Choreo-graphic Figures: Beginnings and Emergences

Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil

How do you attend to the thing that isn't visible; to cut 

through the visuality? What other realms are there to find ... resonance; reverberation, tremulous vibration? It is sometimes hard to see the relatively imperceptible — this quivering edge when something is happening. What we move when we move; there is tone and velocity and rhythm, like changes of state. The edges are starting to blur, through this placing in relation to. Is it possible to feel another's attention? Where is the tension? How far can we stretch those malleable containers. Magnifying the minor. Starting to look nearer or closer. How do you approach the other, to empathetically respond?  What is the nature of the invitation? Almost like divination, the phrasing is coming. Trying to say … collectively trying to say; empathetic movements — forms of making possible.

As part of this exposition, we share some of the work-in-progress ‘choreo-graphic figures’ (see example above and also throughout the exposition) developed within the first phase of our research project, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line. These ‘choreo–graphic figures’ (figures of thought, speech and movement  combining moving-image visual and textual components) reflect our initial attempts at testing a system of expanded inscription and notation, for articulating the unfolding processes of interdisciplinary, collaborative artistic research. The ‘choreo-graphic figures’ that we have thus far developed (provisionally entitled (1) Figure of Circulation, (2) Figure of Shared Vibrations, (3) Figure of Clearing, Ordering and Emptying Out, (4) Figure of Touch and Reaching Towards the Other, (5) Figure of Ventilating Language, (6) Figure of Becoming Material) are performative and textual ‘distillations’, comprising key extracts drawn and re-performed from the process of ‘live exploration’, alongside extracted fragments of recorded conversation and embodied, close description. For this exposition, we present the choreo-graphic figures in the form of short performed actions to camera, often paired with a text-based component (These are activated by the reader clicking on the video windows). These components can be activated and encountered synchronously, but the intention is that these also have the capacity to fall out of sync creating new relationships between the textual and the visual, between what is said and what is seen.


The process of thinking-in-action (as ‘intensification’) or of ‘coming up with ideas’ within artistic practice often remains mystified, undisclosed, invisible. Choreography, drawing and writing are well placed as practices for investigating such concerns, since each have been conceived as expressions of (or perhaps as metaphors for) thought or for ‘thinking-in-action’, as ‘figures of thought’. Alain Badiou elaborates the idea of dance as a metaphor for thought, “as active becoming, as active power … as an immanent intensification”.1  Writers such as Gertrude Stein and Hélène Cixous have elaborated the notion of ‘thinking-through-writing’ where knowledge is performed or constructed ‘in actu’ in its ‘occassionality’ (through the process of writing itself) rather than as the expression of an already-existing thought simply re-presented through language.2  For Gilles Deleuze, “(T)hinking’s a capacity … to do with acting upon actions, with acts like ‘inciting, inducing, preventing, facilitating or obstructing, extending or restricting, making more or less likely.’”3  Drawing, choreography and writing can be considered as the manifestation of such capacity, as the unfolding process of the mind engaged in perpetual decision-making, as an event of acting upon action. Alternatively, Avis Newman asserts a connection between drawing and thought, stating that the process of drawing operates as a “record of the workings of thought”; a form of “meditation by ‘a self regarding consciousness’, where consciousness is understood as a process … It is a site of inquiry, response and invention, and in that sense becomes a philosophical activity.”4 Drawing, choreography and writing emerge as basic instruments for attending to the body and mind working and perceiving knowledge in the very moment of its making: “It’s less a state of doing than a mode of becoming.”5

Our collaborative enquiry is one of identifying those recurrent moments  the micro-movements or micro-gestures, the small yet transformative energies and emergences — which operate before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice. Central to our research project 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. Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line seeks to give tangible articulation to the meaning and weight of relations as generative forces within the making of knowledge, attending to the flows of thinking (with and between) operative within artistic enquiry, and in recording these modes of (non-) visual sense-making. Within the project Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line, the research questions are tested and elaborated in-and-through the process of artistic enquiry itself, for how else to investigate ‘thinking-in-action’ than through ‘thinking-in-action’. The project develops an innovative, experimental methodology based on a collaborative research practice, privileging the generation of interdisciplinary and inter-subjective forms of knowledge, exclusively based on a practice-as-research approach woven through with the ‘practice of theory’. 

Revolving around the question ‘How to begin?’, the first phase of our collaborative research (specifically developed within the contexts of the pilot projects Beyond the Line I & II) initiated the beginnings of a collaborative, interdisciplinary vocabulary. We were able to start discerning shared principles and approaches, which in spite of the different way that they might manifest through the prism of our respective practices, often were used for similar intent  practices for arrival, practices for emptying out or clearing away, practices for opening, for warming up and for getting started, practices for generating the necessary energy to begin again, begin again. Central to this first phase of our project was the identification of various states, moments or qualitative transitions within the process of artistic activity. We tentatively named these as potential ‘figures’, with the view that these might be further elaborated through our research.

Our list is still emergent, not exhaustive >>>


Whilst some of these proposed ‘figures’ can be recognized visually as particular movements, gestures or postures within the unfolding of an artistic endeavour, others operate rather more beneath the register of visibility, at a more corporeal, sensorial or affective level of awareness. Moreover, whilst some of the proposed figures refer to processes that might be consciously actioned or activated within the arc of artistic enquiry (for example, the various tactics or ways of getting started), others seem to speak of the rather more involuntary emergences  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. Here then, it is not that we want to attend only to the visible or perceptible bodily practices and gestures within artistic practice. Our research attends to and attempts to articulate the often unnoticed, imperceptible, invisible or undisclosed moments within a live artistic enquiry. Arguably, collaborative  and especially interdisciplinary, inter-subjective, intercultural  practice makes these often-indiscernible micro-movements within artistic activity more palpable: decisions and ways of operating that are usually unspoken and implicit (even habitual) are drawn to the surface under pressure. Yet, through what means might these micro-movements be annotated and shared? We seek to cultivate forms of notation alert to the real-time circumstances of the practicing within practice, foregrounding process and emphasizing the durational ‘taking place’ of something happening (live). Herein, lies the challenge: how might one devise a system of notation for articulating that which resists articulation, for that which is pre-articulation, or a form of representation for the non-representational?

Method Lab I (Vienna, Summer, 2014) was approached as the live context within which to investigate these research questions and concerns further, through live exploration and collaborative experimentation. The Method Lab became a site of revelation, understanding emerging through the act of doing. Supported by the first of our critical interlocutors or sputniks, Alex Arteaga, we developed the term ‘figuring’ to refer to those states of emergence  emerging presence  or experiential shift that we had started to identify within the arc of artistic process.7 In many senses, the term figuring seems to correspond to what we have elsewhere called ‘thinking-in-action’  the unfolding decision-making, the dynamic movements of ‘sense-making’, the durational ‘taking place’ of something happening live. We use ‘figuring’ to describe an appearance, or perhaps even ‘pre-appearance’ or ‘pre-articulation’ to draw on the language of theorist Erin Manning.8 Figuring manifests within those threshold moments within creative practice that are often hard to discern but which ultimately shape and steer the direction of the evolving activity. For Alex Arteaga, figuring might be conceived as “the very initial emergings of a new affordance in the whole situation”9, perhaps like the most minuscule changes in the direction of the wind (or current of the water) against and with which the helmsman navigates the boat when sailing. Our research has involved 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 emergences.


During our first Method Lab (Vienna, 2014) and with the support of Alex Arteaga we began to develop and test a ‘method’ for attending to and increasing our awareness of the live process of ‘figuring’. Our challenge was how to make visible the event of ‘figuring’, how to make the intangible tangible? What different systems of notation could be developed for cultivating awareness of and for marking and identifying the moments of ‘figuring’ within live investigative action? During the lab we devised an initial working method and notational system for attending, ‘marking’ (and attempting to name) the emergent moments of ‘figuring’ within artistic enquiry, which we tested within the context of a series of Live Explorations.

The ‘figures’ we seek need to be choreo-graphic because the nature of live enquiry within practice (those forms  or rather forces  of ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’) resists the regime of static representation, the conventional logic of singular, fixed and determined signs. For Gabriele Brandstetter, “… ist die Figur als Repräsentationsmodell, das Einheit  Einheit der Gestalt, Einheit des Subjekts im Sinn von Identität  verbürgt, obsolete geworden.” ... “The figure as model of representation, as a unity  a unity of Gestalt, a unity of the subject in the sense of identity  has become obsolete”.16 We conceive of the choreo–graphic figure as a performative, relational and contingent assemblage; recognisable or identifiable whilst at the same time motile and instable, capable of evolving. We propose the choreo–graphic figure as a notational event, incorporating the potential of both movement and materiality, a sense of both temporality and spatiality. A form of ‘embodied diagram’: multimodal, multi-dimensional, durational, relational intensities; a ‘poetic’ vocabulary of physical and conceptual movements and gestures (movement-images, movement-words, movement-moving). Our figures are choreo–graphic more than choreographic. The hyphen between is itself a deviating line, creating turbulence, dis-quietening. The hyphen: holding terms in proximity whilst keeping them apart. Choreo  more than one or in relation to another, as in chorus, as in group, always a communication between. Graphic  the possibilities and sensitivities of inscription (of drawing, writing, moving and the modalities in between), not just for describing (representing or reproducing that which already exists), but as much a dynamic happening, capable also of constituting, bringing about, transforming and organising new ideas and understanding in action-perception cycles.


Our attempt to produce choreo–graphic figures is also the method through which we are able to understand and define what we might mean by the term; we develop the concept through practicing it. Ours is a practice-as-research approach folded through with the ‘practice of theory’ where ideas are not understood in the abstract but rather processed, turned over and inside out through embodied encounter. Still in our emergent research phase, at this stage we touch upon theory for indication of direction, an intuitive reaching towards. Theory  warmed and made malleable through proximity to the body; else cut up, reworked, a material brought into poetic play. Our enquiry unfolds through questioning: not so much what is a choreographic figure but rather how is one. Specifically, how are the conditions of its emergence, how does the choreo-graphic figure come into being, or perhaps still how does it become? So far our focus has been on creating a context within which we might generate the possibility of choreo–graphic figures, attending to constitutive conditions that might give rise to the semiotic genesis of these multimodal assemblages of thought and action.

Identified figures (or even ‘configurations’  a sequence or assemblage of different and overlapping figures) are revisited or re-performed in the hope of giving rise to and articulating the live sensations (figuring) from which they emerged. However, this is not always guaranteed. Our quest perhaps is for a sensibility within practice where the performance of ‘figures’ gives rise to specific sensations. An analogy might be made to the practice of yoga postures, where the aim is not to perfect the posture as such, but rather that the posture is performed in order to give rise to certain sensations or affects. Certain postures create the conditions for certain intensities and emergences. As such, our proposed figures both emerge from and also might have the capacity to give rise to the same experience of figuring from which they emerged. A ‘figuring figure’ echoing Brandstetter, akin to the choreography of particles moving and changing that in turn ‘con-figure figure’.17 Akin to the body itself: always a figuring figure, always both movement and materiality, simultaneously recognisable and yet always changing, irreducible to the idea of either/or. We seek modes of inscription between the lines, interested in the interval or gap between seemingly oppositional or irreconcilable terms: choreo + graphic; sign + non-sign, containment + contingency; form + formlessness; movement + materiality; being + becoming.


Choreographic 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’ produced as the practices of drawing, choreography and writing enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Through processes of exchange our research seeks to pressure choreography, drawing and writing beyond the conventions, protocols and domains of each discipline: for choreography, beyond the domain of the body and space of the theatre; for drawing, beyond the domain of the two-dimensional page; for writing, beyond the domain of language, the regime of signification. Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line interrogates 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. The collaborative research quest is one of tracing and understanding these permeable frontiers, to challenge the assumptions of the clear-cut disciplinary line and produce new articulations of ‘expanded practice’ between the lines of drawing, choreography and writing.


Our research enquiry unfolds through two interconnected aims: firstly, we are interested in the nature of ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ operative within artistic practice, and secondly, we seek to develop systems of notation for sharing and reflecting on this often hidden or undisclosed aspect of the creative process. In this sense, Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line is a research project that specifically addresses the opening up and articulation of artistic process, seeking to shed new light on artistic process through its practice. Artistic research is practiced as the means through which to interrogate the process of its own enquiry; moreover, in adopting an interdisciplinary approach (between drawing, choreography and writing) the intent is to address the intangible and relational nature of artistic enquiry itself rather than focusing on the specificity of finished forms and products so often the concern of disciplinary research. We explore the performativity of notation, developing shared figures of thought, speech and movement (‘choreo–graphic figures’) for making tangible this unfolding enquiry.  


Whilst our collaborative research project Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line (funded by PEEK) officially began in Spring 2014, we have also staged two collaborative pilot projects or ‘labs’ prior to this (entitled Beyond the Line I, WUK, Vienna, December 2014 and Beyond the Line II, Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, April 2015), which we conceived as a prologue, prelude or even a ‘warm up’ for the current project. Through this specific exposition, entitled Choreographic Figures: Beginnings and Emergences, our intent is to share findings from the prologue phase and from the first year of our three-year research project Choreographic Figures: Deviations from the Line. As such, this research is still speculative, still in process. As part of this exposition, we also present documentation of work in progress from this phase of the project (right) and further details about each specific phase can be found in the Chronology Section.

The first phase of our project has involved the initial sharing of processes and working methods from our respective disciplines and practices, with the aim that set disciplinary ways of operating might gradually become undisciplined, unlearnt, undone, reversed, upturned by experimenting ‘between the lines’ of drawing, choreography, and writing. However, the attempt to share process inevitably prompted us to reflect on and question our own respective ways of working, revealing that whilst we can identify and name some of what we do, a significant part of our working process was often practiced intuitively through ‘trusting the process’ or by drawing on embodied knowledge, that accumulation of habits and ways of working cultivated over a sustained period of time. Through our conversations, various comments emerged: “I am sure that I do things but I am not always sure what I do” … “I can see that you are doing things that are necessary for your practice. I can recognize that something is happening there, and it would be interesting to think what is happening there and how might that be shared” … but, “What is actually happening?”6 Our research question became more crystallized: How then, might we identify, share and notate those processes within artistic research that are not so easily identifiable, not so easily named?



First  Creating the conditions. In order to examine the process of ‘figuring’ at different moments within the arc of creative endeavour we realized that it is necessary for us to create the conditions for figuring to occur. Yet, what are the conditions for the emergence of figuring? Our collaborative quest was further crystallized: we seek to develop a system of notation for honouring the process of figuring (as a live investigative event) alongside developing ‘choreo-graphic’ figures for making tangible and communicating these significant moments within the unfolding journey of collaborative ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’.10 Through this reflection, we cultivated a provisional definition of figure (specifically as used within the context of our research) to describe the point at which figuring coalesces into a recognizable and repeatable form. Furthermore, we recognised that the relationship between of ‘figuring’ and the production of ‘figures’ is symbiotic and reciprocal  perhaps to be imagined like the diagram of a Moebius strip: ‘figuring’ is undertaken towards the production of ‘figures’, however of especial significance for this project, the attempt to produce or perform the ‘figures’ creates the conditions for ‘figuring’. In the process of trying to produce recognizable figures for articulating specific moments within the arc of artistic research, we necessarily create the conditions (of live exploration) that might enable the process of ‘figuring’. We conceive of our live explorations as an investigative site, an episode of time within which the process of figuring might arise. Within the Method Lab we staged a series of Live Explorations specifically for the purposes of attending to and attempting to notate moments of emergent figuring.


Second  ‘marking’. We seek notational systems for indicating the moments of emergent ‘figuring’, the shifts in awareness or affordance. Notation of a notion or even inkling, a system of signs for a ‘something’ that has yet to come into words. So far, within the context of our live explorations we have practiced a system of marking through clicking, where we each make an audible sound that acknowledges a shift in our awareness, as a means marking or signaling ‘something is happening’. This process is recorded on video. The recording is admittedly a deficient tool for capturing the nature of the unfolding live activity rather its task is indexical, to capture the ‘clicks’ in the context of their production. It enables us to reenter the situation after-the-event, a means in Goethean terms (as Alex observed) for “dwelling in the phenomenon”.11


Third  collective attempt at naming. The video recording is watched directly after the live exploration, without any intervening conversation or discussion. Here, the focus is on trying to ‘name’ the identified ‘figurings’. For each ‘click’ we strive to offer a corresponding name. The offering of a name is not conceived as a means of ‘fixing’ the ‘figuring’ but perhaps more like an act of ‘calling something into existence’, beckoning. We strive towards a form of naming undertaken through the ‘tasting’ of words, ‘rolling language around in the mouth’. Single words and unruly clusters are conjured into the air; tripped off the tongue through associative, etymological and acoustic play. Immanent language: a ‘coming-into-language’ — agrammatical, fragmentary and without syntax.12 Here then the act of ‘naming’ is not to ‘make sense’ of the figuring according to what is already known, but rather a ‘sense-making’, a sensuous poetic or aesthetic process where an ‘adequate’ name is conceived intuitively or instinctively. In one sense, our activity could be considered through the prism of philosopher Antonio Negri’s writing on the immanent production within kairòs. Negri designates the term kairòs for the ‘restless’ instant where ‘naming’ and the ‘thing’ or ontology ‘named’ emerge simultaneously, each bringing the other into existence (in time). He likens the simultaneous process of naming and the emergence of the thing named to the way that the poet, “vacillating, fixes the verse”.13 The process of ‘naming’ also has significance within Alain Badiou’s articulation of a ‘truth procedure’  the production of the language of the faithful performed in fidelity to their experience of an ‘event’.  For Badiou this “subject-language” is always under condition, and might even sound to the “faithless” like the ‘infantile foolishness’ of ‘lovers’ babble’.14 Whilst these principles, processes and even philosophies of ‘naming’ will evolve with the project, for now the practiced act of naming has helped us to recognize those key moments of figuring within our live explorations, which might then have the capacity to be repeated (as figures). 

If one aspect of our research has focused on cultivating awareness of and identifying the emergence of ‘figuring’ within the event of our live artistic enquiry, a parallel strand has been towards the production of ‘figures’, a system of notation for making tangible and sharing the experience of these critical moments. As previously stated, we use the term ‘figure’ to describe the point at which figuring coalesces into a recognizable and repeatable form. Yet, what system of notation (figures) could be developed to communicate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces within practice, without rendering them still or static, without fixing that which is contingent as a clearly readable or literal sign. Working with our invited sputnik or critical interlocutor, Lilia Mestre, during the second half of the Summer Method Lab we began to put these questions under further pressure, working towards the production of specific ‘figures’ which we tested through a series of live performances and staged performance to camera.15 Within this exposition we share some of those initial ‘figures’ developed within this first phase of our research project for articulating the processes of creative and collaborative ‘beginning’ (e.g. Figure of Clearing and Emptying Out) presented as a series of visual, sonic and textual fragments woven through the exposition. The system of notation we seek is a ‘choreo-graphic figure’; we are interested in how the embodied practice of choreographic performance (in an expanded sense) might become a tool of inscription and notation in itself.  



Fig. of absorption

Fig. of adapting

Fig. of affinity

Fig. of an unstable line

Fig. of approaching

Fig. of arrival

Fig. of assimilation

Fig. of attending to the forces

Fig. of becoming comma

Fig. of binding

Fig. of bonding

Fig. of breathing

Fig. of bundling

Fig. of capture

Fig. of catching the light

Fig. of circulation

Fig. of collecting

Fig. of commitment

Fig. of contamination

Fig. of containment

Fig. of contingency

Fig. of covering the ground

Fig. of crafting

Fig. of crystallisation

Fig. of dancing

Fig. of defence

Fig. of disappearance

Fig. of distillation

Fig. of documenting

Fig. of dynamics

Fig. of ebbing

Fig. of ending

Fig. of entering the arc

Fig. of emergence

Fig. of emphasising

Fig. of epiphany

Fig. of exhaustion

Fig. of fabricating

Fig. of fading in/out

Fig. of failure

Fig. of fleshing out

Fig. of flux

Fig. of folding 

Fig. of getting started

Fig. of grounding

Fig. of guarding

Fig. of hosting

Fig. of identifying

Fig. of immersion

Fig. of inflection

Fig. of inhabitation

Fig. of interfacing

Fig. of introducing

Fig. of interrupting

Fig. of invitation

Fig. of knotting

Fig. of liquidity

Fig. of marking

Fig. of maturing

Fig. of mediation

Fig. of mimicking

Fig. of momentum building

Fig. of moving

Fig. of naming

Fig. of negotiation

Fig. of not (yet) working

Fig. of ordering

Fig. of pausing

Fig. of recording

Fig. of rotation

Fig. of phrasing

Fig. of pre-acceleration

Fig. of preparing

Fig. of preference (inc. Bartleby)

Fig. of projecting

Fig. of punctuation

Fig. of putting under pressure

Fig. of reaching towards the other

Fig. of remembering

Fig. of reportage

Fig. of reset

Fig. of resistance

Fig. of responding

Fig. of revelation

Fig. of reverberation

Fig. of sense-making

Fig. of sequencing

Fig. of situating

Fig. of starting slow

Fig. of stopping

Fig. of structuring

Fig. of synchronising

Fig. of taking care

Fig. of the burning issue

Fig. of the encounter

Fig. of the ephemeral

Fig. of the shelter

Fig. of the sentimental

Fig. of threading

Fig. of touching

Fig. of transference

Fig. of translation

Fig. of travelling

Fig. of triangulation

Fig. of trusting

Fig. of tuning in

Fig. of turbulence

Fig. of turning things over again and again

Fig. of unravelling

Fig. of ventilating an idea

Fig. of vibration

Fig. of vulnerability

Fig. of waiting

Fig. of warming-up

Fig. of wilderness

Fig. of witnessing

Expanded diagrammatics  we trace Susanne Leeb towards a Deleuzean “line with variable direction, which traces no contour, and delimits no form”.21 And maybe Petra Sabisch too, whose Deleuzean sign is an “intensive and dynamic sign, a sign that bears on its own becoming-sign”, where the sign ‘surfaces’ “from changes of the differentiate relations in the idea, indicat(ing) and dramatiz(ing) these transformations”.22 Or maybe Roland Barthes’ ‘figure of speech’ “understood, not in its rhetorical sense, but rather in its gymnastic or choreographic acceptation” akin to “the body's gesture caught in action and not contemplated in repose”.23 Or maybe Simon O’Sullivan’s diagrams on the production of subjectivity, on the finite-infinite relation; diagram as ethico-aesthetic construct, blueprint for speculative and experimental practices of the self.24 Or maybe Erika Fischer-Lichte    sign as ever oscillating, tremulous and vibrating sign, ‘perceptual multistability’.25 Realm of emergences, of appearances, of sensuous phenomena, and here, the collapse of categorical distinctions; lines of signification become blurred. Or maybe where in Fischer-Lichte’s terms, “Materiality, signifier and signified coincide … Materiality does not act as a signifier to which this or that signified can be attributed. Rather […] the thing’s materiality adopts the meaning of its materiality, that is, of its phenomenal being. What the object is perceived as is what it signifies”.26 Not so much the choreography of a body-as-diagram (as noun), but rather through activation or intensification: an embodied diagramming, shift of orientation towards verb.

Method Lab in Progress/Process: The documentation (above) captures moments of the ‘live explorations’, which form a core part of our working methodology. The ‘live explorations’ are specific, time-bound episodes (usually lasting between 1  2 hours) in which we engage in a process of experimental ‘thinking-in-action’, shifting between individual explorations related to our own interests in expanded forms of drawing / writing / choreography, and more collaborative encounters emerging through an improvisatory process of working together in a shared environment. The photographic documentation (above) is from different stages of the prelude phase / first year of our research project (See chronology for details). Photography was produced within the lab itself by us as the key researchers (Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil) as well as by our invited documenters Simona Koch and Julian Hughes.




becoming movement becoming sound becoming sign becoming drawing becoming breath becoming physical becoming dot becoming comma becoming a bodily form becoming focused becoming acoustic becoming comfortable becoming certain becoming dispersed again becoming again becoming reverberation becoming material becoming impatient becoming another quality becoming frame becoming unstable becoming a knot becoming ghost becoming both becoming amplified becoming imperceptible becoming expanded becoming tentative becoming attention becoming words becoming rhythm becoming a mark becoming a fold becoming choreo-graphic

Method Laboratory Concept: Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line develops an experimental methodology based on a collaborative research practice, privileging the generation of interdisciplinary and inter-subjective forms of knowledge between drawing, choreography and writing. The key methodological framework for Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line is the ‘method laboratory’, a dedicated allocation of space/time during which we — the key researchers alongside invited guests — come together geographically in one place to practice thinking-moving relationally; to discuss and develop both singular and sharable forms of practice-as-research. The Method Lab is a testing site or laboratory for experiential knowledge production, a space of thinking-through-doing. 


‘Method lab’ refers both to the facilitating environment (the milieu) and the activities taking place; it describes a ‘thinking space’ which  “is both a processual movement of thought and a privileged site at which this movement is amplified and inflected by novel configurations of ideas, things and bodies”.18 Dialogic exchange is a fundamental part of the method lab, for exploring points of connectivity (a shared lexicon and philosophy) in relation to the research project questions, and for sharing the process and technics (technologies, techniques, tactics) of enquiry rather than for the production of resolved works or definitive outcomes. Within the Method Lab we — the key researchers — engage in collaborative artistic enquiry, simultaneously exposing the ‘working’ within our respective ways of working — attending to and making visible the decision-making processes, the unfolding of labour, the durational ‘taking place’ of ‘thinking-making’ within practice as it happens (live). 

From exploratory activities undertaken through the first phase of the project we have been able to conceive the Method Lab as an assemblage of interlocking and interconnected processes or activities, each with a particular function or point of emphasis. The three key lab components are: Live exploration: designated period of time during which we  —  the key researchers and guests  —  work together towards the embodied production of sensual knowledge, generated through live processes of exploration and experimentation; Practices of Attention: preparatory exercises for cultivating attention, perceptual awareness, sensory heightening or hyper-sensitizing, qualities of alertness and receptivity; Conversational / Dialogic Exchange: conversation and reflection as material, site for the production of collaborative and inter-subjective ‘figures of speech’ and for initiating poetic modes of ‘sense-making’. A hybrid of studio and rehearsal room, research residency and retreat, the Method Labs are conceived as ‘relational environments’ for thinking in-and-with practice, the method labs are a ‘making space’ or the making of space [and time, mental and actual] dedicated to the process of exploration and experimentation. 


The aim of the Method Lab is threefold: First, practical research for investigating points of slippage or ‘deviation’ between drawing, choreography and writing; Second, practical research for devising and testing new forms of notation to capture and reflect upon the specific ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ produced ‘between the lines’ within collaborative, interdisciplinary exchange; Third, development of new choreo-graphic figures (figures of thought, figures of speech, figures of movement) for articulating the specificity of this artistic enquiry.The premise of the Method Lab is not so much that preexisting methods or processes are brought and tested, but rather it comprises a bundle of ‘emergent processes’ that are developed in response to the questions as they arise. Practiced as a bricolage of multiple, mobile and mutable theories, methods and practice perspectives, research is performed, borrowing Sarat Maharaj’s terms, through the “détournement of ready-made knowledge systems” towards “indeterminate modes”.19 The intent is to develop new methodological and epistemological practice as a performative movement simultaneous to the emergent enquiry, rather than ‘approaching the enquiry’ through the adoption and adaption of ready-made tried-and-tested formula.  

Since Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line interrogates the interstitial processes, practices and knowledge(s) produced in the ‘deviation’ from the disciplinary demarcations of drawing, choreography and writing, its methods of research will also be necessarily ‘deviant’.  The method lab creates a context for testing methods that are wilfully convoluted and non-linear, complex modes of enquiry whose trans-linearity evolves in thinking ‘between the lines’ of drawing, choreography and writing. Whilst the exact content of the method lab will evolve responsively, flexibly and dynamically to enable a discovery based or evolutionary form of research, each annual method lab has a specific focus or function within the research project as a whole. Intent on exploring the in-between, interstitial or even liminal territories between the disciplinary demarcations of drawing, choreography and writing, the three phase method lab is purposefully modelled on the tripartite structure that anthropologist Victor Turner associates with liminality and ‘rites of passage’: ‘separation, transition, and incorporation’.20 The annual method labs will be organized according to this tripartite principle, supporting movement (or passage) from the disciplinary territories of drawing, choreography and writing, towards the liminal interspace of interdisciplinary collaboration. Three annual intensive ‘method labs’ have been scheduled  this research exposition specifically draws on findings from the first year of the project, where the focus has been on Separation or Exit  the detachment from habitual structures, protocols and conventions.


Chronology and Background of the Project

In this research exposition Choreo-graphic Figures: Beginnings + Emergences, we (Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil) reflect on the idea of process in artistic research, through the prism of our own collaborative enquiry. Whilst our collaborative research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (a three-year investigation funded by PEEK) officially began in Spring 2014, we also staged two collaborative pilot projects prior to this (entitled Beyond the Line I and II), which we conceived as a prelude, prologue or even a ‘warm up’ for the current project. This exposition draws on findings from both these pilot projects as well as from phase one of the Choreo-graphic Figures project.

Beyond the Line I

WUK, Vienna, December 2013

Beyond the Line (Part 1) 

Whilst we had previously worked together on other projects (e.g. Cocker and Gansterer [Drawing a Hypothesis], and Gansterer and Greil [Who’s Afraid of the Inbetween]) our first ‘triangulated’ or tripartite collaborative activity took place in Vienna (December 2013) in the form of a short intensive ‘lab’ entitled Beyond the Line I. Over a number of days, we (Cocker, Gansterer and Greil) worked together in the studio space at WUK, Vienna, exploring the points of slippage as the practices of drawing, dance and writing enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Focused on the experimental and improvisatory, Beyond the Line I provided a context for exploring points of connectivity and for sharing the process and technics (technologies, techniques, tactics) of enquiry rather than for the production of resolved works or definitive outcomes. Revolving around the question ‘How to begin?’, Beyond the Line I initiated the beginnings of a collaborative, interdisciplinary vocabulary which we have subsequently put under further pressure as part of Choreo-Graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, enabling us develop the concept of the ‘Method Lab’ as our primary framework for the enquiry. 


Beyond the Line II

Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, April 2014

In Spring 2014, we again created the test conditions of an experimental ‘method laboratory’ for staging an encounter between choreography, drawing and writing, between body, mark and text. This time, we worked in Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, approaching the gallery as a ‘test-site’ for exploring collaborative methods for working between and beyond disciplinary lines, for extending some of the processes, approaches and shared languages that had begun to emerge in our previous ‘lab’. A ‘closed’ or private space initially, glimpses of the unfolding ‘method laboratory’ were made publicly accessible via a live-feed video presentation which could be viewed directly outside our workspace, and later through a series of publicly performed Live Explorations which made visible various intensities of the research process through the re-visitation of key moments of shared enquiry alongside improvisatory investigation. Beyond the Line I + II were supported by Bmukk Austria & Nottingham Trent University.


Method Lab I, What If?

Vienna 16 July 11 August 2014

Framed as a research residency within the context of ImPulsTanz 2014, Method Lab It took place at Probebühne des Schauspielhauses, Vienna, 16 July    11 August 2014. The lab comprised an intensive programme combining the principles of Live Exploration, Practices of Attention and Conversational / Dialogic Exchange, supported through the attendance of workshops and performances from within the ImPulsTanz programme, as well as through the involvement and provocation of project sputniks (Alex Arteaga and Lilia Mestre) and critical guests (Werner Moebius and Jörg Piringer). The stated intent of Method Lab I was to focus on the sharing of practice and working methods between the key researchers, in order that set disciplinary ways of operating might gradually become undisciplined, unlearnt, undone, reversed, upturned by experimenting between the lines of drawing, choreography, and writing. This aim of this phase was generative: the intent was towards experimental production, performed in subjunctive key of what if. Rather than asking: What is drawing, what is choreography, what is writing? this research phase asked what if these definitions are stretched? How elastic can these terms be made? What if line becomes movement or sound; what if language is danced; what if words are drawn rather than written? Method Lab I sought to challenge disciplinary demarcations between drawing, choreography and writing, by performing a line of flight or movement towards the critical condition of unbelonging. Whilst the Method Lab evolved as an organic and iterative process, it is possible (retrospectively) to discern two main phases of activity corresponding with the two research foci of our research project: Phase 1: The development of methods for attending to the nature of thinking-feeling-knowing (or figuring) operative within artistic practice; Phase 2: The development of systems of notation (or figures) for sharing and reflecting on this often hidden or undisclosed aspect of the creative process, which were subsequently performed as a public event within the ImPulsTanz programme and staged as a series of performances to camera.


Post-Method Lab Development

Following Method Lab I, we have put our research findings under further pressure through a research residency undertaken at PAF, Performing Arts Forum, St.Erme, France (13  17 September, 2014) and through performative presentations made at international conferences including Parenthesis, a 24 hour un-conference organised by SARN (Swiss Artistic Research Network) at HEAD, Geneva University of Art and Design, 6  7 November 2014. Within these various contexts we have begun to elaborate the relation between the concept of figuring and the figure within our emergent research, as well as share some of the working methodologies and systems of notation developed within the Method Lab. However, a central focus has also been the finding of a form for articulating the research. Rather than being conclusive, our performative presentations have attempted to reflect the process of their own production, diagramming the multiple and at times competing forces and energies operative within the process of artistic collaborative practice. Interweaving aesthetic, poetic and performative sensibilities, our enquiry has progressed through moments of shimmering understanding, oscillating between the experience of knowing and not knowing, between clarity and opacity, between grasping something and then losing it again, the falling in and out of understanding that is a necessary part of affective sense-making. We seek a multi-modal approach, proposing a mode of exposition that unfolds less as the linear explication of 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 said and what is shown.

Next Phase of Research

The next research phase of the project Choreo-graphic Figures - Deviations from the Line (undertaken during 2015) focuses explicitly on the Notion of Notation <> Notation of Notion, by asking:

* How might one devise a system of notation alert to the real-time circumstances of the practicing within practice, foregrounding process and emphasizing the durational ‘taking place’ of something happening (live)?

* What forms of notation could be developed for articulating that which resists articulation, for that which is pre-articulation, or a form of representation for the non-representational?

* How can a form of notation communicate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces within practice, without rendering them still or static, without fixing that which is contingent as a clearly readable or literal sign?

This phase of research is undertaken through an intensive research workshop at a.pass, Centre of Advanced Performance and Scenography (Brussels, February – March, 2015), and through Method Lab II (Vienna, Summer 2015) where our intent is to share and put pressure on our recent explorations around both the ‘notion of notation’ and the ‘notation of notion’, through live investigations, presentation and discussion with a.pass researchers and wider publics. Specifically, this phase of the research further investigates notation (and its related technologies) through two concepts: figure and figuring.