One night in the fall of 2008, I had a dream, in which I could see living people’s bones through their skins. A few days later, I read an ad for a course in Kalevala Bone Setting, an ancient Finnish healing technique. In my mind’s eye I once again saw the images of the bones that occurred in my dream. I followed my impulse and attended the course. As soon as I sat down in class and wrapped my fingers around a pair of feet of someone expecting to be treated, I reconnected with the feeling I had had in the dream. As my fingers felt the skin, flesh, and bones of a person, I shared a connection of being a living body.
A few words about bones: Bones have developed over hundreds of thousands of years, and in my mind, they form one baseline of our human experience. Bones open a connection to a memory beyond cultural forms, past tens of thousands of years.
Simultaneously, to me, making Kalevala Bone Setting treatments is an explorative and creative event – a method, in fact. To give a Kalevala Bone Setting treatment is to read the particular language of one body – an embodied experience of a particular life. While giving a treatment, I come close to a very minute and real reality of life: bones, ligaments, cells, fluids, but also will and emotion.
While giving Kalevala healing treatments, I sense energy in the person being treated as halos, movements, and blockages. Sometimes these energy flows appear to me as distinct colours, shapes, animals, and other living figures. These appearances are the base of the paintings in China ink and pastels that I make during treatments. Although they are paintings, I prefer to call them Diagrams, since they are temporal energy mappings of a person.
In 1968, Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica hoped to “generate creative exercises through increasingly open propositions… directed at the senses in order that, through them, through ‘total perception’, they may lead the individual to a ‘suprasensation’, to the expansion of his usual sensory capacities, to the discovery of his internal creative centre, of his dormant expressive spontaneity, linked to the quotidian.” (Oiticica 1968).
Oiticica’s concept of “suprasensation” seems to me to serve as a means to the formation of political personhood and agency, a voicing of and from personal inner life to the public and political scene. Further, the suprasensorial depends and aims at individual creative expressions and human artist-agents. It establishes a political person that acts in the world of other political persons. So, the idea of the suprasensorial is still within the realm of human experience alone. It excludes other entities that I feel need to have a voice, not only because these actually have agency in regards to both the world (political scene including also other-than-humans) and the experience that humans have of that world (and others). The suprasensorial continues to look at the world from the vantage point of human mastery. I would like to propose another vantage point, that of a world without individual masters. In this world, human existence is aligned with all those entities, forces, and matter that cohabit the world with humans and indeed live in an intricate web of co-dependencies. This is where the question of senses becomes interesting. Because in our co-dependent co-existence, the senses, if allowed, are the way we can perhaps be in dialogue with these infinitesimal, molecular, almost silent, and indeed, sub-sensorial events within and around our bodies that sustain our very existence. In the context of current environmental crisis, it is politically essential to ask how can we facilitate a sensorial process, like Oiticica suggests, and to propose to our senses a form of engagement, but rather in such a way that we not accommodate them for a human political discourse alone (suprasensorial), but to a subsensorial dialogue with the world? The subsensorial is the epistemology of the not-yet-conscious or the never-to-become a conscious sensory event.
Learning from many indigenous traditions and from the Finnish oral tradition, I believe subsensorial dialogue is nothing strange for human sensory capacities. Our human bodies are a conglomeration of various organisms, some more intricately part of our physique (like the mitochondria within our cells), other more autonomous agents within and around our bodies (such as viruses and bacteria). By the mediation of these organisms and such non-living entities, which nevertheless inhabit biochemical agency, such as minerals and salts, we humans share actual material processes within ourselves as well as with our environment. In fact, our lives depend on these exchanges and processes. (Margulis et al. 2011)
When a healer sings healing poems and sets spells (as in practices pertaining to Finnish oral tradition), she/he directs our attention precisely to these subsensorial processes. The Finnish healing poems are but one expression from one kind of cultural practice among many, to address organisms and matter on a molecular level and hopefully guide a body (human or other) to affect its own healing process on a molecular level. I here propose to call these kinds of guiding practices intentional thinking and sensing practices. The subsensorial operates within the not-humanly-conscious and thus comprises events that cannot be intentional. However, for our consciousness to be brought into dialogue with the subsensorial, we can engage with intentional acts that evoke this dialogue. For instance, meditation tunes us in and brings the body to a silent state, which helps us “hear” our bodies and its subsensorial experiences. In shamanistic practices, through ritualistic acts, drumming and dancing, and/or by the use of psychedelic drugs, a shaman can journey into “other” realms of the universe. These journeys are the dramatization, visualization, narrativization, and personification of the subsensorial. By this statement, I do not intend to exclude the possibility of “other” realms in the universe, which indeed, if they exist, find human residence in the subsensorial.
In the following, I will let the subsensorial “speak” through a selection of my diary notes and Diagrams of four healing sessions made at the 32nd Sao Paulo Biennale, between September and December of 2016. To be true to the original material, language in the following notes has not been corrected.
Excerpts from questionnaire
Do you take any medication? If yes, what?
Yes. I microdose 21 mg of LSD every 4 days. Stavigile every day.
Diary Notes GL, Lindman
GL is currently taking part in a medical experiment and on an LSD microdosage test (LSD here used as antidepressant)
Suffers narcolepsia? (insomnia?)
Has a history of drugs and was in coma at the age of 21
Has an interest in mind bending
I could not do Kalevala Bone Setting and a full reiki felt risky, too.
I set as intention to do a soft, gentle scan, plus, if possible, clean-up of liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, throat, and amygdala.
Head: Red hot/black/pilaster from ground to sky. The amygdala (center of spirit) black shining plaque – condor-eagle arrives to pluck it. (See image 1)
Heart: small, weak, scared. Fear of death
Expansion of “mind” as protection and compensation
In throat, Ego clamping the amygdala and throat so there is not a relief in spirit
Treatment: Connecting amygdala with throat with heart
Middle body: …better not touch too much…
Legs swim in an emotional, thick soup. Ankles scream to be heard. (See image 2).
Driving in volcano energy through paws of feet
First open water
down to earth and fire up, both cleansing
Back to head (line to the word “earth” above) (arrow to:) connecting sky to amygdala to throat, which opens with a gurgle
Now black plaque from amygdala like tar flows out of head like from a cup into the ground. White, golden, silver, strings flow from sky to head
operation: hand on back of head other hand 20 cm from face – sucks up/out
then hand goes to top of head here driving energy (white, yellow, etc) into head.
This is when the black bile comes out.
Reiki extraction/operation one hand under amygdala (or whatever it is) and the other 20 cm over face.
Amygdala also plucked clean by condor eagle. Image of a bright eyed little boy, naivete emerging. (See image 3).
Diary Notes EB, extract, Lindman
Sprained ankles and knees many times. The joints are contracted. Outside edges of Sacrum Ilium and hips are tight.
Right hand and shoulders are tight
Legs are heavy
Right big toe and ball of foot stiff
Right knee swollen
Treatment of the bottom of the feet, knees and legs.
Connecting foot to knee to thigh to hip, to Sacrum Ilium =>
All the way from the big toe to Sacrum Ilium
Question: what does EB need?
Answer: Image of EB transforms into a powerful deep blue. Looks like Batman, except entirely blue. (See image 4).
Connecting the legs with the rest of the body. I see yellow coming out of me into the Sacrum Ilium – continues to the feet.
Another, right thigh- Sacrum Ilium-hip-knee: first orange and then green.
Continue with back of legs and buttocks (basic treatment)
While seated: basic treatment for the spine. Pretty ok. The rib cage with care, left side open, as if the ribs were shorter – turns out EB broke a rib a year ago (third rib from below)
Treating the spine, between the shoulder blades not only muscle but something electric that is connected to EB’s voice (EB is both singer and drummer). This explains the tension in the lower back and the 2–3 last Thorax vertebrae and 2–3 first Lumbar vertebrae, in other words the entire movement track of the diaphragm.
Diary Notes, Lindman
For starters: I had to make myself into this being. (See image 5).
Bottom, rectangle: green
Middle part, triangle: blue, like Blue Batman
Top, horns (and ball): silver
EB’s energy the blue is so dense – finally I realize that I can find a way to enter by playfulness
The head, back of head/amygdala: Condor Eagle arrives again to help
But now he gave me his wings.
Opened amygdala. With wings.
Then the voice (my hand still shakes) throat. I stomp my feet. Finally opens up.
(the throat opens up widely one meter in both directions. It is like a feathered collar)
But then the blue figure becomes clearly visible (Blue Batman) and I see that EB’s shoulders and neck have not grown into the same breadth as the figure (EB should open and expand) with the wings of the Condor Eagle I open this area and finally it expands as wide as the wings of the Condor Eagle. (See image 6).
I work with the rib cage/heart and notice that before it can become stronger I must work with the wings in EB’s back. Same with the rest of the body. (I am struck by the notion that EB is really strong and he has the capacity to do good/bad. Best for him is to accept his strength and take care of being happy. (Solar plexus does not flow, pelvic area flows but disconnected from the rest). I nevertheless worked on the feet to better open up the back.
Lying on his belly, EB falls asleep almost immediately.
Wings grow on him => left side ok immediately but right side is injured. With the wings of the Condor Eagle I fix it, I make it grow, feather by feather. (When popped out of the back, first they are white or light grey, then blackish blue)
When I then observe what kind of a being this is, with its feathered collar and giant black wings, it changes form from something similar of a condor eagle – it slips into the deep past, first it becomes a dactyl… (the ancient winged bird/reptile/dragon) and then a full blown dragon, a blue dragon, red and fire.
I work for a long while around the tail bone in the back and out of there, grows a giant dragon tail.
It is mostly orange. Same length as the length of the body.
This is a very powerful experience that affects my own body. (Hips, womb, and eventually that tail penetrates and shakes my whole body)
When I record the healing session (condensed into sound) an hour after the session, I experience the same physical shaking – orgiastic.
Artist, at age 7, suffered concussion
One year later, her eyes crossed
2011, she suffered a concussion that became pro-longed
2014, giving birth to L. L got stuck, and after four days, M35 had to have a Cesarean. She also suffered with infections, cramping, and an infection of the right breast. She produces milk that is “still” (too thick?). Her thyroid is swollen and assumingly she has cyst in it.
2016, she suffered a minor concussion
Notes M35, Lindman
Based on diagrams and personal memory
I reached the pelvic area and mention to M35, that there is a lot of blockage in there. M35 starts crying. She speaks of her birthing of her son two years prior, and how the process felt like she was not heard, and the medical environment took charge of her process, side stepping her, and violated her body.
I worked a long while with her blockage and trying to open up the flow (both physically and energetically).
I continued up towards the head. Well at the head, M25’s upper body and head turned a shining neon light green. Inside her head, inside the brain, I saw a light blue, almost silvery contraption that looked like a tiny space station. I noticed myself turning into a horned animal, a cow maybe, but with quite long and slender horns that formed a large bowl. My animal body was deep blue (or a mixture of shifting deep brown and blue) and while my right hand was over M35’s head (the space station) and my left over her pelvic area, something red flowed through my head from the bowl between my horns into M35’s space station. I stayed like this for quite a while. (See image 7).
M35 tells her memories of the same moment: I remember seeing a beautiful calm thick snake – beaming green with slight mother-of-pearl-shine – resting along my spine. It was rather still, but not quite. Resting, sleeping, dreaming. Submerged in clear fresh water.
Above the snake, at my throat/thyroid, I saw something like a hovering satellite, but in the shape of a metallic scarab that would have been installed through the surgery. Not that it was hostile – more like a potentially unintended cyborgian outcome on the side of my ‘oppressors’ that makes me stronger. It is through this scarab that my voice is heard; through it that I travel. It seemed to beam into my head, become or condense it somehow. Delicate, metallic, unhuman.
Lindman, Diary Notes continued:
Zooming out, to look at the flows of the entire body, I saw the red flow from the space station going down to and circulate across M35’s pelvic area. A brownish red flowed from the pelvic area towards M35’s knees and – turning into green and dirty browns – sipping out in spurts from the soles of the feet. This dirt I directed down into the ground. On the outer edges of M35’s hips and thighs: a yellow flow. Directing the dirty brown into the ground, slowly, the rest of the body grew a huge red pool. The head remained a shining neon light green, and continued to contain the light blue/silvery space station.
I concluded the session with positioning myself again over M35’s head. I directed my third eye – exuding a cleansing crystal white shine – to shine inside M35’s head and at the space station. If it was to go, it should go. If not, then it stays. Usually, this white light of the third eye is like a diamond cutter, chipping away anything in its way. But this time, everything around M35 and myself turned completely dark – as dark as the outer space. The crystal white shine turned black. I turned dark and M35 disappeared. The only thing visible was the space station – as if it was on a stage in outer space and the black light from my third eye shone on it to make it appear. (See IMAGE 8).
17) Kalevala Bone Setting is an ancient medical practice based on an oral rune tradition that has sustained itself to this day among Finnish tribes around the area of the Baltic Sea, Ladoga, and the White Sea (Vienanmeri). The name Kalevala refers to a collection of runes compiled by anthropologist Elias Lönnrot and published in Finland in the year 1840. Lönnrot culled the runes from singers in Finnish villages during the early 19th Century. He created a cohesive and dramatic storyline between a particular set of runes, ignoring a large share of other runes (including healing spells). Runes collected in Finnish Literature Society’s Archives of Old Folk Poems form the largest collection of folklore in the Western hemisphere (Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seuran arkisto “Suomen kansan vanhat runot”). Nevertheless, as a result of a continued construction and re-construction of Finnish national identity during the past two centuries, Lönnrot’s Kalevala has become a widely accepted term to describe the Finnish oral tradition and indeed Finnish identity and culture in general.
Margulis, Lynn, Asikainen, Celeste A. & Krumbein, Wolfgang E. 2011.“Introduction, Life’s Sensibilities.” In Chimeras and Consciousness, Evolution of the Sensory Self, editors Lynn Margulis, Celeste A. Asikainen & Wolfgang E. Kurmbein, 1–14. 2011. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Oiticica, Hélio. 1968. Appearance of the Suprasensorial, 128.
Pia Lindman is currently Professor of Environmental Art at Aalto University, Finland. Lindman’s performance-based work suggests new ways of combining research and art. As artist-in-residence at MIT (2004–2006) she studied humanoid robots and facial expressions. Lindman was commissioned by the 32nd Sao Paulo Biennale, Incerteza Viva (2016), to build and perform her healing piece Nose Ears Eyes. Starting August 2017, Lindman will become a doctoral candidate at University of Lapland.