The process of #CHARP started at ETLAB (studio space available to Uniarts Helsinki staff and researchers until spring 2018) from 21–23 March 2017 with an intensive working period with the group. We approached the practice by warming up with the interview based on the questions on the first page and researching the open question ‘How does everything move?’, meaning how it can be choreographically or choreoreadingly approached, examined, and embodied, and how inhabiting this question could develop choreography as reading practice. After discussing these questions, the beginning of the practical experimentation was divided in three viewpoints: 1) how everything can be experienced being in movement, 2) how to find material cues from the studio and work with the relations that these cues form, and 3) how to be affected by others’ movements and actions.
In the first working session, we experimented with three interconnected terms: cue-response-action. This experimentation was based on my reading theory studies about what happens during the reading and on my project Meteor,which I worked with at that time as well.
In our studio-experiments, cue refers in the surrounding material to something that catches our attention, response refers to the sensitivity to experiment with the affect and impact of the cue, and action refers to the accomplished gesture or movement after the response is experimentally processed. After some experiments with this approach, the group decided to put it aside because it felt like a mechanical and linear way to get engaged with the surrounding material. It seemed to produce a stiff structural mode, but we kept it in the background as a possibility to return to. After experimenting with these questions, the group discussed the question of ‘how everything moves’ was enough to experiment with. The decision to keep one question this wide-open led us to play with the scales and materiality of movement from our bodily movements towards intergalactic imaginaries; in other words, the decision took the crew of #CHARP to examine the embodiment of the interplanetary cosmographies.
One of the starting points in this examination was to begin from the immediate surrounding, to explore how the working studio was moving in space. This question was followed by examining how to recognize and work with the movements that constitute the studio, namely the movement of the building – for example, the walls and floor of the studio. From this framing, the experimentation extended towards outer space by acknowledging the speed of Earth’s orbit around the sun. These starting points seemed like the right ones to continue with in exploring the embodiment of ‘choreography as reading practice’, because the experimentation produced a specific body and a specific choreographic way of processing the perception, which I could relate to and set parallel with the studies of reading theories. The wandering viewpoint, selective attention, and lived movement reserves were experienced as being operative in these experimentations.
Based on the work of these three days, and following the discussions with the working group, I decided that in #CHARP it is enough to focus only on experimenting with the first question: how does everything move? The question implies to the layered movement-mesh in which the body takes place and which is partly generated by the place-taking. Thus, this experiment also dealt with the question of how to take place if everything is experienced as being in movement. This seemed to include two other previous questions, namely a body’s relation to the materiality of the immediate surrounding and the affects of the movements of the other bodies. The experiment started to produce interesting choreographic formation that activated the experimentation with space and place-taking as a dynamic, simultaneously multidirectional sphere.
At the same time, the practice was saturated by generative imagination. In the working group, this approach was understood as a speculative practice more than an imaginary one, because we were working with existing movements and not merely imaginative ones. We discussed, for example, how knowing that Earth orbits the sun and that the studio is in a high-circuiting velocity impacted the experienced not as a product of imagination but as an existing lived circumstance. This led us to discuss the position of a choreoreader understood as being located inside the movements instead of observing, witnessing, and organizing them from outside. Thus, from this perspective the division between inside and outside of movement in practice was questioned and destabilized. This generated the process of building understanding about the body as an atmospheric organism forming in reciprocity with the surrounding forces and movements, and the practice shifted us away from the understanding of the body as a closed vessel floating in space.
The main task in the studio was to experiment with the sense of movement, movement-experience, and choreo-orientated thinking understood as processing the previous two in a reciprocal manner instead of starting by making representational movements based on the idea that everything moves. In the exposed performance, three different bodies approached the same task and the outcome was supported by Roumagnac’s decisions to change the lighting of the space with various color-filtered, flat par, LED lights. In the process, costumes were brought in as a personal artistic choice. Costumes obviously refers to the skin and body being protected or skin being enhanced in order to meet the galactic circumstances, but at the same time the costumes hinted at the naked, avatar-like bodies with golden helmets. To bring in the helmets was based on the idea of the danger of bumping into space debris while embodying the high velocity of the orbit. Humor was an important critical factor to bring to the massive ontological field of experiment, and at the same time I think of this choice as an expansion of that history of land- and site-specific art in which the naked body meets Earth.
One of the most important and central questions in the process was how to tune into the practice at hand. What kind of warmup, so to speak, do we needed in order to sensitize our bodies to work with this specific, relational, beyond-human-body matrix? How do we activate the receptivity and sensitivity of the atmospheric body? I resolved this question by composing interview questions about the relation between movement and choreographic thinking. To go through the questions together functioned as a discursive warm up, but at the same time by discussing the questions the group attuned corporeally to the practice. In the experimental warmup, discussing the questions in a small circle, the practice started to gradually leak into the body. After some time, the question ‘Are we ready to move on?’ functioned as a way to continue into the practice more intensively and leave the verbal conversation. We left the interview circle when everyone was ready to move on, and after this mutual decision each one concretely took more space in the studio. The quality of attuning the body to be open and receptive for the actual artistic work was thus very soft and gradual and simultaneously conceptual and lived. In other words, the discussed questions were lived micro-gestures during the discussion, and vice versa, and the slow attunement prepared us to further experiment with the research questions.