Thinking with the body

[See wellcome site, short description, images, embed Wellcome video]

Thinking with the Body was an exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection, offering a glimpse into Wayne McGregor | Random Dance’s interdisciplinary research and the impact it has in the rehearsal studio. Staged in the run-up to the first performances of Atomos at Sadler’s Wells (October 2013), the exhibition featured the results of over a decade of interdisciplinary research into choreographic creativity, which has been applied in the studio, in dance education, and to increase public understanding.

The installation of Becoming as part of the exhibition achieves the original goal of EChO, the AHRC funded research project. The main aim of EChO was to apply a framework developed in previous research, and new anthropological engagement with the dance company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance to evaluate the potential for a digital object illustrate the creative process. The findings of this research were collaboratively fed back to a design team building an outcome intended for public viewing.

In this paper EChO Advisor Sarah Whatley provides further insights into the exhibition, in the context of Wayne McGregor’s interdisciplinary research.

The exhibition opened on 18 September and closed 27 October 2013. Over 19,000 visitors attended the exhibition.

[Include Exhibition designed along with images? And link to Bickerstaff’s longer video?]

Tracing collaboration

A timeline spanning 14 years opened the exhibition, providing a partial map of Wayne McGregor’s collaborations with artists and scientists. Productions are illustrated above the centre-line and research projects below it.

Choreographic thinking

This section of the exhibition focused on Choreographic Thinking Tools. These tools have been adapted into lessons (Mind and Movement) to enhance creative kinaesthetic skills in younger students, but they can be used to develop anyone’s ability to ‘think with the body’. At the core of the tools is a set of 12 principles that build translational relationships between what is ‘in the mind’ and what is ‘out there in the world’. This part of the exhibition was playfully designed by Magpie Studio to provoke awareness of these relationships.

[slider id=’780′ name=’Thinking with the body’]

Physical Thinking

This installation looked at cognitive scientist David Kirsh’s research into collaborative creativity. The installation displayed specific phenomena that show how dancers and choreographer work together as a thinking system. Movements of one dancer can carry information to another; sounds the choreographer makes can reshape a dance form; three dancers can interact to recall a dance phrase that no one dancer could remember alone.


This installation designed by Marc Downie and Nick Rothwell is the latest development of the research conducted by McGregor and his collaborators over several years into the development of an interactive digital object to support dance making. Becoming [add link to Becoming page] has been re-imagined less as an object or a tool, and more as a body in the studio that elicits a kinaesthetic response. Becoming was designed to work in three dimensions, therefore visitors were encouraged to borrow a pair of 3D glasses and stand directly in front of the screen to best experience the installation.

Seeing sound

Composer Ben Frost adapted his score for the Wayne McGregor | Random Dance production FAR into a listening experience to encourage visitors to explore the visual forms people can imagine or bring to mind when they hear sound.

Dance making

David Bickerstaff’s film, made especially for this exhibition, was shot over three consecutive days in August 2013 during the rehearsal for Wayne McGregor | Random Dance piece Atomos [add link to Atomos page], which ran on 9 – 12 October 2013 at Sadler’s Wells, in parallel with the exhibition. The film shows how Becoming formed integral part of the creative process.