United We Dance

Alice Cooke materialises an all-encompassing vision of communal harmony. 

Everything is movement
Everything is fluidity
Movement is the expression of life
What does it mean to move?

Examining communal harmony in her new series "Entity Rising", artist Alice Cooke sets out to seize the vibrancy of humans, assembling and ascending in unison. Materialized as a concise moving image and a collection of hand-printed photographs, Cooke reflects on how a congregation of persons are able to coalesce as a single entity, where all advance together in an accidental choreography of sorts. After an extended period of isolation and restriction, social gatherings propose a parallel possibility of freedom, which Cooke intuitively reacts to. Can forward movement unblock energy lines between ourselves and each other? Does the coming together of individuals, physically and spiritually, disengage us from our egos? 

Dancing en masse can be a unifying activity. Your soul tunes in with other people's vibrations. A jumbled alignment where individual motion begins a shared one. An electrifying vitality circulates down your spine, picking you up as you break free. Inside this bliss, you can communicate, but without words; you can express your own feelings to all types of new people, and vice versa. 

This collection records performers in a staggered formation, enacting a symbiotic crowd, paralleling the magical realization felt by Cooke at a music festival: "A body of people as the subject and me as the observer, both seeing totally different realities and both enjoying it just as much". United by their all-encompassing flow, the strength of their symbiosis draws attention to the experience of collective consciousness, significantly awakened in our current testing times. Celebrating movement as a core manifestation of life, Cooke highlights that everything is rhythm: "breathing, heartbeats, blood movements, veins, conversations, menstrual cycles, the weather, tides, seasons … " It is everywhere, and we are all keeping it alive right now.

"The Power of Now" (1997) by German spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle deliberates on enlightenment, mindfulness and presence, and indicates that our deepest self arises when we surrender to the present, an exercise that could arguably be similar to that of converging. Summed up by the author as: "A group of people coming together in a state of presence generates a collective energy field of great intensity. It not only raises the degree of presence of each member of the group but also helps to free the collective human consciousness from its current state of mind dominance." Tolle remarks that pure joy can only be found when silencing our thoughts and being fully engaged. It concludes that after regaining awareness of our true being, unbinding ourselves from our brain and allowing the moment to be, only then does the seed of enlightenment activate within.

This book not only forms a solid guide for Cooke's latest project, but also signals her overarching investigations into belonging, health, and wellbeing. Cooke's subdued art is innately shaped by living with chronic illness. This points to the rise of the breathwork, grounding and meditation practices she adopts which is integral to triggering a higher connection with her intuition.

Living with fatigue is visible in Cooke's determination to put self-discovery at the centre of her work. As contemporary performance artist Vanessa Beecroft quotes: "Art doesn’t heal, it transforms pain into something universal." (2017). The holistic essence of her landscapes, objects and portraits predominantly emerges during instances of revelatory, oblivious stillness, where she entraps them in a state of complete ease. The closeness of the reclining bodies portrayed among geological layers effervesces into each other. Her black and white depictions beg to be touched: rippled yet eroded surfaces, resilient yet vulnerable souls. Lost in a daydream of entangled skins and stones, they levitate and descend all at once. The female figure recurs in her films, performances, and photographs due to its autobiographical nature, but their viewing transcends binaries in their overlap, widening the gaze to our intermingling with the Earth.

"I love the ways it ripples through the rocks"
She said
Why do I return here to health
Again and again
What is it about this place
It has its own energy

Words by Vanessa Murrell

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