This essay introduces shifts that have been produced in my ongoing doctoral artistic research project. These shifts are formed by movements from contextual choreographic practice to atmospheric choreography, and from the practice of a choreographer to a choreoreader. My artistic research-project, which started in 2013 as Contextual Choreography has in three and half years evolved to Atmospheric Choreography and the final title of my project is still in process.
The primary method for this artistic research project is choreographic practice. In the research I understand choreographic practice as a reading practice, which means a specific, embodied de-coding of transforming dynamic circumstances and conditions that choreograph the human body and the experience. Besides the artistic works and processes, I reflect the research process with the trans-disciplinary fields of philosophy and ethics of movement, (eco)somatics, post-humanism, affect-theory, new materialism, environmental philosophy, (movement) ecology, mobility studies and science fiction. When this plurality meets my personal professional and situated history in the field of choreography, the current research position is framed.(13) This re-routed artistic practice of mine brings along with it a new position towards movement and choreographic thinking compared to my previous working-history as a choreographer. In the research I articulate this shift incorporating movement and process from a choreographer to a choreoreader. During 2016–2017 I have experimented on the practice of a choreoreader via on-going artistic projects and workshops, in order to discover accessible and understandable points of contact between language and the atmospheric choreographic practice that this artistic research project develops.
The focus of my artistic practice is on the relations, interconnectedness and reciprocity of choreography, movement, embodiment, space, place and surrounding material (14). In the lineage of site-specific practices, my artistic research project is in dialogue with the legacy of the 1960s, contextual art and relational aesthetics and with the contemporary science-fiction and ecological turn in the field of choreography and performing arts. During the three first years of the project, I studied and experimented with notions of space, place and context in the fields of western philosophy, artistic research, and artistic practices (i.e. Arlander 2012, Casey 1997, Dilley 1999, Hunter 2015, Kovala 2001, Kwon 2004, Lefebvre 1991, Massey 2005, Thorsnes 2015) more closely, and I produced five artistic works under the title ‘To take place’, which were installed and exposed in April 2016 in Helsinki as the first examined artistic part of my doctorate. The starting point for the works was the question of how a chosen cultural context operates as a choreographic apparatus. I approached this question by experimenting with place-taking, or how the human body takes place in various circumstances. Choreography and choreographic thinking functioned in these works, and in my research, simultaneously as an analytical strategy, an examined problem and processed artistic outcome.
The shift from contextual practice to atmospheric is the result of the research process including the multidirectional agglomeration described above. The artistic processes have activated and developed the sensitivity and skill of recognizing forces, energies, and affects that are at stake in the dialogues between the human body and its material surroundings.(15) These dialogues take place in the sphere in between my body and the material surrounding and they produce an interpretative and artistic embodiment. In the research process I realized that instead of working with the social and material circumstances and place-taking that form the basis for articulating, and for possible choreographic and artistic re-routing, of the contextual circumstance, my focus was in fact in the experience of the immediate and intimate extension of these material circumstances. I call this extension atmospheric. Since this turn I have studied the term atmospheric more closely in my artistic practice, through other artistic examples and philosophical materials (Böhme 1993, Grant 2013, Griffero 2014, Pallasmaa 2014). When the produced place-taking embodiment and surrounding extending material operate together in my artistic practice, an atmospheric choreography emerges. In this essay I tentatively open the development of the practice called Choreography as a reading practice, which has emerged through my artistic practice, which is stimulated by the reading theories (Iser 1980, Rosenblatt 1988, Sosnoski 1999). This specific practice-in-process unfolds how the contextual shifts to atmospheric.
The starting points for the re-articulation of reading in ‘Choreography as a reading practice’ are: 1) reading as choreographic practice is different from reading, when understood as decoding the literal two-dimensional text with movements of the eyes, 2) reading does not mean reading written signs and symbols, but reading movements in various registers that surround the human body and make the human body move, 3) reading happens through embodied decoding of these surrounding movements and their relations and 4) reading produces artistic forms and traces, which can be understood in choreographic terms as (potential) writings. Reading means not only the skill to decode surrounding movements, but it implies also an experimental and wild act of bringing them into an artistic relation between themselves in order to produce imagination and atmospheric choreography.
Choreography as a reading practice is an artistic practice. I present here one artistic project within the ongoing artistic research project, in which the development of this practice takes place. The project is called Meteor. Meteor includes a Twitter account where I study the possible words and concepts that could sprout from the practice, or what words could converge with the practice at hand in an understandable way. This includes exploring what kind of a body the practice produces, how to articulate ‘matter’ and ‘materiality’ and their relation to the body-in-process in this practice, and how these dynamic relations produce and materialize atmospheric choreography. The artistic starting points for ‘Choreography as a reading practice’ lie in the choreographic interest towards the movements that set the conditions for human movements instead of focusing on the movements created or accomplished by the human body (16). In other words, in the artistic process I put my body into the question of how everything moves, and I experiment with that. In the Meteor project this means studying the surrounding movements and their relations in everyday life situations, document them, and post a tweet. These everyday movements can extend from cellular to planetary and beyond human lifetime towards intergalactic movements. In this approach, movement is not to be controlled or mastered and the choreographic approach excludes the idea of a pre-defined linear construction—instead, choreography becomes atmospheric.
As the Meteor project’s Twitter-account is limited in the number of characters in tweets, I filter words and concepts from the practice, that could perhaps verbally reach the sphere in which the ‘Choreography as a reading practice’ is realized. I am critically aware that the aim of finding short exact expressions can resonate to the militaristic, populistic or hierarchical use of language, in which complex situations are managed by simple expressions and commands. On the other hand, if I think of the minimalistic use of language in Japanese haikus or in the task-based artistic gestures of the Fluxus movement, I can consider tweets as an artistic platform. I am also aware that using technological devices affects and problematizes the experience and perception of the ‘lived’ in the project. This said, and being aware of these questions, I decided to continue to use smartphones and Twitter, and its simplified, reductive mode of language. I set myself into these relations, and experiment with how the whole apparatus operates, and how it is embodied in an artistic, re-generative and playful way. It is also possible that the experiment produces a failure.
In tweets a hashtag links, focuses, categorizes, channels and contextualizes the tweets. The simple hash (#) is one of the symbols that couples and connects me to the material of the movements and surroundings in the interplay of lived, conceptual, ecological and technological. The visual form of the hashtag suits well to the idea of intersection and interplay; two horizontal vectors cross two vertical ones. In itself, it carries the potential directions that I can imagine and beyond. It operates as a tool to create an imaginative relationship with the surrounding planetary condition. It operates as a conceptual and material transferer, which can help to bring out the spatiotemporal stratum of the actual-virtual embodiment. Instead of separating the body from the place-situation, it offers an alternative and extended way of embodying the relationship with the sphere; one in which the body takes place, and which is partly produced by this place-taking. It couples lived and conceptual in the gradual process of choreographic form-ing and be-ing located simultaneously in many places. The sense of body and its spatial orientation is multiplied by going through it. Imagined like this, a # is a teleporter that takes the embodied depictions to the virtual spheres and vice versa. Writing a tweet becomes a process in which the technological device, the body having and using it, and the experience of the movement are entangled in virtual-actual surroundings, including the whole technological infrastructure that grants access to the Internet. Thus, the combination of choreographic reading and writing activates proprioceptic sub- and hyperspaces, and the entanglement brings out the immediacy and intimacy of the solitary in-betweeness with a playful 140 characters.
Within this combination of choreoreading practice and linguistic reduction, I have, at this point of the process, framed three existing words that meet the reading process, and that seem to be important in the inquiry. These three words set a sphere in which I aim to find linguistic articulations for the practice. These words are Cue, Response and Action. Following is an attempt to tentatively visualize what I mean by the chosen words and their interoperability with the practice that draws together movement, corporeality and materiality. Please go to the Twitter account PlanetaryMovements now, and read the following together with the tweets.
Together they form elements of a trans-dynamic multi-vectorial choreoreading, which exposes unending movements between my place-taking body and the surrounding circumstances. The emerging atmospheric choreography forms with a to-and-fro interdependence of the body and its surroundings. In the artistic inquiry of how everything moves, the forming choreographic mutuality is produced by the suspensed interplay in between the previous conceptual knowledge of the materiality of the surroundings, the selective sensuous attention towards the surrounding material, and lived movement. The process of embodying this sphere is non-linear and it includes cuts and discontinuities. Open-ended movement(s) couples and creates the link(s) between the corporeality of my body and the surrounding material. In this trans-dynamic coupling, lived and conceptual, involvement and observation collide, ‘here-ing’ and ‘there-ing’ entangle and oscillate, and in tandem this processual coupling produces new couplings in imagination and apprehension. They all take place in movement. ‘Choreography as a reading practice’ thus becomes a practice that sets these motional relations and registers into an imaginative play between each other continuously in the materiality of my body. Processing the multi-agential sphere produces the artistic embodiment of a Choreoreader. In this embodiment, the body functions as a sponge-like organism through which various affects and forces travel and are also produced. The kinetic-experiential openness prevents the choreographic body functioning as a container for mastered and rehearsed movements, but instead as a place-taking substantial life-form-ing, which is processual and unfinished, in between actual-virtual. Within the reciprocal movement-mesh the place-taking is incomplete, failing to fill the gaps in between my body and its surroundings. These experiential gaps, these motional failures, produce the choreographic gestures and art with which I try to touch the untouchable and bare the confines of the bodily body-ness of my plural body. At the same time, this experimental practice is an inquiry into one of my main research interests: what happens to movement when it is mediated to choreography?
Meteor explores, challenges and articulates reserves of the metabolic body. The process includes a critical reflection, and at the same time an attempt to build understanding, of how techno-eco-embodiment operates and is experienced on the move, in the movement, and with choreographic thinking and embodiment. The atmospheric emerges from the complex and non-linear reading process that focuses on the choreographic relations that are formed in the dynamics of the body and its surroundings. In these dynamics the situational, analytical, cognitive, and logical intertwine and oscillate rapidly with kinesthetic, affective, sensuous, and emotive. In other words, the organization of the body depends on its relations to the forces that move it, and a Choreoreader is the one who intensively interprets and re-organizes these relations through his/her kinetic- and conceptual-experiential reserve. The motional circumstance in which the body takes place is thus formed partly through this constant negotiation, and the ‘meaning’ arises from the reciprocity of movements. Unexpected interpretations can be made through the rich matrix of possible registers, spheres, scales, and vectors of movements that come together. Imagination and new possible apprehensions are produced. Choreoreading thus stirs the viscosity of the particular material and situated sphere, and it touches the enigma of movements in the networked and hybrid on- and offline tweeting experiment, in which the bridging between actual-virtual and analogic-digital is surprised.