RECIPROCAL DRAWING: Bodies’ Co–dependence and Direct Contact in Performance Drawing

Agnieszka Karasch

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Reciprocal Drawing is an original method of collaborative practice situated within the field of performance drawing. In Reciprocal Drawing, two collaborators draw in the frame of reciprocal partnering strategy, which imposes uninterrupted co–dependence and contact between their bodies. The practice is carried out within two additional frames: the repertoire of actions and the score (rules and diagrams). Although these frames have been applied before, this research further jointly develops them to tackle challenges emerging from application of reciprocal strategies in drawing. The combination of frames facilitates co–exploration of reciprocal strategies’ potential for the medium. Supported by the frames, the collaborators devise complex reciprocal processes resulting in products that reflect ambiguous and nuanced human relations. The developed Reciprocal Drawing aims to extend conventional drawing by underlining the medium’s bodily–reciprocal, social potential. As an artistic research, the study focuses on Reciprocal Drawing processes and products as sources of embodied knowledge and explores the opportunities which they bring for drawing. As a phenomenological research, the study explores the embodied, relational–social dimension of Reciprocal Drawing. This is done by discussing the drawing–based experimentation conducted first solo by the researcher and then in duo form with collaborating artists. In the solo phase, the repertoire of actions was formed based on Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), a system of codified vocabulary used in understanding human movement. LMA helped the researcher to systemize and adapt body actions to the conditions of drawing in contact with the two–dimensional horizontal plane. In the collaborative phase, two strategies were identified as establishing the bodies’ co–dependence: rope–binding, originally used by Tehching Hsieh in his One Year Performance. Rope Piece (1983–84) and point–of–contact, the principle of Contact Improvisation dance. The use of rules and diagrams in the co–experiments links them to the 1970s practices of the Fluxus artists. In the reflection following the experimentation, LMA was also utilized to establish links between the complex reciprocal dynamics, the finalized drawings, and the mental states that accompanied their co–production. This aided the evaluation of the emerging opportunities. Phenomenological research theoretically guided the project allowing description, analysis, and thematic interpretation of the artist–researcher’s experience of the process to be verbalized. Following Merleau–Ponty’s philosophy, the embodied, expressive and dialogic character of Reciprocal Drawing is underlined as is its products’ capacity to be a source of self–knowledge for the creators. Additionally, with a support of theoretical perspectives in art and performance Reciprocal Drawing is identified as enabling co–exploration of physicality. Further, Reciprocal Drawing processes are presented as finely reflecting the social and relational aspect of human life: Defined as play, Reciprocal Drawing reveals its subversive, transformative and solidifying function, it renders possible learning new approaches to drawing. Finally, in this thesis Reciprocal Drawing is recognized as a postconsensual practice, where the engaged artists deliberately generate embodied conflict and co–explore its benefits without posing a threat to each other’s integrity. This is supported with the ethics derived from Jean–Luc Nancy’s and Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophies whose thinking is also employed to acknowledge Reciprocal Drawing as evoking loss, self–limitation and responsibility for the other.
Translated title of the contributionRECIPROCAL DRAWING: Bodies’ Co–dependence and Direct Contact in Performance Drawing
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Suominen, Anniina, Supervising Professor
  • Rouhiainen, Leena, Thesis Advisor, External person
  • Suominen, Anniina, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-1509-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-1510-9
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • performance drawing
  • partnering strategies
  • score
  • Laban Movement analysis
  • postconsensual collaboration
  • physicality
  • resistance
  • artistic research
  • phenomenology
  • embodiment


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