing different effects more often there is more of a visual ‘bank’ to draw from. Also, there are many many practices – While not a discipline in its own right, projected imagination, open eye visualisation or whatever it is termed, is represented in a number of disciplines.
As already mentioned, self help and cold reading are two, but not rooted in fun and creativity so much. I’ve already mentioned the feral choir.. Butoh dancing is another which makes use of grotesque and extremely powerful evocative imagery to inform dance and movement states which then facilitate more automatic creativity. Architecture and design rely on cultivating skills of mental rotation and envisioning on the blank canvas of what is already there. Certainly as a playworker and advocate, when designing around a playground or play environment and risk managing that environment, imagining a vast number of possibilities onto the space is essential. As my visual imagination has progressed through practice and entering into automatic open eye projection much more regularly, I find this process increasingly easy, unforced and natural. And as an adult looking back to my childhood I can safely say my visual imagination has never been this adept, dextrous and interesting, which I couldn’t say two months ago even. The automatic-ness of it I am still working on, something that in childhood would be there naturally – and arguably still is, but still reliant on moment to moment choice to experience it or not.