For last night's interactive Future of Human Touch experiment at Redline Gallery, the crowd that gathered was asked to leave all egos, comfort zones and fears behind.
Milling around the courtyard of the gallery under the slow glow of hanging LED lights just after 7:30 p.m., it was hard to tell who was a facilitator and who was a participant; but blurring the line was part of the point. For the next three hours, strangers danced, hugged and shouted together, as guides led the group through an evening of shared knowledge, passionate speech, movement and connection.
First, we were given a slip of paper with a vague explanation of the forthcoming events, and the option to not be touched by those involved in the experiment facilitation. Four women stepped out into the courtyard and spoke to each Cardinal direction, acknowledging the sun and moon's involvement in the piece and the night effectively began.
The audience was then led inside, to a detailed mapping of the planets in the zodiac -- all laid out on the floor represented by rocks, bamboo sticks and cut-out versions of each astrological sign. From that point forward, the night became a beautiful blur.
Astrologer Ramon Gabrieloff-Parish positioned audience members in each sign of the zodiac, and spoke about the power of those signs. The participants then read from slips of paper around the signs, leading the surrounding crowd in a spoken back and forth.
Though there was no leader of the event -- facilitator Molina Speaks was present too, but mostly behind the scenes -- Gabrieloff-Parish definitely came through with the most attention-grabbing power of speech.
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Throughout the event, we were asked to break up and enjoy the art around the space, allowing the crowd to get to know each other. But each small break was quickly reigned in as to not lose participant's attention. Sometimes, the crowd was led through a handful of calming yoga poses. Other times, we were energized to dance by a live band's music. But some of the most powerful moments were the silent ones, as we sat transfixed by the strength and heaviness of spoken word artists Lucifury, Ken Arkind, Stephanie Tanny and more.
Molina Speaks too utilized the live band to perform some of his own music, and then invited other MCs in the room --Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp, Lady Speech and Bianca Mikahn of the Lady Wu-Tang among them -- to join in. The crowd seemed receptive to whatever was put out on the massive space's concrete floor, as we traveled through a mix of emotions for the better part of three hours.
As the night began to wind down, Sarah Shavel and Eutimia Cruz Montoya quieted the crowd with a solemn movement and vocal performance. Gabrieloff-Parish once again presented more information about the zodiac in relation to the positions of the planets through history, as well as the position and size of the moon. We were once again led out into the chilly night for a closing ceremony thanking the elements of the North, South, East and West, and the Future of Human Touch was over.
The greatest part about the experience was understanding that for it to work, strangers had to trust each other. Throughout the night, people were holding each other, crying, laughing and dancing, all under the pretense that the space was a safe place for whatever was going to happen. And that's exactly what it was.