Embodied Correspondences. A Practice-Based Seminar on Improvisation

Summer Semester 2024

“Whole bodies are oriented and structurally responsive to their environments, and whole persons, and not isolated internal parts of persons, refer {to} and are about things in those environments.” [Ellie Epp, Being About]

How do we process an unfolding event somatically, as well as linguistically? This seminar roots itself in a study of improvisation as inherently responsive to the unstable—and often indeterminate—climatic, cultural, social, and political conditions of its practice. Drawing on the work and writing of activists, artists, dancers, thinkers, filmmakers, musicians, and musicologists such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson & Robyn Maynard, John Cage, Ornette Coleman, Ellie Epp, Simone Forti, Milford Graves, George E. Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, and Christina Sharpe, we will critically explore core concepts of improvisation through modes of perceiving and cultivating attention, and of noticing attractions and patterns. Through exercises, readings, and discussions, we will seek to revise a working definition of correspondence (literally: answering together, from the Latin spondere: to pledge, to promise) beyond the epistolary, to consider a shared responsibility toco-responsiveness as inherently improvisational, and existing between the body-minds and the systems they exist with and within.

Interpolating these investigations, the Düsseldorf/Vienna-based multi-disciplinary artist and Dhrupad singer Harkeerat Mangat will deliver a guest lecture and discussion; Christopher Weickenmeier will introduce a selection of films by the filmmaker Ellie Epp; and Bitsy Knox will lead a field trip on foraging clay, investigating the formation of a (sculptural) body in relation to its environmental and extractive conditions.