Presence – presenters’ abstracts and bios

Artistic Research | Performing Heterotopia
Winter (Dis)symposium
10, 17, 24, 31 March 2021
Distant and Dispersed

Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt and Lucy Lyons

Suriashi and Drawing as Presence

In this collaborative presentation, choreographer and performer Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt and artist Lucy Lyons share a film of our presence as performance. We will discuss our role as ghosts, haunting the spaces in Zirgu Pasts, Latvian Academy of Culture in Riga, which we had occupied previously without realizing we were ghosts.

We explore visually and through dialogue, how hauntings and tracings make us present and reveal our presence through layers of time, process and understanding. Bodily presence and absence provoked our consciousness. Time travelling through walking and drawing slowly, loosing hands and feet, we became close to invisible.

The traces we make and the traces we leave reveal our presence, embedded within the paper, the fabric of the walls and the ether. The space has its own presence and we became part of it as we performed and traced within it. The artist in residence, the artist in space, haunts the in-between-spaces. The spaces, as we looked, draw and walked closer, became ‘curiouser and curiouser’ sad Alice in Wonderland said. We know exactly what she meant.

We consider that the space is ever present, and it is we whose presence is fugitive, who become the trace.

Dr Lucy Lyons uses drawing as intervention into different disciplines, researching how the activity of drawing leads to better understanding through “slow looking.” She lectures in drawing and in contextual studies at The Margate School (ESADHaR) and is a tutor in anatomy and art at UCL. She is also involved in collective multi disciplinary practice, and hosts artists’ residencies and facilitates performances and exhibitions in her home, Gordon House Margate.

Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt is a Swedish independent performer, choreographer, filmmaker and writer. She is a slow walker thanks to her studies and work with Japanese dance in Kyoto since 2019 and she walks slowly as a ceremonial, subversive act. Ami is a PhD candidate at the Dance Department of University of Roehampton, and she works as a lecturer at Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg.

Betty Doyle

End of the Line: Exploring Silence and Absence in the Poetics of Infertility Poetry

In our pronatalist society, infertility is a heterotopia – it is ‘Other’, and therefore seen as taboo and treated with silence.  Infertility itself is defined by absence and silence – as Juliet Miller writes, it is a ‘lack rather than loss’.   This presents issues when writing about infertility. As writer Rachel Cusk notes, ‘one problem with the discourse of infertility is that is has at its core a non-event. How can a woman talk about […] what never happened to her?’  

This presentation will explore my ongoing research into the heterotopic of infertility, by examining ways in which women poets write about infertility. This close reading will highlight the poetics employed by these writers that recreate, reformulate, and reinvent writing about infertility. Different poetic techniques, poetic forms, and narrative discourses have been used by women writing about infertility, to give presence and language to infertility, despite infertility’s definition of silence and absence.  

The format of my contribution would be a talk about my research, and a reading of my own infertility poetry that are in conversation with my critical research.  

Betty Doyle is a poet and PhD student from Merseyside, UK. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she is researching the poetics of infertility poetry written by contemporary Western women. 

Cau Silva

Traces of Daily Gestures – a Reflection on Uncertainties and Ephemeralities 

To scrunch a paper sheet when an idea fails, to order pots and pans in the kitchen, to do physiotherapy exercises for the wrist to recover from an accident. What these gestures have in common? 

My contribution is a reflection about daily gestures in moments of catastrophes and failures. In this presentation, I will display how assembled immateriality and the return of the ordinary are tools for mirror reality. 

I’ll start with a quick and simple practice to awake presence. Participants can join with whatever reachable piece of paper they have. This exercise intends to activate the body by recreating environments and potentialities. 

Next, I’ll present artworks that deal with everyday situations. In operating among different layers of reality, potential becomings emerge in gestures and ongoing movements. 

In the video “”What is Panelas?”” traces of past activities rests in a spectrum behind the matter. A similar passage also occurs in the installation piece “”The Origin of Everything”” and in the drawings “”Risquinhos,”” where irregularity maps the exhibition space and the art medium. 

Other elements also can perform a paradoxical dance between being shell and shelter, fragile and robust as in the video “”To the Ground, Banishment”” and video-performance “”Suporte II.”” During the process of dealing with the unknown, the ephemeral and the precarious emerges. What is the notion of presence in a place of ruins and risks?”

Cau Silva (works between São Paulo-BR and Berlin-GER) is graduated in Social Sciences at the São Paulo State University and post-graduated in Visual Arts at the University of Campinas. She investigates the relationship between daily gestures, destruction, and creation through videos, performances, and installations. Through her works, she reflects ideas of presence, vestige, precariousness, inutility, displacement, and unproductivity. 

Diane King

Presence through Painting and Writing

Throughout my presentation I would wish to engage participants in a series of looking, listening and participatory experiences.

My proposal is to share my thinking and my “making”, i.e. drawing, painting and writing around the idea of presence. Exploring the relationship between the two processes .

Beginning by sharing a series of statements/ideas collated from research and conversation with others, with their permission to share. All of whom are involved in making Art. These statements without censor arose from the question “What do we mean by presence when we make Art?” Reviewing the statements/ ideas as a series of miscellaneous words led me to consider if the written ideas would lend themselves to a Dadaist approach? If there is time I would wish to engage participants in this approach as a writing experience

Looking through my sketch books I came across two sketches made during a time in my life six years ago with a great sense of being present. While caring with my family for my father in the last few days of his life. I, without much conscious thought sketched what was around me, his coat and cap on the bannister and his chair.Seeing these drawings again for the first time after such a long time I was transported to a heightened sense of presence, I was there again,I was present . 

Haiku poetry has traditionally been associated with the ideas of spirit and presence. Looking at my drawings and reminiscing about this time. I composed this HaiKu. 

His coat and scarf

Same place always

Present, still.

At this point in the presentation I hope to explore this style of poetry. Its simplicity of form and association with spirit and presence.

To conclude I wish to share via a slideshow of my recent paintings where my intentions, while working from sketch to completed painting is to share my own sense of presence and time with the viewer. 

During the slide show posing a series of questions and reflections. 

I saw this, I felt this, at this time, does it change the work if the viewer sees , feels, some other presence ? Can an intention of the work be to create a entirely different sense of presence? Can we, do we take our sense of being present to different places, people.?

I am a Visual Artist based in the North West of England. My work is often described as ‘my breath in the landscape ‘. B.A. Hons. Creative Practice/Fine Art.B.Ed Education. M.A. Management of Change.

Eleni Kolliopoulou

Enabling presence

This proposal concerns a 10 minute online performance with objects while being blind folded. My intention is to provoke a discussion around the topic of presence which will unfold around a practice-based arts exploration informed by Butoh dance principles. 

Butoh on the contrary of more theatrical ways of mise-en-scene, does not draw on the expressivity of the performers but on their perception. After having cultivated an initial state of passivity (or better lack of activity) in order to become more receptive to their environment, Butoh dancers are “moved by” it. Here, the environment—which could also include the props—might be seen as the external to the body stimuli. 

The performer will explore the relationship between her bodily presence with the space and the objects in her proximity. This proposal is part of the bigger project entitled Politics/ poetics of everyday life: http://www.elenivisualart.eu/category/poetics-politics-of-everyday-life/encounters-with-objects/.

This performance would like to act as a response at the work of Robert Morris ‘Blind time drawings’ (1990). Morris has been drawing while being blindfolded. My aim is to explore a. is the obstruction of our vision enabling our presence in a deeper psychophysical sense? b. how is my time perception informed and transformed when I perform blindfolded and how is my audience’s time perception influenced by my temporal experience? c. in what extent our presence is controlled by the gaze of the others? d. what is revealed when I perform while being blindfolded?

Eleni Kolliopoulou (1980, Athens) is a mixed-media visual and performance artist and researcher particularly interested in the intersection between performance and philosophy. She has recently been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy for her practice-based PhD research at Ulster University (Northern Ireland, UK).  Her research concerned the modalities in which the Butoh body notion could be used to enrich immersivity in Performative Installations.

Ilana Gorban, Raquel Scotti Hirson and Ana Andreatta

Presence and dissolution – an online experience

A talk about our work followed by readings from our journals. 

We have met weekly over a six-month period for this practice-based acting research that was conducted entirely online. There were a total of sixteen performing experiences with an additional six meetings of guided meditation and discussion on the effects of the work. Our homes became studios and online networks connected us, creating other presences. The year 2020 was sui generis for the whole world and, for us, artists, it was overwhelming. The experience we want to share grounded us and, at the same time, it made us fly, creating an artistic space in continuous potency. 

This investigation is part of Ilana Gorban’s doctoral research at the University of Huddersfield, UK, with the project entitled “Performing impermanence and emptiness: The intersection of Mahayana Buddhist tradition and performing arts by means of practice research””. Ilana Gorban created and led sixteen different work dynamics guiding the two other actresses participating in this project. Each practice was followed by a reflective journal with questions elaborated by Gorban which, in turn, generated more questions, many of them around the theme of presence.

In our practices, deep experiences of presence emerged and they were named as: subtle presence, multiple presence, absent presence, condensed presence, simultaneous presence, striking presence, liquid presence, porous presence, interconnected presence and, smoky, gaseous, ethereal presence. Would these be possible scenic presences?

Ana Andreatta is an actress who graduated from the School of Dramatic Art – University of São Paulo, Brazil (EAD-USP) in 1994. Andreatta was a member of 

Antunes Filho’s Center of Theater Research (CPT).

Ilana Gorban is a PhD candidate at the University of Huddersfield in the UK and has completed her masters in Applied Theatre at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Gorban trained at The International School of Corporeal Mime in London.  

Raquel Scotti Hirson is an actress-researcher with LUME – Interdisciplinary Nucleus for Theatrical Research University of Campinas, Brazil (UNICAMP) since 1994. Hirson is professor of the Performing Arts Graduate Program at UNICAMP.”

Janhavi Dhamankar

Performing presence

In my current PhD research on empathy, I design practices, using artistic tools, which allow us to undertake an empathic interaction in the present moment. Based on Edith Stein’s notion of empathy as a 3-step process (as opposed to a feeling), I also employ understandings from Social Sculpture which treat the emergent social interaction as the artwork which is often intangible and subsequently flows over into the lives and situations of those participating. A constellation of terms including sensibility, sensitivity, resonance, familiarity, distance, listening has come to the fore while exploring the conditions for performing empathy. But what all these concepts, including empathy, presuppose is presence. Encountering one’s presence (as different from the other but in the same field) and offering this presence, in the present moment, in the ‘in-between’/ intersubjective field is what lies at the heart of empathy. This neither entails catching/ sharing the emotion of the other, nor being motivated to help/ change the situation of the other in some way. 

Through my short contribution, I would like to highlight the role of presence in empathy, via the practice of sensibility, sensitivity, resonance. By inviting the participants of the symposium into a short performance, designed with the help of multiple artistic methods, I will offer artistic modes to sense into presence – our own and that of others who participate in the situation and practice.

Janhavi Dhamankar is an Indian classical dance performer and teacher and holds an MPhil in Philosophy (Aesthetics). She is now researching and designing artistic practices   which allow us to perform empathy in the here and now, voluntarily, through her PhD in empathy at Kunst Uni Graz. She calls these practices ’empathy-infusions’: just like if we leave tea leaves long enough in hot water, the flavour of the tea emerges; if we allow our capacities to be soaked long enough in the materials she offers, our interactions are bound to kindle empathic shades such as openness and humaneness. 

Joanna  Sperryn-Jones and Rata Aksornthong 

Collaborative presences through sharing localities: Collaborative online international learning (COIL) between Thailand and UK

In 2015 Jo took part in collaborative international projects with other art researchers who first met at NSU. These projects focused on two elements; firstly, generating creative practice through a multi-sensorial encounter of everyday things and surroundings and secondly how the dialogue of sharing and collaboration internationally influences each other’s creative practices. Jo then adapted the project with students at Blackburn College (UK) and Blackburn College (USA). Students attempted to communicate their experience of their home town and surroundings and compare this to students in the other country. This enabled them to learn about other cultures but also to see their own locality with new eyes.

Jo (UK) and Rata (Thailand) are building on these previous projects to develop a new COIL project with their students to run in January/February 2021. Rather than students working in pairs we will create a community board on which multi-sensory and experiential sensings of local surroundings will be posted from each country aiming to create digital presences from each place. This could include video tours, photos documenting everyday life along with sensory artworks. Several google drawing boards will be created to enable students to collaborate on 2D artworks to create new heterotopic spaces combining elements of the presences from each locality. 

Jo, Rata and their students would like to present results and reflections on this project and gain feedback to develop this practice further. We would also like to set up a google drawing board on which circle participants can add a photo or drawing from their specific location that can be combined to create a circle international virtual presence of that moment.

Rata Aksornthong is a lecturer at the Thai university มหาวิทยาลัยเทคโนโลยีราชมงคลรัตนโกสินทร์ -Rajamangala University of Technology Rattanakosin and gained an MA Fine Art from York St John. 

Jo Sperryn-Jones is a lecturer in Fine Art at Coventry University and gained her PhD from University of the Arts London and Norwich University of the Arts. Rata and Jo will be joined by students studying at their respective work places.

Kani Majid

The unnatural silence of the invisible Iraqi Kurdish women

The state of presence is still so problematic and it is the most controversial issue of women in Iraqi Kurdistan. Women struggling to have their own voice in that region hence, there is noting under name of women, there is no archive of women achievement. Noting is feminine, even women talk and act like men. Women’s voice has been silenced and absent.

In this light, through my artistic practice, my study also gives a voice to the hidden voices of Iraqi Kurdish women, in the context of issues concerning inequality, gender and violence within the region. Through my practice-based research, I examine the importance of an untitled archive of interviews, documenting women’s experiences in South Kurdistan collected by Runak, a Kurdish archivist and activist based in Iraqi Kurdistan. Through my artistic practice, the contents of the archive are revealed and so the stories of women represented within it who are silenced through cultural and political repression. The work will contribute to the representation of Kurdish women, exploring how art can represent the lived experience and open up this archive as a record for contemporary and future generations of women, whilst also bringing feminist discourse to these usually overlooked non-western narratives.

The existence and importance of archives and records such as these are highlighted, especially those of women who are under-represented through the dominance of men in the public archives in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kani Kamil is a visual artist and PhD student at MMU, her interest and research are around the issue of socio politic and gender inequality in Iraqi Kurdistan. Also, Interested in the archival material to use and forgotten stories around women issues and silencing. 

Kathi Seebeck

Digging in strata, unveiling presences

Ceos, latin name for Kea, a Greek island surrounded by clear blue scuba diving water, place of birth of Simonides, the poet, with whom everything begun: 

The alleged inventor of the art of memory recommends that someone (like me) who desires “to train the faculty of memory must select places and form mental images of the things he/she wishes to remember and store those images in the places …” 

Taking Simonides’ technique as a point of departure I have started an experiment aiming at making present again something I read before, e.g. a book, a text. 

Ceos, its coastline, trees, houses and other landmarks became “places”. Whilst reading the same text again and again I am drawing on the map of Ceos, leaving traces (“”mental images””) as reminders of what I read. Each reading carves a new layer, a different presence.

I invite you to set off for a (virtual) journey to the South Aegean Sea. Ceos will be the excavation site, my drawing serves as material. We will be digging in the strata of the drawing, unveiling past presences and reviewing the functioning of the adapted memory technique. In the discussion we could elaborate on how presence can be associated with layers, or just the opposite.

Kathi Seebeck (1989, DE) studied philosophy, fine arts and education in Germany. Today she works and lives in Brussels, researching on the edge and in the middle of all three fields. 

Myna Trustram, Luisa Greenfield, Per Roar and Camilla Graff Junior

Presence of the Archive

This early Saturday morning the wind roams around the roof of the house and reminds me of Rebecca Solnit and the ‘far away nearby’. The wind is present, on the other side of the bricks and slates, and hardly here at all. In a few hours, I will be high up on Windgather Rocks, battered and cold and exhilarated, almost flying.

We are four NSU artistic researchers – Per Roar, Camilla Graff Junior, Luisa Greenfield and Myna Trustram. We come, respectively from  practices of choreography, performance art, film and writing and we are based in Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin and Manchester. We would like to bring the work we have been doing for the NSU 70TH anniversary Trace project to the symposium about presence.

A visit that we made  in October 2019 to the Danish National Archive to see the NSU archive prompted us to reflect on the function of the archive for each of us personally, and for NSU. The symposium’s theme of presence fits neatly with some questions that the work has raised:

The presence of our personal archives

The presence of the archive within our relationships with NSU.

Our presence, or not, within the archive.

Myna Trustram For many years I worked as a history curator in English museums and galleries. In 2013 I returned to academic work at Manchester Metropolitan University where I run a training programme for PhD students in arts and humanities. I write experimental essays on themes of museums, loss, melancholia. 

Per Roar I work as choreographer-researcher and merge a socio-political interest and contextual enquiries with a somatic approach to movement. In recent years I have been engaged in collective artistic works and performative memory work, in addition to being a professor in choreography at Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

Camilla Graff Junior  My work, as a performance artist and curator,  is situated in the intersections between visual art, creative writing, narrative, feminist theory, archive and affect. In my current research project I use an auto-ethnographic approach as a method to look at performance as a tool to investigate social practices as they affect and reflect a woman’s life. I have over the past twenty-five years conceived solo and collaborative works performed and received in residency in Europe, Africa, South America and the United States.

Luisa Greenfield I am a Berlin-based visual artist working predominantly with film and text. I am also a PhD candidate in Art and Media at the University of Plymouth, UK where my practice-based research seeks to expand the function of the essay film by considering it a form of thought capable of offering resistance against an accelerated, progress oriented perception of history. 

Renata Gaspar and Alia Zapparova

Echoes (reading presence)

We always begin again, always in the middle, and always in response.

Presence seems to be more prone to vulnerability than absence. When present, our voice(s), our silences, give in to the exchange – to the encounter with the other’s presence, and the vibrations of their pauses, omissions, interruptions, hesitations, ambivalences.

In conversation, presence becomes an act of reciprocity, with those who are present as well as those who are absent, or present otherwise, as our legacies, genealogies, ancestries. In this way, history too is present, in the acknowledgment of a future to care for, in the form of possibilities, exceeding and unfixing our presence, as we gesture in response towards each other and in dialogue with what is (already) there and has always been. 

We activate presence with our bodies, our voices, and the rhythm of their tonalities and variations. Response is a necessary condition of presence, yet response is uncertain. The uncertainty of the gesture unmakes presence, turns its process unruly. By redirecting meaning, response shifts the body’s direction, like an echo which brings back to you your presence, and with it, the possibility to reposition again, in the middle, always in response.

Alia Zapparova is an artist and writer; her work is a search for poetics of transformation through the everyday.

Renata Gaspar is an artist and independent researcher whose work explores inclusive and pluralistic approaches to the socio-political construction of place in/through art-making.

Tereza Stehlikova and Alexa Wright

Being (T)Here

During the first London lockdown we decided to create a simple daily “ritual” of exchanging a single photo and a brief text that captured something about our day’s experience, for the duration of 30 days. This idea was a continuation of our project which begun just before the pandemic (same principle but being in different places, i.e. UK, India, Czechia) and was initiated as an exploration of what it means to be physically present in a particular place, while also elsewhere, through the use of technology. During the pandemic, the question of what it means to be “here” (i.e. in the presence and present in the physical location of our body) or elsewhere (in a zoom meeting etc.) became highly relevant, not only in regards to a sense of belonging, identity, and sense of home, but also in a deeper phenomenological sense. The project is currently being developed into a concept for an exhibition.

Dr Tereza Stehlikova is an artist based in London, currently engaged in a cross-disciplinary research, investigating how moving image can be used to communicate embodied experience, by exploring multi-sensory aesthetics and embodiment. She just launched an online arts journal Tangible Territory (https://tangibleterritory.art/). Tereza works as a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.

Dr Alexa Wright is an artist living and working in London. She uses a wide range of media including photography, video, sound, interactive installation and book works to explore our perception of reality. Alexa has worked at the intersection of art and medical science since the late-1990s, when she became known for her award-winning photographs of people with phantom limbs, ‘After Image’. Alexa is Reader in Art and Visual Culture at the University of Westminster. 

Tiny Festival Producers – Annikki Wahlöö, Benedikte Esperi, Cia Runesson Benedikte Esperi, Cia Runesson

Presenting presence in absence

Presenting presence in absence

How do presence present itself

Are we present now online – like some kind of warm data that flows between us seemingly invisible

Like dark matter – maybe some kind of sensual matter – matter of the senses –  can we create matter of the senses online – we will explore the possibility of creating a space for this to happen.

We are in the process of creating a community work based in Eskilstuna during a big conference on culture and art where we will try this out in the end of February working around the concept of presenting presence by absence and absence by presence. 

We will explore our format of tiny spaces such as one to one performances in tents – only this time we will work on how to create these tiny meetings in certain important spaces around the city of Eskilstuna for a live online format. We want to explore how to bring different senses into this format not only hearing and seeing – but also our other senses  – in spaces that during the earlier conferences used to be bepeopled by large numbers with meetings and mutual co-existences in an inter-relational ritual, but in the present pandemic times are empty and absent of action.

We will create a three-day residency in March to explore our findings further and present our work during the winter session in an online conversation/performance at the end of this residency. 

Benedikte Esperi holds an MFA in Contemporary Performative Arts – Academy of Music and Drama, Public Art and Philosophy – Valand Academy, Choreography – Academy of Dance and Circus. She produce dance videos, performances / live art and installations. She is regularly invited as a lecturer within her genres.

Cia Runesson is an actress and performance artist. She trained classical theatre in London and physical theatre in Århus, Denmark. She holds a MFA in Contemporary Performative Arts from Gothenburg University. 

A member and co-founder of performance collective Force Majeure whose work has been seen in Scandinavia and beyond, producing live installations, performances and concerts in venues like Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo and Gothenburg, BIT in Bergen, Basement 6 in Shanghai etc. 

Annikki Wahlöö has studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York, Malmö Theatre Academy and at UniArts in Stockholm (BA). In 2010 she studied with the SITI company in Saratoga Springs New York, she holds a MFA in theatre/acting from the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg 2016. She also has a background within History of Ideas and Theatre Science (BA) and an education in scriptwriting for film and television. She is currently working as a scriptwriter, actress and performer in various projects in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Italy.