The Figure of Temporary Closing 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 recognized as a cessation of activity within the arc of artistic-aesthetic exploration.


Drawing on the shared 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 Temporary Closing. 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 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 'show' 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.


Extracts from transcript (partially edited)

[…]  in visual arts practice … the idea of temporary closing is the point at which a work is ready to be shown. So you might think that you are working in your studio on a set of things and the point of temporary closing could be seen as its point of readiness. Even in the sense of having, to a certain extent a degree of autonomy, it is a piece of work. And those materials might get reconfigured again but there is still something to do with when is something finished. I think that this can be a really different … there is an interesting difference perhaps between artifact making and performance making. When something is finished in the visual arts context is the point at which it is ready to be shown. And when something is finished in a performance sense it can mean both when it is ready to be shown and when it is finished, when it is over. So I am thinking which of these models are we using within our work. […] The figure of temporary closing can also lead in, especially in the fine art context, of having done too much. You draw something or you write something and then it is like “ah this was too much” […] so you did not jump off the surfing board early enough  especially with drawing and painting or if you sculpt. You do something and a big chunk falls off or you think it needs more colour and then it is kaput. So it can easily lead in this way […] If you overdo something. Overperformance. It is overdone. Overcooked […] It is really to do with temporality, to being in time. It also has for me … I see it as arcs. What I like about this one it is that it is not a finite end that it reaches for. It indicates that it is temporary, that things continue, that there is more time. Not that you are running out of time. It is to also recognize the moment of stepping back. To let the thing, the space, the sound stay  even in music. If someone doesn't allow the pauses the thing you produce becomes super empty again. So there is a quality of breathing space in this, a stepping back, a breathing space. But it is a different quality to that of clearing and emptying out which is one of pushing away, whereas temporary closing also has a sense of stepping back and making space but in order to allow things, the space to resonate. So it is not one of clearing, it is for allowing reverberation. Stepping back and seeing what is therePulling yourself out, no? But in a way also to trust, to trust in the material, or to trust in the thing that has been producedKnowing when is enough. But there is difference in terms of it not being an end, there is a temporary nature to it. So like closure has connotations of conclusion or ending, the stopping of somethingSomething coming to a halt. But this seems as if to say when is enough and to leave it, allow it some space, but with the sense also that this is not finished, this investigation is not finished. So is closing the right word, I am just asking myself? Temporary is stilling? Pause is also in relation to this. I think that closing has the quality that is not the same as pause, there is still an endingness to it. In a way there is also something about how exhaustion is bound up with this somehow. So you know … or to do with stopping before exhaustion, before your exhaust the thing, or overcook the thing […] The comma is also a temporary closing […] The comma is more pausing than closing and I think that this is the difference. So in a way, there is no closure with a comma. But if you have two different sentences just grammatically you might have two phrases that are linked together. (I)t is not a closure it is a connection. I mean I wonder whether a temporal closure in writing … I wonder whether it would be not like putting a full stop which would signal an end but rather an ellipsis. The three dots, so which would signal finished for now but to be continued. The principle of to be continued seems as though it is in there. Isn’t it more the comma with a dot. Because the dot dot dot for me is actually here you have to think further. The dot dot dot can signal something ebbing, having ebbed off. So the ellipsis is used in many different ways […] One use of it would be signal the ebbing of a train of thought, a fade off. With the signaling of to be continued. Yes. But maybe the punctuation is not so helpful. No I think it is good because you think it through something else or you translate it. Semi colon is different, more connective. But for me if I think it in terms of when singers do there movement of breath they indicate it, it is a very light temporary closing also. You can only say so much with one breath. And then this can also be temporary closing. I think also of the episodes that they are also a way of setting a temporary close. So maybe this is a way to say it … how is the figure of temporary closing different to the shift of episodes, to the ending and beginning of an episode? Because it feels as if it is different? So we had temporary closing in the score and it stayed for a while, so it wasn’t just to do with … I mean, the semi-colon indicates a division or a separation between clauses. So like the end of one clause and the beginning of another clause. This feels like the episodes in a way. But the temporary closing feels longer than that. It is not just a shift, it is not just a dynamic shift. It actually means a … for me with the episodes, once it is outspoken it started to sink … the shift was set. But is that closing or is that … I mean related to temporary closing you could say the figure of ebbing energy or … there are a whole load of other figures… the figure of exhaustion, the figure of dissipating energy, the figure of fading out. I mean, what is it about temporary closing that is distinct from all of those. I would say that they are different ways of doing it  so how you find your closing. You could even go again in a rising momentum thing in order to. Or to immediately stop. I think that there are different ways. To become softer or softer. I think it is interesting to indicate. Maybe we can have different examples. I was thinking that another way would be to use the images of the space with no action. Is that a temporary closing? Not so much to do with ways of closing but the state of resonance of the space, you know like when we have finished something and we step away. What is the quality of that? Because this is different to saying … the ways in which I find the closing for something could be crescendo or as you say softer, softer, or it could be … for me, I am not so sure it is to do with what kind of ending am I creating but more like what happens afterwards. I think it is the two words either you put the weight on the temporary, or you put the weight on the closing. And I think this is what makes it a very delicious combination. It seems like you are looking more at the temporariness of the closing. What continues and what does it carry on? I am looking at the quality of the temporary closing. Not only what we are doing, but once the doing has stopped, what is the quality in that? So we have been doing an exploration and a temporary closing is where we step out. The qualities we were talking about of stepping out and allowing some breathing spaceWhat is the quality in the air that remains if you like? If I think about it in terms of writing a text it would be the point where I am reaching the enough is enough, but that I still need to sleep on it. So temporary closing would mean to let it rest. To go away and then see how I meet it again. So it is not how I end it, it is not the ending. It is not the way I would end the text but it is the state of the thing in its resting, to see whether it was enough. But I think of it strongly as the sense of the space once we have stopped, once we have stopped performing and the space it allowed to reverberate still with the previous action. The images that come to mind I guess are of the space just after we have finished. It is not the day after but just after, so the space and the materials are still ringing with the energy of action. But we have decided that we will not be continuing straight away. So it is not like a pause, it is more like … recalling moments in the live explorations. It was not outspoken but everybody can feel, it is also a form of shared vibration, coming to an end. It is a super special moment when suddenly it feels like we are landing, we are landing, we are landing and then we are already on this trajectory to slow it down […] It was a way of ending. It is not only just the space, but also the moments before. I like the idea of landing site a lot in connection to the temporary closing. It is a kind of atmosphere that the figure indicates. I mean it could also be temporary landing. So it doesn’t feel as if it is pause, closing feels better than pause […] So the quality then is describing a temporal frame of the coming to an end and the reverberation beyond. So if I imagine it as a temporal bracket it describes the energy as it is moving towards the end and also the reverberation of action that lingers. I can imagine it like the ring of a bell. It just allows it to resound still […] I would say an example … the artist in their studio working, how to avoid to do too much. You slow things down. You step back. Maybe it takes two weeks to come to an end. But then I think if it goes to an exhibition that is another figure. It is in this limbo somehow between being ready to be shown or being ready. It is also finding a rest, resting […] in a visual arts sense you might talk about it in terms of temporary resolution. But I don’t think this is right in this context. Solution sounds so final, maybe there is something about stabilizing it, before it starts again. Yes, stability was a feature of it. Stable sounds so stable! At the moment I like the landing. It is not ending but rather landing. I mean, you can end quite abrupt, like falling, like crash landing. I am looking at the difference between resolution and resolve. So like, resolution has this sense of solution or conclusion bound up with it but resolve has more to do with the arriving at a decision. There is also temporary stilling. This settling. To resolve, to settle. Yes, settlingSudden settling, is this possible? Which could be one moment when we all decide and then for example to step out […] If I think of sudden settling as a practice. It is where it just clicks and there is it, but this is few and far between. We all clap together as an exercise. It practices many things but it also practices to recognize the figure of temporary closing if you want to look at it like that. Well this would be to say this ‘clap’ marks the end. The task would be to do something together at the same time. But that is not what I would perceive as the closure. The closure would be more like when the thing has arrived at the state where it needs to be left to be … but also when we do this practice as a practice of attention, what we train or what we try to exercise is to recognize it, to have this incipient moment, you remember what I mean. Yes, but I would not see this as so much to do with an ending, it seems more about synchronicity. But I guess it depends from which perspective you are seeing it. I think it is good to talk about it but it is a very rare thing, and the clapping thing has for me not so much to do with an artistic practice. Also it is one possible thing, but when we look at our three practices it is more about resolving, landing, finding a point. If we want to keep it also readable and also a bit general if that is possible. (I)t came from the sudden settling … we had moments when it suddenly settled. (T)here are many more figures that we have not explored or articulated and the ones that we have in some respects, to a certain extent they have got quite a wide application in a way. I think particularly in terms of these elemental figures  the clearing and emptying out, the spiraling momentum, temporary closing … there is a wide application, they are not singular. But in terms of talking about them now, we had the how and the crescendo – to talk about them in a more framing sense, to hint that there are different ways of coming to an end or of momentum rising or clearing and emptying out so that again the vitality shapes and curves can be applied to that. So we can talk about abrupt ending. This is its own figure which can be explored. There is also never ending ending which still continues. These can all be explored. But you started to work with resolve. In my translation it has a lot to do with decision. Is this right? To resolve? It is very much bound to determination and decision. I guess it has many meaning, here it has breaking up or disintegratingFalling into crumps, crumpling. There is an interesting partnership there in that it is a moment of stability but it is a stability that has already begun to disintegrate, or break upUnfasten or loosen. I mean, there is something about the idea of resolution in completion in the sense of there is a quality of ambiguity. On the one sense, there is a coming into completion or a like the fruition of something but as soon as it has come to fruition … it is like the fruit in a way, there is a ripeness, the fruit is ripe, this is the time, the moment, but as soon as this point is crossed it has begun to collapse. Decay. Temporary closing as a moment of resolve and at the same time a ripeness. Or even if you look at the other figures, there is already a figure close on it’s heals. Like clearing emptying out is already coming along ready to undo to make again to begin again. Landing. Talking about ripeness, there is also maturing. Maturity. Is riping in existence? Landing, settling. Settling is also very nice. The thing with settling is that is feels confusing with Clearing and Emptying out, you could see this figure as a settling. So it is trying to find a way to give it its distinctiveness, so you understand that this is at the closure. Temporary stability  this does not feel right either. Ah, mellowness. Not to overcook. Mellowness. But mellowness is also like chill, relaxed. Closing, temporary closing. Being mellow is something else. It is more of a relaxed and even temperament. It does not feel as if we have got there. The juxtaposition of temporary and closing is effective […] and the activity you do in the figure of temporary closing is to pay attention to the opportunity for temporary closing. (B)eing sensitive to the sense of enough. This principle of enough, not to overcook. When is enough.

Above: Textual-visual description of the ‘Figure of Temporary Closing’, in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, pp.100 - 101.

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 Temporary Closing’, 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 the ‘Figure of Temporary Closing’ 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.