There’s a fair amount of time on my own


You need silence and space to be able

to listen.


It's my most powerful tool to express myself; to express what it is to be a person on the planet; it's a way to stay connected to the world (Helen).

It's important to protect this. We have grown not to trust our bodies as we commit to a much more virtual and technological world. 

the crucible of performance – attentive others


I actually think the exchange with an audience is …

a complex nuanced give and take, back and forth,

into the body, up to the mind, down to the belly



We’re talking about a quality of performance – the

work uses compositional tools to help, while at the

same time it seeks to evolve and to give access to

something inside, to a ‘nervousness’ about

something, and in this process something flares.

It’s quite complex … I think the work is in finding a

way to recognise another person.

It is about getting to the rawness of it all.

Maybe the early work is more blunt in its emphasis on energy – that’s one of its great powers. Over time there is a more subtle shade to the work though the power still resides in the belly.

As I’m getting older it's about a body, moving, still

moving, and what that means to be kind of calling

on the things that it knows and still calling on the

things that it doesn’t know ... endlessly finding

ways to dig in to what’s possible with the body.

self-conscious bodies


It is often easier to fit in than question or challenge the status quo. The challenge is becoming critically self-aware (Don).


It is like being ‘sleeping beauty’ – Aurora who lies

waiting to be woken (Helen).

 connecting threads

I keep a sense of figure in the landscape, always being present to yourself and present to the world, but always the land.

I need some time. I’ve gone back to my space – it’s

a dreaming space. It has some books; it’s just a room. It has

things in it, but it’s still and quiet. I’ve gone back to try and

brush it up a bit. I’m sort of sweeping the floor. Part of that will

be moving, but you know the notion that studio practice is the

heart of the creative practice is not the case for me (Helen). 






At one point in 2011 I felt something stirring in me.

I went back to reading a text that reminded me of this.

I sometimes need reminders. This has been a key text

and it encourages me to trust that this thing I feel

pushing is real; reading seems to open the gate to

some ideas.



It seems you’re not describing a conceptualising phase but an awakening (Don).




It’s more feeling.

insights of others


I picked up Hélène Cixous’s Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing the other day. I bought it over twelve years ago and on reading the first few pages found myself remembering some of my life experiences. I realised I shared some of her views and there was a wonderful sense of affirmation in this recognition … I found something positive in her emphasis on finding one’s own truths and living consciously with one’s mortality, dreams, and desires (Don).

possibilities and becomings


There’s a lot of jabbering going on in my head – even big events sometimes struggle to be noticed  so finding relative stillness is important if I am to sift the small things, the irregularities and shifts in my sensory perception and thinking (Don).



It’s necessary to get to a place where it’s still enough 

that I can know or sense that there might be 

something. Often that’s in nature, or outside the

normal rhythm of the day or night. It usually has to be

pretty quiet. It’s solitary (Helen).

It’s a kind of dropping in to a sense of something.

I know that it is the condition – a way of being – in

order to notice (Helen).


Then everything from there feeds in and out of this.


It’s unnerving when nothing is happening, and one

has to be happy with that … it is very unnerving,

the vagueness of it.


Nevertheless you trust it! (Don).


I do! 

moving from the familiar to the less familiar 

That's become harder and harder to do as things go off like cluster bombs – things become scattered and lost (Helen).

One is always sliding along, like on a skating rink with no traction.



There is in me now a permission to use all the

other language that’s been left alone – and

inevitably you think well why not, why can’t I,

who says, who made that rule?

I can recognise the language that’s evolved inside the last 10 years – that’s inside Morphia1, that language has grown, there’s a driver connected to it. Because I’ve been inhabiting that for the last block of time there’s no getting away from it (Helen)

‘something’ else unfolding 


I’m reminded of Pablo Neruda. He seemed to put disparate things – places, elements, qualities – together in place of other things for which he couldn’t find words. It may be he preferred not to find words for these complex ‘things’, that the thing lay somewhere else, the words used, beautiful though they might be, were almost arbitrary, because as I read and re-read, something else intervenes (Don).

A sense emerges.


You’re not very clear what this is – these things are

little shafts (Helen).



What arises in the solitary contemplative state may be

shared or not.


Sometimes they’re not able to be shared … we’re aware of

something as we go on …


There might be strange practical experiments that have

nothing to do with anything, an interesting light source, the

things that we come with can nestle at the edges …


I suppose that as you ask questions of meaning, life meaning, human meaning, we draw more and more on our own integrity and personal knowledge and our personal experiences (Don).

Sometimes this internal search is in tandem with dialogues with others and can at the same time be very particular. 

I try to witness the work, usually when its quite embryonic, to be empathetic with it – be open to what's there.

I'm trying to be inside the work with the other and outside the work as witness. 

It's what I do with my self; I am always between 'being' in it and being outside it.

There's a piece of text that was asperated  barely audibly  in an older work of mine called 'Delirium':

          to be it, to see it, to be it, to see it ... I now find myself sensing the significance of that.

durability and re-membrance

Helen reflecting on the process of reperforming Morphia Series.



It’s always a challenge to reconnect; I think because of

its nature. It’s been made with a sort of interlacing – the

textures interlace and you start to feel the harmonics.


No one component can really help you back in. I need all

the component parts to really have it re-emerge

(Helen, 13 June 2011).


It’s kind of interesting now because without any rehearsal

it can almost be bumping in to its new place and still not

really have had much preparation work. It’s got a very

trustworthy spine, which only gets flesh on its bones when

both our focus and attention are right on it ... it's been

made so interlaced you can’t feel where it separates,

it's just a thing (Helen, 13 June 2011).



It’s a strange one – and we (Ben and I) were talking

about how much more depth it's getting now.


It's more substantive.


In and through the making and ongoing remaking ...I suppose in reflective moments you can glance at it and see it differently; understand things that you weren’t conscious of before.



That reminds me of something you said earlier  the process of stripping away, getting beneath the skin, and yet ‘it’ is never fully revealed.


I remember the last time we did it  I remember thinking

did it have a connection to a certain time and whether we

were past that? Because I remember what was going

on at the time.


The life world of that time! I wonder whether something of that time is also reconstituted even imaginatively in doing things now. I suppose the other thing in all this are the things that are beyond words and outside the conversations in making work  that resist, if you like, the attempts to call it things, or describe it, or give a meaning to it.


Yes, watch me when I am trying to write press copy. It

could be a myriad of things I could name it as.

A falsehood in naming it one way  it tends to be known as that rather than all the other possible aspects of it.

Yes, it is immediately read in relation to that.


And the paradigms within which we work and live.


 the non-fixity of bodies

I’m aware there are physical things I don’t gravitate to anymore. I don’t seek to challenge my body technically – the possibilities of expression in the body are still there but other things take my attention. Skilful facility as a display or virtuosic ability doesn’t preoccupy me in the way it did earlier in my life.


It’s the same for me. Every now and then I worry that

‘it’ should be bigger, faster, wider, up and down, and

then I think why? As you say it still has energetic

capacities, but they’re not as long, they’re sort of

flaring, they’re closer to home.


body talking

I remember you improvising in the half-lit studio late one afternoon at Naarilla. You were in black clothes and we could only see the palms of your hands tilting and the smile on your face – a look of warmth and pleasure. It radiated to us there in the space watching (Don, 16 August 2011).

There is something about slowness. I remember the video of a Pina Bausch dancer in a flowery dress, shot from a higher elevation. She is smiling looking up at the camera as she waltzes from side to side. It goes on and on – very, very simple. As the camera lingers more can be noticed.


In a way you are forced to explore more because

there is only one.


It becomes conversational.


There is a conversational thing with the camera.


It is possible to be more particular and more personal.


You may see finer detail because you are paying

more careful attention to a single body.


Is that one of the reasons why you are so interested in solo work these days? (Don, 16 August 2011).


Yes, I think it is partly that – about trying to see a

finer level of detail, trying to make visible more of

the inside (Helen, 16 August 2011).

Part of the puzzle is keeping enough energy and

drive so there is a sense of rhythmic unfolding, so

that it’s moving on, and whether it is moving

deeply, deeply on down.


It is a reminder that compositional tools such as

stretching action, repetition, and so on allow these

‘other’ things to come to the surface (Helen, 13 May


expectations, conventions, and perception

Yesterday I was looking for videos to bring to some students. I found something with a dancerly aesthetic. It was opera and had dance inside of it. It was beautifully rhythmic and had a lovely percussive quality about what they were doing and the way the video was cut. I warmed to it. I really enjoyed it. The whole thing pushed forward. It was in water and because it was in water it had this slide that you can’t get on the floor.


Some movement gets extended in the slippery environment.


It implies a stretching of time.

Then I put on a piece by Teshigawara. It's quite slow; it's in

a landscape and then there is something else in play. I’m so

connected watching a man dealing with waking up in a field

one day and his hands are bound.


His small bursts of energy are quite rhythmic. I thought, oh

this is interesting! I felt myself relax and engage. There

was something about the speed of the action and it was

beautifully cut and beautifully made.


I felt a deeper kind of connection – maybe because it was

solo – the part I was watching was solo.

loosening the hold

Deciding that one is NOT about this or that is in some

respects an attempt to strike away from something

that is familiar – even if it is as simple as being

careful not to go to the familiar.


Maybe it is looking for a state of dissonance  

everything need not be complementary.


Like being in a pool – you push away from the

edge and get to the other side, or you sit on

another hilltop.


You dive into the less familiar and see what might

give, what might feed us.


You remind me of your improvisation in the marsh – you treading carefully and cautiously in difficult terrain, but not running away from it either.


I suppose I’m trying to get deeper down in the

layers of what it is to be there  what it is to be

alive as body.



Mindful of Bourdieu's and others cautionary thoughts about overdetermining/defining practice, our conversations and shared engagements in the field nevertheless brought to focused awareness particular aspects of our individual experience.

Some of this is pointed to or reflected in the audio video documents above and the following residual thoughts:

  • the body is a site in which traces of first hand experience is accumulated. We develop capacities and skills that as implicit embodied memories are drawn upon without effort or conscious will. The body is in continuous negotiation with the world around it, cultivating a continuum of 'ghost gestures' or micro dances. These contribute to our personality and presence manifesting in every aspect of intercorporeal relationships and in our connection with all things.
  • our values and understandings are foregrounded, clarified, and reshaped through conversations and practice-based collaborative partnerships.
  • in immersive intensives in the country (Latitudinal Conversations as Praxis) we found ourselves in a landscape that bore traces of Aboriginal and colonial occupations and our own understandings and sense of responsibility surfaced. The spaces occupied were diverse and their boundaries fluid and undefined. The experiences of moving between, of being in between, or in different space or place included shifts in physical and emotional state, the traces of which lingered in our body memories. The affective aspects of our experience and its residues could be rekindled as visual, aural, haptic, and kinesthetic memories – bodily sensations that brought a sense of association between past and present. We sometimes recalled myths and existing metaphorical constructions of understanding – nodes where body and thought congealed in more poetic renderings. Such recurrences were often context specific. They were assisted into our conscious awareness by developing a commonly understood terminology, a typology that allowed the phenomenal to be connected with in thought, sometimes to shared imagery, and particular elements drawn out of a complex Australian mythology.
  • body knowledges are often tacit and less obviously formulated. We appreciate and know them as we are stimulated by particular situations or resonate with the activity of others. They allow us to empathetically join with others, develop a reflexive dance with the 'other' that suits the particularities of our situation.
  • conversations and witnessing of the other's dance are part of an intersubjective process that shapes and informs us. We resonate to 'truths' in the other's talking and dance. Sometimes our witnessing is discrete, inviting the other – dedicating space and time for the other – to reveal him/herself.
  • unfolding into diverse and unfamiliar places, the body's perceptions of space and time become highly attenuated, reflecting an inverse relationship between level of certainty or predictability and sensory alertness.
  • becoming conscious of our body patterns and resisting them creates openings for other things to enter the perceptual field, to make themselves known, or differently known, and opening opportunities for response(s).
  • reflection within practice takes many forms as exemplified here in the videography and other recorded documentation. It can require specific conditions – particular place(s), state(s) of mind/body – as outlined by Helen. Reflection balances dialogues and relationships to others with processes of self-centering and personal awareness.
  • we oscillate between states of thoughtfulness and pre-reflective engagement. Sometimes we frame and focus our attention – so simplifying complexity and potential confusion through our capacity to make order and recognise patterns – and at other times we may find ourselves in a more open attitude of sensory engagement in which defining and explanation is deferred.
  • our actions reflect our particular values which in turn tend to define our responsibilities and relationships. We note for example our meta concerns of body and the implications of our footsteps on the ground in the somewhat fragile ecosystem of the far south coast wetlands of New South Wales, Australia.
  •  In Latitudinal Conversations we were reminded of the extent of contemporary human construction and impact within ecosystems and that we live in crowded, constructed environments, very different from the interlaced existence of life in 'natural' systems. We became aware of synergies with existing metaphors concerning body, place, and nature. We found fresh metaphoric forms emerging as part of the complex interaction of one another and our environment.
  • there is a rhythmicity, the connection of something forming and something ending in corporeal experience that develops poetic dimensions in our activity. This allows the bodily collections and re-collections to intensify and resonate, possibly involving reiteration, differentiation of energy and other micro or macro considerations, all of which may contribute to intra/intersubjective dialogues and the construction of meaning.


1 Morphia Series

Premiering at the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts 2002, Morphia Series takes inspiration from Morpheos, son of Hypnos and the God of Dreams, to work with the notion that life hovers somewhere between the ordinary and the metaphysical. A series of visual haiku, blending light, design, sound, and physicality, it builds upon a long-term creative partnership with Ben Cobham (light/design). This seminal work continues to tour (Dublin Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, TBA (Time Based Art) Portland, Zurich Theater Spektakel, Singapore Festival, Dance Massive Melbourne, Performance Space Sydney, Rencontres Choregraphiques internationals de Seine-Saint-Denis, June Events Atelier de Paris).



Abram, D. (1996) The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, New York: Vintage

Alexander, B. K. (2005) ‘Performance Ethnography: The Reenacting and Inciting of Culture’, in N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edn, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 411–42

Asker, D. (2002) Personal Meanings and Artistic Processes: A Study of Multi-Modal Improvisation, unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Melbourne

Behnke, E. A. (1997) ‘Ghost Gestures: Phenomenological Investigations of Bodily Micromovements and Their Intercorporeal Implications’, Human Studies 20, 181–201

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice, trans. by R. Nice, Cambridge: Polity Press

Carter, P. (2010) Ground Truthing: Explorations in a Creative Region, Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing

Casey, E. S. (1987) Remembering: A Phenomenological Study, Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Cixous, H. (1993) Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, trans. by S. Cornell and S. Sellers, New York: Columbia University Press

Denzin, N. K., and Y. S. Lincoln (2005) ‘Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research’, in N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edn, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1–32

Dewey, J. (1958) Experience and Nature, New York: Dover

Dreyfus, H. L., and P. Rabinow (1982) Michael Foucault: Beyond structuralism and Hermeneutics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Durán, M., and M. A. Safir (1981) Earth Tones: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Ellis, C., and A. P. Bochner (2000) ‘Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject’, in N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln, Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd edn, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 733–68

Engel, S. (1999) Context is Everything: The Nature of Memory, New York: W.H. Freeman

Foucault, M. (1984) ‘What is an Author’, in P. Rabinow (ed), The Foucault Reader, London: Penguin Books, 101–20

Fuchs, T., and J. Schlimme (2009) ‘Embodiment and Psychopathology: A Phenomenological Perspective’, Current Opinion in Psychiatry 22, 570–75

Gardner, S. (2006) Review of Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement by André Lepecki, Australasian Drama Studies: Theatre Emotions and Interculturalism 49, 129–32

Geertz, C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essay, New York: Basic Books

Gibbs, R. W. (2003) ‘Embodied Meanings in Performing, Interpreting, and Talking about Dance Improvisation’, in A. C. Albright and D. Gere (eds), Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 185–96

Goschler, J. (2005) ‘Embodiment and Body Metaphors’,, September: 33–52, (accessed 3 December 2013)

Grosz, E. (1994) Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Hanna, J. L. (1979) To Dance is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication, Austin: University of Texas Press

Hay, D. (2010) No Time to Fly, homepage of the Deborah Hay Dance Company, (accessed 4 March 2013)

Heron, J. (1992) Feeling and Personhood: Psychology in Another Key, London: Sage

Hilfrich, C. 2009. ‘Hélène Cixous’, in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive, (accessed 11 September 2013)

Kaplan, R. (2003) ‘Some Traveler's Tales’, in A. C. Albright and D. Gere (eds), Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 215–28

Kihlstrom, J. F., J. S. Beer, and S. B. Klein (2003) ‘Self and Identity as Memory’, In M. R. Leary and J. P. Tangney (eds), Handbook of Self and Identity, New York: Guilford Press, 68–90

Kincheloe, J. L. and P. McLaren (2005) ‘Rethinking Critical Theory and Qualitative Research’, in N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 303–42

Kolter, A., S. H. Ladewig, M. Summa, C. Müller, S. C. Koch, and T. Fuchs (2012) ‘Body Memory and the Emergence of Metaphor in Movement and Speech: An Interdisciplinary Case Study’, in S. Koch, T. Fuchs, M. Summa, and C. Müller (eds), Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 201–26

Kuspit, D. B. (1996) Idiosyncratic Identities: Artists at the End of the Avant-Garde, New York: Cambridge University Press

Lakoff, G., and M. Johnson (1980) The Metaphors We Live By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Langer, S. K. (1953) Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Lepecki, A. (2001) ‘Dance Without Distance’, SARMA: Laboratory for Criticism, Dramaturgy, Research, and Creation, (accessed 22 November 2013), first published in Ballet-Tanz, February 2001

Lett, W. (2011) An Inquiry into Making Sense of Our Lives, Eltham, Australia: Rebus Press

Lilja, Efva (2013) ‘On Room for Creativity and Artistic Portrayal: Travelling with the Artist’s Eye through External Spaces and Inner Dimensions’, homepage of Efva Lilja, (accessed 23 November 2013)

Lilja, Eva (2009) ‘Towards a Theory of Aesthetic Rhythm’, University of Gothenburg, Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion, (accessed 21 February 2013)

London, S. (2013) ‘The Ecology of Magic: An Interview with David Abram’, homepage of Scott London, (accessed 18 August 2013)

Lyas, C. (1997) Aesthetics, London: UCL Press

McNiff, S. (2009) Under Squam Rock, YouTube video, 7:53, (accessed 4 March 2013)

Meier, B. P., S. Schnall, N. Schwarz, and J. A. Bargh (2012) ‘Embodiment in Social Psychology’, Topics in Cognitive Science 4 (4), 705–16, DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01212:x

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964) ‘An Unpublished Text by Maurice Merleau-Ponty: A Prospectus of His Work’, trans. by A. B. Dallery, in M. Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History, and Politics, J. M. Edie (ed.), Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 3–11

Morley, C. (2008) ‘Critical Reflection as a Research Methodology’, in P. Liamputtong and J. Rumbold (eds), Knowing Differently: Arts-Based and Collaborative Research Methods, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 265–80

Noë, A (2004) Action in Perception, Cambridge: MIT Press

Panhofer, H., H. Payne, T. Parke, and B. Meekums (2012) ‘The Embodied Word’, in S. Koch, T. Fuchs, M. Summa, and C. Müller (eds), Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 307–26

Park-Fuller, L. M., and T. Olsen (1983) ‘Understanding What We Know: Yonnondio: From the Thirties’, Literature in Performance 4(1), 65–77

Pelias, R. J. (2008) ‘Performative Inquiry: Embodiment and its Challenges’, in J. G. Knowles and A. L. Cole (eds), Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 185–94

Pfeiffer, K. L. (1994) ‘The Materiality of Communication’, in H. U. Gumbrecht and K. L. Pfeiffer (eds), Materialities of Communication, trans. by W. Whobrey, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1–12

Reason, P. (1994) Participation in Human Inquiry, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Reason, P., and P. G. Wicks (2010) ‘Initiating Action Research: Challenges and Paradoxes of Opening Communicative Spaces’, in Action Research, 7 (3), 243–62, (accessed 3 December 2013)

Rethorst, S. (2012) A Choreographic Mind: Autobiographical Writings, Helsinki: Theatre Academy Helsinki

Riccio, T. (2010) ‘The Performance of Body, Space and Place: Creating Indigenous Performance’, in E. Leveton (ed.), Healing Collective Trauma Using Sociodrama and Drama Therapy, New York: Springer, 149–78

Richardson, L., and E. A. St Pierre (2005) ‘Writing: A Method of Inquiry’, in N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edn, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 959–78

Schaffman, K. (2003) ‘Weighting Metaphors: A Response to Raymond W. Gibbs and “Hilary”’, in A. C. Albright and D. Gere (eds), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 197–204

Seeley, C., and P. Reason (2008) ‘Expressions of Energy: An Epistemology of Presentational Knowing’, in P. Liamputtong and J. Rumbold (eds), Knowing Differently: Arts-Based and Collaborative Research Methods, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 25–46

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2012) ‘Kinesthetic Memory: Further Critical Reflections and Constructive Analyses’, in S. C. Koch, T. Fuchs, M. Summa, and C. Müller (eds), Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 43–72

Smith, N. S. (2003) ‘A Subjective History of Contact Improvisation: Notes from the Editor of Contact Quarterly, 1972–1997’, in A. C. Albright and D. Gere (eds), Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 153–74

Stuart, M. (2010) ‘50 Choreographers: Meg Stuart’, Goethe Institut, (accessed 4 March 2013)

Taylor, C. (1993) ‘To Follow a Rule …’, in C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma, and M. Postone (eds), Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives, Cambridge: Polity Press, 45–60

Thrift, N. (2003) ‘Space: The Fundamental Stuff of Geography’ in S. L. Holloway, S. P. Rice, and G. Valentine (eds), Key Concepts in Geography, London: Sage, 95–107

Tufnell, M., and C. Crickmay (2004) A Widening Field: Journeys in Body and Imagination, Alton, UK: Dance Books

Webb, E. (2003) ‘For the Taste of an Apple: Why I Practice Zen’, in A. C. Albright and D. Gere (eds), Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 239–44

Weber, R. J. (2000) The Created Self: Reinventing Body, Persona, Spirit, New York: W.W. Norton

Williams, A. (2008) ‘One Small Step’, in P. Liamputtong and J. Rumbold (eds), Knowing Differently: Arts-Based and Collaborative Research Methods, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 187–204

Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations, trans. by G. E. M. Anscombe, New York: Macmillan

Woolf , C. (2013) ‘Intuition as the Basis for Creativity’, The Creativity Post, April 17, (accessed 21 August 2013)

Woolf, V. (1929) A Room of One's Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich


further reading

Gibbs, R. W. (2003) ‘Embodied Experience and Linguistic Meaning’, Brain and Language 84 (1), 1–15

Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time, trans. by J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, New York: Harper 

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962) Phenomenology of Perception, trans. by Colin Smith, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul



Latitudinal conversations


Latitude can mean room, space, freedom from confinement or restraint.

This project reflects on embodiment, place, and the understandings and metaphors intrinsic to or constructed through body based creative practice. It is a collaborative exploration that began in 2011 when we made a commitment to talking.


Initially, in the desire to be open and not anticipate or pre-empt answers to as yet unknown questions, we eschewed prescription of focus – in some ways we gave ourselves a lot of latitude  hence the latitudinal conversations title. We felt comfortable with this uncertainty and sensed some adjustments to our purpose would arise with time. We decided to attend to the details of what we called our creative practices and not limit these considerations to the more obvious moments of choreographic shaping. As the conversations continued, particular interests did crystallise  primarily, embodiment and relational aspects of corporeality and place.


Our talking led to a series of immersive creative intensives that took place over seven months in a rural and wilderness area in southern New South Wales, Australia. The conversations extended to a shared environment with a holistic sense of praxis now incumbent on us. We were joined by two others with considerable experience in performance practices  Jane Mortiss and John Salisbury. We explored the experience of the body as it negotiates between the natural world and the organising forces of our contemporary civilisation. We felt strongly attracted to the parts of the country we selected and noticed how our sensory perceptions sharpened and adjusted to changes in the environment. The opportunity to be within complex ecological systems, and the need to adapt, be self-responsible, and keep ourselves safe, heightened our sensory alertness. Our approach was to locate ourselves within particular spaces for extended periods, along with considerable amounts of time spent moving between various sites. We did this collectively as well as on our own, sharing these experiences conversationally and in the studio. The studio became a drop in point where we explored the resonances and impulses occurring within us. There, in the meeting of subjectivities, occurred a complex twining of utterances and actions, the collaborative forming, collecting, and documentation of which reflected the meeting points of our respective attentions and perceptions.

We brought in, rather 'comet tail'-like, a stream of associated literature and documented the practices of others. These became provocations or acted as navigational references as the project continued. There was a strong resistance to being bound to a particular scholarly template or paradigm, though evidence of these is obvious in the eclectic spread of references.

We did not set out with a goal to construct and realise a performance or develop an existing idea. Methodologically speaking, then, the approach is emergent: the project here is to document and reflect upon what begins as conversation and unfolds as a web of actions. As we finalise this exposition it becomes clear that our approach is experientially focused, involves autobiography, and demonstrates a phenomenological attitude at times, as the 'what' and 'how' of experience is emphasised. It also shows that we attended to the body through a sustained relational ontology. We pursued intercorporeal dialogue in a range of 'natural' and 'colonised' places, documented our intersubjective respondings within various situations and continued to intersect and frame these with thought and theorising of our own and others. This emergent methodology allowed the unfolding of our embodied understanding in various forms that reflects the flow of our curiosity about human beings and place.


In hindsight the exposition is a compilation that takes fragments of conversation as a starting point and locus – we notice its (the conversation's) presence within a larger enveloping experience of life and creativity. The exposition invites questions about the nature of conversation and its relationship to the many aspects of inquiry and creative practices. We think these are not necessarily our questions to answer and that this exposition is more about pointing towards things  attitudes, values, and possibilities.


As we allude to further in this exposition, we have been cautious in relying on a singular attitude or theoretical position, or on presenting a particular perspective or image – rather we felt it more satisfying to assemble bits, fragments that point towards rather than define and delimit. This approach allows for multiple nodes and the crystallisation of more complex, porous, and at the same time lively possibilities.


Finding a way of crystallising these ‘extended conversations’ in tangible and accessible ways both for ourselves and for others has been an interesting problem. In Sydney, at ‘The Drill’, Rushcutters Bay, the base of the Australian research centre Critical Path, we shared some of our work. A month later, we again reconvened  this time in the locale of our immersive explorations to share our work with community members from the district.

This presentation attempts to bring traces of things formed in our particular conversations, actions, and reflections into a format that enables others' access. In the process of doing this, other things have emerged concerning the situated and often tacit nature of our bodies' learning and knowing.

We would like to highlight the flow/reflexivity between thought, reflection, and logocentrism with practical embodiment – the experiencing body. We track this through our documentation of languaged conversation in an office, immersion in a boggy wetland, and embodied engagement in a studio.


Though words may at first glance dominate, this exposition includes audio and visual documents that invite an-other sort of engagement and present challenges to the tendency to centralise knowing in terms of languaged constructs. Like the conversation that unfolded, the collection of images, texts, and digital manipulations and assemblages was more improvisation than premediated act. Any perceived emphasis is emergent rather than fixed, reflecting the way methodologies were adopted, shifted, and changed as talking and doing interchanged. The focus drifts – is messy and disorderly – and we have made no attempts to smarten things up, rather we have continued digging. That said, one notes gravitations to various things, as particular circumstances and personal interests take hold. There are overarching concerns with themes connecting body and its place(ment), relations in the world, and particular location and situation ... the fundamentals of corporeality, spatiality, temporality, and relationality.

In and through this endeavour we problematise the notion of research as driven by specific pre-existing questions, and of practice in its artistic and creative forms as being bounded and quantifiably excisable from the totality of a being's experience.

What follows in this (largest and blue font) text column is selected quotation from our conversations. We have added headings to provide some focus. To the right are references that relate to threads that caught our attention. These are some of the diverse associations arising in the course of our conversations and they give impetus and further context for our ruminations on creative practice. On the extreme right are short thematic summaries and some audio/visual excerpts from the documentation of our research. Some afterthoughts and a list of references are located at the bottom of the exposition.


We invite the reader to suspend her/his reading of the conversation at points of interest to follow across (horizontally) and engage with the associations and references we have found and farther across to the written reflections and documented materials. We have tried to preserve, albeit fairly loosely, the connection linking conversation (column 1), associations that emerged or we found coming to mind (column 2), and the further documentation, ruminations, and sense making of the third column. Rather than try to 'read' the exposition in its entirety we suggest the 'reader' allow time for thought, to float in and around the texts and media, to engage with smaller bytes of the conversation, to not feel pressured to 'take it all in at one sitting'.

We hope that others may find fresh interpretive possibilities of their own and that this compilation may contribute to other purposes. Perhaps the one certainty is that our own ‘conclusions/afterthoughts’ are temporary and imperfect, and that there will be more interesting questions around the corner. The challenge as we came to see it is to speak or body forth in and of our time, knowing that this presentation is indicative of the past and predictive of what is to come.

We started talking about some of the conditions necessary for creative work.

creative being: a state in time and space

I can be caught up in a huge horizon of activities – so a particular and containing space can be conducive to being in a state where I start to recognise and feel what is going on, both inside and outside (Don).

Yes, and of course it's great to foster thoughtfulness but not at the expense of attending to our whole corporeal being (Don).

Finding the form – the abstract and poetic form  that reflects the complexities of our beings is a preoccupation; but the literal depiction of a situation is not the goal so much as expressing the forces that rush through me as a person (Don).

There are moments when the felt sense – the way body 'is' in the particularities of its situation, its imagined or literal space, and its connection to other things  is the central driver and trajectory. One's becoming, one's next possibility, can become more explicit. 

I am becoming more conscious of my context, and better appreciate the particular 'blip' I make on the planet. We humans often take someone else's story at face value, or become so familiar with things that we cease to question or examine them.

Maybe that's the way empathetic witnessing works when we improvise or explore moving form in the company of others.


We are companioned into fresh territory and as we cycle back or return to this material over time we feel it shifting or evolving to better approximate who we are.

I notice that it is often very satisfying when I feel a mutual gravitation towards something I am 'doing' or exploring. So yes, what might be at first private or 'within' becomes shared.

It's a process that has much to do with where I am.

And often the things that remain are the oft-trodden paths (Don).

We tend to produce work with particular attributes – certain internal impulses and outward gestures and characteristics predominate.

I have a sense of an aggregation of practical knowledge, a refining and collecting of gestures. I guess it reflects my situation and interactions here – my experiences  and I see this as evolutionary, kind of unavoidable and necessary (Don).

While we seek opportunities for reflection it is also the case that there are dialogues outside ourselves, where trusted others are important. John Cage and Merce Cunningham were a much-celebrated example but there are many others. You and Ben have a long collaborative history.

At this level of commitment  and it is a commitment  we enter into dialogue or converse in a shared endeavour, a cooperative and mutually respectful yet curiously satisfying and rewarding undertaking.

I have many lasting memories of people dancing, of the rapt engagement between street tango dancers in suburban Buenos Aires, of the whole body awareness of Jo McKendry and Nick Sabel performing a duet by Russell Dumas, and of Paul Romano improvising solo in twilight in a Carlton cul-de-sac on a stage constructed of cardboard cartons. In these absorbing moments I lost critical judgement and was ‘one’ with the other(s).

I'm aware that the terms we are using need qualification – that the reappearance or rearticulation of gestures can have effect or significance, and that variation in effort or force of gestures is also 'read' and felt. I can sense the way order or regularity can dissipate into random or chaotic activity that we might struggle to 'understand'. I'm interested in all this (Don, 13 May 2012).

There is a lot happening in our sensate, thoughtful beings and many choices in terms of where and what to attend to. We are not insulated from prevailing cultural views, ideas, and attempts to theorise the field(s) in which we practice. In Goschler's (2005) view 'the body is not the ultimate grounding of experience, but rather a complicated construction that emerges from bodily and cultural practices'. Reviewing performance theorist André Lepecki's Exhausting Dance, Sally Gardner (2006) nevertheless muses 'it is possible to feel that there is (still) something in the kinetic, in the present moment of dancing, perhaps, that resists logocentric authority, mastery and intelligibility'.

A body-based creative practice reflects the beliefs, personal approach, and idiosyncrasies of the practitioner. It is a site that mixes curiosity, subjectivity, and different methods of inquiry where beliefs are tested. 'Some beliefs may be taken for granted, invisible, only assumed, whereas others are highly problematic and controversial' (Denzin and Lincoln 2005: 22).

We grasp external space through our bodily situation. A ‘corporeal or postural schema’ gives us at every moment a global, practical, and implicit notion of the relation between our body and things, of our hold on them. A system of possible movements, or ‘motor projects’, radiates from us to our environment. '[Our body] is our expression in the world, the visible form of our intentions. Even our most secret affective movements [...] help to shape our perception of things' (Merleau-Ponty 1964: 5).

The space and place of a practice suggests both situation and community? As Susan Rethorst (2012: 101) points out, there are many kinds of dance and 'dance making first locates me within dance's many mini cultures'.

It seems the basic needs of a creative practice are disposition, time, and space. Virginia Woolf (1929) was keenly aware of these in relation to writing, suggesting 'it is in our idleness, in our dreams that submerged truth sometimes comes to the top' and that 'intellectual freedom depends on material things'.

Bourdieu (1990: 39) talks about the problem of practice becoming structured in ways that are limiting. It is as if 'practices had as their principle conscious obedience to consciously devised and sanctioned rules'.

Our body – the subjective body – is often tacitly present to us, nevertheless it is the medium through which we experience the world we inhabit. 'It enables our understanding of the environment as a space of possible engagement and action' (Fuchs and Schlimme 2009: 571). Thoughts, feelings, and behaviours 'are grounded in bodily interaction with the environment' (Meier et al. 2012).

Geertz (1973: 80–81, quoting Langer 1953: 372) notes that it is sensation 'remembered and anticipated', 'perception molded by imagination', and 'the continuity of thought that systematizes our emotional reactions' and which contribute to our 'life of feeling'. Our capacity to do all this and make sense of it  to make up our minds  requires 'public images of sentiment that only ritual, myth and art can provide' (Geertz 1973: 82).

Eva Karczag, in a process of collaboration with Irene Koditek, notes 'I can no longer see the shape that is normally you. Instead I see the detail and subtlety that lies beyond the physical/emotional borders that you create for yourself' (Tufnell and Crickmay 2004: 136). The idea of a detailed and complex self on a journey is intensified by companioning. We can seek out opportunities for heightening the possibilities for greater awareness and understanding. We might seek out 'space for the unpredictable. [...] It does not rub expectation up the right way and it isn't "saturated"'. 'We are continually voyaging between inner and outer rooms, between mental and physical spatialities' (Efva Lilja 2013).

Ellen Webb, a dance maker, performer, improviser, and Zen practitioner, draws attention to a state where she is 'not so attached, possessive, and identified with' her thoughts, 'my old sense of self – a complex matrix of thoughts and feelings – becomes less solid'. This state seems to leave Webb with more possibilities – 'I can play around, try new things and ways of being' (Webb 2003: 242–43).

We can feel lost at times – 'but it may simply mean that we are working at the edge of what we know and need to continue to grope our way forward' (Tufnell and Crickmay 2004: 113).

We can appreciate dance as 'characterised by the collapse of labour and aesthetic barriers between dancers, choreographers, producers, promoters, critics, academics, and the audience'. An unstable landscape where shifts are constant and sometimes surprising like the legacy of dance makers including Pina Bausch who allowed 'the dancer's expressivity to escape from the self contained realm of "pure movement"'. Dance makers along with their collaborators and audience share the 'same premise of departing from "not knowing" and using dance as a field of knowledge' (Lepecki 2001). 

In her solo dance score No Time to Fly (2010), Deborah Hay prefaces her instructions with four questions about being in terms of whole body, relationship to space, and to others in the audience. She invites herself to 'surrender the pattern' and brings to the foreground the possibility of being open and attentive to her situation and the cultivation of a questioning attitude.

Much of our process of knowing reflects the ways and means that knowledge is framed. How we know ourselves has implications for how we appreciate the world around us. We might well be mindful that ‘the object of inquiry is always a part of many contexts and processes; it is culturally inscribed and historically situated’ (Kincheloe and McLaren 2005: 319).

Psychologist Robert Weber (2000: 142) suggests 'The goal of interpretive art – whether in dreams, story, or life – is not to be right, not to find the one true meaning, which is unlikely to exist. Instead of abstract truth, most of us want an interpretation of life that makes it possible to fit everything together so that all the parts flow into one another in a powerful way.'

Peter Reason and Patricia Gayá Wicks (2010: 246) posit a concept of communication space – a place where people engage with one another. This they argue is a prerequisite for inclusive and responsible action and 'makes possible the formation, affirmation and regeneration of a community’s value commitments and integrative influence, which are then manifested through systems of material reproduction'.

The idea of things coming together to sustain and possibly deepen or thicken an experience of a performance can be considered in terms of its space and place. Thomas Riccio (2010) defines place as 'a system of meaning – a reflexive, interrelated grouping of otherwise disparate elements – creating a pattern of relationships designed to best enable consistency, functionality, and ultimately survival'. From the perspective of human geography, space has been written about in many ways. Space can be thought of as 'undergoing continual construction exactly through the agency of things encountering each other in more or less organized circulations' (Thrift 2003: 96).

Where the work cultivates ambiguity – continues to hold open a space for reflection and resists closure – then arguably it remains a potential site for activity. Grosz (1994: 208) argues in regard to subjectivity, 'once the subject is no longer seen as an entity – whether psychical or corporeal – but fundamentally an effect of the pure difference that constitutes all modes of materiality, new terms need be sought by which to think this alterity within and outside the subject'. We start to contemplate identity in relation to the other, not so much as an independent entity but in terms of body's psychological and cultural functioning, the otherness that is 'a product of the pliability or plasticity of bodies which makes them other than themselves, other than their "nature", their functions and identities' (ibid., 209).

The significance of imaginative representations, particularly works of art, 'rests in part on the epiphanic experiences they may give us’ (Lyas 1997: 62). He points out that individuals have particular perspectives and that we don’t necessarily see or experience a thing in the same way. Indeed ‘every question comes from a frame and is in itself a frame’ (Williams 2008: 198). We may come away with fresh questions or insights or be left flushed with particular feelings of a less indentifiable kind.

Observing and indeed practicing improvisational dance is strongly based in the recognition of 'common metaphoric concepts rooted in everyday bodily experience', and there is a shared consciousness located in the body which 'gives rise to many of the metaphorical ways we ordinarily think about our lives and the world around us' (Gibbs 2003: 193).

Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 3) proposed that metaphor is not confined to poetics, 'metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. [...] in most of the little things we do everyday we simply think and act more or less automatically along certain lines. Just what these lines are is by no means obvious'.

As we develop certain dispositions and preferences over time, we are often relatively unaware of their nature and the implications on our attitudes and the general orientation of our lives. One of the remedies is the human capacity for critical reflection and this can be galvanised by encounters of an aesthetic kind. Lyas (1997) points out that we may not necessarily share the artist's perspective, indeed that may remain hidden to us; however, we may be provoked to identify or differentiate ourselves with the aesthetic object. Such activity 'exposes taken for granted beliefs and identifies restrictive or unhelpful assumptions' (Morley 2008: 276).

There are many ways of focusing minds or directing our attention. Improvisor Daniel Lepkoff describes developing his capacity to be in a state of open attentiveness, perhaps akin to the engagement we have with our environment as children, where our perception is less mediated by preconception. It would appear though that as we grow older there is a degree of volition and control in our sensory engagement. Alva Noë (2004) suggests 'perception is not something that happens to us, or is in us, it is something we do'. When we reflect, our attention is focused in processes of re-membering. What and how we remember is context dependent (Susan Engel 1999). 

Through her writing over many decades, Cixous shows 'how the personal, the moral and the political interact in poetic storytelling' (Hilfrich 2009) .

That we resonate with artistic forms and structures may well reflect the validity and currency of implicit metaphors in the work. Gibbs (2003: 186) argues 'metaphor is not merely a linguistic device to facilitate communication, but a specific mental mapping in which we attempt to better understand one, usually vague, abstract aspect of knowledge in terms of more concrete knowledge from a different domain. Most important, various mental, or conceptual, metaphors are rooted in recurring bodily experiences. We use our embodied understandings as source domains to better structure more abstract domains of experience'.

Paradoxically, 'messy direct experience where we are part of our complex, creative planet is the grounding for all the other ways of knowing', say Seeley and Reason (2008: 33). As Dewey (1958: 54) observed 'there is work to be done [...] on the part of the artist'. Perhaps Dewey is underscoring the participative aspect of knowing, which requires engagement, and in turn reflects particular places and conditions.

We recognise the commonalities and uniqueness of another's experience. We understand there to be multiple 'constructed' realities, and that the knower and the known interact and shape one another (Denzin and Lincoln 2005: 22).

As our conversations continue we are conscious of a paradox emerging as we connect with the lingering re-membered sensations of dancing through our thoughtful, critical, and analytical talking. 'Thinking about the body is not the body thinking' (Rethorst 2012: 97).

Somewhat paradoxically, Foucault proposes that 'maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are, but to refuse what we are. We have to imagine and to build up what we could be to get rid of this kind of political "double bind" which is the simultaneous individualiasation and totalisation of modern power structures' (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982: 216).

'Much of our understanding of self, society, and world is carried in practices which consist in dialogical action' (Taylor 1993: 52). Collaborative processes provide conditions for such dialogues, and interactive and installation work fosters dialogues with the broader community.

According to Carter (2010: 236), 'some of the best conversations occur in situations that are most solitary'. He reports on his experience in the Mallee in north western Victoria, Australia, with visual artist John Wolsely, 'we did not make anything together, but that is not the point. He helped me to sit down, and be buffeted, confident that my willingness to hearken would provide a vehicle of passage'. 

Responding to our senses is a decisive act, as our perception of options is clarified and choices made. We can contribute to the 'hum' that exists in the landscape – a hum of experiencing, of thought, leaving further traces of our own making. These can be self-defining.

don asker


Don is interested in human experience within particular places. His focus is informed by somatic, movement based improvisation practice and considerations of the body as a multisensory and complex entity interactive with its environment.


He has directed, performed, and choreographed projects in Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, Europe, Israel, China, Korea, and South East Asia. With Jane Mortiss he runs a studio, Naarilla, at Kiah on the far south coast of New South Wales, Australia, where they support creative arts practices. Awards include a Churchill Fellowship, and an Australia Council Choreographic Fellowship. He has PHD (2002) and Masters in Arts awards from the University of Melbourne, and lectures and supervises postgraduate researchers at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne.

There is the risk that we inadvertently take words and concepts for the things themselves, 'mistaking the map for the territory and not realising the many visions of the world which are possible' (Peter Reason 1994: 28).

In terms of disposition, 'it is so much easier to do than not to do. [...] to be clear, crystalline, in my intention to act, and not motivate out of habit, addiction, or fear. [...] I need to grow even more still, even more slow, even closer to the center of my heart' (Kaplan 2003: 225).

If one considers performance as 'communication' – a dialogue between the work and audience – we might also reconsider the way we define communication. For Pfeiffer (1994: 3) communication is not about how we 'connote understanding, coming to terms, mutuality, exchange [rather] it unfolds as an open dynamic of means and effects'.

It is tempting to sift through an artist's oeuvre in search of recurring materials or themes, and we may seek relationships between life epiphanies or events and particular works, which contributes to appreciating the contextual or situated nature of particular works of art within the artist's body of work over time (Kuspit 1996). The capacity of works to continue to hold our attention draws questions raised earlier by Gibbs as to the presence of cultural metaphors and their currency and longevity.

'The space I find myself in is my stage for that part of life that is taking shape right this minute. Right here and now' (Efva Lilja 2013).

'Much of our intelligent action in the world, sensitive as it usually is to our situation and goals, is carried on unformulated. It flows from an understanding which is largely inarticulate'. These understandings, grounded in the body, provide a tacit but informing background or context in which we operate. '[O]ur bodily know-how and the way we act and move can encode components of our understanding of self and world' (Taylor 1993: 50).

David Abram (1996) describes the loss of the sensuous engagement that is part of telling and retelling orally when stories are committed to written form. He alludes to a different type of experience that is more about the immediate sense of ones self being engaged in the telling, an aliveness that negotiates one's own sense of the present truth that comes with oral story telling.

The same can be said about performance, especially that which is negotiated in the moment – where there is an immediacy afforded by the 'live' creation. The sensuous engagement, as Abram indicates, reflects not only who is doing the 'talking' but on qualities of presence – and the nature of the relationship to those with whom the work is shared or presented.

The integrity of 'in the moment' sharing with others is shaped and privileged by the face-to-face intimacy of the encounter between performer and audience, a quality that can be foregrounded in solo work.

An adequate aesthetic theory, Dewey (1958: 165) insists, 'can be based only upon an understanding of the central role of energy within and without, and of that interaction of energies which institutes opposition in company with accumulation, conservation, suspense and interval, and cooperative movement toward fulfilment in an ordered, or rhythmic experience. Then the inward energy [of the artist] finds release in expression and the outward embodiment of energy in matter [i.e., the artwork] takes on form.'

'We now find ourselves in more social contexts, more relationships, necessitating more selves, each with a briefer half life' (Weber 2000: 297). The changing of situation – from a comfortable place on a balcony to the confines of dangerous work in a stockyard or the complicated disorder of wilderness – brings out very different facets of human nature.

Participation in communicative activity is central to human survival. As we negotiate to understand and improve the qualities of day-to-day life we appreciate the possibilities of better knowing and sharing profound human experience. In this process we need to recognise that language is not the bearer of truth but rather a by-product of human interchange (Wittgenstein 1953; Panhofer et al. 2012).

Though we may focus on body and embodiment there is inevitably a fabric around and attached to 'body' connecting to the body's history, relationships, and physical environment.

We might also consider a more Deleuzian framework that considers 'that individuals, subjects, microintensities, blend with, connect to, neighborhood, local, regional, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic relations, not through mediation of systems of ideology or representation' (Grosz 1994: 180).

The idea of the body talking sits at the heart here. It is what dance anthropologist Judith Lynne Hanna (1979) observed decades ago as she sought to develop a template for dance research applicable across cultures: that a fundamental property of dance is its capacity for communicating between people.

Video: Helen Herbertson and Kiah studio, and other images from the nearby landscape.

Dealing with a situation may require particular skills. 'A very important feature of human action is rhythmizing, cadence. Every apt, coordinated gesture has a certain flow. When this is lost, as occasionally happens, one falls into confusion; one's actions become inept and uncoordinated' (Taylor 1993: 51).

According to Durán and Safir (1981), the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda closely examined 'common, ordinary, everyday things'. In his last years, Neruda was preoccupied with contradiction as a fact of human experience.

Dance maker Meg Stuart (2010) notes that 'often my choreographies are constructed from impossible tasks, such as the will to compress time, to rewrite one's history, to live in many bodies at once, to fully experience the pain of another, to embrace emptiness, to show all perspectives of a complex situation in a single gesture'.

As curious beings we sometimes allow ourselves to be even momentarily in a state that allows extremely lateral connections to be made between things. Perhaps this is not far removed from the mode we call intuitive, which Carla Woolf (2013) describes as 'the connection between basic and diverse pieces of knowledge'.

Foucault describes the author as having the function of intercepting the flow of meaning-making and invention within society, and fixing it, restricting it for the moment in her/his texts. He proposes that 'as our society changes', we may see shifts where 'discourses [...] develop in the anonymity of a murmur'. Rather than asking who is speaking, with what authenticity or originality, we may ask 'what are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself?' (1984: 119–20).

Even as dance is reframed by theorists as a field with commitments to knowing and knowledge there are cautionary voices. 'Poised at the edge of the realm of experiential knowing, whenever senses and imagination meet, we run the risk of the intellect prematurely rushing in with a show of certainty, planning, and a quick answer to dispel the anxiety dwelling in complexity and unknowing' (Seeley and Reason 2008: 35).

We might consider that each person's experience is different, each gesture, action and response particular and contributing to a bigger and complex play of events in the world. We might consider that we will never be able to know the detail of another's experience.

David Abram in interview with Scott London (2013) puts it this way: 'our sensing bodies are our direct contact with the rest of the natural world'. We should 'honor and value our direct sensory experience: the tastes and smells in the air, the feel of the wind as it caresses the skin, the feel of the ground under our feet as we walk upon it. And how much easier it is to feel that ground if you allow yourself to sense that the ground itself is feeling your steps as you walk upon it'.

One can examine and reflect on experience, mindful that sometimes it is very hard to see the forest for the trees. Elizabeth Behnke (1997) observes, 'there is a way of bringing my own participation to lucid awareness, yet without losing contact with the situation [...] lucidly living it from within as a whole'.

'There may be, however, slippage between what the body knows and what it can say and between what the body says and what an audience can interpret' (Pelias 2008: 190).

Cycles of creative/generative processes and reflection – types of intrasubjective activity – are in themselves the crystallisation of understandings according to psychologist Warren Lett (2011). He observes that the forms of these understandings may be modally diverse and not necessarily verbal. 'We discover more and more from our growing musings as we reach for representations' (139). 

We are constantly moving between our immediate perceptions of things and what we already know or have experienced. In their account of self and its relationship to memory, Kihlstrom, Beer, and Klein (2003) observe that one’s identity reflects our capacity to remember events, experiences both lived and known about, and other ‘facts’ of our being. Being accountable, being responsible requires that we have a memory of these things; it is the way we know who we are, the possibilities for action, and our imprint on the world.

Karen Schaffman (2003: 197) notes Gibbs's claim that 'no one can participate in or observe dance without immediately recognising meaningful patterns of movement that communicate something about how people think about aspects of their experience'. She goes further to argue, 'that spectators bring to a dance performance certain expectations influenced by a set of culturally specific metaphors that determine their viewing experience'.

We need to nurture and find our own voices. Doing so is increasingly problematic, as ideas of there being no single absolute truth, of multiple selves, and of no guaranteed method of inquiry make creative steps more self-conscious. Laurel Richardson and Elizabeth Adams St Pierre (2005: 965) suggest 'Our task is to find concrete practices through which we can construct ourselves as ethical subjects.' In some ways, they see these as more about the crystallisation of many practices and perceptions.

Place is an ambiguous term; in our conversations it is mostly used to indicate the situation and location of our bodies at a particular moment. Given the non-fixity of our bodies and their experiencing, place also tends to become indeterminate. However, the place in which we are present is endlessly fascinating and important.



Shaun McNiff in his self portrait Under Squam Rock – a video document of his life in a picturesque environment – reveals more of the complex relationship of his painting, his ‘self’ as he has come to understand it, and the setting or place of his day-to-day life. ‘I like to think of myself as dreaming with what I already have [...] this place is a partner – yes – a muse – it is inside a part of a self that is more than me alone. [...] The self can be viewed as a place between physical and imagined worlds where each of us give something to the other and becomes known. Each gives itself to the other, each inviting the next’ (McNiff 2009).

'Performers cannot always formulate into words the body's meaning [...] performers may have difficulty determining whether or not what they have come to know comes from bodily enactment or from some other source of insight.' (Pelias 2008: 190)

The notion of the 'language(s)' of the body is variously understood but at a base level refers to the body's capacity to be meaningful.

'Because the language of performance is a sensual language, it does not constitute knowledge by naming it; it constitutes knowledge by sensing' (Park-Fuller and Olsen 1983: 72). 

For some it implies a gestural lexicon.

Knowing and giving form to that knowledge is problematic if one accepts, as Heidegger suggests, that truth involves a withdrawal of meaning. For Carter (2010: 187) this means truth is more a process of unveiling and a 'gesture of withdrawal or turning and – characteristic of dance – might be essential in opening up a middle ground where the co-existence of difference can be allowed'.

As we continue to gather and create fragments there begins to emerge a sense of a world, with its own histories and voices. The work of creative forming is connecting 'stories we listen out for within the fine grain of our sensing, moving and making' (Tufnell and Crickmay 2004: 175).

'These meetings help you define yourself but also disrupt you. I enjoy the rupture; collaborating with others leads you to places you wouldn't dare venture on your own' (Meg Stuart 2010).

Carter (2010) observes 'the object of looking at the same matter from different points of view is to suspend a preoccupation with hurrying to the vanishing point of a single, unifying argument'. Carter is concerned not only with history as told by many – providing a pluralistic set of perspectives – but mindful that he too is leaving tracks in the landscape.

'We don't always know what we think, feel, mean, or know until we try to make approximations of these preconscious sensings' (Lett 2011: 139).

Perhaps as we shift from master narratives to more personal narratives we come closer to the unique qualities of individuals, and of how we might be different to one another. The individual is placed in a dialogue with 'history, social structure, and culture' (Ellis and Bochner 2000: 739, quoted in Alexander 2005: 424), or as Donald Kuspit (1996) would have it, the idiosyncratic artist pursues her/his sense of artistic and human identity.

Of interest is the concept of implicit (less conscious) memory and explicit (conscious) memory, and that some of the practice of artists as for therapists is 'making the implicit conscious' (Kolter et al. 2012: 204).

Casey (1987: 172) points to the fundamental importance of body 'there is no memory without body memory' and Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (2012: 42–72) challenges tendencies in empirical research to overlook the kinaesthetic nature of memory – reminding us that we are born moving.

Seeley and Reason (2008: 40) use the term 'bodying forth' in relation to direct expression of the body – and borrowing from Heron (1992) argue that 'there is more to such gestures than the expression of deep feeling and emotion'. There is aesthetic patterning.

According to Langer (1953) 'all life is rhythmic'. Movement need not precisely repeat for it to be rhythmic, rather 'be complete gestures, so that one can sense the beginning, intent and consummation, and see in the last stage of one the condition and indeed the rise of another' (126–27). For Eva Lilya (2009) 'rhythm signifies movement, which includes a tendency to imbalance. "Rhythm" might be described as a balanced form heading toward imbalance. [...] No balance at all means chaos, or in other words, a lack of rhythm', which brings us towards the problem of no rhythm described by Langer as 'unendurable'.

Being curious creatures we seize opportunities to glimpse or gain insight into uncommon or less known things. We can find the minutiae revealed under the microscope fascinating, be drawn to the intimacy of other human relationships, and inevitably resonate with and integrate these experiences into our own beings.

Nancy Stark Smith (2003: 165) ruminates on different experiences through considerations of time and motion within the 'contact improvisation' frame. She asks 'what other kinds of time could be played out in the dancing, and where might that take us?' She continues 'what I'm finding is that it is there, in the departures from the established time frame, that new aspects of the dancers' personalities emerge and new risks are taken. Taking the lid off the flow container, time can move in new ways, reflecting not only the dancers' mutuality but their singularity, in time, and in space'.

Practice as it unfolds in the present leaves its traces. This is no more clearly apparent than in body-based practices where 'doing' is framed by experience – the past – and the selective and contextual nature of body memory. We draw on our capacity to re-collect – a process of gathering fragments and remembering bodily sensations and their associations – almost as if in conversation, allowing the body's recollections to 'surface' or re-present. Such emergence to consciousness reveals what is valued and the life 'attitudes' and informing paradigms of individual lives. Practice and its traces are synchronous and inseparable over time – the audiovisual remnants included in this column of text attest to that. The chronology of trace, though fixed in trace's creation, allows further consideration, remixing, and shaping. The recycling, re-editing, responding processes of practice inevitably involve and include the reconditioning of traces. 

Our subjective accounts reflect our deeply physical/embodied relationships with the world, mediated by a plethora of second-hand knowledge acquired outside direct physical experience. Through our conversations we shape personal stories born of experience, often borrowing terms to assist us in locating and identifying our own perspective. Our tellings reflect a hybridising of methodologies, including an autobiographical approach, layered with a leaning towards a phenomenological attitude. Words are sometimes hard to come by and there are many gaps.

Billabong across seasons, 2012

Body and the felt sense of its experiencing is a complex entity. There are many ways of considering and knowing our bodies – some involve techniques that rose to prominence in the Western world in the past decades, such as Moshe Feldenkrais's view of the body's capacity to develop new movement patterns and restore itself through a consideration of its skeletal structures and potentials for action, the somatic awareness of Mabel Todd, and the 'body mind centering' work initiated by Bonny Bainbridge Cohen. Part of practice is concerned with unfolding, and shifting perspectives to reveal our selves in surprising and different ways. A condition of this may be oscillation between degrees of certainty found in known forms and processes, and consideration of new models and representations that might involve letting go of particular positions  a state of uncertainty in which we are open to other possibilities.

Jane Mortiss and two local McMahon women

Kiah cemetery, Helen Herbertson

It would seem 'truth' – something that seems so subjective anyway  is generally accepted as a quality with degrees of applicability rather than a precise and complete determination. Placing our particular bodies within broader and different frames of reference gives space for the emergence and coexistence of multiple and diverse meanings.

A level of suspicion toward any explanation seems appropriate, especially if we continue to hold postmodernist attitudes towards the limitations on our capacity to know ourselves and our world completely – that there is no absolute truth. In addition, theoretical and technological advancement – enlightening though it is – gives us an often-inflated sense of control and power over things. The complexity and nuances of embodied experience can be a timely reminder not to assume a technologically devised and virtual world as our only reference to reality.

One of the things Lepkoff and Noë describe is settling into a waiting state, where our condition is one of alertness to what is within and outside ourselves. It can be that we are drawn into energised moments, where body minds are active, like bees around a flower, where an action materialises or a thought arises in our waiting state, or both. What that 'is' seems to be inflected and infected with a mix of experience, thought, and acquired or emerging perspectives. There tends to be a handle or 'fix' on things to do with ourselves, that further directs the practice. But tendencies once conscious can be interrupted, or let go. 

Attention to the aesthetic that pervades creative and imaginative processes reveals much about the complexity of what we call 'form'. It indicates many considerations – of energy, tension between one thing and another, the life of one gesture and the genesis of the next, the degrees of amplification and the capacity to consider details of the gestalt. It also opens up the inherent flow between materiality and its interpretation, of a particular perceptual lens and a certain meaning attribution.

Don Asker, Kiah wetlands 2013

Creating space/time for contemplation is in itself an attitude or gesture. We invite the possibility of bodily experience in all its details of comportment, affect, and orientation to manifest.

Being curious means not only forming questions but listening. It can be that 'listening' involves an empathetic sensing – we recognise our own experience or resonate with what we perceive in another. As dance practitioners we negotiate and activate ways for the body to 'speak', by pointing to it or creating frames within which the body can be presented. We sometimes find ourselves seeking understanding by reflecting, analysing, critiquing, developing logical explanations and making epistemological connections. 

In placing body more centrally Merleau-Ponty reminds us that a holistic view of an individual self or other is both crucial and difficult to achieve. There is interplay between what we call our 'selves' and our 'worlds'. As we start to consider the deployment, shaping, and honing of our individual perceptions over time, we become conscious of our environment and practice awareness of self in relation to other beings and things.

We map and navigate our experience? We collect traces on our selves – make body bookmarks for future reference, such as the twist of an arm to brush paths through thickets of rushes or the lingering memory of resistance underfoot in muddy places that plays out through inclining spine, stretching hamstrings, and balancing arms. Such traces inflect and twist our predispositions, giving us cause to wonder and listen back into the body.

The focus here is the breathing, moving entity – the body – and the many complex and powerful forces that exist within and around human beings. It seems to be an intuitive focusing, and has less defined boundaries as to what constitutes body. It may be that concepts of the body will develop to enable considerations of beings' connectivity to be unravelled further.

Locating texts, the art works and constructions of others, and information that connects to the concerns of one's practice and that resonates with one's self can all be part of an incubating phase leading to the crystallisation of fresh work. It is a process that takes a certain commitment as well as time. Such activity provides external reference points and provocations. It connects us socially and culturally with those others who are important to us.

Cixous's account of writing uses metaphors to point to things rather than define them. The curious reader is encouraged to engage, perhaps feeling a synergy with the tone of the writer. Like a dog responding not so much to the word but to the tone or inflection of its owner’s voice, we can find our senses responding and attention pointed by such texts.

Metaphor – that capacity for things to refer beyond themselves – has conditions. It needs degrees of common ground – shared symbols and common reference points. Metaphorical understanding overlays a more fundamental bodily resonance between beings. The body's state of arousal or particular attenuation can evoke response, can channel our attention in particular ways and point us to aspects of our human condition, through the textural and tonal inflections of its flesh. There can be attunement between humans based on 'recognition' of embodied experience.

If change of place can be a catalyst and provocation for a renegotiation of our beings, it can also elicit deep responses and associations. There is the possibility of a corporeal playfulness as much as raw emotional responses. In the Kiah wetlands we experienced our (body) voices becoming layered or shifting in tone, becoming plural or changing 'tune'. We understood there to be a plurality of possibilities whilst resisting the temptation to name them or engage in immediate analysis. It liberated and empowered the body and we trusted however naively in its intelligence.

There is a risk here that we might begin to consider practices as somehow entities, with operating principles and values that can be found, known, and fixed.

Lurking not too far from here is the notion of a gestural code: a lexicon of the body that has been adopted and developed for functional and expressive purposes, that, in tandem with learned (choreographic) strategies, is appreciated for both its value as vehicle of expression and also its capacity to be limiting and binding. It points to the necessary evolution of 'languages' of the body. As Pelias indicates, there is uncertainty in the performer as to how these languages are formed or how they should be read although we acknowledge that we resonate or connect with the other/performer by sensory means. The scope and nature of that perception is a less understood aspect of the body's communication. The connection with a social mythology and repertory of shared or common metaphors and inbuilt behavioural responses as purported by Gibbs offers some further lines of inquiry.

It is sometimes the case that another's concept or understanding can illuminate or stimulate thought, a resonance that occurs which can enliven our being. Intersubjectivity also supports the creativity of a middle ground, a space for sharing and for the formation of new meaning. Corporeal intersubjectivity – the dialogues of the dancing bodies, the switching between witness and dancer – is a productive site. The situated aspect of these intersubjective embodied and multimodal dialogues further complicates and particularises. We become mindful of the inadequacies of many terms used.

It is possible to conceive of 'practice' as a continuum of processes, with many different nodes where work is shared or presented. A dialogue of self with the world, in which there is a co-construction of scores connecting us to others in particular ways. Particular scores may get further presentation and exploration and we may be interested in continuing to invest time in them.

As Helen has found with Morphia Series, we can consider certain works or bodies of work as offering points for reconnection and exploration through their reperformance, in that they provide a flexible matrix or framework for further investigation. The work then is more an assemblage that responds to the particularities of the score. It brings what has already been embodied, found, and collected into a new space while fostering an openness to discovery, and developing relationships, attitudes, and orientations of an artist and particular community at the moment of its next incarnation.

With the capacity to connect globally in physical and virtual terms dramatically increased comes many opportunities for access to others. Familiar patterns can be easily interrupted and entry to different cultural and geographic spaces negotiated. The fact of other possibilities and references supports a more rigorous self-appraisal as we 'artfully' consider the phenomena of body and embodiment.

One's level of engagement seems heightened by perception of shifts in rhythmicity and pattern, by variations in the tone or texture of environment, and by unusual and less familiar situations. 

The unusual stands out, and any deviation from the 'normal' demands attention and sometimes response. Sometimes when in less chartered waters we suspend our critical faculty. On the other hand we often cultivate an attitude of openness and attention to detail, where for example we see a snake in the grass that others might miss, hear the patterns and pitches of pedestrian feet in a mall, or feel the wind change unexpectedly. Such detailed awareness allows us to find and separate patterns, to notice variation and in turn diversify our responses. Nurturing this state of alertness was a core preoccupation of us all through the phases of immersion at Kiah.

It is the power of artistic construction to suggest and evoke beyond itself. For the performer the activities of the body reflect degrees of order, of pattern and rhythmicity, and the inscription of many cultural forces on the body. The performer experiences her/his immediate perceptual and emotional state within a body that is pre-pared and pre-scribed. One of the challenges is devising strategies and conceptualisations that temporarily liberate them from prescription.

Changing what is given attention, using tools of speed and dynamic variation, intensity, and amplification contributes to differentiation in our body's deployment. Such shifts in attention are strategies for the improvising performer and can be further emphasised and directed by the videographer, and dance artists like Teshigawara make such concerns part of the palette of possibilities.

So perhaps in our time we are seeing the very nature of practice changing, with power sharing, collaborative inquiry, participation, and interactivity blurring and redefining concepts of artist/practitioner. A body-based practice as lived at Kiah arises in a resolve that has a lived experiential core, but which places one's self within a community of other selves, with an implicit relational aspect and degrees of reciprocity and mutual influence. There also lies paradoxically a discontent with what we know, and a willingness to explore outside the comfort zones of 'normality'.

Part of Latitudinal Conversations was the experience of changing location, and in particular our negotiation of different spaces.

helen herbertson


Recipient of the Kenneth Myer Medallion for Outstanding and Distinguished Contribution to the Performing Arts, Herbertson has been crafting performance for over three decades – in intimate non-theatre venues, traditional theatrical settings, and large-scale outdoor sites, in theatre and opera performances, educational projects, and touring programmes. 'My work focuses on the dynamic flow between people and place – the interaction of body and landscape or situation – interior life with light, form, place – person and place. This approach fuses an expressive, physical language with a detailed exploration of the performance site, emphasising the integration of lighting and design while working collaboratively, from inception, with performers and creative teams.' Creative partnerships have yielded an array of award winning work (Descansos…resting places, Delirium, Morphia Series, Sunstruck), which are regularly presented in local and international festivals. Helen is currently on staff as Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coordinator DANCE, Faculty of VCA & MCM, University of Melbourne.

The processes of examining and reflecting upon experiences tend to use existing concepts and ideas. Any attempt to name particular aspects of a practice, while sometimes useful, at the same time can oversimplify or even 'rule' out others.

Individual and community values reflect attitudes to 'knowing' and contribute to diversity in the constructions we call knowledge. For example, in the eyes of many in our society, an artistic practice serves no purpose, and, as others would claim, it is not art if it does. We find ourselves in a world of plural values, confronting the question of purpose or function of our dance. What if purpose is not a prerequisite? What if artistic practice is integral to being.

A corporeal practice would seem to involve problematising and reorganising body, time, and space. It reflects our motivations. Such a personal practice inevitably engages 'my body', and answers to 'what' and 'who' I am. It is a corporeal ontology – the phenomenon of being in the world.

Creative practices have as a pivotal element exchange or sharing with audiences/others. The nature of this engagement varies but at a fundamental level involves exploration of our humanity – our corporeal beings – and the dynamic relationship we all have with everything that surrounds us.


In the disposition and alertness with which we arrange, activate, and orient ourselves and our sensory organs we develop a reflexive dance – a sharing – with the ‘other’ that suits the particularities of our time, space, and corporeality and is focused by a sense or valuation of the tacit knowledge held in the body. This knowledge is complex, mixing, for example, practical/experiential, anatomical/physiological, conceptual, as well as mythological understandings. Considerations of which and how these aspects are foregrounded provide indications of the social reality at a particular time and place, corporeal knowledge, prevailing myths, theory, histories and values.

Helen in the studio, Kiah, 2012–13 

The nature of the forms reflects the artist's disposition at the time, and is 'read' by others in ways that reflect their unique perspectives. It may be important to consider that any critical reflection is shaped by the values and framing perspectives of the critic, and that the roles of artist and critic are interchangeable. We like the idea of this being a type of conversation grounded in the body before language.

There remains a question of difference between the flash or insight that 'materialises' without consideration, that is pre-reflective – which sometimes is the way we feel ourselves when we are less censoring, analytical, and critical – and what occurs further on in time, as we 'thoughtfully' consider, explore, and deepen our understanding.

Emotional and physiological reflexivity means that changes in the state of our arousal are concordant with the tone of activity in body and mind. The tone of our being reflects our situation and particular orientations, attitudes, understanding, and values of the moment. Adjustments in one's embodied state effects the 'telling' and as dancers know, we can shift the energies, intensities, speeds, and shapes with 'telling effect'. Such shifts are also stimulated – as we found on the south coast – by changes in location and position, or to perception of a situation or place. The influence and stimulus of somatic considerations on dance last century has expanded and continues today, connecting body and place, corporeality, context, and emotional state.

Within the micro system of a personal practice individual values and beliefs inform choices, the nature of relationships, and the aesthetic rightness of form. They shape our behaviours and inevitably our corporeal selves. Our bodies are a rich site for all sorts of archaeology providing for many different 'readings'. They may reveal our often tacit adherence or commitment in our practice to rules and limiting dogma.

At an individual level, there is a tendency to allow for multiple voices – part of our postmodernist legacy to accept that there will be oozings and slippages as things become less contained (able). Contrary to Weber's notion of us seeking a general accommodation of the many aspects of our life experience we are also drawn to differentiate, to celebrate the fractures, the dislocations, and the inexplicable.

Standing on a stony hillside at Kiah, where forty-three white Catholic settlers are buried on ground that was once a vantage point for indigenous hunters, brings conflicting values into sharp relief. Issues of survival and qualities of living float in the air. Our bodies slip on the leaves, stones, and dust – in and out of the shadows of eucalypts. We become conscious of many untold stories – the possibility of there being untold truths, and that this literal, physical ground is accompanied by another ground in which we might contemplate and into which we might invite other considerations.

The uncertainty that is part of creative process can be a condition of being in the audience and indeed indicates a gradual blurring of performer and audience roles. In this framing of performance a mutual interest in the work is something cultivated and explored together, and the materials of the work are laid out and identifiable. Performer and audience share in a way that also has particular degrees of intimacy and sensuous engagement. It is a reminder of the corporeal dimension of a dialogue that exists alongside conceptual and narrative threads in performance. That this occurs outside verbal language can be disconcerting at first. 

As we pursue dialogical and partnership approaches in practice and more directly connect to our broader community, then the practice changes especially in relation to power, leadership, and implicit concepts of artistic authorship. It is not so much an emphasis on one voice, though our practice is still essentially a reflection of our interests and commitments, and it becomes necessary to acknowledge and be responsible to a network of connected others.

The connection of the poetics of writing and construction of literary metaphor has parallels with the poetics of a body and its capacity for kinaesthesia.

The places we chose or gravitated to indicated a commitment to and interest in the 'natural world'. How we valued these experiences manifested in the various ways we worked and connected with these places. 

In the wetlands we sometimes sensed that our documentation including written or spoken reflections converged or shared unexpected synergies. Sometimes these emerged or presented themselves overtime in the course of further play, regroupings, and reflections  or as some would have it, we loosened our hold.

We were reminded of the capacity of art making to be both stimulating and a process in and through which meaning crystallises. 

While first hand experiencing  our own corporeal experience  derives from our sensory perception and reflects our participation and engagement, we also participate in other's accounts where our experience is 'second hand'. If this secondary knowledge is an integral part of our 'knowing' then we might better acknowledge that first hand personal experience is constantly mediated by other sources.

The experience of a particular moment reflects our interaction with particular things  the objects, people, and structures near and far from us. We are perceptually selective and inevitably 'overlook' as we focus on particular things. There can be a degree of simplification and reduction inherent to our representations. As we acknowledge other possibilities  'other-nesses' in our selves  we implicate our corporeal selves. We involve ourselves in processes of differentiation as we connect/disconnect. This presents methodological issues for practitioners as theoretical and philosophical perspectives are intertwined in approaches and attitudes to the body.

The question of who is 'speaking' is important here, whose body is present  maybe we need to acknowledge a particular body, and note that we may be tempted to represent others, but that in itself is self revealing. 

The body in relation to its surroundings is a key consideration. We might ask to whom or what 'body' is oriented – a perceptual thing in itself depending on who asks the question. We can consider not only the things around or in the room with body, but also how body is participating in that relationship – the gestures, speeds, intensities – and also inquire of the body as being as to its perceptions, feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Changes to context – relocating body – requires body to adapt, affords opportunity for reflection, and moments where different experience supports cognitive realisation of change. It is accompanied by rebuffering or refreshing of one's body page. 


In Latitudinal Conversations, then, it may be that our ‘shock’ of being in a more natural environment, or our attentiveness to historical evidence of colonisation and earlier indigenous inhabitation of the far south coast, is an indication of how different urban life has become. We recognised the change that occurs and it seems we activated capacities to be deeply ‘in’ these different contexts.

The particularities of a body, the idiosyncrasies and the embodied qualities of a particular living being, may be known by their difference from those of another being though remain partial and meaningless without context – location and situation.

We can resonate with what we perceive in the 'other' where it reflects our own lived experience and intercorporeal understanding. All of us carry in and through our bodies the traces of our experience, our development and learning. Our capacity to associate empathetically and resonate with others is indication of the vitality of this embodied knowledge.

That we might problematise the ordinary – know it differently, as other than we might first assume – brings the sceptical and circumspect approach to the fore. Does this suggest that the bodily resonance might be another form of knowing? 

The problem of presence – how are we engaged in the moment of performing, how do we attenuate our sensory awareness, and what are the relationships and dialogues we seek in our practice – brings with it a degree of instability and opportunity for movement based artists.

The notion of the body as site is qualified by the importance of placing it in context. It seems true to say that the body as expressive entity can 'talk' to partners in the field of performance practices and beyond into other fields including behavioural, cultural, social, health and science. But body-based creative practices are also reflective of individual trajectories with particular histories, allegiances, and values. The grounding force of being located in raw and less compromised elements of the world brings with it an awareness of complexity and fragility of being one's self.

Consideration of body outside place is arguably absurd. The reflexive nature of body and the space in and around its being becomes evident as we explore shifts in affect.

Helen Herbertson and Jane Mortiss with suspended reed screen collected from Towamba river flats, 2013.

Individuals within communities live subject to complex networks of interdependencies that tend to ‘normalise’ and pattern behaviours. So being for a while at least less regimented and less orderly, although disorientating and contributing to a feeling of being lost, may not be such a bad thing. Rather, it is a condition that allows questions, readjustments, and new perspectives.

In the Latitudinal Conversations project our process broadens becoming one of collocating our diverse collections of things – the documentations and objects, with ongoing improvisations and further constructions of the media. The affective aspects of human engagement in particular natural and civilised places remained central throughout. We became aware of the capacity to heighten sensory perception and trigger thought, and found ethical questions arising from our presence in the landscape and the day-to-day relationships being negotiated with our environments.

These are reflected in our further musings aloud and activities that involved returning to sites, and in accumulating and compounding experience over time.

Image sequence reflecting the Kiah environment, 2012

Jane Mortiss flooded pasture, intensive 2, Kiah, NSW, 2012

Text: Helen Herbertson

Jane Mortiss, wetlands and studio, Kiah, NSW, 2012

Where a work is a collection of elements of which the live performer is one part, there can be the notion of a gestalt  a whole that is more than the sum of its elements. Perhaps where this is the case, the work resembles a metaphor, its meaning is more than its constituent parts and it tends to refer to something else. Its affective aspect reflects the whole and the interaction of its elements.

Jane Mortiss and woven material screens, 2012–13

John Salisbury in the potting shed, Kiah, NSW, 2012

Helen Herbertson: wetlands, Kiah, NSW, 2012

Explorative work in the studio, Kiah, NSW 2012

Jane Mortiss, hand, Kiah hillside, 2013

'Walking', Kiah, NSW, 2012

Don Asker, studio Kiah, 2013 

Don Asker, Kiah, NSW, 2012

Spoken reflection: Don Asker, Kiah 2012

Jane Mortiss

Kiah cemetery