I used to use the term aquarium to describe the entire space of workshops. The Aquarium was supposed to distinguish this special place from everything outside. All those who labored in the field of theatre and its surroundings made use of this kind of sanctity of the work space.
Currently, aquarium has become the name of the exercise that appears in almost all workshops.
I like the term aquarium because it is easy to visualize the existence of waves while thinking about water. When the fish wags its tail, all of its aquarium roommates feel this wave. Sometimes I illustrate this by knocking on the wall. The tiny point of contact between my knuckle and the wall gives the sound that reaches each participant. There is no place in the room to which the wave of this micro-tap will not come.
Every move we make releases a similar wave into the Aquarium space.
The Aquarium was originally an exercise of mutual dependence of actors on the stage. In my daily activities I do not need to know what is going on behind my back, but as an actor I need to have this hyper-awareness.
Usually I designate the place of the Aquarium, drawing its borders on the floor. I tell the participants that the borders are growing upwards, cutting out a cubic form from the entire outer space. Thus, a kind of enclave is created.
I ask the participants to stand around on the margins of the Aquarium and forget about themselves. I ask them to see the perfection of the space between them, which seemingly contains nothing in itself and does not need anything from them. It existed before we came and it was good, it was self-sufficient fullness, just like any other space.
The fact that we stood on the margins of the Aquarium changed the balance of the system. An empty space confronts our desires and expectations and somehow takes them over.
The Aquarium is the space we are to serve. To listen to its needs and respond to them. Every action in an improvisation must be a reaction. We are pawns. In the basic version of the Aquarium I limit the freedom of action. You can only stand still, move forward, run or turn around. You can not make any gestures, reveal your states and emotions. Typically, eight to fifteen people take part in the exercise. Only a maximum of four participants can enter the Aquarium at a time.
I ask participants not to stay too long in the Aquarium so that they could give space to others. I ask to pay attention to the fact that those who are inside and outside the aquarium are equally important, are part of the same organism. The presence inside the Aquarium or the presence outside the Aquarium is the same presence. Restraining from entrance into the space is just as important as entering itself. What is crucial is what, not who. We practice the ability to observe the other as if it were me, to apply to his or her action as much attention as to my own actions.
Together, we serve to maintain the transparency of the Aquarium. Everyone who enters into the Aquarium should become transparent. The outer one is internal, the inner is external. Me equals you. As the exercise continues, this feeling becomes stronger.
The Aquarium is a laboratory, it is an alchemical vessel where the transformation from personal to over-personal occurs. The Aquarium is a space for active meditation.
Usually, the starting rules are broken after a few minutes. Gestures appear, emotions are being revealed. In order to maintain the quality of intensity, we must constantly increase energy, fuel up. Without stoking, the attention goes out.