Johanna Bruckner

EMBODIED INQUIRY AND INSURGENT RESEARCH CREATION in Johanna Bruckner's Total Algorithms of Partiality. By Marius Henderson.

Embodied Inquiry and Insurgent Research-Creation in Johanna Bruckner's Total Algorithms of Partiality

Marius Henderson

Johanna Bruckner’s Total Algorithms of Partiality intervenes into several of the most recent developments in Hamburg’s HafenCity on multiple levels and from multiple angles. The HafenCity district in Hamburg acts as a prestigious model for other harbor cities worldwide. The HafenCity’s new architectural setup serves as the base for several translocally operating companies, which are of considerable importance with respect to the improvement of international communication. The rapidly changing architecture of the HafenCity continues to transform Hamburg’s entire cityscape. Moreover, the HafenCity is subject to an increasing ‘complexification,’ as the positions of several key agents, like corporations, authorities, and investors are dynamically entangled. Recently new monitoring systems were introduced and sensors were installed in public places in the HafenCity. Johanna Bruckner’s Total Algorithms of Partiality conceives of this entanglement of positions and developments as being structurally similar to the performance of an algorithm, or as the choreography of a sensitive, logistic, algorithmic code. Bruckner’s Total Algorithms of Partiality sets out from the displacement of economic logistics, which “always strives for ‘efficiency gains as a value-adding measure,” as Ned Rossiter and Soenke Zehle claim[1], with a kind of ‘social logistics.’

Whereas the new monitoring systems in the HafenCity ostensibly mainly serve hegemonic economic and political interests, Bruckner’s work carves out space for the articulation of multi-faceted, potentially counter-hegemonic and marginalized interests. The dancing bodies which move through the HafenCity in the context of Bruckner’s work are evocative of a ‘general interest.’ They challenge the implemented ‘intelligent’ monitoring systems by invoking a subversive ‘general intellect.’[2] The HafenCity acts as a stage for the circulation of capital, goods, services, and human labor power. The dancers in Bruckner’s work ‘enflesh’ the processes of commerce, cognitive and physical labor that are taking place in the HafenCity, by becoming engaged in dynamics of embodied exploration. Moreover, the bodies in Bruckner’s work render spaces palpable which the monitoring systems cannot access. As these bodies in Total Algorithms of Partiality approach and scrutinize affective and corporeal tonalities they partially elude the capture of sensorial surveillance. These bodily movements inject an incalculable factor into the hegemonic algorithms, which were designed to calculate and solve problems. The moving, performing bodies of a group of professional dancers develop a script from Bruckner’s movement notations. This script ultimately engenders the creation of dance scores of these bodies’ own algorithms. What emerges out of these embodied, experimental and experiential dance scores can be rendered as an insurgent contemporary ‘social logistics,’ and this is eminently political, since as Rossiter and Zehle point out: “It is precisely at the multiple points of tension striking the relation between experience and algorithm that one finds the instance of politics. And against its own image and infrastructures of capture, logistics provides a possible device of articulating political insurgency.”[3] The dancing bodies let an outside, an ‘undercommon nonplace,’[4] become perceptible even within the confines of the heavily monitored inside of the HafenCity. In this context, Total Algorithms of Partiality also draws attention to the numerous migrant workers from the global South East who are key contributors to the construction of the emerging architectures in the HafenCity. These workers partake in formations of the ‘undercommons,’ and for them the HafenCity becomes the site of a constant struggle for survival.

Akin to a paradoxical intervention, the subversive potential which inherent in some of the dominant structures in the HafenCity is extracted in Bruckner’s work. The dancing bodies’ movements occasionally delve into playfulness, for instance when they enter a miniature basketball court in the HafenCity. The dancers’ inquisitive playfulness generates challenging counterpoints in relation to standardized and commercialized forms of ‘play,’ like forms of play produced by video game companies, which are also based in the HafenCity. The mode of ‘play’ that the dancing bodies in Bruckner’s work practice can be related to Erin Manning’s and Brian Massumi’s notion of play as a “minor tendency contained by every instituted structure, whose unleashing softens or disables postural default settings.”[5] Moreover, Manning and Massumi proclaim that a “degree of play creates the potential for the emergence of the new, not in frontal assault against structure but at the edges and in its pores.”[6]Total Algorithms of Partiality enacts precisely such a form of clandestinely subversive play and ludic dissent.

Bruckner also conducted research on a digitally and physically conducted strike of employees of a Hamburg based video game company. The digital technologies that the employees designed and used were thus partially repurposed for insurgent aims. Bruckner’s research based approach sets off from an approximation to marginalized archives of knowledge, and thus creates space for the enunciation of matters that were excluded from hegemonic historiographies. Yet, this process can in no way be reduced to a purely discursive revision or alternative representation (of historiography). And this includes the most recent, ongoing historical present as well. Total Algorithms of Partiality instantiates cuts in the hardened social conditions of the present, in which bodies are being orientated toward maximal utilization and accumulation.

In the dance movements of the performers one can witness the bodies’ potential to secede from forms to which they were relegated, and to assume other forms and formations. Options for alternative sensory arrangements suddenly arise since dance affects the entire body, with all its senses. Hence, Bruckner’s work also investigates the possibilities for a ‘(re)distribution’ of the sensible, and this marks the preeminent moment of the emergence of the political, according to Jacques Rancière.[7]

Total Algorithms of Partiality provides space for the evolvement of non-automatized rhythms of affective, desiring bodies. The dancing bodies in Bruckner’s work forge relations with each other, with history(/ies), and with the local realities, in which shards of history are engrained as well. The thresholds or temporary transitional zones, which lead the dancing bodies from one corporeal arrangement to the next, harbor the possibility to evoke transformations of the ostensibly fixed state of things and to mobilize transformative intensities.

Past and present investigations into the affective dimensions of (labor) struggles constitute starting points for transformations of established genres and linear narratives of life and survival in Bruckner’s practice. Inter- and intra-subjective calibrations are being reshaped and reformulated, and resistant tendencies are being unleashed. Thus, Bruckner’s practice is necessarily situated in a transdisciplinary, transmedial, and trans-generic field – in dance, as well as in performance art, video art, public art and installation art.

Total Algorithms of Partiality is also characteristic of Johanna Bruckner’s artistic work in general in so far as it is not only based on transdisciplinary research but actively engages in and creates new research fields. Therefore, Bruckner’s practice resonates with what Manning and Massumi term “research-creation,” and which they define as a practice that does not primarily focus on finite research results and ultimate explanations but on ongoing, processual dynamics, on intensities and passages, and thus resembles “a polyrhythmic attuning of mutually composing autonomous activities that collectively resist definitive capitalist capture and affirm value in terms that cannot be quantified.”[8] The dancing bodies in Bruckner’s work propel qualitative affective intensities that exceed any attempt at terminal quantified capture. Johanna Bruckner’s research-creations therefore do not stop at the level of cerebral ‘knowledge production’ but continue to resonate in, across, and between affected and affecting bodies.


[1] Rossiter, Ned, and Soenke Zehle. “The Aesthetics of Algorithmic Experience.” Organized Networks: Invent New Institutional Forms. Web. <> Accessed July 29 2016.

[2] On the notion of the ‘general intellect’ in a post-operaist sense cf. Virno, Paolo. “General Intellect.” Transl. Arianna Bove. Beyond Cognitive Capital: Another Life just Might Be Possible. Web. <> Accessed July 29 2016; Berardi, Franco “Bifo.” “The General Intellect is Looking for a Body.” The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012. Print. 103-134.

[3] Rossiter and Zehle.

[4] On the ‘undercommons’ as a ‘nonplace’ and an “outside to be sensed inside” cf. Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Brooklyn, NY: Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013. Print. 39.

[5] Manning, Erin, and Brian Massumi. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2014. Print. 99.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cf. Jacques Rancière. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. New York: Continuum, 2004. Print.


[8] Manning and Massumi, 123.