Creating a silent beginning scene, based on 'presence'

 Inspired by Philipe Zarrilli Tim Etchells we create a possible beginning, or arrival of the audience. I prepare a couple of steps that Ferdinand has to go through as an inner score.

Step 1 (back to the audience) : enter a state of questioning, openness, curiosity for what is ‘other’

Step 2 (one foot towards the audience) : listen to the environment and absorb it; become fully aware so your embodied consciousness is woven in the moment

Step 3 (second foot towards the audience) : focus on the banality of ‘being there’ in a room with a bunch of people for which you are expected to do something. Measure the distance between you and the audience.

It takes some time for Ferdi to take the time for each step, and he surely needs more anchors to specifiy the inner score. But the idea of starting in silence and taking the time to look at the actor who is not doing a lot, does slow down normal time. And it does confront you with your own position as a spectator. You came here to spectate and you expect the performer to do someting but then he doesnt. Also the concentration that im looking for in Ferdinand is something he can do very well - to concentrate on the moment - on the sounds and movements that are actually there in the space. Ultimately this arrival scene would be to become present in the here and now, both for the spectators and the performer in relation to the actual space.


Reconfiguring the project (4th of April)


We investigate sensitive ways of perception with three ingredients: the body, live-video and T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. In the
poem we have found an ongoing oscillation  between thematic opposites. In other words, we have found a fluidity of motion, like waves of the sea. From the perspective of this rhythmical metaphor of waves, we are working with the body of the performer (how does the body speak, breath, manipulate soil?) and with live-video (how to film, project, manipulate, create images?). In doing so, we aim to create expressions that increase the sensitive awareness of yourself in relation to your environment.


In a mediatised and digital culture we relate to each other and to the world in fragmented ways on an incredible speed (zapping on television, clicking on the internet). To resist fragmentation and high-acceleration, we would like to make an environment of coherence and deceleration. In doing so, we aim to create a sensorium, a fluid space.


Based on the first explorative phase we will continue to crystallise a ‘scenographic poem’ in three parts, or rather - three experiments:

Scene 1: Breath. One experiment focuses on extreme breathing of the actor, which evokes extreme physical reactions from witnesses. This derives from a common fascination in the body in performance arts. The fascination for breathing comes from the idea that breathing is one of the most primal ways for human bodies to understand rhythm.


Scene 2: Air. One experiment focuses on speaking an adaptation of Burnt Norton, the first part of Four Quartets about air. We stripped Burnt Norton down to its verbs in infinitive form. These are spoken in through breath-rhythms. It evokes a sense of slowing down, and it addresses the imagination through association.


Scene 3: Earth. One experiment focuses on filming interactions between the hand of the actor and soil, exploring the hand as landscape. The inspiration for this experiment is East Coker, the second part of Four Quartets about earth. It addresses the hand as most primal sense organ of touch, in tension with the non-tactility of video-technology.




*** Formulating the research inquiry ***

1. for the HKU, january 2017 (Dutch)

2. Reflections on Nirav's feedback (Dutch)

3. for the UU, february 2017 (English)


  Isolating the Breath

It appears that I am interested in the breath of the natural actions. Also, I'm not very interested in the images that these excercises give because they deviate to much from the style of acting that Ferdinand is strong at, which is less like fire and more like earth and air. We focus thus on breathing as a core action, next to speaking.


I ask: What happens to the breath in these actions? And we find four types of breath
- breathing in
- breathing out
- holding breath high
- holding breath low

Particularly in holding the breaths there is a performative, Abramovich kind of quality of wanting to hold it. Especially in holding the breath low there are little spasms in the body. It is interesting that there is no breath (the still point) yet there is movement. If Ferdi holds his breath high there is more a sense of tensing the head, giving the head a red head, as if he is pooping. Also sounds occur like HNNGG and HUMPH.Later when we are working with video, we find another performative, Abramovich kind of quality simply in breathing in and out as intens as you can. Ferdi starts making spontaneous sounds after doing this for quiet a while; the borders or limits of the body are touched; something in the body comes out that is normally not there (a sound when you breath, a spasm when you do not breath).


Creating a text, inspired by werkwoorden as words of action

Starting from the question: How can we use the poem to put the actor into action? I think of verbs. In the poem when verbs of the sea were mentioned,I wondered: how to move those verbs of the sea with the performer's body; How to whine, to menace [bedreigen], to caress, to wail [klagen, loeien, jammeren], heaving [zwellen, rijzen]? In looking up the meaning of these verbs.  I came to the Dutch word for 'verb' which is 'werkwoord'. It literally means ‘work word’. This Dutch understanding of ‘verbs’ implies a sort of action, which we are looking for.


In search for action I distill the verbs from two parts of the poem which results in a new kind of poem. I find it striking that there still is an inner logic or a rhythm to the text even when it is stripped down to its verbs; it is as if we have found a lifethreat of the poem. See pdf files >>>

Doing the Verbs through Speaking and Breathing

Because of an interest in rhythm I connect speaking the words to breathing excersises. we work with long and short breaths. the long variations evokes a certain calmth, like waves, the short variation a certain claustrophobia. The short rhythm bring to mind the rhythm of cities and metropoles, in which there is a lot of pressure on time.longer waves of breath sound almost like a sentence, which triggers the idea of a journey that invites you to dream away and associate rather than to narrate a story.


Hearing this text of only verbs gives multiple impessions:

- In both the short and long breaths, the musicality or inner logic of the verbs containt a poetic quality (there is rhythm in sound and meaning)

- It may be as if someone is saying an inner monologue; a state of mind; a looking into somebody's head. Because 'to be' is the most prominent verb that is repeated; this person is given an existential, philosophical character. when speaking fast and claustrophobic, the character becomes manic, which reminds us of Not I by Beckett. when speaking slow, it brings the owl to mind.

- The good thing about these verbs, is that it has a certain openness. It allows other media (film for example) to bring another layer into the space, which is good for the kind of composition or constellation of ingredients that i am aiming for.

Recording videos of the breathing body and

of interactions between body and soil

Welcome  :)

The startingpoint of "Still Moving" has been: to map and perform an artistic process in which the aim is to create a scenographic poem.  If poetry is about 'feeling in language' (Eliot), then scenographic poetry is about feeling in the materiality of a spatial-temporal composition. We have started to work with an actor, live video technology and 'Four Quartets' by T.S. Eliot. Throughout the process the main ingredients have shifted towards: the breath of the actor, a lot of soil and sensor-technology. The research question has been evolving from an interest in the concept of 'presence', towards an interest in rhythms of the body in relation to rhythms of the earth, towards an interest in the materiality of the ingredients.

This page is meant to give insight into the shifts and developments of our creation process.

You can use the 'contents' menu to look around and find out who we are and what we have been doing.

Kind regards,
Juriaan Achthoven

Filming the breathing body

We make video-images of body parts moving because of speech or because of (intense) breathing.  Especially in those images of breathing, the movement of the skin is more perceivable. It is beautiful when bones become visible and invisible; they appear and they are covered with flesh (for example in the Ribbs, belly side, and throat side above). Also these images are beautiful because of the high video quality. Also the body-image becomes a sort of landscape… how can we make use of those images over a longer period of time? How can we stretch that HD quality in slow-motion without losing the HD quality. Also – how is the HD quality going to be with a projection? Or do we need a television?And could we project the body in a fragmented way or as cracks?

Sorts of Verbs

When I look into the theory of verbs, I come across 7 different verbs:
- impersonal/reflexive verbs,
- transitive/intransitive verbs
- strong/weak verbs
- a compound verb
- deverbative verbs
- notional verb
- irregular verb


Later on I will find out that a crucial distinction is missing in this list of verbs, namely the distinction between active and passive verbs. The poem of Eliot is full of the passive verb 'to be,' which refers to the vita contemplativa rather then the vita activa.

Inspiration for video and text


In the brainstorm I can distuingish
4 types of using technology:

- practical use such as the shovel or the bicycle - technology we use for practical purposes such as working on the land or transporting ourselves)

- scientific use (to measure natural phenomena such as the distance from our planet to the moon)

- social use, that enables us to connect, via telephone, whatsapp

- a layering or spatial or immersive use, with virtual reality or augmented reality technology - the most spatial type of technology where the entire environment (or space) in which you are in becomes artificially altered. a technological layer is added to the space in which you are in

        *** First Phase ***

                                      February and March 2017

                                 in HKU studio's at Janskerkhof

In this period we have been creating four things:
1- Creating a text, inspired by werkwoorden
2- Doing the Verbs through Speaking and Breathing
3- Creating a silent beginning scene
4- Recording videos of the breathing body and of interactions between body and soil

Through this period I learn to articulate the direction of our research less conceptually and more precisely in relation to our artistic practice. That means that the concept of presence  moves to the background, whereas the concept of rhythm comes to the fore as a core perspective to continue creating. Also the media that we will continue to focus on, will be specified from here on  as the body of the performer in relation to live-video.

Are we afraid of technology? its remarkable that there are negative words such as 'addiction', 'estrangement' and 'alienation'

Walking Audience
In rehearsing the arrival scene, the idea is born that spectators may choose themselves where they will seat. It gives a much more interesting view on the space, because I can see how others are looking at the actor, so it opens multiple perspectives of looking and being looked at and it puts other, non-performing humans in a performing position, taking part in the landscape of the space.

Also the idea hangs in the air how we can invite the spectator to use the camera, to film the actor.


Inspiration for further skin filming

Using Video and soil

me and Rhian have experimented with how the soil can serve as an extension of the body. We are considering to add soil as a fourth element to the triad of technology,body,poem.


Using Isadora


Doing the Verbs Physically

Because the verbs have a passive, inner and reflective quality, it is not so inviting for physical action on the floor. To provoke physical action, we try to work with more primal and active verbs. I find a list of verbs from the natural method of mime by Georges Hébert, who mentions 11 actions:

  • Tirer
  • Pousser
  • Grimper
  • Marcher
  • Courir
  • Sauter
  • Lever
  • Porter
  • Attaquer
  • Se defender
  • Nager

We have been doing actions of pushing, pulling and climbing. We did 4 steps for each action:
- do the action with an object
- do the action without the object (internalize it)
- repeat it in a rhythm
- enlarge the breath



*** First brainstorm ***

We get together with Joost, Rhian, Ferdinand in
Café de Voortuin to brainstorm about
 Technology, Poetry and the Body 

Immediate connection with dance:
"Dance of language"
"Dancing words"


with Big Words:
- Voices of Gods
- Expression of Soul
- Capacity to Create [poeisis]




How would you describe the rhythm of our time? I think information comes to us in incredible speed, in excess and in fragments.(Digital) technology has made it possible to distribute immense amounts of information in a short time. Our experience of time has accelerated and our capacity to shift between different sorts of information has increased since we watch television and more so since we use internet. We can change spaces, stories, actions in no time.

Photographs by:
John Coplans

Photographs by:
Claudia Larcher

All four of us mention Marina Abramovich. Related to other things we wrote down, we can ask: 


What does she do with her body in her performances?

How does she approaches the body?

How does she uses the senses?

How does her body relate to her Self?

To what extent or how is her body an object?

What excercies can we do to explore the Abramovich approach to the body?

writings by Ferdinand:

words are artifacts

the body is not

a poem is a body

technology brings layers to all

artifacts of our body

words make embodied poems

to be shared online


a body is small

but technology

can make it huge

where are poems

that make the

body small


Reading Session in the library with Joost, Rhian, Ferdinand (17th Feb)

at Joost


We read the poem and discuss 6 questions to ask a poem and how the rhythm of the poem relates to the rhythm of our contemporary time. The 6 questions are:


 Approachin a poem aurally: what is its melody, sound, rhythm?

 Approaching a poem physically: what is the movement, the gesture, the rhythm?

  Approaching a poem in terms of expression: what thoughts and feelings are expressed?

 Approaching a poem in terms of words: how does the poem play with the language of words?

  Approaching a poem visually: what is its typography?


An understanding of the poem's rhythm emerges in the metaphor of waves. What is happening in the poem is that A is not A but B but B is not B but C but C is not C because also A. This continuous denial or destabilization of fixed entities (or fixed images) and the reference to earlier entities is very interesting to take as a principle of composition. This implies continuous movement from one image into another, resulting in a being on the move constantly, or ‘being captured in movement’. How to keep images on the move? And how can we express this in terms of presence? How ‘present’ will one image be if it always moves towards the next image?

In the poem there is a continuous sense of disbalance, or continuous movement, like waves in the sea. There is never a clear image or it is immediately contrasted with an opposite image or juxtaposed with another image. There is never a rhythm that goes on so long that you disappear in it. New rhythms interfere continuously bumping you out of the former rhythm, forcing you gently to go along in different motions; forcing you gently to keep shifting attention.


Insights about time-experience IN perception
We have been getting together twice to analyze the poem, on the 1th of March and on the 4th of April. In the first session I was struck by the reoccuring notion of the Rosegarden, becoming a first world or actual world; as a metaphysical, religous, immaterial world to which the poet invites us to go to, through passages of words and images, away from this daily reality, the second world. A reoccuring theme is the passage of time, or: the sensation of time in the Rosegarden and the relation of time-experience to rhythms of perception. I learn that time experience in the Rosegarden cannot be understood otherwise than IN perception.


*** Reading Sessions ***

With Ferdinand (director-performer)

-          Ferdi is a good friend of mine who has recently decided to start acting. I am very grateful for his determination to do this the way he has been doing this: open to work with, determined to get it right and critical about his tasks.

-          I have found a strong quality in a certain delicacy and sensibility, from which he can move. Especially in the mating dance with his hands, we found a strong quality of slow and sensible movement. Remarkably enough this is the only scene that is nourished by a narrative of the two hands encountering. Even though the audience does not see a narrative per see, the dynamic of this scene is grounded in a human understanding of exchange – in one word: human interaction. This results in movements that make sense to the performer, which enables him to communicate his movements convincingly to an audience.

-          Ferdi has a strong will to go to the borders of what his body can take. Particularly in the breathing scene there has been a will to push himself to the border of how much he can actually breath in. He bas been bringing his own body into an unknown territory where uncontrollable movements (spasms) start to happen. I have always cherished this quality as an ‘Abramovich’ kind of quality, by which I mean to experience a ‘real’ conflict of the body.

-          Ferdinand is not completely comfortable to play in the round audience set-up which I introduce one day before the first performance. I manage to convince him that we can do it if we pay attention to the Soil Dance. I am not completely aware of the risk that this implies, because we simply don’t have time to practice this enough for him to internalize the movements and flow with them. He has been very flexible and courageous in adapting his performance to last minute changes.

*** Reflections on Collaboration ***


Everybody has put in a lot of time and effort to get this project from the ground, for which I am very very thankful. Nobody is earning anything apart from the experience of working in a performance collective. It is very valuable to have such a diverse group of people that share a similar drive to create something about the relation between human, earth and technology.

With Rhian (director-scenographer)

-          I have been very happy to have Rhian so close to the work that we have been doing. She has always been there with an inexhaustible, positive energy, an unstoppable amount of ideas and a timeless and heart-felt passion for the cyclical nature of life on earth.

-          Very helpful in conversation; we can understand each other easily; we seem to have a similar taste or a similar interest in the materiality of things, a Buddhist approach to spirituality and thinking of space in terms of smoothness and fluidity.

-          She has inspired me to work with soil, that has become a main ingredient of the performance. Without her I would have never came up with the opening scene nor with the soil dance (two scenes in which the soil is a vital co-actor of the composition). Also she has inspired me to work with the idea of circular or cyclical motion, both in the structure and the theme of the piece as well as in its spatial set-up.

-          We both have open and chaotic minds. We get enthusiastic very easily about many different ideas. This brings about a good creative climate. But the tricky thing is that we need to be pragmatic too, in two ways I think. Firstly, in relation to the heart of what we are doing; the research question or basic dramaturgy. Secondly, in relation to a logistic reality: what is actually possible to do?

With Joost (director-dramaturg)

-          Joost is a good friend of mine and it is a pleasure to collaborate with him on a professional level. I cherish his listening, his critical questions, his artistic suggestions and references both in dramaturgical conversation (what he calls ‘artistic dialogue’), and also in response to the work that we make.

-          We have been coming together to talk 1-on-1 quite a few times. I would speak my mind, he would question me and think along with me. These conversations have always been very good for me to articulate and clarify thoughts about the work. Also, he has been with us in one or two rehearsals to observe and one time also to co-create, in a session where the goal was to provoke new material. Towards the end of the process he has been attending run-throughs on which he gave us his thoughts. These moments were very valuable because they raised a couple of crucial questions, such as: what is the dynamic of the piece? Is it supposed to be one piece or 4 separate pieces? And what is the relation  between the performer and the soil in this (or these) piece(s)?

-          We haven’t had a strong dramaturgical starting point together. I wrote my internship plan and I did ask him once to help me with it. I remember it was very complex back then. We haven’t taken the time to essentialize the basic dramaturgy of the performance, we haven’t gathered ‘foundational images’ (van Kerkhoven). Rather throughout the process we have been renegotiating the beating heart of the performance, which testifies of an unstable dramaturgy throughout the process.

-          Sometimes I discussed dramaturgical things with Rhian and not with Joost. This has lead my ideas to develop into different directions. This says something about how easily I may be influenced, or it may point to a quality that I want to work on a shared, common ground. But the dramaturgical ground is different ground from a scenographic ground. I think it is important to separate the two more clearly, which means I speak with Rhian mainly about scenography, and with Joost mainly about dramaturgy. What we could also do is to have meetings the three of us. It has been very interesting to come together the three of us to do the reading sessions. But they were neither about the dramaturgy nor about the scenography of the performance. This leads me to conclude that I have to set my mind more clearly on who I am meeting on what kind of ground, and what the specific questions are for that specific domain.

Creating the Mating dance (new opening scene)

The Mating Dance has started to come into existence in response to the idea of investigating the concept of rhythm (rather than the original idea to investigate the concept of presence). In my notes I have formulated this new direction as follows:

From the perspective of rhythm as a core to experience in general and performance in particular, we investigate the body in relation to live-video. We work with one rhythmic metaphor that we have found through T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which is: the rhythm of waves.  The idea is to investigate what ‘waves’ do with the body of the performer (how does the body speak, breath, manipulate soil according to this rhythm?) and what do waves do with live-video (how to film, project, manipulate, create images according to this rhythm?).

To perform interactions between the body and video we chose to focus our filming experiments on the hands. By filming in close-up the hands that are burried in the earth, images occur that are non-human images; images of the human body that are in some sense de-humanized so that they become 'other' entities or creatures or forms (see picture). But it turns out to be very difficult to work on this level of image making because the actor has to move his hand super very precise and he has to look constantly at the screen (to see what his movements are doing to the image-on-screen) which all together is very difficult to make ánd emphasizes very much the screen-image rather than the live image.. Considering the problems we find with live-video technology in general, we decide to continue experimenting with other forms of technology, such as image-projections (see "technological deviations" )

We decide to continue working with the hands on the back of the performer (see picture). From there on the idea comes up that the two hands may encounter each other on the back of the performer on which we project more abstract images (see picture).. From there on, the idea is born to make an encounter between two hands on the back of the performer. Before we know it, we are sitting behind a table (see picture) to practice the encounter, by making a little narrative about the character of the Right hand (and particular its rhythm; its way of moving) opposed to the character of the Left hand. A driving force for both their characters is: the breath. They breath differently. It has been wonderful to see how the movements of the hands changed, when the performer had the task to move them in sync with his breath. By giving his breath to the movement of the hands, he brought these hand-characters to life; they become convincing, independent creatures.

We make a little script for the encounter between the two hands, with an entrance of both hands, a moment of sensing each other, the Right hand approaching and seducing, the Left hand accepting, the two hands making contact that develops into an entanglement that develops into an intense tension between the two hands. We call it the mating dance because it's basically a sex-scene.

In a later stadium we have burried the performer under a heap of soil (see picture) which would ultimately become the opening scene of the performance. The logic of this given is that the performer has to come out, from under the soil which leads to the question: how will he do that? We try to do it with the mating dance and we adapt it to the situation with the soil. The stage for his hands has changed from his back, to a layer of soil on his belly. Remarkably enough, the dehumanizing effect that we found while working with the live video technology, is still working in the final performance but not in a technologically mediated way, but live.


Interactive Performance Designer and the Sensorbelt 

Out of a wish to smoothen our wish to work with technology, we send out a request to the Interactive Performance Design department for someone to support the project technically. We quickly get a response from Juriaan Gregor, who is a third year’s Honours student in Interactive Performance Design. He likes interactivity between spectators and the performance and between performers and technology. We meet with him and Rhian and I like what he says about technology being there for the actor to play with. He poses critical questions, he seems eager to work with video-mapping and he proposes to make a sensorbelt that can measure the breath. We agree to collaborate, thus we have 2 new players: Gregor and technology.

Juriaan G. is going to create a belt that measures the breath, which invites us to bring the breath more to the centre of the project as a rhythm of the body.. a rhythm to be composed in relation to rhythms of the earth...
Such moments always invite me to rethink the concept of the project. We started with this interest in Presence. We move away from it and become more interested in notions of Rhythm. Now the breath occurs, which I take as a specification of Rhythm. The breath has been there with us from the beginning of the research, in relation to the text, when we isolated the breath and when we filmed the breath. Now, through Juriaan G. the breath is affirmed to take a central place in the research.


I find an interesting text about the breath in a book by David Wiles. He has been writing a little book about Theatre & Time (2014) in which he speaks about three ways of understanding rhythm through the body: through our walk, through our heartbeat and through our breath.. Wiles speaks about these physical, embodied rhythms as micro rhythms and states that before such human micro rhythms, there have always been the macro rhythms of the cosmos; the rhythms of the universe or the rhythms of the earth, whereby he means:

“…rhythms of nature which stem from the rotation of the Moon around the Earth, and the Earth around the Sun, and the spinning of the Earth upon its axis.” (18)

He derives this distinction between rhythms of the earth and rhythms of the body from John Dewey. Though Im not interested in what rhythm came first, I am interested in how these rhythms can join each other in a scenographic dance.

The rhythm of the earth resonates with he core theme that we have started with. The rhythms of the body finds a specification in the rhythm of the breath, the latter being sparked by Juriaan G.'s idea to create an interactive breathing belt.

This device would enable us to perform an idea that was born earlier, namely to sync the breath of the performer with the light-intensity of the space, so that the space would 'breath along' with the performer.

Technological deviations
We start looking for different ways of using technology than through live-video. We wanted to use multiple live video camera's simultaneously, but this turned out to be technically impossible for our know-how.. The idea of working with one live-video camera is not very appealing, because it means a static perspective. To mobilize the camera with a cameraman or with the performer was also not very appealing, because this has a amateur-like quality. So we start looking for different ways of using technology..

Inspired by the openness of the verb-text (which allows the listener to associate) we start looking for images that have a similar open quality.. It turns out to be super difficult to find open images, because images represent something, refer to something outside of themselves. Images are suitable to adress certain themes, certain exterior things.. We have been looking for many different pictures (see on the right) but ultimately we came to the conclusion that we wanted to use more spherical ways of communicating visually. I mean no concrete images but rather abstract moods or movements. Such more abstract images we (such as brocoli from very closeby, a river-landscape from above, a seashell from closeby, and big data mappings) (see other image on the right)


My role as a director:

-          I have been playing the director, which is someone that channels, or directs different people, ideas and materials towards an artistic performance.

-          This project has been mainly an artistic project, rather than an artistic research project, Artistic research has been on my mind lately, since I have been doing an internship with artistic researcher Falk Hübner and since I am writing my master’s thesis about artistic research. I have been struggling throughout the process to articulate either a proper research question or a basic dramaturgy of the performacne (a strong, ‘beating heart’).

- This Research Catalogue is an attempt to reveal the path of my artistic process and give insight on how and on what basis I have been making choices throughout the process. The knowledge that is disseminated via this page is primarily knowledge for others who are involved in creative processes. My aim is to continue to work on this thin line between research process and artistic process. I do this because I am looking for a way..


 “to renegotiate distinctions between modes of thinking and stage practices in such a way that, after spending some time in this practice, one performs as she thinks, writes as she performs, reads as she writes. In all cases she acts moved by similar imperatives pushing her to delve deeper into recurrent research questions” (Theodoridou 2013)

With Juriaan G.
(director-interactive performance designer)

- Juriaan has joined the team in the last two weeks of the proces.As Juriaan says himself, he has not been part of the development of the technology but rather he has been executing what we had in mind. We have brought down the role of technology to a supporting role. Through the sensorbelt the breath is supported by the lights. The lights in general are used to create the size and mood of the stage to support the action of the performer. If the role of technology wants to become more active in the performance, it is necessary to collaborate more intensively with an interactive performance designer from the beginning on.

- Juriaan has created a prototype of a sensorbelt that could make the breath of the actor interact with the intensity of lighting. Unfortunately the sensorbelt did not work in any of the two performance. The first time the battery was down. I don’t know what the reason was for it to malfunction in the second performance.

- I think we are lucky to have found Juriaan, who has great know-how and curiosity in anything that is technological, as well as a sensible imagination for poetic images. Moreover, he seems to have affinity with the theme of the performance (particularly what the role is of technology in our contemporary lifeworlds). And a very important thing is that he has blended in the team easily in a very short time.

                                     *** Second phase ***

                      between March and May



In this phase we have been shifitng our use of technology, away from live-video technology towards the usage of a sensorbelt. This has been triggered by Juriaan Gregor (Interactive Performance Design) who has joined the team and proposed the sensorbelt. Thereby he has nourished my attention towards rhythms of the breath..

Also we have been making new scenes: the soil dance, the mating dance and the breathing scene. We have started to think about the order or structure of these scenes in space. And also how the audience would be positioned.

Logistically, we have been going around HKU Pastoe, Janskerkhof, Oudenoord, Loods and other locations namely de Schuur, Zhimihc, Stuttheater, Parnassos, Podium Oost, 't Huis, ACU, a tipi, a meditationcentre to look for a free or a super cheap space where we could montage and perform the piece. Finally we have found a videostudio of the University Utrecht at the Kromme Nieuwegracht 80 in which we could work and perform over 4 days.

Creating the Soil dance


Around the time that we were working on the mating dance (the encounter between the two hands), I have been inspired by the small film “HANDS” by Jonathan Burrows (1995).  It’s a choreography for two hands on the lap of a dancer, and it is very strong in its development starting from a simple rhythm, towards a most complex rhythm of movement. We steal the rhythmical principle and the focus of the hands and apply it on a pile of earth instead of on a lap. Soon we start picking up the soil, lifting it up and throwing it down in different rhythms and different variations (direction, height, one or two hands, ways of grabbing-lifting-throwing). To structure the choreography, I return to the poem of Elliot and count the number of lines of each strophe, which results in such a sequence (see drawings >>> ):

I              13-10-24-4
II             17-31-1-1
III            33-14
IV           5-5-5-5-5
V             18-20

We make a choreography that follows the movement of these numbers, in the amount of movements that are made. (see video >>> ). In a later stadium the whole thing has become rather static and difficult for the performer to perform. So we let go of the counting and the performer starts to improvise with the movements that we have choreographed so far. Thus the strategy to work with the numbers results in a certain vocabulary of movements, that we improvise with, and ultimately re-structure according to a new numerical logic. The different numbers added together gives a numerical structure that is more simple:

I              51
II             50
III            47
IV           25
V             38

This would ultimately be the structure of what we have come to call the Soil Dance, in which our attempt was to show the earth, rather than the performer. We have wanted to put the material (the soil) to the foreground and make the performer disappear, thereby putting the performer ‘in service’ of the material (as if he was a live soil-sculptor). This idea has been particularly inspired by a performance of which I saw a video registration, by Mette Ingvartsen, called “The Artificial Nature Project” (2012), in which human movement is pushed back to the periphery of attention, in favour for the material to be experienced in motion (picture)



List of literature that I have read because of the project:


1. Summary of an introduction to a Dutch translation of Four Quartets (by Herman Servotte)

2. Summary of an essay by Eliot: "The Social Function of Poetry"

3. Summary of an article about performer's presence (by Philip Zarilli)

4. Borges, Jorges Luis. 1941. "Circular Time"

5. Wiles, David. 2014. "Theatre & Time"

6. Summary of an article about the art of film, by Chiel Kattenbelt (1997) [NL]

7. Assembled quotes about mourning about the end of nature in the context of the anthropocene (by Margaret Ronda)

- Article on the Anthropocene in the Arts:


Reflection on literature: The literature that I have studied for this project resonates with our inititial idea to use Eliot's poem as an inspiration and to investigate the notion of presence and to work with video-technology. However, both the poem, the concept of presence and the video-technology have been abandoned. The concept of presence has been abandonded altogether in favor of other concepts to come up, mainly the concept of rhythm. The poem as an inspiration source has continued to give us inspiration, but along with it we have found other sources, like HANDS by Jonathan Burrows and THE ARTIFICIAL NATURE PROJECT by Mette Ingvartsen and the photographs by John Coplans and Claudia Larcher. Instead of the video-technology we have started to work with sensortechnology.

Considering where we are now, the readings about the Anthropocene are still relevant for the context of our project.

*** Literature ***

                                *** Reflections on Process ***

Three things may be said about the overall process. One concerns my attitude during the process, two is about the nature of the project and three is about a method of creating.

Overall I need to be more rigorous with the things and questions I find (i want to push the questions and the things more to their limits). I get distracted very easily and wander off to random, intuitive processes of choice making. This enables me to be creative and to enter a ‘flow’ fairly easily – but it does stand in the way of being more rigorous in the development of forms and findings. It will help to have more meetings about the dramaturgy of the performance. As I have said in "Reflections on Collaboration," the dramaturgy has developed itself in different directions (in the directions of Joost and Rhian). Also I think I didn't take enough time to work out the basic idea of what we want to do and to agree on this with the team. The trick is to take time to develop a strong idea and then stick to it with the whole team. 

 The basic idea of what we have been doing (the nature of our project) has been somewhere between doing artistic research and creating a performance. If we consider the proces as artistic research, then we haven’t worked enough with a research question. I have been reformulating the question all the time, but we haven’t found a good dialogue between our practice and a question. Rather, the eclectic practice has been influencing and changing the question all the time. If we would consider the process as a creative process, than we haven’t had a strong, basic dramaturgy. The good thing is that I keep re-formulating what the core is of what we are doing. But the core has been changing too radically over the process: the media have changed, the sources of inspiration have changed, the research question has changed. It's of the utter most high importance to have a more clear idea of whether I am going to do a research project (which requires a research question) or an artistic making process (which requires a basic dramaturgy). I don't think the have to exclude each other; they can co-exist. But they need to be articulated more thoroughly, more clearly, more concretely.

In my reflections on the internship that I have been doing with Falk Hübner (, I came to the conclusion that artistic research thrives on a notion of praxis, meaning that theory and practice are imbricated in one another. Praxis, according to theatre scholar Robin Nelson, is an iterative process of ‘doing-reflecting-reading-articulating-doing’ (Nelson 2013, p.32). I have come to believe strongly in the working of such iterative processes, whereby different actions inform and question and shape other actions, enabling resonances and cross-fertilization to take place between those actions. What is crucial then, for such a method, is to have more or less stable ingredients upon which iterative actions can be performed during the process. This means that I should have a clear idea of what media we use on the floor and what we want to investigate with those (see 2). When such a core of the project is formulated, the trick for me is to stick with it more rigorously (see 1.).

Soil Dance

Material: Body, Soil, Lights, Music

Description: On the music of shamanistic drumming, the performer would throw soil into the air in such a way that there would constantly be soil falling. The performer did throw the soil in 5 different variations, ranging in height, direction and speed, while he would turn around. The intention with which he performed the scene was rather violent. At the same time yellow and orange light would turn around his action in the opposite direction.

Key insights
The purpose of this dance was to put the performer in service of the soil. I wanted the performer to disappear so that the soil could arrive as the moving, living protagonist. However I realised in the last phase of the process, when things were coming together, that it was actually impossible to make the performer disappear because he is too present with his nude body, which is always visible for someone in the round set-up. Moreover the performer is already very present because of what has happened before (he has been coming out of the earth, which is a fairly strong introduction). Thus the relation between the performer and the soil has been a question that yet needs to be resolved.          One thing that did not help to make the soil speak, is the expressive way in which the performer did treat the soil. He had the task to move the soil as if he was exhausting the earth, whereby he, on his turn, would be exhausted by the earth. I was looking for an energetic, chaotic and violent way of treating the soil to juxtapose the slow and holy rhythm that is established in the two previous scenes. However the violent expression brings the attention to the performer’s person rather than to the soil. Also violent action requires the performer’s body to take a lot of space and this is not a strong point of Ferdi. Overall we can say that we failed in creating a violent action of exhaustion. When comparing this scene to the opening scene, the action or the given of this situation is less clear and also the action of the performer is much less detailed and thus not very focussed.
                We have wanted to establish a circular motion in space by using yellow and orange lights that would turn around the performer, representing the idea of turning planets. I doubt whether anyone has noticed this circular movement. The attention may have been too much on the soil and on the performer. Also the scene might have lasted too short to actually remark the light of the turning sun. More importantly, the turning lights in the soil dance do not relate in any way to how technology is used in other scenes, which brings us back to the question that has been asked in my reflections on the breathing scene: what role does the technology play in the performance?

Opening Scene

Material: Soil, Body, Light, Music

Description: The spectators are sitting on the floor in a circle around a circle of soil. In the middle of the soil-circle the performer is buried under the soil. Around his belly we can see the soil move gently up and downwards, along with his breath. Slowly his right hand appears. And then his left hand. They sense each other, and approach each other– very slowly and softly. Fingers are raised like antennas of insects. They touch and turn around each other and walk over the other arm. The left hand walks towards the right leg, the other hand towards the left shoulder. As the hand touches different parts of the body – these become activated. Slowly his whole body is touched and activated by his own fingers, bringing the whole body into motion from lying on his back towards lying on his side in a foetus position. We see he is naked, his body is covered with soil. He moves towards another position where he sits on his knees so we can see the full curve of his backbone (which reminds me of a painting by William Blake (see picture)). He puts one foot on the floor and comes up – slowly – out of the earth – naked as we came. Though he is wearing a sensorbelt…

Key insights: Overall this scene succeeds in heightening the intensity of perception. This is happening for a couple of reasons. Because of the spatial set-up the focus of the spectator is naturally directed to the centre of the circle, where the action is taking place. The focus is further supported by the light that is focussed on the centre of the circle. Also the music, that is slow, repetitive and minimal, helps to focus on the action. The action itself has a clear direction; the performer knows the movements in detail. The action also has a clear given, namely: a man comes out of the earth.  In this action I see two different tensions working: one tension of showing and concealing, one tension between human and earth. As for the former: because there is not a lot of visual input, what is visible is given extra attention. Because a large part of the body remains hidden for a long while, the solution to the question ‘who is under there’ is suspended. As for the latter: the hands move in a way that is not typically human, which triggers the imagination to see them as different creatures (we have often heard that people saw the hands as animalistic creatures). By presenting the hands as something else than human hands, borders become diffuse between what is human and what is alive. Even more so, because these non-human hand-creatures appear in an environment of soil (on a stage of earth) the element of nature is integrated and brought into tension with the (non) human hand. Overall this scene has succeeded in intensifying the perception of the spectator by a clear focus of action and a powerful image that blurs the border between human and nature.



Montage / Order of the scenes

We have been creating different scenes that have to come together in one way or the other, in the montage-phase. We have started to late with doing the montage, which is to juggle with the order of the scenes. Only when we were on location, we started to play the different scenes after each other. The order has been changed a couple of times and one scene has been cut out. Considering the time that it takes to set up the technology on the location, we have not had enough time to explore different possiblities of ordering the scenes and be more radical in our decisions.


As for the transitions between the scenes: we have been working with two variations. In the first performance we seperated the four different scenes with a blackout. We compared the idea of the black out with a white line in a poem - as if we were seperating strophes in space. This transitions emphasizes the difference between the scenes. In the second performance we have made more fluid transitions between the scenes, attempting to compose the performance into a whole... Yet the different parts were still very different from each other that I have the impression we have done four different performances, or four different researches.


  *** Reflection on Performance ***


In this section I analyse the four scenes as we have performed them on the 15th and 16th of June. I mention the material that is used in each scene, I give a brief description of what did happen in those scenes, and then I turn towards the most important insights that I have had.

Still Moving is made by ‘Project Indigo’, an interdisciplinary performance group initiated by Juriaan Achthoven (UU: MA Contemporary Theatre, Dance and Dramaturgy), in collaboration with: Ferdinand Doumic (performer), Joost Segers (dramaturg), Juriaan Gregor (HKU: BA Interactive Performance Design) and Rhian Morris (HKU: MA Scenography). The project is part of Juriaan Achthoven’s internship at the HKU Professorship in Performative Processes. The professorship, led by Nirav Christophe, facilitates and supports Still Moving.

Professorship Performative Processes:

MA Contemporary Theatre, Dance and Dramaturgy:


MA Scenography:


BA Interactive Performance Design [NL]:





*** Who? ***

*** Final Phase ***

Breathing scene

Material: Sensorbelt, Light, Breath

Description: In this scene the performer would breath in as much air as he can, beginning with a focus on the lowest part of his torso, on the first chakra. He would breath in as much as he can twice in his second chakra, three times in his third chakra and so on. The intensity of breathing becomes visible only halfway through the scene, around his fourth chakra. The longer this scene lasts, the more intense the breathing in gets, but also the breathing out which becomes more and more a powerful release of air.
                At the same time a first prototype of the sensorbelt would be activated, that reads output from the performer’s breath and translates it the intensity of lights. We chose a blue colour for the lights because of the association with air and breath. The effect of the light that moves along with the breath of the actor, is that the intensity of light is making organic movements. Particularly at those moments where the breathing gets really intense, the performer’s breath gets spasms, which make the light vibrate in a very vivid and organic way. Unfortunately the sensorbelt did not work during both the peformances. In the first performance the belt didn’t work because of dead batteries, the second performance because of a technical malfunction.

Key Insights: The first and foremost insight is that if we would want to work with technology again, we will have to include someone who has know-how of technology from the beginning of the process on. As for the quality of this scene, I think it resides in the synchronization of something very much alive (the breath) with something mechanic (the lighting). Opposed to the small and intimate space that is established in the opening scene, this breathing-scene opens up a big space around the performer. The technology extends and the presence of the performer throughout the entire space, making the space, including the spectators, to breath along with him. Moreover the intense physicality of breathing has the potential to address spectators in a physiological way, because one physically copies or mimes what is physically performed.
                The sensorbelt has raised a lot of confusion: what is it? And why is it there? What is this kind of a creature that comes out of the earth naked, but with a belt around his waist?! It makes me realize that we should have informed the audience that we are working with a first prototype of the sensorbelt and that it needs to be developed into a costume that is visibly better articulated in relation to the naked body of the performer. More valid questions were raised during an aftertalk: why is the belt only activated during this particular scene and who is it that activates it?!  This has led to a more fundamental question concerning the role of technology in the entire performance.
                How (radical) do we want the technology to play a role in the performance? Two directions did occur, starting from the pseudo-visibility of the sensorbelt: Do we want to make the technology explicitly present or do we want to hide it? Both directions are very different from each other in terms of what the technology means in the world of this performance. If we were to make it explicit, then we show a world in which technology is an actual entity, a present performer. If we were to hide the technology, we would convey more the idea of technology representing some external, transcendent, invisible force. If we were to choose to make the technology visible, we should have shown the sensors in the sensorbelt, and possibly put the technician in a place that is more visible and also we could explore possibilities how to stage lighting and other technology such as microphones in such a way that they become part of the earthy environment, so that technology and earth become imbricated. I like the idea of making the technology more visible because it resonates with ideas about the Anthropocene and ideas of the Techno-Sphere. Also it invites us to look for images between technology and nature, which triggers artistic questions such as: how to make the technology part of the natural environment? How to build a tree of light? How to use lighting as veins through the earth? If we were to develop the project, I tend towards the direction of making technology more visible and present its materiality more explicitly.

Text scene

Material: Light, Text, Music

Description: It is pitch black. A white noise sounds in the background. We hear ice cracking. A flash of light is triggered as the performer utters a verb: ‘to be’. Another flash when he utters another: ‘to contain’. And soon he will be speaking a sequence of verbs in one constant volume and rhythm.  The lights start to flash independently from his voice, and the volume of the music is raised to a point that we cannot hear the performer anymore. In each flash we see a glimpse of the performer who is moving to the ground slowly. In the last flash we see him lying on the floor in a foetus position (on the second day) or stretched on the ground (on the first day).

Key insights:
This scene is possibly the most problematic scene. It turned out to be a big surprise that the performer starts to speak at the end of the performance. The voice is something so very personal and humane that we cannot deny the sudden presence of a person. Also the text is very particular: a sequence of verbs of which the verb ‘to be’ is dominant, which is a heavy verb in terms of existential philosophy but also one cannot deny the association with Hamlet’s famous ‘to be’, which has nothing to do with our performance. Also verbs are in their nature words of action. Because they are spoken by this person, these actions are instantly connected to the person that is speaking. This establishes a narrative of this person – a drama - rather than that it helps to communicate through the materiality of the poem, or the materiality of language.
                I have wanted to work with the materiality of the words, giving the performer the task to speak the words as neutral as he can, in a constant volume and rhythm, as if he were to be a language machine. Opposed to this constant rhythm, I have wanted to continue the energetic sphere that is established in the Soil Dance, creating a mood that is sharp and cold, as if we were to end in an ice age. But the words and the light come out of the blue, whereby it seems that an entirely different performance is starting.
                The end image, that is meant to connect the beginning to the end (whereby we aim to make a circular structure) appears to be very difficult. Affirming the immense difference between the parts, we attempt to make a whole out of something which is not a whole. The end of this scene can never be an end that connects to the beginning of the whole performance. It can only be an end that is connected to its own part. This leads me to conclude that it would have been better to present the four scenes as different experiments, rather than sowing together four different parts into an integral performance.

Set-up (audience adress)

Throughout the proces our idea of setting up the audience has changed a few times:

- from a lineair perspective (in the beginning of the proces)

- to the audience walking around, whereby the performer would play in and with multiple spaces or multiple islands within one space (halfway through the process)

- to finding an actual space (towards the end). This invited us to return to a linair set-up. the space in the Kromme Nieuwegracht is full of 'noise' (such as audio-plates against the wall, lamps, and decorations in the wall). It is hardly a blackbox and there is a lot of distraction in the space. That would make it very dififficult to create a route within that space, in which we would create multiple islands. We wouldn't have enough time to find these multiple islands properly. So we decide to simplify our spacing, towards a singular stage.

- inspired by the idea of the circle and considering the material that we have, we decide to perform in a circle, rather than in a lineair set-up. This required some alterations for especially the soil dance.


           *** Why this Title?***


We made the title at the very end of the project, when we wanted to send out invitations. After a brainstorm of 15 minutes, Rhian and I decided to call the project "Still Moving". It is inspired by a sentence from Eliots Four Quartet:

"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement."

I like that the title is a paradox, combining movement & stillness. At the same time the two words can be read as a daily expression, for example in a sentence like: "I guess this project is still moving onwards"