1. What is the « Common-Works » project?

„Common-Works“ is a guided space of exchange where a group of collaborating performers come together to improvise, dialogue, share and experiment in order to find, on the basis of the ideas and concepts that circulated throughout the past editions of the score, a new possible access on what the next edition might be. „Common-Works“ oscillates thereby between an intimate, process-based research and a performative practice which is articulated within a public presentation.


2. What is the « Common-Works » project about?

„Common-Works“ contains three key notions that seem to so far have reoccured within each edition. I would like to elaborate, how this notions seem to relate and trigger existent values that have so far helped to shape the project.


2.1.) Representation towards attentive approximation

In the previous editions I have seen how indispensable processes of ‚attentive approximation‘ in the frame of the „Common-Works“ project are. The project intends to establish a platform where a group of performers that have not yet worked together before, jointly start to dialogue, improvise and experiment in order to research, on the basis of the ideas and concepts that circulated throughout the past editions of the score, what a new possible prospect of a future edition could be. For this, it is crucial that each performer has the feeling that they are being listened to in a reflected, open and transparent manner. Only then there is an openness and willingness present that enables them to share their thoughts and ideas regarding previous editions, as well as to share more personal, fragile and intimate connections that come up when dealing with notions of dance and performance.

In the beginning we are not looking for a direct or simple consensus in the group. We instead practice how we actually listen to each other, how we make sense of each others views and how this physically translates later on in space. The work is about negotiating, approximating and exchanging what values and ethics each one intends to carry into the process. As such, one needs to grow a heightened attention in order to understand how the other may reflect, apply and represent their ideas (e.g. their own artistic register) in the moment of a shared research. As such the diverse array of discursive embodied methodologies that we use to share knowledge in the work (cf. Question 8) emphasizes an underlaying set of trust and solidarity which, towards the end of the edition, becomes a crucial foundation for the collective improvisational moments in the work.

Regarding the latter, performative as well as representational questions relate to ideas of product and productivity, namely by asking: „What values are actually being re-presented and how did they change throughout the process?“ One could argue that it is the various tactile encounters and relationships in space that are being formed, researched and developed during the time that we spent together and that at the end had sediment through an additional performative layer when we share to work with a public.


2.2.) Repetition towards a sameness that steadily re-actualizes and transforms

The context of „Common-Works“ is always being newly negotiated as the work happens each time with a new group of performers. What will become ‚common‘ in each edition always depends on what the discursive embodied methodologies that we use each time in the work (cf. Question 8) seem to highlight in this current context. The act of un-doing and re-doing, i.e. of deconstruction and reconstruction is an important way how knowledge and meaning in the work tends to arise and is shared: We often repeat and layer information, e.g. with maps and clusters where we usually return to them each day with new, more connected information.

By referring to „Common-Works“ as a semi-improvised movement score practice, one can note ways how repetition affects the practice: Through a continuous processes of attentive approximation, the negotiation of differences, the improvisational work becomes more and more structured.


2.3.) Semi-improvised movement score practices towards playfulness

Another important value of „Common-Works" is signified through the idea of play and playfulness. In reference many historical improvisation canons, I use improvisational movement structures in work that are semi-improvised: Usually being to be more instruction based and thus not completely set, one is encouraged to negotiate it in the moment how one relates and works with the other on the basis of the previous conversational and embodied encounter in the creation research. Further scores that are used usually contain a certain lightness and playfulness while working with them. Text based or instructional scores so far seemed to have worked well as often the process of translating something into another medium (e.g. written instructive language into a situational occurrence) is often engaged in the process with a form of shared, collective curiosity what it might evolve to when working on it.

As such scores usually themselves become a choreographic agent that may sometimes trigger impossibility or confusion but so far has refrained from failure or abandonment within the performers engagement. In the work, specific improvisational scores seem to emancipate and liberate performer’s agency but also makes them trust their own enactment and problem solving in the process. Further, it also seems to stipulate a certain form of co-dependency as usually the group decodes and analyzes the score together and on this basis builds a shared precedural code. Personally, I deem this choreographic methodology of writing scores that are then to be worked out in by the group as an interesting way on how to arrive to choreographic answers in a more conversational manner. (cf. question 5.)

Additionally, the emphasis on play, playfulness and lightness affects also our understanding of theory and discourse in the work. (cf. question 13.) I usually ask the performers to develop on the basis of specific short text fragments a research practice that they should bring into the first day of our research creation. When framing this task, I’m highlighting that one should remain in playful relation to the text fragments: As such some people may tend to refer to some words that may speak to them in a literal, illustrative sense where they associate the functionality in direct relation to their embodied or performative propositions. While others seem to deconstruct and reconstruct the meaning of a text it in a more analytical manner, e.g. by cross-referencing specific intentions of the text with other poetic and/or academic sources that help to place and develop the practice. In „Common-Works“ I insist that both ways should equally be respected as they both serve the same overall intentions: 1. It makes each individual practice easier relate to one another. 2. We use the texts in order to build a shared register of reoccurring terms and qualities that facilitates the further aboutness of each edition.


3. What differentiates the « Common-Works » project from a conventional creation/ production?

Some of the deliberately placed, logistical aspects of the project may seem to imply on the surface a certain restriction - but at the end it is exactly that what stipulates „Common-Works“ to be an intriguing artistic research and production format. Let me elaborate:


3.1 Short working periods

As the work tends to oscillate between a process-based research where finite or productional aspects are usually being diverted and a compositional creation that is going to be shared within the frame of a public presentation, (lack of) time becomes an important compositional tool.

Usually we work for twelve days (+ two rest days) each day for max. 3 hours. In the first editions it was often related to the fact that I didn’t want to overstretch performers availability for the project. But since then I began to favor short working periods over longer ones. Personally I see artistic research always as labour and work, regardless of how it is being monetized. As such I have a difficulty to invite people to a research practice where we start marinating, drifting or seeing what dwelling in material may or could stipulate. Personally I enjoy it when there is a clear plan from where we depart of (where we might end up remains to be conversationally articulated in the process though) and that there is a certain urgency or drive behind to find artistic answers or responses to pressing ideas that came up through the work. As such it is important for me to encourage in „Common-Works“ efficient yet conversational modes of working, where the shared information within the group can easily be exchanged, transformed and embodied. This is achieved either with the proposal of clear methodological propositions from my side or that we develop answers in conversation together. In the past, time always remained short but it also created urgency, responsibility and agency within the performers and collaborators will to arrive to answers within limited time.

Reflecting on the further editions of this project, I would like to raise the question, on what level composing happens within the later development stages in the research creation and how to negotiate choreographic or compositional choices with the collaborating performers together. (see question 7.)


3.2 Size of the group

This connects to my prior comment on time and engagement management. So far the financing of the project remained tedious as the inviting institutions often (un)willingly focus on the product or outcome more than on the actual process. So far in conversations I deemed it helpful to clarify what each of the different audiences (see question 7.) be willing to take out of the project and how the project stipulates questions that go beyond an artistic practice. To an extend „Common-Works“ also functions as a curatorial experiment or project, where roles institutional and artistic roles are being requestioned and repurposed.

Within the upcoming prospect of the work I would like to: 1.) To further rethink the overall project structure so the agency shifts and that the invitees can truly become collaborating performers, meaning that the performers can actually claim authorship on what they are researching and/or presenting during the performance. (See Question 14. on authorship) and/or 2.) To undertake the work with a voluntary engagement but to be open and transparent that it happens within an educational and/or social context, (e.g. through non-paid residencies, with students or recent graduates, with elderly or special needs groups, etc.)


3.3 Public presentation at the end

See Question 7. & 10.


4. What are the audience(s) of the « Common works » project?

As mentioned prior, the project steadily oscillates between a process-based research where finite or productional aspects are being diverted and a performance practice that is shared within the frame of a public presentation. As such „Common-Works“ seemingly connects to a multifaceted understanding of an audience: In the beginning the project is openly addressed to interested performers either via an open call or by a personal invitation on which basis they then might decide to join. Being part of the process, the agency for the invited performer changes. By continuing to develop the work further, the collaborating performers start associate themselves with the projects intent and aspirations, which subsequently is being shared with/ addressed to an audience - that of an interested public. Below I’ll refer to the agency of three distinct audience groups that „Common-Works“ usually takes a relation to: institutions, collaborators/performers and the public during the presentation.


4.1 Institutions that invite „Common-Works“

Reflecting further on the oscillating agencies in the work relating to whom the project is being addressed to, I find it intriguing as it often tends to raise questions regarding the institutional plan of an inviting institution when deciding to invite "Common-Works": Sustainability - can/does the inviting institution usually intend to prioritize space, amenities and budget for longer research exchanges or does it favor commitments of recognized, short term or touring artists? Development - how is discourse, education, exchange and experimentation reflected in the program of the inviting institution? Does the institution usually tend collaborate with the local aspiring artistic community or mainly with more established names that carry enough symbolic capital where it is sure that it will be well received? Audience - is the inviting institution’s public used to engaging with a presentation of a research that oscillates between a more intimate, process-based sharing and an actual formulated performance? What additional documentational as well as curatorial formats might help to further support the end of a creation residency of „Common-Works“?

Another reason why fluctuating agencies in the work remain present is a seemingly personal question. Yet I am sure many fellow young artists can relate to: If you are at the start of your career it is often difficult to clearly negotiate your needs. Being able to think along by collaborating with recognized houses and institutions is always about negotiating. About negotiating how much risk each party is willing to take. Risk in regard to institutions that invite „Common-Works“, I would attribute to the fact that they are inviting an unknown artist that may not ‚fill the house‘, that a longer creation residency might interfere with their other commitments or that it takes more resources than simply inviting a touring work, that the presentation (cf. bare setup) might be challenging for some audience demographics and thus might need the right context. Risk for myself in relation to the inviting institution, I would associate with the fact that the format of „Common-Works“ tends to break with conventional production patterns of a house (not only a research exchange or residency but also no full touring creation), that the financing of the project remains difficult, since each edition is not touring and remains a singular happening and that each time we invite a new local group of performers. It seems again to be about approximating distances - on what the institution can offer and what you truly need to make each edition happen. My silent hope remains that in the future such conversations become easier, but so far this project has thought me a lot.


4.2 Invited collaborators and performers

As previously mentioned, „Common-Works“ happens each time with a new group of performers and as such usually intends to address interested performers via an open call or through a personal invitation. We go through various stages and layers where the agency of the performers remains malleable to the process. Specific questions regrading my agency in the project, the performers and collaborators agency, why performers intend to join the research creation, what they look forward to and what they intend to take out of the project, see question 5. And 6.


4.3 Public

An idea that recently came up is to rethink the presentational public - performer relationship through a more personal, discursive engagement where a performer talks and shares specific content to a selected member of the public. More is being shared in Question 10.


5. What is your choreographic gesture in the « Common works » project?

Having referred to distinct agencies of involved parties (Institutions, collaborators/performers, public) in the prior question 4, I’ll now reflect further own what my own choreographic role in relation to the overall process of each edition of „Common-Works“ is. As indicated in the question, my agency indeed changes through various levels in the process:


5.1 Role of an initiator - beginning 

When a new edition of the „Common-Works“ project starts, I’m usually inviting on behalf or in conversation with an institution the new group of performers. I thereby try to initiate the encounter that we are going to have by organizing a 1 hour (skype) conversation with each of the participants. I get to know their background and aspirations in the project, introduce them to the aforementioned text fragments as well as ask them to provide a specific embodied practice that they would like to share in the beginning. So far I always remained responsible for the main organizational matters that occur in connection to the performers. If it comes to specific content-related or dramaturgical questions, I invite since the beginning in Taipei a „conversation-partner“ that meets us several times in the studio. During the first two editions this has been Freda Fiala. They help me to keep a steady outside perspective over the various relational developments during the process: e.g. when passing by, we often reflect on the previous days together and sometimes return to specific ideas that we may want to elaborate further on, which I then discuss with the group of performers on the following day. Especially during later developments of the process, a strong outside perspective remains crucial as the research time in the studio remains limited.

Back to which shape my agency tends to take in this first stage as an initiator: During that first stage I mainly work on how to form the group. We (institution, conversation-partner and myself) usually select together a group of performers that come from different backgrounds and bubbles within the contemporary dance scene of a respected place. In each edition so far many of the participants have never worked together before. As such curiosity and openness is in the beginning quite high but yet people often feel hesitant to speak up. That is something that „Common-Works“ in the beginning has to well prepare for through clear introductory practices. Once participants know each other as well as their surrounding and context, I usually start to open up more to developments of the current moment. As such, I’m leaving the initiating and facilitating role and delve with the group together into a more mediative engagement.


5.2 Role of a mediator and moderator - mid process

The idea of a mediator refers to my intention of negotiating a safe space in the process which remains foundational for the further exchange (cf. question 2.). During the first conversational formats that I propose, I would consider my agency towards the beginning similar to the one of a mediating agent, where my comments and influence still remains fairly distant so as not to directly interfere with the personal discourse and narratives that everyone develops and shares. Later onwards (influenced by the „conversation-partner’s“ input) I slowly start to moderate the conversation more, e.g. by asking one to elaborate more on a specific idea during a conversation, by drawing clear references to prior editions, by sharing or adding references. So far this subtle change in attention always remained fairly organic as people (usually after reflecting and sharing their own personal ideas) start to become curious of the further aboutness and intention of the work.

Referring back again to aforementioned value in regard to attentive approximation (see question 2.1), the idea of my role as mediator and moderator is hereby is to slowly start to introduce means that merge the aspirations of the exchange with the one of a potential performative product. In question 8. I refer to concrete examples of such artistic strategies that we have been developing, where people are encouraged to bring in their own references and own practices in regards to the previous content of the work.


5.3 Role of a coordinator - end process

This shift in agency further evolves, as usually toward the end of the research questions arise how the exchange could sediment into a performative product. This is not only related to the question of what we are actually going to share with the public, but more importantly of how the idea of process and development relates to the time that we have spent together. Besides the prior distinction of naming the various agencies that should exemplify my positionality in the work, upon further refection I would also like refer to more implicit articulations in regard to the nature of my choreographic gesture in this project.

I’m aware that the word „conversation" returns several times and yet seems to refrain from a clear articulation. What I mean by that is that the methodology of „composing through conversation“ that I’m interested in seems relate to forms of genuine exchange where choreographic decisions are being either framed as a score or a question that looks for an independent answer (cf. Question 2 on scores) or simply that choreographic ideas are framed as verbal „proposals“ (e.g. „What do you think of ….“) which trigger in the performers their own reflection and needs positive affirmation in order to be actualized. If resistance from a performer should occur we either look for correcting answers together or I personally take time for a reformulation. As such, for the upcoming editions, I developed threes main codexes that I connect with my own personal working ethics as well as that speak for the overall intention „Common-Works“: 1. I always try making decisions in conversation with the performers, 2. I encourage everyone to speak up if they either have a more fitting idea or of they intend to contest something and 3. I do not engage with artistic choices that the majority of the group is hesitant to support.

By thinking about what this way of choreographing might demand one could refer to Question 3. by arguing that this deliberate logistical choice of „composing through conversation“ is indeed is an artistic gesture that (in)forms the overall project. It gives value and trust in the methodologies that have accumulated throughout the past editions whilst still opting to emancipate and liberate the performer’s agency and make them trust in their own enactment and problem solving.

To summarize my main tasks within the „Common-Works“ project are: 1.) to present, organize and follow-up on the initial idea that we have agreed with the inviting institution 2.) to share, repeat and redevelop the process in constant conversation with the invited performers 3.) To represent and introduce the concept to an interested public. My agency in the process usually shifts throughout the two weeks research from being a initiator in the beginning (inviting on behalf or in conversation with an institution a group of performer) to the one of a mediator (starting to ‚get the conversation going‘ between everybody in a safe, refective manner) to a moderator (proposing discursive and embodied modes of engagement that elaborate on prior established methodologies) to the one of a coordinator when it comes closer to concluding the research within the frame of a public presentation (by organizing and condensing the various engagements always in conversation with the performers).


6. What agency do the participants have during the creation process in « Common works »?

Below I would like to briefly switch the positions and speak more about the performers intent and motivation to join the research creation, what they look forward to and what they took out of the project. So far I have not only accumulated documentation of the project myself but also have asked either my conversation partner or performers to feed - back on the processes once we have concluded the edition.

Starting out with something that seems to be reoccurring when performers intend to join the project. They usually have a keen interest to either work with embodied improvisational strategies as a dancer or have already developed a research that seems to connect to key notions of each edition (e.g. representation, repetition, memory, …)  So far I always tried to create a balanced a group where both intentions can coexist and influence each other. In regard to the former, it is often mesmerizing to see how an intrinsically motivated joy for movement (e.g: „I just like the sensation and image of having eyes in my fingers“) suddenly becomes with the engagement of everyone in the group a framed, located and contextualized practice where the person initiating the practice suddenly finds joy in talking and thinking along how to further develop the specificity or range of the movement practice. Connecting to the latter, when people tend express interest by sharing their own prior research, they usually intend to return and reactivate their ideas through the help of „Common-Works“. There it is often fascinating to see how suddenly the conversation or the mapping triggers new perspectives that they have either discarded too early (e.g. „Drawing piece with my painted feet on paper“) or simply not yet taken into consideration („Moving through the different spaces, instead of remaining in one spot while developing a steady repetition score“)

Most of the times students reach out to me that are either soon finishing their studies or recent graduates that have in interest in shared research. That said, usually I have two or three performers that have a different background (e.g. being a novel writer, studying sociology, working as a part-time nurse, …) and still carry clear intentions why and how a research creation may be interesting for them (e.g. are interested to write with/about movement, had performing experience in past, always intended to join an artistic creation process, …) Regarding the latter reasons, interested performers often then ask if a difference in trained skill could become difficult. I always negate it, but yet say that they should know their limits. Since Amsterdam I include an introduction circle where I ask the question what they intend to take out of the project. The answer usually remains very personal, similar to a goal they would like to achieve („I would like to inquire more about the relationship between audience and spectator“) or that it remains fairly general („I’m looking forward to the what the process brings“).

After the project I have always asked performers to feed - back on the processes that we had: Generally speaking they seem to value the format of the first sharing, talking and re-constructing about ones own ideas about the practice, that their thoughts and concerns are able to get voiced during the time we spend together, that they enjoy the freedom of the warm-up improvisations and that after the edition the contacts remain active for subsequent projects. Things that I (recently) have heard and will from now on take more into consideration is how the choreographic choices of the end presentation are being taken, how the off-days are distributed, to integrate more movement practices already from the beginning and that one should not be able to miss more than one day of attendance.


7. What agency do the performers have during the public presentation at the end of the project?

Having elaborated prior, questions and comments regarding product and productivity have arisen the last edition in Brussels. I take this very serious and as such I took the decision to reflect and rethink how my choreographic choices of the end presentation should be taken in the process within future editions:

So far I thought that the presentation is the main stable reference point in the work, making it an edition-based repetition. Upon reflecting I have to admit that I should actually give value and trust more in all the methodologies that have accumulated so far and since Amsterdam have remained fairly stable. What I mean by the idea of methodologies is that the build-up of conversational and embodied strategies so far remained fairly similar. More as a guiding platform though, rather than a compositional format. As such the presentation should be more subjected to change from now on.

Each new edition should continue to reflect on the conversational practices or on a specific previous developments of each past edition. Then before we start, each edition already has a specific research focus. Another point to take into consideration is that many different parties (institutions, mentors, collaborators and I) have already invested a lot of time and resources into the project, which when inviting the work, automatically becomes a crucial reference point for the next edition with needing any presentational similarity. Prior in the text I spoke also about how the residue of the process continues to be re-actualized and re-activated in each presentation: So even though the aspiration of each edition is to remain malleable to the local context as well as to truly represent what the reflected local discourse is offering, there undoubtedly remains a generous influence from previous editions by default. As such, the work remains a practice, a temporary documentation and projection on how traces sediment and continue in the future via an edition. It is important that each presentation of „Common-Works“ remains in reference to the process that we had been through in the weeks prior but, again, this doesn’t mean anymore that is has to happen in a literal manner of restaging similar practices.

I have yet to arrive to a graspable strategy on how we can truly reference the research during the presentation. What I intend so far is to either integrate some of the documentation (maps, drawings, quotes, poetic texts, scores, etc.) into the landscape when opening the work to the public or to hand out specific program notes that address the research in a less formal, contextual and more personal, poetic manner. (e.g. by integrating a written playful text or drawing that arose in the process). Another idea is to rethink the presentational audience relationship through a more personal, discursive engagement where a performer enters into an actual conversation by sharing specific content to a selected member of the public. This is something that I used to think about already in previous editions but with distancing regulations it always remained difficult to safely realize. (See more Question 10.) In the past we also held fruitful conversational after-talks where the performers, collaborators as well as myself reflected together on the preceding research and answered questions from the public.

Returning from the detour: The performers agency in the presentation has so far been different between the beginning improvisational structure and the more set structure in the later development of each presentation. In the beginning, the performer remains to be very free and are only restricted by the fact one should insist and commit on developing the initial proposition (the individual practice that we develop throughout the editions) so as not to drop or leave it in favor of another one. Regarding the latter, second part, the strategies have changed from a direct, improvisational negotiation and start to grow towards prior agreed, collectively introduced, practices of collective listening and sensing. One practice that we explored in the past within several editions is the idea of rocking. More clearly, how to start rocking from sheer stillness as one group in the same vector without anyone leading it. Another similar practice came up during our research in Brussels on repetition, where we engaged with repeating, nearly pulsating actions within specific bodyparts that slowly start to collectively change to another one without having it set prior. I am still I trying to find the right words in order to accurately describe and name these subtle yet collective tendencies.

To conclude, I personally don’t think that the agency in the performance has to necessarily change, i.e. it’s okay to follow a preset instructional task as a group at one moment during the presentation. It is more a question HOW we are going to arrive into this structure, i.e. how doe we arrive to the choreographic choices that were made in order to translate the process more honestly into the presentation context. That is something that I’m keen to explore within the next editions.


8. Could you share what methodologies you developed throughout the past editions of the « Common works » project?

Referring back to the idea of „attentive approximation“ (Question 2) and „composing through conversation“ (Question 5) one can deduct possible strategies how I could open up the presentation towards a more conversational approach. Below I would like to describe and exemplify 5. strategies that we have so far developed and which remain a crucial methodological reference point within each edition:


8.1 Text Fragments

As already mentioned in Question 2.3. how play, playfulness and lightness can affect our understanding of theory and discourse in the work: I usually ask the performers to develop on the basis of specific short text fragments a research practice that they should bring into the first day of our research creation. When framing this task, I’m highlighting that one should remain in playful relation to the text fragments. As such some people may tend to refer to some words that may speak to them in a literal, illustrative sense where they associate the functionality in direct relation to their embodied or performative propositions. While others seem to deconstruct and reconstruct the meaning of a text it in a more analytical manner, e.g. by cross-referencing specific intentions of the text with other poetic and/or academic sources that help to place and develop the practice. In „Common-Works“ I insist that both ways should equally be respected as they both serve the same overall intentions: 1. It makes each individual practice easier relate to one another. 2. We use the texts in order to build a shared register of reoccurring terms and qualities that facilitates the further aboutness of each edition.





8.2 Mind-Map-Memory

This is one guided conversation format that I use. I introduce it the day before everyone starts to share their practices. Usually we start sharing the practices on our third day. I normally ask that everyone writes down all the questions and then after around 10 min. of reflection time each person starts sharing:


1.) From where did you generate the choreographic material that your individual practice is based on?

2.) How did you move from your source of inspiration to a performative reality?

3.) How did your practice arrive to a physical embodiment?

4.) Develop 3 questions that your practices circulates around.

5.) Describe an additional mode, that you have not yet explored within your practice but that you

    would like to develop further.


We then collectively accumulate several personal statements I normally take notes and later on transcribe them in the evening to my computer. On the next day I prepare that each person has each of statements that had been noted in the prior conversation on an individually cut out paper. Then everyone is encouraged to read through each of the statements in their own pace while deciding to either keep or discard each statement. The ones that one decides to keep are to be put into a map. Once finished, everyone starts to partner up and each person reads out loud the chosen statements. After, there is a brief moment to exchange lingering thoughts in relation to it and then we start sharing the practices. This form of abstracting and re-interpreting information is something that I felt has been very useful so far and been present in every edition of „Common-Works“. We also sometimes re-use the cards later in the process when we map and situate the practices.


© Raphaela Baumgartner - Tanztendenz/ Schwere Reiter Theater



8.3 Practice sharing

Come on [Date] with a short practice/material of yours that connects to the content of our conversation OR that reflects on one of these thematic text clusters. It can be something newly imagined OR something that you’re currently researching around. Treat your material as a performative statement, a single operation, or state in which you describe and later on physically perform/address this material to us. Besides movement, verbal language, written or spoken text can be included. You have to be able to perform/address this material alone, see it as a practice/material from you - for you. Try not to work with props, etc. - keep it short, simple, and embodied!(Common-Works - Brussels Edition 21.5.2021)


How people intent to share the practice still remains highly dependent on each edition so far: In Amsterdam most people brought a material that was intended to be shared and not performed as a first exploration, In Munich nearly everyone wanted to show (in a frontal seating) what each has developed. This is what I mean before by letting go of unnecessary structure and instead opting for more flexibility in future editions: As long as the format of the sharing serves the purpose that everyone can share their own material/intentions while also reflecting and engaging with others, I think this conversional practice achieves its purpose. So how does the methodological structure of the practice sharing usually work: We usually take around 20-25min per person for that. It normally stays around 7 min to share the actual practice 5 min to share what you want that we know of the material and then 10 min to talk about it and to place it into inter-relational map. Either directly layered on Mind-Map-Memory Map or on a separate one. As mentioned some people may decide to show an idea or articulation that they have thought about their practice, others ask that we all try it out together, sometimes it’s a guided exploration in the moment that one person leads, sometimes we get instructions beforehand and then try it out by ourselves in silence, others bring in texts, images or drawings that they would like to develop into a physical practice but yet have no idea how to.

Important thereby is to insist on the value of „attentive appoximation“ (Question 2): how we talk about it and that it remains a safe and open space. Usually in a round circle. After each sharing, everyone thinks for a minute what each wants to say and then we again start to talk on the basis prior discursive methods that we used, we start to talk what we oberseved in a safe, non judgmental way. And then slowly connect it to something that was mentioned prior and, if applicable, how it translates to ones own practice material.


8.4 Towards strategies of collaboration

So how do these seeming individual practices start to become negotiated towards a collective one?

After speaking, each performer gives their practice a name and puts it into a rhizomatic map. The map has no center nor stem. It is more that clusters of notions and references start to accumulate. Once more practices are placed in space we start to name the relations that seems to appear. Once the last person has shared the practice we start to focus on what qualities, ideas or concepts these relations seem to trigger. On this basis we then place our prior articulated three initial questions that ones own practices circulates around and place them in the map. This negotiation buildup has so far happened in each edition.

From there we start to develop the encounter of the individual practices. By trying out. Redoing it. Redefining and concretizing practices and in order to re-do them again.  In Amsterdam I proposed on this basis a game where we used the empty theatre space to „blow-up“ the prior map and everyone stood physically in relation to each others practices. After being certain what each practice was about, we gradually physically walked closer or more distant to each other on the basis of the introduced practices. This format made me curious if we could develop further collective strategies on how to embody this map.

8.5 Empathy Map

Another discursive practice that I use since Munich now is called Empathy Map and comes out from an improvisational partner practice. Besides the specific scored intentions, the practice seems also question how one relates to another, i.e. what tactics do we need to meet the other.  On this basis we create a map where we first accumulate ways of encountering: e.g. visually mimicking another persons movement, by following the flow of intention, by getting lost in the others eyes, by organizing spatially, by arbitrary yet indicative sounds, with rhythmical/pulsating movements, etc.  As such we were abele to create a shared body register of knowledge that relates to implicit and non-verbal verbal communication and which can help us to relate in a more intuitive understanding later onwards in the instant (improvised) manner in the work.

Developing collective strategies is only possible on the premise of a shared common register that arrives from the prior conversations. As time remains limited and many of this prior formats not only create agency and responsibility in the performers but it also includes and motivates everyone to speak up. As usually in the work, students, recent graduates, young and old professionals come, share and inhabit the same space together, it is important that everyone negotiates preexisting barriers of hesitation in a playful, yet transparent manner. What I have seen so far, regardless of ones background the project, „Common-Works“ helps to negotiate one’s own comfort zone. Not in an invasive or overstepping manner, but in a way that discourse and creative engagements challenge one’s agency in the process in a malleable yet sustainable manner: For some it is the texts fragments that we share with in the beginning. For others it is the embodied exchange later on in the group. As we all have our strength and weaknesses it is not a question of having to necessarily overcome them but more to have an awareness of other people’s helpful presences in the shared collective process.


© Mary Szydlowska- Wild Galery/ Stuk Leuven



9. What role does the « final » presentation in the « Common works » project take?

I have already touched up several points in question 7., where I discuss what kind of agency the performers have on stage hand how going further it should reflect and reference more strongly the process. In the  Brussels edition now questions and comments regarding product and productivity have arisen. I take this very serious and as such I took this as a tuning point to redevelop the choreographic choices of the end presentation where change and agency is taken stronger into consideration.

I also have indicated that I would like to further elaborate on a more horizontally, shared methodology by „composing through conversation“ (Question 5.3) where choreographic decisions are being either framed as a score or a question that looks for an independent answer (cf. Question 2 on score) or simply that choreographic ideas are framed as verbal „proposals“ (e.g. „What do you think of ….“) which triggers in the performers their own reflection and needs positive affirmation in order to be actualized. I personally don’t think that the agency in the performance has to necessarily change throughout, i.e. it’s okay to follow a preset instructional task as a group at one moment during the presentation. Again, it is more a question of HOW we are going to arrive into this decision or structure, i.e. how do we arrive to the choreographic choices that were made in order to translate the process more genuinely into the presentation context. That is something that I’m keen to try out within more open conversational formats in the next edition.

Taking hereby the public into consideration as well: Below in question 10. I exemplify in regard to the public different strategies on how we could reformulate the idea of a presentation as something that is more closely linked to the actual creation process.


10. How do you underline the research aspect within the end presentation of the « Common-Works » project?

Returning back to question 3 where I talk about how the deliberately used logistical choices that are taken seem to (in)form the project, I would hereby like to reflect further on the idea how „Common-Works“ keeps oscillating between an intimate, process-based research and a performative practice which is articulated within a public presentation.

To start out, on a baseline I feel that when deciding to address something with and to a public, one needs to have a clear reason why. In „Common-Works“ that doesn’t mean that the process should have to directly relate or translate to production or consumption - one doesn’t need to entertain or create a spectacle for the public. I see it more simply: When you invite someone, you ask to share their time and resources with you. As such you have (to an extent) an obligation to host and reason why this invitation from your side happened in the first place. As such when inviting to come and see the presentation of the research creation of „Common-Works“, I feel one has as invitee a commitment. When opting to share and present something that happened in the process we should be able to share a thought-about, composed version of what we have been through.  This statement may sound personal at first and surely reflects my taste of encountering as well but one could also see it also more as one of the deliberately used logistical choices that were taken and which (in)forms the projects overall intent. There are surely many other ways of presenting and engaging with a public in a presentational frame. In „Common-Works“ the presentation has to clearly reference how it translates to the prior process. I now would like to elaborate further how the presentation reflects on the agency between an intimate, process-based research and that of a performative practice which is articulated within the public presentation.

In the upcoming editions, the presentation frame is going to be indicated less of a exploration and research site and more as performative application that summarizes and condenses the process to specific moments that we collectively think represents what we have been through. For this there are three ideas that become crucial:

1.) We will arrive to choreographic choices in a more open and horizontal process (Question 7)

2.) That the concluding presentation of each edition might differ more from each. The stable reference point has shifted from the emphasis of a similar presentation towards the repeated methodologies that we’ll use during the process (Question 8)

3.) The conversional approach will be extended on how we invite and approach the audience.


10.1 Context Materials

What I intend so far is to integrate some of the documentation (maps, drawings, quotes, poetic texts, scores, etc.) into a specific program leaflet that addresses the research creation in a less formal, contextual and more personal, poetic manner:

One idea could be that each member of the public is gifted a specific, personal documentational object of the process. For example this could be a playfully written text, a drawing that arose in the process or a literal small object. As each member then has another trace, they then either associate it with the one performer that it relates to or that they exchange the documentational object with another member of the public. While thinking about that, I’m still wondering how explicit this material should be or if it should even be considered as one of the overall choreographic gesture of the project. What this format would it emphasize is the fact that each member starts to build a personal relationship to the practices in space rather to see them in a more total, abstracted view.

Something else that might be interesting to explore in „Common-Works“ is that someone in the beginning talks and says in very simple terms why we came together, what we have been through and what the intention behind this presentation is. This could situate and place the public towards a more process based encounter that they are not only witnessing but are being actually part of as well.


10.2 The public as a conversation partner

Another idea is to rethink the presentational public - performer relationship through a more personal, discursive engagement where a performer talks and shares specific content to a selected member of the public. This is something that I used to think about already in previous editions but with distancing regulations it so far remained difficult to safely realize. So far we encountered the public not only as a distant spectator but as an actual conversation partner that may or may not want to remain silent: This demands a different agency from the public and as such needs to be prior introduced.

In the moment of the presentation where everyone shares an individual embodied practice on stage, similar strategies have already happened but were so far not fully articulated. For example some performer have shared a personal story to a selected member, others developed with another performer together a specific movement quality that was seen by the public nearby. Others were engaging with a specific embodied notion over time and where taking addressing audience members in a less direct and more distant manner.  As the beginning of the presentation of „Common-Works“ is usually very openly framed there is a potential to research more about what notions of spectatorship these different relations might trigger. In the past some performers referred to them in various ways, e.g. as witness, as spectator, as conversaion-partner, as hubby/friend, as peer member, as public etc.

So I guess it very easily can happen that too many different ways occur on how performers address the public. In future editions I still want to keep this variety but clarify beforehand on what qualities we actually use to address the public and what we think the agency of the audience in the presentation actually is. Maybe it’s also good to rethink how we should enter the space: If everyone at once should come in? If we should bring the audience into the space and meanwhile talk about what the intention of this presentation is?


10.3 The prior research illustrated through an exhibition space/ after-talk

Another idea that came up is to create an exhibition space that can after the presentation be visited or an after-talk that can be attended. Regarding the latter, in the past we already held fruitful conversational after-talks where the performers, collaborators as well as myself reflected together on the preceding research and answered questions from the public. One question I do wonder about that is if the after-talk should become part of the presentation format or if it should remain optional as an additional reference to the work.

Thinking further, the idea of an exhibition space might create a more open framework were the public can obtain additional information in quantity and quality how they wish, e.g. someone may only shortly walk and notices the mapped score build-up while someone else looks into the diary log and reads through what physical warm up practices we did each day. There is an interesting relation for me if it comes to ideas of exposure, demystification and the subsequent vulnerability of a research process: Why are we so shy when it comes to the idea of exhibiting the actual lived process  within the sharing of a presentation?


11. Which questions does the « Common-Works » project leave you with at this moment of its development?

  • Is coherence in the methodological structure or in the presentational form?
  • How can the performance at the end remain malleable to further changes?
  • How to emphasize the collective introduction, engagement and representation of the works concepts to an interested public?
  • How far are we willing to change the format according to the inviting institutions intent?


12. What is your authorship in the « Common-Works » project?

I reflected prior upon questions regarding authorship in relation to the upcoming editions already in question 5. - but here now more explicitly: Connecting it back on ideas of future changes in the project, the question arises how much visibility and representability the performers in the project are going to have and how much the performers will actually contribute to choreographic decisions that are made in the future editions. Returning back to question 5. where I elaborated on the idea of „composing through conversation“, my intent is from now on to engage with choreographic decisions by framing them via an open score format or a question that looks for an independently thought answer by the performers. Reflecting on the relationship to my role as choreographic moderator and coordinator in the project, I’ll as well introduce in the next editions the idea of an artistic „proposal“ which should trigger in the performers their own genuine associative reflections on the basis of prefabricated, discursive methodologies. It demands from both sides positive affirmation in order to be actualized.

For now I’ll continue to see myself as the host that invites everyone to partake in this encounter. In the credits I have so far referred to myself as „Concept: Timothy Nouzak“. I think so far, as well as taking the upcoming changes into consideration, it sounds correct as I usually invite and guide everyone into the encounter. After conversations, I also agree with the function of a „choreographic coordinator“. I coordinate processes and occurrences and carry responsibility for the project overall artistic intent. That being said, questions regarding the performers authorship still remain a question for me: For the next edition I would like to refer to the invitees as „collaborating performers“. I’ll remain alert how future developments may change this function again (e.g. when I join the project as performer myself, when a person joins the work a second time, when I’m invited together in collaboration with a performer during a residency …)

One question that I would like to shortly refer in regard to authorship is the act of brining an own individual practice into the work. So far I have always remained very clear that people should only bring something into the process what they are comfortable to share with their work as performer in the project. So far there was never a problem as during the process the practices so far have changed a lot from their initial state. That being said I would like to find new strategies on how to reference and contextualize this input as well during the presentation. (See question 10.1. on context materials) In the Brussels Edition now I began to share with the public all the biographies as well underlined the collaborative effort in the work. This indent I would like to further develop in the upcoming editions. Only because the overall concept functions under a singular authorship, doesn’t mean that the collaborating effort that happens in each edition should be compromised or negated. As such I would like to continue to invite the performers to after talks or other refections if there is the occasion as well as to clearly state that they have developed the edition in conversation with all performers as well as myself.

Thinking further about the possible prospects of the work: I would like that eventually the performers feel comfortable enough to perform in their own name. What that means is that they may still carry the function of a „collaborating performer“ but feel enough encouraged to perform their own critical perspective on the encounter that the work is proposing. How far this is already at stake and how much it already relates is for me still an open ended question that I’m eager to experience within future editions.


13. What agency does theory and discourse in the « Common-Works » project have?

The discourse that has been used so far was always intended to contextualize, place and situate the work in order to give it reason beyond artistic production. As already mentioned in Question 2.3., one of the crucial aspirations of the work is the idea of „playfulness and lightness" in regard to our understanding on theory and discourse.  I usually ask the performers to develop on the basis of specific short text fragments a research practice that they should bring into the first day of our research creation. When framing this task, I’m highlighting that one should remain in playful relation to the text fragments: As such some people may tend to refer to some words that may speak to them in a literal, illustrative sense where they associate the functionality in direct relation to their embodied or performative propositions. While others seem to deconstruct and reconstruct the meaning of text it in a more analytical manner, e.g. by cross-referencing specific intentions of the text with other poetic and/or academic sources that help to place and develop the practice. In „Common-Works“ I insist that both ways should equally be respected as they both serve the same overall intentions: 1. It makes each individual practice easier relate to one another. 2. We use the texts in order to build a shared register of reoccurring terms and qualities that facilitates the further aboutness of each edition.

Discursive engagements of „Common-Works“ in relation towards (inviting) institutions have so far helped to situate the work so that it becomes possible to curate and program. When thinking to invite the project, I feel that the content-level emphasizes questions regarding a shared discursive concern. After reflecting further on the edition in Brussels I’m still wondering what this concern may evolve into the next editions: Into a more poetic language? Into more detailed, specific research questions that speak about/with scientific and philosophical notions?  Or to see how concepts’ qualities stimulate different perspectives and entry points into a creative  process? So far our research on notions of Care ethics, Identity Politics, Intercultural discourse, individual practice, collectivity and repetition have all genuinely sparked more broken, down practices, questions or conversions that relate and positions itself to this broad umbrella terms in a specific yet playful manner.


14. What agency does the score in the « Common-Works » project take?

Is coherence necessary in the methodological structure or more in the presentational form? As mentioned already in question 2.3, so far the beginning elements in the score are each time changing but the later part remains quite stable as it is seemingly being reapplied. In the framework of the upcoming editions I’ll focus to change that by making adaptions throughout the presentation more receptive to each edition whilst keeping the overall process stable, prepared, and equipped, (e.g. through the conversational procedures and methodologies we use)

After all the editions now, I have developed several strategies how to guide and thus feel liberated that each content can start to change more through the editions. It should therefore remain closer in relation to the needs of the group. Seeing how the conversation actually continues to evolve, change and elaborate through one to another edition is the core intention of the project. Change in the work indeed needs to happen. As change is stipulated by what content the performer bring. As such the form of the process needs to be allowed to vary on the basis to what is emerging from the previous content. As such it becomes important  about what this open, yet specific methodological practices (cf. question 8) actually seem to trigger in the enactment of each local context, i.e. what practices are being introduced in the beginning, the specific shared research contents through text fragments as well as how we collectively engage with it and what creative responses such a negotiation trigger in the framework of a public presentation.




© Brussels Edition, June 2021