The following section provides a more detailed insight into the creative process of experimental transfer — firstly, to elaborate on how the video conferences between the collaborating partners were initially approached and how their function and form unfolded in the process, and secondly, to show how the work was finally shaped into the performance and in what ways the challenges and limits of our experimental framework were met.

Laboratory Aims

Several months before the scheduled five-day research laboratory at the Akademie der Kulturellen Bildung in Remscheid, the participating performers were asked to confirm their chosen topics of investigation together with their collaborating partners. They were briefed on the structure, aims, time, and technical requirements of the project and asked for their consent to participate in the form of video conference participation during the five-day laboratory. Shortly before the international Cologne-based team left for Remscheid, all participants, including the collaborators, were sent a laboratory/rehearsal schedule together with guidelines, aims, and themes to be explored in the video conversations. For the first three days, the task was to spend approximately two hours each day working together with collaborating partners via video conference, and then to come together and share the insights of the discussions with the group in the Remscheid. The schedule was divided into three timeslots: 9:30–12:00, 14:00–18:00 and 19:30–21:00. The morning session was reserved for the video conferencing sessions and the afternoon and evening sessions were used for the group work. All meals were provided, and we had access to a large rehearsal space for the group sessions and a range of smaller rehearsal spaces for our individual practice. The evenings after 21:00 were also used by those who, due to international time differences or other reasons, preferred to do video conferencing later in the evening. 

The task for all collaborating partners was to think about the disciplining mechanisms and patterns of exclusion, devaluation, and dehumanisation from the perspective of the bodies they were looking at and their embeddedness in hegemonic structures that have grown out of the construction of Western knowledges as authorised and universal. Suggested questions asked what some of the ‘traces’ of the history of modernity on the bodies under investigation could be, and how this memory might become inscribed, recalled, manifest, and resisted in bodies located in time and space. The conversations were conceived to be a dialogic exploration of bodily experiences of disempowerment and empowerment on equal footing. The video partners, as indicated elsewhere, were invited to be active partners in the creative process and to contribute to shaping the work. It was emphasised that the aim of the collaboration was not to reproduce performatively the trauma or experiences of violence of the ‘Other’, but rather for both partners to be prepared to engage in an open and resonant conversation whereby one’s own bodily perceptions and responses to one’s dialogue partner might be historically and structurally translated and located in performance.


The afternoon sessions in the group constituted the actual laboratory. This was used as the place to track the collective process, to collect common themes based on the research task, to link common ideas and to think of ways to arrange, share, and develop knowledge about different processes and attitudes towards building a performance. The other stated goal of the laboratory was to share one another’s practice as a group-building exercise. The different studio spaces in the academy were available to work individually, in smaller groups, or to do research depending on the topic and individual practice, with the aim of developing a body of performance material. After three days of individual and group research and development, applying performative techniques such as sampling, deconstruction, and transforming, the material was to be explored, engaged with, and new connections or causal relationships made transparent, accentuated, and brought into movement and the formation of the final performance. 

Fabian and Kelvin practice asking questions

Click here to view the half-hour discussion between Paschal and Monica

Gunnar, Arahmaiani’s video partner, participated in video conferences but requested that they not be recorded or used in the performance. Arahmaiani communicated the insights from her video conferences with the group but took a strong interest in the interdisciplinary, intercultural group dynamic and concentrated on finding ways she could incorporate her artistic concepts into the final performance. Clay was used as a symbol of the vulnerability and malleable shape-shifting resilience and resistance of bodies subjected to violent histories and current political terror, an idea that arose as much out of the discussions with Gunnar as it did in response to the work in the group as a whole. She led two Buddhist movement and breathing warm-ups that she learned during her time in Tibet. These exercises were important in bringing the group together and communally focusing the energy and thus bringing everybody into an awareness of their own bodies in the group.


Kelvin and Lea held video conferences but discovered at the end of their process that the recording had not worked. The focus for Kelvin, more so than any of the others, was to thoroughly explore the location of Remscheid to find a location that fitted the themes he was thinking through with Lea. He settled for an unused indoor swimming pool that he felt somehow resonated with their guiding themes of heteronomy through skin, clothing, and body form, and the racialised and sexist bodily encroachments experienced by both within their artistic practice. Responding to the space, he then attempted to performatively re-embody the words, affects, and ideas shared with Lea. These he then presented to Lea, which triggered further discussion and thus further development of the performance piece.

Michael and Sari, neither performing artists (although Michael does have some performance background), had just met a few months before the project. Perhaps due to the sensitive nature of their violent shared history, they did not explore performative ideas together, even though Michael encouraged Sari to give him tasks or ask him questions. They did however hold three long and, for Michael, very intense conversations about the freedom of movement under conditions of occupation. Michael responded to these sessions by bringing visual material to illustrate his conversations with Sari to the group. This took on many forms, from dividing up the room with ‘danger tape’ so the group could only enter in the morning through a pre-dictated path, to test-tubes filled with earth that he handed out to everyone so they would take part of the ‘land’ home with them.

Ciraj and Dierk, long-term friends and colleagues, also used the video conferences as a forum to continue their ongoing conversation about issues of repatriation and re-humanisation of stolen human remains from European museums. In response to these exchanges, Ciraj worked on conceptually linking excerpts from their recorded conversation with film material from his own archive, which he presented to the group and became part of his contribution to the performance.

In actual practice, the aim for the collaborating partners to become active co-creators, and the way the partners ended up working together, took several different forms, not least because of the varying disciplinary and cultural backgrounds from which the work was approached. For those with performance experience who were working with partners in the performing arts, the process was clearly participatory and co-productive. During Fabian’s video conference with Kris, and Monica’s with Paschal, they set each other physical tasks and questions to think about between sessions. Both pairs worked on exploring ideas performatively in the studios, outside of the video conference time in their different global locations. 

Fabian, in turn, asked Kris to think about what working in psychiatric institutions did to his body and to physicalise this sensory memory. Based on these experiences, they spoke again and formulated further questions and tasks.

Kris, for example, when talking about growing up with the traumatic embodied experience of Tourette’s syndrome, set Fabian a series of movement exercises to try to capture this feeling in his own body. 

Paschal shared excerpts from his archive of creative writing that touched on the embodied colonial pasts inscribed in contemporary diasporic and transnational Filipino bodies, bringing them together with issues of cultural appropriation that they had previously discussed. Paschal asked Monica to respond to the rhythm and affective intensity of the text with a dance score using Indonesian-inspired dance movements. He spent time in the gallery space after work to record the readings and to devise and record a series of questions based on their conversations that were to be incorporated in the performance. The piece that they developed together aimed to highlight the fact that there are no simple answers to ethical questions of intercultural exchange and cultural appropriation, as they are deeply context-specific, embodied, entangled and embedded in colonial histories of violence and inequality.

As becomes clear from the above elaboration, each collaborating couple found their own method for working with and conceptually and aesthetically re-embodying or re-creating using other media their engagement with their video conference partners. The invitation and aim of co-authorship on equal footing, as it transpired, was interpreted and practised differently by all. The general agreement and feeling among the group, however, was that the video partners became present and very much part of the final shaping of the work, not so much as individuals, although this also happened, but through the dissemination of the knowledge gained from common and different experiences that came out of the relational engagement of the video conferencing dialogues. The degree and manner in which the knowledge gained from the video engagement was translated into aesthetic practice, and how it was then developed into the choreographic and dramaturgical process of performance production, varied due to the diversity of disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. In this sense, the methodological approach of transdisciplinary hermeneutics (Dieleman 2017) and participatory research (Bergold and Thomas 2010), which works towards collective processes of knowledge production and meaning-making, was clearly achieved.


Dussel’s concept of transmodernity is exemplified in this methodological approach, whereby the authority of a universalist narrative of modernity is interrupted and questioned by the plurivocality of different globally located subject positions representing counterhegemonic narratives and providing an alternative vision by performatively deconstructing and exposing the disciplining exclusionary violence of these hegemonic structures and institutions. Furthermore, working with ‘ecologies of knowledge’, across epistemologies, disciplines, and cultures, as de Sousa Santos argues, is a strategy he proposes to move beyond the ‘abyssal line’, and what we were attempting in this experimental transfer (2007). The energy and affective resonance of this deep interdisciplinary and intercultural engagement was tangible in the group during the process, in the performance itself, and well after the event. In this sense, the collaborating partners were most certainly an integral part of shaping the work and the knowledges it produced.


Ulrich Gumbrecht in his book Production of Presence (2004) reminds us that the medium chosen for communication, whether sound, print, or computer screen, will affectively influence the production of presence it creates (Gumbrecht in Ashcroft 2015: 9). This was true for our process. Since the digital interface did not allow for touch or smell, the main channels to connect affectively was through language, sound, and sight. The performative presence was achieved through the dialogic engagements with partners and their process of affective relationality, the interplay of affecting and being affected, via the medium of video conferencing involving the computer screen and digital sound quality (Slaby and von Scheve 2019: 14). This relational affect as presence was then translated through the bodies of the Cologne partners by means of aesthetic practice and collaboration, and for some the actual incorporation of recorded soundbites of the conversations in the final performance (samples of which are included above). Much of the affective presence of the final performance was shaped by the incorporation of the sound recordings from the partner dialogues whose voice quality gained an extra affective presence through the material resonance of the digital recording equipment it was being translated through.


Finally, the work was also influenced by the general frustration felt by all, and was more to do with the extreme time limitation, international time zone differences, the restrictions of the video conferencing technology, occasional problems with internet connections, and the challenge of working with digitally present but physically absent bodies. These, however, were all aspects we wanted to explore in this experimental transfer. It must be remembered that this project took place in 2017, well before the Covid-19 pandemic and the global reality and accessibility of high-quality video conferencing technologies for home office purposes. Nevertheless, perhaps it has become clear from our preliminary experimentations, that a deep engagement was possible and very productive of new insights and knowledges. We feel very encouraged by the results of this experimental transfer and believe that this methodological format of a dialogically structured video conference, based on common interest and mutual engagement towards shaping an artistic outcome, could be developed further into a clearer and more user-friendly structure. In terms of thinking towards a methodological framework for future artistic projects, the group emphasised the importance of having one part of the process taking place collectively and firmly located in time and space, with possibilities for individual and group access. The Remscheid group reported that it was a strange and pleasurable luxury to be completely removed from everyday routines and to have three consecutive days of being able to deeply engage with an international peer on a topic of mutual interest, who had also invested time and energy into the process. 


Task and Cast

Creative Process


Video Conferences

The Experiment: What Happened

Laboratory Group Work

Fabian started each afternoon session with an Authentic Movement warm-up. This is an artistic practice that works towards a counter-normative way of using the body in research processes. It is mostly conducted in pairs, with a ‘mover’ and ‘witness’, whereby phenomenological and subjective aspects of embodiment are explored. On day two and three, these sessions were concluded by Arahmaiani’s Buddhist breath and movement meditation practice, in line with the stated aim of sharing each other’s practice and coming into our bodies, the group, and the space. After these movement sessions, the material discussed with the video partners and the creative responses to these were shared and discussed in the group.

Our initial intention had been for the Remscheid group to create a final performance that was to incorporate a diverse range of knowledges, disciplines, and cultural practices as a collective process. This, however, soon proved to be impossible given the time constraint of a looming performance deadline and our different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. All agreed that Fabian, choreographer and long-term director of a dance theatre, had the experience necessary to take on a facilitation role. In line with the goals set out in the project of trying to maintain an equal playing field and to allow all voices to find expression, we all agreed and worked toward making the process as collective as possible.

In pulling together the work, core insights from the different topics addressed in the partner collaborations were collected on sticky notes and clustered into common repeating patterns. Connecting red threads were drawn between topics.

The concept that was most repeated within all the clusters was that of the ‘border’, ‘boundary’, ‘wall’ or ‘box’, often invisible but always impacting on bodies and leaving traces. Internalised dissociation and disconnection form a sense of one’s own body due to hegemonic racialised and sexualised psychic trauma; human skulls in museums boxed as scientific exhibits rather than treated as human remains of people who lived and loved; bodies resisting, bending, shifting and reshaping to negotiate the violence of imposed borders and boundaries of occupation and successive colonisation and political domination. This border, we agreed, could be likened to the ‘abyssal line’ de Sousa Santos theorised, which divides those considered ‘modern humans’ from the ‘pre-modern sub-humans’ (2007: 5), or what Dussel is pointing towards with the border that divides modernity’s rational emancipatory face from its irrational genocidal underbelly (1993: 66). Likewise, this is what Mignolo means by ‘border thinking’ and his critique of imperial patriarchal, heteronormative, racist binary thinking (2009). We spoke about this theory in relation to our choice to focus on the concept of the border in the performance.

However, it was not only from the video dialogues that the theme of borders and boundaries emerged; it also emerged from working together as a group in Remscheid. As professors, academics, artists, scientists, and dancers from different cultural backgrounds, with a job to complete within a very limited timespan, we all had to confront cultural, emotional, and physical boundaries: professors engaging their bodies performatively for the first time in relation to their research topics; artists engaging with unfamiliar theory brought up in discussion; cultural conflicts when assigning respect to people perceived of higher status, all dealing with the vulnerability and anxiety of stepping out of safety zones and conceptions of self. Having the concentrated uninterrupted time to talk to our individual partners and as a group — eating, working and moving, meditating together — made this process possible, relatively safe, and gave us the tools to make visible, articulate, culturally translate and, in our work together, break down some of these boundaries.

When shaping the final work, the individual pieces that emerged from the first three days were collected and we discussed how we could best bring the concept of ‘border’, both aesthetically, conceptually, and affectively, into expression through a juxtaposition of these pieces. This process was very collaborative and, over day four in Remscheid and day five in the performance space at Cologne University, the piece emerged with the help of Fabian’s facilitation.