In this essay, we discuss the problem of embodiment in artistic research dealing with dance and performance and offer some conceptual and methodological insights that can be of help in crafting new doctoral research in the area. Here we consider embodiment an overarching term that refers to things or beings having bodies. It is an inclusive term that also denotes the different conceptions through which material, biological, and conscious bodies are formed. In turn, with the term body, we point to specific cases of – or specific characteristics and conditioned conceptions of – embodiment (e.g., Gallagher and Zahavi 2008; Noland 2009). The essay begins by introducing previous notions related to embodiment within dance studies, especially phenomenological dance research. The essay also offers some topical views from body studies. All of them bear significance to the cases of artistic doctoral research the essay likewise discusses. Through the mentioned research examples, we aim to highlight how artistic research, performance practice, and conceptions of embodiment can inform each other. We are specifically interested in how their intertwinement fosters understanding, as well as ways of working with and exposing dance and performance. The overall aim of the essay is to offer readers insights that serve designing and conducting artistic research whose focal concern is related to the performing body, mainly from the perspective of dance and choreography.

The examples of ongoing artistic research that we discuss are conducted by three doctoral candidates working in the environment of the Performing Arts Research Centre of the Theatre Academy at the University of the Arts Helsinki. It hosts a doctoral programme in artistic research in which already established artists and artist-pedagogues within the performing arts conduct doctoral research, typically engaging in developing their own artistic and professional practice. The doctoral research in this environment includes between one to three examined artistic parts and a commentary that is reflective writing and theorizing or a multimedia exposition about the overall motifs and finds of the doctoral project. We draw on the work of the mentioned three doctoral candidates, simply owing to the fact that we are most familiar with their work and find that they represent creative body-related approaches to research in performance by artists themselves. They all likewise rely upon a timely understanding of artistic research as boundary work between art practice and scholarly investigation and entail already examined artistic work. The doctoral research by these candidates critically addresses their own artistic practice, adheres to progressive notions of knowledge and embodiment, and experiments with the problem of exposing and disseminating artistic research. One of the projects is interlinked with an approach to performer training called Body Weather that, in our view, contains somatic underpinnings. Another project looks into the politics of extended embodiment within acting through a feminist lens. Finally, the third explores choreography as an enactive and embodied reading practice. In introducing these artistic research projects, we especially want to highlight how they approach embodiment and to introduce tentative analyses of the kinds of entangled articulations of the body their artistic research generates.

Approaches to Researching Performing Bodies in Dance and Choreography

Until late, the core medium of modern and contemporary Western concert dance has been that of the moving human body. Therefore, its expressive, sensible, perceptual, and motional qualities and potentials have been scrutinized through several theoretical research perspectives, including historical research, phenomenology, and sociology, among others. The meaning of bodily comportment and stylistic features of the dancing body in different historical and cultural contexts has been one of the focal concerns of dance history. In describing the kinds of bodies she – as a dance researcher and cultural historian – addresses, Susan Foster (1995, 3) defines the body as a bodily writing, whose actions ‘emerge out of cultural practices’ and ‘construct corporeal meaning’. She further argues that this process of meaning-making is both a relational and an evolving one:

Constructed from endless and repeated encounters with other bodies, each body’s writing maintains a non-natural relation between physicality and referentiality. Each body establishes this relation between physicality and meaning in concert with the physical actions and verbal description of bodies that move alongside it. Not only is the relation between the physical and conceptual non-natural, it is also impermanent. It mutates, transforms, reinstantiates with each new encounter. (Foster 1995, 3)

Foster thus appreciates the complexity related to the emergence of forms of embodiment and underlines that individual manifestations of the body carry meaning. While the human body entails material and biological characteristics, it is not determined by them, rather they, too, gain different significance and are shaped according to how they are related to and interacted with. This is why she highlights the interplay between socio-cultural conventions and practices, as well as the singular ways in which individual bodies respond to them and initiate new forms of comportment. In pointing towards scholarly work, she also underlines the importance of emphatically understanding bodily experience in order to integrally conceive of the significance of the bodily endeavours dance and choreography entail. However, she likewise acknowledges the partiality and situatedness of the researcher and their influence on knowledge production (Foster 1995, 15).

Foster’s views are still relevant. She points to several important themes both dance studies and artist-researchers working with the performing body continue to address. Among others, these are socio-cultural inscription, the relational and emergent nature of the human body, as well as the significance bodily experience and knowledge has to performing and the reception of performances. They likewise include the challenge of articulating bodily experience and actions in an adequate manner for the ends of research.

Phenomenology is another significant approach to research in dance studies. Through its lens, dance research has been able to focus on the experience of the moment of dancing (e.g., Fraleigh 1987; Parviainen 1998; Sheets-Johnstone 1999; Rouhiainen 2003; Kozel 2007; Heimonen 2009). Phenomenology has offered a basis for scholarly analysis that is appreciative of subjective experience, especially as it is immediately lived. While positioning the dance practitioner at the centre of phenomenologically-oriented research, such research is not merely concerned in elucidating the individual subject’s outlook, but more generally, the ‘what it is like’ of experience (Pakes 2011). It is firstly through descriptively scrutinizing immediate experience that phenomenology aims at unearthing the constitutive structures of the phenomena it investigates. Dance phenomenologist Susan Kozel (2015, 54) writes that ‘Phenomenological reflection sets in motion a process of translating, transposing, or transgressing lived experience into writing’. It does this while aiming to retain a sense of the intuitive and immediate experience. Indeed, phenomenological dance research has provided detailed insight into the kind of sensation, perception, and motility embodying dance entails. These notions have included acknowledging the significance of the dual nature of the body – that the body in itself is both a subject and object, perceives, and is perceived – and what it means for bodily activity and modes of awareness engendered by different dance forms. Simultaneously, phenomenological dance research has provided understanding about bodily knowledge and how our interrelationship with others and the world is based in motility.

Phenomenologist Jaana Parviainen articulates bodily knowledge as knowing in and through the body. It involves bodily awareness, perception, and all the habitual bodily skills we have acquired in our lives (Parviainen 1998, 51). She writes that the experience of the motility of our own body, or kinaesthesia, reveals the if-so structure of the world. Our environment belongs to our self-regulatory system. Kinaesthetic knowledge is generated by us being in functional interaction with the world and adapting to it. This is experiential knowledge about the tactile-kinaesthetic characteristics of things and knowledge about our own body’s sensations and movement potentials. The material-spatial-motional sensations are emplaced across the kinesphere without a clear distinction between the inside and outside of the body, owing to the fact that in her view, kinaesthesia overrides the threshold between the internal and external. She argues that our own bodies are opened to each of us as a topographic place that we live and live in. By topography, she implies that the body is a kind of terrain, in which different sensations reveal themselves and that is moulded by different skills, techniques, moral codes, conventions, and habits. As a topographic terrain, the body has different kinds of places and routes, the shifts in which we can observe and identify (Parviainen 2006, 75–6, 86–7). In introducing these thoughts, Parviainen partly relies upon the ideas of philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, who similarly finds that as we move in our environments, we learn to identify different dynamic qualities and motional routes. These she conceives as basic bodily categories through which we make sense of the world and that function as the basis of our thinking (Sheets-Johnstone 1999, 225, 227). This is one way in which she points to the material intelligence human bodies entail and which our other conscious faculties build upon.

The previous understanding of the human body points to the fact that phenomenology is an enactive and world-engaging research orientation. Phenomenologist Dan Zahavi elucidates the conception that the body is intrinsically intertwined with others and the world by simply stating that: ‘There is no pure point of view and there is no view from nowhere, there is only an embodied point of view’ (Zahavi 2003, 98). Indeed, in the phenomenological perspective, embodied practice can be understood to produce socio-politically impactful embodiment. And if we follow dance scholar Ann Cooper Albright’s (2011) insight into Merleau-Ponty’s thinking, it is the verbs that he emphasizes: sensing, perceiving, doing, and knowing. In this sense, the first phenomenological condition is active participation in different forms of life, including dancing, dance-making, and observing dance. Aside from writing, researchers following a phenomenological orientation have likewise begun to consider other forms of phenomenological description – such as drawing and even bodily performance – valid (Kozel 2015; Gansterer, Cocker, and Grail 2017). Phenomenology can be understood to involve a form of co-existence, in which new insights evolve from placing our experiences in a dialogue with those of others and the world. We learn to perceive, move, and understand our bodies according to how others do so and the socio-cultural conventions we adapt to. Sensitivity and openness to others who inhabit a shared circumstance, along with the materials and environments involved in it, are therefore called for in phenomenological research. Additionally, owing to the situational and historical nature through which phenomena are given to us, such research is, in fact, a continuous questioning that requires self-reflexivity and produces only tentative answers. In spite of being partial, these answers aim to be intersubjectively valid, since – in phenomenological terms – meaning and rationality emerge exactly where perspectives blend and confirm each other (Merleau-Ponty 1995/1964, Merleau-Ponty 1995/1962). With its critical stance of observing phenomena afresh, without cultural preconceptions determining their nature, phenomenologically-oriented dance research has the potential of unearthing what is beneath the conventional and instituting new forms of perceiving, doing, and understanding dance.

Phenomenology’s situational and enactive views relate to topical discourse around the body in the area of sociology, as well. The sociology of dance has explored such themes as class struggle, gender, issues in body image, and the role of dance in popular culture. Here, the body has been mostly observed as a socially and culturally formed entity (Thomas 1994, Thomas 2003; Martin 1998; Burt 2007). Highlighting the socio-cultural knowledge the body carries in its interaction with the world, Helen Thomas – an important and early proponent of the sociology of dance – points out that:

…dancing constitutes a form of cultural knowledge that is articulated through the ‘bodily endeavours’ of dancing subjects and not through the power of the word. In dancing…individual embodied subjects/subjectivities enact and ‘comment’ on a variety of taken-for-granted social and cultural bodily relationalities: gender and sexuality, identity and difference, individuality and community, mind and body and so on. As such, close analysis to dancing can provide the social and cultural analyst with layers of insight into culturally contingent relations and practices which have hitherto gone largely unnoticed or unexamined. (Thomas 2003, 215)

At the end of the 20th century, social and cultural theory turned increasingly to scrutinize the body owing to influences from ‘feminism, postmodernism, a concern with health, the environment and consumerism in late modernity’ (Thomas 2003, 11). In discussing the developments of a strand in social and cultural studies – namely, body studies – Lisa Blackman (2012) notes that the ‘turn to corporeality’ that emerged during the 1980s and 1990s included scrutinizing such bodily matters as ‘foregrounding difference, discipline, performativity, embodiment, movement, desire, kinaesthesia, the senses and, increasingly within contemporary formulations, the posthuman, process, multiplicity, enactment, affect, life and immateriality’ (Blackman 2012, ix). Moreover, she notes that, currently, the body has extended to include ‘species bodies, psychic bodies, machinic bodies, vitalist bodies and other-worldly-bodies’ (ibid., x) that do not conform to our expectations of defined boundaries and disciplines. Indeed, there is stronger interest in different and distinct bodily configurations and how they might offer understanding to redress the notion of the self-contained modern subject. Additionally, the process-oriented nature and material dimensions of the body in interaction with other beings and objects has become a focal concern with the ecological challenges and questions of sustainability we are faced with globally. Thus, the relationality of the body and its capacity to affect and be affected is more widely acknowledged and scrutinized (Blackman 2012, x; 2008, 133).

As an example, Lisa Blackman introduces Bruno Latour’s performative conception of the body. According to her, he relates to it as an articulation or ‘an association and concatenation of heterogeneous elements which produce what we take entities’, such as the body, to be (Blackman 2008, 122). The elements or objects forming such articulations or assemblages are in themselves complicated, entangled, and multiple. They never even – strictly speaking – pre-exist the relational connection which produces and enacts them as very particular types of objects. Furthermore, being related to time and changing circumstances, articulations never quite remain the same, and entities are in a continuous process of becoming. Therefore, in Latourian terms, the body is understood as a mixture of processes that cannot be disentangled, and it is its relational connections that articulate what the body can do and become (Latour 2004; Blackman 2008, 122–3). Blackman concludes that the body that organises diverse practices and areas of experience that, for example, different forms of dance and performance engender is a body that is open, relational, human and non-human, material and immaterial, multiple, sentient, and processual. In her view, the body is in process and is assembled and made up from diverse relays, connections, and relationships with artefacts, technologies, practices, and matter which temporarily form it as a particular kind of object (Blackman 2008, 107). This kind of a body is most likely best researched in an undisciplined manner through creative practice, various view points, and in dialogue with different kinds of theories (Blackman 2008, 138; Brown and Longley 2018; Dempster 2018). One proposal to do so has been established by theatre practitioner and researcher Ben Spatz. Drawing on social and cultural theory, his aim is to expand epistemology to include practically transmitted areas of knowledge. He argues that the diverse approaches that physical culture and performing arts entail are the result of sustained research in embodied technique. Such techniques ‘are not merely styles or genres of practice but also areas of knowledge about the possibilities afforded by the relative reliability of human embodiment’ (Spatz 2015, 217). His approach thus strongly includes immersion in bodily endeavours and insights gained from practicing embodied techniques.

Some Notes on the State of the Art

Phenomenology’s interest in embodied experience suited the ethos of both modern and post-modern or contemporary dance. They have relied upon and cultivated bodily knowledge, as well as excavated kinaesthesia, while probing into what the body can do in performance. They have produced conventionalized movement vocabulary and idiosyncratic styles of moving, as well as played with the sensuous and perceptible qualities of the moving body. With the latter focus, what might be viewed as a somatic turn in dance education and performance delves into what can be learnt by perceiving the body in dialogue with its environment from the perspective of subjective experience (Eddy 2016). Nonetheless, as art forms, both dance and choreography are heterogenous. They are hybrid and often self-reflexive practices that cite and are impacted by other performances, art forms, and practices, as well as cultural phenomena. Choreography no longer simply relates to constructing determined sequences of chosen movements that are rehearsed and performed by dancers on a proscenium stage for a seated audience. Evermore often, choreography deals with forms of public bodily acts, which constitute, instead of depict, reality in the actuality of performance (Rouhiainen 2012a; Rouhiainen 2012b). Choreography thus has been conceived of as an open frame or set of principles that structure movement – propositions for possible actions to be undertaken or initiated by performers and the audience members or both together (Foster 2010a; Foster 2010b). Likewise, the fact that the term choreography denotes both movement and writing has once again become emphasized. As a structuring of movement that bodies and materials subject themselves to, choreography entails writing: a script, a bodily articulation, or notation. In this vein, it is an apparatus for articulation that involves dynamic theorizing about what relational bodies and materials can do (Lepecki 2010).

Thus, dance-making and choreography in themselves have been conceived of as experiments or open-ended research undertakings conducted together with diverse kinds of participants and objects in unconventional settings. These developments in choreography have evolved simultaneously with an apparent dissolution of boundaries in the arts. Creative processes in different artistic media are realized as performance, and choreography has become a term used across the arts. Choreographic practice has likewise been impacted by the weakening of the conception of a self-contained subject and a shift into viewing human agency as more material and contaminated than before as, among others, post-humanism and new materialism argue for. An ensuing recent emphasis in contemporary dance has thus resulted in the undermining of the performing human body and highlighting of ecologically and politically informed forms of choreography that explore choreography’s potential as an agent of change. These developments and the emergent nature of dance and choreography call for recurring research into embodiment in order for us to gain further understanding of the diverse kinds of bodies dance and choreography engender.

And while the artistic research projects we describe below relate to the sensuous, perceptive, experiencing, moving, gestural, interactive, speaking, and writing body – and do so partly from the first-person perspective that is specifically endorsed in phenomenological research – they in many ways are tied to the topical questioning occurring in the performing arts. Their work utilizes the strategy that dance scholar Elisabeth Dempster calls for in practical and creative research in dance conducted within the academy. This is the strategy of ‘thinking through performance’ as a critical unpacking of the foundational assumptions of professionalized embodied knowledge – undisciplined creative inquiry and endeavour (Brown and Longley 2018; Dempster 2018). To accomplish this, the doctoral candidates draw upon different tacit and explicit understandings of artistic research.

A Take on Artistic Research

A platform to work with undisciplined creative inquiry into embodiment in dance and choreography most obvious to us is that of artistic research. As it operates at the crossing of art practice and research and within diverse fields of art, artistic research is interdisciplinary and multi-medial by its very nature (Kirkkopelto 2012). It has even come to be understood as a transdisciplinary research area that involves and makes changes in diverse social contexts. (Schwab and Borgdorff 2014). Artistic research makes transitions in and combinations between different forms of knowledge production. On its part, it thus is involved in deconstructing conventional dichotomies and creating new epistemologies, while aiming at an in-depth understanding of art, as well as producing innovative art practice at the same stroke. While involving material thinking and thinking by doing, singular projects in artistic research are self-critical processes of transformation, in which artists change their artistic practice into a means of research. The outcomes of such processes involve not only new ways of doing art and related new knowledge, but that of a new artistic agent – the artist-researcher. Thus, artistic research entails the transformation of art, understanding of art and the artist herself, and potentially that of society. In appreciation of the aesthetic quality of art, artistic research promotes tacit and implicit knowing on an equal footing as propositional knowledge based on logical argumentation. Additionally, not-knowing or not-yet-knowing are central to its processes: uncertainty allows space for radical contingency and creativity, as well as unsuspected research solutions to spring forth (Borgdorff 2012; Kirkkopelto 2012; Rouhiainen 2015).

Knowledge in artistic research has moreover been viewed through considering artistic practice as an aesthetic manifestation that exposes something while simultaneously making the performativity of this showing apparent. Proponents of artistic research Michael Schwab and Henk Borgdorff consider that exhibitions or expositions of artistic research involve ‘a redoubling of practice in order to artistically move form artistic ideas to epistemic claims’ (Schwab and Borgdorff 2014, 15). What such a redoubling of artistic practice can establish is ‘a reflective distance within itself that allows it to be simultaneously the subject and object of an inquiry’ (ibid.). As a consequence, artistic processes or outcomes in themselves can convey both ‘a thought and its appraisal’ at the same stroke (ibid.). As knowledge production always is a critical undertaking aiming to unearth something novel, artistic research typically interrogates already established approaches and practices belonging to art. While taking a critical stance towards previous art-making, artistic research firstly resists and transgresses the conventions of art. Therefore, the kind of material thinking that takes place in artistic research is most often understood as a practice of difference, it works with the deviant and looks into distortions in order to turn perspectives and change positions. One of the focal tasks of artistic research should thus be exploring how art involves thinking, how it is both sensuous and rational, and how not-knowing, not-yet-knowing, and knowing are interlinked with each other in each instance of art-making (Rouhiainen 2017).

While questioning their own artistic practice, artist-researchers working in the area of dance and performance typically address non-verbal processes and are faced with the challenge of articulating and communicating forms of knowing that basically are non-linguistic. Articulating the significance of kinaesthetic experience, bodily gestures, different kinds of bodies, embodying scores, co-embodiment, collaboration, and the like in verbal form is demanding. Therefore, in artistic research within dance, multi-mediality and performative arrangements often accompany words and written texts. Schwab and Borgdorff (2014, 15–6) refer to these alternative ways of articulating artistic processes as hybrid texts. Since they operate between art-making and writing, they offer the possibility to redouble practice and assume the reflective distance needed in research. Yet, even hybrid texts cannot replace the artistic and bodily forms of thinking or knowing that take place in dance-making. Creating suitable forms of writing or forms of active documentation that reflect the problems addressed in studio and performance practice might be more important than generating appropriate research methods. Especially when these are creatively used in the production of multi-medial research reports to allow for disseminating and evaluating the quality of artistic research (de Freitas 2002; Anttila, Järvinen, and Rouhiainen 2014; Heimonen 2016).

Three Takes on Doctoral Artistic Research in Dance and Performance

What the case examples we discuss in the following section share is that they address doctoral projects by artist-researchers who have adopted a critical stance towards their professional training and previous practice. They all felt limited and unsatisfied with how they were doing their work as artists and how their views and goals were met by the art contexts in which they worked. Their aim thus was to find new ways of doing and thinking about art in order to continue their professional careers in satisfying ways. In their doctoral research, they all entered an experimental mode in which they have tested the limits and potentials of their art forms by forging singular artistic solutions. In this sense, they have been involved in a form of speculative research in that they struggle against the expected and conventional and affirm the becoming of novel and unexpected events that have the potential to transform the way the performing arts is conceived of and engaged with in the future (Savranksy, Wilkie, and Rosengarten 2017, 7). Indeed, this kind of an approach – which underlines the generation of novel art and artistic approaches – is not a stranger to artistic research. The following paragraphs involve short commentary by us on their examined artistic work in which their thinking finds articulation in performance.

Choreographer Simo Kellokumpu’s doctoral artistic research project Choreography as a Reading Practice explores and develops a notion of choreography as a literal bodily reading practice ( Here we first introduce the last examined artistic work included in his doctoral research, namely #CHARP (Choreography as A Reading Practice). It was performed by Kellokumpu himself together with Outi Condit, Paula Kramer, and Vincent Roumagnac at the Sala del Camino Research Pavilion on Giudecca island in Venice in 2017. In the following short descriptive account based on our experiences, we pay attention especially to the performers, their costumes, props, and ways of moving, as well as the spectators’ relationships with the space. This we do in the vein of phenomenological description.

The performance happens in a dance studio that has been built into a large hall in a former monastery. The studio has a wooden floor, stone walls, and large windows. Natural daylight flows in and with only a few stage lights that are moved around by an assisting performer, the space is near to being dim. Muffled sounds from the surrounding living quarters on Giudecca island seep in to the otherwise silent space. The outfits of the performers – their golden helmets and light brown leotards – imply images of humans in outer space, science fiction, even a kind of planetary ground. From time to time, the performers’ bodies are entangled with and extended by several-meters-long thin steel bars. Their outfits are also reminiscent of some sort of animals, insects, alienating the performers’ humanness. In the far corner of the large performance space – an old dance studio – a video of a flickering image of one performer’s face is shown on a small tv set. It instead seems like an emblem of the technology included in the exploration in and through movement that the performers undertake, and perhaps is a fake ‘report to home base’ device.

The three performers are interconnected through their shared orientation to the environment: minimal teetering and explorative bodily gestures that seem to reach out for something that can hardly be perceived. Their eyes do not focus on any particular thing; instead, their gazes spread to all directions – what are they seeing or sensing as they gradually move about the space with and without the bars? The performers vary in their bodily forms – two women and one man of various sizes – likewise the body-engaging attentional observation of each has a distinct style to it. One moves more jerkily, the other’s eyes blink continuously, the third moves in a steadier or slower manner.

In this performance, the role of the spectator is to witness the event of exploration. The spectators have the possibility to move around and to choose their perspectives on the evolving performance. Mostly we stand, sit, or walk next to the wall while we observe the gestures, movements, and overall orientation of the performers – how they affect and structure the overall situation. The performance offers us no self-evident motif or interpretation and we have to wonder about what is going on. How are the performers’ and our own bodies attuning to something that is not immediately recognizable through our senses? What potentials do our bodies contain and what kinds of limits have cultural conventions and training set? While seemingly trusting the ability and potentials of their bodies, the exploration by the performers seems to probe on the borders of the unattainable. In addition to triggering concentrated observation, that performance also triggers our imagination.

Kellokumpu’s ongoing doctoral research practically explores the relations and interconnectedness between movement, embodiment, and materiality through what he initially called contextual choreography. The exploration is motivated by his desire to surpass his previous professional work in which he designed movements for dancers that were performed on a conventional stage. As a new approach to address these relationships, Kellokumpu crafted an embodied reading practice in which sensing how the body conceives of the environment through perception instigates small gestural movements in the performer. In doing the reading, the performer becomes sensitive to how she is in relationship with her surroundings by sensitively attending and not mastering the environment. The generative passive and active dimension of sensation and perception that phenomenology has discussed are appreciated here. While perception is active in the sense that it requires action and movement from our part for us to be able to perceive particular things, we passively receive the contents of perception (Merleau-Ponty 1995/1962, xx). In our interpretation, Kellokumpu’s sensorial-perceptual reading practice takes a step further: while utilizing the active and passive constitution of perception, it also looks into perception’s generative potential. Here the contents of perception act as nudges for further activity that produces a novel kind of motility or comportment. Yet, the main focus of his reading practice is on what an individual body can perceive when attending and attuning to the material dimensions of its environment.

Choreography as a reading practice underlines the influence of the performance site on performing, and thus, Kellokumpu’s work also addresses the contextual and spatial features influencing choreographic setups. This problem made him aware of the issue of atmosphere. One of his interests was to allow the diverse immaterial layers influencing the performance venues to likewise impact the reading, including the cities in which they were located and their history, as well as their geographic and even planetary locations. Human geographer Derek McCormack writes about affective spaces that moving bodies generate. To depict them, he introduced the term atmospheric choreographies (McCormack 2013; McCormack 2015). Kellokumpu’s choreographic approach involves such affective spaces, and thinking about them opens an interesting view on performing bodies. While highly focused on the somatic dimension – embodied perception – Kellokumpu’s choreographic reading strongly delves into the problem of the relationality of the body. In so doing, it addresses the human body’s potential for mediating impactful aesthetic compositions and new ways of engendering human subjectivity. In geographer Ben Anderson’s (2009) phenomenological considerations of affective atmospheres, they are argued to involve both presence and absence, the singular and general, and to occur between the subject and object. They are experienced through the sensations of presence by the human body, but take place around, alongside, and beyond the subject. While having a singular quality to them, atmospheres exceed that from which they emanate. Atmospheres are affective, involve an ambiguous excess, and they produce intensive time-spaces (Anderson 2009). The process of embodiment that #CHARP introduces, in which attuning to the microscopic within the body, the macroscopic in the immediate environment and the telescopic in imaginative connections evokes a shared affective space that offers us the potential to relate to our own bodies, those of others, and our environment in new ways. What especially strikes us is how the immediate present relationality the body engages with shows its belonging and dependence on the immaterial, as well as the transcendent and absent. This in turn offers a view of the body that is not self-contained but interconnected with a complexity. #CHARP exemplifies choreography’s potential in generating alternative forms of human embodiment.

The last notion related to Kellokumpu’s doctoral artistic research could be considered to involve political underpinnings and, in so doing, interlinks with Outi Condit’s work ( She directly addresses the embodied politics of the stage in her artistic doctoral research. In her recent solo performance – a kind of critical autoethnographic monologue with feminist implications, which she composed together with fellow doctoral candidate, director Vincent Roumagnac – she revisits her previous experience of rehearsing and performing a theatre piece. She specifically focuses on her relationship as an actor with the director. In this performance or performative exposition called The Actress – that was first performed and examined at the Theatre Academy in fall 2017 – she re-enacts the pre-performance work of rehearsing the play through video interviews of herself speaking about her experiences. By cutting, speeding, and live dubbing the video material, she mimics, makes parody of, and earnestly points out the power structures between the female actor and male director. On the basis of this work, she coined the term cybersomatics to point to her method of interlinking and layering video, live performance, and dubbing that interrupts and destabilizes the performance of the self. In her performance, the agency of the actress was deconstructed and replaced by what Condit refers to as a techno-embodied cybersomatic performer. She herself edited the video material and created the dramaturgy of the performance. On stage, she shows different video excerpts, lip syncs, and reads aloud the spoken texts in different affective registers, physically mimics her own gestures and comportment on the videos, as well as manoeuvres the needed technical devices related to lighting, sound, and the playing of the different video clips. Currently, she continues to tour with the performance in different artistic and academic contexts – such as symposia and conferences – and in so doing, continues to develop the forms it takes.

The techno-embodied cybersomatic performer that Condit enacts in her performance relates to the digital turn the performance arts have undergone. Video technology allows her to distance a moment in her professional experience and herself from her performing self. Here she can be understood to utilize a digital archive within a critical autoethnographic theatre performance and to extend or even multiply herself in the act of the performance (Löfblad 2018; Bleeker 2017). Condit has continued to think about this issue in her new emerging artistic work through the topic of the avatar. We nonetheless here draw inspiration from dance researcher Josefine Löfblad (2018), who explores the problem of archives in dance performance. She relates to what André Lepecki terms the ‘will to archive’, a feature witnessed in contemporary choreography and performance. Some reenactments of previous performances are done through such means and media that, in them, the body and archive become one and the same (Lepecki 2016, 120). In Lepecki’s view, bodily archiving – or reenactment – can set free intrinsic, though not yet utilized, possibilities performances entail. He writes that:

one reenacts not to fix a work in its singular (originating) possibilization but to unlock, release, and actualize a work’s many (virtual) com- and incompossibilities, which the originating instantiation of the work kept in reserve, virtually. (Lepecki 2016, 120)

In critically redressing the experience of rehearsing and performing a previous theatre piece via a video of an interview in which Condit’s full body, gestures, and poses are visible, and by performing with the video live, The Actress seems to accomplish what Lepecki suggests performance to be able to do. Creatively playing and performing with the video allows for a surplus – different readings and outcomes to be tested with. In the case of The Actress, the digital archive – the video – redefines the border between past and present situation. The traces of the former actress are present, but they are cut, redressed, and in a state of becoming through their interaction with the live performer in front of the audience. Condit’s own embodiment obviously bears traces of her previous performance discussed in the video, her performance in the video, and is inscribed with the techniques and relationalities that her acting practice have engrained in her. ‘By embracing the difference and alterations, always bound to repetitions and transmission, reenactments, by implication, challenge or even entirely suspend authorial control of the original performance’ (Löfblad 2018, 6). Here it is especially the embodied agency of the actor that is suspended, and a variety of new potential forms it could take are pointed to.

Joa Hug’s ( artistic doctoral research instead addresses one element of a performance and training practice called Body Weather, with origins in Japan in the work of Min Tanaka. This is the hands-on work of the Manipulations. This part of the training method is about physical intervention on its practitioner’s body. In it, the ‘giver’ helps the ‘receiver’ to become aware of her or his body parts by sensing the impulses the ‘giver’ offers to support the alignment of the ‘receiver’. In his research, Hug is specifically interested in how sensing, perceiving, and reflecting intertwine and feed each other in the Manipulations. He believed that the reflective stance was not sufficiently understood or appreciated by Manipulations practitioners and in theorizing about bodily knowledge related to physical performance. After years of working with the Manipulations as a shared duo practice, Hug began doing the routine alone, imagining the impact of the ‘giver’ on his receiving body. With his research interest in mind, he initiated a form of immediate writing, jotting down thoughts and words that came about during his practice. This formed the basis of a new approach to training and performing that he termed the research score which included imaginary ways of doing the Manipulations and writing about immediate insights. In fact, through it, he became keenly interested in reflecting through practice and in how the research score in and of itself could be considered a medium of artistic research.

For his second doctoral artistic work, he invited five artist-researchers and performers to practice and reflect upon the epistemic potential of this practice. Alongside Hug, the group included Outi Condit, Riikka Theresa Innanen, Tashi Iwaoka, Paula Kramer, and Josh Rutter. After nearly a month of exploring the work together and crafting new applications of the research score, the group presented its findings through a lecture-performance-installation in the fall of 2016 at a dance studio in Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. The Reflecting with Practice: The Research Score as a Medium of Artistic Research installation exposed writings produced by the research score, research articles by Hug, video material on practicing the research score, as well as interviews with the group members on their views about the relationship between the practical work and the research articles. Additionally, Hug gave a short lecture about his work and the collaboration with group. Then the group members physically demonstrated and performed the research score together. One mode in which the research score was adapted by the group was that the bodily reflection happened by focusing on a shared concept, and instead of writing, the reflective associations were spoken aloud. This time, the concept was suggested by a member in the audience. The simultaneous processes of perception and thinking by the performers included small bodily gestures mimicking the Manipulations and intermittent utterances of words and sentences. Together, the physical activity that they undertook by lying on the floor with their heads in the centre of a circle formation and the words echoing in the space conveyed something that had connections and discrepancies: something that surpassed their individuality and instead underlined co-embodiment. It is a sensuous body inseparable from a gesturally active body and thinking one that affects the kind writing (the group’s writing was exhibited on the wall) or speaking that the research score generates. In addressing different chosen words or concepts, the research score as a form of bodily thinking seems to generate manifold embodied insight on them. The collaborative application of the research score, together with the group, highlighted the potentials the score has for addressing different thematics and instigating hybrid texts based in co-embodiment.

The intertwinement of the imaginary other impacting the sensuous and gestural physical work undertaken in the research score and the sharing of the work with others and the interlocking of reflective outcomes in a sea of shared words is again another idiosyncratic performative embodied configuration that calls for further analysis. It begs the question of how the imaginative materializes and moves sensuous-reflective bodies. It bears some similarity with Kellokumpu’s perceptive reading practice. Like both of them, in her technological and archival performance, Condit also introduces a specific trans-corporeality that emphasizes movement across bodies, interchange and interconnection between various bodily or material natures, and underlines that the human is always inter-enmeshed within the more than human world (Alaimo 2010, 3).

All three doctoral research projects have genuinely taken an experimental approach by which the candidates have explored means to extend their own artistic practice. In doing so, they have also positioned the performing body in new ways. They all thus involve remaking, rethinking, and learning. As the performing human body still holds a central position in this work, theirs could be understood to relate to and challenge more conventional somatic approaches and performance practices that likewise wonder about the abilities and potentials the human body entails. However, important questions to consider in redressing embodiment are the kinds of motifs and insights that guide its generation, especially when it is concerned with artistic research. How does the notion of artistic research itself guide this work, how does artistic practice do so, what about personal experience and the artistic techniques inscribed in the bodies of artists-researchers, and finally, what is the role of theory in this? It is through considering these kinds of questions that change in bodily conceptions might be most strikingly highlighted. Above, we have pointed to some salient features of embodiment we consider each practice to offer insight into. However, the doctoral candidates themselves offer further insight into the above questions as they continue to complete their doctoral research. They, likewise, can offer a different view on their processes as they have embodied them from a different perspective than we have. All these three candidates are working on what we term the commentary, a reflective articulation of the overall research process, in multi-medial format. They are either using the platform of the Research Catalogue ( or the platform created for the publication series Acta Scenica ( They are earnestly attempting to allow the artistic methodology they have crafted to inform the format their reflections take. Thus, they are critically looking to alternative formats of research publishing.


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Kirsi Heimonen

D.A. (Dance) Kirsi Heimonen is an artist-researcher acting as a visiting researcher at the Performing Arts Research Centre of the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts in Helsinki, Finland. She belongs to a multidisciplinary research project Engraved in the Body. Finnish people’s memories from mental hospital (funded by Kone foundation) in which she focuses on the corporeality of the patients and atmospheres within those institutions. She belongs also to a collaborative research on the notion of silence as a member of the Silence Ensemble that is supported by the Centre for Artistic Research (CfAR), University of the Arts in Helsinki, Finland. She is a certified teacher of the Skinner Releasing Technique, and this somatic practice has a great influence on her artistic research.

Leena Rouhiainen

Vice Dean in Research and Professor in Artistic Research, Dr. Leena Rouhiainen, is head of the Performing Arts Research Centre of the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts in Helsinki, Finland. She is a dancer-choreographer and dance scholar. Together with her artistic collaborators, she has received several national awards artistic work in Finland. She has published articles related to phenomenology, somatics and artistic research and dance. She has been awarded funding for several research projects related to dance, embodiment and artistic research. She has co-edited Ways of Knowing in Dance and Art (2007) and Dance Spaces: Practices of Movement (2012). She has been the chair and vice-chair of the board of Nordic Forum for Research in Dance (NOFOD). She is a member of the Executive Board of the Society for Artistic Research (SAR).