Relay Conversation The Reading Room #21 – In the thick of things (part 1)

Conversation with Flora Reznik (FR), Andrej Radman (AR), Sissel Marie Tonn (ST), Lila Athanasiadou (LA), Marcel Cobussen (MC) and Jonathan Reus (JR)

Illustration by Sissel Marie Tonn

Editor’s note:

The Reading Room is an event series dedicated to creating a community-oriented, public platform for encounters with contemporary ideas on art and society. At its core, the Reading Room series revolves around the reading of texts provided by invited guests – cultural theorists, philosophers and curators – who join our diverse community in an open discussion while providing insight, context and perspective on the topics at hand.

The series stems from a belief that keeping a close connection to historical and emerging theories on art and culture is invaluable to artists. Especially in the 21st century, where theory, practice and social engagement in the arts seem to merge ever more seamlessly. The Reading Room is made possible with support from Stroom Den Haag and the Dutch Creative Industries Fund.

As discussions in The Reading Room are so ephemeral, yet such a rich source of ideas and understandings, we have looked for potential formats to capture traces of what happens in the thick of things. This interview is part of that process, one of a series in 2017 that we call ‘Relay Conversations’. These interviews, conducted as a reflective round-table discussion between the curators and guests, is not only an effort to archive the highlights of the event, but also an opportunity to shed light on the texts discussed for those who were unable to attend the session in person.

While there has been much written and said about the value of improvisation in discussions about innovation and creativity, there seems to be no prescriptive formula for improvisation itself. The aim of this cluster of The Reading Room is to make improvisation slightly more knowable. While we acknowledge the many traditions and theories of improvisation within music genres, this cluster will focus on ways in which improvisation is relational, existing within a physical space occupied by players and potentials to act. Through this perspective, we will work to deconstruct the persistent idea of the improviser as a freewheeling subject, or navigator, and instead emphasize a model of subjectivity that is constantly shifting in the exchange of energies between human and technological players.

For this discussion we had the pleasure of being joined by three guest readers from music and architecture: philosopher of music and auditory culture Marcel Cobussen, as well as two theorists with a focus on architecture and spatial perception, Lila Athanasiadou and Andrej Radman. With their guidance we immersed ourselves into various conceptual tools for thinking of improvisation as relational, distributed, and even systematic.

In the excerpt from the recently published The field of musical improvisation (open access) read during the first session, Marcel Cobussen suggests that “improvisation takes place in all [acts of] musicking”, contending that improvisation as a performative phenomenon transcends genre. But can it also elude generalized analysis? Can concepts from complex systems theory, architecture, and process-based philosophies help us to make this leap, and consider improvisation as a generalized practice of spatial creativity? Furthermore, what can the practice of musical improvisation give back to those theories?

Complimenting (and being challenged by) Cobussen’s text in the first session was a set of two texts: Ray Brassier’s “Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom”, and a critique of that text, “Promethean and Posthuman Freedom: Brassier on Improvisation and Time”, by David Roden. As the reader will notice, Cobussen is very skeptical about certain notions proposed by Roden, the possibility of improvisatory acts to arise ‘ex nihilo’, for example. Therefore, we found ourselves in a twister of arguments that almost left us out of breath. This was one exciting encounter that, if anything, revealed that we should never take texts as sacred objects of veneration.

“Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom” starts by criticising the notion of voluntarism, as the myth of an unconditioned act. Instead, Ray Brassier proposes a materialistic understanding of autonomy. He defines the freedom of an act not as the act of a self, but as an act acting upon itself: a self determining act. In this way, he gets rid of a Modern inheritance that can only think of freedom in relation to a human agent. The question is no longer who or what acts, but what conditions the act. What is the role of an improviser in an entanglement of relations that combine rule governed reason and pattern governed mechanisms? And later, can that act still be called a free act?  

David Roden’s text tackles a distinction on Brassier’s set of conditions for an autonomous act. According to Brassier, there are two kinds of conditions: linguistic rules or norms and the natural regularities and behaviors on which they depend. Only by acknowledging the rules, can one deviate from them. Brassier notices a “struggle” here, and aims to take the argument further by claiming that it is not the role of the improviser to acknowledge and break a rule, because “rules are not in place” in an irreversible temporality linked to “context-sensitive patterns of expectation”. Brassier advocates for an “obscure genesis of improvisation” in an effort to construct “an ethics that can address the radically open horizons”.  

Relay Conversation

ST: Dear Andrej, in the first session you said, provocatively: God can’t improvise. While this is already a wonderfully poetic idea, it also strikes directly at some of the deepest discussions we had about what improvisation is and does. Can you elaborate? Why can’t God improvise?

AR: We (the non-omniscient) are blessed precisely because we are capable of surprising ourselves. By contrast, God knows all the options a priori and hence cannot, by definition, be surprised, ever. This is an issue of temporality. More precisely it is an issue of irreversibility of time also known as the Humpty Dumpty problem. In his paper on the encounter between Brassier’s Prometheanism and his own Speculative Posthumanism, Roden underscores ‘knowing how’ which depends on immanently honing expectations and sensations, in contrast to the ‘knowing that’ of transcendental rules. As he puts it aptly “we are not free in virtue of acknowledging or declining musical norms since these are not in place.” Norms are arrived at only ex post facto from Latin ex (“from”) + post (“after”) + facto, ablative of factum (“deed”). 

In his recent interview Alexander Galloway explains the difference between theories of transcendence and immanence: “The problem with the transcendental is it’s always cheating. The transcendental always inserts something else as a point of measure toward which other things are made subservient […] — any kind of

measure that others must live up to or fail to live up to. Laruelle calls this ‘the oldest prejudice.’” By contrast to the transcendental strategies that produce exo-consistency, theories of radical immanence try to resolve the oldest prejudice by thinking about a world as endo-consistent, i.e., immanent to itself. As Galloway concludes, immanence is a way to stop cheating. Every improvisation is a genesis, and as such exceeds the improviser’s power of representation. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. Deleuze offers a wonderful way out of the (in)determinist impasse (i.e., how something indeterminate acquires determination, or better still, a consistency). It is not a matter of putting all sorts of things under an overarching concept (baggy trousers), but of relating each and every concept with the variables that determine their mutation. Such concepts, that undergo genesis themselves, are called multiplicities. They are thus singular concepts, not universal and can be mapped neither deductively (by inference) nor inductively (by extrapolation), but abductively where abduction stands for the material (i.e. experimental/experiential) heuristics. In the matters of improvisation the logocentric if-then (if three angles then a triangle) gives way to the what-if couple (what will happen if I do this?). This in turn marks the shift of focus from the synoptic conditions of possibility (in general) to the real and thus full of surprises (morpho)genesis. In other words, it is thanks to our finitude that we are


capable of improvising. Most importantly, when the genetic supplants the generic mode, the improviser himself/herself cannot remain unaffected (immutable).

Jon, with regard to your practice, can you reveal the strategies you employed to ‘rid yourself of yourself’ which seems like a necessary (pre)condition for improvisation. Put differently, how do you escape the demiurge syndrome (a psychological subject whose private meanings and public expressions are crucial to understanding her work and its effects)? (How) does the act of improvisation contribute to the process of subjectification of the improviser?

JR: Interesting questions! Thanks Andrej. I’m not sure that improvisation always requires self-erasure. As Marcel points out in his Field of Musical Improvisation, improvisation practices are always context-dependent and subject to a network of relationships to pre-established musical forms, instruments, etc – which can just as well be linked to the aesthetic or symbolic framework one puts forth as an artist. This is part of what I think Marcel means when he says there is improvisation in all forms of music making, with the caveat that the relationships between the musician(s) and their surrounding framework of relationships have to be understood on a case-by-case basis. For me this is important, because I find the improvisational urge (as a method) present in all the

music I play: be it a porch jam with some folk musicians in North Florida, a heady free-improv with classically-trained instrumentalists in Amsterdam, or in my solo performance art or collaborations with dancers.

Where it does become important to ‘rid yourself of yourself’ is when the network, or framework, becomes simultaneously ossified, and I can imagine boring. I think this is an issue a lot of improvisers coming from the (extremely codified) Western concert music tradition struggle with. In this context, ‘rid yourself of yourself’ means to break free from centuries of tradition that are embodied in the repertoire of your instrument. And this tradition is baked deep. It’s in the design of your instrument, it’s in your muscles and your nervous system. I think this is why such free improvisers can be so draconian about never playing the same thing twice, never falling into a groove. Contrast this with improvisers who come from a folk or punk tradition, like myself, where when you collectively discover a great riff you want to ride it for a while.

You asked me about my work. I’ve played music in many genres – however, for many years now I’ve been more interested in instruments and ways of playing music than genres. I’m very interested in the potential of electronic and digital instruments, mostly because the forms of digital music production that are prominent (DAWs, mainly) are so unsatisfying. This eventually took me into media theory, technoculture and looking at instruments as media technologies and attempting to integrate that sensibility into my artistic work.

To give an example, in my iMac Music I repurpose found and collected iMac G3 computers as ‘computer instruments’, disassembling and probing them on stage. All of the sound material is generated by the circuitry of the computers, and the ‘instrument’ is played through a combination of probing the electronics and running software routines. I don’t look for total self-erasure in performance, but the possibility for surprise is important – and I suppose that in itself suggests losing some ego. In this case the instrument itself is unstable, the computer memory could become too corrupted, the whole thing can crash.. eventually it does, and that struggle between direct expression and a facilitating object that provides resistance is important.

Most of the music I make now involves improvisation in the sense that the instruments and instrumental setups I use lack a tradition, they consist of custom software and instrument-like objects, and confront me with the question “what is this?” / “what can I do with this?”. That estrangement in the first encounter with an instrument for me propels the joy of playing.

JR: Marcel, in The Field of Musical Improvisation you describe your approach to theorizing improvisation is one of writing ‘fictions’. In your words, “the question is not ‘Is it true?’ but rather ‘Does it work?’ or ‘Does it make sense?’”. I find this a wonderful metaphor for what we do as artists, but I imagine it can be a polemic approach in some research contexts. Could you elaborate a bit on why you believe in this method of inquiry and why it is specifically suited to the topic of music

improvisation. What are you trying to achieve? And is there a ‘wrong way’ to approach improvisation?

MC: In general – that is, not specifically related to improvisation – I am less interested in the question what something – an object, an event, a topic, a subject, etc. – is, that is, what its intrinsic elements are, as this easily touches on the ethical topic of in- and exclusion, of alleged universalities, and principal determinations. The history of improvisation and related terms such as extemporization, fantasieren, and variation, show that – like (almost) all other concepts, terms, theories – it is always moving, always changing, always de- and reterritorializing. Hence, improvisation has no clear identity but is at work in each and every music making, and each time differently. In my book I try to make clear that there is a sharp distinction to be made between improvisation in music and improvised music. Yes, I tell a story about improvisation, in more or less the same way as each scholar tells a story about the world, and in more or less the same way as each artist tells a story about the world. I don’t want to say that what a scholar does is the same as what an artist does; each of them have their own way of storytelling, but it remains a story, determined by – among others – aesthetic choices (a narrative strategy), epistemological choices (the explanatory model), and ethical or moral choices (the ideological background). In the end it comes down to the question whether the story has been a convincing one or presented weakly, perhaps even boring.

Is there a “wrong way” to approach improvisation, you ask.

That estrangement in the first encounter with an instrument for me propels the joy of playing.

Actually I would like to pass this question on to Flora, just to see how different people (re)act to such a question. “Wrong” is a very difficult word in this context. However, I often notice a kind of reductionism in the way scholars deal with improvisation. For example, the term “interacting” is almost always reserved for improvising musicians on stage. What I’ve tried to make clear in my book is the simple idea that musical improvisations know so much more actants influencing or affecting one another: a guitar interacts with the amplifier, a voice is affected and affects the space in which it sounds, technology makes interactions possible between musicians who are not physically in the same space, etc. My book tries to go beyond the reductionist approach, although it is clear that one can never present a complete list of all interactions taking place in or during an improvisation.

MC: Dear Flora, besides being interested in your answer to the question whether there are “wrong” ways to approach improvisation, I have another but related question for you. At several points in his text David Roden refers to improvisation in relation


to freedom: “Thus in the context of improvisation […], we are not free in virtue of acknowledging or declining musical norms since these are not in place” (p.8) and “[Improvisation, MC] requires that the agent embraces and is embraced a reality and time that interrupts any settled structure of values and ends” (p. 11). In my opinion, Roden seems to present a rather limited and incomplete idea of improvisation here. I wonder how you as a performance artist react to these statements.

FR: What I could say about the question of whether there is a wrong way to go about improvisation, is that wrong or good are ethical values, and therefore respond to local, determined positions and aims. Only from a classical, outdated, but sadly still pretty much embedded in our common sense perspective, something is intrinsically wrong or good. The holy triad “true-beautiful-good” has held strong over the centuries. Lately have learnt to dissociate those terms, with a special attention to the first of them, that seemed to determine all the rest. Some of us got convinced ‘that there are no facts, only interpretations’, and then we opened ourselves

 to the way more exciting world of fictions. By no means this is a world deprived from responsibilities: on the contrary, the way I narrate, the fiction I tell is my responsibility precisely because it is not necessarily true. So no, I don’t think there is “A” wrong way to approach improvisation, even though I might be ready to argue for or against certain ways and not others. If it counts for anything, I am a big fan of the way Marcel frames his approach, the way he makes his assumptions clear instead of hiding them under the ontological rug.

About the second question. I guess what you are strongly disagreeing with is two elements present is this statement by Roden: “An improvisation takes place in a time window limited by the memory and attention of the improviser, responding to her own playing, to the other players, or (as Brassier recognizes) to the real-time behavior of machines such as audio processors or midi-filters”. The two elements are linked: on the one hand, there is a temporal limitation. I think that in your text you tried to push the argument that there is no such separation between the “here

and now” and the past, incarnated in rules of a tradition or a genre, as well as techniques learned by the players during years of training, and even the history of acoustic studies, or developments in a certain material that is present in a speaker, a certain social context, etc. All these are sediments that are also actants in the field of improvisation, not something distinct of, or, in Roden’s words, “in tension with the act of improvisation”. Therefore what happens in a live performance is not that different to what happens in a rehearsal, or when someone writes a composition: each act is always iteration.  

On the other hand, and this seems to be the cause of the temporal limitation, Roden is thinking of improvisers in terms of human musicians. After reading the text a couple of times, I can’t help thinking that even though he claims to not fall into an anthropocentric perspective (he wrote Posthuman life, he reminds us several times!), he does. He might go as far as to be able to conceive a “collective agent”, but I think that this means basically a music band “that feels when the moment is right”: “This is a collective judgement

expressed through performance act itself rather than by application of formal musical rules”. All this seems very blurry to me. What is that “act”? Giving to the “act” the power to judge, even though this is not a linguistically expressed judgment about rules, even though Roden claims that functional autonomy is not proper to men, I doubt that expressions like “the agent embraces” or “the agent must tolerate” can leave space to anything but a human to be an agent. Towards the end of the text this becomes more and more evident. I get the feeling that Roden is talking about a helpless subject facing a “deracinative modernity” (also called “hypermodernity”, some lines later) with a guitar in his hands and no clue what to play. Relational thinking is precisely and effort to overcome the dead ends that theories of alienation have generated.

Dear Lila, could you go a little bit in detail into the two different temporalities that Brassier and Roden propose? Which paradigm convinces you the most? In other words, which conception of temporality would better equip an improviser who is “in the thick of things”?  

 ​LA: While Brassier does not explicitly refer to a relation with time in his text, his account of improvisation as a sequence of cognitive processes points to the rationalist paradigm of time inherited from the Enlightenment. To recount his process I will have to refer back to his conceptualization of the subject and its emergence through the act of improvisation. In his text “Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom” Brassier rejects the voluntarist account of freedom as absolute autonomy and replaces the sovereign subject of improvisation with the act, becoming the subject by “acting on itself”. This self-determination of the act is a result of a superimposition of what is given by nature, a “pattern-governed behavior” on one hand, and what is artificially made by culture, “a rule-conforming behavior”. The precondition for improvisation in this account is the “ability to obey” a rule through instinct while the next step is the recognition of the rule as code and its representation as such that turns the “mechanical impulse into a compulsion to act”. Within this account the act is understood as arising within the realm of reason implying an idea of

I don’t want to say that what a scholar does is the same as what an artist does; each of them have their own way of storytelling, but it remains a story, determined by – among others – aesthetic choices (a narrative strategy), epistemological choices (the explanatory model), and ethical or moral choices (the ideological background).

temporality inherited from the rationalist tradition.

Roden’s paradigm is rather different. In this text “Promethean and Posthuman Freedom: Brassier on Improvisation and Time”, he refers to a time that is “irreversible” that points to a conceptualization of improvisation as an open system and a process that could only be descriptive, never normative, prescriptive. (No act can be repeated as such as it is contingent on its spatio-temporal assemblage). Roden’s subject is the means that carries the act, its agent while the act is ecological. He does not suggest that improvisation requires natural or cultural dispositions and therefore he opens up improvisation as a process to non-human assemblages.However, he doesn’t advocate for a purely contingent, “everything-goes” system.  Roden argues that despite not having rules, or a specific sequence of actions, improvisation needs certain pre-conditions in order to occur. These pre-conditions are by no means a formula but a series of workings “sculpting possibilities” on the brain and the body. That is done through repetition and habit, “honing expectations and sensations” but also a different sensibility that allows for “noise” to contaminate and collectively support the act of

improvisation. He equates the ability to improvise to “functional autonomy” or the capacity to act within a situation as you pointed out, Flora.

To return to the question, improvisation is a certain position towards futurity, towards the creation of something new. In the case of Brassier that position despite not being purely anthropocentric (he refers to the example of bees) is still bounded within what can be represented within reason. While he does believe that reason can be extended, he posits it as only possible through discursive practices. Therefore processes that run parallel with the act of improvisation like intuition or imagination are bounded by our discursive capacities to reason. Roden’s account on the other hand, has a more radical stance towards the new, or the future, as he does not posit any limitations bounded by reason. By grounding improvisation on the level of sensations he opens up temporality to a different paradigm, as time is imploding on itself during the act in absolute speed that carries the moment. In the thick of things is a position that does not need time, it makes time by queering it into moments that resist being represented.

Roden’s speculative posthumanist account of improvisation suggests that “the agent must tolerate and

practice a systemic violence against itself and its world”. This conceptualization of the body echoes heavily Spinozean ethics and therefore I cannot help but suggest a parallel with Shusaku Arakawa’s & Madeleine Gins’s notion of the “architectural body”, the reciprocal determination through a continuous modulation of boundaries of a body together with the architecture that surrounds it as a “tentative constructing towards a holding-in place”. Sissel, could you elaborate on the spatio-temporal collapse of body and environment within Arakawa and Gins and speculate on how would thinking the body as a site of indetermination(an open system instead of self-contained whole) could situate an artistic practice within the “ethico-aesthetic” and therefore political realm?

ST: Dear Lila, your question reminds me of a passage in the fantastic book Reversible Destiny: We have decided not to Die (published by the Guggenheim Museum), wherein on the first pages the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard asks a question to Arakawa & Madeline Gins. He asks whether their reversible destiny project (which he calls their ‘antidestiny architecture’) could be thought of as “antibiography”, where the

distribution of time between beginning and end (of life) can be neutralised, and where a body could be younger at sixty years than at fifteen.

Arakawa and Gins answers in their usual determined (and slightly arrogant?) fashion: “The oxymoron ‘Reversible Destiny’ pits a theoretically unlimited plasticity against the hoary inexorability. The point is to force flexibility upon invincible necessity.” They reject the concept ‘antidestiny’ that Lyotard has proposed, stating that their project of Reversible Destiny is not a negation – but rather a quest to explore and challenge the ultimate fact of mortality that we as a species face. Through architectural concepts they ask us to reinvent ourselves “…into becoming another variety of being, one that will not relinquish its own elasticity and multivalency, one that will never veer off from dire necessity”. They do accept the concept of ‘growing young’, only if it means becoming increasingly able to field an ever greater number of possibilities”. In fact they are even happy to do away with the entire concept of being young if it can be substituted with an open-ended non-disintegrating “adult-infant”. The idea of the Architectural body of Arakawa and Gins for me is very close to the idea of environment + organism of ecological thought – the body is born into architecture and from then on inextricable from it. Thus the architectural body is the body proper including its architectural surround.

Arakawa and Gins started out in visual art – diagrammatic paintings and immersive installations,

whereafter they moved on to architecture. I imagine them formulating their early thoughts in the 60s when they met in the midst of the intense social, ethical and violent ruptures of society, cloaked in the shadows of the deadly devastations of the 20th century, the trauma of atomic bombs of Arakawa’s native lands, the civil rights movements and continuing wars of the US. This was where they laid the seeds of their ‘Reversible Destiny’ project. It was only later that they turned to architecture as a tool for challenging mortality, imagining architecture that would constantly challenging the body, causing a re-harmonization with its surroundings. They also went on to describe ‘daily research’, exercises for living in these custom architectures that would make oneself an ‘architectural body’. I personally wonder: Is this wish to defy death rather a wish to perpetuate life? In that sense it is indeed Spinozist – the quest to ‘figure out what a body can do’. Arakawa and Gins do not seem to be stuck in defining the ‘architectural body’ as purely a human one either. It can have many expressions. They speak of an ‘organism-that-persons’, as well as an ‘organism-that-cockroaches’, or ‘organism-that-snails’, making the expression of being an organism an active process of doing. Architecture then is a form of life, and like all forms of life, it is tentative and uncertain, and evolves through trial and error. Later in their response to Lyotard they write: Architecture is a tool that can be used as writing has

been, except that it can have a far more extensive range of application (…) Might not an architectural surround set up to cooperate with the gathering of intelligence increase, at the very least, ones feeling of connection with and sense of responsibility to the world?”. In this sense the tool of architecture as an open system that is primed to challenge the plasticity of the body in a playful way is a political gesture – and this is also what I choose to read into Reversible Destiny. We need to change the way we interact with the world. Currently we are wiping out the natural resources – both at the account of our own species and of others. To develop radically new concepts/tools is to foster new synaptic connections. To learn to think in a significantly different way requires a rewiring of our brains. The concepts of A&G use architecture to actively target the body, and the bodily experience of these concepts. It is a tool for activating the plasticity inherent in the body organism. In this way you can think of them more as Zen Koans – exercises meant to disrupt the seeker’s conventional mode of thought – than a shelter or a building in itself. Needless to say exercises of thought and making can then very actively be political gestures and modes of radical change as well. As A&G ends their letter: “One should be no more wary of reflected-on and thought-through architecture that embodies premises and tentatives than of writing that does so. Perhaps it is dangerous, but in facing this danger, we can begin to insist on the species’ architectural responsibility to itself”(Ref: Arakawa, Madeline Gins, and Michael Govan. Reversible Destiny: Arakawa/Gins. Guggenheim Museum, 1997.)

A conceptualization of improvisation as an open system and a process that could only be descriptive, never normative, prescriptive.


Andrej Radman has been teaching theory courses and design studios at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and The Built Environment since 2004. In 2008 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Architecture and joined the research and teaching staff of the Architecture Theory Chair. As a graduate of the Zagreb School of Architecture in Croatia, Radman received a Master’s Degree with Honours and a Doctoral Degree from Delft University of Technology. His current research focuses on New Materialism in general and Ecologies of Architecture in particular. Radman is a production editor and member of the editorial board of the peer-reviewed architecture theory journal Footprint. He is also a licensed architect with a portfolio of built and competition-winning projects. In 2002 Radman won the Croatian Association of Architects annual award for housing architecture in Croatia. His latest publication, coedited with Heidi Sohn, is Critical and Clinical Cartographies: Architecture, Robotics, Medicine, Philosophy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

Lila Athanasiadou is a freelance writer and researcher with a background in architecture. She has organized and moderated seminars and lectures at TU Deft and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and has presented her work in academic conferences at KTH, Stockholm, Goethe University in Frankfurt and the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallin. She has worked as an architectural consultant in Italy and Belgium and as a research assistant in MVRDV think-tank, the Why Factory . She currently leads the Corporeal Discourse program at the Master of Interior Architecture CORPOREAL at ArtEZ Academy of the Arts. Her work explores feminist and queer pedagogical practices and intersections of digital data with human and territorial bodies.

Marcel Cobussen is Full Professor of Auditory Culture and Music Philosophy at Leiden University (the Netherlands) and the Orpheus Institute in Ghent (Belgium).
He studied jazz piano at the Conservatory of Rotterdam and Art and Cultural Studies at Erasmus University, Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Cobussen is author of several books, among them The Field of Musical Improvisation (LUP 2017), Music and Ethics (Ashgate 2012/Routledge 2017, co-author Nanette Nielsen), and Thresholds. Rethinking Spirituality Through Music (Ashgate 2008). He is editor of The Routledge Companion to Sounding Art (Routledge 2016, co-editors Barry Truax and Vincent Meelberg) and Resonanties. Verkenningen tussen kunsten en wetenschappen (LUP 2011). He is editor-in- chief of the open access online Journal of Sonic Studies ( His PhD dissertation Deconstruction in Music (Erasmus University Rotterdam 2002) is presented as an online website located at

Sissel Marie Tonn is a Danish artist living in The Hague. She works with multi-media installation, textiles and writing, and her processual approach is driven by a great deal of curiosity and the possibilities of building relationships across fields. Her work revolves around an interest in structures of attention and perception within ecologies undergoing subtle or profound changes. Within this discourse her work explores these environmental (often humanly induced) changes, extending the public debates towards epistemological issues connecting these events to the body and its sensing of presence. She completed a master in Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in 2015 and will be a resident at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht in 2017.

Jonathan Reus is an American musician, researcher and curator whose work blends machine aesthetics with free improvisation. His broader research is into instruments and instrumentations, and their potential to bring new insight into knowing the world. Jonathan is associate lecturer of Computing and Coded Culture at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media in Leuphana University, Lüneburg, where he has created teaching methods for hybrid coursework blending science, mathematics and cultural studies. He is also a lecturer in performative sound art at the ArtEZ academy of art in Arnhem.

Flora Reznik is an Argentinian artist based in The Netherlands. She studied in Universidad del Cine (FUC), obtained a diploma in Philosophy (University of Buenos Aires), while she worked as a video editor in film and TV, and co-funded the contemporary arts magazine “CIA”. In The Netherlands she graduated from the ArtScience Interfaculty department, in The Royal Academy of Art, and currently co-curates the artist initiative Platform for Thought in Motion, while she develops her work as an artist in the fields of video, performance, installation and text. She is busy with the notions of physicality, territory and time.

From the curators of the Reading Room: Thank you again to Andrej Radman, Lila Athanasiadou and Marcel Cobussen for their insights both in The Reading Room and in this piece! We hope to welcome you both back in Den Haag. And special thanks to all the participants that joined in this gathering.