Amphibious Trilogies

Extended choreography

The Amphibious Trilogies project directly addresses key topics of ‘choreography as an expanded practice’ and an extended ‘social choreography’,¹ both parts of a recent multi-voiced professional and research European discourse that probes the shifting contexts of choreography in contemporary society. Reminiscent of notions of the 1960s early post-modern dance era, this practice is placed in the middle of society in an era of increased complexity, encompassing financial crisis, climate change and mass migration. It extends into other artistic, scientific and cultural fields, discursively redefining choreography to accommodate choreographic practices without necessarily relating to or resulting in ‘dance’.

More recently, Allsop and Lepecki (2008: 4) write that:

[The] shift towards the conceptualization of choreography in terms other than or additional to the arrangement of bodily movement, has produced a range of performance work […] that suggests that choreography is a field of contemporary arts practice that provides not only vectors for new forms of trans-disciplinary arts research but also a locus for questioning the orthodoxies of contemporary art work and practice. Through this work choreography can now be seen to invoke, recuperate and incorporate other forms of cultural practice (both historical and contemporary).2

In Amphibious Trilogies choreography is seen for what it can produce aesthetically in certain contexts and conditions. For example, this project is closest to an extended version of social choreography.² In enacting such an extending choreography as process and product, through Amphibious Trilogies we employs open source style creative practices and artistic research that meta-morphs contingent conditions of choreography, design fiction3 and sociology into perceptions of the literal and the littoral zones, rituals of passage and processes of transformation, and senses and expressions of oscillation and ‘landing’.

This is a fluid approach that can be applied to critical issues in the contemporary world. Central here is the concept of amphibiousness. It allows us to situate the body in the environment, to centre on dynamic movements and contexts of current societal needs, such as one on migration, climate change and social inclusion. A pond is not just a pond, nor an island an island!

Amphibious Trilogies is dialogical in character. By this we mean that through practices of extending choreographies connections are made between pressing topics and needs in the world and the creative expression of ways to experience and discuss them beyond remote viewership and cold critique. Attention to the speculative and the dynamic through the works offers other art domains ways to discuss topics such as earlier taken up in Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood 1970,4 and in the Land Art of the late 1960s early 1970s.

Through the dynamics of the project we have devised a number of concepts on extending choreographies. These are meta concepts in their reach and character. They have been developed to highlight some of the core concerns with exploring and enacting notions of movement in the world. Importantly, these concepts have been influenced by our transdisciplinary expertise and methods as research by movement when  we have observed, travelled, designed and discussed ways movement may become a more appreciated part of socially responsive and responsible artistic practices, while remaining expressive creative endeavours and reflections.

Interest in movement has grown from dance and performance studies to reach into ‘movement studies’ in public culture and urban life. This has often been technical in character, with parallels in motion tracking and mark up in choreography (Hansen 2013. 2015)5 and the ubiquity of locative social media (Hemmersam, et al.)6 and applications of sensor data tracking and facial recognition software in paradoxes of movement agency, control and mapping in urban citizenship and surveillance.

Movement in an extended choreographic frame is also realised in a number of artistic research projects. We have chosen two from the JAR: Journal for Artistic Research.

In ‘Stop and Go: Nodes of transformation and transition’, Michael Zinganel and Michael Hieslmair7 draw on field trips and motion driven formats of inquiry to investigate ‘physical and social transformation at nodes and hubs of transnational mobility and migration alongside major pan-European road corridors’.

In their article ‘Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring aesthetic encounters’, Cocker and colleagues (2019)8 ‘stages a beyond-disciplinary encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing, for exploring those forms of knowing-thinking-feeling produced in the slippage and deviation when different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap and collide’. 

The character, conditions and contexts of our early 21st century times are also demanding and engaging as we attempt to make movement matter and explore matters of moving in a changing, complex world amidst a climate emergency and in the final year of the project the global Covid-19 pandemic. In response we have addressed issues and practices and interventions concerning movement in a pandemic. These are early artistic research responses and they point to key issues and a space for other creative work on movement and the pandemic to flourish alongside the massive volume of briefings, recommendations, policies and organisational arrangements.

Overall, we see a huge need for attention through artistic research to be given to how we move – individually and collectively. We see there is need to look further into how our daily work and professional lives, and the ways we respond to them, personally, societally, professionally and institutionally, may be more fully understood, supported and informed.

We suggest that the notion ‘extending choreographies’ offers us a fruitful means to investigate these matters further and to contribute to artistic research as well as to other research domains and practices.

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¹ See ‘Expanded Choreography. Situations, Movements, Objects…‘, a conference on expanded choreography, 2012. With regards to ‘social choreography’ see ‘on choreography‘ on Michael Kliën’s website.

² Allsopp, R. & Lepecki, A. (2008). ‘Editorial: On Choreography’. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 13(1): 1-6.

³See ‘Fabulous forms and design fictions‘, Andrew Morrison 2013, for more about design fiction.

4 Download a PDF version of this ground breaking book on Expanded Cinema.

5Hansen, L. (2013). ‘Making do & Making new Performative moves into interaction design’. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 9(1): 135-151; Hansen, L. (2015). ‘Movement Scripts. The materialisation of movement through digital media’ In Salazar, N. & Popat, S. (Eds.). Digital Movement. London Palgrave.

6Hemmersam, P., & Aspen, J., & Morrison, A., & Sem, I., & Havnør, M. (2014). ‘Exploring locative media for cultural mapping’. In de Souza e Silva, A. & Sheller, M. (Eds). Mobility and Locative Media: Mobile Communication in Hybrid Spaces. London: Routledge. 167-187.

7 Zinganel, M. & Hieslmair, M. (n.d.) : ‘Stop and Go: Nodes of transformation and transition’. JAR: Journal for Artistic Research, 14.

8Cocker, E., Gansterer, N., Greil-Moebius, M. & Koch, S. (2019). ‘Choreo-graphic Figures: Scoring aesthetic encounters’. JAR: Journal for Artistic Research, 18.


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