Beate Absalon’s documentation of YES! NO! MAYBE! A WORKSHOP ON SAFER SPACES AND CONSENT CULTURE

Whether at work, in private relationships or in art: the clarity of YES and NO gives us security. But in between lies the exciting, but also unsettling land of MAYBE. „Will you go out with me?“ – „Depends!“ „Should we do project A?“ – „Perhaps.“ „Is that a satisfactory solution?“ – „Yes and no.“ „Would you massage my feet?“ – „On one condition …“ „Give me honest feedback, please!“ – „Uhm…“ „Did you like the book?“ – „Somewhat.“

Joris Kern’s workshop YES! NO! MAYBE! invited participants to navigate through shared hesitation and trial and error. What does this in-between-space feel like and how can it be entered? What happens when people with their ambiguity meet others who also don’t know what they want? Is there a feeling of comfort within discomfort? What actually is a safe space and how can a „maybe“ provide safety?

In the workshop we interviewed each other about how we actually know if we want something or not, and how a „Yes“, a „No“ and a „Maybe“ feels like in our bodies. With different objects we then built little sculptures that represented our relation to „Yes“ and „No“ as well as the necessary conditions that help us to navigate through the space of „Maybe“ safely.

The created installations are presented in the following with a few explanations the artists gave about their work.

OBJECTS OF NO

A ’no‘ can give shelter and protection – represented by the umbrella as well as by the wood and cork that would float on water like a raft. And while at times it can leave one with a woolly feeling, it actually offers a red threat one can follow for orientation.

A ’no‘ saves time and eliminates distractions. A no enables quality time one can spend with oneself.

A ’no‘ protects something precious, fragile and tender.

One could think that a ’no‘ only disconnects people and creates distance between them. But there are ’no’s‘ that are a gift for the other, because it actually helps to connect us more. I trust you with my no and I dare to offer you my no. I am staying true to myself so we can find a solution that is the best for us both, for our limits, our wishes and needs.

A simple ’no‘. A ’no‘ as simplicity. As something that can be offered. Or signaled. Something that also can be used to hold something – like a spoon or a mussle.

While the essence of a ’no‘ is actually quite simple, it can get drawn into a process that changes and transforms it into a spectre of different meanings, colors, layers… in the end what was meant as a ’no‘ suddenly comes out as a ‚maybe‘.

The fear of missing out can lead to an overload of yes’es and a lack of necessary no’s. A ’no‘ can protect from the strings pulling on you from the outside that can make you feel drained and overstimulated after a while, if a ’no‘ is missing.

OBJECTS OF YES

A ‚YES!‘ can be like an explosion, a rocket – something festive! It can break chains and constrictions and leave colorful traces.

A ‚yes‘ as a delicate gift, an offering. Something pretty and special.

A ‚yes‘ is there when things just feel right and natural. A ‚yes‘ that leaves you with a warm, cozy, fuzzy feeling. A yes that is as clear and precious as a crystal.

Looking forward for all the different yes’es to come, which can open and widen boundaries and lead out of the sometimes too tight comfort zones.

A ‚yes‘ can be felt in the body – when it feels like a dog excitingly wiggling its tail (represented by the brush)!

A colorful ‚yes‘ can be a device that enables you to move along, go on adventures, discover, get forward,..
…but there is also the not so colorful, the grey yes, that has been spoken out of wrong reasons and that leaves something in you shattered and knotted…

A yes feels like a luxurious, floating expansion. Like a conncetion to the ground and to gravity. But realistically this oceanic feeling comes with its tweaks and snaps, because a yes can come with responsibility, with time and energy being consumed, with effects one then has to deal with.

NECESSARY CONDITIONS TO MOVE IN THE SPACE OF MAYBE TO A YES OR A NO

Communication!

Transparency!

Vulnerability. And comfort.

Containment and saftey in our connection – like some form of contract that reminds me of our bond so that I know that a „yes“ or „no“ that I am trying out is not going to immediately disrupt this connection. Trusting that declining or refusing an offer will not effect my worth or if I am liked.
If I am a person who usually starts with „no“ and I would like to explore more with „yes“ – or vice versa: If I am usually more of a „Yes“-person and want to train myself in saying „no“ more – than tipping my toe into the realm of „maybe“ is easier when there is some form of incentive and reward for me – and a straightforwardness, pointing to the promising outcome.

Self care. Taking care of my needs, also bodily needs – am I hydrated? Rested? Comfortable? Is there a chance to opt out – just in case? Is there a chance to take a break? Is there some safe space where I can pause and be patient?

Focus – on one or only a few things, not trying to catch many stars. One is enough. And having a strategy (represented by the chess game in the box) while feeling held in something soft and cozy.
Focus – on one or only a few things, not trying to catch many stars. One is enough. And having a strategy (represented by the chess game in the box) while feeling held in something soft and cozy.

»Yes! No! Maybe! – A Workshop on Safer Spaces and Consent Culture«

Workshop leadership Joris Kern