The Figure of Spiralling Momentum is one of several ‘figures’ identified and named during a sustained period of collaborative live exploration (involving various studio-based improvisatory and performative practices) within the frame of the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014 - 2017). This‘figure’ is recognised as the dynamic experience of generating energy in the midst during the arc of artistic-aesthetic exploration, creating fresh momentum following a lull in activity. 


Drawing on the shared experience experience and examples from the process of collaborative artistic research, Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil engaged in the practice of conversation-as-material to ‘flesh out’ a language for describing the Figure of Spiralling Momentum. This involved a process of corroborative dialogue, where conversation was oriented to collectively arriving at a vocabulary for expressing both the what-ness and how-ness of this specific figure, its particular essence and 'mode of being'. The conversational practice for this specific figure happened on two occasions - in 2015 and 2016. In the first conversation, it was possible to clarify that the figure under consideration was one of Spiralling Momentum rather than solely Circulation (which was the temporary name that had previously been used for the figure). Drawing on the transcript from the first conversation, the second dialogue continued to differentiate the specificity of the figure with the perspective of a further year of exploring it in practice.


The recorded conversations were transcribed (See extract from partially edited transcripts below). Selected fragments of the original transcript material (bold in the text below) were then rewritten / reworked into a dense poetic description for the figure (See right). The inclusion of the transcript below attempts to reveal the relation of the original conversation and the resulting ‘vocative’ text, alongside indicating something of the ‘attitude’ practised within the conversational practice itself. As such, the invitation to the reader is to glimpse or scan rather than necessarily read the transcript material in its entirety.


Transcript extract (partially edited)

Part I

[…] Doing something to create a sense of turbulence or momentum that I find characteristic of the figure, rather than its circularity […] a desire to create a kind of energy … desiring a certain turbulence, it is trying to stir things up in a way. But not yet with a direction … it is on the spot but there is no vector in it […] In the midst of circularity, there is energy […] where is the momentum generated […] A bit like electrons going in different circuits, around something. There must be something like a gravitation space. Something which attracts. It might be that in the centre, the attraction and the thing desired falls into place, or it is no longer, or you cannot see the different between it. Because you are in the centre. But the more you go out, you have another perspective on it. Preacceleration … it actually is a movement which does not yet have a directionalityit has an intensity. Centrifugal forces. What is the difference between the quality of turbulence created circulation or spiralling as opposed to shaking? How is the nature of the turbulence different? I suppose for me that is a description of its form, but what is the qualitative difference? What is the difference? There is a form of freedom, it can change direction. A dizziness that come from gyration, rotation, turningThe dervish. Rapid movement in a circle or a spiral. A whirling motion. Rotation. Revolution. Turning. Circling. Spinning. Circumrotation. The idea of the axis is interesting in relation to that. The way that you also talk about the spinal axis in the practices of attention. A coil. Convolution. A coil or a twist. A thing that is complex or difficult to follow […] When you create this circulation, you also create a forcefield […] Turbulence-generating […] a sense of us orbiting together. We are following a centrifugal force, all participating in the same sense of force […] Circulation also has … the circle, the cycle, centrifugal  all of those circular references are there but there is also the idea of the circulation of the blood system, the flow of the blood system. The continuous movement of blood through the vessels, through the action of the heart. There is something to do with pulse central to circulation. A circuit or a passage or a flow, perhaps in a sense like how the sap in plants flows or air currents in a room. There is this dual sense: circulation has this circular reference but also something that is more flow-like or passage-like. The passage or transition of anything from one place to another, or person to person is also interesting. So the circulation of a rumour or money. This passage or transformation or crossing from one person to another. The passage of energy, the circulation of energy, the passage of a current. There is something there […] We should look at the word orbit. Orbit was one of the words I used yesterday in the upwelling. And planetary and eclipse […] A lot of swirling up. It sets into motion whilst centering …. creating a strong gravitational force. 

Vertigo. This momentum building is an important one. And I think that momentum is very closely connected to gravity. And also something about ebbing and slowing down. There was a range of dynamics that we were engaging with […] Creating the right kind of frequency also, almost like when you do this thing on a wine glass or a brandy glass and there it produces a particular pitch. But if you go too slow or too fast, or with too much pressure or not enough pressure it does nothing, or it makes a horrible sound. There is something about sensitising to the right rhythm, the right circulation. The term momentum is key. Momentum. Circulating momentum or something like that. Momentum building … It is not yet there. It has no direction, or not a circular direction. So it is more like the shaking momentum building, you start it up. But then you take it somewhere. Circulation already has a clear direction. You are building … the circulation is not an end in itself. It is a device through which to stir something up or reinvigorate or … I was looking earlier at circulation and the idea of oxygenating something. Giving air to something. Breathing air into something. Before it has a life. More like a device for creating a quality of energy or a capacity … at any point you can change direction. The velocity of the body, or of a wave, a field or of a physical system in relation to its energy. Cultivation of an impulse. The property of a moving object to continue moving. It feels as if it is a figure through which to continue. So in the midst of working there is something to do with … not necessarily to do with creating the momentum to begin, but to continue. I think this is how I think of it, in the spirit of, in the face of a lag in energy or a dip in energy, how do you … or maybe there are many different kinds of circulating momentum. The kind you need to begin, how do you begin? How do you create the energy in order to start? There is also a kind of momentum, how do you … get it going again or reenergise something in motion? Bring the vitality. It felt like … not to restrict the figure to where it came from, but it did seem to come from a moment of energies falling … It was a device. It was in the midst. It came out of a space of ebbing energy and a desire to raise the level of attention, or of energy again… It definitely changes a state and also a perspective on things, on the word […] There are vertiginous forces. A whirling, spinning, a turning, a sense of the spinning on the spot as a means of circulation … The force itself is turningLike a whirlwind […] how much do I allow this momentum to take me […] Creating one’s own system of energy. How do you create the conditions for surrender? Maybe it is to do with there being a quality of the ecstatic … the ecstatic, this excessThe dervish spinning on the spotthis is an ecstatic practice. Rapture. Ecstatic the adjective that describes the condition of ecstasy … something to do with the stability/instability dynamic [...] There is also something about being in circulation. Like participating in something. If you are in circulation, you are engaged in something. Pre-circulation […] Perceiving in action, doing something creates turbulence. Maybe turbulence. An amplification or a reduction of energy. You need to become a little centred before you become stabilised. Before movement with no fixed point. Gyration. Turning. Elliptical. Irregular motion indicated by the gusts and the lulls in the wind, the peaks and the dips of the wind […] You could take from the idea of the circulation system, the idea of flow and passage, or aeration, oxygenation, energy generation. But the means through which you do this could be through big orbiting or small gyration […]


Part II

[…] I am curious about what is the momentum and where it comes from […] It is about movement but it is also about time  there is this correlation … I was curious to see where move comes from in terms of etymology. Mouvoir in French  to move, get moved, to set in motion. To introduce something. But then for sure it also comes from Latin  movere … it is there also in the Sanskrit word kama muta which means to be moved by love […] To set in motion … the act of moving. To consider the nature of the way that something is set in motion […] This sense of whirling and rotation and gyration and the forces of the wind and currents was very much in our vocabulary. This arising, this rising of intensity, of complexity perhaps also. I was thinking about trans-versality in relation to this momentum building so it has various directions […] to catch the momentum so you can continue building the momentum … in order to do so you need awareness of what ways are active in that space for building the momentum. The word spiral – it comes from the Greek word spira. A winding, a coil, a twist, anything bound or coiling. Turning, twisting […] the coil feels exciting. It is like winding something up in order to … as a figure the figure of rising momentum or circulating momentum is that the energy that is generated is not released only within that figure. It could be a figure of rising momentum in order to release it into something, but the figure itself doesn’t necessarily contain the thing into which it is released. So it has got this kind of energizing, enabling, building of energy but we talked about how the point was that the energy does not dissipate within the same figure. So it is not like an arc where you build energy and then it is used. You whirl this energy up and then is goes … the relationship between the figure of rising momentum and the next figure that is called is a really exciting hinge […] what you do with the momentum, where does the momentum go. What you were describing related to this sense of taking off, but in order to take off you need to accept or know a lot about gravity first, in order to then lift off from it […] you were talking about the way an aeroplane charges its engine before taking off, and that there is this kind of period where it becomes about creating enough energy in order to lift off. Here, momentum is also to do with impetus. A moving force, or stimulus …. To generate the cause of motion. So it is enabling. The stimulation, the spur, the boost. Incentive. The impelling movement or force, an incentive or impulse, the stimulus, the force that sets the body in motion […] what we have with the circulating or the rising … actually rising not so much but with the spiralling – it has a centre. It centres it around something. In a way, the rising is centreless. But it feels as if the centre is quite crucial … for the momentum, yes […] to make it more dense at certain point. There is also the capacity to bring things together, to create a reactive field […] these centrifugal forces, and the transformative potential therein. I mean, rising momentum describes the drama of building energy but not the means […] coil, coiling. A coil is used a lot in various mechanisms  the tighter that you wind the coil it then springs. As you are winding up a coil there is this expectation that you are building up energy. Actually maybe this is different to momentum? For example, you might wind a clock up in order to give it the energy for movement … or I think of those toy cars that you wind up at the side. But I think that spiraling is nice because it has got both the connotation of circularity but also a sense of increasing in velocity or energy. Like a heightened momentum. To advance or increase steadily  spiralling. I think that there is also the threat of the figure also in this word  things can quite easily spiral out of control. So you could say that there is something rather turbulent about the energy that gets generated through momentum building and it could totally get out of control. It is also saying that … not that it would be wrong for it to go into craziness … but it is saying that the momentum that is generated in somehow harnessed into something. It doesn't just go off in all kinds of directions […] there is always the threat that things might just spiral out of control or into disarray … so stopping at the right moment and then it becomes something else. It is becoming more destructive maybe or more chaotic or another figure out of this begins to emerge. We have this sometimes when things start to fall, so it is a very instable moment […] there is an enabling turbulence that is created, but turbulence can also be destructive. So in order to enable things to continue there must be a point at which is stops, before it continues into something that is destructive. You can also see this in the sense of the vortexing of a whirlwind. There is an energy in there. Like with the winds and the waters that we were talking about; there is energy there but without it being harnessed in a particular way it can just destroy. So there is a risk in this figure that you just exhaust yourself and instead of generating momentum that leads anywhere it crashes or just goes into chaos […] I was also thinking about the moment which is in the momentum ... We were also referring to catching the moment, or this kairotic element which is in there … the kairotic moment would be to a certain extent the call of the next figure. A moment is a very brief instant of time, a division of time. So you move the point of scale to very small. So you give importance or weight to that moment. There is something about weight or importance in there. Gravity  to create momentum. It is central and it has a centre. Some of the synonyms … it seems as if there are two different kinds of synonyms for moment. One is like the second, the jiffy, the trice, the flash, the twinkling. They refer to the briefest of times. And the other is to do with importance, significance, weight and gravity. So there is this interesting pairing of brevity and gravity. I think that with the figure of the momentum building it is the point at which you convert that into something, for me, the call of the next figure is really critical. It is kind of like trying to make a spinning top … or anything that relies on the building of energy … you can overdo it, it can become too tired. Or you can underdo it and it does not have the energy to go. So it is like now, now. Go. It feels important. Calling for a now moment. Because before it is not so much now now now. It is almost like compressing time. So is this now moment within the figure of spiraling of energy into the now. Or is that call for the next figure the now moment. Does the now moment belong to this figure or not. This feels an interesting distinction. It is almost like  does it need to convert into content. I would say it is more preparing a field and what nests in that field. Maybe you can influence but it is not so defined … not yet defined. It is about creating a wave but whatever surfs on it or continues on it … even if it is only silence. That can be momentum building  silence […] We talked before about the distinction between Dionysian and Apollonian methods of getting started. Maybe they are both devices for preparing for the next thing, but in difference ways. So excess might be in there. I guess this is where there is danger within the Dionysian method there is the capacity for it to get out of control. Where is the productive optimum? We were talking about the dervish. But they have … they have this centre. They have a nail between the big toe and the second toe and this is giving them the ground around which they turn. I think that is it … if it has a centre it can jump to the next moment. If it is uncentred, it is getting dangerous. It is like a wheel that is uneven … But if you find in it a centre it can jump […] there is a kind of desirable agitation that you can get. If you agitate the atoms they can shift state but if you agitate them … this idea that spiralling momentum has a quality of agitation, it is creating turbulence, bringing things into motion in order to affect a transformation of state or quality. It is not to do with exhaustion because the other thing that relates to this kind of system is the possibility of entropy where entropy is when the system exhausts itself and that is not what the figure is. It is a question of how to harness the productivity of agitation, whirlingChanging the intensity […] Spiralling … suggests this sense of heightening, it has got a sense of circularity, but circulating momentum, the criticism was that it had this sense of just going around in circles. So spiralling also has this quality of rising within it … but it could also be the opposite  it can also be like an implosion […] so this is a vortex is this right. A whirling mass of water like a whirlpool where the suction, a whirling mass of air like the column of a tornado. That draws everything into a current. A rapid rotary movement of cosmic matter about a centre. Any activity, situation or way of life regarded as irresistibly engulfing. Within the vortex or spiral there are these eddies that are described, a eddying mass, an eddy of water, wind or flameThe eddies are like these little micro spirals that would also be within it. So like a current, especially one with a rotary or whirling motion […] the eddying, these vortices that have qualities of renewal or restoration […] eddy is to do with a current that generates in a direction different to the main current. So there is a contra quality to it. So it could be used as a way of resisting a particular direction, that you create a momentum in a counter direction, as a counter force. Like to swerve. How do you create a swerve of energy? A turn, a swerve, a rotation, a change of direction. We talked about the person who studies air or water currents  the oceanographer […] there was something to do with wind and elemental references also coming up. Fluid systems.

Above: Textual-visual description of the ‘Figure of Spiralling Momentum’, in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, pp.92 - 93.

Text: Distilled/reworked transcription by Emma Cocker, based on recorded conversation between Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil. 

Drawing: Nikolaus Gansterer

Design: Simona Koch


See ‘Figure of Spiralling Momentum’, in Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters, Journal of Artistic Research, Issue 18, 2019 [link here] for an assemblage of audio-visual ‘documents’ showing some of the singular examples of this figure in action, the live(d) experiences that the practice of conversation-as-material attempts to reengage, distil and enliven through language.

Below: The video below is a screen recording of an exploration of the ‘Figure of Spiralling Momentum’ within the online exposition Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters, in particular to show how the textual distillation generated through the process of conversation-as-material becomes presented as part of a wider assemblage of research documents. Click on the image below to play the video, and in the bottom right corner to enlarge the view.