‘(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics’ is an interdisciplinary, practice-oriented research project funded by the Austrian Science fund (FWF, grant ZK93). Over four years, the researchers will investigate the improvised nature of ethical behavior, using live encounters with musical ensembles as case studies.

Improvisation and ethics are everywhere. People improvise in so many practices – from cooking to sports to migration policy – that it often goes unnoticed. The same is true of ethics; as self-interpreting animals, humans reveal and develop ethical values in practices as diverse as democracy, empirical science, and punk rock.

But the role of improvisation within ethics is often overlooked. Instead, many people and institutions tend to characterize ethics as a matter of consciously, rationally adhering to known norms and rules. Disputes over the content of such rules manifest as the ideological tribalism of our era.

In this project, we pursue an alternative understanding of ethics as an ongoing process. We take as our starting point an understanding of this process as a combination of habitual actions and the spontaneous refinement of those very actions, all driven by a sensitivity to social and environmental context: in a word, improvisation.

To test and develop this idea, we will engage with a practice in which improvisational qualities of ethics are unmistakable: experimental improvised music. The framework is a series of seven, 10-day-long sessions – a ‘musical ethics laboratory’ (Lab) – in collaboration with three leading improvising ensembles: the Splitter Orchester (Berlin), the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra (Norway), and the klingt collective (Vienna). Each ensemble will first participate alone, then in subsequent Labs with each of the others in turn, and finally all together.

In the Lab, musical ensembles improvise with and against given situations, structures, and interventions, in private and public settings. We will design the Lab collaboratively, drawing on our backgrounds in philosophy, anthropology, critical improvisation studies, and artistic research in music and theatre. Musicians will also shape the Lab, proposing their own ideas and reflecting on the work as it unfolds. We will interact with the musicians creatively, and through interviews and observation. Each session will result in public concerts and talks.

Our analysis of documentation from the Lab will focus on three things: (1) the evolution of musicians’ own materials and practical working methods; (2) their ‘improvising mindset’, including values, habits, and senses of self; and (3) the way they attend to each other and to other-than-human elements in their environments. This analysis will both inform future Lab sessions and ground a new, holistic conceptual framework for understanding the ethical significance of improvisation across a range of human activity. We hope this framework will be of interest to artists, scholars, and lay people alike.

The project is based at the Doctoral School for Artistic Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at University of Graz, and the Department of Philosophy at the the University of Vienna.



Research team

Joshua Bergamin
Co-PI
Phenomenologist and Philosopher of Mind
University of Vienna

Joshua Bergamin is a philosopher at the University of Vienna. His scholarly work has been guided by the question: (How) can we think without language?, leading to explorations on such diverse topics as skill acquisition, psychological disorders, animal cognition, and of course, improvisation.

Josh was awarded a PhD from Durham University, for a thesis written in the Philosophy Department’s ‘Applied Phenomenology’ research cluster. His work is highly interdisciplinary, combining analytic philosophy of mind with insights from continental phenomenology, supported by rigorous interpretations of empirical evidence from psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics, as well as anthropology and ethnomusicology.

Josh’s philosophical work forms part of a broader engagement with the political and ethical concerns that inspire it. In various former lives, he has worked as an advisor in the Parliament of New South Wales, and as a performance artist and percussionist in Edinburgh.

His artistic training and practice, particularly in improvised music and dance, complement his research themes and have inspired elements of his published work, which has appeared in both scholarly and literary journals.

Selected publications
Joshua A. Bergamin
'An Excess of Meaning: Conceptual Over-Interpretation in Confabulation and Schizophrenia'
Topoi (39) 1
2020
URL
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Being-in-the-flow: expert coping as beyond both thought and automaticity'
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (16) 3
2017
URL
Joshua A. Bergamin
'To Know and To Be: Second-Person Knowledge and the Intersubjective Self, A Reply to Talbot.'
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (6) 10
2017
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Bridging the Abyss: Re-interpreting Heidegger’s animals as a basis for inter-species understanding.'
The Human-Animal Boundary, ed. Nandita Batra, Mario Wenning
Lexington/Rowman & Littlefield
2019
Joshua A. Bergamin
'An Excess of Meaning: Interpretation and the Cut-Up'
Beatdom (21)
2021
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Kurt Cobain: Martyr of Authenticity'
Overland
2021
Caroline Gatt
Co-PI
Anthropologist, performer
University of Graz

Caroline Gatt is Senior Postdoctoral Research, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, University of Graz and Co-Investigator on the project ‘(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics’ funded by the Austrian Science Fund.

Gatt is an anthropologist and performer focusing on ontological politics, laboratory theater and song, co-design, and collaborative processes. Her publications include ethnographic and theoretical texts, practice-based multimodal essays, and experimental and collaborative projects exploring the potentials of printed ‘books’. Her book ‘An Ethnography of Global Environmentalism: Becoming Friends of the Earth’, published by Routledge, based on her doctoral research is the first in-depth ethnographic study of an international environmental organization. The book presents an account of the daily life and the ethical strivings of environmental activist members of FoEI, exploring how a transnational federation is constituted and maintained.

As a trained laboratory theater practitioner, Gatt developed a research project entitled ‘Crafting Anthropology in Practice’ (a subproject of ‘Knowing from the Inside’, Tim Ingold PI, European Research Council). This project focused on the ethical and political potential of responsive listening practices developed in laboratory theatre for anthropology. As part of this project, Gatt organised five international workshops exploring collaborative processes across different ways of knowing. The scholarly outputs included anthropological texts in international journals, as well as experimental publications such as the book ‘The Voices of the Pages’ (2017) and collaborative multi-modal essays such as ‘A Video Triptych: Genesis, Kavana, Sabbath’. Through this project, Gatt developed a form of performance lecture exploring an ethical/decolonizing approach to bring together different ways of knowing through anthropology and laboratory theater improvisation, with presentations in Cambridge (2014), Aberdeen (2016, 2017, 2018), Huddersfield (2016), Irvine (2016), London (2018), and Mainz (2019).

In collaboration with Valeria Lembo, Gatt organized the panel ‘Knowing by Singing’ at the Royal Anthropological Institute biennial conference 2018, and is currently editing, also with Lembo, a special issue for American Anthropologist entitled ‘Knowing by Singing: Ontological Politics, Logocentrism, and the Other-Than-Human’, which will include written as well as multimodal contributions.

Selected publications
Gey Pin Ang, Caroline Gatt
'Collaboration and Emergence: The Paradox of Presence and Surrender'
Collaborative Anthropologies (10) 1
2017
URL
Gey Pin Ang, Caroline Gatt
'Crafting Anthropology Otherwise: Alterity and Performance'
Who are 'We'? Reimagining Alterity and Affinity in Anthropology, ed. L Chua, N Mathur
Berghahn Books
2018
Caroline Gatt
'The Anthropologist as Member of the Ensemble: Anthropological Experiments with Theatre Makers'
Theatre as change: The Transformative Potential of Performance, ed. Alex Flynn, Jonas Tinius
Palgrave
2015
Caroline Gatt
'Breathing beyond Embodiment: Exploring Emergence, Grieving and Song in Laboratory Theatre'
Body & Society (26) 2
2020
URL
Caroline Gatt, Tim Ingold
'From description to correspondence: Anthropology in real time'
Design Anthropology: Juxtaposing theory and practice, ed. Wendy Gunn, Ton Otto, Rachel Smith
Berg Publishers
2013
Caroline Gatt
'Enlivening the Supra-personal Actor: Vectors at Work in a Transnational Environmentalist Federation'
Anthropology in Action (20) 2
2013
URL
Caroline Gatt, Diego Galafassi, Gey Pin Ang
'From an Ethics of Estrangement to an Anthropology in Life'
Journal of Embodied Research (4) 2
2021
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Gender, the Environment, and Ecofeminism'
The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed.
2021
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Introduction to the Special Issue'
Collaborative Anthropologies (10) 1
2017
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Living Atmospheres: Breath and Permeation through Song-action in Experimental Theatre'
Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically, ed. S Schmitt, S Schroer
Ashgate
2017
Caroline Gatt
'Performance'
The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed.
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
2019
URL
'Sketches for Regenerative Scholarship'
Caroline Gatt, Joss Allen
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Teaching and Learning Anthropology Otherwise: Lessons from a Collaboration between Laboratory Theatre and Anthropology'
Knowing from the Inside: Design for a Curriculum, ed. Tim Ingold
Bloomsbury
2022
Caroline Gatt
'Vectors, direction of attention and unprotected backs: Re-specifying relations in anthropology'
Anthropological Theory (13) 4
2013
Caroline Gatt (ed.)
The Voices of the Pages
University of Aberdeen Press
2017
URL
B Spatz, N. E. Erçin, C. Gatt, A Mendel
'He Almost Forgets That There is a Maker of the World'
Journal of Embodied Research (4) 2
2021
URL
Ben Spatz, N. Eda Erçin, Caroline Gatt, Agnieszka Mendel
'Triptych: Genesis, Kavana, Sabbath'
PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research (2) 2
2019
URL
Christopher A. Williams
Coordinator, Co-PI
Composer/contrabassist, artistic researcher
University of Music and Performing Arts Graz

Christopher A. Williams (1981, San Diego) makes and researches (mostly) experimental music. From 2021-2025 he will lead the research project ‘(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics’ (Austrian Science Fund ZK 93) at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz.

As a composer and contrabassist, his work runs the gamut from chamber music, improvisation, and radio art to collaborations with dancers, sound artists, and visual artists. Performances and collaborations with Derek Bailey, Compagnie Ouie/Dire, Charles Curtis, LaMonte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music, Ferran Fages, Robin Hayward (as Reidemeister Move), Barbara Held, Christian Kesten, Christina Kubisch, Liminar, Maulwerker, Charlie Morrow, David Moss, Andrea Neumann, Mary Oliver and Rozemarie Heggen, Ben Patterson, Robyn Schulkowsky, Ensemble SuperMusique, Vocal Constructivists, dancers Jadi Carboni and Martin Sonderkamp, filmmaker Zachary Kerschberg, and painters Sebastian Dacey and Tanja Smit. This work has appeared in various North American and European experimental music circuits, as well as on VPRO Radio 6 (Holland), Deutschlandfunk Kultur, the Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona, Volksbühne Berlin, and the American Documentary Film Festival.

Williams’ artistic research takes the form of both conventional academic publications and practice-based multimedia projects. His writings appear in journals such as the Journal for Artistic Research, Critical Studies in Improvisation, TEMPO, Contemporary Music Review, Journal of Sonic Studies, Open Space Magazine, and diverse anthologies.

He co-curates the Berlin concert series KONTRAKLANG. From 2009-2015 he co-curated the salon series Certain Sundays.

Williams holds a B.A. from the University of California San Diego (Charles Curtis, Chaya Czernowin, and Bertram Turetzky); and a Ph.D. from the University of Leiden (Marcel Cobussen and Richard Barrett). His native digital dissertation is Tactile Paths: on and through Notation for Improvisers.

Selected publications
Mathias Maschat, Christopher Williams
'Three Performances: A Virtual (Musical) Improvisation'
Experiencing Liveness in Contemporary Performance, ed. Matthew Reason, Anja Mølle Lindelof
Routledge
2016
Christopher Williams
'Anarchiving (in) Ben Patterson's Variations for Double-Bass'
Journal for Artistic Research (16)
2018
Christopher Williams, Chris Heenan
'Certain Sundays: Altmodische Gastfreundschaft, neumodische Überblendung der Kunstschärfe und soziale Erfahrung'
positionen (112)
2017
Christopher A. Williams
'Mapping Participation: Lawrence Halprin's RSVP Cycles Meets Richard Barrett's fOKT'
Contemporary Music Review
2021
Christopher Williams
'Say No Score: A Lexical Improvisation after Bob Ostertag'
Tempo (72) 283
2018
Christopher Williams
'Treatise, comment et pourquoi : Un court exposé empirique'
PaaLabRes
2017
URL
Christopher Williams, Martin Sonderkamp
'Where You End and I Begin: Cognition and continuity in experimental music and dance'
Critical Studies in Improvisation | Études Critiques en Improvisation (8) 2
2012
URL
Deniz Peters
Collaborating researcher, Advisory Board member
Artistic researcher, interdisciplinary musicologist
University of Music and Performing Arts Graz

Deniz Peters (Dr.phil, MA) is Professor for Artistic Research in Music and Head of the Doctoral School for Artistic Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, and the current President of the international Society for Artistic Research SAR. His artistic research on interpersonal empathy combines phenomenological, conceptual, and interaction analyses with an experimental piano practice, improvising with musicians and dancers Simon Rose, Stevie Wishart, Ellen Waterman, Christopher Williams, Bennett Hogg, Stefan Östersjö, Magdalena Chowaniec, Alexander Deutinger, and many others. He is also re-thinking musical expression in a philosophical-analytical research project; a third area of activity is directed towards a fuller understanding of the methods, documentation, typology and epistemology of artistic research through music. Further, he is actively involved in research modules and advisory boards within the (Musical) Improvisation and Ethics FWF-Zukunftskolleg, and The Epistemic Power of Music FWF-Project. Peters has appeared as keynote speaker, speaker, performer, and panel discussant at numerous conferences in musicology, philosophy, and artistic research in Europe, Australia, and the USA. Publications include a collected edition Bodily Expression in Electronic Music (Routledge); articles in Performance Research, Contemporary Music Review and Empirical Musicology Review; chapters in collections with Lexington, Springer, Leuven UP, Rowman & Littlefield,and Oxford UP; and a CD of findings (Leo Records).

Ensembles

Splitter Orchester
Berlin

Splitter Orchester, founded in 2010, brings together 21 of Berlin’s most cutting-edge composer-performer-improvisers to question the musical establishment. Their sound blends a broad array of extended techniques on traditional, electronic, and self-built instruments, focusing on sonic materiality and space. The methods of the orchestra reflect the members’ inclusive but critical approach toward the many facets of composition and improvisation.

Splitter Orchester has collaborated with composers Mathias Spahlinger, Øyvind Torvund, George Lewis, Alwynne Pritchard, Jean-Luc Guionnet, and Mazen Kerbaj. International concert appearances include MaerzMusik, the International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt, the CRAK festival in Paris, Borealis, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the météo Festival, and their own biennial Splitter festival in Berlin.

Splitter consists of:

Burkhard Beins - Percussion
Anthea Caddy - Cello
Roy Carroll - Electronics
Anat Cohavi - Clarinet
Axel Dörner - Trumpet
Sabine Ercklentz - Trumpet, Electronics
Kai Fagaschinski - Clarinet
Emilio Gordoa - Vibraphone
Robin Hayward - Tuba
Steve Heather - Percussion
Chris Heenan - Contrabass Clarinet
Mike Majkowski - Double Bass
Magda Mayas - Clavinet
Matthias Müller - Trombone
Andrea Neumann - Inside Piano
Andrea Parkins - Accordion, Objects, Laptop
Simon J. Phillips - Piano
Michael Thieke - Clarinet
Sabine Vogel - Flutes
Biliana Voutchkova - Violin
Marta Zapparoli - Electronics, Tapes

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra
Trondheim

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra is one of the most important and creative jazz ensembles in Norway. Since it was established in 2000, the orchestra has had a great number of exciting projects with Norwegian and international jazz profiles such as Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Erlend Skomsvoll, Eirik Hegdal, Sofia Jernberg, Maria Kannegaard, Kim Myhr, Jenny Hval, Stian Westerhus, Ståle Storløkken, Kristoffer Lo, and Marius Neset.

The orchestra belongs to the Mid-Norway Centre of Jazz which initiates and organises new projects. The orchestra is operated as a musicians’ pool, so that the orchestra changes as to instrumentation and size from project to project. This gives room for great width in their repertory. The musicians that have been involved in the orchestra are amongst Norway’s most famous jazz profiles.

The (Musical) Improvisation and Ethics constellation includes:

Eira Bjørnstad Foss - violin
Klaus Ellerhusen Holm - clarinet
Amalie Dahl - alto saxophone
Jenny Frøysa - tenor saxophone
Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø - trombone
Joakim Rainer Petersen - piano
Bjørn Marius Hegge - bass
Amund Storløkken Aase - vibraphone
Kyrre Laastad - drums, percussion

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra is supported by: Norwegian Art Council, Trondheim City and County of Sør Trøndelag.

the klingt collective
Vienna

the klingt collective is a new group drawn from the Vienna-based experimental music community anchored in the internet platform klingt.org. The ten members are active in various international and local music scenes spanning improvised music, sound art, pop music, free jazz, noise, contemporary music, and theater and film music. Most have played together in smaller collaborative constellations, including groups and projects such as Radian, TWIXT, Gustav & Band, Low Frequency Orchestra, Sonic Luz, Gésir, and The Vegetable Orchestra.

The lineup includes:

Martin Brandlmayr - drums
Angelica Castello - electronics
dieb13 - turntables
Klaus Filip - ppooll
Susanna Gartmayer - (bass) clarinet
Noid Haberl - cello
Billy Roisz - electronics & bass
Martin Siewert - guitars & electronics
Oliver Stotz - guitars & electronics

Documentation team

Thomas Martius
Videographer
Berlin

Thomas Martius first graduated with a degree in Business Administration before turning to Applied Theatre Studies at the University of Giessen. Since his graduation (1994) he has worked as a freelance artist, producing more than one hundred original performances, theater projects, and videos.

His multimedial work is location- and situation-specific. He describes his larger scale projects as editorial fictions, such as Pottingers Haus. The most recent performances (The Lost Father, Luke und Alina und alle 21 Jahre) took place in a movie theater (Babylon) in Berlin. Live material and pre-produced material intermingle on all levels of his cinematic theater: in music and sound design, acting, amusement and story telling. More recently, he has also worked on films, radio plays and on OPPEAR (Opera Performing Art), his minimal adaption of opera.

As a video-artist he has filmed opera singers for the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics. As an actor he’s appeared in various contexts. His practical video class has been on the curriculum of the Theater Studies Institute at the Freie Universität, Berlin, ongoing since 1996. He has been artistic collaborator for the International Research Center’s program, Interweaving Performance Cultures. He taught at the Art Academy of Tallinn, at the graphic design department at Lette-Verein-Berlin, and at other institutions. He was guest artist at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center in New York, Fellow at the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France, and artist-in-residence at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice in 2011 and 2020. For the video documentation of ‘(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics’ he is excited to team up with Christopher Hewitt, the most experienced documentarist of performance he knows.

When not travelling Martius resides with his partner and their child in Berlin.

Christopher Hewitt
Videographer
Berlin

Christopher Hewitt has been involved in the areas of performance art and interdisciplinary art for the past 30 years, working as a curator, teacher, facilitator and very occasionally as a performance artist himself. After nearly 10 years of being based in London, which included working as the Director of Live Art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, he went on to set up the Crossing Borders performance art degree programme at the Turku Academy of Art in Finland. For several years he worked as the producer for the seminal Norwegian performance theatre group Baktruppen and was editor and publisher of the video compilation publication ‘liveartwork DVD’. He is based in Berlin where he works primarily as a video documenter of performance work.

Roy Carroll
Sound
Berlin

Roy Carroll is an Irish musician and composer, based in Berlin. He works primarily with electroacoustic media such as transducers, synthesis, feedback, audio recordings, amplification, software, and auditory and psychoacoustic phenomena to create multi-layered forms that continually renegotiate the transformation of electrical audio signals into disturbed air. Roy is one half of The Instrument with choreographer Maya M Carroll, with whom he has created over 30 works for the stage. He has toured / presented work throughout Europe, and in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, USA, Russia, and New Zealand.

Roy is also active as an audio engineer, specialising in FOH, recording and mixing experimental and new / contemporary music. The greater part of his work is with the fertile Berlin scene. He holds an M-Phil in Music and Media Technologies from Trinity College Dublin, for which he specialised in electroacoustic composition, under the supervision of Donnacha Dennehy. Clients include: Achim Kaufmann / Michael Moore, Anthony Pateras, David Sylvian, Kevin Volans, Peter Brötzman / Keiji Haino, Peter Evans, Maulwerker, Meg Stuart / Damaged Goods, Polwechsel, Splitter Orchester, Thomas Lehn / Marcus Schmickler, Tyshawn Sorey, A L’arme festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Biegungen im Ausland, Concepts of Doing festival, DARA Strings Festival, Designing Voices, Flux festival, März Musik, Musica Sanae, Time Krystal, Ultraschall

Organisational team

Benedikt Alphart
Student assistant
University of Music and peforming Arts Graz

Benedikt Alphart is a composer and computer musician. Since 2018 he has been studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz with Richard Dünser and Gerhard Eckel. His artistic practice is closely linked with a fascination for sound recording. Going beyond his passion for field recording, this has led him to work in music recording, location sound, film productions and as a performer of live-electronic music.

Benedikt joined the ‘(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics’ team in 2021 as a student assistant to help facilitate the technical side of their research. He is simultaneously working at the Doctoral School for Artistic Research, where he takes care of audiovisual (post-)production.

Advisory Board

Tim Ingold
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen, ↗ Website
Angelika Krebs
Professor of Philosophy, University of Basel, ↗ Website
George E. Lewis
Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music, Columbia University, ↗ Website
Erin Manning
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Relational Art, Concordia University, ↗ Website
Anand Pandian
Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, ↗ Website
Deniz Peters
University Professor of Artistic Research, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, ↗ Website
John Sutton
Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, ↗ Website
Michael Wheeler
Professor of Philosophy, University of Stirling, ↗ Website


Selected Team publications

Joshua A. Bergamin
'An Excess of Meaning: Conceptual Over-Interpretation in Confabulation and Schizophrenia'
Topoi (39) 1
2020
URL
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Being-in-the-flow: expert coping as beyond both thought and automaticity'
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (16) 3
2017
URL
Joshua A. Bergamin
'To Know and To Be: Second-Person Knowledge and the Intersubjective Self, A Reply to Talbot.'
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (6) 10
2017
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Bridging the Abyss: Re-interpreting Heidegger’s animals as a basis for inter-species understanding.'
The Human-Animal Boundary, ed. Nandita Batra, Mario Wenning
Lexington/Rowman & Littlefield
2019
Joshua A. Bergamin
'An Excess of Meaning: Interpretation and the Cut-Up'
Beatdom (21)
2021
Joshua A. Bergamin
'Kurt Cobain: Martyr of Authenticity'
Overland
2021
Gey Pin Ang, Caroline Gatt
'Collaboration and Emergence: The Paradox of Presence and Surrender'
Collaborative Anthropologies (10) 1
2017
URL
Gey Pin Ang, Caroline Gatt
'Crafting Anthropology Otherwise: Alterity and Performance'
Who are 'We'? Reimagining Alterity and Affinity in Anthropology, ed. L Chua, N Mathur
Berghahn Books
2018
Caroline Gatt
'The Anthropologist as Member of the Ensemble: Anthropological Experiments with Theatre Makers'
Theatre as change: The Transformative Potential of Performance, ed. Alex Flynn, Jonas Tinius
Palgrave
2015
Caroline Gatt
'Breathing beyond Embodiment: Exploring Emergence, Grieving and Song in Laboratory Theatre'
Body & Society (26) 2
2020
URL
Caroline Gatt, Tim Ingold
'From description to correspondence: Anthropology in real time'
Design Anthropology: Juxtaposing theory and practice, ed. Wendy Gunn, Ton Otto, Rachel Smith
Berg Publishers
2013
Caroline Gatt
'Enlivening the Supra-personal Actor: Vectors at Work in a Transnational Environmentalist Federation'
Anthropology in Action (20) 2
2013
URL
Caroline Gatt, Diego Galafassi, Gey Pin Ang
'From an Ethics of Estrangement to an Anthropology in Life'
Journal of Embodied Research (4) 2
2021
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Gender, the Environment, and Ecofeminism'
The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed.
2021
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Introduction to the Special Issue'
Collaborative Anthropologies (10) 1
2017
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Living Atmospheres: Breath and Permeation through Song-action in Experimental Theatre'
Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically, ed. S Schmitt, S Schroer
Ashgate
2017
Caroline Gatt
'Performance'
The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed.
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
2019
URL
'Sketches for Regenerative Scholarship'
Caroline Gatt, Joss Allen
URL
Caroline Gatt
'Teaching and Learning Anthropology Otherwise: Lessons from a Collaboration between Laboratory Theatre and Anthropology'
Knowing from the Inside: Design for a Curriculum, ed. Tim Ingold
Bloomsbury
2022
Caroline Gatt
'Vectors, direction of attention and unprotected backs: Re-specifying relations in anthropology'
Anthropological Theory (13) 4
2013
Caroline Gatt (ed.)
The Voices of the Pages
University of Aberdeen Press
2017
URL
B Spatz, N. E. Erçin, C. Gatt, A Mendel
'He Almost Forgets That There is a Maker of the World'
Journal of Embodied Research (4) 2
2021
URL
Ben Spatz, N. Eda Erçin, Caroline Gatt, Agnieszka Mendel
'Triptych: Genesis, Kavana, Sabbath'
PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research (2) 2
2019
URL
Mathias Maschat, Christopher Williams
'Three Performances: A Virtual (Musical) Improvisation'
Experiencing Liveness in Contemporary Performance, ed. Matthew Reason, Anja Mølle Lindelof
Routledge
2016
Christopher Williams
'Anarchiving (in) Ben Patterson's Variations for Double-Bass'
Journal for Artistic Research (16)
2018
Christopher Williams, Chris Heenan
'Certain Sundays: Altmodische Gastfreundschaft, neumodische Überblendung der Kunstschärfe und soziale Erfahrung'
positionen (112)
2017
Christopher A. Williams
'Mapping Participation: Lawrence Halprin's RSVP Cycles Meets Richard Barrett's fOKT'
Contemporary Music Review
2021
Christopher Williams
'Say No Score: A Lexical Improvisation after Bob Ostertag'
Tempo (72) 283
2018
Christopher Williams
'Treatise, comment et pourquoi : Un court exposé empirique'
PaaLabRes
2017
URL
Christopher Williams, Martin Sonderkamp
'Where You End and I Begin: Cognition and continuity in experimental music and dance'
Critical Studies in Improvisation | Études Critiques en Improvisation (8) 2
2012
URL

Improvisation and ethics are everywhere. We improvise in so many practices – from cooking to sports to migration policy – that it often goes unnoticed. The same is true of ethics; as self-interpreting animals, we disclose ethical values in practices as diverse as democracy, empirical science, and punk rock. But the role of improvisation within ethical processes (e.g., value-formation and habituation) is often overlooked. Instead, people commonly assume that they consciously and rationally adhere to ethical norms as more-or-less fixed rules. This project aims to develop an alternative understanding of ethical processes by engaging with a practice in which improvisational qualities of ethics are unmistakable: experimental improvised music.

(Musical)
Improvisation
and Ethics
Writing in progress
24. February 2022

Drifting Lexicon

Event Documentation
14. March 2022–11. April 2022
19:00

Anthropology as Education

Caroline Gatt and Tim Ingold are convening the first studio of this year’s conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists. The Studio, called ‘Anthropology as Education’ runs from March 14th until 11th April and will explore what an understanding of Anthropology as an educational process might imply for both anthropology and education.

Education is literally a way of leading out into the world, where we are exposed to beings and ways of life different from those to which we are accustomed. If we take education in this sense, then Anthropology is educational through-and-through. But it is a sense that challenges the orthodox idea of education as the intergenerational transmission of authorised knowledge. Philosophers of education, from John Dewey a century ago to Gert Biesta today, have struggled to articulate a vision of education that would escape the stultification of the transmission model. A critical anthropology needs to catch up with this literature.

The introduction to this first studio is on March 14th 19:00 - 21:00 GMT and the closing session is on April 11th 08:00 - 09:00 GMT. In between the introduction and closing sessions participants can join in online talks, workshops, demonstrations, discussions, while also contributing to growing texts by commenting on the conference platform.

This year’s ASA conference is experimenting with an entirely novel format. Following an introduction, the conference will comprise five consecutive studios, each extending over a month, with opportunities for ongoing conversation on the virtual conference platform. Our intention is not so much to provide a forum for the presentation of finished work as to open up a space for conversation, with a view to advancing the topic under discussion. By the conclusion of the conference, then, we expect to be in a very different place from where we began. This, in turn, will be reflected in the eventual conference volume, which we conceive less as a collection of papers than as a multi-stranded compilation of voices and perspectives.

Deadlines for proposals

Studio number:
1: Friday 4th March
2: Friday March 18th
3: Friday April 15th
4: Friday August 19th
5: Friday September 16th

Event Documentation
19. March 2022–20. March 2022
18:00

Williams invokes Ben Patterson at MaerzMusik

Christopher A. Williams plays Ben Patterson’s Fluxus classic Variations for Double-Bass on 19 March, followed by a talk on 20 March entitled ‘What’s Left of the Blurring of Music and Life? Some Pattersonian Speculations’, at a special program around Patterson organized by the MaerzMusik festival and SAVVY Contemporary gallery.

Talk abstract

Ben Patterson’s early work, as exemplified by his legendary 1961 piece Variations for Double-Bass, both embodies and challenges the notion of ‘lifelike art’ theorized by Happening inventor Allan Kaprow. Although the legacy of that notion has had a rough time recently, Patterson’s work remains fresh. Through my performative experience with Variations, I will explore why that is so, and argue that an understanding of the blurring of life and art — updated with Patterson’s help — might be more relevant to current problems in contemporary music than is obvious.

Click for more information on Variations

Event Documentation / encounter
24. June 2022–25. June 2022
19:00

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra at Dokkhuset

Encounter 1 kicked off in June, with TJO in their HQ on the harbor in Trondheim.

Friday’s performance consisted of two sets, exploring the band’s relation to the audience, the space, and each other, and was followed by a lively Q&A session with the public.

Saturday’s concert presented a very different work, and followed a roundtable discussion where our researchers discussed the project themes with TJO saxophonist Amalie Dahl, trombonist Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, and local philosopher and jazz expert Mattias Solli from the NTNU.

Photos by Thomas Martius

Event Documentation / workshop
03. July 2022
10:00

Prelude to a Method

In this practical workshop at the Society for Artistic Research 2022 Conference at the Bauhaus University Weimar, we invited participants from any field to experience interventions currently being developed for use with musical ensembles.

Participants worked with us through a collage of performative exercises and simple scores inspired by artists and scholars such as Augusto Boal, Lawrence and Anna Halprin, Ben Spatz, and Pauline Oliveros. These are meant to bring specific ethical issues to the surface through practice. We then looked back over the performance work and discussed how it responds to questions such as:

  • (How) do interventions that increase the visibility of practical ethics affect participants’ aesthetic values, and vice versa?

  • (How) is the experience of being a self amongst others altered in the act of collaborative improvisation?

  • What aspects of listening – to both the human and other-than-human – in improvisational practice are conducive to (individual and collective) ethical goals?

The workshop was a useful way both to show our work process as well as learn from participants from different fields, as we weave together our working-processes-in-progress into a method that can be applied beyond music.

Event Documentation / talk
12. August 2022
14:40

'The Participant is the Play' – Josh Bergamin at SDU Conference on the Future of Hermeneutics

On Friday 12th August, our philosopher Josh Bergamin will be presenting a paper to the Conference on the Present and Future of Hermeneutics and Phenomenology at Southern Denmark University in Odense. Abstract below:

The Participant is the Play: Ethical applications of a phenomenological case study in musical co-creation

Phenomenology and hermeneutics’ most influential shared legacy is undoubtedly their challenge to the Modernist conception of the human being. In particular, they have worked – via individual and social levels of analysis – to deconstruct the dominating picture of the human as a ‘rational individual ego’ in favour of a broader understanding of ourselves as embodied, historically-situated, socio-cultural beings.

At the same time, these complementary disciplines have given us the tools and frameworks to understand how our particular self-understandings have developed over time, offering a method to understanding our subjectivity on its own terms, yet without sacrificing scientific rigour.

A growing engagement with phenomenological and hermeneutic discourses – not only within the humanities, but increasingly in dialogue with ‘harder’ sciences of the mind and brain – therefore offers an opportunity to develop and apply their methodologies across disciplines and to particular problems that have not traditionally been seen within their remit.

In this paper, I discuss these themes in the context of an ongoing interdisciplinary research project into the ethical aspects of improvised music. Using Gadamer’s discussion of art as a jumping-off point, I argue that the relevance of his insights extends beyond aesthetics, and offers a richer way of conceptualising embodied practical consciousness, especially the collective forms that emerge during acts of dialogue and co-creation.

Specifically, I apply Gadamer’s discussion of rhythm to interpreting a series of phenomenological interviews with an ensemble of professional improvising musicians, aimed towards understanding the forms of attention and mindedness that guide their playing. Viewed through a hermeneutic framework, I suggest that their collective performance can be understood not simply as a collaboration of individuals, but as a living event which both shapes and is shaped by the human and non-human participants in the work.

Such a conclusion has important ethical implications, as it brings into question the limits of individuality, freedom and autonomy in collaborative settings. This, in turn, suggests a practical methodology for exploring ontological questions about intersubjectivity and mindedness. I therefore close by considering the implications of this case study for the role that applied phenomenology can make to the ethical and political debates that arise from ongoing questioning of our concept of the human.

Event / encounter
26. August 2022–27. August 2022
18:00

Splitter Orchester at Akademie der Künste, Berlin

Encounter 2, with Berlin’s Splitter Orchester, takes place at the Academy of the Arts Berlin, one of Europe’s oldest cultural institutions.

Friday’s performance will begin at 20:00 and be followed by a Q&A with musicians and researchers.

Saturday’s event will commence with a roundtable discussion at 18:30, bringing together expert guests on the project themes, followed by the concert at 20:00.

As with all encounters, the concerts may vary radically, so attendance on both nights is strongly recommended!

Event / talk
31. August 2022
16:00

When is 'my truth' true? – Josh Bergamin at the British Society for Phenomenology

Philosopher Josh Bergamin will be presenting a paper at this year’s annual conference for the British Society for Phenomenology, which is being held in hybrid-format in Exeter and online. Abstract below:

When is ‘my truth’ true? Interpreting lived experience in phenomenological interviews

Many topics and methodologies for investigating subjectivity that have become widespread in the social sciences – for example, an emphasis on ‘lived experience’ – have been significantly developed by applied phenomenologists. Yet phenomenology’s own commitments often bring it into tension with giving full voice to its subjects.

For example, the ‘bracketing’ of prejudices may not take into account how those prejudices are constitutive of the subject herself. Furthermore, researchers are rarely trained to self-reflect on how their own history – cultural, sexual, professional – might colour their interpretation of a subject’s ‘bracketed’ responses.

A risk therefore is that a subject’s experience be distorted by the researcher’s own interests. But at the same time, the latter’s immersion in a broader investigative discourse offers insights to which their subject may have little access.

My paper examines this tension as it manifests in an ongoing interdisciplinary research project, working with improvising musical ensembles. Centred on the co-creation of a ‘hermeneutic circle’ between artwork, artist, and analysts, the project aims not only to render the research process itself transparent, but to consciously blur the distinction between researchers and research subjects, treating subjects as partners in a creative process in which all participants have a voice and an opportunity to learn/grow.

After briefly outlining our methodologies, I dig deeper into the problems of truth and interpretation that this process exposes, namely:

– At what points do ‘lived experience’ accounts reach limits that might be better informed by critical distance or historical consciousness?

– Is it essential to reconcile contradictions between levels of analysis? If so, how do we give weight to values like truth while doing justice to different lived realities? If not, can we avoid reperpetuating power imbalances between researcher and subject?

I examine these questions with reference to particular case studies, while suggesting potential generalisable conclusions.

Event
17. September 2022–18. September 2022
10:00

'Anthropology as life practice' - Caroline Gatt at Interface Workshop

Anthropologist Caroline Gatt has been invited as a keynote to present at the Interface workshop to share her experience of developing engaged approaches, including performative anthropological methods of scholarship. Interface is the Engaged Anthropology Commission of the Swiss Anthropological Association. Descriptio below:

Over the last 4 decades ample arguments have been made in anthropology and beyond not only for the discipline to be more engaged in broader social matters, but also that any apparent disengagement is merely the product of discourse or ideology. Any knowledge is situated and always already embedded in a person’s experience and values (Haraway), even though the basis for much academic work is what Savranski has called ‘an ethics of estrangement’. The struggle between what are effectively two distinguishable epistemologies can be seen in the ongoing division in anthropology between ‘fieldwork’ and the complex of other aspects of academic anthropological work (including reading\writing, publishing\sharing one’s research, teaching, administrative work etc…). Sanjek refers to the latter as anthropology’s ‘career complex’. While epistemology, and more recently even ontology, are now routinely examined as part of fieldwork, the same cannot be said for the rest of this career complex. This leads to an epistemological split: In fieldwork anthropologists explicitly join in with the life and happenings all around them as the basis for learning and knowing; in ‘university work’ that ethics of estrangement, underpinned in anthropology by logocentrism, remains the dominant way of knowing.
There are at least two reasons why this split needs revision. First, logocentrism is an ideology of language tied to a hierachization of ways of knowing that privileges Western academic epistemologies. As part of imperial projects across the world it has been called upon to justify the subjugation of all sorts of knowledge, from Indigenous and Black ways of knowing, to female, Queer and even practical (as opposed to intellectual) ones. Therefore, if anthropologists want to work towards decolonizing their discipline they will need to revise the onto\epistemologies at work in their daily practices. Enabling different ways of knowing to inform not only the concepts anthropologists develop but also the way the discipline is practiced promises both a wealth of new insight but also a radical revision of the politics of knowledge the discipline is embedded in.
Second, while description and critique are essential ingredients in an engaged anthropology, to make these the aim is somewhat contradictory. What many studies show, consider studies with hunters and with performers, is that the epistemology at work in anthropological fieldwork is prospective and speculative, rather than retrospective. Reflection and critique are not separate aspects of a person’s ongoing responsiveness to their experiences. Although it is impossible to control how anthropological work is received by multiple and varied audiences, it is possible to embrace the speculative potential of anthropological work. Therefore, an alternative aim for anthropological work, one which does not split off the way of knowing of fieldwork from everything else, is to make proposals for life that learn from and draw on the myriad, grounded and rich experiences that are the bread and butter of anthropological research.
In this workshop\session I make the above arguments by tracing the relationship between a skilled practice and different ways of knowing by inviting you to try a couple of tasks to think through. I draw on my collaborative work with environmental activists, laboratory theatre practitioners and regenerative farmers\artists that have led me to working towards setting up a college of ‘regenerative scholarship’. The college is a dream which is a long way off, in large part because of challenges from within academia. As well as outlining the principles for this college, I describe some of these challenges, which are an illustration of the politics of knowledge I described above.

Event / encounter
21. November 2022–22. November 2022
19:00

the klingt collective at Wien Modern

The venerable Wien Modern festival hosts Encounter 3, our final event of 2022, with the Vienna-based klingt collective.

As with all encounters, the concerts may vary radically, so attendance on both nights is strongly recommended!

More details coming soon.

Responsibility for the content:

Dr. Christopher A. Williams
Senior Scientist
Künstlerisch-Wissenschaftliche Doktoratsschule
Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz
Maiffredygasse 12b/II
8010 Graz
Austria
christopher.williams@kug.ac.at
+43 316 389 4048

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