Collective Embodiment: The creative, transformative potentials of mind-body collaborations

By Eleanor Ryan, PhD Researcher, University of Cambridge

Throughout this past pandemic year, the necessity of an enforced physical dislocation from each other has, by its very absence, brought to the fore questions around the affect of collective embodiment, the coming together ‘in-body’ and embodied, the creating of a body collective. It seems fitting that as the Arts and Creativity Research Group meet together in the virtual zoom space for the final time this academic year, on 7th June 2021 at 7pm, and as we look towards possibilities of meeting together in person again, we focus our final event of the ‘Performing Research’ Series 2020-21 on an exploration of the power of collective embodiment. To register for ‘Performing Collective Embodiments of Theory / Practice’ please visit

What is the impact of the body – our motions, gestures, expressions, postures and energy  –on us as individuals and as individuals in relation within collective groups? What are the potentials for social transformation within collective aggregation, the coming together of individuals, into a body of collective intuitive intelligence grounded in the body – collective embodiments?

Photograph from Collective Reality: Experience Togetherness

Collective embodiment is a powerful gesture of physical togetherness within human social life. Collective embodiment as always been a part human arts and creativities, being one of ways in which ideas, stories, impressions of the world, emotions, the importance of place, the shifting of energies is performed, re-enacted and imagined. Within the interactions of collectives of bodies we find the force of affect, arising in the midst of the in-betweenness of bodies, in the capacity to act collectively and to be acted upon (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010). There is a futurity within this, an endlessly creative potential arising out of the always different effect of multiple individuals interacting collectively and collaboratively. We might think through collective embodiment as creating the conditions for a diffraction of the various forces of bodily affect which each individual brings to a given space. As Donna Haraway writes “diffraction is a mapping of interference, not of replication, reflection or reproduction. A diffraction pattern does not map where differences appear, but rather maps where the effects of differences appear”(Haraway, 1992, p. 300). This is perhaps where the power of the artistic collective lies, in a space in which individual bodies and their expressions and differences overlap and where unforeseen possibilities arise, recalling Spinoza’s famous quote from his Ethics; On the Correction of Understanding ‘No one has yet determined what the body can do’’(Spinoza, 1970, p. 87). In a world where the cognitive, ‘thinking’ and ‘thought’, has tended to be privileged over the intuitive intelligence of the body, we might even see a focus on the body, and a recentring of mind-body connections as being fundamental within the development of collectives and as a powerful pedagogical tool to bring people together in action

Black Lives Matter Protest

An exploration in collective embodiment also takes us into the realm of political and socially transformative action. Collective embodiment often emerges spontaneously in events, evident in activism, advocacy, rituals, entertainment and social celebration. The ‘laws’ of such moments are usually unscripted, often improvised, a force of non-verbal communications which do something, containing the potential for creative becomings and unforeseen collaborations. And for this very reason it is also evident that such collectives are often feared by those in power, controlled or restrained by governments or figures of authority in general. Philosopher of dance and movement theory Andre Lepecki, writing during this past year, has suggested that ‘the conditions of possibility for action, the conditions of possibility for imagining and enacting action are predicated on the ongoing struggle around difference, aesthetic, philosophical, and political conceptions of what movement is, of what movement does, and of who owns movement’ (Lepecki, 2020).

It is important to consider the political and symbolic impact of collective embodiment as it has emerged in this past year this past year in the UK, within Black Lives Matter marches and, more recently, gatherings focus on the safety of women on the streets. Here the mind is engaged in critical thought, and the body in critical action within embodied collectives. These are spontaneous and urgent collective embodiments which contain within them real possibilities for social transformation.

This month’s ACRG gathering, featuring a telepresence of collective embodiment in Zoom-i-Verse, will feature three segments and variations around the theme of Collective Embodiment as explored and experienced in a wide variety of contexts. These include collective embodiment in the cypernetic, technological spaces, within experimental film making, and pedagogically as a process of exploring leadership and management through embodied, experiential learning.

Guest Performers:

Ghislaine Boddington

Ghislaine Boddington

Ghislaine is an award-winning speaker, curator and director, specialising in the future human, body responsive technologies and immersive experiences. She is Co-founder and Creative Director of body>data>space. With a background in dance and performing arts and a long-term focus on the blending of our virtual and physical bodies, she engages in highly topical and future digital issues for our living bodies, including personal data usage, and sees a future in which we connect ourselves into a networked “multi-self,” an “Internet of Bodies” enabled by hyper-enhancement of the senses and tele-intuition.

Ghislaine co-presents bi-weekly as a Studio Expert for BBC World Service Digital Planet (formerly Click) and is also a Reader in Digital Immersion at the University of Greenwich. Her research explores “The Internet of Bodies”, the evolution of our future multi-selves through gesture and sense interfaces, augmented realities, immersive experiences and embedded digital body connectivity, pointing to the rapid blending of the virtual and the physical body.

Neuf Film Collective

Anna Cady, Ernest Dalton, Helena Greene, Susanne Jasilek, Helen Judge, Trisha McCrae, Steve Russell, Sally Connie Todd

Neuf Film Collective is a diverse group of individual artists working together with the common purpose of experimenting with the digital medium, the collaborative process and the installation space. Neuf aim to challenge existing modes of production, curation and installation to explore the viewer’s relationship to the viewing experience. There are interested in an on-going question of how and where to locate experimental ‘film’ work and how the ‘viewing space’ can alter the work.

Neuf sprung out of an Arts Council funded experimental video art course (in 2006, run by Tim Sidell, ARU; Trish Sheil, Cambridge Film Consortium; and Kettles Yard) bringing together artists from different disciplines (performance, sculpture, painting, theatre, curatorial practice and writing) with a keen interest in the language and possibilities of film. The collective have been meeting monthly ever since at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. Neuf are the only experimental video art collective based in East Anglia engaged in the collaborative exploration of video art in the expanded space and inclusive of performance. Their unique perspective as a group offers insight to the collaborative and experimental process. Neuf avoid predictable paths and are dedicated to pushing our own personal boundaries and knowledge as artists working with film.

Dr. Tatjana Dragovič

Dr. Tatjana Dragovič

Dr. Tatjana Dragovič has obtained a Master and Doctorate in Education (EdD)  in the fields of adult education, knowledge transfer, professional identity and continuing professional development. Dr. Dragovič has been affiliated with the University of Cambridge, UK since 2007 in teaching and researching roles in education, dialogic teaching, technology-enhanced teaching and learning, creativity, creative leadership, coaching and research methods for practice research. In addition, Dr. Dragovic has also been teaching qualitative research methods for doctoral (EdD) students and leading doctoral research community ‘Leadership, Educational Improvement and Development (LEID)’ at University of Cambridge since 2015. She has been a guest lecturer  at many international Universities including at the University of Applied Science in Oulu, Finland, at the Katarina Gurska Institute, Spain, and at the Falmouth University, UK. As a research consultant at the Open University, UK, she has researched professional identity, possibility thinking and creativity. Along with her academic career Dr Dragovic is also a renown international executive educator and coach in the field of leadership and management.


Gregg, M. and Seigworth, G. J. (2010) ‘An Inventory of Shimmers’, in The Affect theory reader edited by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

Haraway, D. (1991) ‘The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others’, in Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge.

Lepecki, A. (2020) ‘Movement in the Pause – Contactos’, Movement in the Pause. Available at: (Accessed: 30 May 2021).

Spinoza, B. de (1970) Spinoza’s Ethics, and On the correction of the understanding / translated by Andrew Boyle ; introduction by T.S. Gregory. London: Dent

Performing Collective Embodiments of Theory/Practice

This is the final session in the ACRG 2020-21 ‘Performing Research’ series in which we will explore the discourse of ‘collective embodiment’ in theory and practice. Presenters will explore some discursive practices that illuminate the ‘power’ that constitutes ‘embodiment’ and what makes the ‘collective’ possible?  

In an article published in 2020 in AI and Society, one of the presenters, Ghislaine Boddington, from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Greenwich, London, introduces what she calls ‘The Internet of Bodies’ where ‘our physical and virtual worlds are blending and shifting our understanding of three key areas: (1) our identities are diversifying, as they become hyper-enhanced and multi-sensory; (2) our collaborations are co-created, immersive and connected; and (3) our innovations are diverse and inclusive. it is proposed that our bodies have finally become the interface.’ Ghislaine Boddington also writes about ‘collective collaborations through telematics’. This arises from her work with the body and telepresence from 1989 to 2000.  She invites us to ask what happens when your avatar its own avatar, when your robot has a relationship with your avatar? Ghislaine Boddington will engage us in a future view of what she calls ‘virtual physical blending’ with ‘virtual physical hybrid events’. A co-opting of collective reflections will turn our attention to digital creativity and the future of work, social and educational modes. 

Ghislaine Boddington’s curation of multiple studio-based experiments with dancers and media artists has led to numerous remote stage, experimental link ups, and research projects. Here are some of the key questions (as discussed in the article referenced below) that she will turn our attention to:

  1. How do projected forms of the body, created and transmitted through digital tools, change our relationship to ourselves and to others?
  2. How does virtual/physical distributed embodiment redefine identity in socio-political terms?
  3. How does working and living in virtual space enable and encourage collective intelligence, collaboration and concreation?

See Boddington, Ghislaine (2020) The Internet of Bodies – alive, connected and collective: The virtual physical future of our bodies and our senses. AI & Society

Doing Visual Art Pedagogic Practice-ings in Teacher Education and Museum Education During a Pandemic

For Carol A. Taylor (2018), UK Professor of Higher Education and Gender, ‘all practice occurs as an unfinished unfolding’. She goes on to argue that ‘unfinished unfolding’ can transform the ways we understand materiality, material practice and what she calls ‘pedagogic practice-ings which may (just may) be productive of new modes of responsibility, accountability and commitment’ (p.82). Increasingly, we see connections made between the material practice-ings of visual artists who deploy parallel professional practices as educators, curators, researchers, writers and community artists working across education and cultural sectors. Increasingly, we see theorists connecting fields of museum and art education, co-creating lively lines of critically framing pedagogic practice-ings. By expanding these ‘theory-practice springboards’ (Taylor, 2018:94), we meet with new forms of knowing, being and doing through relational orientations of museum education and teacher education. There are creative synergies and pedagogic innovations in museum education as there are in teacher education. A strong case can be made for researching and developing co-creative and participatory pedagogic practice-ings that each promote and reconfigure ‘unfinished unfoldings’ of past-present-future. So, what are the defining features of critical scholarship and theory’s place in museum and visual art preservice teacher education? What is the politics of theory? What is the politics of pedagogical practice-ings in the encounters of the contemporary university and their partnering cultural institutions of museums and art galleries? What are we changing in ‘provoking new modes of response-ability’ (Taylor, 2018:93) in a (soon-to-be-post) pandemic world? 

As Massumi (2015: 57) argues, ‘the event cannot be fully predetermined. It will be as it happens’. But these are some of the questions that may (just may) arise at our next ‘Performing Research’ event, Tuesday 6 April,  19.00 GMT. Our next online event is ‘Performing Visual Art [Pedagogic] Practice-ings in Teacher Education and Beyond’ featuring presenters Dr. Kate Noble, Tabitha Millett, Tom Walker, Robin Sukatorn and Esen Kilic who will frame a force of vital perspectives.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on visual artists, teacher education and museum education?

On Tuesday 6 April, artist-educator-researcher Tabatha Millett ( will be joined by two of her PGCE visual arts students, Robin Sukatorn and Esen Kilic, from the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. The pictures featured in the instagram (see link below) capture a preview of the generative pedagogic practice-ings. But what are the substantial challenges we must address in the coming decades? What practice-ings are we hoping won’t change?

This next URL features a spectrum of the pedagogic practice-ings, learning research and evaluation projects at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, along with a brief introduction to Dr. Kate Noble, Senior Research Association: Museum Learning

These are samples of some of the pedagogic practice-ings that will be discussed on Tuesday 6 April, at 19.00 GMT. Along with issues concerning the impact of Covid-19 on Museum Education and Initial Teacher Education. Covid-19 has caused a major disruption to education in and beyond the academy. Here is a report which reports on 4,000 practitioners and curators, along with artists’ livelihoods and creative practices during this past year.

The British Academy convened and engaged with over 200 academics, practitioners and policy specialists from across the humanities and social sciences and drew together insights from civil society, communities and policymakers. Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent and lead author of a report funded by The British Academy, Professor Dominic Abrams FBA said: “The evidence provides us with a vital insight into the immense social impact of COVID-19 and the substantial challenges we must address in the coming decade. The #COVIDdecade: understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19′, a new multi-disciplinary evidence review of the pandemic’s effects on society.

Other Covid Reports:

Covid-19 Research Project – Centre for Cultural Value

COVID-19 Insights | Original Research | The Audience Agency

Photo by Bruno Thethe on

If you would like to add to these themed discussions in an event led by artist-student-teachers, initial teacher artist-educator-researchers, and museum educators-researchers, please register at ACRG.EVENTBRITE.CO.UK


Massumi, B. (2015). Politics of Affect. Cambridge: Polity.

Taylor, Carol A. (2018). Each intra-action matters: Towards a posthuman ethics for enlarging response-ability in Higher Education pedagogic practice-ings. In V. Bozalek, R. Braidotti, T. Shefer and M. Zembylas (Eds) Socially Just Pedagogies. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Poetry in Research and its Performance

The steering committee of the Arts and Creativities Research Group at the Faculty of Education of Cambridge University, are thrilled to welcome six brilliant poet-researcher-performers on March 1st to enact an unfolding moment of research-as-performance, centred around the theme of poetry and poetics.

This event creates space and time to experience and engage with poetry and the art of spoken word as performance, poetry as research and the poetics of research. We ask how processes and communications of re/me-search are transformed through poetry; as mode, pedagogy, methodology and a performance of knowledge and being?

‘Poetry in Research and Its Performance’: Monday 1st March, 7pm GMT

To register for this event please visit


Professor Pamela Burnard


CO-HOST Pamela Burnard is Professor of Arts, Creativities and Educations at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge ( where she Chairs the Arts and Creativities Research Group ( Recent and future-coming books include ‘Why Science and Arts Creativities Matter for Future-making Education’ (Brill-I-Sense), ’Sculpting New Creativities in Primary Education’ (Routledge) and ‘Posthumannising Multiple Creativities in Music’.


Dr Caroline Lanskey

CO-HOST/PROVOCATEUR Dr Caroline Lanskey is a Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge and Deputy Director of the Institute’s research Centre for Community, Gender and Social Justice. Dr Lanskey’s research interests stem from her cross-disciplinary experience of education and criminology and include youth justice, education and the arts in criminal justice, citizenship and migration, youth voice and participation, the experiences of prisoners’ families and research methodologies. Her research on art education focuses on how the arts enhance well-being and open up new life opportunities for people in or at-risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. She has recently led an evaluation of ‘Drawing Connections’ an arts programme which brings together students from prison and the community. She is currently co-leading ‘Inspiring Futures’ a research project on the role and meaning of the arts in criminal justice settings in partnership with the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.




BREIS is a Nigerian Hip Hop rap artist. His name stands for Brother Reaching Each Inner Soul. He is a remarkable live performer who has performed worldwide with his fusion of Hip Hop, Jazz and African rhythms. Passionate about the education and wellbeing of young people, BREIS has been working within education since 2001 and has taken his Student of Life Hip Hop Literacy ( across the UK, to Washington DC, Malaysia, Southern Africa and Vienna.

BREIS has toured internationally and shared the stage with world class artists such as Afro beat musician, Tony Allen, Dele Sosimi, Dead Prez, Big Daddy Kane, Black Thought (The Roots), Angie Stone, Les Nubians, Omar Sosa, The Horndogz and Kim Burrell. He is also the author of BRILLIANT RAPPERS EDUCATE INTELLIGENT STUDENTS– the UK’s premiere interactive rap book. BREIS is the CEO of Student of Life Ltd, a Hip Hop Education company/Record label and does a vast amount of work in schools across the UK, Europe, Washington DC, New York, Mauritius and Mozambique.


Dr Tatiana Chemi

Dr Tatiana Chemi, PhD, is Associate Professor at Aalborg University, Department of Culture and Learning in Denmark. She is the Chair of Educational Innovation. Tatiana’s major interest is artistic creativity, artistic learning, arts-integration designs in schools, learning in theatre laboratory and the role of emotions in learning.

Tatiana has published many books on artistic creativity by collaborating with many international artists. Some of her recent publications include ‘The Golden Path Towards the Arts In/With Business’,Arts-based methods in education around the world’, ‘Behind the scenes of artistic creativity; processes of learning, creating and organisation‘. Despite her Italian origin, Tatiana defines herself as 52% Greek, 8% North African, 7% Spanish and 7% Turkish.


Shelley A. Bruce

Shelley A. Bruce  uses artistic expression as a means of sparking significant world change. Currently Shelley is pursuing her creative career with a focus on conceptual visual art, spoken word poetry, spirituality and activism. Her first publication of poetry, On Blooming, was published in fall 2018, and painting series Heaven Here was released in fall 2019. Shelley also is the founder of the event series HEALING, that produces protests based in wellness to powerfully rejuvenate and inspire communities in response to the #BlackLivesMatter protests that erupted across the US. In 2020 Shelley was featured on HBO’s series “Insecure”, in the LA Times for her community organising efforts, and has shared her painting internationally in Washington DC, San Diego, New York, Ghana, the UK, Bermuda and more.


Professor Hilary Cremin

Professor Hilary Cremin is a Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She is also the co-founder and senior advisor of the Cambridge Peace Education Group (CPERG)

Hilary uses her own  poems in her research and teaching on peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities. Her most recent work seeks to deepen understanding of restorative interventions in schools through the coding and analysis of teacher-mediated dialogue following peer conflict. Hilary and members of CPERG recently launched a new initiative, Poetic Offerings for Peace (POP). POP seeks to replace a culture of war with a culture of peace through daily peace offerings and activities for young people and the people who educate them

Hilary Cremin : Faculty of Education


Dr Kei Miller

Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet and novelist. His fourth collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet), won the prestigious Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. In 2014, Kei was also named as one of the 20 ‘Next Generation Poets’, a list compiled every ten years by the Poetry Book Society.

His third novel, Augustown, published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 2016 won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and is shortlisted for the 2017 RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Until recently Kei was Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter and in 2021 took up the position of Professor English at the University of Miami. His most recent poetry collection, In Nearby Bushes, was published by Carcanet in 2019, and a collection of essays Things I Have Withheld is forthcoming from Canongate and Grove in 2021. Other titles include:

The Cartographer Tries To Map A Way To Zion

The Last Warner Woman



Photo of Helen Johnson
Dr Helen Johnson

Dr Helen Johnson is a Principal Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Brighton, specialising in arts-based research methods, creativity, and critical community psychology. Helen is both a social scientist and a spoken word poet, and combines these interests under the auspices of arts-based research. She is the founder of the collaborative poetics method and network, which use participatory, arts-based research to explore/communicate the lived experiences of communities and individuals, with a view to supporting their critical resilience. Helen heads the Creative Methodologies strand in the Centre of Arts and Well-Being at the University of Brighton.


Simone Eringfeld

Simone Eringfeld is an artist-researcher, educationist, musician, writer and EDU-coach. Ongoing topics in her work are youth and educational aspiration, imagined futures, embodiment, temporality, opportunity and agency. As an EDU-coach, she is dedicated to helping talented students design their own learning journey and reach their full potential. She also co-chairs the Cambridge Peace and Education Research Group (CPERG).

Simone graduated from the University of Cambridge with a master’s degree in Education in 2020. Her thesis on the future of the ‘post-coronial’ University – built around her podcast Cambridge Quaranchats – won the 2021 BERA Master’s Dissertation Award. In her research, she uses creative practices including podcasting and poetry to develop novel ways of engaging with spoken word in academic work. In March 2021, she plans to release her first music album. This album consists of data poetry performances set to music and forms the final outcome of her dissertation research.


Towards a Deep Emersive Creativity in Pedagogy, Art, Magic and Circus

Professor Bernard Andrieu

In today’s blog post, Professor Bernard Andrieu responds to the provocations, commentary and questions he raised in the chat function during our February Performing Research Event, “Performing/Researching Bodies”

“From a philosophical point of view, bodily experience is therefore  a phenomenal reality: what can be said about its constitution? How can it be accessed? And how does this notion help us to understand human activities?

Bodily experience is the reality lived by bodily existence: without a conscious body, as in a coma, bodily experience animates the living but without the lived experience that the subject can use to reappropriate the meaning. Existence therefore becomes a bodily experience only when the subject can feel its activity. The reflexivity of the living as a bodily experience begins as soon as movement produces resistance, effort or fatigue in the internal sensations of our muscles, organs and tissues….Without sensation, the bodily experience remains unconscious and insensible. Developing one’s sensibility requires attention to oneself.” P.40

Andrieu, B. (2018) Learning From Your Body. France: University Press of De Roen et du Havre.

A methodology needs to be found to reveal the inner book of internal sensations. From there on, as Henri Beaunis established, the physiological modifications of the living body are perceptible for those who have focused attention and formalizations to become aware of them. Proust specifies this method: “As for the interior book of unknown signs (of signs in relief, it seemed that my attention, exploring my unconscious, would seek, strike, bypass, like a diver probing), for the reading of which no one could help me with no rule. This reading consists of an act of creation where no one can replace us or even collaborate with us. So how many turn away from writing it! “How to describe not only the incorporation of sensations but their emersion?”

The inner book, which organises our bodily perception, could be understood from a mental image, from the mirror stage.

Provocations, Questions and Responses

What is the difference between activation of a living body and its perception by a lived body ?

The living body is that activity of the organism which takes place in us without our will exerting the slightest control over the process; “Without our knowledge”, one might say. This unknown part of the physiological functioning of the human body is for Georges Canguilhem what “escapes almost entirely from the simple observation of the actions of life on oneself or on others”. How then to film this living body if it cannot be perceived live?

How can we raise the unconscious activity of the body ?

The bodily intentions are unconscious but not inactive because the perception sets up decision scenarios in the brain before the action achieves a single one. The body embodies meaning before it can be expressed in a linguistic structure that can be recognised by the community during the proxemic interaction. The difference between bodily intention and bodily awareness of intention is useful in understanding the unconscious anticipation of the voluntary activation of the body. Between the two the affects, the emotions, the associative memory… come to feed the semantic production of the body without always that the conscience can reach it.

Why paying attention to body movement creates a new use of performative body:

The depth of the living body exceeds, however, the quality of the attention and conscious listening to what arises in the phenomenon of presence. The permeability and porosity of sensitivity go beyond consciousness: in the emersion during a lifetime the subject is no longer able to mentally represent what is happening there. This implicit living body arises in an emotion that overflows cognition.

How is the gender of an object incorporated in our representations or in the cultural context ?

Deconstructing gender is also a way to understand how we fit together by attributing a genre to an object that is culturally constructed in social categories. We can thus see our possibilities of having a body other than the one we have suffered.

How does the connection between the concept of a mathematical circus and body form change the condition of creativity ?

Mathematics brings a new way of describing the biomechanics of the living body beyond the usual representation of its body: an extension of the body diagram becomes possible.

Further References

  • Learning From Your Body: An Emersive Method at the CNAC by Bernard Andrieu

  • Body Ecology & Emersive Leisures by Bernard Andrieu and

  • Manegenkünste Zirkus als ästhetisches Model by Margarete Fuchs / Anna-Sophie Jürgens / Jörg Schuster

  • Body Ecology and Emersive Exploration of Self: The Case of Extreme Adventurers by Bernard Andrieu and Ana C. Zimermmann

  • Cold Water Immersion after Handball Training Session : Strong Relationship Between Physical data and Sensorial Experience by L’Hermette M., Castres I. Coquart J., Tabben M., Ghoul N, Andrieu B, Tourny C. (2020)

‘Performing/Researching Bodies’

Event Overview

Written by Eleanor Ryan, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

The Arts and Creativities Research Group ( ) is thrilled to announce the performers and co-chairs for February’s ‘Performing Research’ Series Event ‘Performing/Researching Bodies’ which will take place on Monday 1st February at 7pm.

Please register to attend this free hour-long event at

This month we delve into the centrality of the body and embodied knowledge in Magic, Circus, Theatre, Performing and Visual Arts and the potential the researching and performing of bodies holds in pedagogy, curriculum and research beyond the ‘boundaries’ of arts disciplines. How does the body function in interrogating the interconnectedness of different modes of experience and different research disciplines?

The wide-ranging work of our performers and co-chairs brings together a live performance of trans-disciplinary exploration, centring around the question of the role of embodied engagement in the creation of knowledge and ways of being, a wealth of difference-making individualised realisations of/through the body. In a broad variety of ways this month’s presenters explore connections between movement, knowledge and being; embodied performance and research; the experiential, educative power of creating, synthesising knowledge and communicating with/through the body and the generating of collective ‘rhythm’ – planes of bodily energy between performers and audiences. An overarching question we ask this month is how our current physical disconnections imposed by the pandemic change our perceptions and the ecologies of body-centred research? Where do our bodies and embodied experiences begin and end as we interact and perform through this on-line, virtual space?

The evening’s performances will be guided through provocations, questions and discussions with the ACRG Chair Professor Pamela Burnard ( and her guest co-chair for the evening, Professor Bernard Andrieu.

Professor Bernard Andrieu

Professor Bernard Andrieu ( _) is Professor of Philosophy and Epistemology of the Body at the University Paris-Descartes, France. He is Director of Body Technics; Coordinator of Body Ecology in Adapted, Physical Sport Activities; and Co-Editor of Corps, a review published by CNRS. His main interests are in body ecology, emersiology, self-health, sport ethics, somatechny, and the history of somaticians.


Dr Mindy Carter

Dr Mindy Carter

The evening will start with a performance of Arts-Based research from Dr Mindy Carter, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy in Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University.

Mindy is currently the Editor-in-Chief for Springer’s Arts Based Educational Research Book Series and is Chair of the Artful Inquiry Research Group at McGill. Mindy’s areas of academic expertise include drama education, theatre education, arts-based educational research, teacher education, teacher identity, curriculum and pedagogy, creativity and imagination. Mindy is an expert in Arts-Based research, curriculum and pedagogy. Her first book ‘The teacher monologues: Exploring the experiences and identities of artist-teachers’ (2014), utilises A/R/Tographic research methods to explore the experiences of Conservatory-style trained actors, who go onto complete teacher education programmes.

A/R/Tography is a fluid and dynamic research method, unique to each artist-researcher-teacher who engages with it. In A/R/Tography the multiple contiguous identities of individual artists-teachers-researchers provide a living, embodied, felt, ‘becoming’ practice-based methodology, leading arts-researchers into the borders, liminal spaces and ruptures of overlapping identities in artistic creation, teaching and research. The power of the methodology lies in paying attention to the ways in which identity interacts with noetic and embodied experiences as artist-researcher-teacher. These boundary spaces provide fertile tensions with which to interrogate constant changes in perception, approaches to practice, ways of knowing and becoming. Mindy’s up-coming publications focus on the power of Arts Research practices as engines for social change and on developing approaches to bring Indigenous content into curriculum in Quebec, using theatre and drama.

Dr Kristof Fenyvesi

Our second performer of research of the evening is Dr. Kristof Fenyvesi, postdoctoral researcher with the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Kristof is a Member of the Innovative Learning Environments Research Group and is Vice-President of the world’s largest mathematics and arts community, The Bridges Organization.

Kristof is an expert in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) learning, with a particular focus on experiential, hands-on, playful learning, bringing multi and trans-disciplinary approaches, co-learning and co-teaching, to exploring maths, arts, design and technology.

Kristof is the founder of the Experience Workshop Global STEAM network ( The Experience Workshop promotes playful, experiential transdisciplinary learning, exploring new sources of education in these disciplines through creative interactions between the disciplines. A recent example of this is the Children Math-Art Exhibit (, a collaboration between the Experience Workshop and Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. Children from all over South Africa submitted art works to the exhibition, expressing their relationship to mathematical concepts through creative expression. Kristof is also involved in developing Kids Inspiring Kids in STEAM (KIKS), an ERAMUS+ supported project ( which challenges barriers to learning in Sciences and Maths by encouraging students to develop STEAM activities utilizing new technologies, tools, open educational resources, and everyday items and materials in order to inspire their peers in STEAM learning.

Dr Alisan Funk

Dr Alisan Funk

Our third performer is Dr Alisan Funk, Assistant Professor of Circus at the School of Dance and Circus (DOCH) at the Stockholm University of the Arts.

Alisan has worked in circus arts for 20 years as a performer, coach, creator, director and coach educator. After a career as a circus trainer and pedagogue at Circus Smirkus and the National Circus School, Alisan completed her doctoral studies in Education at McGill University, Montreal, before taking up her present role as Head of the Bachelors of Circus Arts at DOCH.

Alisan has published a range of papers exploring circus curriculum, the relationship between academic, kinaesthetic and artistic knowledge, issues impacting well-being of circus performers and the gendered aspects of circus performance emerging as Circus becomes increasingly accredited through higher education institutions. Alisan works with undergraduate students in Stockholm to explore the many diverse elements of circus arts, including circus poetics and dramaturgy, circus apprenticeship as a means of increasing physical literacy and movement creativity, how circus practitioners understand their career trajectories, circus arts curriculums, and gender in circus arts education.

For this month’s ACRG ‘Performing Research’ Event, Alisan will guide us through an embodied creative thinking project, interacting with objects around each of us in our homes. This brief guided workshop will bring an insight into Alisan’s practices and how an art form such a circus can evolve and grow in new ways through changing perspectives on practice depending on the desired outcome. This work troubles the boundaries, differentiations and thin veil between researching for performance or artistic research.

Dr Antonia Symeonidou and Dr Danilo Audiello

Our final performers for the evening are Dr Danilo Audiello and Dr Antonia Symeonidou, from The Academy of Magic and Science in Cambridge ( The Academy of Magic and Science innovate science outreach by using magic as the springboard for scientific applications from chemistry to electronics to physiology to psychology. The Academy uses magic as the vehicle to explain sciences and to encourage children into the learning processes by triggering their creative thinking to help them train their analytical skills and complex problem solving. The Academy is also designs innovative courses, workshops, conferences, media formats and exhibitions.

Dr Danilo Audiello

As well a holding a PhD Economics Analysis and Political Economy, Danilo is a magician, going by the stage name Alexis Arts ( Danilo holds several Guinness World Records relation to illusion and escape. His shows mix illusionism with theatre, dance, mime, quick change formations, shadow show artistry and martial arts.

Dr Antonia Symeonidou

Dr Antonia Symeonidou holds a PhD in biomaterials from the University of Cambridge. As co-founder of The Academy of Magic and Science, Antonia develops the scientific concepts at play within Danilo’s magical performances, using magic both as a tool to enchant students with scientific disciplines and as a vehicle to explain the science behind magic, behind bias and behind perceptions.

Danilo and Antonia are experimenting with the reduction of sensory imputs within a performance of magic in on-line learning and performance. In performances that usually draw on the full range of senses, Zoom reduces these possibilities to the visual and the auditory. Their performance of research will therefore play with the interactions between hundreds of disembodied audiences members connection through zoom and the ways to create a shared sense of rhythm and energy between audience and performers through the Zoom platform.

Register at

The Ethics of Performativity and the Effects and Affects of Anonymity in Online Platforms: A reflection on ACRGs January happening, ‘(Academic) Writing as/with/through Performance’

by Naomi Lee McCarthy, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University

In this blog post I am exploring the complexity and power of participating in an online creative activity informed by the performance of academic research at the Arts and Creativity Research Group’s (ACRG) January happening. The focus of the ACRGs 2020-21 series is on performing (creativities) research with a trans, inter and intradisciplinary ambition. Significantly, the invitation to engage ‘performatively’ (Austin, 1975) extends past the presenters and hosts to an open invitation for attendees to contribute multi modally: in the chat function; through dialogic comment; and at times through participating in break-out workshops or participatory gestures/activities. The linked workshops and activities are predicated on provocations designed to amplify the audiences emotional, intellectual and embodied exploration and understanding of what it means/can mean to perform your/our research. I will be contemplating the performative and ethical implications of attendees participating creatively in this online event, ‘(Academic) Writing For/Through/In Performance’, with an intent to publish the subsequent creative outputs anonymously through Padlet, an online, shareable noticeboard. I am using the concept of ‘performativity’ linguistically to refer to the power of speech and communication acts to not only communicate ideas but to act or consummate an action or construct and perform an identity (Austin, 1975).

The global Corona virus pandemic has led to the exponential growth of online forums for content dissemination and network development, bridging local, national and international communities. Thus there is an imperative to give detailed and specific consideration to the consequences of engaging ‘performatively’ in online forums. Through this post I am considering some of the ethical and performative impacts of authorship, anonymity and reproduction via online engagements. Ethical issues and questions arising are made ever more pressing by both the ease of content capture and dissemination and our evolving understanding of informed consent which is lagging behind our adoption of digital platforms.

the reader is displaced from her usual position of externality to the text and made to be part of its workings

(Lord, 2010, p.11)

I am using two quotes from Beth Lord’s explanatory text on Spinoza’s Ethics, as an introduction to considering ethics in relationship to the framework that the Arts and Creativities Research Group are developing for their monthly, digital research group meetings. Lord describes reading Spinoza’s Ethics as, ‘an exercise in unfolding the truth through the active thinking of the reader’, and that, ‘the reader is displaced from her usual position of externality to the text and made to be part of its workings‘ (Lord, 2010, p.11) In the performance of the ACRGs events, our collective relationship to the content unfolds or perhaps we are enfolded within the content as we shift from observer to participant to broadcaster (publishing via Padlet). 

January’s provocation was inspired by presenter Isabel Thomas, a science writer for children and Cambridge alumni who writes ‘sci-kus’ as part of her diffractive, creative writing practice. Thomas’s performance of her research included sharing her award-winning illustrated children’s book, ‘Fox: A Circle of Life Story’ (Thomas, 2020) that elegantly, poetically, and with scientific integrity, introduces children to the scientific concept that death is generative and leads to new life.

In a break-out workshop inspired by Thomas’s use of the sci-ku form we were invited to individually or collectively create sci-kus based on our research areas. A sci-ku is a twist on a Japanese Haiku, conflating the scientific and the technical, the literary and the imaginative. Placing our research interests into a technically constrained literary form that allows only seventeen syllables, is a complex, disciplined task. As a gesture towards creative liberty, an invitation was issued to participate by creating an sci-ku and publish anonymously. Anonymity was a strategy designed to protect us whilst encouraging us to dive into the sci-ku form and enable the sharing of work quickly and without seeking further written consent from each author to publish in the, at times, reactionary space of the internet. This strategy worked for most, although there was still a ripple of resistance from those that felt a little uncomfortable perhaps with the immediacy, the constrained form, the semi-public forum or perhaps unnamed and unknown anxieties.

Laurel Richardson tells us that,

Producing “things” always involves values — what things to produce, what to regard as equivalents, who has the right to name the things, and who defines the relationship between the “things” and the people who name them (see Shapiro, 1985–1986). Writing “things” is no exception. Writing always involves what Roland Barthes refers to as “the ownership of the means of enunciation” (quoted in Shapiro, 1985–1986, p. 195). A disclosure of writing practices, thus, is always a disclosure of forms of power (Derrida, 1982). Power is, always, a sociohistorical construction. No textual staging is ever innocent. We are always inscribing values in our writing. It is unavoidable. (Richardson, 1990, p.12)

Writing a sci-ku offers us a literary, evocative way to engage with our research, offering a different perspective to our individual academic approaches. This difference is steeped in the potential to reveal something new to us, about ourselves and our relationship to our research. To do this activity in the company of others and then be offered the opportunity to collectively publish on the online platform of Padlet, puts us in further conversation with our peers, and potentially the world outside our own disciplines, networks and communities. The revelatory nature of creative work carries inherent risks. Risks to our sense of ourselves: as writers; as researchers; as members of an academic community; as creative individuals; as vulnerable human beings. The anonymity strategy was put in place to mitigate some of those risks and/or to mitigate some of the constraints we may feel working in an unfamiliar form. 

I do not consider myself a poet, however, I do consider myself a risk taker, physically, intellectually and emotionally (all be it all on a rather small scale) and I for one, as it appeared did many others, took on the task thoughtfully and with pleasure. Rosi Braidotti, a ground-breaking contemporary continental philosopher and feminist theorist, when referencing Spinoza’s, Ethics of Joy, in her 2018 lecture at Western Sydney University, (WSU) spoke of plunging relationally into the world and grappling with the subject of who we are and what kind of thinking, relational subjects we are in a perpetual state of becoming. She counts differences as wealth and poses the question ‘how do we create a collective that can work to address todays challenges?’ (Braidotti, 2018)

I took the creative provocation from ACRG as an opportunity to plunge not only relationally but also poetically into the world of my research, through the discipline of selecting just seventeen syllables to represent my thinking. My research is an auto-ethnographic examination of my professional practice of artful-relational-cultural-mediation. To clarify, cultural mediation is more commonly known as art appreciation in Australia where I am based. I am using the more European term cultural mediation as it more clearly represents the kind of complex, nuanced, intercultural dialogic engagements I am interested in further exploring. My focus is on engaging audiences in embodied, affective and generative encounters with contemporary photography and video art that feature the body as metaphor and the body performing activism.  

After writing our sci-ku, which some people did collaboratively, we were then invited to publish our sci-ku on Padlet – anonymously. This suggestion made me hesitate. The notion of my/our words going out into the world detached from my/our identity raised some questions for me. Why continue to be anonymous? Why publish? Why in an academic forum where referencing is critical to one’s ethical identity as a researcher are we choosing to publish creative work anonymously? What does the anonymity provide and what does it remove? Is it a matter of resistance or rebellion against dominant writing forms and academic conventions? Is it an attempt to reduce the vulnerability of sharing one’s creative efforts while the ink is still metaphorically, wet on the page?

I paused before publishing anonymously, because I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about putting my words (which are my thinking) out into the world untethered from my identity. What does it mean: to de-anchor our words from our situated, embodied embrained selves? (Braidotti, 2019, pp. 50 – 51). What does the movement from the intimate, vulnerable space of early creation into the public arena of publishing entail? How does anonymity effect, affect or position us within this transition? And how does turning the spoken word (for example by reading our sci-ku to the group) into a written publication alter our relationship to those same words? How do those words then operate, cut free from their maker in the open-ended public space of a web-based platform? Do they continue to live, do they die, do they mutate, do they give birth to new words that will never know their own genealogy?  Are we liberated by the anonymity? Are we being risk avoidant? Or is something else at play? What are the ethics entailed in these decisions? What’s the right thing to do?

The answers to these questions are always going to be contingent and partial as, it’s difficult if not impossible to evaluate the consequence of every act for every person all of the time. (Sinnott- Armstrong 2003, cited in Israel, 2010, p. 11). In this case we could and did each make our own decision on whether to continue to the publishing step. To resist the invitation to publish also requires some consideration, as all actions have consequence, and so this blog post was born as a vehicle for reflection on the ethics of performativity and publishing, either anonymously or authored in and through online platforms.

Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, asks questions around education and risk-taking in his lecture Speaking Truth to Power (West, 2018). He asks what students are willing to risk for a life engaged in paideia, (Greek for deep learning) and parrhesia (Greek for speaking clearly and frankly and without feeling intimidated)? These are good questions to address in all dialogic and pedagogic forums including virtual ones and the centrality of risk in his question seems pertinent to the decision to publish anonymously.

Ethics is a bit like jazz, in that it is about more than simply following the notes on the page. It demands an ability to improvise and to think for ourselves

(MacFarlane, 2010, p.5)

Reading Mark Israel’s Research Ethics for Social Scientists, the Kantian position: ‘that obligations do not flow from consequences but instead from a core expectation that we should treat ourselves and others in ways consistent with human dignity and worth‘(Israel, 2014, p.15) stood out to me as a guiding principle. The text also examines the range of evolving and at times contradictory ethical approaches concurrently operating in contemporary life. (Israel, 2014 p 11 -22). The complexity of ethical practice is made ever more fluid in online forums and it is likely that we are all watching the evolution of ethics in relation to such forums with much interest and a little trepidation. We are in a period of adaption to the centrality and ubiquity of online platforms effecting almost every area of our life– professionally, academically and socially. I for one am playing a game of catch up as I take up virtual opportunities with relish and then find myself in cyber space trying to work out who I/we are and why I/we are there and, within that exchange – what are the rules of engagement? Bruce Macfarlane, in his essay The Virtuous Researcher puts it this way, ‘Ethics is a bit like jazz, in that it is about more than simply following the notes on the page. It demands an ability to improvise and to think for ourselves’ (MacFarlane, 2010, p.5). In my case the opportunity arose for me write this blog and spend time considering my ethical perspective on participating performatively and publishing online as part of the dynamic and generative ACRGs monthly happenings exploring (Academic) Writing For/Through/In Performance.

On reflection, I decided to publish my sci-ku here, alongside my identity, not as an act of ego but as an act of identity construction. Others chose differently – as is their ethical prerogative and privilege. The most important ethical consideration was that we had a choice.

My sciku:

Pulse, breath, rhythm

Eyes, ears, hearts, impact, incite

Crack apart together


Austin, J. (1975). How to do things with words (2nd ed., William James lectures; 1955). Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press.

Braidotti, R. (2018). What counts as human, WSU Lecture series online,

Braidotti, R. (2019). A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities. Theory, Culture & Society, 36(6), 31-61

Israel, M. (2014). Research ethics and integrity for social scientists : Beyond regulatory compliance. ProQuest Ebook Central p. 2 – 10

Lord, B. (2010). Spinoza’s ethics an Edinburgh philosophical guide (Edinburgh philosophical guides series). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Macfarlane, B. 2010. The Virtuous Researcher. The Chronicle of Higher Education,

Richardson, L. (1990). Contemporary writing issues. In Writing Strategies (pp. 12-12). SAGE Publications, Inc.,

West, C. (2018). Speaking truth to power, MIT School of architecture & Planning Lecture online,

ACRG ‘Performing Research’ Series January 2021 Event (ACADEMIC) WRITING FOR/THROUGH/IN PERFORMANCE Here is more detailed information on how presenter Isabel Thomas uses a creative writing tool she calls ‘SCIKU’ in the classroom

The germ of the approach came from an integrated science/literacy program of teaching used with trainee teachers by Ledoux and McHenry (2004).In a typical workshop I only have an hour with pupils, so my approach is quite condensed. After sharing my own lyrical science writing (Moth: An Evolution Story) I lead the class on a sensory exploration of a range of different moth species and their ‘superpowers’ (using images, real moths / caterpillars, scents, sounds and textures). Throughout this journey I ask them to take short notes, after modelling how to record both new knowledge and affective responses (inc emotions, memories provoked) in two separate columns headed ‘scientists’ eyes’ and ‘poet’s eyes’ (adapting a teaching activity used by Plummer, Davis and Brazier, 2011). Pupils have their own notepads and I also collate ideas for a class version. Inevitably, some responses / phrases that we capture don’t fit firmly in either column, which leads to discussion of the nature of science, similarities in differences in how scientists and artists seek to understand the world, and the use of language to present scientific ‘fact’. Once we have explored all the moths, we have created a ‘bank’ of phrases, some of which we would all agree on and some of which are very personal. I ask children to recap what they know about haiku (they are typically Y5/6) and introduce them to sciku via examples from I use phrases from the whole-class phrase bank to model the sciku writing, with attention to the aim of haiku: to tell us something about nature and our emotional response to it. Children then have 5 to 7 minutes to assemble their own sciku drawing on their phrase bank (this makes it a far less formidable task for more reluctant writers, as we are not starting with a blank page; I tell them how this is mirrors my own writing process, of beginning with words on the page then playing with those words, rather than plucking fully formed sentences / ideas out of my imagination). We finish the workshop with as many performances as we have time for. Sometimes we write the sciku on paper moths so that schools can create a display, a fluttering cloud of science poetry, after I have left. Sometimes teachers run the haiku writing stage as a lesson after the workshop, and select some haiku to send me for further comment. Evaluation may take the form of drawing attention to poetic phrases, and where children have successfully combined both information about a natural phenomenon and an emotional element – but I use the word evaluation losely, as my role as visiting author is to give extremely enthusiastic feedback to encourage all children to see themselves as both writers/poets and people who would want to understand the world through science. My observation is that children assemble superb haiku packed with imagery from their word banks, and edit rigorously to stick within the syllable count. They also love performing their sciku. 

These are examples are by Y6 pupils at Ronald Ross Primary School, Wandsworth

All moths collide
When darkness surrounds the sky
and rest by daylight. 

Like moths to a flame,
we are drawn to each other.
Caught in the bright light.

Moths passing on genes.
Moths camouflaged in black seams.
Pray to not be seen.

Michael Ledoux & Nadine McHenry (2004) A Constructivist Approach in the
Interdisciplinary Instruction of Science and Language Arts Methods, Teaching Education, 15:4,
385-399, DOI: 10.1080/1047621042000304510
Donna M. Plummer , Betty Jo Davis & Victoria Brazier (2011) Linking Science
and Literacy, Science Activities, 48:3, 85-90, DOI: 10.1080/00368121.2010.532837
Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury, 2018)

Isabel Thomas Slide Presentation (on SCIKU) and Elizabeth Mackinlay (on/with examples of DRABBLES by Mel Green, Elizabeth Allotta and Karen Madden) from 4 Jan 2021 ‘(Academic) Writing For/Through/In Performance’ Event featuring Elizabeth Mackinlay, Pat Thomson and Pam Burnard (ACRG Chair)

In ISABEL THOMAS’s slide presentation, Isabel introduces alternative types of writing in school science. She shares how science inspires the writing. She presents part of a diffractive analysis which makes transparent moments in an event of ‘knowing things differently’. Isabel also shares a brilliant writing tool that she developed called ‘Sciku’, a scientific haiku that communicates the essence of scientific thinking.

In ELIZABETH MACKINLAY’s presentation we were introduced to DRABBLES. What is a DRABBLE? A DRABBLE is a short piece of fiction of one hundred words in length, no more, no less. The purpose of a DRABBLE is to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end, meaningfully and capturing the interest of the reader. (Source:, accessed 10 December 2020) Here is Karen Madden’s DRABBLE (which draws directly on Woolf, V. [1928] 2016) Orlando: Great Britain: Penguin Classics.

I pick up a pen and open to a new page. Whenever I write, Virginia is nearby. ‘We write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person, ‘ she says. ‘The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.’ (Woolf, [1928] 2016:167). My whole person, every fibre of my being is threading and piercing, anticipating my moment to DRAW. Whenever I write Virginia is nearby. Her radical departure urges me on. I move my pen with every fibre of my being. Whenever I write Virginia is nearby.

Click through to VIMEO to watch performances of drabbles by Karen Madden, Mel Green and Elizabeth Allotta.