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The object of my research involves an elementary particle of meaning: a letter of the alphabet. The claim that a single letter can make to meaning is clear in the case of an initial—which is usually a single, capital letter—and even more so when this initial appears in the context of a signature. Specifically, my research deals with the initial letter "R" used by the 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) in his signatures.
The meanings that an initial letter can mediate are not limited to identification and references to a full name. Letters of the alphabet, while being basic verbal units, have visual, not to say pictorial features. All by itself, a letter is not yet a word or phoneme. It exhibits the formal characteristics of a sign, grapheme, symbol. Many of the major writing systems in the world—phonetic or not—were derived from pictograms, from representational pictorial symbols. We all learned to write by drawing letters before combining them into words.
The pictorial history of letters and writing (then printing) has been ignored by mainstream art history, which has devoted its attention to works of "high art," like painting. At what scale does an intentionally-made visual form become pictorially significant? The pictorial component is obvious in calligraphy and typography, even if only to a specialized audience. But there is a blindness relative to letter forms, such that, for example, few readers are aware of the shapes of the type or handwriting they are reading. This blindness is all the more surprising considering the fact that even phonetic writing was a visual achievement: the rendering of speech visible.
Given this, the traditional opposition between the verbal and the visual, between word and image, needs to be reconsidered in terms of vision coupled with blindness. Vision, because eyes read texts and see pictures. Blindness, because in both cases the medium—print or paint—is overlooked. I postulate this seeing/not-seeing paradox as a principle of vision-based works that could be summarized by the word overlooking. This ambiguous term can mean both "not seeing things" and "seeing things." Often, we end up either not noticing certain things or "seeing things" by virtue of looking too much: this is a basic risk in research of any kind. In reference to Edgar Allan Poe's famous detective tale, The Purloined Letter (1844), which provides a paradigmatic case of overlooking, I like to call it the "Purloined Principle."
Given the pictorial significance of a letter of the alphabet, a study of Rembrandt's signature—the graphic sign of his identity—will reveal that it may be considered as a historical, existential and esthetic document in its own right.
This exposition presents the artistic research project 'Zum Spielen und zum Tantzen: A Kinaesthetic Exploration of the Bach Cello Suites through Studies in Baroque Choreography’, undertaken at the Norwegian Academy of Music between 2009 and 2012. I offer a historical background, discuss the method used, and present the artistic results in the form of video and audio files.
The dance titles of J. S. Bach's cello suites, derived from French court dance, clearly meant more to the composer than just abstract references. In Bach's time, dance practice permeated social life, and an intimate knowledge of fashionable dance forms was indispensable for a musician. The movements and gestures of these dances inevitably had a profound influence on performance style.
I have investigated how the practice of Baroque dance could influence my interpretation of the Bach suites. Learning the essentials of this style and its original choreographies and frequently accompanying dancing, I also explored the dance aspect of the cello suites by way of experiments with historical tempos as well as melodic and rhythmic reductions of the musical material.
Through this project, I hope to make a worthy contribution to the development of performance practice studies, offering a recontextualisation of Bach’s work that emphasises the close links between the expressive gestures of music and dance. The results have both artistic and pedagogic potential as tools to discover essential aspects of dance character in Baroque music.
'Information for Foreigners: Chronicles from Kashmir (IFF Kashmir)' is an adaptation of Griselda Gambaro's 1992 play of the same time. Directed and written by this researcher in July 2015 in close collaboration with a theatre company in Srinagar, 'IFF Kashmir' uses techniques from site-sensitive, promenade, and immersive theatre to perform narratives surrounding the conflicts in the region. Beginning with a description of the foundations and development of 'IFF Kashmir', this exposition puts forward insights that have emerged around the notion of 'balance': from an evolution of balance vis-à-vis narratives of victimhood and perpetration to considerations of balance regarding representations of time (the past, the present, and the future).
In the research project ‚trees: Rendering Ecophysiological Processes Audible‘, we worked on the acoustic recording, analysis and representation of ecophysiological and climatic processes in and around plants and studying the acoustic and aesthetic requirements for making them perceptible. We recorded sounds of plants and brought them in relation to other measurement data such as that relating to the microclimate, sap flow, changes in trunk radius and water potential in the plants’ organs – measurement data that is not auditory per se. How can processes that are beyond our normal perception be made directly perceptible, creating new experiences and opening a new window on nature for scientists, artists and the general public? To what extent is our sense of hearing of use? The product of our research project, the installation 'trees: Pinus sylvestris' replays sonifications of ecophysiological measurement data as well as recordings of acoustic emissions of a tree from early summer 2015 – the peak of the growth period of our experimentation plant, a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) located in the central Swiss Alps in Salgesch in the canton of Valais. The installation is designed as an artistic observation system that transforms ecophysiological data into a generative piece of music. 'Trees: Pinus sylvestris' makes experienceable and audible the normally hidden processes by which a plant copes with its local conditions.
The Research Catalogue (RC) is a searchable, documentary database of artistic research work and its exposition. The RC is an inclusive, open-ended, bottom-up research tool that supports the journal's academic contributions.