Artistic part 2: #CHARP
To start, I would like to invite you to experiment with a few questions that are relevant to this artistic research project.
How would you describe the movements that are present in this space?
If you bring your attention to the temporalities of the movements, do they extend beyond your lifetime?
How is this building decaying?
What about the spatial scale of these movements?
How would you embody, for example, the orbit of this place around the sun, the velocity that is here?
What about that orbit’s relation to the movement of the movement of this building decaying?
How do you take place in that relation?
If If this place and surrounding material is constituted by various movements, how would you embody the relations between movements that you recognize?
Or do you recognize the motional relations by embodying them?
If everything moves, how do you take (a) place here?
The questions above were part of the warmup developed in #CHARP. I have collected other relevant questions from the research process below, which have stimulated my rethinking of the notion of movement and the choreo-orientated relation between materiality and corporeality in the practice. Usually, in a collaborative artistic processes, I discuss such questions in the beginning of the project, and the works that I have done in this research project are based on such questions. In this sense, these questions also establish the field in which my doctoral research project operates.
How would you describe the difference between ‘movement as a flux’ and ‘movement as a potential for cut’?
How would you describe the choreographies that your body is already part of?
On your way here, how were you choreographed and by what or whom?
Are choreography and movement related? If so, how?
What happens to the movement when it is mediated to choreography? To dance? To sculpture? To music? To poetry?
What happens to choreography when it is mediated to movement?
Complete the sentences: A choreographer is a person who...
A choreoreader is a person who...
What are the skills and sensitivities that a person who can be called ‘a choreographer’ needs?
The second examined artistic part of the doctorate is called #CHARP. It is a performative exposition with 3 choreoreaders. The title is an abbreviation from the words ‘choreography as reading practice’. In this work, I took a closer look at the performative dimension of the practice that developed in the research project and for which the works of the first artistic part established a basis. The practice at hand can be briefly described as an intense choreographic examination of the materiality of the relation between the body and its surroundings through the lens of movement. In this sense, the practice can be playfully thought of as air conditioned and speculative, because the air is the medium in which the relation gets its choreographic qualities. This relation is practiced by the body, and thus the practice also produced my understanding of an operative choreographic body that I have chosen to call an atmospheric body.
During the research project, I have deeply doubted the whole idea of examining choreography as reading practice. Around the third year of the research, I was almost ready to leave this approach out of the research and go back to the contextual research from where this perspective emerged, because going against the etymology and the historical understanding of choreography as writing practice felt exhausting. What kept me going in deepening my perspective was strong support from my supervisors, plus my actual experience about my practice and way of making art. I recognized myself as a reader more than a writer. Hanging from these two supportive threads, I studied more reading theories in order to build an understanding of what happens during the reading. My project can be seen as some kind of translation or as a dialogue with the reading theories. However, the reading in the choreographic realm operates differently than in the literary studies, and to not fall into applying the literary theories to practice has been my constant challenge. #CHARP is a work that materializes the introduction to the choreography as reading practice, and further directions were opened up for more research.
The process of #CHARP tangles with science fiction, alien cosmographies, and bodies able to teleport beyond our galaxy. The project delves into the intergalactic mindset and experimental embodiment as a playful practice in which the experiences of the extended body dissolving into the multiverse have sometimes been overwhelming. To develop understanding about the body as an atmospheric organism has helped me to bear the intense practice that takes me on a galactic joyride, and as an atmospheric organism I have found pleasure in my relation with the multiverse and its cosmographies. Dreaming, imagining, envisioning, and fantasizing about the body and universe beyond the terrestrial restraints constitute the ever-shifting viscosity of my practice. By tripping-practicing in the imaginary nebulas and interplanetary constellations, I find the critical allure of the terrestrial, in which the force of gravity prevents me from flying. This charm of multidirectional forces pulls me into art-making.
Exposing the practice as a performance
To perform this work as the examined second artistic part in the Research Pavilion in Venice was nerve-wracking, because the performance basically is the practice, not a thematic artistic idea realized with composed movements. After the performance and the feedback discussion, my body refused to find balance in the streets of Venice. I had to lean on my friends and the walls of the buildings. I felt extremely weak, nauseous, and dizzy. I had to focus on keeping my feet stepping forward while staring at the walkway on our way to where we were staying. I was tired and relieved. I let go of the doubts that I had carried with me during the process about this perspective towards choreography. To expose the practice in performative mode with a group instead of solo practice made sense.
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.
Towards intergalactic imaginaries
I understand outer space and interplanetary culture as an extended condition for making art in the historical lineage of site-specific practices. In order to meet and work with these conditions, in which the various terrestrial and extraterrestrial movement registers are entangled, I have examined more closely the practice of hyper-reading. In this sense, the framework for #CHARP is formed by outer space, interplanetary and stellar movements, hyper-reading, and intimate surrounding. The modes of filtering, skimming, pecking, and fragmenting – which Sosnoski explains in his essay ‘Hyper-Readers and their Reading Engines’(Sosnoski 1999, pp. 2-3) - seemed to be especially meaningful in the experience of the embodied qualities of the developing practice. These modes were manifested in the vigilant working state that did not aim to stay with any specific movement theme or motif for a long time and did not aim for linear sequencing of the movements, but which was a mode of making brief and quick responsive gestures to the dense, perceived, processed, and experienced surrounding movement-mesh. This mode allowed me to select and jump rapidly from one movement register to another, from the attempt to embody the orbit to the particular detail of the floor, to my relation with co-performers’ gestures, or to bring all these relations together and work with a formed, simultaneous, plural field all at once. The intensity of the engagement varied, and in performing 45 minutes I sometimes needed to close my eyes to take a short break or to disengage from the intense experimenting and practice and adopt a looser relation to the question of how everything moves.
In Venice we didn’t have that much time to set the work in the performance space, but I was fine with less focus on the contextualization, because the particular attention in this examined artistic part of the doctorate was in the question of what happens during the embodied practice. In this sense, I returned a bit to the contextual difficulties from which my whole research projects stemmed in the beginning, and I felt uneasy with the fact that the project seemed to tilt towards rehearsed and repeated dance-piece-like contextualization, which I had come to experience as meaningless in my practice prior to my doctoral studies. However, the group visited Venice Biennale, and each one of us could experiment with the reading practice while visiting the exhibition. We discussed the experience before the performance. We kept the option open to let the experiences of the Biennale sink into the performance as much as was possible in this timeframe, but we obviously would have needed more time to really work on that kind of particular contextualization of #CHARP. Acknowledging this, the focus of this part was in the embodied experimental practice with specifically chosen questions.
In the process of #CHARP, the working group studied the following questions:
What is Choreography as Reading Practice?
How does Choreography as Reading Practice operate and how is it materialized?
What can this practice contribute to the fields of choreography, dance, and more broadly to the performing and visual arts?
How does one share this developing artistic practice?
How does this practice translate into the performance or choreographic work?
What are the artistic and pedagogical potentials of this practice?
The choreographic work and exposition in the Research Pavilion was processual in the sense that it continued the research process in its performative materialization of the inquiry described above. The right term for the work in Venice could thus be an exposition-performance.