Every Tuesday between 4 October and 14 November, we invite UK and international practitioners to share their process and practice.
This year, our speakers traverse dance, philosophy, science, theatre, visual arts and writing.
You can listen to the recordings of talks from the previous series of Crossing Borders through our online archive.
3 October | Anna Pakes | Is Choreographic Authorship Dead?
The idea of authorship gets a bad press in contemporary performance practice and theory. Thinking of dance works as the authored creations of individual choreographers has become problematic at least since Judson – and since Roland Barthes proclaimed the “death of the author” in 1967. The concept of authorship seems complicit with outdated ideas about singular genius and with bourgeois (or, more latterly, neoliberal) capitalist ideologies of property, ownership and control. Similar political issues are engaged by debates about the collaborative nature of dance-making and about whether dancers are always co-authors of the works they perform. It is often assumed that acknowledging a dancer’s substantive contribution to dance works challenges a “traditional” framework of exploitation of others’ labour. In this talk, I want to examine these assumptions from a philosophical perspective, exploring whether dance authorship should be characterised in terms of relations of power, economic or ideological. I will focus particularly on solo dances choreographed by one person on or for another and consider a range of historical and contemporary examples. We will explore some different ways to think about authorship, co-authorship and the relations between dancer, choreographer and dance work.
More about Anna
10 October | Elyssa Livergant | A common sense: workshops and the independent sector
This talk asks critical questions about exploitation and avenues for solidarity in the independent dance sector in London. Elyssa’s interests lie in the ways in which ideas of labour, one’s practice, and precarity relate to the independent sector. In her talk, she will consider the complex and ambiguous relationship between concepts and practices of industry and community in the independent performing arts sector.
More about Elyssa
17 October | Aaron Meskin | Philosophising Improvisation: An Artist-Researcher Collaboration
Philosophising Improvisation was a collaboration between Aaron Meskin and Jade Fletcher (philosophers at the University of Leeds) and the independent dancers who comprise Improvisation Exchange Leeds. The project came about after Meskin and the dancers worked together on an international conference on dance improvisation and philosophy—their idea was to follow up with a project in which ‘dancers did more philosophising and philosophers did more dancing.’
In a series of workshops, the dancers and philosophers explored the interrelations between philosophy and improvisational dance through discussion of various philosophical texts and a wide range of improvisational exercises and scores. One central focus was the role of various forms of knowledge in dance improvisation. Another focus of attention was the nature of intentional action. The philosophical work discussed included Maxine Sheets-Johnstone on thinking in movement, Elizabeth Anscombe and John Searle on intentional action, and Gilbert Ryle on know-how. On February 28th 2016, the participants shared their work-in-progress with an audience of around 30 people.
I propose to share a discussion of the genesis of this project, our working methods, the challenges we faced, and the results of our successful collaboration. Of particular interest will be the way in which the philosophers have been influenced and challenged by the working methods of the dancers, and the ways in which philosophical investigation has informed and challenged the dancers with regard to their artistic practice.
More about Aaron
24 October | ‘Funmi Adewole | African dance aesthetics and Border-thinking
Choreographers and dance artists are often working at the crossroads of intersecting cultural, disciplinary, historical trajectories. ‘Border-thinking’ theorised by Walter Mignolo is a decolonial approach to thinking about epistemology. Amongst other theories, it has given me a way of looking at the issue of narrative and language and African dance aesthetics in the theatrical and professional dance context. The act of choreographing or creating dance-training systems which include African and Diaspora dances is particularly complex. What narratives are produced at the borders of different ways of seeing and being and dancing? And of what use are they?
More about ‘Funmi
31 October | Philip Ball | Self-organized motion: the choreography of nature
The natural world is full of examples of motions that are highly coordinated between many individual organisms. The flocking of birds and the swarming of fish schools exhibit breathtaking coordination between many members of a group. This kind of coherent, collective movement is seen too in movements of single-celled organisms such as slime molds, while social insects such as ants and termites use it to collaborate in laying foraging trails or building nests. Over the past few decades, scientists have come to understand that these group movements do not need leaders: they are examples of “self-organization”, meaning that they arise without any pre-ordained plan or blueprint. All that is needed are local rules about how individuals respond to their neighbours. Self-organized motion is also seen in human society, for example in crowd motion, road traffic and the formation of trails over open ground. Can the rules therefore be used deliberately to induce visually stimulating modes of collective movement? Can self-organization be turned towards creative ends? In this talk I will explain what is understood about its origins, and point towards possible directions in which these questions might be taken.
More about Philip
7 November | Laura Cull and David Harradine | Thinking alongside Performance
What might it mean to think alongside, rather than about performance?
In this session, we want to consider the relationship between the forms of thought that take place in and as acts of performance-making, and those that might conventionally be described as ‘performance theory’ or scholarship.
While the discourses of ‘practice as research’ and ‘artistic research’ have brought greater prominence to and growing institutional acceptance of the notion of art as the production of knowledge, we know that performance has always functioned as a kind of thinking and a way of knowing in its own right.
But what is the role for so-called ‘theory’ or ‘writing about performance’ in this context? If performance practice already thinks – already asks questions, shares insights and interrogates itself – in its own ways, then what is the role of the so-called ‘theorist’ or ‘scholar’ of performance (including in the case of the practitioner-researcher who, all too often, remains under institutional pressure to write about his or her own work)?
With his ‘non-philosophy’ project, contemporary French thinker François Laruelle invites us to experiment with the hypothesis that philosophy is not a matter of representing reality from a position of transcendent authority (which it has consistently assumed for itself): it is not ‘about’ the Real, but that which belongs to and is determined by it. According to this paradigm, our task would be less a matter of producing a philosophy or theory of performance – but something like a ‘performance philosophy’ that thinks ‘alongside’ or ‘according to’ it.
Situating our discussion in the contexts of PaR, Laruelle’s non-philosophy and the emerging field of performance philosophy, this session will invite reflections on how theorists ‘use’ practice and vice versa, seeking to articulate productive models for how performance and philosophy might relate to each other as equals (that is, as equally thought) and benefit from each others ways of thinking.
Laura and David will each present for 15 minutes at the start of the session – opening up some key ideas, questions and provocations from their own research, which we hope will serve as triggers for conversation. That is, our aim is for the session to focus on the exchange of ideas amongst all those present.
14 November | Choreo-graphic Figures | Choreo–graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line
A lecture performance by Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil
Choreo–graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line is an interdisciplinary research project focused on developing shared practices for making tangible the specificity of ‘thinking-in-action’ (Manning and Massumi, 2014), ‘thinking-feeling-knowing’ (Maharaj and Varela, 2012) and ‘dynamic vitality forces’ (Stern, 2010) emerging within a collaborative artistic-epistemological process.
Choreo–graphic Figures addresses the qualitative processual specificity (vitalities of ‘how-ness’) within shared artistic exploration, requiring a thematic shift of attention from the realm of demarcated disciplinary specificity towards an affective process-realm of forces and intensities (which we call figuring). We explore the relation between figuring (the felt forces and intensities operating between the more readable gestures within artistic work) and the emergence of figures (the point where figuring coalesces into a specific recognisable sign).
Central to our enquiry has been the development of a multimodal and performative system of notation (choreo–graphic figures) for sharing this often hidden aspect of the creative process. We ask: how can we develop systems of notation for identifying, marking and communicating the barely perceptible micro-movements at the cusp of awareness? How can we communicate the instability and mutability of the flows and forces especially within artistic practice, without ‘fixing’ that which is inherently dynamic and contingent as a literal sign?
This performative presentation elaborates the qualitative specificity, distinctive properties and constitutive conditions for three key groups of Choreo–graphic Figures:
(1) Elemental Figures — opening up and exposition of process, specification of key moments within the arc of creative endeavour
(2) Empathetic Figures — diagramming of relations, the ethics of collaboration, sensitivities and sensibilities of being-with
(3) Transformative Figures — identification of explicit shifts or even transformation in property, quality or state of being; collapsing the lines of distinction between activity/passivity, animate/inanimate, subject/object, self/world.
Crossing Borders began in 2009, and has been running annually ever since. To listen to previous talks, by artists and scientists including Raimund Hoghe and Franko B, Ros Warby, Tim Ingold, and Eva Karczag, visit our audio recordings collection.
Crossing Borders is supported by the London Contemporary Dance School postgraduate programme.