Ann Papoulis

Mining the Imagination


Our imagination nourishes our inner life, illuminates what is in the shadows and can guide us towards new realities. It is the richest resource left on earth. How can we mine the vast fertility it harbors?

To mine anything, we need a map of some kind, a means of sensing the lay of the land so that we can navigate through it. The ‘land’ of the imagination is comprised of energy spaces that enable us to imagine in different ways. We each move instinctively through these spaces all the time, as we organize our day, as we interact with others — and more extensively as we pursue new ideas, new approaches, new creations.

How can we identify these energy spaces and learn to move with more depth, agility, and intention inside of them? This question has occupied me for the past few decades in my work as a dancer and a visual artist, and through forays into businesses and other organizations. THE IRIS MAP emerged from these explorations, a method that identifies seven principal spaces of energy in the imagination and symbolizes them by black, blue, pink, red, green, purple and gold. The colors provide sensory, mnemonic means of navigating our inner world. Let’s take a look inside.

In the Black Space of our imagination, internal brakes are released, and we move downwards towards novel, unexpected ideas emanating from our subconscious. The movements of our body and mind vacillate between suspended reflection and wildness.

Our inner Blue Space is tranquil, horizontal, nourished by our experiences, like a calm day on the sea after a storm. We move through it fluidly, without edge and with a clear sense of self, like a bird gliding through the sky, supported by the wind, unhindered by gravity.

Our capacity for hope lives in our Pink Space. Here we explore through play and can transform darkness into light. Our movements are light, airy, spontaneous, like those of a butterfly flittering gracefully from flower to flower.

Boundless energy courses through our Red Space, like a metaphoric heart that pulses unceasingly, cultivating action. We move with focused intention, desire, accuracy, and speed.

In our Green Space we are both grounded and in continual movement… deeply rooted in present time. We feel connected to human and terrestrial ecosystems. Our movements are open, relaxed, alert. We are adaptable and cross borders with ease.

The vibrant, vertical energy of our Purple Space brings us into the presence of something universal, something that transcends both time and space. Our physical and mental movements are disciplined, elegant, and engender clear perception.

Our Gold Space harbors an energy that enables us to bring our visions into reality, to generate new knowledge, create beauty, stimulate transformative conversation. Our movements inside of it are definitive and substantive.

Dancing in our inner colored spaces leads us deeper into our own imaginative resources and beyond. Individual imaginations can be perceived as trees. Above the surface, they are separate. As their roots extend deeper and deeper into the earth, they cross, meet and communicate in what can be called a collective imagination where ideas can dance together freely, untethered by nation, religion, race, gender, age, specialty or anything else.

Exploring and embodying the physical and mental movements opened up by the inner spaces of our imagination can help us combat the darkness of our times, evolve towards the next phase of our existence on earth and, perhaps, find more pleasure and meaning in our lives.

Ann Papoulis is a visual & performing artist and an Imagination Activator. Deeply influenced by Merce Cunningham, whose technique she taught for many years, the exploration of dances — physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, imaginative dances — is at the heart of her work.

Photo by John McGarity

1 Comment

  • Cori Sansalone
    9 months ago Reply


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