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Letter to the Reader

Helsinki · Wednesday · 14 October 2020

Dear reader,

This manual is the concrete form of my research, fed by thirty years of artistic practice anchored in choreography, and by numerous curatorial projects. This manual is a methodology, not a technique of any kind. It offers examples and tools you might borrow and transform. Slip the manual into your bag before going to the studio; bring it along for the bus ride. It is meant to be folded, marked up, rethought, completed.

I began to develop the concept of asynchrony at a time when it seemed nothing could hold my attention. Whether as an artist in the studio, a spectator at a show, or a visitor in an exhibition, I always knew after only a few minutes what awaited me: I found myself sluggish and passive, unsurprised.

So I began exploring my working material as disposable and developing different strategies to produce material that was much more unpredictable.

I gave my working concepts different names; according to the artistic aims, I had fake space, fake body, and fake movement. Over time, the concepts formed a constellation around a unifying notion: asynchrony. I embarked on doctoral studies to write on the subject, because otherwise I would never have done it.


A material is not asynchronous a priori – it becomes so in a particular relationship to the space and time in which it unfolds. This research is fuelled by my choreographic practice, but is also the fruit of encounter with the work of my contemporaries. For this reason, I opted to write fictitious letters addressed to different interlocutors – artists, thinkers, and other characters – who have impacted my career as an artist. Each of my letters enters into dialogue with the disjunctive qualities of the artist’s work. I focus on various operations used by them to produce disjunction.


Asynchrony implies multiple spaces and times acting simultaneously. This has no equivalence with, for instance, disruption, which is a one-time event. Asynchrony is the modification or disturbance of perception caused by a slight change in space and/or time, which, like a pebble, slips inside some machinery. I am looking mainly at what I call “low threshold asynchrony; one that works on a very small scale. This tiny friction between space and time heightens the audience’s attention.

In contemporary art, asynchrony can be found in the details: a slight discrepancy between sound and image in a film; inserting or removing of a gesture in a movement sequence; or a sudden modification – for example an abrupt or stealthy gear change in an action in a dance or theatre piece. In my work, asynchrony is more a working method than a hard concept. It can become a tool, a vision machine, and a methodology for artists to consider their material with fresh eyes.


To work on the concept of asynchrony and to perceive it requires a referential space: the rectangle (the scene, the gallery, the photographic or cinematographic frame, the page, etc.). It is necessary to decide on a referential space from which to consider asynchrony. The rectangle frames a situation in which we explore certain parameters (see the glossary).

Temporality is crucial to asynchrony. This temporality is expressed through editing (“montage” in French) which is a dynamic vector that organizes materials. Thus, asynchrony works through movement and dynamics between what is inside and outside (out of the frame of) a rectangle.

You are invited to appropriate, use, misuse, and upgrade these parameters in order to experiment with asynchrony in your own creative process. They are like a pair of glasses I lend to you.


The manual is divided into two parts. The first part considers artistic examples in which asynchrony occurs: works by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, Miklos Gaál, Alberto Giacometti, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Ari Benjamin Meyers. My analysis takes the form of a letter addressed to each artist. In the margins, I have added information on the concepts and parameters at play. I also leave space in the margins for your own notes.

In the second part of the manual, four researchers and professors from Uniarts Helsinki explore the concept of asynchrony from their own perspective. These include: theatre director Saana Lavaste, who draws parallels between ikebana, errors, and the making of a theatre project; performance artist Tero Nauha, who addresses the notion of collective fabulation, glitches and “noise” relating to perception and action; dance artist Leena Rouhiainen, who approaches the concept of asynchrony from the perspective of the alien and the uncanny; and dance historian Hanna Järvinen, who examines time, temporality, event, and perception.

I close with the work of architect Cedric Price. He envisioned his architecture as a “generator core,” meaning that he proposedto build structures without any predefined functions in mind. In this regard, the manual can be seen as a thinking object to be used and misused. Perhaps it could be of interest to artists in their creative process or theoreticians and art lovers reflecting on the question of perception as it relates to space and time.

Please, misuse this manual as much as you can,