Multi-faceted objects and multi-sensory environments are constantly changing and shifting the way we use our senses, the way we perceive material and immaterial aspects of our environment and structure our experiences. How things co-exist, how they might be connected or be in a state of collision, defines the way we experience and interact with them. Through my work, I explore ways of sensing and coping with such complex and multiform conditions based on time’s divergent qualities through the combination of sonic and physical-visual media. I am interested in the types of knowledge that can be generated from our attempt to cope with conflicting states of order and continuity, the static and the ephemeral, processes and procedures.  Using steel and sounds of the making, three-dimensional objects, interactive situations and performative events, I seek to identify art as an expanded form of generating, evolving or changing, simultaneously world-making and self-making, triggered and grasped through states of in-betweenness of relationships, actions and responses. 


1. Introduction to co-composition


Eleni-Ira Panourgia

About co-composition as a creative process

The focus of my work is the combination of sculptural and sonic practices. It involves sculptural practice through the making of objects from steel and explores sound and its transformation through object-material-action relationships. This is achieved with the development of a process, named co-composition, in which such physical and sonic material can be concurrently produced, rearranged and transformed in a solo making and performing environment. Thinking about how to express verbally  such process, its functions and characteristics, I wish to draw attention to the artistic decisions taken in real-time, during the process of the proposed type of work. For this, I chose the term co-composition, which aims to describe the act of generating, rearranging and transforming jointly, sculptural and sonic material. Composing is regarded as the shaping of something in time, as making and structuring. Structuring signifies “how a thing is put together” (Morris, 1993, p. 11) and reflects on what David W. Bernstein noted about Cage’s work: “a composition is no longer an object, but a process through which the performer creates a piece” (Bernstein, 2015, p. 557). Composing is also viewed in a sculptural context as both visual and “functional” composition (Tucker and Monte, 1969, p. 27); functional as bound to physical material properties such as in terms of gravity, and visual concerning its appearance (George, 2014; Morris, 1993). Eva Reiter, considered the activity of composing “in itself, a ‘state’”:


…working with sound material and recognising the quality of the perception that is immanent to the particular material. It comprises an “understanding of listening” as a multi-layered phenomenon and the recognition of one’s own preconditions and attitudes. This refers to the insight and the questioning of one’s own perspective, which entails the expectation and the desire of the potential “sound-to-emerge”. (Reiter, Rutz and Nierhaus, 2015, p. 61)


In bringing together the two modalities, my approach is informed by Oscar Wiggli, who considered composing as “…structuring the time that flows” and focused on the temporal aspect of both sculpture and sound (Keller et al., 2010, p. 24). In this research, co-composing expects one modality to inform the making of the other. The use of this term also aims to expand and specify the notion of crossing-modalities – composing across modalities in this proposed context as discussed by Mike Blow (Blow, 2014). Thinking about artistic media as modalities that are carrying their own particularities and operating in different dimensions allows to grasp the developing shifts and artistic knowledge production. I am examining how sound could be related to sculpture making and three-dimensional objects and how these two co-exist within a single artistic practice. 

This exposition shares a part of the writing and the artistic work associated with my practice-based doctoral thesis 'Co-composition processes: Form, structure and time across sculpture and sound' to discuss a specific approach to sound from a sculptural perspective, based on the co-compositional process. The doctoral research that I undertook in 2015-2019 employed sculptural and sound practices, and their mediation through representation, notation, technologies and performance, to develop the innovative compositional process of co-composition. At the core of the thesis was a multi-layered mode of thinking, informed by an understanding of emerging morphologies and the relationships formed between and across the two modalities of sound and sculpture. Taking as starting point materials and their qualities, while engaging with aesthetics and theories of minimalism and sound studies, this research introduced a co-compositional mode of creative and critical engagement, as the main research tool. Central themes were action, process, trace and time. Moving beyond an approach of forming analogies between modalities, this research explored a mode of navigating across sculptural and sonic dimensions through a dialogue between theory and practice. The methodological approach was reflective and generative, borrowing from both traditions to develop new methods through practical exploration which emerged as part of the research process. Furthermore, analytical tools and technological mediation were employed to inform and expand how co-composition is manifested and how this process is experienced by both the artist-performer and audience. This research was a natural continuation from my previous studies. My music education began at an early age, which along with growing up in a family of sculptors and being trained as sculptor, contributed significantly to combining the two in my later artistic practice. The first exploration and experimentation on the subject was realized during my first degree in Art through solo and collective multimedia and installation works. This led to introducing a multi-modal aesthetic in my work that involved movement, animation, sound and sculptural forms. The developing interactions between these modalities and the combined, complex morphologies formed contributed in identifying new paths of inquiry and acted as catalysts for undertaking a practice-based PhD research on this topic.

In this exposition, I focus on the way sculptural sounds are produced and how sounds and their real-time transformation could influence the way I understand the process as an artist-researcher, and how this is experienced by the audience. How does the process change once sound is transformed to something different, new? How does this affect practising with sound as more than sound? The exposition is structured in four sections: the current first section ‘About co-composition as a creative process’ gives an overview of the background and approach of this exposition together with an introduction of the questions addressed; the second section ‘Actions and processes of co-composition’ draws the area of this research and delves into the material manifestation of co-composition in relation to actions; the third section ‘Performance-installation: expanding temporal levels’ discusses the live and performative realisation of co-composition in reference with concepts of liveness and in-betweenness and their role into the particularities of sculptural-sonic practice; finally, the fourth section ‘Reflections’ focuses on the audience experience through the discussion of interviews, while outlining the conclusions and the new areas explored through the co-compositional approach. A dialogue between multimedia files and text seeks to not only showcase the documentation of the practice, but to highlight the interwoven relationship between theory and practice. 


I work in the area of minimalist and process-based sculpture, with an interest in the actions of making, the clarity in the geometry of sculptural objects and their material qualities. An approach to “construct instead of arrange [to focus on] the dynamic verb to “act” in the priority of making” (Morris, 1970, p.66). I am interested in the texture and time of sound, in approaching sound from a sculptural perspective, as thought through what Caleb Kelly described “the materials of their making…the physical materials that create the sound-producing event” (Kelly, 2018). I am exploring ways for working with the one modality as it is informed from aspects of the other, the direct response of the materials to my actions and in mapping the actions of my making in ways that can inform the way I execute new actions through sound. Co-composition takes a live performative form to explore aesthetic decisions articulated from one medium to the other through traces of material manipulation; through what Tim Ingold named their “stories”, meaning “what they do and what happens to them when treated in particular ways” (Ingold, 2013, p. 31). The co-compositional approach can be understood as ‘thinking through material’.

Performance 'Process/Procedure' by Eleni-Ira Panourgia, April 2018, University of Edinburgh. Film 120 Fuji Pro 160S on a Noon Pinhole 12 Camera. Developed, scanned and processed by Sam Cornwell.