Site-Reading Writing Quarterly

Emma Cocker reads Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video,
(Punctum Books, 2020)
<!–Emma Cocker reads Ben Spatz's
Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video,
(Punctum Books, 2020)–>

Ben Spatz reads Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line,
(de Gruyter, 2017)
<!–Ben Spatz reads Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil (eds),
Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line,
(de Gruyter, 2017)–>

Reader’s Biography

I am a thinker and practitioner of what is increasingly called artistic research. For years, my work and my life were divided between artistic practice and critical thought. I therefore arrive to this growing field with a strong sensation of pressure directed to generating new forms. As an editor, I do my best to support the development of such forms, while as a practitioner I am relentlessly critical of them. I dislike writing reviews, because I prefer to examine works for the contributions they make and leave critique to wider discussions. But I am grateful for this opportunity to exchange.

Reader’s Biography

Emma Cocker is a disorderly reader – with piles of books in different locations, where reading unfolds through the movement between: in the shifts and slippages from one book to another; in the chance encounter between the lines, in the gaps and intervals, the moments of pause. On her table, now. Radical Attention. The Inner Touch. The Five Senses. Being Given. Matters of Care. The Disappearance of Rituals. The Ecology of Attention. Slow Philosophy. Living Thinking. Correspondences. Ethics. Power of Gentleness. Thinking in the World. In Praise of Risk. How to Land. Ethical Know-How. Letting Go. Syncope. On Becoming Aware. Aesthetics, Art, Life.

Reader’s Abstract

Choreo-Graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line is an experimental and collaboratively generated artist book that that pushes the limits of the book form and demands from the reader that they do more than read. A thick and charismatic volume, it incorporates pages of different colors and textures; photographs, drawings, sketches; theory, instructions, lists, charts; trialogues and testimonies; fold-outs, embossing, transparencies, and a detachable jacket containing index and map. The design of the book object articulates as well as contains the book’s palpable engagement with contemporary artistic research processes and the concept of the laboratory.

Reader’s Abstract

In Making a Laboratory Ben Spatz proposes an embodied, experimental research practice, Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video (DCTV) — queering the performance theatre laboratory as a site of radical laboratoriality for activating new modes of encounter and relationality. Destabilizing the conventional hierarchies, power structures and categorical distinctions of the theatre laboratory, Spatz’s ‘laboratoriality’ comprises the active operation of two ‘cuts’ inscribed archivally: the ‘opening cut’ (of ‘dynamic configurations’) that sets up the conditions of the experiment, the unknown; and the closing cut (of ‘transversal video’), the trace or observation of ‘what happened’ based on transversality (of process) rather than teleology (of performance product). 


Ben Spatz, Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video,
(Punctum Books, 2020)


Image credit: Matthias Weischer


Emma Cocker, Nikolaus Gansterer, Mariella Greil (eds), Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line,
(de Gruyter, 2017)

Writer’s Biography

Ben Spatz (Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at University of Huddersfield) is a nonbinary researcher and theorist of embodied practice. They are the author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015), Blue Sky Body: Thresholds for Embodied Research (Routledge 2020), and Making a Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video (Punctum 2020). Ben is also founding editor of the videographic Journal of Embodied Researcher and a leader in the development of embodied research methods. Their work has been presented at more than thirty institutions in twelve countries.

Editors’ Biographies

Emma Cocker is a writer-artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art, Nottingham Trent University. Her writing has been published in Failure; Drawing a Hypothesis: Figures of ThoughtHyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art; Reading/FeelingOn Not Knowing: How Artists ThinkThe Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, and the solo collection, The Yes of the No. Emma was co-researcher on the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014–2017); a contributing artistic researcher in Ecologies of Practice, Research Pavilion, Venice, (2019); and is co-founder of the Society of Artistic Research Special Interest Group on Language-based Artistic Research.

Nikolaus Gansterer is an artist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. His practice is grounded in a trans-medial approach, underpinned by conceptual discourse in the context of performative visualisation. He is internationally active in performances, exhibitions and lecturing. Gansterer’s fascination with diagrammatic figures resulted in the book  “Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought”, on the ontology of shapes of visualisation. Gansterer was co-researcher on the artistic research project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014–2017). He is heading Contingent Agencies, an interdisciplinary research project on experimental systems of notation of atmospheres and environments 2019-2022.

Mariella Greil (PhD) works in the field of artistic research and focuses on contemporary performance, in particular on its ramifications into the choreographic and ethical. She was co-researcher on the project Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line (2014–2017). Together with Vera Sander she was co-editor of the book (per) forming feedback (2016), recently published the monograph Being in Contact: Encountering a Bare Body (2021), leads a one-year-research project Passenger Diaries with KT Zakravsky and Lucie Strecker and is currently working on her habilitation project Choreo-Ethical Assemblages: Narrations of Bare Bodies (Elise-Richter-PEEK) at University of Applied Arts.

Writer’s Abstract

Making a Laboratory defines a new audiovisual embodied research method that short-circuits experimental practice and video recording to generate new kinds of data and documents. Across six focused chapters, it introduces this method as a queer feminist adaptation of Jerzy Grotowski’s ‘poor’ theater laboratory, drawing on a range of thinkers including Giorgio Agamben, Rebecca Schneider, and Hito Steyerl, as well as the ethical consent practices of the BDSM community. The book examines power, identity, and documentation in lab practice and lays groundwork for a radical reinvention of audiovisuality from the perspective of embodiment: the audiovisual body.

Editors’ Abstract

Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line stages a beyond-disciplinary, inter-subjective encounter between the lines of choreography, drawing and writing, for exploring those forms of thinking-feeling-knowing produced within collaborative exchange, in the slippage and deviation as different modes of practice enter into dialogue, overlap, collide. Conceived as a studio-laboratory in itself, the publication draws together experimental practices and reflections that engage with the how-ness — processual, ethico-empathetic dynamics — within shared artistic exploration. Hybrid of an artists’ book / research compendium, the publication operates as a score for activation by others, a modular toolkit of performative and notational approaches for future experimental play.

About Issue 7

Site-Reading Writing Quarterly celebrates reading and writing as situated practices, releasing a special pair of seasonal reviews four times a year. 

Each solstice and equinox I invite writers to swap recently completed written works and to provide a situated ‘review’ of each other’s work. This involves raising a shared issue/concern, connecting out to another work/text/set of ideas, and/or producing a creative response to an aspect of the writing which might be fictional, prose, visual, sonic, filmic … These acts of exchange open up ways of ‘reading writing’ differently, generating multiple modes of engagement with words, and exploring the practice of ‘reviewing’ from a situated perspective, one that critiques and experiments with the genre of the ‘critical review essay’, creating something far more entangled.

For this June 2021 issue, I have invited nonbinary researcher and theorist of embodied practice, Ben Spatz, and writer-artist, Emma Cocker, to review publications which explore practices associated with the laboratory. Composed of a trilogy of audio-recordings of her own readings, Emma Cocker’s reading of Ben Spatz’s Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video (New York: Punctum Books, 2020) is a work to be listened to; while Ben Spatz’s reading of Choreo-graphic Figures: Deviations from the Line, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017), co-edited by Cocker, with Nikolaus Gansterer and Mariella Greil, takes a more conventional review essay form. Spatz explores the performative methods of artistic research practice presented in the volume, and in drawing attention to wit(h)ness – a playful combination of witness and withness – introduced in Choreo-graphic Figures – calls for whiteness to be taken into account in practice-led artistic research. 

That this public act of reading Choreo-graphic Figures has taken place four years after it was published, opens up for re-view how the gap between one writing and another reading is always framed by historical difference. Spatz’s reading offers a stark reminder that despite an increased awareness of race issues in current academic and artistic practice in the past year – following the murder of George Floyd and the ways in which COVID19 has laid social inequalities bare – white privilege largely remains invisible. This is a matter to address in future issues of Site-Reading Writing Quarterly.

With this in mind, I draw your attention to one of June 2021’s new additions to Critical Spatial Practice – Montserrat Gutiérrez Mesegué’s Our Starter Culture, a tool that she describes as ‘reintroduc[ing] empathy through an intersectional pedagogical methodology’ in a world where a climate crisis exists. Gilly Karjevsky’s Silent Conversation also focuses on a public practice methodology but one aimed at ‘facilitating horizontal, experimental, inclusive writing, thinking and ideation’ for co-creating terminologies, while Andrew Benjamin and Gerard Reinmuth’s Architecture and Co-Existence: DMZ as Site (2020) is another mapping of our current condition, which, through a series of notes and drawings, seeks to address the ‘potential for architecture to counter or redirect the spatial, financial or ecological conditions present at the time of its conception.’

Meanwhile for this June’s Site-Writing, in Glòries_(Eixample). A dispositive for very slow aesthetic observation, Alex Arteaga shares the framework for a project which aims to ‘disclose new intelligibilities’ of environments yet to come, combining practices of exploratory essay writing, video recording and re-framing, through the creation of a research catalogue. And finally, in a fifth collaborative project for this quarter, editors Simon Morris, Gill Partington and Adam Smyth, present ‘beginnings,’ the first issue of Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History, a new journal published by Information as Material, which takes the forms and processes of human communication – making marks, lines, notes, images – as its main area of inquiry.

If have a written work that you’ve recently completed and someone you’d like to read it, or would like to write a response to a new book, or contribute a project to either Critical Spatial Practice or Site-Writing: please let me know: –

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