Choreo-graphic Figures: Beginnings + Emergences
Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line is an interdisciplinary research collaboration involving artist Nikolaus Gansterer, choreographer Mariella Greil, and writer-artist Emma Cocker, for investigating the nature of ‘thinking-in-action’ or ‘figures of thought’ produced as the practices of drawing, choreography and writing enter into dialogue, overlap and collide.
Central is an attempt to find ways of better understanding and making tangible the process of research ‘in-and-through practice’ — the unfolding decision-making, the thinking-in-action, the dynamic movements of ‘sense-making’, the durational ‘taking place’ of something happening live — and for asserting the epistemological significance of this habitually unseen or unshared aspect of the artist’s, choreographer’s or writer’s endeavour.
Our research enquiry unfolds through two interconnected aims: we are interested in the nature of ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ operative within artistic practice, and seek to develop systems of notation (and exposition) for sharing and reflecting on this often hidden or undisclosed aspect of the creative process. Through this specific exposition — Beginnings and Emergences — our intent is to share findings from the prologue phase and year one of our three-year research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, during which we have explored how various processes of ‘beginning’ performed within live artistic activity might create the conditions for processes of emergence to arise. The intent is to share some of the ‘figures’ developed within this research project for articulating ‘beginning’ within a collaborative artistic process (e.g. Figure of Circulation, Figure of Shared Vibrations, Figure of Clearing, Ordering and Emptying Out, Figure of Touch and Reaching Towards the Other), alongside reflecting on and attending to the process of emergence within artistic labour itself – a process we have called ‘figuring’. Figuring – we use this term to describe those imperceptible or barely perceptible movements and transitions at the cusp of awareness within the process of “sense-making”: the moments of revelation, epiphany, synchronicity, of change in tack or direction or pace, the decision to stop, do something different, begin again. Figuring manifests within those threshold moments within the creative process that are often hard to discern but which ultimately shape and steer the direction of the evolving activity. Our research involves cultivating practices of attention (a perceptual heightening, hyper-sensitizing, sharpening of alertness) for noticing these emergent figurings within the process of creative activity, and devising systems of notation for identifying, marking and even tentatively naming these processes of emergence.
In developing this exposition, our intent has been to remain faithful to the process of investigation itself. Rather than being conclusive, our exposition reflects the process of its own production; itself a diagramming of the multiple and at times competing forces and energies operative within the process of artistic collaborative practice. We propose an exposition that unfolds less as the linear explication of a process, but rather — like artistic process itself — more as an assemblage of overlapping and concurrent components, where attention shifts between the textual and the visual, between what is sayable and what is shown.
We have developed this exposition for ‘scoring an aesthetic encounter’ with the multimodal (visual, textual, sonic, performative) findings from Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, an artistic research project by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil. Choreo-graphic Figures stages a beyond-disciplinary encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing, for exploring those forms of knowing-thinking-feeling produced in the slippage and deviation when different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Within this exposition, our aim is not to present an exhaustive account of the Choreo-graphic Figures project. Rather, we seek to test the specificity of this online context for extending our investigation through the following questions: how can we create a digital archive capable of reflecting the durational and relational aspects of the research process, a mode of online dissemination that enacts something of the liveness or vitality — the energies and intensities — within collaborative live exploration? Beyond the limitations of the static two-dimensional page, how can an enhanced digital format enable a non-linear, rhizomatic encounter with artistic research, where findings are activated and navigated, interacted or even played with as a choreo-graphic event?
We have modelled the exposition on the experimental score system developed within our research project, for organising our process of aesthetic enquiry through the bringing-into-relation of different practices and figures. The score is approached as a ‘research tool’ for testing how different practices (of Attention, Notation, Conversation, Wit(h)nessing) can be activated for sharpening, focusing or redirecting attention towards the event of figuring (those small yet transformative energies, emergences, and experiential shifts within artistic process that are often hard to discern but which ultimately steer the evolving action) and the emergence of figures (the point at which the experience of ‘something happening’ [i.e. figuring] coalesces into recognisable form).
Within this exposition, our research can be encountered experientially through → Playing the Score, whilst the → Find Out More section contains contextual framing alongside conceptual-theoretical reflections on the function of our score and its ecology of practices and figures.
This digital anarchive was developed in reference to my doctoral research undertaken at the University of Roehampton, London. This practice-as-research project explores the concept of bare bodies and how to encounter them in contemporary choreography. My thesis draws on philosophical, bio-political and ethical discourse relevant to my discussion of the emergence of bare bodies in choreographic work, and creates a critical framework for a self-reflexive movement. Narrations of bare bodies emerge in both the written component of a choreographed book, and in the creative component consisting of the live event of a lecture performance inhabiting an anarchive.
This anarchive operates as research repository created and accumulated in the course of my PhD project and documented here in digital form.
Throughout I argue for acknowledging acts of baring and concealing as culturally situated, anchoring my thesis in reflections on performative encounters, unearthing their methodological weight and nanopolitical significance. I explore non-subjective performativity, implying a fluid conception of identity. Furthermore, I introduce the ideations of an-archic responsibility and choreo-ethics for reassessing contact and relation as an ethico-aesthetic project of current choreographic performances. These propositions get probed alongside a shift from spectator to wit(h)ness.
I differentiate and untangle the tones and shades of the triplet naked, nude, and bare, each term referring differently to body and performativity. All in all, the choreographic is conceptualised as a complex field of revelatory experiences built on ecologies of aesthetic perception and realising ethico-political agency.
“Casagrafias” (this is the name of my research) is an exploratory journey in search of a definition of “choreography” close to me. After going through many houses, workshops, sounds, smells, flavors, hugs, that my words can not name because they are ephemeral, invisible and fleeting ideas, I have reached the conclusion that makes a dynamic definition necessary, one that moves and changes from house to house, negotiating between bodies. From day to day and word of mouth. For example … I found the definition of the kitchen as “center” in my mother’s house, where everything revolves around this nurturing space. Although the kitchen is not architecturally the center of the house, it seems to be located in the center of the universe where elements of many worlds coexist. Necessitates movements, steps, a choreography co-created with tastes, foods, always in negotiation with people events and actions.
This exposition forms part of a chapter entitled ‘Choreo-graphic Writing – Towards More-Than-One Means of Inscription’ by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil, published in Leena Rouhiainen, Kirsi Heimonen, Rebecca Hilton and Chrysa Parkinson (eds.), Writing Choreography: Extending the Conventions of Dance (Routledge, 2023).
Abstract for the chapter: Choreo-graphic Figures - Deviations from the Line is an artistic research project by writer-artist Emma Cocker, artist-performer Nikolaus Gansterer and dancer-choreographer Mariella Greil, for exploring those modes of thinking-feeling-knowing emerging between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing. This research project involved the cultivation of various modes of “choreo-graphic writing” [more-than-one / means of inscription] at the interstice of choreography, drawing and writing, the evolution of experimental language practices as artistic research. Drawing on various “practices” and “figures” developed within Choreo-graphic Figures, Cocker, Gansterer and Greil explore how different performative, sensuous and experimental textual practices and bodily inscriptions emerge as immanent means of articulation for that which remains strictly beyond words: the embodied, relational, affective and material sensitivities and sensibilities of collaborative, co-emergent sense-making taking place in and through the interaction between bodies, between human and non-human agencies. The chapter comprises two parts: PART I — an “exposition” (encountered here) showing how Cocker, Gansterer and Greil performed choreography/writing beyond the page within the context of Choreo-graphic Figures presented online using the Research Catalogue (RC), an online platform for publishing artistic research; PART II — an “essay” (within the printed publication, Writing Choreography: Extending the Conventions of Dance (Routledge, 2023) for exploring the different resonances of and implications for these various approaches to choreo-graphic writing.
The exposition is designed in dialogue with Simona Koch.
"CHOREO–GRAPHIC FIGURES. Deviations from the Line"
The interdisciplinary research project “CHOREO–GRAPHIC FIGURES. Deviations from the Line” (2014 - 2017), led by artist Nikolaus Gansterer (Austria/Vienna) in collaboration with choreographer-dancer Mariella Greil (Austria/Vienna) and artist-writer Emma Cocker (UK/Nottingham), in dialogue with a team of international critical interlocutors was approved funded by the FWF/ PEEK research grant of Austria.
With ‘arts-based research’ at its heart, this research project stages an inter-subjective encounter between drawing (Gansterer), choreography (Greil) and writing (Cocker) in order to
a) investigate those forms of ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ produced through collaborative, interdisciplinary exchange, ‘between the lines’ of drawing, dance and writing,
b) explore the performativity of notation (figures of thought, speech and movement) for articulating and making tangible this enquiry,
c) contribute new knowledge and understanding to debates about the specificity of artistic enquiry and expanded practices of drawing, dance and writing.
The project explores the nature of ‘thinking-in-action’ or ‘figures of thought’ produced as the practices of drawing, choreography and writing enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Through processes of reciprocal exchange, dialogue and negotiation between the key researchers, "CHOREO–GRAPHIC FIGURES. Deviations from the Line" will interrogate the interstitial processes, practices and knowledge(s) produced in the ‘deviation’ for example, from page to performance, from word to mark, from line to action, from modes of flat image making towards transformational embodied encounters.