moving viewers: an interview with Lisa Nelson


An interview with improvisational dance artist Lisa Nelson for

Conducted in New York by Marlon Barrios Solano (February 15/2008) and video editing by Ashley A. Friend.

LISA NELSON is a dance-maker, improvisational performer, videographer, and collaborative artist who has been exploring the role of the senses in the performance and observation of movement since the early '70s. Stemming from her work with video and dance in the '70s, she developed an approach to spontaneous composition and performance she calls Tuning Scores: a communication format for ensemble performance that she presents as site-specific Observatories. She performs, teaches, and creates dances in diverse spaces on many continents, and maintains long-term collaborations with other artists, including Steve Paxton, Daniel Lepkoff, videoartist Cathy Weis, and Image Lab, a multidisciplinary research/performance ensemble. She received a NY "Bessie" Dance and Performance award in 1987 and an Alpert Award in the Arts in 2002. For 30 years, she was co-editor of Contact Quarterly, an international dance and improvisation journal, and directs Videoda, a project for videotapes of improvisational dance. She lives in the mountains of Vermont in the U.S.

Video images from workshop organized by Movement Research
Thank you!

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Location: new york city (Show Map)


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Comment by Johannes Birringer on April 15, 2008 at 3:33pm

I also mentioned the Lisa Nelson interview, subsequently, on the Empyre discussion on "environments and wired sustainability" (April forum), drawing attention to Lisa's commentaries on environmental instructions (or phenomenological "entities" such a objects or bodies whose weight, shape, texture and impact we learn to know or sense etc) and their import on movement, moving bodies and a whole range of physiologic and kinsesiologic knowledge systems (animals have theirs too of course).

If you are interested in cross linking/connecting to the EMPYRE discussion (they have a monthly debate forum which is monitored, and guest artists and practitioners and scholasre get invited by moderators to present positions which are then open to discussion by all), you can go to


They also archive their debates, and you will easily find the link to it on the soft_skinned_space/empyre site above.
Comment by Johannes Birringer on April 15, 2008 at 3:20pm

The adaptive agents or the evolved articulations of the digital (in the wired /projected environment) is a level of the (post)choreographic that we have not fully addressed either, as presumably, at least in regard to dance, the aura of the choregrapher (experienced at Sadlers Wells for sure, last week) is still alive and well and the notion of the choreographic refers to problems that humans solve? I think the cybernetic and AI discussion, however, also points to other co-evolutions and wild arrays of real and virtual formations, mutations, and gestations.

"Environmental Sensualities undergird all discussions of wired sustainability" someone wrote today on the Empyre discussion list.

Jaime, do you see dance as primarily a form of "non-verbal communication" ? but surely in interactive and emergent virtual scenarios how do you separate the dancer from the dance, and what is the "choreographic" in the extended sense of sensorial flows and projected flows we sought to imagine?

is the "choreographic" not the kind of "object" you deconstructed, Jaime? (the "work" is that very process which is also your "self" and becoming, there is no exteriority to the process or to the work, but an interdependence of forces in the relation of which both the self and the work emerge, but never sedimenting into something complete and fixed), a non object, a non structure, an already-reproducible mutation.

Finally, a comment on earlier references to Artaud and the "body without organs."

I like what Zizek wrote about the melancholia of the choreographers. We are not too sure about the virtualization of reality, and Zizek says it's “crucial to maintain open the radical ambiguity of how cyberspace will affect our lives: this does not depend on technology as such but on the mode of its social inscription. Immersion into cyberspace can intensify our bodily experience (new sensuality, new body with more organs, new sexes …), but it also opens up the possibility for the one who manipulates the machinery which runs the cyberspace literally to steal our own (virtual) body, depriving us of the control over it, so that one no longer relates to one’s body as to ‘one’s own.’ What one encounters here is the constitutive ambiguity of the notion of mediatization.” The theft of the body may present a very likely trauma to contemporary dance.
Comment by Johannes Birringer on April 15, 2008 at 3:19pm

I'm not sure whether Scott wouldn't want to do that himself at some point, right now I should perhaps give you the link to the website brief on the seminar:

ENTITY Seminar

< href= "">Random Dance Co.’s website

"The specific aims of the ENTITY research project are: to develop adaptive software agents that can generate unique solutions to choreographic problems; and to continue to work towards establishing principles of choreographic and physical thinking (distributed and embodied). The seminar comprises a series of short presentations from members of the research team including Phil Barnard (MRC Cognition and Brain Studies Unit, Cambridge), Scott deLahunta (R-Research Coordinator), Nick Rothwell (independent composer and software programmer) and Anil Seth (Informatics, University of Sussex). These will focus on background and current developments of the project and be followed by a short discussion."

What I found fascinating was the discussion on the vision not only of these metaformative processes that Jaime addresses, but also their autonomous software partners (adaptive agents that learn and evolve) -- and one should not forget the environment and what Lisa Nelson refers to in her interview (the sensed world and the sensing of the world, the information the environment sends to us at all times to affect us) The discussion last weekend seemed to pair evolutionary biology (selection) with creativity (physical creativity), and then we heard about , AI (the modeling), emergence and complexity /systems theory in rather interesting, sometimes also frustrating ways (many the visual examples were drawn from robotics and auto-locomotion, interestingly).
Comment by Johannes Birringer on April 15, 2008 at 3:09pm
This is a very inspiring, strong, highly articulate presentation of her work and her ideas on movement/environment by Lisa, and her working method, her concepts. When I watched the video it tended to freeze a bit, every now and then, without that it ever stopped captivating me, in fact (nice editing, Ashley), i enjoyed the stop motion effect and used the moments of silence to think about what Lisa said, i also used the time to check up on J J Gibson, and wonder why one doesn't read him more or teach him... well, and then i thought it would be nice to re-reference this video and what Lisa says here, about receiving instructions or information from the environment and weaving her video (if this could be done) into the current on going debate on post-choreography, real time composition, embodiment/enaction (carried on in the dance-tech maillist).

Since i am not sure how reflection./dialogue and debate works on this website (as there are so many things going on), all i can do here is refer you to the dance tech maillist:

here you can sign in to subscribe to ""> the dance tech list

and it's easy to find all the postings to the aforementioned discussion in our archives of the last months .

I posted the following reference to this VIDEO INTERVIEW last night, affirming the spontaneous and positive feedback coming from Jeannette Ginslov:

From: Jeannette Ginslov Sent: Mon 4/14/2008 8:24 PM
Subject: [dance-tech] Re: interview with Lisa Nelson at

Hi Marlon

Thanks for this video. we need more of these - with artists talking so
eloquently of their work and process. i really enjoyed the added dance
workshop footage this time. it fleshed out the ideas put forward and made
our discussions online more concrete than abstract - straight from the
horses mouth, so to speak...a perceptible change of my organisation in
connection with this technological gaze was most enlightening.

* * *

From: Johannes Birringer Sent: Mon 4/14/2008 11:36 PM
Subject: [dance-tech] Re: movement & environment

hi all,

yes indeed, a wonderful conversation about movement and "taking instructions" from the environment and re-organizing/self-reorganizing though sensual perceptions.

It would be interesting to review this interview in light also of what Jaime wrote

This complex feedback, reflexivity, interrelation of forces is what I call a
metaformative process. It dosen't exclude performativity, it rather includes
it, but it exceeds it as well. It is a process in which the very structures
thorugh which we "articulate" and "understand" emerge together with the
realities we attempt to apprehend: it is the movement of thought itself, the
self, that emerges in the process.

Now we can understand this in the context of such theories of mirror
neurons, enactive cognition and proprioception, perhaps, since everytime I
see a movement of yours, I mirror it and embody it, and then it has become
something else, If I attempt to reproduce it I cannot but generate
something different, in the specificity of this body, your gesture is
transduced to my field of forces, my register of associations, my open
coordinates of interaction. The mirrorings that constitute embodiment have
always fragmentary and deforming effects in the forces that are reflected.

On the issue of the generative, and the evolving, i want to mention the premiere of ENTITY by Random Dance Co, at Sadlers' Wells last weekend (in London), and before the Friday show Wayne McGregor and Scott deLahunta invited interested folks to a research meeting with the team that has worked on ENTITY. I think it would interest all of you, to draw a bit on their dicussion of the post-choreographic and choreographic, and I'm not s

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