Amphibious Trilogies

OCTOPA’s Journey

You may already have encountered OCTOPA elsewhere in this site. She is an active member of the project, though to be frank, rather self invited!

OCTOPA is able to travel through time and space, between sea, land and air, as well as to camouflage herself, invert her shape and reconfigure her appearance as need might and become. OCTOPA is especially interested in the ‘trans-kinetics of being’ a hybridised version of herself , transformed by the waste of human carelessness so that her abilities have been strangely heightened, a new monster of the Anthropocene, as it were. She is polymorphous and vigilant now. OCTOPA special insights into the changing character of the arctic climate, lands, seas and skies – not to mention policies, expectation and powers.

Here you meet OCTOPA in all her wisdom, playfulness and irony. She drops you in and out of the vast Northern Sea Route. She offers you option based on future scenarios, complex presents and tangled histories.

The options are connected to … movements! You will also see though that they are also to vocabularies for shaping futures.

WELCOME ABOARD a collaborative venture from Amphibious Trilogies under its theme ‘Passage’.

> LAUNCH OCTOPA’S JOURNEY

This part of the project has been developed in close collaboration between Andrew Morrison and Amanda Steggell in particular, within inputs from the project team in prior workshops. Our collaboration has been a rich one through close work with Bastien Kerspern from Design Friction in France and his colleagues, Tiphaine Hardy and Pierre Chabiland. Bastien has brought his marvellous sense of surrealist, situationist game logics to this interactive part of the project.

We hope you will enjoy experiencing the dynamics of OCTOPA’S JOURNEY as a form of extended choreography online. We also hope that it may prompt you to think about and perhaps look further into the massive and changing Northern Sea Route. It’s an expansive arena in which extended choreographies are being played out today inside the climate emergency and will be tomorrow in futures that will be influenced by how we move and act now.

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OCTOPA’s workshop #3

Voicing the future through personas

On 15 May 2020 we held the third of three workshops for Master students in choreography at Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO). Due to the restrictive policies concerning COVID19 virus we get together in ZOOM.

This activity aims to:
– Position the choreographic project in relation to the as yet unknown and imaginary futures.
– Exploring the use of words and metaphors in shaping concepts in a master’s project.
– Taking up the persona called OCTOPA in relation to climate change.
–  Supporting development of choreo-design fictions with new personas and scenarios.

Following up on Workshops #1 and #2 we take another look at movement-verbs and verbalising. We play with these words, and how we can make personas that can shape our futures choreographic project. We also include words from 50 FUTURES DESIGN WORDS/ FUEL4DESIGN. To do this we use the example of Amphibious Trilogies persona called ‘OCTOPA’. In collaboration with Andrew Morrison and Bastian Kerspen we are further developing the concept of OCTOPA as persona and OCTOPA as device. OCTOPA has two versions; digital interaction (online) and printable, each giving instructions on how to proceed. We use the printable version.

OCTOPA masters’ choreography workshop needs source materials; 50 FUTURES DESIGN WORDS, FUTURES DESIGN DISCOURSE MOVES/FUEL4DESIGN. OCTOPA’s MAP (see below), OCTOPA’S CHOREO-DESIGN SCORE (printable version). Scissors, paper, glue, marker pens and uncluttered table or floor are essential.

This is an experimental meta-cognitive exercise, much like memory games. We start by writing a short project description (max 5 lines).

Placing OCTOPA’s MAP on table/floor, cut out the edges OCTOPA. Cut out CONTEXT and QUALITIES along the lines. Place them vertically on the left and right edges of the table/floor. Cut out OCTOPA’s arms. Cut off OCTOPA’s head along her beaded necklace. One by one, flip OCTOPA’s arms. One by one, choose words from the lexicon that relates to your projects and place them alongside CONTEXT and QUALITIES. One by one, write the chosen words on OCTOPA’s arms. Shuffle them. Without peaking try to remember which these words adheres to CONTEXT and QUALITIES.

Reconfiguring OCTOPA. She listens and speaks to you. Flip OTCOPA’s arms (1-8). Did you remember which words adheres to the categories of CONTEXT and QUALITIES. With glue, stick OCTOPA’s arms on her body and head. With this new constellation, think about what your project looks like now? OCTOPA poses a question to open up a group discussion: What (if any) has changed your stance as future choreographers design projects in times of climate change?

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Masters workshop #1

Moving with verbs

On 27 April 2020 we held the first of three workshops for Master students in choreography at Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO). Due to the restrictive policies concerning COVID19 virus we get together in ZOOM.

This workshop is an experiment to elicit engaged responses to the masters spring course, with a special focus on project descriptions. Words matter in choreographic ideation and communication. Working with words as material provides fuel for co-creative research in the making.

Assemble / prepare / meet / greet

We assemble in ZOOM, with paper and pen at hand. We talk about social distancing as an extended choreography. How to cope with it. How the current situation might influence the masters projects and world views. As we are working with moving words, we mention that language and rhetoric are central factors in the governmental approach to handling the corona crisis, and new words are added in the covidictionary.

Task #1: Describing / sketching

Focus on individual projects. Participants are asked to write a short project description (max 20 minutes).

Guidelines: What is your interest within choreography? What is at stake in your choreographic projects in the making? What is the impact (if any) on your choreographic projects/practices in these challenging times?
Keywords: context, conditions, positioning, process, themes

Task #2: Articulating / pitching / presenting

Presenters pitch their projects (10 minutes). Others take notes, with a focus on movement words. Write them down.

Task #3: Sharing / accumulating / exchanging / discussion

Pooling together, the participants exchange movement verbs from others’ pitches and comment on them. Are they useful in designing the choreographic project? Has this process helped to get a better understanding / perspective of one’s project? What changes you will do in the future?

Collaborating
AMPHIBIOUS TRILOGIES engages with FUEL4Design: Future Education and Literacy for Designers. We contribute to the Futures Lexicon with movement words, called Futures Design Movements Words. The masters students will also contribute with more moving words.





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Reflecting on choreography

As a social scientist and historian, I work within traditional scientific traditions relating to choreography both as a practice and as a field of reflection.  Thus, I try to relate to what is cognitive science at the same time of what is beyond the field of theory and embodied in dance and movement. The Austrian later British philosopher and Cambridge lecturer Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) influence me through his reflection on language and practice. According to the Finnish professor at Cambridge, Georg Henrik von Wright, he wrote for people who would think in a different way and breathe a different air of life. One of the most famous quotations from his writings is “ Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”.  Norman Malcolm, a research fellow at Cambridge, describe Wittgenstein’s lectures, as prolonged periods of silence, were he carried out original research in dialogue with those attending.

Choreography is both practice, dialogue and reflection quite often, on what we have no words to describe. Thus, the philosophy of language and the limitations of language is important. As Wittgenstein phrased it in 1921 in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus proposition 7 “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”  Still that is different from acting and the bodily reflection of thought and human emotions.

Today’s world is facing great humanitarian crises as well as ecological disasters. The climate crises creates humanitarian crises. The amphibious project relate to those challenges in ways that no analytical dissecting publication are able. We need action and we need change. It is as simple and as difficult as that. Obviously, no single dancer on stage can ever create substantial change. However, using the world as stage we can perhaps create change like sparks from a fire that starts a greater fire.

Intellectuals need to acknowledge their limitations and have no impact unless they are willing to participate in interaction outside of their world. Choreography is in such a perspective deeply political and a field of multidisciplinary approaches as well as social action.  We relate to the climate crises and we relate to the refugee crises as well as the political fault lines of Europe.  We are afraid of what is ahead, we face our fear and we challenge both others and ourselves to action.  That is what choreography is about and that is what it is for me to be part of the project.

As a social scientist, I have related to trauma, fear and grief. I have also related to happiness, beauty and love. Often it is a mix of the dark and light aspects of life. At times of complete darkness and hopelessness, it is beauty and sharing. Dance is relating to highly polished professional performances. Dedicated skills of good performers is a source of admiration and inspiration.  There are hope in the middle of a depressive situation and choreography is making people relate to the hope and the reality of the challenges.

The French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 1961) left notes to a book published after his death “Le Visible et l’invisible suivi de notes de travail” (1964) published in English in 1968 with the title “The visible and invisible”. He wrote about Eco phenomenology, that is a tradition choreography and art is certainly part of. In his opinion “worldly existential analysis are grounded in earthiness, and environmentalism in ontological thinking”

I will not reduce dance to thinking, but I relate my thinking to the choreography and certainly to the great challenges of our time.  In a way, we have no choice the changing world will sooner or later make us face what is part of our time and perhaps the project Amphibious Trilogies will be acknowledged as part of what can make a difference.

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A dancing practice

Tai Chi Tai Chi in Amphibious Trilogies

A wave at sea is a simple transmission of energy across the ocean. A wave doesn´t move anything. At sea, it is the wind that moves the surface and the current that moves the deep. Just like a wave, dance doesn´t move anything except itself. Dance moves through. Movements are like frequencies and vibrations traveling on different wave-lengths through the room, over time. It doesn´t carry anything. Neither a message, a meaning, nor a topic.

Tai Chi Tai Chi is a practice inspired by the martial art Tai Chi, but it isn´t quite the same. Much like in Tai Chi, it is the weight of our bodies that grounds us, and it is the counter-weight that rebuilds our bodies from the ground up. The shift of our weight balances out the energy that flows through our limbs and makes our bodies move. This movement of energy is a way for us to orientate ourselves in new and different locations. We can imagine that by shifting the weight of our bodies and directing our energy in all the cardinal directions we shift and alter our surroundings. It feels a bit like creating the world around us. At the same time, our state and physical presence are altered.

When practicing Tai Chi Tai Chi, we become one organism with common memory and collective intelligence. A bit like Andrew Morrison´s Octopa (1). We find a common rhythm, or one pulse, that we all follow. We follow the person upfront (whoever is upfront at the time) in one long, slow, listening, meditative move. From the beginning until the end; one long movement. When the front of the group shifts, we follow the new person who is upfront. And so on. Everybody gets to be upfront and to be followed by the others, and everybody gets to be at the back of the group following others. This makes this a participatory practice and also a non-hierarchical practice.

When the practice is over, we usually stand still for a moment and just feel the vibrations of our bodies, as one body or one organism, in the shifted space. The vibration lingers in us and around us for a while afterward.

It would be wrong to say that tai chi tai chi doesn´t do anything because we surely feel transformed afterward, it´s more like it doesn´t claim anything, or manifest something solid. It is more like water. It flows through bodies. Through the organism. Through space. Through the landscape. The practice of tai chi tai chi allows for energy to traverse all, like frequencies and vibrations traveling on different wave-lengths across the ocean. The practice allows us to move without carrying anything along with us except our common energy and all it leaves behind are the vibrations that linger on in the body and space.

Tai chi Tai chi creates a physical and mental equilibrium in each of the practitioners.
Tai chi Tai chi creates a common body or quiet community of common intelligence.
Tai chi Tai chi slows down our sense of time and transfers energy across space.

(1) Paraphrasing Andrew Morrison´s Octopa – a design fiction character from Passage in Amphibious Trilogies

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Travelling with Serres

I’ve been visiting Hong Kong for the CUMULUS design research conference. Its a city that asks we daily consider the vibrancy and challenges of urban living. I’ve been seeing old friends and discussing the passing of time, the passage of our culturally diverse experiences and learning more about the energies and creativity of this magnificent city.

There are many routes, and levels, overlays and underpasses, passages within and between the routes and railings. Crossings, transits and transitions. People on the move and moving through their urban infrastructures, involved in the activities of their lives and work.

I see this iconic intersection and just stand and watch it, walking, people talking to one another, beside each other and on their mobiles, cars, signs, walkways, a multi-vectoral mesh of movement. Multi-kinesis.

No, the real is not cut up into regular patterns, it is sporadic, spaces and times with straits and passes. . . . Therefore I assume there are fluctuating tatters; I am looking for the passage among these compli­cated cuttings. I believe, I see that the state of things consists of islands sown in archipelagoes on the noisy, poorly-understood dis­order of the sea, . . . the emergence of sporadic rationalities that are not evidently nor easily linked. Passages exist, I know, I have drawn some of them in certain works using certain operators. . . . But I cannot generalize, obstructions are manifest and counter-examples abound.

Serres, M. (1980). Hermes V: Le Passage du Nord-Ouest. Paris: Minuit. pp. 23-24.

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Passaging

In the Amphibious Trilogies project, passage has been taken up a metaphor for different experiences, conditions and encounters, journeys and emergences that are connected to movement out in the world and ways our worlds move and in so doing shape us. Central to these forms and formulations is interest in the artistic and poetic playing out of way finding and design-artistic-communicative-performative relations of becoming. By this we mean movement in and as and about relational co-creative and emergent ontology.

Here we might rather be saying passaging than passage. The meanderings, unfoldings, swerves and surfacings that have been part of engaging experientially and analytically in moving in and through and with key societal issues and phenomena and their forces and weightings in the second decade of the 21st century. We work in times and conditions and changing environments and values where a climate emergency, human migration propelled by war and economic need. We are entangled in researching movement artistically and via poetics in a world where aspirations and certainties are undermined by an ethos of uncertainty. We try to shift or work beyond spaces and settings where expectations and trust are often bridled with dissolution and deception.

How then are we to set out into the world together and alone as a project team and embroil ourselves in experiences and settings where the ice is literally shifting beneath our feet – as much as metaphorically, psychologically and affectively. What are the poetics of such endeavours? How might they be understood as performative acts of inquiry while remaining creative and even prospective offerings for others? Where might we travel and land and wait and dwell? How would out diverse backgrounds and experience and expertise meld and shear apart? In what ways might they challenge us and enrich our understanding and pursuits?Might we notice and elaborate on their ‘arrivals’, those we aspire to and those slipping through into different and unexpected rhymes, rhythms and routes?

We work in a moving mesh of artistic practice and its related critical experimentation and enunciation. We address the psychological and anthropological, the discursive and the performative, the mediational and non-representational, historical and future facing.

Passage. Rite of passage. A transition, a cultural threshold, a piece of text, a narrow straight, even a funnel, another piece of text, the process of writing, acts of composing, simply having gone through something together, a transit, a transition, a conveyance, travelling through time and space, a course of events, but also the interchange of experience and events, less dispute and altercation or the passage of arms, but a passing through, or a crossing, across terrain and territory but also concepts and ideas, from separation to limnality and ceremony and alteration and reconstitution. To see how much movement is implicit in artistic, professional, academic and dictionary definitions, to be surprised that there is so little explicit mention of the sanguinity of movement, of a lexicography of kinesis.

The word ‘passaging’ we meet rather rarely. A Google search returns ‘to passage subcultures of cells’. These are minutes and day and months and times, long futures too, while our bodies and minds, histories and aspirations are entangled in the Anthropocene of the now as we too drift along in the debris of our contributions, ice melting, waters rising, wealth concentrating, conflicts proliferating. We move in the present, increasingly aware we tilt towards tomorrow, on terms we partly understand and direct, swirls of information and anxieties alongside the insistent pressures of the present to survive and to find ways to move together creatively and even responsibly.

To open out and go within and through a passaging, that gerund or present participle being all about anticipation. Not only to take care ahead of time, in its medieval European sense. But to take care to move and to find out how it too is a central part of sustainable, vibrant and fantastic futures. Where artistic performativity, design co-creativity and social ‘accounting’ and critique also move alongside one another, now connected, then entangled, unfurled and projected, deeply questioned and joyfully addressed.

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Website design #1

An interview between Jon Olav Eikenes, interaction designer and Amphibious Trilogies’ Andrew Morrison.

Andrew Morrison (AM): Hello Jon Olav. And thanks for taking time to reflect back on design work in shaping the interface for the Amphibious Trilogies project.

You have been working with interface and web design for quite some time now and I was fortunate to be a small part of this in supporting your PhD in Interaction Design at AHO. Could you tell us what the title term ‘Navimation’ means? What is it about the term and its activities in an interface that works as a design material and as a means to augment the mediation of different forms and modes of information, data and content.

Jon Olav Eikenes (JOE): websites and apps increasingly include various types of movement, ranging from animated icons to smooth transitions and visual changes that happen when scrolling. Navimation is a concept that describes the intertwining of the activity of navigation (for example on a web page) with the appearance of visual motion in the interface. The basic idea is that movement can be used to explain what is happening as well as create something unexpected and playful as the user is navigating the digital space. In my experience, describing the phenomenon and analysing different types of navimation made it available as a design material.

AM: When we first approached you about developing an interface for the practice based arts project Amphibious Trilogies and the focus on movement in the world, what sorts of associations and ideas came to mind about a possible project interface?

JOE: To be honest it was a bit hard to grasp what the project was all about in the beginning. One thing was clear – this was not a traditional web design project. Normally I start projects by focusing on user needs and goals, but in this project the process was more centred around metaphors, connotations and visual expression. What really helped us to get started was to look at various existing dynamic interfaces and websites, and discuss what worked, didn’t work, and why. When I showed you (Andrew and Amanda) an example from a specific digital Virtual Reality tool, you felt that the digital space it presented matched well with what you were looking for. That was an important moment, and the tool became a central reference for the rest of the project.

AM: Could you please tell us a little about how you went about developing the interface. As your reply may interest others than the project team, perhaps you could comment on how you arrived at the specific forms of motion and the modes of communicating them, graphically and kinetically?

JOE: The use of movement in this interface is primarily connected to navigation – zooming, panning and “flying” around in the virtual interface space. As such the movement is very much directly connected to the user’s actions and follows common conventions for navigation in 3D space. I was able to make a prototype quite early in the process by using the before-mentioned VR tool. This made the process a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. In addition, I made traditional sketches, experimenting with layout, colours and typography. As usual, the design process becomes much easier when including sketches and material examples rather than only thinking and talking about what the artefact might become.

AM: Part of your making the site was to work with our Canadian web site developer Boris Kourtoukov. What did you each bring to the development process and outcome? Could you please comment on the relationships to the platform and programming and the motional and graphic design of the interface. 

JOE: Boris had experience from developing dynamic websites before, and he implemented the solution, which in itself is impressive. In addition, he brought fresh ideas and artistic perspectives to the process. When developing highly kinetic interfaces it can be hard to envision how the end result will feel like based on static sketches. Therefore, it is necessary to work iteratively, and went back and forth several times testing various aspects of the interface. Another challenge with such interfaces is that the technological solution is quite complex, and it can be hard to make it work well across all kinds of browsers and devices. I am positively surprised by how well it works!

AM: In our view, as people who have worked with the design and entered content, the site is working very well. Do you have some favourite elements or features? 

JOE: I’m glad to hear that! I really like the colours and the overall visual style of it. And the “fly to post” transition is quite neat.

AM: Now that you see the site with material – relating to concepts such as amphibiousness and the three themes island, pond, passage – how satisfied are you with the dynamics of your interface? 

JOE: This was a small project with very limited resources, and still we managed to pull off something that is quite unique and intriguing. There are things here and there I would like to improve, but in general I am satisfied with the result.

AM: Work on Interaction Design for some has a tendency to steer away from Art. Do you have any thoughts, having done this project, on the relationship between the two in terms of practice based inquiry? 

JOE:  The consequence of bad (interface) design has real world implications, ranging from unhappy users to large accidents. There is a huge need for digital products and services that are useful, safe, easy to use and enjoyable. Seen from that perspective, I would say it is a good thing that interaction designers are most often concerned with solving real-world problems for people in their daily lives. That is also the type of interaction design I am most comfortable working with, as I believe the largest impact I can have as a designer is to help solve some of those problems. However, that doesn’t mean that such design solutions can’t also be enjoyable and playful. In any case – once in a while I find it refreshing to do something that is a bit different, where there is room for more exploration, ambiguity and playfulness. I believe that there is much to learn and bring across diverse types of projects, and this experience makes me a better designer overall.

AM:  Thanks for your frank and informative replies Jon Olav. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

JOE: Thank you for the opportunity to work on this projects, and good luck with your seminar!

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Movement in the interface

In designing the website for Amphibious Trilogies we wanted to include some degree of motion and a sense of movement as a core element for users.

Part of this interest arises from the filtering of motion graphics and dynamic characteristics of games into interface and interaction design. We were interested to draw on insights such as those colleagues and former PhD students, Synne Skjulstad and Jon Olav Husabø Eikenes.

Synne has a talent for seeing interface and for reading them as cultural constructs, especially where they contain connections between the kinetic and the mediational. In his doctoral work, and subsequently commercial design and media innovation work in interaction design, Jon Olav has developed the notion of ‘navimation‘. Here’s what he says:

… navimation is the intertwining of the activity of navigation with the appearance of visual motion. The word motion seems more appropriate than the word animation, since animation often is understood as a specific genre or technique for making movies.

There are many ways to study navimation. For example, using cognitive psychology one can study how navimation is perceived by a specific user, and how navimation can help the user perform a specific task. From computer science, one can study how the underlying software technology can efficiently support navimation interfaces. From an artistic point of view, one can look at how navimation can be explored aesthetically and used for personal expression. From a marketing point of view, one can study how navimation can be used for strategic purposes, for example as part of visual identity and branding strategies.

However, my focus is somewhere else. As a design researcher, I am interested in how navimation can communicate. What can designers communicate by using navimation? How do you actually go about to create a navimational interface? What does navimation offer that visually static interfaces cannot? And – how is navimation engaging us at the affective level? 

Try out the Amphibious Trilogies website for yourself as an example of navimation. We’ve been lucky enough to involve Jon Olav in its design.

One of the things we have found in entering material is that that it’s possible to also move elements of the interface to relate to the content, as allusion, by shape, as a way of linking horizons, seascapes and motions, as is suggested above

Try it out, see if you can find correspondences or divergences between the tilting, zooming, or moving horizontally through the interface and the content windows that you select or may prompt you to look for. Take a leap ….

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A dynamic relational terrella

Movement in the interface. Moving interfaces. Interfaces of movement. A miniature world of activity, an expanse of sky and land and sea, of islands, ponds and passages. These you see manifested in the Amphibious Trilogies website. It was important to develop a graphic, dynamic interface to convey the kinetic and the communicative in the project’s overall relational ontology where ‘journeying’ and becoming were central.

Mercator’s 1595 map of the Arctic. Mercator, Gerhard, 1512-1594

This a site that has drawn on an underlying game engine architecture to allow users to navigate a pseudo 3D space. In doing so, elements in the interface move, and through graphic and spatial design relations between diverse and connected elements may be identified, pursued and distinguished.

The site is more than a set of disparate elements, more than a distributed flotsam and jetsam of plural participants. Entries are written and imaged on themes, and linkages between items are made through the use of categories and tags. One needs to move about the interface to explore its surfaces and depths, to rotate and zoom to investigate its content and diversity of images and contexts.

The circular default image of the whole site is a terrella of sorts. The terrella was developed by William Gilbert and published in 1914 and taken up by the Norwegian Kristian Birkelund in his experiments with magnetism and the earth’s poles, and the aurora borealis.

The latter we have pursued actively in the project, resulting in collaborative work with another former AHO PhD interaction design student and interaction designer/artist Dr Anthony Rowe from Squidsoup in the UK. See our Aurora Imaginaris, one we envisage as a new terrella for dark times ….

Our project contains two terrella. One is the Aurora Imaginaris, an actual space of 3D projection inside our world. The other this website itself. A mini-world of moving, floating, filtered, drifting and connected elements that are like atomic particles, linked and distributed, in motion but each made of matter. Together mattering in their being made and moved in a relational whole. Being in and of and about the world where choreography may be more fully appreciated as providing expertise and embodied knowledge about movement as material.

‘Movement as material’ in interaction design is the stuff of yet another former AHO PhD design student, Assoc Prof Lise Hansen. There is much more than meets the eyes in connection design’s knowledge on interfaces, exhibitions, materials inquiry and mediating interfaces than is present in mainstream choreography. Lise’s thesis is an excellent read, as are he many other publications on movement as design material.

To think about movement in today’s world in the context of climate emergency, or perceptions and practices of fake and trustworthy news, of the societal pressure and forces of migration, survival and sustainability. Of a globe exposed to its own carnivorous actions.

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