The Figure of Consonance and Dissonance 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 the moments of connection, disconnection and reconnection  as well as in the shift between a sense of singular and collective  experienced within a wider field of relations.


Drawing on 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 Consonance and Dissonance. 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 conversation was transcribed (See extract from partially edited transcript 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.



Extract from transcript (partially edited)

[…] What is the difference between the Figure of Consonance and Dissonance and the Figure of Wavering Convergence? […] The Figure of Vibrating Affinity has an intimate connection, which is to do with a sustained or maintained bond. Wavering Convergence involves this bond being perpetually shifted or disrupted but it is still beginning with a bond as central … With Consonance and Dissonance it feels as if we begin with a continuum of some sort, and moments of consonance and dissonance arise, or it is a bigger field of relations in which there are multiple meeting points and connectivities occurring […] They are different qualities of relation … different kinds of relationality, rather than necessarily of a progressing complexity […] within Consonance and Dissonance the moments of connection feel almost like click moments, moments of fleeting encounter rather than sustained. What is an example, an example in daily life? If you are walking … down a street … it is like when you meet and have a connection with someone as they are passing by, or maybe you realize that you are stood against a wall and see others too […] A shared affect within a bigger field of relations. So in Vibrating Affintiy the bigger ground is more excluded  there is a connection between two that is really requiring total absorption and the ground becomes more peripheral […] In Consonance and Dissonance the ground provides the conditions that enables the connection to happen in a way. So we are all moving around in this continuum and then there is this click. But it is more like fleeting moments of connection within an ever-shifting relational landscape […] It feels like here the space is widerPeripheral perception informs the choices that I am making passing from dissonance, whereas the Vibrating Affinity and also the Wavering Convergence feels more concentrated, narrower in terms of perception […] This is a characteristic of it  that there is an opening of the perceptual field, or an opening of the field of awareness to include the possibility of other kinds of relation. So it is a spatial dimension or a spatial complexity? Or is it this field of perception which is opened? […] The connection is not as strong as Vibrating Affinity, but that is not to perceive it as having a different value. Like strong and weak are not necessarily values, they are different qualities of encounters. It is more en passant, in passing. Not a big commitment. Or maybe a commitment to the fleeting incident. It is a quality of passing and noticing … They are really porous, shifting figures in a way […] You can tune in to a particular figure and be more receptive  let’s say to the practicing of Consonance and Dissonance. You make a commitment to not sticking with a single encounter, keeping a more fluid movement of attention and perceptual connection. There is a quality of noticing without locking on. Whereas with Vibrating Affinity there is a sense of magnetism where you stay with something. I mean in Consonance and Dissonance we might have a connection and this is marked with AAA, but it is not just about one to one encounters. In this one, there is the possibility of consonance with the group […] I was doing this a lot with materials. So I was saying AAA when I was seeing the sticks. Thinking in families, or taxonomies, like of blue things. Not so much what the others are doing but as a way of sharpening my perception. Is it that the figure is also describing an opening up of perceptual awareness to other kinds of relationality that might even start to include the object and the inanimate? Maybe it is the point at which the family of empathetic figures expands to include the non-living matter also, to structural components. I mean, that is how I used it, I don't know how you used it. I was again using it mainly for the bodies. I also had this thing but it was not the dominant thing  colours were also a thing, also size, shape. But it was very much me in relation to other things. Bodies. Materials. And if I feel a form of resonance or consonance. Sometimes when I was laying I saw this line where the floor meets the wall, I felt I was in consonance with the line. I click, I said AAA. So maybe there is this sense within the figure of a connection. We said that one of the characteristics of the Figure of Becoming Material is that the line of distinction between object and subject starts to become blurred, it might be that in the figure of Consonance and Dissonance there is already an indication towards that. But it is not yet transformative. It is at the level of the empathetic rather than the transformative. The connection that you are making still preserves the distinctiveness of yourself as subject and the thing that you are achieving consonance with is still object. But it is anticipating the properties of Becoming Material. Why is it called anticipating? That is sometimes asking myself a lot. Because it has this anti-, anti-cipating. Anti-cipation. Anticipate. To cause to happen sooner. A foretaste. There is a foretasting of the Figure of Becoming Material within the Figure of Consonance and Dissonance, if the relation is occurring with objects and materials. It is not anti- it is ante- before. To take something before, take care of ahead of time, taking into possession beforehand. So in advance. So […] My own use or relation to materials in the Figure of Consonance and Dissonance would be to amplify or sharpen the sense of relation or connection  they are more like materials as prosthesis, in that they make more visible. This question that runs through or underpins our enquiry  how do you make visible or how do you make tangible the thing that is imperceptible? And in that sense, I think that the materials allow for a greater degree of tangibility, when there are these meeting points. But you are not getting too transformative with the materials, they are rather used to mark that field or relation […] It is in the key of re-lation not trans-lation. Correlation. There is the principle of connection and not yet transformation. It was also interesting in the con- prefix. It has a wider field […] It is not resonance but consonance. This co-, com-, con-, this coming together, with-ness principle. I think of the –sonance, the sonare  it is not by chance that we chose such a fleeting medium to relate it to. This sounding through. At times, we had also talked about the possibility of this referring to synchronicity and asynchronicity, but not only that. So it couldn’t be the figure of synchronicity and asynchronicity, because there was something that was a bit more than that. I mean, maybe it is because synchronicity speaks of, it is to do with a particular kind of form, a synchronicity of form, and this is to do with synchronicity of force, or the affective. Synchronicity is time-bound. Co-incident in time. Falling into time and falling out of time. Lagging back. There is this element to it - co-incidence is also an interesting co- word. Meaningful co-incidence. Co-incidence is the occurrence of two or more events at the same time. The act or fact of coinciding. To occupy the same space or relative position. To correspond exactly. To agree or concur. We also have concentration and dispersion. It is interesting whether dissonance describes a falling out of concord. A falling out of agreement, or whether it describes a disruption or interruption. It is a bit like the way that we were describing Wavering Convergence  whether there is a sense of falling out of attention or whether there is something more willful. So dissonance could be performed in the key of lagging or falling out of synchronicity, not keeping in time, but it could also be disruptive, of willfully breaking rhythms. Lying down in front of people in the figure  not just slipping out of synchronicity, willfully interrupting. But then it is interesting that interruptions can create their own synchronicities. The thing about interruption is that it also creates a pattern. If there are a number of people interrupting. So there is a relationship  the rhythm that ruptures also has the capacity to become the dominant rhythm. So there is this cyclical dynamic. Consenting to disruption. Dissonant consensus. Dominant dissonance. Co-incide is to fall upon, together. To fall upon, together. To fall upon, together. To fall upon, again. Which figure was it where dis- was coming up as a feature. Dis- or de-? Dis- … it is in the Figure of Clearing and Emptying Out. So the dis- of dissonance also serves as a way of opening things up again, so it has an affective function, in that it breaks pattern. So you could say that pattern starts to stabilize, to become uniform, and actually there is a quality of consensus in agreement, and then rather than being a negatively disruptive force, dissonance has the capacity for opening things up again to new rhythms, new forms of energy or of life. Distinguishing. But isn’t there also something where there is a dissonance, I think of sound, you have these overtones appearing, a third something […] The waves somehow multiply. And you have these overtones … There is a destabilizing aspect to this, introducing fluctuation in a way. In relation to this question of what it means to participate, there is something about consonance that has a quality of uniformity and con-formity. One criticism has been that it has a quality of the march. The neoliberal. There is this sense of neoliberal consonance. There is a beat that is established, and it becomes easier to follow the beat and the beat then serves to homogenise and flatten. There is a quality of sameness. […] With radical forms of non-participation, as a mode of critique and resistance, there is something about dissonance in that. The presumption perhaps is that consonance is the desirable state and dissonance the undesirable. Desirable dissonance. It is the getting in and out of consonance and dissonance that I explore in this figure. If I do a dissonant breaking away from something that is established, since it is both the consonance and the dissonance in the figure, I have to find a way to find my way back to consonance, they go in circles, no? So it is neither this nor this, it is like a cat constantly biting its tail. You could not feel the consonance without the dissonance. So that movement, the choreography of that seems very explicit within this figure. In terms of its relation to the other empathetic figures, there is something to do with a subtly of movements between states  it is not, it isn’t. There is a kind of choreography of instability, or there is something about not becoming fixed in either consonance or dissonance … In terms of group dynamics … you really tune into the wider awareness of the group … I think we established the consonance first and then there was the dissonance. I don't know. We established a continuum  so the principle of the wave was there. But the wave does not necessarily have consonance, so it was like a continuum experience, which had not yet arrived at consonance or dissonance. The strongest thing I learnt from the wave was this moment when the wave passes by […] Are you following or not  this pull by things. For me, the essence of this figure is in this […] There is a moment with the wave when you move as the wave … There is something to do with recognizing your dissonance from the wave, when you feel the wave wash over you without being carried by it. But there is also something to do with you together acting as the wave, so there is this shift between the singular and the collective that happens in the moment […] It requires a form of attunement on a much more expanded level of awareness  it is not just to do with the attunement with one. It is how to reach a level of attunement with many that requires a really expanded level of attention. I think that is why the continuum is a feature the figure, because it makes tangible the feeling of this shift between singularity and collectivity. Shifting. This shifting dynamic. A wave, a surge or progression of movement […] There can also be the connotation of the swarm. The swarm, the mass, the collective that is acting as one, in a more cautionary sense. The unthinking: unthinking consonance is agreement without thought, just following the crowd. Whereas the quality of awareness it is asking for is a perceptually sharp decision-making  whether you join. It is not unthinking  it is alert to the possibilities of stepping out or stepping in.

Above: Textual and visual description of the 'Figure of Consonance and Resonance', in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, pp.200 - 201.

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

Drawing: Nikolaus Gansterer

Design: Simona Koch


See 'Figure of Consonance and Dissonance', 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 Consonance and Dissonance' 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.