[-empyre-] : "E/motion frequency deceleration" (M Weiss) Movement 1

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Oct 5 02:06:38 EST 2011

[1] First reflection, Mov.1,  from Michael Weiss.

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Reflection 1
Choreolab in Personal Experience

                  Are we able to rediscover and promote a thesis of a decelerated and self-determined society that enhances and celebrates
                  intrinsic time and rhythm of being, nature and culture as its standards of the matter  (Sebastian Prantl)[1]

These words of Sebastian Prantl―Austrian dancer, choreographer, and together with
pianist Cecila Li originator of the choreolab―written in his workshop notes,
have had an intense impact on me. This happened because I not only
experienced them as manifesting a theoretical core quality of the choreolab’s
intention along its metatheme on deceleration; beyond that, I could live, dance and
reflect literally ΄through΄ them during Choreolab within the choreolab’s community in
the gestalt of practicing them on subjective as well as group levels―thereby
envisioning them in a larger context while experiencing this to be an essential
dynamic of change.

Sebastian Prantl goes on by clarifying: “However, this is anything but a return to
an idyllic state. Therefore, science and art have to forge a privileged partnership in
the process of a decelerated discourse fostering consciousness in search for

It was this very conjunction of two modes of being and
discovering―namely science[2] and art―I experienced as profoundly inspiring during
Choreolab. The question put forward by Sebastian Prantl and the vision of which he
speaks are challenging at any given period. Both ask for a transformation: Leading
away from normative minds, bodies and relations―all too often controlled within
hierarchal and obedient structures while being endangered of not being aware of it
e.g. through transgenerational structures embedded unconsciously―towards
intrinsic ones as being congruent to their rhythms on subjective and collective levels.
For now, I invite readers to remember this as another anchorage to which we will
come back later on.

It was a Japanese friend who wrote to me at the beginning of summer 2011
whether I was already informed that a Japanese butō dancer named Ohno Yoshito
whom I know due to a research project on his dance was about to come to
Austria. Soon did I find out he was part of the experts staff during Choreolab. After
having gone through the application process (in form of reflective writing and a
performative audition)[3],  I found myself as participant of the choreolab within a
vibrant international group at its opening evening: Dancers, choreographers, dance
educators and producers from Australia, Austria, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Germany, Ireland, Malyasia, New Zealand, Poland, Singapure, Spain, Switzerland,
and Taiwan, amongst them graduate students from Art History and Social
Anthropology, from their twenties up into their seventies.

_ _ _

There are far too many layers of personal impressions as to shed light on all of
them. Therefore, I like to focus on the most essential dimensions as experienced
subjectively, thereby integrating some thoughts as to how the personal perception
might also refer to a wider context with regard to the further development of the
choreolab. As a consideration in advance, I like to underline that I am well aware of
the following continuously positive reflections about Choreolab―this being a fact on
which I pondered for some time; yet, having been inspired by Choreolab on many
levels and as entire person, I therefore feel to authentically describe my encounter as
well as my sincere belief in its inherent potential for further development as to
enrich, challenge and question the academic field by possibly entering it.

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Originators as Facilitators — Empathy, Trust & Opennes

The methateme of the Choreolab –  [(E)MOTION FREQUENCY_deceleration: Seminar on the theory and practice of celerity, duration & space]
and multiple su-‑themes around it, were developed by Cecila Li and Sebastian Prantl from Tanz Atelier Wien.
I was impressed by the acuteness and the nuances of their considerations (to be briefly mentioned later on with regard to the invited
artists/scientists and their respective fields). Far away from being an imposed framework one needs to adjust to, I experienced the
choreolab as a process one can enter and join. Let me illustrate this apparent plain wording a bit further by mentioning two aspects.

I.) I remember one specific incident at the beginning of the seminar when a dancer
said she felt somewhat tired. Sebastian Prantl replied by assuring not only her but
the entire group that we all can enter and join the chorelab in the way we like to. In his answer to this seemingly small event lies an attitude I believe to be of great
significance. It poses several fundamental questions concerning the dynamic of a
group. For the purpose of this essay, let me mention three aspects: the practice and
understanding of empathy, trust, and openness. Empathy thereby relates to a quality of knowing and feeling―as far as possible―by putting oneself in the actual process
and perception of another person. This is a most essential ability to enhance and
nourish a sensitive event with its manyfold individual and collective dynamics such
as a choreolab. Furthermore, the trust and openness refered to by Sebastion Prantl,
do speak―according to my experience―of a rather seldom potential of knowledge:
by entrusting full responsibilities to others instead of controlling or manipulating
them by one’s own (which can be a most concealed interplay), by supporting open
congruences instead of diminishing them, a development might occur that enters
dimensions of a dynamic process towards transformation versus dimensions of an
imposed structure remaining in a status quo.

II.) When Taiwanese--‐‑born Cecilia Li who gave a piano concert during the
choreolab was asked at the end of the workshop to say something during the final
feedback round, she replied: “I spoke through my music and silence.“

I was moved by her words in regard to the qualities of empathy, trust, openness, and silence to be
found therein. It is not the place here trying to elaborate the qualities involved in this
very answer at length; therefore, let me point to just one intercultural aspect by
referring to Cecila Li’s mentioning of silence as I came to understand it: Speaking
through silence seems to be a contradiction if we were to follow a dualistic
understanding which implies speaking happens just through sound. I belief as soon
as a person begins to enter a non--‐‑dualistic approach she or he meets a paradox in its actual meaning.
The term παραδοξον, deriving from ancient Greek, consists of para (beyond) and dokein (of thinking).[4]
Empathy, trust and openness can be reflected upon, but I would argue that their realization happens
silently beyond dualistic modes of thinking. Therefore, if a person intends to realize empathy, trust or
openness, she or he will most likely do so by going beyond a dualistic viewpoint as
to leave the own point of view to be able to enter and share the views of others
whereby egocentric views become pointless, leading towards a non-dualistic attitude
capable of being in silence. It is, in my belief, precisely such a quality of silence that
can enhance profound developments of research because it offers time--‐‑spaces
needed for this very process to come into being. I experienced  Li and  Prantl in
such manner, creating an atmosphere which fundamentally supports a process based onexistential
 reflection and transformation through body-and-mind. Having said this, I perceived these very dimensions
as containing qualities which not only enable the further development of the choreolab as an embodied forum
of research in its own right; they furthermore might lead to its unique place in an academic research context,
thereby possibly radiating inspiration for the traditional academic project (by which, as explained before,
I refer to its often linear, dualistic and cognitive--‐‑based endeavour to research).

Speaking out of my subjective experience of having pursued the academic system
in Austria from MA to PhD, I personally feel that such qualities would be in
strongest need to be (re)integrated as a core fundament within education and
development in order to lay out foundations which enhance research in a climate
addressing the congruence of a person or a group in cooperation versus
concurrence―with possible implications to go beyond existing normative and
disciplinary--‐‑bound paradigms, daring to enter liminal areas where the non--‐‑
normative as the genuine innovative dwells.

-  -  -

Group as Connector  — Being in Relation with Oneself and Being Related to Each Other [5]

Following what has been laid out so far, I experienced the facilitating qualities
mentioned before as a ground on which further group dynamics towards being in
relation with oneself and being related to each other as congruent as possible within the given period of time could evolve. As this very field is rich within a variety of
experiences, I like to speak of two aspects. The first one being a group event, the
second one a thought about it.

After the opening dinner, the choreolab started on Sunday, September 28, 2011
with a workshop by Henrietta Horn, German dancer, choreographer and former co--‐‑
director of Folkwang Studios. Addressing us first as individuals through a process of
becoming aware of one’s body with closed eyes in comfortable positions, she then
guided us by using sound towards one spot in the space, inviting us―still with
closed eyes and without music―to crawl literally over and under each other. This
experience went on for about one hour. The following passage consists of an excerpt
from reflections of our group [ made during the feedback round afterwards:

Giving and Receiving
Being with everybody
Beauty of how making sense of living in the world
Rely on everyone

One organism
One womb
Attention and awareness
Cleaning process
Let the atmosphere lead
Going into the unknown
Spreading creation through our bodies

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As a reflection on the manyfold aspects mentioned therein would lead far beyond the
scope of this essay, I like to highlight that it became clear that this event moved
almost everybody from the group rather deeply―within the specific subjective
realms of each one’s experience. As such a process points towards different issues
involved, I want to briefly outline some thoughts within the aforementioned
dynamic of congruence towards being in relation with oneself and being related to each other.
 I felt this process at the very beginning of the choreolab to be a most profound event and
common network of relating to oneself and each other in a psycho--physical way beyond
technique, structure and reflection. It personally helped me to transcend rigid frameworks―
leading away from bewaring a status quo towards an opening into experiencing a self – and group – transformatory process.

The qualities I met within this experience coincide with those mentioned before.
According to my understanding, empathy, trust, openness, and silence are some of
the existential qualities to be developed to research in a most fruitful way as
described by Helena Oikarinen--‐‑Jabai, a cultural anthropologist and developmental
psychologist: “Researching, similar to mothering and parenting, needs space for
reflection, fruitful otherness, where you can spread your roots and receive the breath
of the Other. Ideally, research opens up the voice, softens the spinal cord, warms the
arms, and makes one vulnerable.”16 It is my belief that the choreolab carries these
most fundamental research qualities within its process by focussing on subjective
and collective levels of experience. This can enhance research posing its questions out
of multilayered approaches while integrating body-and-mind not only within the framework of being
some-body but due to a process of being every-body, thereby containing possibilities as e.g. to
creatively transcend disciplinary boundaries
(given the idea of a further development of the choreolab into the academic field).

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Experts as Participants  — Participants as Experts

I already mentioned to have found that Li and  Prantl created a very
meaningful process with regard to the methatheme of Choreolab by inviting various
artists and scientists to refer to the topic of deceleration from their specific angles.
From the arts, namely dance/choreography, it were Amos Hetz (body
thinker/movement studies), and―already introduced―Henrietta Horn, Ohno
Yoshito and Sebastian Prantl; furthermore Victoria Coeln (light art) and Cecila Li
(piano solo); from science it were Renate Hammer (architecture), Fritz Reheis
(sociology/philosophy/political theory) and Eva Maria StoÅNckler (musicology); and
from interdisciplinary fields of art-and-science Johannes Birringer (media
choreography/new media), Hannes Rauchberger (film studies/film directing/producing),
Gerhard Trimmel (film studies) and Soenke Zehle (media
theory/transcultural literary and media studies). To keep within reasonable
boundaries with regard to the many impulses received from these various experts, I
for now would like to stress one aspect: I came to know the choreolab as being a
non--hierarchical forum.

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Because of this, I perceived experts turning into participants and
participants into experts. (I therefore prefer from now on to speak of participant--‐‑
experts and expert--‐‑participants.) First and foremost I felt this has been particularly
enhanced due to the endeavours of Cecila Li and Sebastian Prantl to empower the
group in the already mentioned ways of creating an atmosphere of empathy, trust,
openness, and silence. I realized these very dimensions as to hold the contributions
of each of the members of our group in high esteem, thus honoring the expertise of
everyone. Furthermore, Li and  Prantl (as they informed me) tried to
invite the expert-participants to stay at Choreolab for a period of time as long as they could
afford in order to also participate. Although it only worked out partially
because of their schedules, I found it to be enough a strongly contributing factor as to
level out tendencies of imbalances between those who only teach and those who are
just taught.

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Inspiring, challenging, and genuinely creative atmospheres do live from a climate
of equalness between all people involved, enabling everybody to contribute out of
one’s full potential. In my belief, there lies a chance for an implementation of the
choreolab into an academic framework which is as essential for hierarchically
organized institutions to learn from as it could be dangerous for a choreolab to exist
within institutional codexes of rather rigidly dividing between ranks along their
social, disciplinary and institutional powers. Contrary to systems with structures
handed down from generations to be in risk of loosing the essential base of pursuing
research as an open, inclusive and existentially creative process, I came to
understand the choreolab as encounter from person to person in its most elementary
meaning: being entirely aware of the intrinsic potential of each person to be
respected beyond judgement or objectivation, thereby creating a climate of research
which in itself provides a base for innovative questioning and investigating.

[to be continued]

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[1] Sebastian Prantl, Program for Choreolab III, 2011. http://www.impulstanz.com/artistsforum11/article/TanzAtelierWien/
For download, go to: http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/en/department/artsmanagement/choreolabaustria/index.php
[2] I regard creative science and research rather as an attitude to life than a mere profession for living.
[3]  Usually auditions do not end with receiving a present. Yet, in the case of Cecilia Li’s and
Sebastian Prantl’s Tanz Atelier Wien it obviously does: All participants got an artistically created
book after the audition (Sebastian Prantl’s Tanz Atelier Wien. 2001. Melk [Austria]: Gugler).
[4] Comp. Diener 1992, s.v. ΄Kōan΄.
[5] Elizabeth Dalman―choreographer, teacher, performer, and director of Mirramu Creative Arts Centre & Mirramu Dance Company in New South Wales (Australia)―who participated in Choreolab inspired me to this title through her reflection on the importance of dance as the connector (Notes by M.W., September 4, 2011).
[6] While noting down what was said in the tempo of speech, I tried to take notes as much in a word for word quality as the tempo of writing allowed me to do so. Therefore, the statements here are fragments of sentences from the participants.

Michael Weiss

(relayed by moderator)

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