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Matthias Sperling was Research Artist with Dance4 2018-19. He shared some words with us about what he did.

My research residency period at Dance4 supported the main part of my PhD research activity, which investigates the relationship between choreography and knowledge-generation as a kind of conjuring. The focus of this artistic research activity was the creation of No-How Generator, a choreographic work that premiered in October 2019 as part of Nottdance.

Collaborating performer Katye Coe and I worked in studio together to conjure the work, over a period of several weeks spread out over almost a year leading up to the performance. Different guests and collaborators also joined and supported us along the way, including other dance artists, cognitive scientists, a shamanic practitioner and production collaborators.

The work that my collaborators and I created, No-How Generator, embarks from the question: ‘If knowledge-generation is a fundamentally embodied process, can we see and experience it happening in a dance performance?’

Performed by Katye Coe and I, and joined by a different guest performer each time, this work invites an experience of a ritual-like performance that connects perspectives from embodied cognitive science with shamanism and hypnosis. With both seriousness and gently subversive humour, the work reflects on a dance performance’s potential to serve as a collective experience where particular forms of knowing are conjured into being – for performers and audience members alike.

The series of four short videos below, called ‘No-How Q&A’s’, were made during the creation process of No-How Generator and are a way of sharing more about this research. They take the form of informal conversations in which Katye Coe asks me questions around key ideas, concerns and approaches of the research. The videos are all close-captioned and each one focuses on a different aspect of the work:

No. 1: the thinking behind the title of the performance
No. 2: the concept of ‘magic & science’ and how this relates to the work
No. 3: how audiences are invited to experience the performance
No. 4: how I approach the relationship between dance performance and embodied knowledge-generation in this research

My PhD is based at De Montfort University (Leicester) and supported by Midlands4Cities in partnership with Dance4 and Siobhan Davies Dance. No-How Generator is additionally supported by Arts Council England and Sadler’s Wells.