CHOREO-GRAPHIC FIGURES: Deviations from the Line

With artistic research at its heart, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line  stages a beyond disciplinary, inter-subjective encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing. Its core focus is to explore those forms of thinking-in-action produced through collaborative exchange, in the slippage and deviation when different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap, collide.

See: https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/488075


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The publication is conceived as a studio-laboratory in itself, drawing together critical reflections and experimental practices that focus on the how-ness  — the qualitative-processual, aesthetic-epistemological and ethico-empathetic dynamics — within shared artistic exploration, directing attention to an affective realm of forces and intensities existing before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice.

Cultivating sensitivity towards the barely perceptible micro-movements within the process of artistic ‘sense-making’ has wider structural — even political — implications at the level of the macro, encouraging the de-, re- and trans-figuring of our ways of being in the world, inviting new forms of relationality, sociality and solidarity. Hybrid of an artists’ book and research compendium, Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line invokes action by operating as a score  that can be activated by others, providing artists, theorists and creative practitioners with a modular toolkit of performative and notational approaches for future experimental play.

Based on original research and edited by Nikolaus Gansterer, Emma Cocker and Mariella Greil.

With contributions by Alex Arteaga, Arno Böhler, Christine De Smedt, Catherine de Zegher, Christopher Dell, Gerhard Dirmoser, Karin Harrasser, Adrian Heathfield, Victor Jaschke, Simona Koch, Krassimira Kruschkova, Brandon LaBelle, Erin Manning, Dieter Mersch, Lilia Mestre, Werner Moebius, Alva Noë, Jeanette Pacher, Jörg Piringer, Helmut Ploebst, P.A. Skantze, Andreas Spiegl.


Published in the series "Edition Angewandte" by Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 2017.

ISBN 978-3-11-054660-6

Format: 22.8 x 16.5 cm cm
394 pages with numerous color images, diagrams and 3 foldout pages.
Language: English

Graphic design and book concept: Simona Koch
Translations: David Ender; Mariella Greil
Copy editing: Jeanette Pacher
Cover image: Nikolaus Gansterer

Generously supported by the FWF - Austrian Science Fund through the PEEK-programme.


Scheduled talks and book presentations:

On Saturday 29 April 2017, 14:15 – 17:15, at the 8th International Conference on Artistic Research at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki, Finland.


On Friday 5 May 2017,19:00 – 21:00, at the AILab Vienna, Austria.


On Saturday 20 May 2017, in the frame work of the  inter-symposium “Along Lines”, at Nida Art Colony of the Vilnius Academy of Arts, in Lithuania.


On 9 June 2017, in the framework of the symposium "Zeichen Setzen", co-organized by KU Linz & University of Art and Design Linz; & Anton Bruckner University, Linz, Austria.

On 12 August afternoon 2017 in the framework of the ImPulsTanz festival symposium "Life Long Burning - Crisis? What Crisis?!" at Ehemaliges k. und k. Post- und Telegraphenamt, 1070 Vienna, Austria.


On 14 November 2017, 19:00 - 20:30 at the Crossing Borders Talks in the 2017 series at Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, London, UK.


On 8 June 2018, 18:00 – 21:00, at the Salon fuer Aesthetische Experimente, Universität der Künste, Room 101 (Alte Bibliothek), Hardenbergstraße 33, 10623 Berlin, Germany. With Alexander Damianisch, Head of Research at The University of Applied Arts Vienna, who will act as a respondent in the follow on conversation.

On 27 October 2018, 16:00, at WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Belgium:“Thinking Through Practices”
A presentation through practices of two books written through practices, as a framework to reflect collectively on the role of publishing in the context of artistic research. Although very different in form, the writing processes articulate practice and thought as two naturally and necessarily interwoven things. We invite to a moment where some of the practices through which these books are existing now will be performed and made present as ways of thinking. The two publications "Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line", Nikolaus Gansterer, Emma Cocker, Mariella Greil (eds.), DeGruyter, Berlin, 2017 and "Thinking Conditioning through Practice", Alex Arteaga and Heike Langsdorf (eds.) APE, Ghent, 2018 serve as platform for three performances in different media followed by a open discussion with the audience: Alex Arteaga & Nikolaus Gansterer: acousmatic translecture; Julien Bruneau: excerpt of the performance some crosscuts of some of our improbable bodies, with Anouk Llaurens and Sonia Si Ahmed; Miriam Rohde, Laetitia Gendre & Heike Langsdorf: From where we are (becoming a spatial participant); Kristof Van Baarle sends a series of postcards spelling a couple of questions and thoughts on the two books stimulating a conversation between contributors and audience. Free admission.


Further presentations are in preparation and will be announced via the website.

Please check for updates.


“Expanding the Vocabulary”, Sabina Holzer, in: Corpus Magazine online (09.11.2017)

"Die Notation des Augenblicks", Scilog magazine, online, (28.08.2017)

"Noting down the moment", Scilog magazine, online, (28.08.2017)

“SAR 2017 – Society for Artistic Research”, Helsinki, conference review by Azadeh Fatehrad, in: RUUKKU magazine, online, (22.05.2017)

– "Mit Kunst den wissenschaftlichen Rahmen sprengen" in: Der Standard Spezial, Beate Hausbichler/Tanja Traxler, (17.04.2015)



Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters

Exposition published in  Journal for Artistic Research JAR 18  Publication date: 2019.

See: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/462390/462391

We have developed this exposition for ‘scoring an aesthetic encounter’ with the multimodal (visual, textual, sonic, performative) findings from Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, an artistic research project by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil. Choreo-graphic Figures stages a beyond-disciplinary encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing, for exploring those forms of knowing-thinking-feeling produced in the slippage and deviation when different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap and collide. Within this exposition, our aim is not to present an exhaustive account of the Choreo-graphic Figures project. Rather, we seek to test the specificity of this online context for extending our investigation through the following 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 enacts something of the liveness or vitality — the energies and intensities — within 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?
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 approached as a ‘research tool’ for testing how different practices (of Attention, Notation, Conversation, Wit(h)nessing) can be activated for sharpening, focusing or redirecting attention towards the event of figuring (those small yet transformative energies, emergences, and experiential shifts within artistic process that are often hard to discern but which ultimately steer the evolving action) and the emergence of figures (the point at which the experience of ‘something happening’ [i.e. figuring] coalesces into recognisable form).

Within this exposition, our research can be encountered experientially through → Playing the Score, whilst the → Find Out More section contains contextual framing alongside conceptual-theoretical reflections on the function of our score and its ecology of practices and figures.

The SAR RC Prize for Best JAR Exposition 2019 goes to: Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters (2019) 
The exposition Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring Aesthetic Encounters (2019) stages an encounter between choreography, drawing, sound and writing in order to explore those knowledge forms through collaborative exchange. The exposition stages the different modes of practice as an actual dialogue and collision, and derives from the findings of the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014-2017) by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil. The researchers seek to extend their investigation in questioning how a digital archive can be created that is capable of reflecting the durational and relational aspects of the research process. The outcome is a non-linear rhizomatic (using the artists’ term) encounter with artistic research, where the findings are activated as a choreo-graphic event. The artist and designer Simona Koch supported the transformation from an embodied, experiential enquiry into different publication formats, including a text-based book, alongside the online digital format of the RC exposition. The RC complements the shortcomings of printed material and utilizes the performative qualities of sound, image and film that cannot be expressed in the printed material. In this way in the project, the digital and printed material complement each other.

The exposition can be encountered experientially through a section called ‘Playing the Score’, whilst the ‘Find Out More’ section contains contextual framing alongside conceptual-theoretical reflections on the ecology of practices and figures. The authors (Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil-Moebius, Simona Koch) make an interesting use of the RC platform, communicating their research through rich and articulate interactions between text and multimedia materials. Once the user selects ‘Play the Score’, the exposition becomes an inhabited drawing where performance, documentation, notation and user agency are blurred, and their interconnections are explored in rich ways. The complexity of the exposition is built through written and spoken word, video and sound recordings, photos and graphic elements that enable and encourage the user to literally re-enact the research process. Documentation of the performative elements of the research interplay with artistic writings, presented as animated text elements and reflections of notational forms that are embedded in the current discourse on [e.g.] aesthetics and human nature. The delightful and enjoyable layout and design of the exposition helps the reader understand the content. The exposition was published in Journal for Artistic Research – JAR 18.


Choreo-graphic Figures: Vitality Gestures & Embodied Diagrammatics

Book chapter in Body Diagrams, eds. Alexander Gerner (CFCUL, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal) and Irene Mittelberg (HumTec, RWTH Aachen University, Germany), Gesture Series, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Publication date: 2020 TBC.

See: https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/gs/main


Drawing on the artistic research project Choreo—graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014 — 2017), this chapter explores how we have practiced a shift within our collaboration from the disciplinary gestures of drawing, writing and choreography towards the aesthetic-epistemological gesture of artistic (re)searching, to give tangible articulation to the pre-gestural register of ‘vitality forces and affects’ (which we call figuring) operating before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice. Bringing our practice-as-research into dialogue with theory (including Brandstetter, Flusser, Manning, Massumi, Sabisch, Stern) we reflect on our own attempt to render communicable the dynamic experience of figuring within the creative process, through the production of (choreo—graphic) figures, an expanded system of vitality gestures and embodied diagrammatics.

Key words: aesthetic episteme; attention; embodied diagrammatics; figure; figuring; notation; practice-as-research; praxis; prenoetic; vitality gestures

Drawing on the research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, this chapter addresses the emergent ‘gestures of (re)searching’ (Flusser, 1991/2014) developing within our interdisciplinary, artistic exploration, especially those forms of ‘thinking-in-action’ produced collaboratively ‘between the lines’ of drawing, choreography and writing. Our shared quest is towards a vocabulary that reaches beyond the conventions, protocols and domains of each discipline: pressuring, translating and in turn expanding the ‘gesture of drawing’ (Newman & Zegher, 2004), the ‘gesture of writing’ (Flusser, 1991/2014) and the ‘gesture of choreography’ through the friction, contamination and convergence of verbal-linguistic, spatial-visual and bodily-kinesthetic sensibilities. The intent is to explore the points of resonance between our disciplinary languages (e.g. identifying shared gestures of ‘opening’ and arriving; gestures for ‘emptying out’ or clearing away; gestures for warming up, tuning in and for getting started, gestures for generating momentum within practice), whilst also attending to the disparities and interferences emerging through circulation and translation, the excesses of meaning, moments of intransigence and (in)translatability. We practice a shift from a realm of demarcated disciplinary gestures towards the undisciplinary becoming attuned to the ‘vitality gestures’ operating behind, below and in the intervals and thresholds between; moving towards ‘differential composition’ “that undoes each time anew the preliminary split between movement and language, sensation and signification” (Sabisch, 2011: 129).

Specifically, in this chapter, we elaborate the relation between (1) The event of figuring (the live and felt experience of ‘vitality forces and affects’ (Stern, 2010) within our process of artistic exploration) and (2) The emergence of figures (conceived as a form of ‘vitality gesture’ through which the experience of figuring coalesces into recognizable, communicable form). We propose the term ‘figuring’ to describe the small yet trans­formative energies, emergences and experiential shifts that operate before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice. We ask: What kinds of ‘vitality gestures’, ‘dynamic indicators’ (Stern, 2010) and related an/notations can be developed for attending to and articulating the barely perceptible micro-move­ments and transitions at the cusp of awareness within the process of artistic “sense-making”? How might we signal towards the insta­bility and mutability of the flows and forces within practice, without fixing that which is contingent as a literal sign?

We use the term ‘figure’ to describe the point at which figuring’s dynamic vitality coalesces or crystallizes into a recognizable form. We conceive of the ‘figure’ as a ‘vitality gesture’ capable of remaining in fidelity to, whilst still communicating (to others), the experience of figuring from which it emerged? We ask, how might different performed figures create the conditions for different experiences of figuring? We further develop the concept of the ‘choreo–graphic figure’ as a kind of ‘embodied diagram’ for organizing and bringing into relation – or else even for producing or giving rise to – a constellation of related figures. ‘Choreo–graphic figure’ conceived as a per­formative, relational and contingent assemblage, identifiable whilst at the same time motile, elastic, capable of evolving. A multimodal, multi-dimen­sional, durational intensity; performed entangle­ment of visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, bodi­ly-kinesthetic sensibilities. We ask, how might the choreo-graphic figure be a system of diagrammatic notation in and of itself?

This book chapter, Choreo-graphic Figures: Vitality Gestures & Embodied Diagrammatics, was invited for development following conference presentation at the international conference Body Diagrams: On the Epistemic Kinetics of Gesture, German Semiotics Congress, Tuebingen, Germany 2014. The content of this chapter draws on the first year and half of our research project, with further reflective pressure applied through participation in conferences including How To Do Things with Art (Aarlborg, Denmark, 2015) and our research residency Radical Scores of Attention at Tanzquartier, Vienna, Austria (December 2015). It builds on ideas published as artists’ pages, Notion of Notation >< Notation of Notion, in Performance Research, ‘On An/Notations’, 2015 (See On Notation). In this chapter, we elaborate a sense of the theoretical and conceptual terrain against which we understand the relation between two key interrelated terms within our research: the notion of figuring and the (choreo-graphic) figure.



Choreo-graphic Figures: Beginnings and Emergences

Research article in RUUKKU: Studies in Artistic Research, On Process in Artistic Research, published Spring 2015.

See: http://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/132472/132473


In this online multi-media research article published in RUUKKU: Studies in Artistic Research, we – Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil and Emma Cocker – share findings from the prologue phase and year one of our three-year research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, during which we have explored how various processes of ‘beginning’ performed within live artistic activity might create the conditions for processes of emergence to arise. We present a series of emergent ‘figures’ developed within this research project for articulating ‘beginning’ within a collaborative artistic process (e.g. which at the time of publication were provisionally called Figure of Circulation, Figure of Shared Vibrations, Figure of Clearing, Ordering and Emptying Out, Figure of Touch and Reaching Towards the Other), alongside reflecting on and attending to the process of emergence within artistic labour itself – a process we have called ‘figuring’. Figuring – we use this term to describe those imperceptible or barely perceptible movements and transitions at the cusp of awareness within the process of “sense-making”: the moments of revelation, epiphany, synchronicity, of change in tack or direction or pace, the decision to stop, do something different, begin again. Figuring manifests within those threshold moments within the creative process that are often hard to discern but which ultimately shape and steer the direction of the evolving activity. Our research involves cultivating practices of attention (a perceptual heightening, hyper-sensitizing, sharpening of alertness) for noticing these emergent figurings within the process of creative activity, and devising systems of notation for identifying, marking and even tentatively naming these processes of emergence. In developing this exposition, our intent has been to remain faithful to the process of investigation itself. Rather than being conclusive, our exposition reflects the process of its own production; itself a diagramming of the multiple and at times competing forces and energies operative within the process of artistic collaborative practice. Our exposition unfolds less as the linear explication of a process, but rather — like artistic process itself — more as an assemblage of overlapping and concurrent components, where attention shifts between the textual and the visual, between what is sayable and what is shown.


Publication context: Process in artistic research: Various processes are an indistinguishable part of the practices of art and research. Ever since the 1960s when works of art evolving in time or transforming in shape were presented to viewers, listeners, and participants, ‘process' has been one of the magic words within contemporary art. Repetition, variation, and works based on interaction are examples of compositional methods that underline happening and change, instead of the complete, monolithic, and intact work of art. Comparing variations and analysing transformations are common methods of artistic research. In performing arts process is essential since the skill and knowledge of the artist are accumulated in a corporeal manner. Understanding is developed in interactions between musicians, actors or dancers; we can speak of encountering unknown layers or, in line with Michel Foucault, an archaeology of skill. Opening up and articulating artistic processes is considered one of the main tasks for artistic research. At the same time, developing new interactive processes is one of the societal duties of contemporary artists and artistic researchers. Established in 2013, RUUKKU is a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal for artistic research. It is published on Research Catalogue (RC), an international publication platform and database that enables multimedia elements. RUUKKU is published in Finnish, Swedish and English. (see http://ruukku-journal.fi/en) The fourth issue of RUUKKU, published in Spring 2015, focused on the theme of ‘Process in Artistic Research'.


Choreo-graphic Figures:

Notion of Notation >< Notation of Notion

Research article in Performance Research, Vol. 20, Issue 6, ‘On An/Notations’, eds. Scott deLahunta, Kim Vincs and Sarah Whatley (Deakin University [Motion.Lab] AUS & Coventry University [Centre for Dance Research] UK). Publication date: 31 December 2015.

See: http://www.performance-research.org/past-issue-detail.php?issue_id=84

Drawing on findings from the first year of the research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (including field-work undertaken during a month-long research residency within ImPulsTanz, [Vienna, 2014] and a one-week residency-workshop at a.pass [Centre of Advanced Performance & Scenography Studies, Brussels, 2015]), in this article we – Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil and Emma Cocker - consider notation (and its related technologies) through a diagramming of the multiple, at times competing, forces and energies operative as drawing, writing and choreography enter into dialogue through shared live artistic exploration. Conceived as two interweaving artists’ pages – presented as a page-based annotated performance score - we explore two interrelated concepts: the notion and notation of (I) figuring and (II) the (choreo-graphic) figure. Figuring — we use the term ‘figuring’ to describe the small yet transformative energies, emergences and experiential shifts which operate before, between and beneath the more readable gestures of artistic practice. We ask: What different systems of notation can be developed for cultivating awareness of, for marking and identifying the moments of ‘figuring’ within the process of artistic ‘sense-making’? Figure — we use the term ‘figure’ to describe the point at which figuring coalesces into a recognisable form, figuring’s dynamic vitality crystallised towards communicable content. We ask: How might we communicate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces within practice, without fixing that which is contingent as a literal sign?

Whilst the article draws on materials generated in the first year of our research project, the shape and content of the article itself were developed through an intensive micro-residency undertaken at WUK, Vienna (4 – 7 June 2015), enabling us – the key researchers – to apply pressure to our practice and process in specific relation to the possibilities and constraints of page-based presentation. Content originating in this article will be further developed as part of a book chapter Choreo-graphic Figures: Vitality Gestures & Embodied Diagrammatics in Body Diagrams, eds. Alexander Gerner and Irene Mittelberg (Gesture Series, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, Publication date: 2017 TBC).

Publication context: ‘On An/notations’ considers the potential of the surface of the page, alongside other surfaces, including the screen, as sites for engaging with and thinking through performance ideas and processes. An annotation at its simplest level is adding information to information using some kind of mark-up language or tools. This issue will seek to engage projects using a wide range of approaches alongside critical reflection to draw out and make explicit research and insights from within the entanglement of sensing, feeling and thinking that is the body-based practitioner's research field.