Ursina Tossi

Ursina Tossi
Cohort 6: 2012-2014
Website: http://www.ursinatossi.com


doing form

My research is circling around “doing form“. I explore choreographic production processes, I gather experiences and observations from working within contemporary dance and I consult the notions of hierarchy, autopoiesis, perception, decision-making and observation coming from a philosophical – constructivist stance and system theory. In my choreographic practice I train and experiment with perception as an activity (see Alva Noë) and movement (moving-perceiving and making it an object of observation). Form is done in a process of coming back to it, it is appearing in circularity. Form prefigures movements and is figured out by movements. Form is in-forming, de-forming and per-forming in choreography. Form appears to us as something with an inside and outside. This seems to be a problem of processing thoughts – a problem of observation.[1] Approaching form spacewise leads to questions concerning the division of space and therefore to hierarchization. I consider hierarchical structures as something that appears in the way we order our thoughts, in how we observe and organize bodies in choreography and how “the dance world“ is organized. In contemporary dance hierarchies are extremely normal (within production, within theatre and its surrounding, all institutions etc.) How do we deal with the contradiction of – to put it positive – a desire of working non-hierarchically and the necessity of form? How should we then revise the language we use to describe the “non–hierarchical” which is propagated in dance as a mode of production? How do we deal with the hierarchies within and without the body working with and through bodies own and others: that means working with complex autopoietic[2] systems that constantly alter?

[1] Ranulph Glanville & Francisco Varela, YOUR INSIDE IS OUT AND YOUR OUTSIDE IS IN, http://www.autopoiesis.com/documents/Varela%20Glanville%201980.pdf , accessed: 10/02/14, 9.52: „Thus there come into being „things“, and thus they aquire , in our minds, in and outsides: and hence hierarchy.“

[2] I came across the concept of autopoiesis described by Maturana & Varela as the form in which living systems are organized, to go further in the exploration. Living systems are autonomous and organisational closed but structurally entangled with their milieu and in this aspect open, plastic and changeable.

 Research question/statement

What do I, when do we give form to something? How is “doing form” happening in choreography and in the “dance world”? How might these be related? How is form forming us back? How are hierarchical structures related to these processes?

 Position of research within the artistic field

I live and work as an artist in Hamburg. Since 2008 my choreographic work is supported and funded by the Cultural Department of Hamburg. I work independently from a production house.

I ran my own company from 2005-07 and I created a platform for multidisciplinary art (www.all1forum.de) 2007-2010. I’m connected to K3 Choreographic Centre, where I had an 8-month residency in 2011/12 researching on labour & work. To associate my interest in other fields (like experimental music, visual arts etc.), and to open up dance for another audience I decided to move from time to time my performances to non – theatre venues. I teach choreography and dance to professionals and non-professionals within and without institutions.

I’m interested in how the conditions we work in influence and form our way of thinking, talking and moving. The body and the physical approach to theoretical and political questions is triggering my work. I’m inspired by Niklas Luhmann, C. Malabou, P. Sloterdijk and the intersection between philosophy and politics. Being a dancer and maker includes for me to produce and perform art, learn, and to pass on the knowledge. In general I’m deeply interested in how collaboration with other disciplines can open up new ways of working. I see myself working in a corridor beyond main-stream and as a strong part of the local dance-scene.

Description of methodology and relation to discursive and branding practices

I explore form-giving facing the problem that the creator is the creation which produces circularity. Circularity is created by self-referential movements.

Researching for me is a process of reflecting and/or while moving. It is a mutual form-giving process and a form of diaIogueing and reformulating. I understand discursive practices as this continuous negotiation between theory and practice. My methods to reach the aim of writing the thesis are collecting theoretical – and documenting practical material along my research process. I encounter my choreographic practices with a philosophic approach to system theory, constructivism with a choreographic interest. It is less a translational process but more a “moving of perspectives”: I reflect my practices through the form of system theory e.g. by looking at decision-making in choreographic work. Furthermore the dialogue with the people I work with is informing my research: The BA students of ArtEZ, my students from CDSH (Contemporary Dance School Hamburg), workshops and classes I give in Hamburg.

Video-making became a consistent part of my artistic practise. The video bricolages I produced for the presentations is how I relate to art branding. I consider them as a means that reflect my concerns and are pieces of art themselves and also contain documentary materials. They form back in two directions: The problems I’m facing while working with different media helps me to gain new information and ideas. The form (how I deal with time, space, physical interaction and language) of presentation created a respond in the audience which in-formed my research but also the situation of presenting them. They work on the intersection between performance, dance and philosophy.

(v. April 30, 2014)

Research videos: 


Choreographic projects:

  • Unter Hirschen
  • Your Inside is in and your Outside is out


Doing Form

Form and hierarchy – how are they related? How do they affect choreography and the “dance world“? How does one handle these charged notions? How do they affect the way one speaks and thinks about bodies and how do they form the way one gives form in choreographic work?  My thesis deal with questions concerning “doing form“ and being formed by form. I look from very far criticising the modes of dance production – and from very close reflecting my situation in the field. Moving perspective from inside to outside and vice versa is reflected with systems theory by Niklas Luhmann. Every object can be observed as a system in its environment. Systems theory enables the observer to observe how information enters a system, how the system is re-produced by its elements and how a specific form refers to all other possible forms. The title “doing form“ is a verbal container for discoveries, differences and paradoxes I found throughout my research but it is also a place holder for interests and matters of concern such as applying the notion of “plasticity“ by Catherine Malabou to dismantle “flexibility“ as a ideological speech within a capitalist mode of producing and giving back sovereignty to the pure living and this way to the body. The conflict that is growing from the observation that hierarchical structures appear as a necessary by-product of form giving processes opened a space for questions, temporary solutions and choreographic creations. In my practice as well as in my thesis I took from movement and body as well as choreography, philosophy and video making.