The body of the relationship: a practice-based exploration of the relationship between the body and its environment informed by the notion of Butoh-body.
: Three case studies in time-based art

  • Eleni Kolliopoulou

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research explores the deployment of drama-based methods, in particular Butoh dance within visual art practices namely installation art in order to enhance participants’ immersivity. In doing so, the thesis is crafted in a way that initially provides the reader with a brief overview of the two major disciplines involved locating the project within the relevant hitherto arts movements, their history and evolution. In a second stance, the notion of the Butoh-body and its relevance to this practice-based exploration is discussed. Further light is shed upon the understanding of the term immersion in the context of this project. The term immersion is here supported theoretically by an illustration of resonating concepts arising in Japanese phenomenology with main figure Kitaro Nishida. In order to highlight Nishida’s point of view upon the modality with which our body interrelates to its environment in the “Acting intuition” state—here linked to the state of immersion—, a more expanded discussion that compares and analyses Western phenomenological concepts is developed with reference to—among others—Merleau-Ponty’s thoughts upon “intercorporeality” and Bennett’s approach towards New materialism and Ecological thinking. This practice-based exploration concerns the relationship between the body (participant) and its environment (performative installation) and consists of three time-based art major research installations informed by the notion of Butoh-body. The thesis is thereafter articulated as chapters that exist separately and interdependently around the axis of the research installations: Seabed, Waste-is-land, Sky-field 1 & 2. The research design (creation process) of the above-mentioned research installations is analysed and theoretical argumentahtion about the choices made by the researcher is given. The data gathered from participants’ feedback forms are available in a separate section at the end of the thesis whereas all chapters include an analysis of the experience and a conclusion section after each experimentation. This research aims to act as a map explaining forces at work and interrelations of different fields of enquiry to artists, scholars and researchers that wish to develop an immersive performative experiment; they would be enriched by the analysis, observation and evaluation of its process. Moreover, this thesis attempts to create a dialogue among art and drama theorists such as Kirby and Schechner in the area of performativity. Moreover, by positioning the research among other practitioners’ artworks the researcher aims to offer a contextualization of a niche field. For this reason, a great time is spent on the tracing of the field as this is perceived to offer deeper understanding to an ever-growing interest to develop interdisciplinary projects of this nature in the contemporary arts. My aspiration is that this thesis would hopefully be read as an insightful proposal for further enhancement of performative hybrid practices bridging gaps between disciplines.
Date of AwardMar 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTanya Dean (Supervisor), Giuliano Campo (Supervisor) & Ralf Sander (Supervisor)


  • Butoh
  • Immersion
  • Performativity
  • Temporality

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