on ‘spatial projection’
and ‘body plasticity’
in dance and painting
“From the Heliconian Muses let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon, and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring and the altar of the almighty son of Chronos, and, when they have washed their tender bodies in Permessus or in the Horse’s Spring or Olmeius, make their fair, lovely dances upon highest Helicon and move with vigourous feet.”—
“Heeding Cunningham’s unusual approach to collaboration, Rauschenberg often worked independently with little guidance. […] Frequently dance, music, and decor came together only at the time of final rehearsals. Rauschenberg recalled, <<It was the most excruciating collaboration, but it was the most exciting, and most real, because nobody knew what anybody else was doing until it was too late.>>”
— Jennifer Sarathy, Rauschenberg and Cunningham, https://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/lightboxes/rauschenberg-and-cunningham
As we look back upon the Greek world and the period when dance
was interlaced with ceramic painting — both in black forms painted on a red background, and in the red painted forms opened in “reserves” left on black backgrounds —, we are faced with narratives that express body rhythms, whose needs and spiritual orientations escape our understanding and affect. As Valérie Toillon observes: “It is generally accepted that dance in ancient Greece is, at least since the Bronze Age, intimately associated with cult practices as a privileged means of communication for establishing contact with the divine (…). Although these rites, which are linked to “mystery cults”, are known to us by ancient sources, the dances and frenetic states associated with them remain partly unknown to us.” *
* Translated from the original, Valérie Toillon, “Danse et gestuelle des ménades : textes et images aux ve-ive s. av. J.-C”, in Théologiques, 25 (1), 55–86, 2017. https://doi.org/10.7202/1055240ar
Looking at these distant or parallel realities, what do we really see? The transcendence of the congregating power of a mythology that met with human nature in the form of an amphora? Do we deduce and reconstruct the function of these ceramic pieces in the daily lives of the Greeks? Yes, we make these inferences and imagine an extra-everyday life that is reflected in the painted situations, ultimately as pieces that intersect two narratives, namely: the narrative inherent in the “system of objects” of that daily life — that is, the diversity of painted ceramic artifacts, each with its own specificity of use —, and on the other hand, the spiritual and mythological ecstasy that outlasts the Hellenic life and comes to touch us in the present. In fact, all this takes place with its own cadence, projecting itself according to the specific mediations of the two expressions under consideration here. It turns out that this set of rhythms is not exhausted in the figuration lent to mythology or the embellishment of objects, but rather a flow that brings intertwined painting and dance, without strictly representative ends, without their mutual subservience. In other words, in the most fruitful examples of this confluence of artistic expressions, in cases where intermediality really works and undoes creative gaps, opening space to a tense and harmonious cohabitation of expressive means, there is no great distinction to be made between the corporeal plasticity of the painting and the plasticity of the bodies that dance, the same applying to the spatial projection of both.
Whether in remote or contemporary times, it is widely acknowledged that dance tends to be a flow, characterized by the chain of movements of immersion, suspension, and new emergence, developed in an impetuous way (either for expansion or for expressive containment), thoroughly rehearsed movements, albeit apparently spontaneous in their effect. These procedures are similar to those of the painter, launching plastic material into space (two-dimensional or three-dimensional), taking concerted advantage of the spread of matter in space, intensifying or attenuating the mark of gestures on the surfaces and objects selected for pictorial installation, and conceivably allowing us to confirm that the intertwining of painting with dance (to which music can be added, or other expressive mediations) may consist in a collaboration and an extreme dispossession (“excruciating Collaboration”) where, as Rauschenberg put it, sometimes “nobody knew what anyone
else was doing until it was too late”.
RIACT’s 5th edition seeks to explore these and other confluences from two predominant perspectives, crossing artistic research — that is, research strongly rooted in choreographic and pictorial practice — and research through art, since some of the proposals advanced here materialize certain extra-artistic purposes in the dance and movement of the body (as shown in the text of Miguel Santos); that is, they work with a double horizon of inquiry, taking dance as a determining but not exclusive element. This edition of RIACT also has the particularity that, although all the four texts admitted, most of them contain a plastic and visual component (photography, graphic design, drawing), namely the works of Joana Franco and António M Cabrita.
We close this editorial with a reference to the interview, graciously conceded by the Artist and Full Professor António Quadros Ferreira, in which he takes us on a tour through several nuclei of his pictorial and investigative activity, focusing specifically on a piece from 1972, Untlitled.
curatorial activity and
“Art without Artists?” It was under this alarmist title that, two years ago, the artist and e-flux co-founder Anton Vidokle criticized curators for claiming the status of artists and critics in an inadmissible manner. His finding was not new. It had already been a topic of discussion in the late sixties, when the curator and critic Lucy R. Lippard was accused of using the exhibitions she designed after the manner of the Concept Art of her day to stylize herself as an artist
who regarded other artists merely as a medium.
Sabeth Buchmann, Curating with / in the system
The 21 st-century curator may also be expected to interact with the press and the public, giving interviews and talks. Curators may be required to participate in fundraising or development activities such as sponsors’ or patrons’ events, and they may be involved in the academic world through partnerships with schools, colleges or universities, providing lectures, seminars, internships or work placement opportunities. As the curatorial profession is continually changing, developing and expanding, so the curator’s range of skills must develop and expand to meet these new challenges and opportunities.
Adrian George, The Curator’s Handbook
This issue of RIACT combines artistic creation, research in the arts and artistic curatorship with essays that seek to provide original and well-grounded insights into the relationship of these three spheres of activity.
Curatorship of an art exhibition is widely acknowledged to effect an institutional and public mediation that is vital to the implementation of a previously designed curatorial idea. Among other aspects, this corresponds to what Adrian George alludes to in the above-cited excerpt. However, if the exhibition we are considering consists in the public display of an artist’s creative process, intended to exhibit a set of works in whose execution the curator was deeply involved, merging experimentation with reflection, then the curator’s mediation is also significantly expanded to the sphere of production and research, making the curatorial process inextricable from the artistic idea.
In other words, curatorial mediation becomes so involved with the artistic process as to be considered artistic mediation (distinguishing it from institutional and public mediation), generating an atmosphere of aesthetic empathy, shared investigation and co-production between the artist and the curator, which in its radical instances can even assume the form of
In fact, as has already been suggested, if the development of a creative process is merged with the intrinsic and specific elements of artistic research (within or without academic purposes), then curatorship of an art exhibition gains an added density, intertwining the three fields concerned in this RIACT’s issue: artistic creation, artistic research and curatorial production. So much that we dare to suggest the following syllogism: if curatorial activity is interconnected with artistic creation in the moments that are propitious to the gestation of the proto-images for an exhibition/investigation, and if authentic artistic creation implies an underlying artistic investigation, then the curatorial concept is also interconnected with that investigation and must be shared and equally relevant to both artist and curator.
In terms of the types of curatorship considered in RIACT nº 4, we have explored the following possibilities, notwithstanding others that may be equally relevant:
I — Artistic research underlying the curatorship of exhibition projects whose materialization is carried out by experts who do not claim the status of artists for themselves. For example, an artistic research conducted by professional curators trained specifically in the field of Curatorial Studies. Or, conversely, a research based on artistic creation with a curatorial focus carried out by sensitive philosophers, art historians or other experts, namely from the fields of the Humanities.
II — Curatorship of research and artistic creation projects developed by other artists, fully assuming the risk implied by the lesser distance between both (artists and artist/curator) and the possibility of transforming the curatorial project by a co-production implying problematic authorial issues. Sometimes, this modality of creation, research and curatorship is nourished by an existing bond of friendship and reciprocity between artist and curator (we have all come across such cases), with the risk of slipping into an atmosphere of curatorial condescension and a lassitude of the dialogues which should structure the intended project. However, such an empathy may also generate fecund and surprising experiences of cooperation, namely when the intersubjective harmony between curator and artist does not obscure the critical gaze. For this to be possible, it is crucial to adopt a Habbermasian principle, according to which all judgements about a creative and curatorial process are “pretensions of criticisabe validity”, permanently submitted to experimentation, to demanding exercises of cross-comprehension (including the silences implied by certain stages of the creative and investigative processes), as well as multiple adjustments made up until the moment of the work’s public display.
III — Curatorship of research and artistic creation projects developed by other artists, where curators/artists are additionally involved with artistic teaching, carrying with them a “maieutic presumption” which will spread over into the project of the artist. This involves an undesired academic and institutional ascendancy on the part of the author who assumes the curatorial role, thus demanding that the artist in question and the curator /artist (especially the latter), develop a mutual ability to suspend or recreate the academic rituals and teaching techniques within an atmosphere of undaunted creative and investigative experience.
We expect that these set of essays may correspond to the main designs of RIACT nº 4 and contribute to open and “provoke” new and demanding debates on these issues.
Video and painting:
Artistic research into the unstable condition of the image
I use the term ‘screen-reliant’ as opposed to ‘screen-based’ to signal that a screen is a performative category. Almost anything — glass, architecture, three-dimensional objects, and so on — can function as a screen and thus as a connective interface to another (virtual) space. […] The screen, then, is a curiously ambivalent object — simultaneously a material entity and a virtual window; it is altogether an object which, when deployed in spatialized sculptural configurations, resists facile categorization.
— Kate Mondloch, Screens. Viewing Media, Installation Art, p.2
Alongside RIACT’s permanent concern with the need for a sensitive and up-to-date reflection on the aspects that bind or differentiate between artistic research and art production — whether in an academic environment or on its margins — this issue focuses its thematic horizon on research dealing with the moving image within the image’s technical and expressive movement in the fields of video and painting (regardless of the emphasis on either media, assuming that the latent movement inhabiting the formal and plastic movement of an image is a common feature of painting and video).
The main idea is to develop research that questions and explores image modalities which are unceasingly and dynamically connected with other images and other moments-places; whether in productions that establish such a connection explicitly — something we spontaneously accept in the contexts of video — or in productions requiring indirect languages and the experiencing of movement’s inference, a feature which characterized painting in the past, for instance.
By suspending the distinction between still image and moving image, essays for RIACT Nº3 were therefore challenged to provide original and sustained contributions in bridging the divide between the still-image and the flow-image, by presenting reflections and artistic proposals that deal with the existence of a movement within another movement in both media.
Once we accept the possibility of a ceaseless oscillation between pictorial images and videographic images alike, we may adopt the following researching attitudes, separately or interconnected: (1) research rooted in artistic practice which is subsequently reflected upon by scrutinizing the concatenation and internal formation (subjective) of images, as it emerged from external forms and devices, on and on, thus enriching the creative processes of concrete images and the peculiar reflection that they trigger. (2) Or, conversely, artistic research stemming from the creation of images and the installation of pictorial or videographic devices, emphasizing the dynamism and interference of the created images in a given (material) space, whether through conventional supports and materials, or through other means that may provide an alternative to the notion of image-flux.
If our attention is directed toward videographic expression, in addition to the exploration of latent images that inhabit the plasticity of moving images, research will also be concerned with the artistic treatment of everything that exists between the source of material images and the spectators-participants in the art piece.
If, on the other hand, the research focuses on the dynamic connection of images within the field of painting, this can be spatialized as a painting–based installation, with the creation of different areas for pictorial intervention, suggesting differentiated times and paths to appropriate the pictorial flow-image.
Finally, if the option is to address the interpenetration of video and painting, with the creative articulation of different temporalities and parallel circuits of immersion for the spectators, the field will become even more heterogeneous, as Jihoon Kim suggests in the following quotation:
A more significant impact of digital video on the creation of hybrid moving images that engender the coexistence of painting, photography, and film is temporal manipulation, in that it contributes to oscillation between stasis and motion. Indeed, the dissolution of stillness/movement boundaries dates back to analogue video.
— Jihoon Kim, Between Film, Video, and the Digital, p.64
Artistic Research before
“Dealing with the suspense, excitement and body of an organic silence […] the plastic fullness of nothing […].”
— Rauschenberg, letter to Betty Parsons,
October 18, 1951
“I am here and there is nothing to say. If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment. What we require is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking. Give any one thought a push: it falls down easily but the pusher and the pushed produce that entertainment called a discussion. Shall we have one later? Or we could simply decide not to have a discussion.”
— John Cage, “Lecture On Nothing”, performed at Artists’ Club, Nova Iorque, 1949
Being held out into the nothing — as Dasein is — on the ground of concealed anxiety makes the human being a lieutenant of the nothing. […] So abissally does the process of finitude entrench itself in Dasein that our most proper and deepest finitude refuses to yield to our freedom.
— Heidegger, What is metaphysics, Lecture from 1929
RIACT’s 2nd edition aims to explore the inexhaustible strength of the concept of Nothingness, scrutinizing the interstices between artistic research and artistic creation — that is, discovering in their tense and mutual assimilation —, evidence of their power to reconfigure reality through creative processes. Taking this underlying theme as a point of departure, we invited artists and art researchers to present articles and practical projects relating the notion of Nothing and Artistic Research. The proposals stemmed from the fields of the visual and performing arts, as well as from the space of intermediality between them. Besides the artistic reflection on Nothing, related notions such as that of abyss, emptiness, silence, among others, were also explored.
This issue of RIACT also revives one of the Journal’s foundational concerns, which may be described as an intensified reflection on the different meanings of artistic research, namely the creative inquiry into the subtleties that may either create a convergence or a divergence between creative gestures and investigative acts. As suggested in the previous editorial, in certain contexts, the total interdependence between artistic creation and artistic research is ultimately accepted, making it extremely difficult to discern where one begins and the other ends. Certain situations of artistic research are so enmeshed in artistic creation that there is no separation point from which to split their joint emergence. Moreover, some instances do not allow analytical moves that could dismember what was embryonically formed as indiscernible. In sum, there are situations in which the contact points between creation and research are multiple and resist the violence of formal distinctions, much less of the artificially academic kind. However, making the public defense of this excessive proximity between the production of works and their corresponding body of reflection, requires both a very fine and adequate explanation as well as a deontological commitment.
Take a radical example of a possible limit for artistic research: In our view, anyone who is authentically involved in artistic creation, that is, who does it with passion, time, and a project-oriented purposiveness, is also doing research. That is, even though the essential motivation is creation, driven by the expectation of publicly displaying the work at the end of an artistic process with the aim of sharing an artistic experience — even in these situations — research is being carried out. Consider the inquiry that preceded the production of a painting like Le Radeau de la Méduse, by Géricault, or the entire production that involved Picasso’s Guernica project. However, the researching attitudes of these authors happens to be subordinated to their creative gestures (artistic rituals over investigative rituals) and do not have the judicious choice of all the data seen, heard, read and interpreted as their foremost concern, nor do they intend to present all experimentation, observation and decisions taken within the scope of the adopted creative process — shareable and explicit. However, if we now turn to current creators, we find that when they are touched by a researching need (whether arising from a genuine interest, from a professional and “career” interest, academic interest, or any other kind of discernible interest), everything is transformed, insofar as the two genres of “rituals” stand on a level of equal preponderance, demanding a specialized and skilled method of mediating both “rituals”.
Thus we have this edition’s two fundamental lines of inquiry: (1) A Creative exploration of the subtleties connecting, separating and reconnecting creation and research, a theme permeating and underpinning all of RIACT’s editions, thus defining its editorial nature. (2) Examining (or rather, revisiting) the notion of Nothingness in artistic production and research, developing creative and robust proposals (as equally asserted in scientific research) that can “reveal” or show evidence of forms that emanate from that Nothing, as well as forms that wither there, building a body with the density of proto-images; Or conversely, signs of how that Nothingness sustains and closely follows the images or artistic gestures materialized in our daily lives.
Experimentation, temporality and
That art practitioners can be sceptical about
theory — even to the point of developing a misplaced aversion to it — is perhaps not just because some theories seem far afield from the actual practice of art, but also because the performative power of theory competes with the performative
power of art.”
— Henk Borgdorff, The Conflict of the Faculties.
Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia
“Traditionally, artists have achieved matter-of-factness through ‘complete familiarity’ with the style, as Igor Stravinsky […] demands of the performer, or, more recently, through what has been called ‘deskilling’ […], a process of unlearning artistic habits, which may, indeed, imply a ‘reskilling’ […] precisely in support of artworks as matters of fact.”
— Michael Schwab, Experimental Systems.
Future Knowledge in Artistic Research
The rooting in an artistic practice is strong, and art-based research often draws on the artists’ experience, professional expertise and creative ability. The research usually proceeds in combinations of systematic, exploratory, creative, experimental, action-oriented and speculative working methods through artistic creation and analysis, staging, simulation and modelling, critical innovation and reflection, and theory formation.
— Catharina Dyrssen, Artistic Research.
A Subject Overview
RIACT — Revista de Investigação Artística, Criação, e Tecnologia (Journal of Artistic Research, Creation and Technology) — is a publication dedicated to Artistic Research edited by FBAUL (Lisbon University School of Fine Arts). RIACT inaugurates a new stage of the Research in the Arts project, which completed ten editions, counting throughout ten years with the collaboration of many artists and authors from this specific area of production and reflexion. Based on the experience of the debates and communication flux developed between 2010 and 2020 with many experts in this field, I found this to be the right moment to provoke an inflection in the activities developed so far, emphasizing the confrontation between the notions of artistic research and artistic creation, thus providing both the means for a lively altercation on the questions of technology and creation, and the diversity of their meanings.
As a Journal of Artistic Research, RIACT follows a thematic framework, launching bi-annual “calls for papers” on specific themes, structured to integrate several practical and theoretical research-related manifestations across different artistic expressions. In its internal structure, RIACT presents two distinct but complementary sections. The first part consists in the publication of texts and artistic projects submitted to a Scientific Committee for a double-blind “peer review”. The second part of the Journal is reserved for other modalities of artistic research, artistic creation and technological thinking, in the form of interviews, dialogues, information and other questions considered relevant to this field.
By partly changing the nature the preceding project, some characteristics of its format, “functions” and dissemination were redefined. This new publication will be exclusively digital, operating in open access, connecting with existing platforms for this purpose. As a result of the aforementioned intense international cooperation, a group of thirty four experts from multiple European and extra-European institutions integrate the Scientific Committee, whose very different perspectives on this domain of artistic and academic work will greatly contribute to the desired controversy and plurality. Relying on this vast team to carry out a systematic peer review, RIACT is multilingual, insofar as it welcomes texts and projects in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish, notwithstanding the requirement of paper abstracts in a second language, as well as an English version for sections of the Journal such as the “Editorial”, the “Introduction”, the “Meta-paper”, the “Conditions for submission of papers”, and the “Call for papers”.
Similarly to the activities developed over the last decade within the scope of the project Research in the Arts, all the editions of RIACT will be complemented with international lectures dedicated to the proposed working themes, inviting a significant number of essayists to present their contributions to Artistic Research and specifically to the themes under discussion in each edition. I believe that operating in this way will enrich the artistic research developed by the various proponents, generating a more in-depth discussion around the peculiarities of their motivations and the projection of the arguments embedded in the submitted publication proposals.
RIACT’s Key Guidelines
Considering the inaugural character of the present editorial to RIACT’s first issue, allow me to present its key guidelines. The journal intends to present research projects that oscillate between a fruitful artistic practice and the complementary production of notions derived from the involvement in artistic and material processes, as well as from the intersubjective activity required in the public presentation of artistic situations or art pieces. Thus, RIACT aims at artistic research and not research on the arts. Therefore, it is not oriented toward art philosophy, art history, aesthetics, or art anthropology, among other similar disciplines, and albeit intertwined with all these areas of research and contemplating projects with these parallel orientations, it does so always in the perspective of a confrontation and differentiation in relation to them, that is, in a relationship of vivid reciprocity. RIACT is thus not to be confused with the contribution of disciplines that tend to fly over plasticity, authenticity and the strength of artistic production.
Conversely, it must not be interchangeable with artistic creation. Namely, it requires the following tasks:
- significant and growing clarification of artistic notions proposed by the researcher / creator in the experienced artistic processes;
- decisive contribution to an understanding of these notions by the viewers involved in the presented artistic situations or pieces of art;
- commitment to the creation of moments and the production of documents that provide vivid and peculiar altercation, in which the participants acknowledge each other’s abilities to intertwine two essential aspects of Artistic Research as it is understood by this Journal.
Such a constant interlacing effort also assumes the possibility to intensively explore the interstices between the two fields in point, searching unexpected connections between reciprocal and adverse terms, oscillating between two or more sets of conditions discovered in the interregnum between two different expressions, in the sense referred, for instance, by Gunhild Borgreen & Runa Gade in Performing archives. Archives of Performance: “Within the theme of Interregnum we encouraged presentations, performances, and other projects that would address the issue of ‘in between states’ — asking questions about how changes and transitions are shaped, and what constitutes the brief moment of instability between two sets of conditions.”
… scrutiny and oscillation between what is most intersubjective in approaching artistic situations and pieces of art, through a communicational delivery and an argumentative work (written, spoken, or both), requiring a certain technical formalization, either in the consistency of notions or in the density of discourse.
… but on the other hand, perhaps being possessed, experiencing a certain state of mania, swayed by an incessant and pendular rhythm that makes us return to the pre-predictiveness of our sensibility, always there to renew the silence and to disturb us with states of discursive impotence, thus reshuffling everything we seek to utter about our access into artistic phenomena.