Illustration by Evangelos Androutsopoulos

Julian Owusu is a dance artist and dance teacher who has been active in the Finnish Hip hop and dance fields since 2004. Julian’s focus has always been on community building practices. Alongside his work with Hip hop, Julian has also worked as dancer, choreographer and actor at, among others, Zodiak – Centre for New Dance, Jojo – Oulu Dance Centre and the Oulu City Theatre. Julian Owusu worked as Regional Artist for Youth Culture at the Arts Promotion Centre (Taike) in Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu regions between 2016 and 2021. Since completing his five-year bid at Taike, Julian has returned to freelance artistic and pedagogic work.

There will never again be a time in which you have not read this text
I wrote it knowing you would read it
Knowing 
                without knowing 
                                      somewhere deep in my core the branches that already are.
The whole tree is in the acorn.

If Ancient Greece had had Twitter, the philosopher Zeno would be best described as a troll. He concocted paradoxes with the sole aim of forcing the listener through a process of supposed logical thinking with a forced outcome. Take Zeno’s paradox of the arrow. Observe a flying arrow. At any given point in time, an arrow can only occupy one position in space. Not where it no longer is nor where it is going, but where it physically is right then. Thus, when observed at every point in time, the arrow is motionless in different places. If the arrow is motionless at every single point in time, then it does not move2. The flight of an arrow, thus, is an illusion. Movement is an illusion. And Zeno sings trollolo as motionless arrows sink into flesh.

Sometimes, the role of the facilitator is to take a step back and just let things happen. Sometimes, the role is to steer the subject to where they need to be. And, sometimes, the role can only be defined in retrospect. Hindsight, once again, is a gift. There is a point in our timeline where the potential for all possible outcomes exists. Being mindful of the fact that I, as facilitator, cannot in that moment know for sure which outcome is the best and respecting that potential, I believe, is the key to successful facilitation.

Movement is the relationship of an object’s different places of rest in space at different times. It is spatial change in time. However, at any given time, an object can only occupy the space it is physically present in, despite intention and direction. This begs the question: is movement an illusion triggered by intention?

A balled fist can knead dough or break a nose with the same motion. Intention is the variable. And intention feeds into the effect of action. Good intention is also what the road to hell is paved with. Intention without action is nothing. It is an arrow frozen mid-air with no target. It might as well have stayed in the quiver.

Is it then the intention of the flying arrow that makes it hit its target and not the motion itself? What is movement without intention? Is intention, in fact, what we read to be movement? Reductio ad absurdum. But then again, absurd is the world we live in. And absurd is the logic of trolls, both present and pre-internet.

There are many that will never read this text
I wrote it knowing that they wouldn’t 
Knowing
	without knowing
			somewhere deep in my core the branches that will never grow
Not all acorns will sprout

Derived from Zeno’s perception of motion, quantum physicists have defined the quantum Zeno effect which states that a quantum system will not change from its initial state under observation. Change cannot happen while we constantly watch and measure, trying to quantify it as it happens.

Observed retrospectively, everything is obvious. We look back at frozen moments in time like the arrow caught mid-flight but now we recognize potential. Hindsight is a gift. In retrospect, I recognize different phases of my lived life. Different versions of me in different nows. I recognize in those moments the potential I possessed. I recognize direction as choice and intention as motive. But it would be a lie to claim I knew in that given point of time my true spatial and temporal relationship to my later attained goals. I have intention, I have direction, but movement and change are but an illusion. Every time I look, I am frozen in the now.

Where is now though? What is time even? What if time is static and space moves through it? What if time passes only because we change our position in space? A quantum system frozen in space for observation will not evolve. It will not decay. Time pauses as if to take a breath. An arrow observed without time does not move. A mind allowed to occupy but a single space will not evolve. It cannot change. Do we only grow when not observed?

There is a world where I never wrote this text
I knew you would never read it
Unknowing
                   Without knowing
                                             somewhere deep in my core the branches that will never be
There is no acorn

What was the exact moment of change between the training session where I first landed a backflip and the previous one where my body couldn’t? I haven’t tested a backflip in years but at some point, between the last one and now, my body has forgotten how. Or at least I think it has. I cannot know until I try. Schrödinger’s backflip. Ongoing evolution pauses in time as I observe and reflect upon the journey my body has travelled with me since my last backflip but there is no point I recognize as the exact time my body forgot it knew how to backflip. And as I observe this, countless other processes of movement, development, transition, evolution and decay happen out of sight.

Because the world we inhabit is complex beyond comprehension, we must pause to consider the effects of observation regardless of intention. Observation is not passive. I doubt there is a single person who hasn’t, at some point as a child, abruptly stopped their fleeting imagination from wandering any further into the magical world of play just because someone was looking.

Nobel laureate Richard Feynman claims that nobody understands quantum mechanics.3 I for sure do not. I, however, do have some understanding of the life I have lived and, in this life, there have been numerous moments where I have paused to look around and noticed that things have already changed. Hindsight is a gift. As clocks keep ticking, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment something shifts because every moment stopped in time is motionless. Movement is an illusion.

Because the world we inhabit is complex beyond comprehension, we must pause to consider the effects of observation regardless of intention. Observation is not passive. I doubt there is a single person who hasn’t, at some point as a child, abruptly stopped their fleeting imagination from wandering any further into the magical world of play just because someone was looking. In fact, the measurement of the quantum state of an atom requires repeated blasting of lasers at it. So, there is a valid argument that it is not measuring itself but the intrusive interference with the system that causes its delay to change.4 Measurement has consequences beyond increasing our knowledge.

The world we occupy in all its realms is indeed complex beyond comprehension. There are consequences to action regardless of intention. In this complex world we live in, one consequence of observation, despite Zeno’s trolling, is that constant measurement, constant evaluation, constant criticism, constant observation may, in fact, force the untimely end of a process in play. Yes, there is also a quantum Anti-Zeno effect which states that excessive observation may, in fact, accelerate decay.

None of the futures in which you didn’t read this text survived
I wrote it knowing you would 
Knowing
	without knowing
			somewhere deep in my core the branches that already are
A single tree grew from the acorn

For the past five years, I worked at the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) as Regional Artist for Youth Culture. Among multiple roles in that position, I was above all a facilitator. I was a bridge builder, a translator and, in many instances, an observer. Autonomy and facilitation are a tricky combo. How does one aid independent choice? Can there be guidance without unintentional aberration? I am forced to answer, no. There are consequences to physical presence. In her brilliant book, For Space5, Dorreen Massey claims that we do not merely travel through space, we alter space. Arriving in a place means linking into the collection of interwoven stories of which that place is made. And never again can that link be erased from that specific point of interconnection. That single moment of observation, where all stands still to be measured.

I have spoken of intention and direction. Now I speak of impact. Hindsight is a gift. There is beauty in sincerity of intention but there is power in the acknowledgement of multiple stories, truths, if you may, meeting to be interwoven to create new truths. I find joy in researching this delicate relationship. There are millions of directions each relationship can go. The way I see it, there are five-ish possible outcomes of facilitation:

  • Where the subject is going
  • Where the subject wants to go
  • Where the facilitator thinks the subject should go
  • Where they can go together
  • The unimaginable unknown and its endless possibilities.

None of these outcomes are necessarily better than the other. Sometimes, the role of the facilitator is to take a step back and just let things happen. Sometimes, the role is to steer the subject to where they need to be. And, sometimes, the role can only be defined in retrospect. Hindsight, once again, is a gift. There is a point in our timeline where the potential for all possible outcomes exists. Being mindful of the fact that I, as facilitator, cannot in that moment know for sure which outcome is the best and respecting that potential, I believe, is the key to successful facilitation.

Octavia Butler writes in the Parable of the Sower6,
“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

God
Is Change.”

Can there be facilitation without change? No. Is all change for the better? No. Even with good intention? No. “When working with youth, relinquish power to them or let them be”, Professor Aila-Leena Matthies said in a lecture I attended last spring. In many cases, the role of the facilitator is to even the playing field of power. To redirect power, to relinquish power, to create power where there is imbalance.

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics states that complementary attributes of a system cannot be observed simultaneously. It also says no truth can be attributed to an object except that which is measured. My layman interpretation of this interpretation says multiple truths have simultaneous but independent probability of existence, and we cannot necessarily grasp these probabilities without seeing end results. In the end, however, probabilities do not matter because things either happen or do not, no matter their likelihood or lack thereof. Not all knowledge is meant to be understood. In a parallel world, Édouard Glissant7 calls this the right to opacity. There are many things I will never grasp in the limited time I spend on this Earth. And that is ok. There are many truths that will never be revealed to me. That is ok too.

The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics claims that all possible outcomes have a parallel space and time where they exist as truth. Everything is happening all the time. All potential has a place of realisation. There are many truths that will be shared with me. And I will get to share my many truths as stories intertwine in eternal spaces created as we observe one another explore endless potential we cannot even begin to understand.

There are multiple times in which you have read this text
I wrote it knowing you all would read it
Knowing
	without knowing
			somewhere deep in my cores the branches that already are
All the trees are in all the acorns
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