Imagine this dialogue
As a chat on Messenger
As a screen-recorded script performed live on Google Docs
As a dialogue floating on top of more urgent, discordant dialogues
As a Java- and CSS-animated, interactive interface
– Hi! So here we are!
– Writing an editorial for Nivel08: Poetics of Form. Performing Arts Research Centre 10-year anniversary edition.
– Now that is exciting!
– We volunteered as editors at a meeting in spring 2016 when tasks were allocated for doctoral candidates. Our hands went up.
– I saw it as an interesting challenge…
– And a great opportunity! Lots of work though.
– Steep learning curves.
– How did we come up with the theme, poetics of form? Can you remember?
– Well, it emerged from collegial discussions, didn’t it? Expositionality, expanded writing…
– How corporeal, material, relational, and ephemeral practices take form within different mediums.
– How making, encountering, sharing, documenting, writing, reading, and reflecting are intertwined and redefined through the specificity of each research process.
– And these discussions intensified all through the seminar year. The theme turned out to be very current.
– What can be understood as writing/text?
– How can artwork, artistic-pedagogic encounters, or artistic practice be exposed as research…
– …And how can research be exposed as art?
– Also how does artistic research challenge and extend the limits of what is traditionally understood as academic writing and scholarly practice.
– So here we are, with eight contributions from different writers, nicely exemplifying the diversity of approaches in our field.
– The medium of video is quite prominent. Perhaps this points towards an influx of multimodal commentaries in the future?
– We shall see!
– As editors we’re no peer reviewers. Most of the writers are further along in their studies than we are, and some have already completed their doctorates.
– We’re more like peer appreciators.
– We’re also to some extent tangled with some of the research projects that these writings have arisen from.
– For instance, I/you’ve been a co-researcher in both Joa’s and Simo’s research projects.
– And since we’re talking about poetics of form, maybe we should introduce these works through “peer appreciation”, like you say—how they come across, touch and move us.
– …I’ll have to check my notes.
– It’s difficult to put these works in a linear order, although I feel that as a constellation they share questions and link in a beautiful way.
– Should we start with Joa Hug’s “To Call That Writing?”, which introduces diffraction? It’s a concept that can be read into many of the works.
– Yes! In his research score the corporeal technique of Manipulations (a pre-performative practice from Body Weather performance training) is layered with recreation of embodied memory and thinking aloud.
– So there is a kind of expanded textuality to the embodiment that he is playing with?
– Which transforms into a writing practice.
– The porosity of the writing catches me, as well as the hypnotic richness of the soundscape.
– And how the body appears within the different modes of the exposition.
– Also the question of who is doing the writing. I don’t know if I’m allowed to disclose this…
– What? Tell!
– But as I understand it, the writer is recreating the research score imagining six different, specific givers from his working group. Speculatively he’s becoming corporeally entangled with six different people.
– With their re-membered touch haunting his voice…
– Speaking about entanglement, maybe we can move onto “A Performance Entangled with Philosophy” by Tero Nauha.
– I have to confess something.
– This one took me right to the limits of my conceptual understanding as a reader. Probably beyond. But I really enjoyed the ride.
– He juxtaposes Laruelle’s non-philosophy with artistic practice. As well as intra-action, as articulated by Barad.
– And if one is to take the title by it’s word, it’s also a performance! Gestures of thought generating a world?
– As I understand it, he’s mapping the relationship between philosophical and artistic practice, or how they differ.
– Through the concept of fictioning? Superposition with gestures of thought?
– So artistic practice (though a reflection of the world) is most often not a reflection on the world. It works through indeterminacy and diffraction rather than reflection, “where artistic practice would not be contemplations of the world, but entanglements from the real.” (Nauha: A Performance Entangled with Philosophy)
– But isn’t that a philosophical statement?
– Oh god I’m lost again.
– I can grasp the cutting of film as a nonhuman form of thought. That thought is gestured and takes form in a way that is not contained in the human. That it becomes material thought.
– I like Hayley Newman’s piece (Stealth, 1996) as an example and how its description is entangled with the concepts evoked.
– Although I feel like I am tantalizingly held on the threshold of revelation concerning “advent”, “prevent”, and “event”.
– Like a body bouncing in darkness. Whee!!
– The gesturing of thought makes me think about Jana Unmüssig’s work, “Choreography, Choreography”. How gesture becomes writing…
– And vice versa.
– It is as if she rejects choreography and dance (in the spoken text); yet everything is drawn into the realm of the choreographic.
– I like the playful engagement with textuality and subtle humour.
– As a viewer after all the layers, I feel the choreographic at work in me in the stillness in the end—the frame of the camera, corner, chair, pillow, rooftops…
– All the objects that she engaged with.
– It made me think of the ‘object’—what is the object of research? Object of choreography? Objectification? Resisting objectification?
– “Call it life, call it art, but don’t call it choreography!” (Unmüssig: Choreography, Choreography)
– Speaking about choreography…
– Yes. Simo Kellokumpu’s “Meteor”. Atmospheric choreography!
– The movement from choreographer to choreoreader…
– …From mastery of linear form to the skills and sensibilities of a human body taking place as an atmospheric extension of material circumstances.
– And in Meteor, he evokes Twitter as an artistic platform. This brings along its own temporality, it really becomes an open-ended exposition!
– I’m fascinated by the hashtag as a portal between the atmospheric body of the choreoreader/writer and the loud, whirring spheres of multidirectional virtual movement… Sometimes also leading to surprisingly silent islands.
– I’m drawn to the hashtag as a body, or the body as a “sponge-like organism”, as Simo puts it. As I read it, in every tweet the “action” is something that can be embodied, also by the reader.
– So potentially this becomes a performance being enacted through techno-body-world entanglements, within multiple temporalities! Also on the virtual platform, through virtual movement, for instance by aligning one’s own tweets through the hashtags.
– Beautiful! I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.
– I am thinking of “An interwoven description of a summer’s day?” now.
– Yes. Lena Seraphin’s and Minna Heikinaho’s texts on collective writing, and a writing exercise they did inspired by Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.
– It’s our one contribution in Finnish! And Swedish too, a little bit. Which is great, because we did hope for a bilingual publication, but things tend to lean towards the lingua franca…
– As we have too.
– True. It’s a balance, isn’t it—holding on to the specificity of our languages, how they think differently, yet not wanting to exclude…
– But with this contribution, we become trilingual!
– That means we are also facing questions of translation here.
– The texts circle a writing exercise, shared by six visual artists writing in different languages about their perceptions on a day in July, 2014. Not all those voices are present in this exposition, but at least for me, they are invoked by imagination—absent-present…
– There’s a kind of ephemerality at play that is also connected with imperfection (dyslexia, the difficulty of writing). This is also about writing as documentation, capturing experiences and impressions, almost like painting with words.
– And through the recording another unnamed, unpainted day becomes present.
– I can hear the dry whispers of the space where the recording is made. Shuffling bodies and papers, breath on microphone…
– And the July day, with its sounds, smells, tastes, and greenery.
– And the two interweaving languages! I barely understand Swedish but I feel that it’s ok. It succeeds in creating a kind of co-existence without confrontation, leaving space for different presences, absences, relations, experiences.
– As we’re on the subject of interweave… Shall we move on to mine/yours then? It’s going to be a bit different because I/you are the author.
– Yes! Weird!
– What was interesting for me was how many different dialogues there are going on there.
– Yes. Towards the end it almost got a bit sickening.
– I feel that the dialogues are spinning around, that they kept turning around…
– That’s exactly how I felt. Or that they kept turning me around. Motion sickness!
– I got a little bit of that too. In the nicest possible way.
– Why do they spin around? Is this a way to make the “in between” visible?
– I was more thinking along the lines of performativity: what does it mean to take the idea seriously that there is no distinct body or self as such. Also to make it perform. As an actor.
– You are also writing about the artistic agency of the chosen medium in relation to your identity as an actor: “Every new medium brings along its own awkward bodies and pressing questions.” (Condit: Between you and me)
– I don’t think about it so much in terms of identity as intimacy with a specific practice, that may bring with it certain skills and sensitivities, also maybe “gesturing of thought”?
– Why not. Concepts in migration! Thinking through us, for better or worse.
– The video is nice; it makes me think of that Mona Hatoum piece (Corps étranger, 1994) where the camera travels through her body—but your camera stays on the surface and then goes inside itself, exposing the glitches.
– Yeah, I was thinking of that piece too, in Kiasma. That’s a nice reading!
– You’re welcome!
– Shall we talk about Vincent Roumagnac’s “The Theatre Season [Installed] [Documented] [Examined]”?
– Yes! First thing that comes across for me is the choice to use the examiner’s text.
– For me this strategy deals very much with the questions of expanded writing, textuality, and framing.
– Also a sense of “recycling” here, using something that was written for another purpose. The strategies of appropriation art and ready-made go through the whole timeline of this work. I see the work as a chain of events that seems to continue in this exposition—with their own economy, ecology, and waste.
– It is like looking through a hallway of mirrors!
– Yeah something like that!
– The material details are also interesting. Like how in the installation audience are asked to wear protective boots, so that they don’t leave traces to the floor. This is also mentioned by the examiner.
– Creating a timeless place, a vault or a mausoleum, with all the multitemporality within.
– Made me think about purity and dirt. Who wrote about that?
– Using the examiner’s voice brings the (institutional, hierarchical) structures we’re embedded in as part of the work, and stages/restages them.
– Mary Douglas!
– The video takes me back to the feel of the installation. The feeling of being outside of time.
– Although there is the “clock” of the months on the video… A very controlled and linear time at the same time.
– The clock is cyclical as well as linear. So for me it became a tomb of cyclical time, with a feel of infinite sadness to it. “Contemporary theatre on the brink of ecological collapse”, to quote Vincent.
– I see. Artistic research inhabiting the ruins…
– Or learning to live and die well in a thick present, to quote Haraway.
– Ummm… We’re running out of time. Shall we move on to Sami and The Real Health Centre?
– An exposition about “A performance that claims to be the world’s first performance with proven health benefits”. Seems fitting!
– “Exploring how some of the methods that generate writing in quantitative research translate to a dramaturgy of a performance.” (Haapala: Writing at Play)
– How does this relate to current discussions about the “impact” of art?
– How do you prove the impact of something?
– Interesting that he engages with quantitative research, which is not done much in our peer group.
– Quite timely, in social sciences too. To bridge that gap, between qualitative and quantitative!
– I like the gently humorous tone of the video, and how it juxtaposes certain expectations of “scientificity”.
– Yes, and the way the camera moves… He uses action cameras that are attached to bodies rather than held and pointed.
– How credibility is gained and perceived in research. Where to look? What is in focus? What counts as evidence?
– If and when artistic research deals with singularities, what does “proof” signify?
– I think he’s engaging “proof” and “provability” into dialogue as performative concepts as well.
– The longest video, Message, juxtaposes the theme of mortality present in the footage and the admittance of failure in the text—the loss of data—and the poem by Gertrude Stein.
– Playful with dark undertones.
– What does that prove/say, which is not proved/said?
– I’m not sure I get that?
– It was something written down in my notes. But all sorts of things start happening around this attempt to prove… things that wouldn’t be possible without the attempt. I think in artistic research we often deal with “side products”—processes that bring about something else than what was consciously aimed for.
– When processes take form they’re not contained in the intentions, so we’re always dealing with excess in a way.
– But the intentions are still there, embedded in the processes?
– Of course, without intentions we’d be dead! Or at least very, very unproductive.
– Commitment to a process that produces that excess that we want?
– That Excess That We Want. Sounds like the title of the next Nivel.
– You’re welcome everyone! You can have it!
– Shall we try to do the last bit in unison?
We would like to thank all the writers who contributed to Nivel08 Poetics of Form, which, unbeknownst to us in the beginning, would become Tutke’s 10-year anniversary publication; our colleagues and friends for acting as sounding boards and consultants, and the Tutke publication board, Leena Rouhiainen and Hanna Järvinen and Kirsi Rinne, for trusting us with this great opportunity and for patience and advice along the way. And we would like to thank each other for this editorial process, which happened predominantly over web-based platforms like messenger and email. If you’re reading this, we made it!
They shake hands, smile, and bow.
Douglas, Mary. 2002. Purity and Danger. Routledge: London / New York. (Original work published 1966)
Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.
Perec, Georges. 2000. Tentative d’épuisement dún lieu parisien. Paris: Christian Bourgois.