WHO: Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters is an online exposition for sharing selected findings from the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line. 

Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line was conceived and developed by key researchers writer-artist Emma Cocker, artist-performer Nikolaus Gansterer and dancer-choreographer Mariella Greil, working closely with critical interlocutors Alex Arteaga, Christine De Smedt and Lilia Mestre, alongside guest collaborators Werner Moebius and Jörg Piringer. Along the research journey, we  Cocker, Gansterer, Greil  were accompanied by different ‘wit(h)nesses’1 including video-grapher Victor Jaschkewho generated much of the project’s photographic and video documentation (including what is encountered in this exposition), and artist and designer Simona Koch who has gently supported us to transform of our embodied, experiential enquiry into different publication formats including the page-based form of a book alongside this online digital format.3

 

WHAT: The research project Choreo-graphic Figures stages a beyond-disciplinary, inter-subjective encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing, for exploring those forms of ‘knowing-thinking-feeling’ produced through collaborative exchange, in the slippage and deviation when different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Central to this enquiry is an attempt to find ways of better understanding the qualitative ‘how-ness’ – the qualitative-processual, aesthetic-epistemological and ethico-empathetic dynamics — within the process of artistic ‘sense-making’: those barely perceptible micro-movements at the cusp of awareness, the dynamic movements of decision-making, the thinking-in-action, the durational ‘taking place’ of something happening live. We ask: How can we attend to the process of artistic ‘sense-making’ from within or inside, that affective realm of energies, emergences and intensities operating before, between, and below the more readable gestures of artistic practice? How can we articulate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces — especially within collaborative exploration — without ‘fixing’ that which is inherently dynamic and contingent as a literal sign? How can we develop systems of experimentation and notation for becoming better attuned to this often hidden or undisclosed aspect of the creative process, moreover, for sharing and communicating the experience with others?

 

HOW: Choreo-graphic Figures unfolded through a series of intensive ‘Method Labs’ where the key researchers (and invited guests) came together geographically in one place — in a studio-rehearsal space usually for a period of one to five weeks at a time — to engage in collaborative exploration with each other. The  ‘Method Labs’ are conceived as a unique methodology that we have developed for activating research in-and-through practice. Hybrid of the studio and rehearsal room, a research residency and retreat, the Method Lab is a testing site or laboratory for experiential knowledge production, a space dedicated to playful and perform­ative experimentation, to embod­ied processes of thinking-through-doing. Method Lab describes both the facilitating environment (the milieu) and the activities taking place, together creating the condi­tions for new research assemblages formed through the collision of divergent approaches.

METHOD: A procedure, the manner in which something is done: a course, path or road, or else literally the act of ‘going after’. Drawn both from the Latin methodus (mode of proceeding) and the earlier Greek methodos (pur­suit). Methodos: the ‘pursuit of know-ledge’, from meta- expressing develop-ment or perhaps even the sense of being ‘in the midst of, in common with, by means of, or in quest of’, and hodos ‘a travelling, way’. ‘Method’ originally referred to a way of doing anything, without the inference of systematic order, logic or regularity that the term has since acquired. LAB: Short for laboratory: a place, situation or set of conditions conducive to experimentation, investigation and observation. From Latin laborare ‘to labour’, as well as laboratorium: ‘a place for labour and for work’, a workshop for practice and testing, for experimentation, for working something out.

 

WHEN / WHERE: The project unfolded through a series of intensive Method Labs largely taking place between 2014 - 2017, with subsequent ‘workshops’ and performance lectures staged from 2017 onwards for sharing the research with a wider community of practitioners. Prior to the official beginning of the PEEK funded part of the project, we staged the pilot projects, Beyond the Line I (December, 2013), WUK, Vienna, and Beyond the Line II, Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham (April, 2014), Nottingham. These were then followed by the Summer Method Lab I (July - August 2014) within the frame of ImPulsTanz, Vienna; Autumn Lab (September, 2014), PAF, Performing Arts Forum, St. Erme, France; Spring Lab (March, 2015), Tanzquartier, Vienna; Summer Method Lab II (July - August 2015), within the frame of ImPulsTanz, AILab, Vienna; Winter Lab (December, 2015), Tanzquartier, Vienna; Summer Method Lab III (July - August 2016), part of Visual Arts X Dance, a research / workshop programme curated by Tino Sehgal, Louise Höjer, and Rio Rutzinger, ImPulsTanz, AILab, Vienna. Throughout our research process we have shared and tested the potential of our practices and ‘scoring systems’ through a series of workshops providing opportunity for ‘live exploration’ with a wider international community of artists, choreographers, and writers, including a research workshop and performance-lecture hosted at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies), Brussels (February 2015); by Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London, UK (November 2017) and by the SALON FÜR ÄSTHETISCHE EXPERIMENTE, a cooperation between UdK, Berlin University of the Arts and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, co-funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin.

 

RELATED PUBLICATIONS: Research findings from the project have been tested through previous publication including: ‘Choreo-graphic Figures: Beginnings and Emergences’in RUUKKUFinnish Journal of Artistic Research, On Process, 2015; ‘Notion of Notation >< Notation of Notion’, in Scott deLahunta, Kim Vincs and Sarah Whatley (Eds.), Performance Research, ‘On An Notations’, Vol. 20, Issue 6, Winter, 2015; as well as at conferences/sympo­sia including: Operation on the Open Heart, University of Applied Arts Vienna Society for Artistic Research, Vienna, 2014; Parenthesis: An Un / conference, Swiss Artistic Research Network HEAD, Geneva, 2014; Tongues of Artistic Research, Tanzquartier, Vienna, 2014; Art as a Medium of Thinking: Art­ist-Philosophers — Philosophy as Arts-based Research, AILab, Vienna, 2015; PARSE Biennale Research Conference, Time, University of Gothenberg, Sweden, 2015; Plague of Diagrams, ICA, London, 2015, Please Specify!, Society for Artistic Re­search University of the Arts, Helsinki, 2017. The publication Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, (eds.) Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017) presents page-based documentation of our research project alongside a theoretical-conceptual account of its enquiry, including contributions from invited wit(h)nesses. 

 

Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line was funded (2014 – 2017) by PEEK (Programme for Arts-based Research) made possible by the FWF (The Austrian Science Fund); hosted/supported by the Uni­versity of Applied Arts, Vienna, as well as receiving support from Nottingham Trent University, UK.

 


[1] We use the term ‘wit(h)ness’ to describe those individuals who have spent time with us either in the Method Lab itself or through conversation: Arno Böhler, Catherine de Zegher, Gerhard Dirmoser (with Christopher Dell), Karin Harrasser, Adrian Heathfield, Krassimira Kruschkova, Brandon LaBelle, Erin Manning, Dieter Mersch, Werner Moebius, Alva Noë, Jeanette Pacher, Helmut Ploebst, P.A. Skantze and Andreas Spiegl each engaged with our research in its unfolding and provided contributions to the book, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2017). Further ‘wit(h)nesses’ engaged with our research process within the Method Labs providing critical feedback, including Gabrielle Cram, Susanne Valerie Granzer, Lisa Hinterreithner, Sabina Holzer, Peter Kozek, Anat Stainberg and visiting guests Philipp Gehmacher, Jack Hauser, Martina Hochmuth and Vladimir Miller. Our research has been tested through numerous workshops: special thanks to the workshop participants at a.pass, Brussels: Elke van Campenhout, Nicolas Galeazzi, Joke Liberge, Michele Meesen for hosting and workshop participants Marcella Carrara, Jim Clayburgh, Robin Creswell, Veronica Cruz, Christophe Dupuis, Ulla Hase, Hector Mamet, Ruth Noyes, Jeremiah Runnels, Mavi Veloso and the workshop participants of visual arts X dance ‘intensives’: Emilie Gallier, Asher O’Gorman, Maite Liébana Vena, Mayson Fung Mei Sheung, Dawn Nilo, Inge Gappmaier, Pedro Henrique dos Santos Risse, Olga Lukyanova, Emily Kessler, Heike Langsdorf, Anna Stamp Møller, Alice Heyward, Ioana-Laura Gheorghiu, Irina Lavrinovic, John Hoobyar, Samira Elagoz, Nami Miwa, Amanda Hohenberg, Liliya Burdinskaya.

[2] Additionally, Julian Hughes produced the photographs from the pilot project Beyond the Line (Nottingham, 2014), and Tim Tom produced the video documentation from the first Choreo-graphic Figures Summer Lab (Vienna, 2014).

[3] Simona worked with us to develop the publication Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017.

 

 

 

OUTLINE

We have developed this exposition for ‘scoring an aesthetic encounter’ with the multimodal  visual, textual, sonic, performative  findings from the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures. We have modelled the exposition on the experimental score system developed within our research project, for organising our process of aesthetic enquiry through the bringing-into-relation of different ‘practices’ and ‘figures’. The ‘score’ is intended to be played: the reader is invited to ‘dive in’ and experience our research process by navigating their own route through the content presented  (→ Play the Score), with this → Find Out More section operating in support with a contextualising function.

 

Our aim is not to present an exhaustive account of this project.1 Rather, we seek to test the specificity of this online context for extending our investigation through the questions: How can we create a digital archive capable of reflecting the durational and relational aspects of the research process, a mode of online dissemination that communicates the liveness or vitality  the energies and intensities  of collaborative live exploration? Beyond the limitations of the static two-dimensional page, how can an enhanced digital format enable a non-linear, rhizomatic encounter with artistic research, where findings are activated and navigated, interacted or even played with as a choreo-graphic event? Our exposition tests how our permutational score system might operate within an online environment, as a device for endlessly (re)organising our research materials to reflect the contingency of the research process itself.

 

The research catalogue is approached as a collaborative tool, its limitations and affordances enabling us to share our research in different ways to other publication formats, creating the conditions for an alternative experiential encounter with our work other than through live participation in or engagement with the actual research process itself. Our exposition is not just documentation  not simply the evidencing of what ‘has been’. Neither is it an iterative account of our evolving methodology, nor solely a discursive rationale. We respond to theorist Dieter Mersch’s call for artistic research to ‘show’, to reveal the “‘work in the work’, the ‘becoming’ of the processes themselves.”2  We ask: How can we show our research rather than tell? How can we present rather than represent  how can we perform, enact and activate our research findings within this online context? 


FIGUR(ING) > < PRACTICES > < SCORE

The score and its ecology of figures and practices were developed gradually over a number of years (2014  2017) through a series of Method Labs (test sites for experiential knowledge production) that involved us — Cocker, Gansterer, Greil  —working collaboratively, often closely with our critical interlocutors (Alex Arteaga, Christine De Smedt and Lilia Mestre), guest collaborators (Werner Moebius and Jörg Piringer), alongside videographer Victor Jaschke and designer Simona Koch. Whilst not sequential, our research process can be conceived as a tripartite enquiry involving three core phases or foci:

* Figuring > < Figure: our enquiry into the processes of artistic sense-making has involved the conceptualisation and exploration of the relation between the event of figuring (a term we use for describing those small yet transformative energies, emergences and experiential shifts which operate before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice, that are often hard to discern but which ultimately shape or steer the evolving action) and the emergence of figures (this term is used to refer to the point at which ‘something happening’  figuring  coalesces into a recognisable form). Through the process of live exploration, our enquiry involves the identification and naming of different figures, alongside a collective attempt (through the ‘scoring’ of live exploration) to create the conditions for a figure’s arising, as well as for giving rise to unexpected interactional constellations of figures through live activation and play. Our intent is not only to observe and identify, but also to amplify and refine the specific qualitative vitalities of different figures through repeated testing and experimentation. Within our investigation so far, we have been able to articulate the qualities and consti­tutive conditions for nine named figures out of a list of infinitely more. In turn, these figures have been grouped according to three different qualitative categories: Elemental, Empathetic and Transformative (→ Introduction to Figures, → Index of Elemental Figures, → Index of Empathetic Figures and → Index of Transformative Figures).

Practices: In conjunction, we have developed a set of ‘practices’ for sharpening, focusing or redirecting attention towards both the event of figuring and the emergence of figures (→ Introduction to Practices, → Index of Practices, → Practices of Attention, → Practices of Notation, → Practices of Conversation, → Practices of Wit(h)nessing).

Score: Our research process has further involved the creation of an innovative permutational ‘score system’  which forms the basis of this exposition  as a research tool or apparatus, for bringing-into-relation the various practices and figures that we have developed during the Choreo-graphic Figures project, a device for foregrounding the process of artistic compositional decision-making as a live event.

 

THE PLAYING IN PRACTICE

The score was used during our Method Labs as a tool for organising our live exploration, helping us to focus attention towards the relation between the event of figuring and the emergence of figures. Within the process of a live exploration, the score is played thus: Prior to an exploration, we select which practices and figures we want to explore, making a visible note of these on a series of blackboards. We then enter a designated time period of shared exploration, where the invitation is to ‘call’ (→ Practices of Notation: Calling) different named fields of practice into play. You could begin like this: let’s say someone calls for the → Figure of Becoming Material. Since you and ‘fellow explorers’ all know the qualities of this figure, you can collectively begin a process of exploration in the hope of giving rise to its emergence. Continue to explore together — in time, maybe the figure shows up, maybe not. Perhaps a → Practice of Attention would help to refine your collective sensitivity to the material transformation inherent within this figure: someone calls for the practice of → Touching. Haptic awareness now heightened, you could collectively return to exploring the arising conditions of → Becoming Material. Alternatively, another figure or another practice might be called. The process continues until a decision is made to stop. Within this exposition, the blackboard score used in our live explorations is translated into a matrix of figures and practices (visible at the top-left of each page), whilst the act of ‘calling’ for shifts between different figures and practices is approximated through the use of hyperlinks within this matrix.

 

SELF-ORGANISATION AND REORGANISATION

The development of our ‘score system’ has enabled us to attend closely to the relational con­ditions for the arising of specific named figures, where live exploration is focused through the prism of various practices. Whilst we are interested in the specific form that the score takes, our research focus has been towards better understanding the score as a ‘research tool’; how it operates within our enquiry as a device for a bringing-into-relation through live composition.3 We ask: How can we create the conditions for improvisational self-organisation or organ­ism-relation that emerges from with­in the process itself, where the organisation of live exploration is immanent rather than imposed from above or from outside? How can we develop a score that activates ‘thinking-in-action’, where the ‘vitality contour’ of live exploration evolves through attending to the emergences and vitalities therein?4 In developing our score we have focused on its capacity for both organising and reorganising our process of aesthetic exploration. Counter-intuitively, our desire for bringing-into-relation the different aspects of our research, has meant that we first needed to clarify or even categorise the various intensities, energies and experiential emergences therein, by defining the qualities and attributes of differentiated figures (→ Figure of Clearing & Emptying Out, Figure of Spiralling Momentum, Figure of Temporary Closing, Figure of Vibrating Affinity, Figure of Wavering Convergence, Figure of Consonance and Dissonance, Figure of Ventilating Meaning, Figure of Becoming Material, Figure of Translational Flux) and establishing the specificity of each of our various practices (→ Practices of Attention, Notation, Conversation, Wit(h)nessing).

 

Yet, the attempt to create these different categories  whether of figures or of practices  is not one of order or control, for fixing or delimiting the contingent process of creative exploration through labels and names; rather, we conceive the act of separation as a precondition for reconfiguration and reconnection. Likewise, we consider the act of hyphenation evident in the choreo-graphic, as an act of separation in order to conceive a new relationality between the constitutive parts. Our practice of categorisation operates first as one of wilful or even subversive disorganisation, a means for de-stabilising or unsettling those habitual processes of  often imperceptible or undeclared  organisation that structure our ways of doing things (both within artistic exploration and our relations with others), so that we might observe how they organise us, moreover, in turn, how they might be reorganised. For philosopher Alva Noë, art is a “strange tool” through which we might engage, “with the ways our practices, techniques, and technologies organize us, and it is finally, a way to understand our organization and inevitably, to reorganize ourselves.”5 He argues that art and philosophy are “really species of a common genus whose preoccupation is with the ways we are organized and with the possibility of reorganizing ourselves.”6

 

Noë outlines various ‘everyday practices’ by which the temporal and relationship-building dynamics of our lives are organised through the interplay of attention and negotiation, listening and responding, paying attention and losing focus, action and inaction. These organising practices are those habitual activities  often implicit rather than necessarily explicit  that shape and structure our ways of being and behaving at a biological level of embodiment. To a certain extent, many of our own ‘practices’ might be conceived in such terms: walking, breathing, voicing, sleeping, touching, reading, naming, conversing, watching, listening, translating. However, within our enquiry they are ‘offset slightly’ such that they become disentangled from their everyday use or function, and instead have the capacity to be tested and explored within the frame of aesthetic exploration. Likewise, Noë uses ‘choreography’ as a ‘stand-in’ for reflecting more broadly on how art practices “seek to bring out and exhibit, to disclose and to illuminate, aspects of the way that we find ourselves organized.” 7 Choreography, by which Noë means all art, is that which makes visible or attends to the system of organisation itself; moreover, remains ‘bent’ on its reorganisation. By bringing our figures and practices into the score, we interrogate how they organise us alongside how might we activate them in new relation.

 

BRINGING-INTO-RELATION

Our score is one device that we have developed for deepening our attention towards a level of vitality operating beneath or below a ‘structural’ level of organisation; in turn, providing a framework for bringing-into-relation different figures and practices as a means of re-organisation. Beyond attending to the qualitative sense of how-ness, our research asks ‘how else?’ How does artistic research support the production of ourselves, our subjectivity — our being-with others, our being-in-the-world — as otherwise? We anatomise and separate the practices and dynamics that comprise the process of collaboration artistic exploration to test how they might be diagrammatically reconfigured otherwise, unexpectedly; in turn, how we ourselves also might be configured differently in and through this experience. In this sense, our use of the score seeks also to constitute new, experimental ways in which we can become re-organised as an ethico-aesthetic practice. This experimentation with a diagrammatic paradigm or praxis for ethico-aesthetic reorganisation offers a practical articulation of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of rhizome that “is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation.”8

 

Within a rhizomatic diagrammatic model, there is no centre; all parts have the capacity to be connected to all parts, any point can be broken and reattached to another.9 Likewise, we consider our acts of separation and categorisation as a means for activating new connections. We conceive our score and the milieu constituted through its very activation in ecosophical terms. Guattari outlines an “ethico-aesthetic aegis of an ecosophy”  — comprising the ‘three ecologies’ of “environment, social relations and human subjectivity”10— involving the cultivation of an ecological praxis, “specific practices that will modify and reinvent the ways in which we live […] it will be a question of literally reconstructing the modalities of ‘group-being’ [l’êtreen-groupe], not only through ‘communicational’ interventions but through existential mutations driven by the motor of subjectivity.”11 This notion of an ecology or even ecosystem of practices resonates with our conceptualisation of the score: we conceive it as a living organism more than a system of organisation. It pulses with a sense of liveness, aliveness; it has the capacity to develop and grow.

 

CONDITIONS OF ARISING

Significantly, within our diagrammatic system of scoring, the form that a figure takes is not predetermined from the outset, but rather it is emergent, it only becomes recognisable through the arising of its qualities in and through the process of exploration. For Alex Arteaga “In the case that a figure becomes explicit it always remains at the edge of its own explicitness. It is fragile, subtle, contingent, dubious, shady  in the shade of the objects and subjects that enable its presence.”12 Whilst previous ‘examples’ of a figure might help to indicate the conditions needed for a figure’s arising or give clues to its atmospheric signature, they do not define what the figure is, nor do they guarantee its return. The ‘call’ for a specific figure is thus for the conditions of the figure’s arising, wherein we collectively strive to generate the qualities associated with that figure. We ask: how are the conditions that give rise to the emergence of a figure? How does the figure come into being, how does it become? What conditions are prerequisite; moreover, how might the figuring figure require conditions that are contingent and unpredictable, which cannot be diagrammed in advance? In one sense, our enquiry is one of exploring the germinal condi­tions for the arising of specific figuring figures, refining and amplifying the qualitative vitality dynamics emerging therein as a means for shedding new light on the process of collabora­tive artistic exploration. Here, as Lilia Mestre asserts, “the score operates simultaneously as a way to practise and to observe the practice.”13 

 

Yet, herein lies a dilemma, how do we revisit and reactivate the qualities of specific figures, whilst also retaining or returning a sense of their dynamic vitality? How do we avoid, as Alva Noë cautions, our figures from becoming empty ‘symbolisations of an idea’; at worst, a ‘hollow shell’ dispossessed of its aliveness?14 Whilst we have been able to articulate the qualities of a figure and even identify concrete examples of its articulation, how can we avoid fixing the specific form that a figure should take? How do we ‘let go’ of our preconceptions of what a specific figure ‘looks like’, attending rather more to how it ‘feels’. As Arteaga reflects on the figures, “We cannot move straight forward to it  it is not an ‘it’.15  Significantly, the live process of activating the figures through the use of the score, requires a radical letting go of the original form in order to per-form it again, where in Erin Manning’s terms, “to begin is to begin again, differently, impossibly, impractically. It is to begin not with the form but with the force of the more-than as articulated by the welling diagram the event calls forth.”16 In attempting to re-meet a named figure, one must re-find a way of finding it again in its vitality: this is not simply a case of repetition. For as Manning elaborates, “No movement can be cued, aligned to or performed in the same way twice […] What emerges as a dance of attention cannot be replicated. It is not a thing, a form.”17

 

So, how does one reactivate the embodied diagrammatics of the scored choreo-graphic figure, so as to reencounter or re-find the experience in its dynamic vitality? Here, as Manning suggests, “The diagram does not pre-exist its shaping […] The diagram that may have seemed to be an individual form now reveals itself to be an emergent multiplicity.”18 For Manning, what is required is the ecology of a ‘diagrammatic praxis’ where, “Spacing and bodying transindividuate, fashioning a multiple singularity: a body-diagrammatic. The body-diagrammatic is a procedural ‘I’ that stands not for the subject but for individuation … making felt the merging of topological registers of co-constitution: space-bodying, time-spacing.”19 She uses the term biogram for describing a ‘becoming-body’ that “has no fixed form”20, that “makes itself felt in the intensive passage from one intensity – one series – to another … The biogram cannot represent anything because it has no pregiven form … The biogram propels a process of determining that always resists final form.”21 

 

Our figures are not re-presentational diagrams: they are not outlines or instructions that define or describe a set of predetermined actions or operations. The qualitative descriptions of our figures and the documentation of previous examples within this exposition are not conceived as a ‘how to’ guide  as instructions or ingredients but rather as the diagramming of possibility. In the process of live exploration, all previous iterations of the figure must be unlearnt or forgotten so that it can be transformed: a deformation or defiguring of the figure that necessarily prefigures figuration, an emptying out so that it can be re-filled with life once more. For Dieter Mersch, “The figure in the sense of figuration consequentially ‘keeps’ itself in persistent ‘transience. On the whole it is a movement without state”. He argues that the “reciprocal dialectics of figuration and defiguration”, involve a process of  “continuous transfiguration, processuality in itself” focused on “the permanence of a ‘formative’ that is formation and flux in one.”22 Whilst the concept of  or even previous iterations of  a given figure might pre-exist (→ Index of Figures)the process of figuration is always immanent to its per-forming.

 

CHOREO-GRAPHIC FIGURES

Whilst figure is the term that we use for referring to a ‘local’ instance of figuring incarnating as content modality — the point at which figuring becomes recognisable, even nameable  — our intent has been towards the production of choreo-graphic figures within which there is more than one arising of a figure figuring. Choreo-graphic: the hyphen, a deviating line, holding two terms in proximity whilst also keeping them apart. Choreo: more than one or in relation to another, as in chorus, as in group, always a communication between. Graphic: the possibilities and sensitivities of inscription (of moving, drawing and writing and the modalities in between), not just for describing  representing or reproducing that which already exists  but as much a dynamic happening, capable also of bringing about, constituting, transforming. Here, the specificity of this online exposition has enabled us to construct possibilities for the choreo-graphic figure that were not possible through the process of live exploration alone. Specifically, within this exposition our figures can truly appear as multimodal, multidimensional, durational intensities, the performed entanglement of visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic sensibilities.

 

The online exposition format enables us to bring-into-relation multiple articulations of a figure from different spatio-temporal moments in our enquiry, enabling us to better express the signature of figure (in atmospheric terms) rather than the specific form that it should take. It allows for the temporal co-inciding of material fragments that could not co-exist otherwise, performed actions distanced by years can be choreographed into new relations through a virtual weave. Whilst our actual live explorations took place within the linear chronology of time passing and through the vehicular language of per-forming, within this exposition the different modalities of drawing, writing and choreography intermingle at their different registers of speed and slowness. The reader can linger with things for longer than the live performance affords. Loops and repeats bring materials into chance relations. Fragments of sound and spoken word can be built up in overlapping layers. The acoustic reverberations of one exploratory fragment seeps into the frame of another — it is not always immediately evident where the sound comes from. Yet, the sound signatures of each figure video are diegetic (whether source-connected or source-disconnected); emerging directly from the live exploration itself and not added through post-production. Drawings can be zoomed into revealing a universe of detail that emerges temporally, gradually over time. The reader is plunged in, enters in the midst, arriving in the middle of things. Hyperlinks are used to create different points of ‘landing’ or arrival on a ‘page’, enabling different connections and proximities to emerge. New pathways through the material are created by the individual reader deciding when to look and when to listen, when to read and when to watch, when to zoom in (+) and when to zoom out (-). Between glimpsing and dwelling – how long to stay with, when to leave; when to activate certain materials (video or sound) or when to stop or make them silent. Find unexpected connections. Allow time to get lost. The route through the materials will probably be different each time.


The format of the exposition allows us to attend better to the rhythmic interplay of heterogeneous durations in the constitution of ethical relations, revealing a sense of polyrhythmic or even idiorhythmic micro-temporalities operating between, beneath and below the more ‘readable’ temporal dynamics of chronological — perhaps even anthropocentric  time.23 Here, as philosopher Henri Bergson asserts, “In reality there is no one rhythm of duration; it is possible to imagine many rhythms which, slower or faster, measure the degree of tension of different kinds of consciousness.”24 Indeed, it is not a case of just zooming into different durational intensities, but rather a gentle practice of attending to  or at least acknowledging  their simultaneity. By sharing our research through its various documents our intent is not to undermine the experiential encounter with the live process itself, but rather to consider how the performing document might have a liveness of its own, always evolving, always in transition. Less as an indexical record of ‘being there’, the performance document is approached as a malleable material that can be dislocated from its originary historical context, to be brought into new configurations.25 Here then, the technological affordances and limitations of the exposition format open up new possibilities for exploring the performativity of the research document. In these terms, the research catalogue is approached as a ‘strange tool’ that has helped facilitate the ‘scoring of an aesthetic encounter’ with our artistic research, a device for both organising and also (re)organising our research materials as an experiential event.



 __________________________

 

[1] Indeed, the theoretical basis and a methodological exposition of our enquiry have already been outlined in the publication, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, (eds.) Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017). For example, see the chapters 'Becoming Undisciplinary', pp. 37 47; ‘Figuring > < Figure’, pp. 69 81, and ‘Embodied Diagrammatics’, pp. 315 331.

[2] Dieter Mersch, Epistemologies of Aesthetics, (Zurich and Berlin: Diaphanes, 2015), p. 11. Mersch differentiates ‘aesthetic thought’ from the “classical philosophical ideas about thinking thought, in particular equating thought and concepts or, since the linguistic turn, the appropriation of thought by language” (2015, p. 8). He argues how discursiveness  “making a statement or formulating an ‘argument’ in the form of sentences” (p. 8)  and methodology  based upon a “scientific, i.e. methodological, research process” (p. 9)  have “advanced to become the main criteria for the production of episteme”, neither of which he claims are “particularly suited to artistic practice”  (ibid.). Against this context, Mersch asks what “thought in other media” might mean, where “thought is understood as a practice, as acting with materials, in materials, or through materials… or with media, in media or through media” (pp. 9  10). Interestingly, Mersch is keen to avoid “favouring tacit knowledge as is the trend in science studies and the history of science” (ibid) in an attempt to differentiate an artistic or rather aesthetic mode of thought beyond a vocabulary of linguistic discursivity and process methodology, where the specificity  even alterity  of an aesthetic epistemology is made explicit. Moreover, he argues that the “decisive epistemic modus” through which art performs, presents and exhibits its ‘work in the work’ is always one of showing: “we are dealing with ‘showings’ that in equal measure reveal something and show themselves while in showing, hold themselves back […] their métier is not representation, but presence” (p. 170).

[3] For example, the influence of Fluxus scores is evident in our Practices, as well as the work of experimental composer Pauline Oliveros. See Pauline Oliveros, Deep listening: a composer's sound practice, (New York, NY, iUniverse, 2015) and Software for People: collected writings 1963-80 (2015). Lisa Nelson & Scott Smith’s Tuning Scores offer the tools and a framework for communication and a model of collaboration constructed in the act of doing. Drawing on philosophies of the event, choreographer João Fiadeiro’s conceptualisation of ‘real time composition’ (RTC) involves the radical rethinking of how decisions are made within live improvisation and performed composition, where the performer is invited to ‘let go’ their role as ‘creator’  along with the ‘interference’ of habits and patterns of behaviour  to become the ‘facilitator’ or mediator’ of ‘what happens’, conceived as a co-emergent process. See http://www.uniarts.fi/uniartstv/online-jo%C3%A3o-fiadeiro-real-time-composition.

[4] The term ‘vitality contour’ is borrowed from Daniel Stern, Forms of Vitality: Exploring Dynamic Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy and Development, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[5] Alva Noë, Strange Tools — Art and Human Nature, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2015), p. xiii.

[6] Noë, 2015, p. xiii.

[7] Noë, 2015, p. 16.

[8] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, (trans.) Brian Massumi, (London: Continuum, 2004), p. 12.

[9] As Deleuze and Guattari assert, “A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines.” Deleuze and Guattari, 2004, p. 10.

[10] Guattari, The Three Ecologies, (London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), p. 8.

[11] Guattari, 2014, p. 22.

[12] Alex Arteaga, ‘Researching Aesthetically the Roots of Aesthetics’ in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017, p. 259.

[13] Lilia Mestre, ‘Score It!’ in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017, p. 304.

[14] Alva Noë, ‘Fragile Figures’ in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017, pp. 374 – 376.

[15] Arteaga, 2017, p. 259.

[16] Erin Manning, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 147.

[17] Manning, 2013, p. 134.

[18] Manning, 2013, p. 142.

[19] Manning, 2013, p. 134.

[20] Manning, Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Technologies of Lived Abstraction Series, (MIT Press, 2009), p. 125.

[21] Manning, 2009, p. 125.

[22] Dieter Mersch, ‘Figuration/Defiguration’ in Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, 2017, p. 117.

[23] Roland Barthes uses the term ‘idiorhythmy’ to refer to a state where each is able to maintain his or her own rhythm of existence, combining periods of being-with along­side being-apart. See Roland Barthes, How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013); Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life, (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).

[24] Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, (Mineolam New York: Dover Publications, 2004), p. 275.

[25] See Emma Cocker and Clare Thornton, ‘The Italic I — Between Liveness and the Lens’ in Journal Studies in Theatre and Performance, Volume 38, 2018 - Issue 3: The Alternative Document, pp. 238 — 250, for further exploration of ‘performing documents’, an examination of the forms of temporality and performativity that emerge in the interval between live performance and lens-based mediation, between event and document.

The research project Choreo-graphic Figures attempts to find ways of better understanding the qualitative ‘how-ness’  —  the qualitative-processual, aesthetic-epistemological and ethico-empathetic dynamics — within the process of artistic ‘sense-making'. Our research enquiry into the ‘knowing-feeling-thinking’ within artistic process has focused on the reciprocal conceptualisation and exploration of the relation between the event of figuring (those small yet transformative energies, emergences and experiential shifts which operate before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice, that are often hard to discern but which ultimately shape or steer the evolving action) and the emergence of figures (the point at which ‘something happening’  —  figuring  —  coalesces into a recognisable form).


Through the process of our 'live exploration'  —  and its related 'practices'  —  we have been able to re-cognise and qualify different shifts in vitality, intensity or affordance which we have named as specific figures. Whilst some of the proposed figures can be recognised visually as particular movements, gestures or postures within the unfolding of artistic endeavour, others operate beneath the register of visibility, at a more corporeal, sensorial and affective level of awareness. Furthermore, whilst some figures might be consciously activated within the arc of artistic enquiry (for example, for getting started), others refer more to inner states. Indeed, some figures become recognisable only through their kinetic dynamics, through the register of their force, power or even affect rather than through their form. We use the score system as a collective apparatus through which we agree to collectively work towards creating the conditions for or seek to give rise to specific named figures. Practical examples — specific iterations — of a select number of these figures can be encountered throughout the exposition.

 

Within our investigation so far, we have been able to articulate the qualities and constitutive conditions for nine named figures out of a list of infinitely more. In turn, these figures have been grouped according to three different qualitative categories. The Elemental Figures diagram key moments within the arc of creative exploration or endeavour, address the opening up and exposition of process. The figures we present within this grouping are indicative not exhaustive, referring to just three moments within the arc of practice: the process of beginning (→ Clearing and Emptying Out), of generating energy in the midst of (→ Spiralling Momentum), and for drawing towards resolution (→ Temporary Closing). The Empathetic Figures involve the diagramming of relations, drawing attention to the ethics of collaboration, the sensitivities and sensibilities of being-with. The three figures presented (→ Vibrating Affinity, Wavering Convergence, Consonance / Dissonance) articulate a shift from the experienced intensity of being-with one to the many, or rather from the experience of the one (that is already the many) to the multitude. The Transformative Figures each involve an explicit shift, change or even transformation in property, quality or state of being. Connected through the prefix trans- (indicating movement across or through, the act of ‘going beyond’), the three figures presented (→ Ventilating Meaning, Becoming Material, Translational Flux) each involve the dissolving or destabilising of fixed meanings by collapsing the lines of distinction between activity / passivity, animate / inanimate, subject / object, self / world.  


Our enquiry has involved developing practices for attending to and marking the event of figuring; the identification, qualification and naming of various figures; alongside the distillation of the qualitative properties of key figures (→ Elemental, Empathetic, Transformative) such that we might seek to re-activate them with intent. Central to this has been the development of an experimental ‘score system’ through which we practise ‘calling’ (→  Notation: Calling) for and attending to the conditions of specific named figures: a process of live aesthetic exploration focused through the prism of various Practices of Attention, Conversation, Notation and Wit(h)nessing. This exposition is modelled on that score system (→  Play the Score).

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Within the Choreo-graphic Figures project, the conceptualisation and exploration of the relation between the event of figuring (those hard to discern yet transformative energies that often steer the evolving artistic activity) and the emergence of figures (the point where the undifferentiated awareness of ‘something happening’ [figuring] is recognisable through a name) has been focused and sharpened through the development of different Practices. Whilst many of these Practices have an instructional or even demonstrative quality, and could be practised automously, their research function is specifically for deepening, widening and sharpening our aesthetic enquiry towards the event of figuring and emergence of figures. Through the use of a ‘score’ — con­ceived as a ‘research tool’ — we have been able to test how the various ‘practices’ impact upon the process of artistic exploration through a process of live composition (→ Play the Score). 

 

Each Practice has a different function or emphasis: (A) Practices of Attention — for sensory heightening, for cultivating perceptual awareness, increased alertness, vigilance and receptivity; (N) Practices (or Modes) of Notation — for noticing and marking the event of figuring and the emergence of figures; (C) Practices of Conversation — dialogue as a verballinguistic means for reflecting on the process of our live exploration; (W) Practices of Wit(h)nessing — different tactics for being-with, for blurring the division between participant / observer, for inviting another’s perspective.


We provide an outline (or even prelude, from prae- ‘before’ + ludere ‘to play’) for each of the practices (A - Attention), (N - Notation), (C - Conversation) and (W – With(h)nessing), specifically in relation to how the ‘practice’ is performed or played within the context of a scored live exploration. Each set of practices is outlined here in terms of its core characteristics or qualities. The practices themselves - including practical exercises and variations combining concrete instruction, poetic invitation – are encountered either through the playing of the score itself (→ Play the Score) or through the Index of Practices below. Whilst these individual practices have been developed and tested within the frame of our Method Labs through intensive collaboration — specifically with our critical interlocutors (Alex Arteaga, Christine De Smedt, Lilia Mestre) and guests (Werner Moebius, Jörg Piringer) — the ‘writing up’ of each singular example has been undertaken by one (or two) individual(s) allowing for a diversity of both voice and approach.

 

 

 

The Practices of Attention perform a vital role within our artistic research process, creating the germinal conditions for experimental aesthetic enquiry. They are enabling, allowing us to access states of increased alertness, vigilance and receptivity, in turn augmenting (heightening, deepening, widening) and nuancing (sharpening, refining) both our individual and collective sensitivities to the vitality dynamics and affects within our live exploration. Related to — though significantly different from — warming-up activities, there is a preparatory function to the practices of attention. They have a re-set or re-tune task, clearing the ground in order for re-seeing things differently.1 They involve a process of letting go or emptying out — activating a level of awareness beyond the utilitarian, instrumental or judgemental; the temporary suspension of will or self-led agency towards increased receptivity, even passivity. Here, passivity does not lead to inaction, but rather gives way to a truly spontaneous mode of intentionality; intention without predetermined direction or destination. Not yet towards something. Freed from presuppositions, conscious expectations or goals, these practices invite a quality of defocused focus akin to a state of ‘evenly suspended’ or ‘hovering’ attention.2 Towards equanimity: undoing of normative thinking, the dynamics of attraction and aversion. Develop readiness not reactivity. Attention practices are radically non-creative or rather they wilfully constrain self-expressivity opening up a space or ‘gap’ for creative attention, for the immanent and open-ended vitalities of creation to arise.3 Whilst these practices increase our capacity for noticing, the invitation is to not (yet) follow the impulse, nor is it to mark this event as such (→ Practices of Notation). Just attend. In this sense, the key modality of these practices is re-generative non-productivity. 


Stretch of attention; increase one’s range. Extension of perception, sensation and awareness: activation of new realms of experience beyond the habitual. There is an exploratory quality to the practices of attention, opening up new zones of encounter. Be curious. Practise horizontal shifts — widening of one’s horizon, expansion of awareness towards the peripheral, the limits of one’s perceptual reach. Yet not just the navigation of frontiers, the adventurer’s fascination with limits. Tend to shifts of attention, intervals and gaps, the thresholds and interstices. Qualitative overrides quantitative; practise with ever-subtler precision. Practise vertical extensions — centering one’s attention, before heightening. Then, deepening. Deep listening. Deep seeing. Deepened proprioception. Sustaining in-depth practice through dedication to regular, repeated action-perception-reflection cycles. Repetition builds capacity: however, exercise not to discipline, not to order and control, not for the improvement of skill through drill and obedience. Rather, to sensitise — to endow with sensation, from the Latin sensus, past participle of sentire: ‘feel-perceive’. Repetition increases sensitivity to difference, to the proliferation of multiplicities. It is a practice of modification and variation, for working-through a set of propositions that unfold each time anew.4

 

 

Beyond developing various singular modalities of notation (the colloquial sense of note-making), our research process has involved the evolution of an agreed and sharable ‘notation system’ 1 of signs used for noticing and marking the event of figuring and the emergence of figures, shifting the notion of notation (in general terms) towards the notation of a notion.2 We ask: how can we develop systems of notation for identifying, marking and communicating the barely perceptible micro-movements at the cusp of awareness within the process of collaborative artistic exploration without fixing that which is dynamic and contingent as a literal sign? The practices of notation function in close proximity to the attention practices (→ Practices of Attention). Increased attention augments one’s capacity to notice; in turn, the principle of noticing underpins notation. Furthermore, the relation is reciprocal — notation can further enhance one’s capacity to notice. However, whilst the event of noticing and notation operate symbiotically, notation involves more than noticing. It is a practice of both noticing and marking. Marking is the criterion for notation. Notation involves the production of marks or symbols, the generation of signs relating to a sign-less experience. It operates within a semiotic field: what or how is the relation between sign and signification? In one sense, notation is activated whenever a sign or mark is used to stand for, re-present. It is a mode perhaps more than a practice since it is never truly autonomous; there must be a ground of other activity for it to mark, notation designates an experience other than itself. We activate notation in direct relation to our process of live exploration, aesthetic experimentation is the ‘ground’ of activity that we seek to mark. Notation has a reflective function; however, in contrast to the practices of conversation its modality is not discursive, not reportage. It just marks — its task is one of making visible or tangible the event of noticing (something). 



Within our enquiry, the practice of conversation is not something that takes place after artistic exploration as a means for reflecting on practice. Rather, conversation is a language-based, relational and participatory practice, a site of shared voicing happening aloud within a collective situation. The Practice of Conversation is itself a live exploration — perhaps even an aesthetic exploration — with its own specific ‘vitality contours’ and dynamic affects. We attend then to conversation as a ‘vitality field’ — a generative practice in-and-of itself; site and material for the construction of immanent and inter-subjective modes of linguistic ‘sense-making’, emerging from the enmeshing of our different voices in live exchange. Rather than simply a record or dialogic archive, we consider our conversational transcripts as live material for playful appropriation and reworking. The transcripts have also been folded back into our aesthetic exploration as a physical material aerated through the performative ‘ventilating of meaning’ as a live event (→ Figure of Ventilating Meaning), or have been distilled into playful lists of questions or prompts, for example, based on specific keyword searches such as how, when, where. We have devised specific practices where conversation enters the field of live exploration through scored or even choreographed forms of action, practices of ‘staged conversation’ with distinctive parameters and rules. Within the score itself, there are four different practices of conversation or conversational re-organisation – these can be found if you → Play the Score or through the Index of Practices. Each Practice of Conversation is conceived in direct relation to our aesthetic exploration, for further opening this up through linguistic means. Each has a different imperative or atmosphere, creating different dynamics and rhythms, different ways of being together. For example, whereas Dialogic engages in the creation of intimate (often dyadic) meeting points through conversation, Keywords involves the participation of many others, including wider publics. Upwelling involves the dampening of the speaking I to become a conduit for the ‘situation’, whilst Wild Talk channels the spontaneous excesses of an over-enthusiastic, babbling subject. The practices of conversation operate in close proximity to the Practices of Wit(h)nessing, providing a context through which we, alongside critical wit(h)nesses and invited publics, feedback our reflections and observations directly into the process of an unfolding live exploration. Our list of practices is not exhaustive and could be added to: it is just a start. Silence is also always an option.

Rather than modifying existing notational forms (musical, choreographic, cartographical, computational or even scientific notation systems), our intent was to develop an undisciplinary system capable of operating between the lines. Initially, we developed a process of ‘clicking’ for marking the event of figuring, where we each make an audible sound (a vocal ‘click’) to acknowledge the experience of a qualitative shift in awareness or affordance, identification that something is happening at the level of vitality or emergence (→ Clicking). On occasion, this process of ‘notated’ live exploration was recorded on video: the function of video being indexical, to simply capture the ‘clicks’ in the context of their production. By watching the video documentation back — re-collecting and reflecting on the experience of notation — we were able to identify, qualify or even name the shifts in awareness, vitality or affordance marked by each ‘click’. Whilst this process has enabled us to expand our list of potential figures, we still wanted to develop a system of notation that could be activated live as a mode of ‘thinking-in-action’ performed en acte. Within the score system (→ Play the Score) of this exposition there four different notation systems as it is used (scored) within the context of a live exploration. In principle, our notation system has few rules: we can elect to practise our process of live exploration in a notated or non-notated form; we can practise undifferentiated or differentiated notation. The exposition elaborates four different modalities of notation based on the concrete sign systems developed through our own research process. Significantly, differentiated notation does not guarantee increased sophistication, indeed, the undifferentiated modality is arguably the more precise, or more specifically, it least affects the perceptual field that it attempts to mark.

For Alva Noë, conversation is “an organized activity”, furthermore, it organises us — like other activities including dancing, reading, cooking — at the level of embodiment.1 Whilst these various structures of organisation are “not of our own making”, according to Noë, art offers “a way to understand our organization and, inevitably, to reorganize ourselves.”2 Specifically, he argues that choreography stages dance to reflect on how we are “organized by dancing”, whilst it is simultaneously bent on its re-organisation.3 In these terms, to ‘stage conversation’ arguably exposes the ways in which we are organised by it, whilst the use of specific rules, constraints or even obstacles become devices of re-organisation, short-circuiting habitual patterns of conversation towards the production of unexpected vitality affects. For Noë, conversation involves the “complicated activity of listening, thinking, paying attention, doing and undergoing […] conversation is a fundamental mechanism of relationship building and joint living.”4Likewise, for Daniel Stern, conversation can be conceived as a practice of “interactional synchrony”, involving a process of “affect attunement” between speaker and listener.5 Etymologically, conversation did not always refer to ‘talk’ but rather to the act of conducting oneself in the world: living-with or keeping company, literally meaning ‘to turn about with’. In one sense, the arc of complication or convolution as the practice of conversation shifts from the dyad, to the triad, to the many, echoes concerns explored within our Empathetic Figures.6

 

[1] Alva Noë, Strange Tools — Art and Human Nature, New York: Hill and Wang, 2015, p. xiii.

[2] Noë, 2015, p. 15.
[3] Noë, 2015, p. 15.

[4] Noë, 2015, p. 7.
[5] 
Daniel Stern, Exploring Dynamic Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy and Development, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 51.

[6] Indeed, conversation contains the prefix con- (indicating between-ness, with-ness, together-ness), which we also associate with the → Empathetic Figures. 

 

 

To render sensitive — to augment one’s mental and emotional sensibility, become more readily affected by external forces, aware of and responsive to the feelings of others. Beyond cultivating elemental awareness of vitality affects (→ Elemental Figures), the practices of attention affirm heightened states of empathetic attunement, radical receptivity with shared spontaneity, even the arising of communitas (→ Empathetic Figures). Sensitive to the weakness of collectivity, yet still striving towards, the attention practices support an opening up of self to others, increased awareness of one’s capacity to affect and be affected.5 Or rather, they reveal the myth of one’s interiority and self-containment — self is porous, always in relation, already ‘more than one’.6 Let go of individual will, becoming willing: increase one’s availability. Trust is a precondition for openness and vulnerability; moreover, the relation is reciprocal. In turn, trust enables risk, the conditions for hospitable incautiousness.7 Surrender of authorial agency creates unexpected forms of mutuality (→ Transformative Figures), dissolving the lines of dichotomic distinction between subject / object, between self / other, between self / world. In these terms, the practices of attention support a radical aesthetics, an unmediated (re)connection between body and surroundings, revelation of interconnection or coherence. Their radical potential is one of re-orientation and re-alignment; furthermore, their re-connective function is religious in the etymological sense, drawing on the Latin religare — re- (again), ligare (fasten, bind, connect). Indeed, many of our attention practices echo monastic, spiritual, even shamanic rituals, directed towards aesthetic enquiry.

In principle, a practice of attention could be anything, however idiosyncratic — but not whatever.8 Our list is not prescriptive or exhaustive. Whilst sharing a certain somatic grounding, our practices seek to address different modalities, reflecting different bodily-kinesthetic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic sensibilities. Whilst each attention practice can be performed in its purest form — just breathing, just walking — we offer variations. Here, play comes into play. Practices can be combined — as pairings, e.g. breathing-voicing, shaking-touching, as multiples, e.g. breathing-touching-walking, or performed in explicit relation to particular figures — or else, activated with different speeds or vectors of intensity. Go slower. Speed it up. They can be practised with hot Dionysian exuberance or with Apollonian coolness — emptiness can be reached both by burning and calming, via heightened states of saturation and by paring things back. Some examples can be read aloud as instructions, whilst others are poetic, evocative. They can be played by one or many, individual or collective.

 

The notation system unfolds through a gradually evolving logic: it begins with the attempt to notate the event of cognition — the marking of an undifferentiated, unqualified or as yet un-nameable ‘something is happening’ (→ Clicking). As we have identified a list of potential figures through our research (→ Figures), we have added further differentiated forms of notation for marking the event of re-cognition, the re-meeting of a recognisable figure (→ Affirming, → Naming). Additionally, as we have become more familiar with the figures, the notational system has further evolved to have an active operational role within the ‘scoring’ of our live explorations  (→ Calling, → Play the Score).  

 

[1] “A system becomes a notation system when it has a working inner logic using a set of abstract representations (vocabulary) of aspects of potentially universal experience deemed relevant to be differentiated between, preserved or communicated about,” in Simone Boria, Tim Boykett, Andreas Dekrout, Heather Kelly, Marta Peirano, Robert Rotenberg, Elisabeth Schimana (Eds.), On Turtles and Dragons and the Dangerous Quest for a Media Art Notation System, Linz: Times Up Press, 2012, p. 9. They elaborate the criteria for ‘notation-system-ability’ thus: “Is there an inner logic? … Is there a vocabulary? … Are the notations potentially accessible to at least one entity / person? … Are other aspects intentionally left out?”, p. 9.
[2] Cf. Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil, ‘Notion of Notation >< Notation of Notion’, in Performance Research, On An / Notations, Vol. 20, Issue 6, 2015, pp. 53-57.

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

[1] The attention practices share qualities with the Figure of Clearing and Emptying Out.
[2] These are psychoanalytical terms originating in Sigmund Freud’s ‘Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-Analysis’, 1912. (Cf. James Strachey, Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press, 1975). They refer to a quality of direction-less listening, which Theodor Reik describes as Listening with the Third Ear: The Inner Experience of the Psychoanalyst, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, [1948] 1993.
[3]  Simon O’Sullivan notes that this productive ‘gap’ is “what Henri Bergson calls attention; the suspension of normal motor activity which in itself allows other ‘planes’ of reality to become perceivable (this is an opening up to the world beyond utilitarian interests)”, in Art Encounters, Deleuze and Guattari, Thought Beyond Representation, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 45. Cf. also Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, (Trans.) Nancy Margaret Paul and William Scott Palmer, New York: Dover Publications, [1896] 2004.
[4] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, (Trans.) Paul Patton, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
[5] Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, (Trans.) Robert Hurley, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988.
[6] Erin Manning, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance, Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.
[7] This phrase was used by P.A. Skantze during the Summer Method Lab, 2016.
[8] Alternatively, Giorgio Agamben’s philosophical conception of “whatever singularity” calls for a form of being that appropriates ‘being to itself’ (beyond identity or belonging), which resonates with our conscious ‘undoing’ of discipline, delineations and categorisations. Cf. Catherine Mills, The Philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, Stocksfield: Acumen, 2008. For Agamben, “Whatever (quodlibet) — ‘being such that it always matters’ or ‘its being such as it is’. The Latin always already contains, that is, a reference to the will (libet). Whatever being has an original relation to desire,” in Agamben, The Coming Community, (Trans.) Michael Hardt, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, [1993] 2007, p. 1.

 

 

Conflation of witnessing and being with; we use the term wit(h)nessing within the ‘score’ to refer to the different ways in which an individual might engage with the unfolding process of live exploration, other than through direct performative participation itself.1 In the score pages of this exposition, we outline three practices of wit(h)nessing, though undoubtedly there are many more. Watching: engagement through the eyes, to view what comes, is done or happens. Listening: to open up the ears, tune in to the acoustic space. Translating: mediation or interpretation through the different modalities of drawing, writing, forming and moving. Whilst watching, listening and translating all take place within the process of live exploration, when activated in the key of wit(h)nessing, they are practised from a position outside or beyond the frame of direct action, from the edge or side.2 At times, it is necessary to withdraw from the space of action or activity in order to catch one’s breath or bide one’s time, to gauge the situation from a different perspective or position. There are moments when the decision of how to act (next) cannot be made from ‘in the midst’ of doing. Stepping back is a reflective practice related to timing and timeliness, the art of knowing-when to act and when to yield. Becoming wit(h)ness can cultivate readiness; lessen one’s tendency to (re)act habitually, for acting without due care or thought. Here, wit(h)nessing advocates the affirmative potential of non-participation. Recognise those moments when one’s actions no longer support the conditions of emergence: learn how to let go, if necessary how to stop. Take intervention when one’s doing has become dull or dissipated; forced or formulaic, stultified or stuck. Practise the art of leaving space and time for other things to emerge. Sometimes not doing is the most generative thing that one could do. Allow things to breathe. Make room. Stand aside. Whilst there are specific figures that could be called (→ Notation: Calling) to bring about a similar shift of attention (e.g. → Spiralling Momentum for increasing energy after a lull, → Temporary Closing for signalling when is enough), the Practice of Wit(h)nessing does not directly intervene in or change the collective direction of shared exploration. 

 

Wit(h)nessing is an individual practice that can re-sharpen attention or focus, should one’s energy or concentration lapse. Here, the act of withdrawal or taking to the edge is not one of separation or disengagement, but a means of reconnection, the revitalising of one’s engagement through the affordance of a different angle of view. Wit(h)nessing is an enabling activity then, for re-activating heightened states of alertness, vigilance and receptivity (→ Practices of Attention); in turn, related to the event of noticing. Indeed, the principle of wit(h)nessing reflects the dual aspect of our research. First, we explore the process of artistic ‘sense-making’ from within or inside (intra-), attending to an affective process-realm of forces and intensities operating before (pre-), between (inter-), and below (infra-) the more readable gestures of artistic practice. Second, and in parallel, we seek to develop systems of notation and performativity (‘choreo-graphic figures’) for sharing this often hidden or undisclosed aspect of the creative process, for communicating the experience to — or rather with — others. 


But, how do we articulate the sensations of figuring experienced within the process of live exploration to others situated without? (→ Practices of Notation). Indeed, can our figures be recognised from the outside, their qualitative force discerned? (→ Figures). The wit(h)ness role therefore is not to be inhabited in rest or reprieve from the process of exploration, but rather has a critical task to perform — their feedback affirms or contradicts the effectiveness and affective-ness of our shared research quest. However, the feedback loop invariably modifies the conditions of exploration; the observer irrevocably changes the situation observed. There can be no neutral position, no outside. The presence of a wit(h)ness can serve to amplify the attention of the wit(h)nessed; knowing that someone is watching can transform even the slightest micro-gesture into an event. Indeed, the presence of wit(h)nesses helps to create a proper milieu for our enquiry, adding to a heightened atmosphere of attention, concentration and commitment. Milieu: the setting or conditions of one’s surroundings, etymologically meaning a ‘middle’ or ‘medial place’. Indeed, the position of the wit(h)ness itself is somewhat medial, operating between the lines. Akin to the participant-observer within ethnography, the wit(h)ness inhabits the gap — even hyphen — between observation and participation, an outsider-insider whose presence on the edge nonetheless influences that which is within the frame. The wit(h)ness is simultaneously a part of and apart from. To wit(h)ness requires a level of participation, but not through direct physical interaction or taking part, rather by part-taking (contributing in the role of an observer) so as to partake, to share. Indeed, the term with has contradictory — even paradoxical — connotations: as a preposition it can signal the conditions of accompaniment, association, combination, even union; to be besides, alongside, next to. With as a principle of adjacency: of closeness and proximity, to be bordering or contiguous. Contiguity: to be adjacent in time. Near touching — yet touched without touching, in contact without contact.3 Alternatively, the prefix with communicates a separating or opposing force, with as against. Withhold (back away). Withstand (resist). Withdraw (take back, retract). Yet the wit(h)ness draws away so as to better engage. Indeed, at times one can become too close to clearly see; it is sometimes necessary to get some distance or else bring in an outsider’s eye. Within our project, the role of the wit(h)ness has also been occupied by various ‘outsiders’; individuals who were not directly responsible for the research enquiry itself, but who have offered us different perspectives on our process, providing critical feedback as to the veracity of our research claims.4 Indeed, our research approach seeks to collapse or render porous the boundary line between performer and audience, hoping to activate practices of wit(h)nessing — a call to be present, to be there — partly in resistance to the normative conventions of spectatorship.5However, our intent is less towards the practising of relational aesthetics6 — too often predicated on the coercion of interactive relationships between art, artists and participants — but rather we seek to cultivate a complex relational ecology or even ‘relationscape’7 supporting the potentiality of polyrhythmic — even idiorrhythmic — intensities and durations of engagement, of being-with as well as being-apart.8   

 

Furthermore, to take oneself out or be-apart does not always require a physical move or relocation, but rather describes a qualitative shift of attention from spontaneous contribution to the process of aesthetic play towards receptive observation of, a move towards the active inhabitation of the — potentially radically passive — role of the wit(h)ness.9 Drawing on Spinoza’s Ethics, Gilles Deleuze names the power to affect other forces — spontaneity, and to be affected by others — receptivity. To wit(h)ness is to become open to the potential of being affected, an ethical practice in-and-of itself. Our practices of wit(h)nessing echo the empathetic and relational aspects of our enquiry, foregrounded within those Empathetic Figures underscored by qualities of between-ness, with-ness, together-ness. Towards a condition of receptive involution, folded entanglement of wit(h)ness and wit(h)nessed. Likewise, we acknowledge the entanglement of references that shape our use of the term wit(h)ness. For Jean-Luc Nancy, the experience of ‘being’ is always one of ‘being with’, where the concept of ‘I’ is not prior to that of ‘we’: the nature of existence is one of co-existence, where “being cannot be anything but being-with-one-another, circulating in the with and as the with of this singularly plural existence.”10 For Daniel Stern, the specific ‘vitality affects’ generated through being-in-relation can generate an event of “affective inter-subjectivity”11 with the potential to irrevocably alter or re-organise our “implicitly felt inter-subjective field.”12 Indeed, as Bracha L. Ettinger states, “the question of wit(h)nessing arises, where the I reattunes itself in co-response-ability with the non-I’s traces within a shared psychic space … where we can talk about co-response-ability and asymmetrical responsibility and coemergence-in-difference on a transsubjective level, as the time-space of encounter-event is shared by several borderlinking I(s) and non-I(s) […] Here a copoietic jointness evolves, only inasmuch as it is transfused with compassion.”13 The being-with of wit(h)nessing has epistemological as well as ethical and empathetic implications. For Vilém Flusser, the gesture of “‘pure’ research” or “scientific method” (“the gesture of the transcendent subject”) is predicated on “the difference between subject and object, human being and world, I and it.”14 In contrast, he advocates a research paradigm less concerned with “a hypothesis on one side and an observation on the other” but rather emerging, “from a concrete, full, living experience of being-in-the-world.”15 Here, as Flusser argues, “the researcher ceases to be a ‘pure’ subject to become a living person, that is, someone who lives epistemologically, ethically and aesthetically all at once […] Proximity is an inter-subjective dimension. It measures the being I share with others in the world.”16


[1] We are grateful to critical wit(h)ness Dieter Mersch whose reflections on the complex histories of witnessing (Summer Lab, 2016) prompted our differentiation of the role of wit(h)ness from witness. In Epistemologies of Aesthetics, Zurich and Berlin: Diaphanes, 2015, Mersch specifically references the ‘discourse on witnessing’ — e.g. Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘Un souffle / Ein Hauch’, in Nicolas Berg, Jess Jochimsen and Bernd Stiegler (Eds.), Shoah. Formen der Erinnerung. Geschichte, Philosophie, Literatur, Kunst, Munich: Wilhem Fink, 1996, pp. 122-129; Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, New York: Zone Books, 1999 (Cf. Mersch, 2015, p. 47).


 

 

 


[2] In this sense, wit(h)nessing might also be differentiated from self-witnessing (→ Self-Reporting).
[3] Reflecting on Luce Irigaray’s writing on ‘contiguity’, Rachel Jones states, “(C)ontiguous beings touch on one another, without merging into one; their differences remain discernible, without their being completely separated from one another”, Irigaray: Towards a Sexuate Philosophy, Oxford: Wiley, 2013.
[4] Alain Badiou “employs a distinction between le veridique / veridicité and le vrai. Veracity, veridicity and veridical are employed, as distinct from truth”, Oliver Feltham (Trans. note), Alain Badiou, Being and Event, London and New York: Continuum, 2005, p. xxxiii. 
[5] Cf. P.A. Skantze, Itinerant Spectator / Itinerant Spectacle, Brooklyn, New York: Punctum Books, 2013.
[6] Cf. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Dijon: Les Presses Du Réel, 1998 and a critique by Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells, Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London: Verso, 2012.
[7]  Cf. Erin Manning, Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy, Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 2009.

[8] Cf. Roland Barthes, How to Live Together, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.
[9] Cf. Thomas Carl Wall, Radical Passivity, Levinas, Blanchot and Agamben, New York: SUNY Press, 1999.
[10] Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 3. Luce Irigaray elaborates a model of ‘being with the other’ where “human becoming is considered as a relation-with: with oneself, with the world, with the other.” The Way of Love, London and New York: Continuum, 2002, p. 87. We also draw on a Heideggerian sense of “Being-with” (Mitsein) (Cf. Being and Time, New York: Harper, 1962); Martin Buber’s formulation of an I-Thou relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds (Cf. I and Thou, New York: Scribner, 1958); Erin Manning and Brian Massumi’s “withness of worlding” (Cf. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and Jacques Derrida’s ‘being-with beyond fraternalism’ (Cf. Politics of Friendship, London and New York: Verso, [1994] 2005).
[11] Daniel Stern, Forms of Vitality: Exploring Dynamic Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy and Development, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 172.
[12] Stern, 2010, p. xvi.
[13] Bracha L. Ettinger, Intimacy, wit(h)nessing and non-abandonment, http://jordancrandall.com/main/+UNDERFIRE/site/files/q-node-562.html. Cf. also Ettinger, The Matrixial Borderspace, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

[14] Vilém Flusser, Gestures, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, [1991] 2014, p. 155. 
[15] Flusser, [1991] 2014, p. 156.
[16] Flusser, [1991] 2014, p. 157.