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.