Conversation as a dance

I draw siamangs in conversation at the Dubbo Zoo, 2014

I draw siamangs in conversation at the Dubbo Zoo, 2014

Bill Gladstone sends an article, The Incredible Things We Do in Conversations. It triggers ideas for our collaboration – to draw under water and to learn more from him about what he sees going on in the sea.

The story mentions rhythms in gestures used in conversation, that relate to my experience of drawing Siamangs (largest of the gibbons) at the Dubbo zoo, and of watching my father when I was very young.

Great apes like chimps take turns when gesturing to each other and other primates, including several monkeys and one species of lemur, take turns when calling…[and] pairs of common marmosets leave predictable gaps of 5 to 6 seconds between turns, and will match a partner’s rhythm if it speeds up or slows down.

Perhaps my fixation with observing living things (including people) comes from early childhood, watching my father in ham radio conversations. He was ambidextrous and would simultaneously send and receive morse code. I had no idea what the messages were. All I had to go on was the way his body showed intense focus and ebbs and flows of interest. He seemed just as interested in the quality of the signals as in the meanings in the messages. Sometimes the sessions were very long but I don’t remember ever being bored. His radio room was lined with call cards from fellow ‘hams’ around the world. Whole families used to come to our house and tune in to signals sent by their relatives working in Antarctica. My father used to call himself a ‘go-between’.

About Lisa Roberts

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