Artist-researcher and movement artist based in Berlin, PhD in Dance (Coventry University). Post-doctoral researcher at Uniarts Helsinki’s Centre for Artistic Research 2016-2019, associated until 12/2021. My work explores intermateriality through site-specific outdoor movement; rooted in Amerta Movement (Suryodarmo) and Non-stylised and Environmental Movement (Poynor). I collaborate with materials of many different orders as active agents in the creation of movement, performance and choreography; as well as daily life practices and sense making. I publish widely in the context of artistic research through bodily practices and am a board member of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices.
I’ve engaged with this exposition on several occasions, in various settings and countries. Reading the text and seeing the films on a desk at ETLAB in Helsinki, in my home in Berlin, on a train to Hamburg and on a desk in the public library of the Topography of Terror in Berlin, quite close to a site that I currently work on – habitually, as a way of keeping up my practice, as a way of doing research, as a way of preparing performance?
It has kept me good company.
I am reviewing from the viewpoint of a “junior colleague” – I work in a neighbouring field and have known Annette’s work for several years. We first met in person in 2016, in the framework of the British AHRC research network “Rock/Body”. Since the autumn of 2016 we are loosely colleagues in the context of Uniarts Helsinki/TeaK.
I much enjoyed about this exposition the sense that it wants to be seen, read and understood. Both in language and in layout I find it straightforward, engaging and easy to navigate. The issues raised are interesting for people concerned with regular artistic practice, repeated actions or habits, for those working in natural environments, those busy with questioning/dealing with artistic research as well as (media) artists working with still cameras, outdoors etc.
My review deals most specifically with proposals brought forth in the text, which has to do with my own expertise but also with the limitations of the small screen and slow machine that I currently work with. The technology I have available could not do the films much justice.
Yet observing my online viewing habits more generally I feel that all of the video materials might be too long for a presentation context like this. I wonder how many people see the full arch of the films? However – I understand that the artistic position might be that 25 min 30 sec is the duration of the work. I still think it might be worth considering 3 – 7 min long films in the context of an RC exposition.
I cannot see the swinging films anymore without being reminded of a set-up during the 2017 SAR conference in which Annette showed some (different) film material that included people swinging. In a gym type setting we as audience members were invited to swing with films. I hope you as a reader can imagine this too.
Questions this review process raised for me:
- I wonder about formulations such as “let the trees, rocks, waves, wind and weather perform” (p. 1) and “letting the elements of the environment perform for them” (p. 10) [perform for the agency of technology, the automatic functions of the camera]. I struggle with the formulation “letting … perform”. If we speak about performance I wonder if entities and materials would not better be considered as performing “with” rather than “for” technology. Otherwise I would like to see the concept of letting a landscape perform framed or discussed further. How does this happen outside of or in connection to human perception and/or framing ‘as performance’? Who “lets” perform?
- I further wonder about the usage of the term “image” throughout the text when referring to short films – e.g. on p. 3 “four images of roughly one-minute duration”. I wonder if alternative terms could be “clip” or “take” in this context, although I also sense the emphasis on the still camera or frame that “image” might carry more strongly than the proposed alternatives.
- I am also still pondering the categorisations of artistic research on p. 8-9. In my own artistic research practice I cannot make the distinction between “product” and “practice” as different types of research, both are entirely intermeshed in my work. It is exactly through the creation of a “product” – i.e. artwork/performance, (which can be entirely processes based!) that I also express and/or explore a “knowledge interest”– etc. Since the author similarly recognises that the proposed divisions are contested, maybe there is another way of making this line of thinking more productive/operational. Is it not exactly across such divisions as “developmental” and “reflective” that artistic research unfolds its potentials? Whilst it is useful to be conscious of differences, I would rather think towards vectors, intensities and mixtures than separate categories placed on a quadrant (in this case).
- I resonate with and feel excited about the connection between speculation and practice in the very end of the text and the proposal that speculation “takes places by repeatedly creating the conditions for alternatives to appear” (p. 10). I would have enjoyed a further development of this section as a whole in this text and am similarly looking forward to see it taken further elsewhere!
Writing such a final peer review made me wonder about the usefulness of publishing a peer review. I agree that it is interesting to know who is asked to review which exposition and what these people think/contribute. Still a lot of the review process remains hidden. Maybe it is interesting to consider if also a final author’s statement could be useful, one that can speak to the process of creation and review as a whole, responding also to the final peer review.
This is an edited version of the peer review comment, which the author has used as an aid when finalising their exposition:
I have written a peer review for your piece and am now sitting again with the version of the contribution as it currently stands. I re-read my peer review in which I find myself saying many things about positioning, framing, details, analogies, assumptions and the like as well as design and composition. I have to smile at my own tendency to get caught up in details when I review work, there are often many resonances, many things to say – what to prioritise?
I wonder how you felt when you read my review. Your contribution is full of earth and blossoming and growing and then someone arrives with a microscope and says: all very fine, but how is this bacteria here connected to that rhizome over there?
Or, as I wrote:
“Partially the contribution uses quite normative language: “As we acknowledge the benefits of being outside and of gardening, we can begin to understand that it is necessary to shift our relationship with the earth, with where our food comes from and with how we live.” – whilst I can agree, the “benefits of being outside and of gardening” are not a given and how relationships to earth “need” to shift is quite a complex matter.“
In any case I notice that you defended (let’s say) your exposition well against my probing and left it mostly as it was. Well – that’s at least what I think. What is interesting in this process is that of course I can no longer refer to the exposition how it was when I first read it (nor can I return exactly to my state of mind in which I wrote my peer review).
In any case, a few points I decided to repeat here, the rest is between you and me, the editors and the universe. May we once see each other again, on your plot! Thanks for your work.
Implicitly this contribution is well positioned in relationship to the call, at the same time the reader (in my mind) needs to use deduction or speculation (or common sense: yes, this is about plants) – to draw conclusions on this relationship. It may be that the author feels like this is totally obvious because the exposition is “all about plants” or “all about gardening” – but of course at the same time it is also “all about life” as well as speaking specifically also about work, family and somatic practices or embodiment. As a reader I am interested to know how the author herself threads these threads together, specifically. I can sense this in a way, or guess it, or relate to it because I share a similar background or field of practice, but especially because of that I would encourage the author to unfold and make known (in her own way) – how she positions this work, what the draws from it, where she aims with it.
I very much enjoy reading the diary type entries, one by one, moving through the weeks and months in this way, partaking in Polly’s life events (in retrospect – weddings, deaths, birthdays, celebrations, musings, daily life, work, family etc.). A kind of peaceful and nurturing rhythm emerged within me that I found satisfying, enjoyable and noteworthy as a reader. The writing resonates in my body.
The exposition is of interest for, but it is not directly positioned towards artistic research as a field or practice. On the whole positioning is not its main concern. Personally, I would say that at least some positioning in relationship to its field (that I would roughly delineate somewhere between gardening, autoethnography and somatic practice) would be helpful to clarify from where and towards what the author speaks. A few anchors and possible visions made articulate in terms of what fruit this (kind of) work could bear in the context of artistic research seems relevant to me in the context of this specific place of publication.
The design of the exposition does not make significant use of the possibilities of the research catalogue. I could imagine the author take her choice of text/image setting further, whatever this might mean in her terms. I was reminded of a “scroll” (not sure if this is the correct term, a way of passing on writing pre “book” on a long piece of paper).
The author suggests that through this sharing “the relationship between the self and gardening is revealed”. Whilst I partially agree I miss at least a few notes on how the author understand this “self” and how she takes this project on: what is her method and/or practice, what might be other helpful ways of framing, relating to this project, how does it speak to other projects/investigations taking place in the resonant space between gardening as a bodily practice and embodiment/somatic practices etc. – Last not least – how does she understand “embodiment”?
I think this can be done in many different ways, the author can of course also argue that this kind of material is better shared “directly” and without too many precursors. But also in this case I would like to see at least a sentence of reading advice / a reading score or some such, so I know what the author aims for - some sort of tuning, so we know what it is that we come upon.
(I do know, yes, that this also happens “on its own”, through the work, as it stands. But still. I do argue - where I can - for gestures of invitation and positioning).
Happy gardening and moving onwards!