Amphibious Trilogies

The slippery values of amphibiousness

When investigating the motion of an extended choreography or how movement may be more fully appreciated through situating concern, design and activity concerning movement in the world,  we have worked with the notion of the amphibious. However, it is the qualities of being amphibious in abilities to move between places, spaces, states and being that has been of interest. Here it is amphibiousness that has been central. Also, centring on the amphibious has very much been about being able to work with the changes in movement within, between, around and within the notions and physicalities and perceptual experiences of movement in and in and between islands, ponds and passages. Again the concept of amphibiousness has emerged as central in the project’s dynamics, its arrivals and its reflections in and on action, as movement and through moving in the world.

Mentioning that we look into articulations of kinetics beyond the stage and dance performance arena also means that we shift our feet, eyes, bodies and beings as persons and as a group out in the real and imagined physical and embodied world. An extended choreography thus has to work with a world that is in becoming, as emergence and through acts of being on the move in contexts and within settings. This is different to the often bounded rehearsal and performance spaces of the studio and stage. We do not jettison expertise and experience from the design of dance performance or of appreciating the knowledge embodied in dance. We shift it out into the conditions and contexts of a world experiencing massive challenges in which movement itself is much more central in our view that is often acknowledged.

Movement matters; matters of movement need attention; the material of movement need study; movement as material is also located outside the dance academy and performance circuit. In brief, movement is hard to understand in the wider public arenas of cities and communities, in the movement of global trade and in the settings of innovation and investigation and the forces and powers that drive, inform and promote them. 

Amphibiousness is a slippery concept. It is taken up deliberately by our team and its several transdisciplinarities: within each member, as a team and in the processes of working together. We need this concept to be able to account for the properties of moving between the three thematics of the project but also for working within each of them. The concept also allows one to engage with how a mix of actors, settings, access, articulation and ways of working may be shaped and understood. 

There are a number of ways in which this has been offered and constructed and carried out and conveyed in the project. In the realm of artistic research amphibiousness acknowledges the ultimate ungraspability of experience and knowing, while acknowledging its realised in processes and collaboration, by critique and through embodiment. It is this instability that is a marker of complex social ecological systems (SES) and their complexities.

The slipperiness of amphibiousness also refers to its being tricky, or even deceptive (though this has not been our goal!). Being amphibious and working amphibiously through a mix of art, design, humanities and social science (see e.g. Nilsson, 2009), is to engage with the role of irony, the pose of personas, the potential of the fictive, while working with contexts of the actual and societal and the futural and speculative. To do this is to also engage with how queering, drawn form Queer Studies and exprience, is a fundamental part of making ones identity specific anc connected in systems of values and perceptions other than the dominant and attibutedly visible.  This has been central to predominantly two of the participants in the project, Brynjår and Andrew, who have not merely disclosed but unclosed their views and insights through acts of queerying movement and with reference to social movements around LGBTQI rights and representations.

Some of the ways we have worked have also been amphibious. As part of a response to not being able to physically travel on board a ship across the Northern Sea route from northern Europe to north east Asia, Brynjår conceptualised a ‘container’ ship in the form of presence in a three week venue inside a massive black box like stage at KHiO in Oslo.

This massive room, apparently empty, but filled with the technologies and spatial potentials for dance performance was in a sense de-staged to become a setting for collaboration and visitation. We significantly pasted the letters AMPHIBIOUSNESS along the largest wall, a constant reminder to our commitment to explore together through artistic research into movement. Our movements in the room included dances connected to the project’s work, the generation of a setting for shared meaning making around the arrangement of circular tables and the spatialization of project work to date, plans for action, and ideas for pursuit or motivation.

Inside this space, one that was on the move, we hosted a diversity of visitors and needed to communicate the working of the project in different ways and times, not all planned. We also managed to run a web- linked seminar to draw together elements of the project and saw the website project at massive scale, the globe of the interface and its dynamics suddenly filling the room, larger than us and our laptops. Again we saw how our ways of working needed to move between material and imagined states and physical and virtual locations.

Importantly, when returning from our real world lives or cabins each day and joining the main deck of the largest project space of this container ship-black box, we not only projected our work literally at massive scale but also looked more closely at its workings. This included reflecting on what we had done and how we needed to recall and critique it, as slippery but also as providing qualities that were located within the very character of their being amphibious

We repeatedly connected amphibiousness to actual real world experiences and historiographies, as well as to prospective, possible and projected futures. We recollected experiences and reconfigured our views via dialogue as we travelled once again some of the terrains and waterways and seas we had been able to reach and visit. We moved with one another into our different experiences and spaces in the project.

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Nilsson, P. (2009). The Amphibian Stand: A Philosophical Essay Concerning Research Processes in Fine Art. Umeå: H:ström-Text & Kultur.

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