Mariella Greil



research expositions

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research expositions (collaborated)

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Exposition: Silence Ensemble (07/03/2017) by Petri Kaverma, Kirsi Heimonen, Anu Vehviläinen
Mariella Greil 28/09/2018 at 11:13

The exposition “In Between Silences” explores perspectives on conditions of sharing research in the interdisciplinary artistic field through exploring silences - or more precisely an agency towards exploring the weight or lightness of silences - by a series of encounters between three art forms (dance, music and visual arts). Therefore, the proposed exposition directly responds to Ruukku’s Call “Conditions of Sharing”, with an emphasis on making transparent collaborative processes and testing of a three-step-method.


Their enquiry has a focus on practices that emphasize resistance to speaking as the first modus operandi of exchange. Instead the research places value on acts of being-with1 each other and particularly an interest in acts, which emerge from figurations of the ‘non’2 (non-speaking, non-improvising, non-belonging, non-knowledge), opening towards and insisting on the gap of silence and resisting the cultural hegemony of language.


But what does it mean to be silent or be silenced in common and how is silence manifesting in the various modes, disciplines, forms? They ask: How can we listen to shared silences as artistic research?Profound questions, and the authors turn to their artistic practices to explore the condition of those issues, exploring the condition of ‘acting as resistance’ as they phrase it.


Furthermore, I would like to draw attention to the question articulated in the call: How can (…) ways of knowing be more widely disseminated and made useful (…)? So, something about usefulness? Definitely, in my view, the exposition takes a stance for the singularity of collaborative encounters, arguing for the resistance to categories, it challenges aesthetic identification, and explores a range of forces (transgressive, subversive, attentive, supportive…) entangled in the micro-politics of shared silences and stillness, sounding out their methodological potential.

In Between Silences” there might be the potential to be precisely vague, articulating and differentiating what happens in those purposeful silences, which all three writing approaches (phenomenological, auto-ethno/bio-graphical, contextual) try to tackle. The differences in articulation, tone and distinctness among the three artist-researchers are striking and it is enjoyable to discover the deviations between the three narrations. Poetic, empirical, provocative in varying shares, we get to know personal stories, beloved routines and recurring themes, as they mutually emerge in the openness of the encounter.

Conclusively, to answer the two questions: it is a double yes, nevertheless there is potential for deepening and elaboration in terms of visual richness as well as enwrought contextualisation (I especially appreciate the reach for the philosophical aspects of their research, i.e. Bataille’s thought on desire and the impossibility of silence). Especially focussing on intentional “non-discursivity” might be beneficial and might possibly unearth profound praxeological and methodical findings.

Conceptual clarity in terms of the structure of the exposition holds and anticipates the affirmative potential of the various layers of the exposition.


I find the exposition courageous and appreciate how this research is making efforts to link intangible silences in artistic practice to insightful use of references, discourses and concepts, which support the artist-researchers in articulating their experiences and cultivate a sphere of praxeological reflections, ways of working together and exchange. Though unique in their approaches, I can see that they each bring the ability to reflect the ontological aspects of their research findings in diverse ways that will – in the mutual (positive) contamination and braiding together of the three voices – generate new understandings of creative-nonverbal and collaborative processes with a focus on the role of silence as agent in those litigations. I enjoy the sincere proceedings and variables, but would be curious to know more about collaborative decision processes and then particularly to find out about the parameters the decisions are based on (institutional or personal practicalities, artistic-aesthetic choices, collective or individual desires, mood, conceptual considerations, theoretical implications, …?).


Also, I am interested in the rub/potential between composition and improvisation that was obviously at stake in the encounter (especially articulated in Anu’s practice section).


I appreciate that the exposition addresses the dimension of time and intensities – i.e. sliding time frames (the decision for a legitimatising of felt time) as resumed in the description of the session format (Silence 10–20 min, Praxis 30–40 min, Writing 20–30 min). – This has obviously been practiced and there seems to lie dormant the possibility to unravel the issue of time3, specifically how the group works with time and what that means on a conceptual level – which has so far not been discussed in detail.


I value the dedication to praxeological research as manifest in the testing of a sequence of practices (silence – praxis – writing), that was repeated in seven sessions, where attending to the gap, trusting the unforeseen and working without apparent aim, were rigorously implemented.


Silences capability for resistance seem to not yet be fully articulated in the exposition, but shines through (mainly in the reflections and process notes in columns), though that might not even have been of primary concern to the three artist-researchers. From my perspective, this seems to orient the research to a promising and brave (potentially transformational and inventive) path. However, resisting language, for sure doesn’t mean to refuse communication. Letting silence speak (I think of Erdem Gündüz “The Standing Man”, 2013 at Gezi Park) sounds like an oxymoron, but is the bold exploration into power and freedom in/through acts and language, deeply scrutinizing how we share. Or in other words, it is an interrogation into the conditions, the ways in which we participate in situations and form the world through our interactions, quietly, (non-)violently, ongoing.


This exposition is clearly research-oriented and artistic practice as well as the practice of silence are the main tools for generating knowledge, and culminate in a shared discussion.


There is a grid structure established




-----I------I------ (reminding of the children’s game tic-tac-toe)


three horizontal planes: silence – praxis – writing cross with the three artistic (personal) practices of a dancer, a pianist and a visual artist established as columns in the vertical dimension.


This simple structure can hold the intricacies revealed in the process, but I wonder, if a somewhat less Cartesian scheme would respond more closely to the eddies and circular movements in some of the writing? The artist’s statements perform a fragility and “humaneness” that contradicts the monolithic format of the stabilising columns of an edifice of ideas. I would like to underline that the striving for the correspondence between content and form would be sensible, and appears even more weighty as dealing with elusive matters, still retaining simplicity and clarity of the exposition’s structure.


I wonder whether the relation between audio and video coming together in the 3:22 video file is yet fully resolved, and – given the importance of this entry point – responding to the question “What is this project about?” – it seems quite useful to review the timing and connections between visual and text. The textual fragments are read rather fast (especially towards the end of the video) and it seems necessary to give enough time for resonance – for continuing a thought – for (exactly) the silences in between. Also, I am acutely aware that the question asserts a mode of thinking or assumes that there would be “one”, “the right” or at least “the possible” answer, suggesting that the video would serve that purpose. Of course, it cannot and doesn’t want to close the question, instead the video (thankfully) stirs up all kinds of complicated queries – fragments of text floating by but stretching beyond words. The inquisitive reader will thus further explore and search for another access point for understanding…Still, I recommend to consider the option to include visual silences or insert textual pauses in-between the read fragments, to make the video experience most accessible.


Although the role of artistic practice is of prime importance in this exposition, the 3-phases-methodology could be more explicitly connected to the activities we witness in the visual material and the recorded text. From this material, it emerges most clearly that the strategies used to explore the potentials of silence, moving beyond the disciplinary boundaries, involves focused attention, acts of care and privileges improvisation.

In their quest for engaging in shared silences afforded by the space in-between, the theme and method were introduced and conclude in a discussion on Artistic Research Criticizing Institutions based on their fundamental research, exposing the tensed relation between institutionalised labour, becoming and artistic process. The research is centred on the value of unconditional welcoming and is an investigation on practicing silences (quiet and loud ones) while co-inhabiting an interdisciplinary artistic-research environment.


The exposition exposes a paradox quite vividly and rigorously: Even though there is a conscious suspense of word-based language in the first two sections of the applied triad-method - namely the practice of silence and also the practice of praxis4, which actively seeks out exactly the potential of nonverbal practices (dancing – playing the piano – visual art), this exposition’s documentation relies on and is predominantly based on verbal accounts. This has so far only been addressed rather briefly (by Kirsi), nor was it made productive for the exposition as it could be.


The hesitation in claiming their findings, is real (they write “Maybe we found something (…)”) - because the estrangement and awkwardness that comes with the temporary construct of a “we”, that welcomes the other unconditionally and where “everyone is allowed to be different in equal measure”5 is strong. It attends to a promise or vision of another future, making “communities to come”6 tangible, which are not yet put into effect for society. It seems, they have seen the glimpses of a possible pluralistic future through their praxeological endeavour, dedicated to the reflection of affordances and conditions of sharing. They manage to drift as much as they stay anchored in their core questions, means and methodologies. Maybe they address in their discussion the academies custody to provide spaces for noise as much as silences, for developing practices and for moving on together in resonance with Nancy’s ideas of being singular plural, striving for an alternative, deterritorialising culture of knowing – a potential that artistic research might hold?


I personally like “a kind” before the words meditation and ritual purification, both words often related to esoteric grounds – in this context – they are concrete forms of articulation that could as well be called practices of attention (admittedly this sounds somewhat demystified). ‘A kind’ persuades us that, not even the researchers themselves, will take a stance on something as processual, transformative or intangible, because there are and probably will have been remnants in artistic research that can and need not be fully verbalised or pinpointed, as immanent to their praxis.


Conclusively, there is a descriptive, introductory part, explaining the setting and situating the project. The research is not necessarily developing innovative methods, since the tools are known since long, but innovative potency emerged in terms of rigour in articulating affective intensities, finding poetic condensations and boldly daring to approach personal thresholds. Artistic technique is applied in this research but seems to consciously refrain from discussion of “positions” (their own as much as those of other artist), since they aim to tune into processes rather than results. Furthermore, they convey a comprehensible re-narration (again i.e. the hyperlink to Kallio-Kuninkala is ostensive). Methodically, there is a promising outline that holds the potential for further differentiation and elaborations. The direction of impact of this research I see mostly in the close alliance of practice and theory, rooted in and affecting the field of collaboration, ethics and ecologies of practices7.

I slightly miss the emergence of chaos, organic, eruptive, erotic or visceral qualities – which probably informed the practice. The form (structure and design) of the exposition are neat and tidy, which for me somewhat counteracts the messiness of affects and turmoil I assume and associate with the method described, especially since silences can be quite noisy.

The exposition is composed from written (process notes & discussion) and two visual components, first a short video (3:22) and the attentive reader will find a slightly hidden button leading to the session drawings, the second visual component8. Assumably, there exists a myriad of accumulated materials, but a carefully selected, homeopathic selection is currently on display, which only partially manages to trace the unfolding of the research process. Footnoting has been well resolved and is visually an attractive feature for a more indexical orientation of the reader. However, the hyperlinking needs to bridge from the highlighted word to the annotation – so the reader can follow. Sometimes there are jumps, odd connections i.e. check method to oxymoron or interconnectedness et al.) Also, there are inconsistencies in the use of referencing9, that need to be amended.


In the further theoretical as well as practical steps of the research I see the need to tackle the concept of collaboration, a search for forms of working together, still keeping to one’s artistic integrity10Situating key terms (i.e. method, praxis, medium, institution etc.) would facilitate to anchor this research in a broader context (beyond personal practices).


The core ideas are clearly articulated, so far there is only a slight tendency towards developing an interweaving or braiding together of the distinct voices. Attending to the complex sociality inherent in artistic collaboration it might be interesting to follow through and would clarify how the shift from singular artistic positions towards a shared voice in the discussion has come together (currently the conclusive discussion floats a bit).


The attempt to expose what happens “In Between Silences”, trying to touch on affective intensities, fleeting moments of encounter, discussing that “writing (…) feels like a betrayal of silence” is intriguingly bold. Of course, they enter slippery terrain, as the area of research is vast and the three artist-researchers need sharpness, consistent reflection on the significances of actions, returning to research questions after each drift and a scrutinizing eye on the language found for articulating the milieu, the habitat of both – the in-between and the silences. They manage this complicated task in their various ways and frame the 3 practices x 3 artists grid with a short video-statement (as introductory note) and on the other end with a shared discussion and the researcher’s treasure – the collection of sources (unfortunately currently incomplete).


Presumably, their shared methodology will increasingly become nuanced, if extensively examining the complexity of affective micro-processes (obviously more impactful than pre-set time-frames and tasks, though not independent from these), which will support a profound differentiation based on attention to affordances and conditions. They manage to drift as much as they stay orbiting their core questions, means and methodologies.

Their affirmative doing – is rubbing against a form of canonised criticality that is attributed to institutions, but we cannot forget that any institution is constituted by the human beings working in them. Their epiphany that each embodies an institution, luckily also works in reverse, a kind of intertwining. I feel a hesitation to affirm their conceptual movement towards “the becoming of an institution” or more pointedly “institutionalized artists” as I refuse to think of human’s as institutions, though in our bureaucratic, over-administered and hyper-managed cultures that might be a timely diagnosis.

Silence as a pause or hold, interrupting flow, has the critical potential to scrutinise fluidity as prevailing currency in semiocapitalism, or physically speaking – silences or stillness reveal uncomfortably the underlying currents of neoliberal thinking that continually strive for flow of money, capital and signs11, inevitably affecting the meaning of movement and respective dance as an art form. Still, fluidity, flexibility and mobility are taken as given and good values, rarely reflected or challenged. However, concise clarification, differentiation and reflection on the relation between silences and stillness especially in relation to the wider political sphere would seem exciting.

The paragraphs starting with Perhaps and Maybe reveal a tentativeness that is true to the researches current phase full of potential, looming for future12 encounters of the Silence Ensemble to continue their research into practicing, questioning, archiving of embodied forms of tacit knowledges and non-verbal communication.


1. I would like to share a reference that was not made in the exposition, but that might be useful for further explorations: Jean-Luc Nancy, Être singulier pluriel, 1996.

2. Cf. Constanze Schellow, Diskurs-Choreographien, 2016.

3. Cf. Bergson’s, Time and Free Will, Deleuze & Guattari’s ideas of Becoming-Intense in A Thousand Plateaus, Heathfield’s discussion “Impress of time” in Out of Now, et al.

4. None of the protagonists bases their artistic practice mainly on words as i.e. actors would do.

5. Cf. Krassimira Kruschkova, Dance Aesthetics as Politics of Friendship, in the booklet “Crisis? What Crisis?” – at the Life Long Burning Symposium in the frame of ImPulsTanz Festival, 2017, p.5.

6. Cf. Giorgio Agamben, 1990.

7. Cf. Stengers, 2005.

8. Contextual information would probably be helpful: who was making the drawings/video, how was this selection made, collaboratively or not, and following which criteria? Is there a chronology revealed (seven meetings = seven drawings)? And additionally, maybe a statement on how to frame what can’t be articulated in words?

9. I.e. we can find those (and more) varying formats: Kûle (2002, 108–110); Emmanuel Levinas (1996), Etikka ja äärettömyys.; (Ellis & Bochner 2000, 739.) Please rework for academic consistency, which will assist fluent reading.

10. I remember the sentence “I want to work with you because I can speak for myself” in resonance with a paragraph in the text “No matter how much you love me, I do not want to belong to you” by the Bolivian activist Maria Galindo (

11. Cf. Bojana Kunst, Prognosis on Collaboration, 2009.

12. The general observation is that negotiation processes of collaboration, points of decisions, dissent or other dynamics of working together while bringing different personalities, histories, cultures and ecologies of practices to the studio, remain silent. Questions for future iterations of this research project, counteracting blind spots, might be: How to address the potential of aggressive silence, a form if silence that provokes, is stubborn, insisting or not welcoming the other? How to articulate and frame that which resists words? What kind of aesthetics are emerging? And how can conditions of sharing, the affordances of being-with be traced and speak to an audience or is it a self-sufficient studio-practice that doesn’t address a public? What kind of performativity does that generate and what is its meaning and contemporary relevance? Was the predominant mode of documentation through writing, and if so, why? Is the aim of this research to develop a methodological tool box and if so, what are the parameters interesting for such a focus? How is the research going to articulate its intentions (why, what, for whom) especially in resonance of “working without apparent aim”? What does it mean that “nothing was silenced”? What kind of “alternative conventions” have been established among the group? How (if at all) were those agreements to be silent together negotiated? How to deal with impulses that were going against silence, harmony, togetherness or tolerance? And what does it mean to speak up in silence? Noise composer Merzbow says” I want to make silence by my Noise” – is this research a reverse attempt to make noise by your silence?