Into the woods


I am outside the door. The floor is cold. There are sounds everywhere. Both near and distant. Birds integrate with the humming traffic, both of which are playing with the speed of sound. Slowing down and stopping, starting and moving again. A crow is surprisingly cutting through space as if its looking for action. It draws my attention and make me smile. Then I go towards the door, and stand in front of it. I “knock-knock-knock” in the most stereotypical way. I open the door, close my eyes and enter the space.

“WOW! Hello space. You have changed since the last time I saw you”.
I have completely lost my orientation! The bumpy floor has now become a steep hill. I struggle to keep my balance and get a bizarre sensation of climbing downhill from a mountain. Yet I know I am inside a room! The structure of sand on the floor, contains millions of details. And only a very few I am able to grasp. As I slowly carry on my “hike”, I meet all sorts of textiles, sharp edges, wires, poles, cold and warm surfaces (which in fact turned out to be my computer- haha), fake fur, patterns. All objects of which I in this space, with my eyes closed, somehow see as the “nature of things”. I am in the woods.

Following the guidelines of Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA

How are you choreographed?

How can I approach sensing the space without putting it in a certain time or shape.

The body is easily reduced.

Outside, trying to listen three-dimensionally I remember that I understand the sounds as a composition.

Inside the roughness of the floor under my feet is an opener to a world of sensing and creating sense. The meaning arises from the experience. I cannot move without reflecting on how I am choreographed, how the space guides me and how memory at the same time awaken a certain choreography. I am longing to set myself loose from judging movement and phases. I am very sensitive to my self-judgement and I keep coming back to how stupid society can make the body, the image of the body and how easy it is to be ironic instead of being. The aestethtics of being is complicated to enter without identifying it and feeling the fear. I try to move beyond fear and from addressing and identifying movement to experiencing the movement in itself.

I forgot that I could have been 100 or 4, but subconsciously I sometimes enter being four and sometimes I have the same compassion for myself inside my sensing body as I can have for an old person; a body that is full of experience. I notice when my body directly can approach its surroundings and move through space as a known landscape.

I can differ from when I identify the space as I remember to have seen it and when I remember it first – when I am there.

The architecture serves my body. The curve serves differently than the right angle wall, underneath my feet there is rough stones, bamboo mats, concrete.

I remember that when I met a pole there was something familiar, and then our previous talking of Miley Cirus sexual pole dancing and licking made my approach of the pole suddenly unfamiliar and bizarre.  When the instructions some time later reminded me of poles as trees I could again approach and let myself be touched by the pole without being culturally embarrassed by my behaviour.

The movement from the body differs from when ‘I’ do ; when I feel they are performed and when they are playfully alive and awake responds to ”each passing moment”, responding to the situation the environment serves me. When my body recognises a choreographic situation I am caught by the comtemporary discource of reducing and being ironic to the sensing body. The protest against the aesthetics of release and improvisational work in the body sometimes force on the body that it shouldn’t sense.

Is there a time for taking the body back again, and not needing to be responsible of the aesthetics it is producing. The image doesn´t give an imaginary experience. This text is already reducing the capacity of the body. There is still a struggle for language, but I will use every language I have available to understand and to be understood.

To allow rest.

To see with the eyes closed, how the light changes.

To see with my eyes open the meaning of using colours and contrast.

To be silent to Helen Keller.

To use silence without being afraid of making a statement through sounds.

To name something ‘Susan’ and then later The Museum of Unconditional Surrender; to remember that it is a subtitle of one of my favorite books which I never finish. And which I read in different cities, always starting from the beginning. To recognise that I am no longer writing to myself but to someone else. To you. To feel a bit embarrassed of the unwilling poetic, and therefor maybe cliché in the past sentence.

To resist making fool of the body

To feel that an on-going lifelong theme/ work/ project is arising. The choreographed body as not different from the architectural body and not different from the life choreographed. How does/did life choreograph you? How to investigate this with a deep compassion, an ease and not being afraid of sensing my whole body as once? Not being afraid of making form and appear foolish. Not being afraid of aesthetics that doesn’t feel cool. Not being afraid of identifying a movement or a response as authentic within its frame, situation and circumstance. Saying farewell to non-sensing, saying farewell to irony, saying farewell to coolness, welcoming  unconditional surrender.


First impressions of the yellow cocoon room

Monday the 21st of October I arrived at the Mitaka Reversible Destiny Lofts. With three hours alone in this structure I wandered around in the space. Not really sure where to be or what to do. Should I sit down? Should I explore the space? Should I rest? Should I work?  After wandering around for some time I was drawn into the yellow cocoon shaped room. I attached a hammock in the ceiling and took up my camera. I laid the camera on my stomach, imaging the camera to be the eyes of my stomach investigating this round room. After some time I fell to sleep…

Se video here:


Landing Sites schedule

Tentative Schedule for Landing Sites, Oct 20-28
Sunday 20th: Travel
Monday 21st:
Arrival at Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA. Getting settled.
20.00: Dinner – local sushi restaurant.
Tuesday 22nd:
10.oo-13.00  Breakfast meeting in Room 303/ Kehai Coordinating Unit
13.00-17.00 Collective work – exploring the Kehai Coordinating Unit via the instructions provided on how to be a loft inhabitant.
17.00- 19.00 Screening of  CHILDREN WHO WON’T DIE—A Documentary Film on Shusaku Arakawa. Directed by Nobu Yamaoka Music: Keiichiro Shibuya. Narration: Tadanobu Asano.
19.00 ——-> Welcome Party with Momoyo Homma, curator of the Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA, Matsuda Takeyoshi and other residents.
Wednesday 23rd:
10.00 -11.00 Breakfast meeting in Room 202/ Critical Resemblance Room


13.00 – 17.00 Visit to Substitutional Reality Laboratory, Riken Brain Science Research Institute.
17.00 ——-> Free time/ have fun in the city
Thursday 24th:
10.00-11.00 Breakfast meetin in Room 303 Kehai Coordinating Unit
11.00-18.00 Open schedule/own projects
15.00-15.30 Visiting the roof top
18.00 —–> Artist Miyuki Kawamura and linguist Ryoko Uno visit us and present their work with a lecture about “Dancing Self Theory”. Dinner and discussions.
Friday 25th:
10.00-11.00 Breakfast meeting Room 202/ Critical Resemblance Room
12.00 —–> Open schedule/own work/optional screening of “For Example. A Critique of Never”, Arakawa and Gins, 1971
Saturday 26th:
10.00-11.00 Breakfast meeting Room 303 Kehai Coordinating Unit
12.00 —–> Open schedule/own work/logging
Sunday 27th:
10.00 – 12.00 Breakfast meeting in Room 202/ Critical Resemblance Room. Summing up, group discussion
12.00 – 19.30 Packing, clearing up, prepare space for evening talk, etc
16.30 —–> Ken Mogi talk Critical Resemblance Room Room 303, RDL
Monday 28th: Departure


Choreographers for the future

Seminar series: Choreographers for the future
– led by MA students in choreography

18 October 2013, 12.00-16.00 hrs
Prøvesal 2, Oslo National Academy of the Arts
Fossveien 24‎, N-0051 Oslo


Theme: choreographers as creators of new entrepreneurship as seen in relation to the MA study programme; the development of own projects, methods, arenas and definition of choreographers’ field of action.

Brynjar Bandlien, freelance dance artist: Introduction – what are the characteristics of entrepreneurship?
Bjarne Kvinnsland, freelance composer: How to develop your own production apparatus
Amanda Steggell, prof. choreography: Entrepreneurship everywhere
Ingri Fiksdal, research fellow at Oslo National Academy of the Arts: Presents her research project
Heidi Jessen, Solveig Styve Holte and Anne Kathrine Fallmyr, MA choreography: Thoughts on starting our own enterprises

[photo: Elisabeth Wiehe constructing part of the Ghost Net for the Currently project, co-curated by Ross Dalziel and Amanda Steggell]

Field trip to Tokyo

Landing Sites – a further-field pursuit of new tools for choreography


From 20 – 28 October 2013 Amanda Steggell (prof.), Solveig Styve Holte, Katherine Fallmyr, Heidi Jessen (MA choreography) and Tormod Carlsen (MA directing) will travel for a week’s residency/ field trip at the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. The lofts are  built by the artists and architects Arakawa and Gins. The residency is the first of a two-part workshop for exploring the body’s capacity to co-create event-spaces with any given environment.
Read more here!

Landing Sites

– a further-field pursuit of new tools for choreography

Amanda Steggell 2013


Research should no longer be done off to one side, in a school, a library or laboratory. Where one lives needs to become a laboratory for researching, for mapping directly, the living body itself, oneself as a world-forming inhabitant. (Arakawa and Gins)


I will travel with Solveig Styve Holte, Kathrine Fallmyr, Heidi Jessen (MA choreography) and Tormod Carlsen (MA theatre directing)  for a week’s residency/ field trip at the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. The lofts are  built by the artists and architects Arakawa and Gins. The residency is the first of a two-part workshop for exploring the body’s capacity to co-create event-spaces with any given environment.

The lofts, dedicated to the memory of Hellen Keller, are a physical iteration of Arakawa and Gin’s book Architectural Body (2002). They enable its complex discourses and schemas to be probed directly through the embodied experience. The purpose of the visit is to study the shared experience of cohabiting a built environment uniquely constructed to grapple with the nature of embodiment, cognition and personal action and reorient the body and its capacity to apprehend and shape the world. A perceptual approach to ‘attention’, ‘decision’ and ‘action’ is a key element of this study. Central questions are;

  • how can the complex relationships between a body and its co-construction of the environment be analyzed and measured?
  • how can decisions and actions in choreographic procedures be accounted for?
  • what kinds of tools for choreography can be developed from addressing the above questions?

The project is bound up in my research in choreography as a procedure that departs from-, yet extends beyond the subjective body (of a dancer) and the production of dance, while expanding its contact area into other fields. It also constitutes a case study in research-based teaching involving students actively and directly. In both cases the intention is to propagate new sets of perceptual, cognitive and kinaesthetic tools for individual choreographic projects and interdisciplinary collaborations, dance-wise, stage-wise and otherwise. 
From an international perspective the project resonates with a growing discourse about ‘expanded choreography’ fronted by, amongst others, the Swedish choreographer Mårten Spångberg. It also bears a relevance in relation to the Re:place research project initiated by KHiB in cooperation with KHiO and the Grieg Academy.

Activities will include tasks and discussions drawn from the collective experience of inhabiting two loft apartments. Several excursions and meetings will introduce the researchers to the cultural life of Tokyo. Participants are expected to keep multi-sensory and multimodal diaries, with words, drawings and video of their experiences for web-based presentation. The insights gained from the experience will be carried over into the second, six week workshop, this time in a black box setting at KHiO directly proceeding the residency. 
The outcomes will be presented in an open forum at KHiO at the end of the second workshop. A presentation is also planned to take place at ANX, Oslo in the context of Re:place, led in KHiO by Ass. Prof. Synne Bull, Academy of Fine Art.


Since the mid 1990’s, when I also co-founded the live art group Motherboard (1996-2008) with Per Platou,  I have explored how networked technologies have transformed the way people work, socialize, create and share information, and organize the flow of people, ideas, and things around the globe. I have investigated how a body copes with flows of information passing between the digital, natural and lived world, grappling with how these flows shape perceptions of time, space and place. As a consequence my artistic practice once concerned with the staging of dance, has escaped into many artistic fields and scraped up against scientific ones.

The works I have created have taken on many forms, from live art happenings to site-specific and relocatable installations, and as performative interventions in public space. They are experimental and participatory, often occurring in spaces beyond those normally reserved for the arts – or to put it another way – where life happens.

From an international perspective this work, often positioned between performance, electronic and media art, now finds a landing site in a current discourse about ‘expanded choreography’. Developing new strategies and tools to bring a refreshed political/critical edge and awareness to choreography as a producer of knowledge is central to this debate.

About Arakawa and Gins
Shusaku Arakawa (b. Nagoya, Japan 1936 – 2010) and Madeline Gins (b.1941 Long Island, New York) have collaborated on a wide range of artistic, architectural, poetic and theoretical projects that are profound in their insight and influences. Arakawa had a background in science and medicine, and Gins in creative writing, literature, philosophy and painting. After meeting in New York in 1963 they soon achieved global recognition for their initial conceptual artwork The Mechanism of Meaning (1963-71). Their work is inspired by Helen Keller, the American author and political activist who lost her sight and hearing as a child. By learning how to communicate she seemed to prove that reversing one’s destiny is possible. Together they developed an esoteric philosophy of life and art, and a theory called ‘reversible destiny’. Their mission – to combat totalitarianism and outlaw aging – is voiced via numerous concurrent treatises, paintings, books and built projects.

The Architectural Body and the Reversible Destiny Lofts
Architectural Body (2002) demonstrates the inter-connectedness of architectural design, the poetic process, and philosophical inquiry. It focuses on a perceptual approach to ‘attention’, ‘decision’ and ‘action’ to set out the stakes for sustainability and improved living. Coordinating every ‘scale of action’ – from the mere ‘noticing of things’ to the ‘co-construction of the body and environment’ – form the stakes.

This work represents an important dimension within contemporary research practices. It addresses convergence and complexity across the arts and sciences on the ‘scales of action’ relevant to human experience. The refusal to reduce the terms of one discourse or experience to that of another, while always working ‘on-site where living happens’ causes the architectural body as a practice to resonate with all kinds of practitioners. Once grasped, topics such as ‘organism that persons’, ‘landing sites’ and ‘coordinology’ can be used by anybody. Rather than being recipes for making things, they are procedures to enable new connections and relationships.

The Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka both embody the discourses of Architectural Body and are a physical schema and a shell-space for its practice. The peculiar three dimensionality of the lofts exposes how relationships between things and events occurring inside of it are ‘measurable’ and ‘accountable’. Designed for communal living, they are never-the-less a challenge to live in. And this is exactly the point!

The lofts stimulate the senses, and force inhabitants to use physical strength and imagination. They are made up of many coloured rooms of diverse materials, and in the form of cylinders, cubes and spheres. The rooms are distributed around a central area with a sunken kitchen and a floor that resembles miniature sand dunes. Floors and ceilings slant awkwardly. Strangely placed windows, tiny balconies, level changes and other surrealist tricks convey an off-balanced feeling of being in several places at once; of a breakdown of interior and exterior, mind, body and environment. The absence of doors challenges residents to find ways of being private. There is no furniture except for kitchen and bathroom facilities. Yet there are oddly placed power switches, and hooks and rods for suspending and reorganizing ropes, nets, swings and things – and more.

When I read Architectural Body it is with an uncanny feeling of deja vu. What is expressed is akin to the difficult-to-pin-down-and-put-words-on choreographic processes in my own work. New perspectives for articulating my choreography, and sets of tools for choreographic projects may emerge from the experience of being a loft resident-choreographer-researcher. Sharing this experience with students will form a common ground for approaching a six week workshop in choreography at KHiO directly following the visit. Here we will start in reverse; with a black box theatre as a shell-space under construction, moving tentatively towards its transformation into an event-space according to each participant’s choreographic project.

Tokyo connection
During 2012-13 I spent several months as resident artist in Tokyo where, amongst others, I was introduced to artist and complex systems scientist Prof. Takashi Ikegami, principle researcher at the Ikegami Laboratory, Tokyo University. Takashi’s passion is in discovering how life emerges, and all life, he say’s, starts with motion. Mine is in the choreography of life. It was Takashi who introduced me to the work of Arakawa and Gins, who in turn have inspired his work in both science and art.

The laboratory is highly interdisciplinary. Recent research activities investigate how non-biological artificial life can emerge in the real world. Experiments with chemicals, the internet web and artworks are just come components of the research. I visited the lab several times, where I met Takashi’s colleagues and students. I was consequently invited to spend a month at the lab in June/July 2013 to explore the potentials of developing choreographic tools on the intersections of cutting edge science and artistic practices, with an eye towards ‘attention’, ‘time’ and ‘memory’ in different natural and artificial systems. This project, and my previous visits to Japan, set a background and resources for the project Landing Sites.


The potential outcomes of the project are;

  • as enhanced/extended pedagogical prompts and analysis for choreography students
  • presentations of the experience and reflections on its potential and limits for colleagues and students within the Academy of Dance, across KHiO, to targeted institutions as well as a general public
  • a web-based presentation/documentation to reach a wider public
  • a report that can form the basis for a future article


Reversible Destiny, Arakawa and Gins
Reversible Destiny Lofts (in memory of Hellen Keller) MITAKA

Architectural Body, Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins,The University of Alabama Press, 2002 E-ISBN-13: 9780817381905
(Download link )

The Mechanism of Meaning. Work in Progress (1963-1971, 1978), Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Harry N. Abrams, 1979
ISBN: 0810906678

Expanded Choreography. Situations, Movements, Objects, a three day conference at MACBA, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Mercat de les Flors, March 2012

Takashi Ikegami Laboratory, Tokyo University

Re:place artistic research project