Cross-Arts Toolbox

This is a toolbox aimed at second cycle arts students who are interested in challenging the borders of their own skills, working interdisciplinary and seeking new ways through approaching other art forms.

This is put forward here as a way to pointing towards the existing field of cross-arts practices and to empower the student as a creative artist. Through these practices the aim is to raise awareness about the enriching dialogue that takes place in creative collaborations.

Exploring cross-arts practices can serve as a gateway for second cycle students into artistic research, therefore meeting the goal to prepare them for innovation and research, strengthening their knowledge of art making and pushing borders in art.

A lot of the material presented below derives from the existing field of experimental music; rooted in practices which can be traced to sonic inventions and explorations that took place in the early 20th century amongst Futurists and Dadaists, and later firmly established in the middle of the century by John Cage and others. Experimental music can be defined as a point of departure towards a (sonic) exploration of the unknown. Therefore it can serve as a gateway to cross arts exploration where students of different disciplines can meet on a mutual ground.

John Cage

John Cage’s definition of experimentalism was “the introduction of novel elements into one’s music” (Cage, 1961). In other words, the act is known and the outcome is unknown. This definition does not attempt to exclude any musical style, it simply requires the musician to embrace an unexpected sonic outcome through various activities including composition, performance, improvisation, installation, recording, and listening (Gottschalk, 2016).

Exercise: Make a piece based on the idea of John Cage’s A Dip in the Lake (see description under comments).

More examples of pieces by John Cage:
Radio Music

Collaborative Drawing

Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite corpse) is a collaborative drawing approach used by surrealist artists, such Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp.

Exercise: Draw a collective picture in the style of a Cadavre Exquis, where participants draw in turn.

Further reading on Cadavre Exquis

Pauline Oliveros

Deep Listening and Sonic Activism are firmly rooted in the practice of composer Pauline Oliveros who challenged the borders of disciplines and definitions of music and art. She generously asked tough questions of her collaborators for seven decades to help us all re-conceive our relationship to listening and the tools to make that happen. In the late 1960’s, Pauline Oliveros abandoned conventional Western music and started developing her own meditative methods as a response to the political situation at the time. The work resulted in text-based scores published in 1974 under the name Sonic Meditations which in Oliveros’ mind had humanitarian purposes and were a way to expand consciousness. In other words, listening became a form of sonic activism in which she attempted to erase the subject/object or performer/audience relationship (Oliveros, 1974).

Through the work presented here, performance tools that bring a new vantage point to traditional listening experiences are explored and the instrumental craft and the expectations of traditional performance practices will be deconstructed. Sometimes through humour and irony, other times through an urgent and visceral desire to listen more deeply and discover new sonic relationships.

Exercise: Perform some of Pauline Oliveros Sonic Meditations.

Further Reading: Pauline Oliveros, collected writings 1963-1989: Software for People

Sophie Callé - Take Care of Yourself

Sophie Callé’s work in highly conceptual and personal. She has ventured into the realm of cross artistic work, f.ex. in her work Take Care of Yourself. In the work she gives 107 women the authorship of her piece by asking them to interpret the content of a break up letter she received according to their profession. Many of the women were artist (dancers, singes, visual artist, musicians) and created new artworks based on the letter.

Exercise: Hand over your idea to someone else and let them take it where they want. And then you do the same with the work you receive back.

Graphic Scores

Graphic scores can serve as a gateway for creative approaches in music making and a lot of fun to play with. The link provides a few graphic scores and interpretations of them.

Exercise: Graphic Scores: Try them out, and then make your own.

The Fluxus Performance Workbook

First published in 1990, The Fluxus Performance Workbook is a collection of works by various Fluxus artists, accessible to anyone interested in trying them out. As stated in the introduction to the book, first examples of what became to be known as Fluxus can be traced to the event scores by John Cage, executed at the New School where he taught. Later it developed into a group of interdisciplinary artists who were active in the 1960’s and 70’s.  As is the case with fluxus art, some are easily executed, other not so, but they all leave plenty of open space for interpretation.

Exercise: Perform some of the pieces presented in The Fluxus Performance Workbook.

Christian Wolff

Key questions in Wolff’s body of work touch upon the questions of what it means to be an experimental and socially aware artist.

This he has done through allowing freedom and flexibility through the performance of his work, which often are equally aimed at non-professional as well as professional musicians. The Prose Collection is a collection of text scores that all are example of this. Burdocks is a collection of graphic scores for one or more orchestras; any number of players; any instruments or sound sources.

Exercise: Perform some of Wolf’s Prose Collection.

Cut-Up Technique

The cut-up is an aleatory literary technique, where written text is cut up and rearranged to create new text. The concept can be traced to artistic movements at the start of the 20th century, but popularised in the late 1950s by William S. Burroughs. Cut-up is performed by taking a text and cutting it in pieces. The pieces are then rearranged into a new text, such as in poems by Tristan Tzara as described in his short text, TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM.




by Tristan Tzara

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
Them poem will resemble you.
And there you are - an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Further reading:

Jennifer Walshe and The New Discipline

The New Discipline is a term originated by Jennifer Walshe, who refers to her working methods as The New Discipline referring to components such as physicality, theatricality and visual aspects as equally important as the sonic one.

Exercise: Embrace the fact that you are a body on stage / in space. Explore what your musically trained mind and body can do, leaving your traditional instrumental approaches aside, and perform Jennifer Walshe’s Zusammen i.

Further reading:

Jennifer Walshe: The New Discipline

Various texts on The New Discipline published by MusikTexte.

The Untitled Event at Black Mountain College

The Untitled Event from 1952 is a seminal cross disciplinary artwork where the emphasis is on what happens in the event where the art forms merge into one. The performance included (simultaneously) a dance routine, lecture and Zen Buddhism, a slideshow, experimental film screening, painting, experimental music, dogs and a poetry reading. The event has gain a somewhat mythical status since there is very little documentation and stories from participants and audience members vary quite a bit. But the happening marks a beginning of collaborative and cross disciplinary artworks. The event was simple in production and creation: Every artist was to show up at a given date with a performative work and show. The artist were not allow to share their work with each other until the event took place. The only thing known to every artist was the layout of the space. The experiment was to see what happens when different artistic forms merge in one event.

Exercise: Repeat the Untitled Event on a small scale. Decide a space and work individually for a day and then show all the works simultaneously. Experiment and define where the art forms merge.   

Further reading:

Carolyn Chen and Music for People

Carolyn Chen is an American composer and performer, based in Los Angeles, California. Part of her works she refers to as Music for People, “pieces for people without traditional instruments”. Some are game- or play-like. Most involve action or movement made for particular places.” These are pieces that invite people of different professions to make music through exploration of spaces and interaction.

Exercise: Perform Carolyn Chen’s Music For People.

Further reading:

Peter Ablinger

Peter Ablinger is an Austrian composer living in Berlin. In his work he questions the nature of sound, time and space, frequently working with noise without any kind of symbolism. His work can be explored thoroughly through his website, such as a list of pieces he calls reference pieces, or works that only exist in their title.

Exercise: Perform Peter Ablinger’s Holding Your Hand In The Rain.

Further reading:

Gob Squad

Gob Squad is a German/English performance collective based in Berlin. In their work they “search for beauty in the everyday, and look for words of wisdom from a passing stranger.” ( Their approach is cross art based and the members come from a varied artistic background. Their aim is to “try and explore the point where theatre meets art, media and real life.” Gob Squad uses a lot of set rules when creating work, regarding text, gestures, space and aesthetics. They often borrow the rules of games and use them as scaffold for their work.

Exercise: Mold a work after a childhood game that all participants know, f.ex. Musical Chairs.

Further reading:

La Monte Young

La Monte Young is an American avant-garde composer and one of the first minimalist composers. He is perhaps best known for his drone music such as with the experimental collective Theatre of Eternal Music. He was also affiliated with the Fluxus movement in the 1960’s in which he composed a set of pieces under the title Compositions 1960. The pieces are influenced by performance art and encourage the undertaker to perform extra-musical actions.

Exercise: Perform Young’s Compositions 1960:


'Pataphysics is a concept / philosophy / trope originating from French writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), described as the 'science of imaginary solutions', and as such offers an alternative way to research and re-interpret the surroundings. It has inspired countless artists from diverse disciplines (with a gravitational center in literature), and has influenced art developments like Absurdism, Dada, Futurism, Surrealism and Situationism.

Specifically the key concepts of Syzygy and Pataphor are of interest in this context (in short, being open to the observation of unexpected constellations, and taking metaphors seriously and by the word). The mode of observation that these inspire, open up possibilities to freshly perceive the environment, come to quick creative solutions, harvest group creativity in a loose concept without too many stifling restrictions, and enabling cross-discipline improvisation without naming it and without challenges of discipline proficiency. Instead, making creative use of (extended) affordances and restrictions within a certain area is combined with a method for keeping up creativity even in deadline stress, and a high tolerance for fun and silliness. So the methods of Applied Pataphysics give an opportunity to playfully explore creativity in in an equal group situation (skill- / gender- / discipline-independent), which can give a jump start to the collaborative processes of creative practitioners from different disciplines and backgrounds.

Exercise: Applied 'Pataphysics workshop

1) Try to understand 'Pataphysics (which is impossible)
Learn the historical background, get inspired by examples, and pay special attention to the concepts of Syzygy and Pataphor.

2) Form a practical number of groups
Ideal is an average between 3 and 5 participants per group, with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 11.

3) Conduct pataphysical research
The groups spread in the vicinity of the workshop and observe the surroundings with a pataphysical mindset. They are free to determine method and focus, but a shareable observation or a pataphysical theory is a desired outcome of the expeditions.

4) Present the outcome
Each group presents a pataphysical observation they have made or a pataphysical theory they have formed, and delivers backing material by means of images, sound, performance, or any other enlightening medium, possibly on location. Presentations should take approximately 5 minutes.

Further reading:

Andrew Hugill: 'Pataphysics: a useless guide: