The feeling of leisure; the reading of leisure: a dance

Image by: Mario Robusti
Image by: Mario Robusti

By David Crouch (University of Derby)

Delivering leisure products, services, seeks to stimulate the right feeling, as does policy.
What do we know, in what ways, of the character and quality of that feeling; so what does the provision, delivery or policy affect and effect?

A recent provocation, primarily in book form, echoes some of the growing interest in how things, moments, a touch affect something else, affect us. Do we only affect the world around us, and have effects directly and indirectly felt. What is the effect of affective things in the melee of our lives? Things, moments, happening, material stuff and other people affect us; impinge on how we are; unnoticed or noticed. How do and can we express feeling of doing events, of just sharing time together or doing something strenuous? Once perhaps, a few photographs sufficed. The provocation is called reading/feeling*, a fascinating collection of (what shall I call them? interventions?) developed by a group of artists and others who go under the moniker ‘If I can’t dance I don’t want to join your Revolution’. There is significance in the group’s title. Emma Goldman, a radical feminist and anarchist during the early decades of the last century, is reputed to have made the statement, refusing to join a movement that denied life and joy that would turn her into a nun. She wanted to enjoy the feeling of reading and feeling and doing.

Dancing; fishing, lying on the beach. How do we ‘feel’ doing leisure; a sporting practice; doing tourism? Feeling is often considered too vague, floppy, to be engaged seriously. Talk emotions. Yet feeling is a more embracing, if nuanced and complex site of living. At the same time, in many disciplines and professional areas there is a call for more diversely creative character in conferences. This notably effects media studies, performance and similar; and also geography, that increasingly nudges towards the importance of making sense of different ways we can express, even interpret things. Leisure studies would seem the ideal arena for something similar. Of course, leisure studies annual conferences have a long history of playing football between sessions. But here I mean doing something to communicate in fresh ways, not for the sake of it but because things can emerge differently presented otherwise. A session on football delivered in football poetry?

This (book) collection, including numerous and very diverse illustrations, text, a CD; black print on red paper (not always a comfortable read, let alone dance). The work is multi-collaborative, different, innervating and frustrating, emotional, expressive, definitely provocative. Not the ‘steady’ material familiar of most professional fields. It includes facsimile notes by artists on radical practice over several decades; photographs of events in progress; conference conversation, writing by Susan Sontag and George Orwell.  Through 500 pages and its huge diversity of styles, scripts and imagery it resembles the European writer W. Sebald’s illustrated fragments, book style, of Austerlitz or The Rings of Saturn in overdrive. Yet it is a way of trying to bring ideas into life, vibrant. To articulate and to communicate differently; to get closer, inside things.

The often inward looking, crusty notion of how situations, the material and ‘natural’ world around us affect us is transformed. Emma Cocker, the UK reading group convener and a provocatively enlightening art theorist, writes one of the founding three pieces: in ‘Reading towards becoming casual’ (pages 21-24), she observes “Affect is not understood by reading about, rather reading is a constitutive practice within which affect is enacted, its flow is felt”. (page 23). This spirit of feeling, of flow, announces itself throughout this project.

Another contributor to the project, expresses a difficulty or challenge with affect, writing that for her its meaning is a kind of movement, an energy of gesture: “(a)ffect proved to be an elusive concept that means different things to different people. (t)he force of manipulation that an artwork carries. A tactic we use to press on each other.” (page 45). She addresses the dynamic relationality of affect and emotion, captured in feeling. In a serious academic journal two authors wrote about felt experience.

“This was the first sunny morning after days of rain, and the world was clean and full of promise. As Max and Leo and I walked to school, hand in hand, I could feel the world smiling at us, with us, through us.” (Metcalfe and Game, 2008).

Too often, maybe, we miss the obvious, the mundane; what gives us too much feeling perhaps. How does it feel?

*2013, Edited T. Boudoin, F. Bergholtz, V. Ziherl (Eds.).Idea Books: pages in text refer to this title.


Metcalfe, A., Game, A., 2008. Potential space and love. Emotion, Space and Society. 1 (1), 18 – 21.

Other news