Co-Dreaming: Improvisation toward Liberatory Worlding

  Symposium 2023

This is the website of the 2023 arts-based research symposium: virtual realities, movement improvisation, social justice approaches, queer dreamings and ecoarts. My collaborators and I lead one of these most years, often in collaboration with the Duderstadt Video Studio at the University of Michigan. Here are two videos co-created out of earlier symposia:

Disability/Culture: Research in Motion video , 23 mins (2012 symposium)

Madweziibing - Music Rivering: Native Women Language Keepers video, 10 mins (2013 symposium)

Symposium Dates: September 11-14 2023, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, one day in the Duderstadt Video Studio, one day out at the lakes

(image: drawing by Jennifer Lickers, 4ft by 3ft, woman in traditional regalia, strawberries, flowers, silhouette of residential school in black)

organized by Petra Kuppers and Bhumi Patel

Public Sharing, Tuesday, 9/12: Video evening, Duderstadt Video Studio, 6.30-8pm, please register for live presence through (masks welcome). Videos will be captioned. The event will also be livestreamed at

Funding is made possible by Dance/USA Artist Fellowship funds, and by a University of Michigan ArtsEngine Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Grant Award

Full Program (if you are interested in participating in the whole event, please email

Monday, 9/11, arrival day: 7.00 dinner, evening storytelling/getting to know each other at fireside circle


Tuesday, 9/12, Duderstadt Day, on North Campus, University of Michigan: Video Performance Studio

11.00 Hello, Opening Circle

11.30am-12.30 Julie B. Johnson: Marking our Time with Embodied Memory: A Living Monuments Exploration

12.30-1.30 lunch 

1.30-2.30: Bhumi Patel: arriving, connecting, softening

3-4: Rebecca Caines and John Campbell: Improvising VRR

Video Evening at 6.30-8.  Up to 25 people: please email to claim a spot. The event will also be livestreamed at


Wednesday, 9/13, Outdoor Day, at the lake (with North Campus studio as raindate):

Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning and Mary Bunch: Augmented Reality Workshop

Picnic and open water /writing/being with forest time

Petra Kuppers: Terrestrial Crip Drifts, with 360 camera set-up

Stephanie Heit: Riparian Haunts workshop


Thursday, 9/14, Ypsilanti: 

Closing Improvisation 10-11.30

Drawing/Performance with Jennifer Lickers, Washtenaw Community College Art Gallery

Second Co-Dreaming mini-symposium/playshop: Oakland and San Francisco, CA, 10/16-19

Co-Dreaming Symposium Participant Bios: Michigan



Julie B. Johnson, PhD, centers her work on participatory dance and embodied memory mapping to amplify the histories, lived experiences, and bodily knowledge of Black women as a strategy towards collective liberation for all. She does this work joyfully with community partners through her creative practice, Moving Our Stories, and at Spelman College where she serves as an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Dance Performance & Choreography. She brings this work to the publishing realm as a Co-Founder/Consulting Editor of The Dancer-Citizen, an online open-access scholarly dance journal exploring the work of socially engaged artists. Johnson is a 2022 Dance/USA Artist Fellow and a 2020-23 Partners for Change Artist through Alternate ROOTS and The Surdna Foundation. In 2021, she was a Distinguished Fellow in-residence at the Hambidge Center, and a member of the 2020-21 cohort of the Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion Institute. In 2019, Julie received the Arbes Award and Black Spatial Relics Residency Award for her work on Idle Crimes & Heavy Work, a dance research collaboration exploring the history of Black women’s incarcerated labor resistance, and restoration in Georgia. Julie first entered this work as a Choreographer and Co-Director of The Georgia Incarceration Performance Project, a cross-institutional, archives-to-performance collaboration between Spelman College, The University of Georgia, and a collective of students, archivists, artists, activists, and justice-impacted community members. Julie earned a PhD in Dance Studies at Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance, researching meanings and experiences of ‘community’ in Philadelphia-based West African Dance classes.


Movement artist and writer Bhumi B Patel directs pateldanceworks and is a queer, desi, home-seeker, and science fiction choreographer (she/they). In its purest form, she creates performance works as a love letter to her ancestors. While Patel has trained in Western forms, she seeks to create movement outside of white models of dance at the intersection of embodied research and generating new futures, using improvisational practice for voice and body as a pursuit for liberation. Patel seeks liberation through dancing, choreographing, curating, teaching, and scholarship and attends to her desires to create nourishing community spaces. She earned her M.A. in American Dance Studies from Florida State University and her M.F.A. in Dance from Mills College. She is a member of Dancing Around Race, founded by Gerald Casel, and engages with curatorial practices for both performances and written publications. Patel’s work has been presented at Human Resources (LA), CounterPulse (SF), Joe Goode Annex (SF), RoundAntennae (Berkeley), SAFEhouse Arts (SF), max10 (Santa Cruz), RAWdance’s Concept Series (SF), The San Francisco International Arts Festival, Berkeley Finnish Hall, PUSHfest (SF), Shawl-Anderson’s Queering Dance Festival (Berkeley), and Deborah Slater’s Studio 210 Residency (SF). Bhumi has been a Lead Artist with SAFEhouse Arts, an Emerging Arts Professionals Fellow, and a Women of Color in the Arts Leadership through Mentorship Fellow. She has presented her research at the Dance Studies Association Annual conference, the Asia Pacific Dance Festival Conference, and the Popular Culture Association Annual conference and has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Life as a Modern Dancer, Contact Quarterly, and InDance.



John Campbell (Northern Ireland/Canada) is an artist who explores agency, interactivity, self and perception of self; informed by a contemporary climate where avatar/person/online profile blur, and where human and machine are becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate. He comes to the field of interdisciplinary arts practice from a professional career in software architecture, network engineering, and web integration. His kinetic sculptures, new media, and sound installations, that utilize his mechanical, electronic, and software engineering knowledge, have been shown in festivals and galleries in Canada, China, Netherlands, Romania and online. He creates playful and disturbing interactive experiences that demystify/interrogate, using repurposed older technologies, combined with experiments at the unstable edge of emerging software and hardware.

Rebecca Caines (Australia/Canada) is an interdisciplinary community-engaged artist, scholar, and curator, who works in contemporary performance, sound art, and installation, and new media art. She is currently a professor in Creative Technologies, at York University, in Toronto. Caines has staged large-scale community-based art projects in Australia, Northern Ireland, Canada, China, and the Netherlands. She researches (along with her community partners) the role of art and technology in social justice, contemporary understandings of community, and the fragile promise of ethical connection through improvisation and new ways of listening. Together with John Campbell and a team of artists and partners across Canada, she has just completed a project called multiPLAY supporting improvising, social-engagement, and digital arts, with a focus on immersive practices.

Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning is a Queen's National Scholar in Anishinaabe Language, Knowledge and Culture (ALKC), Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Queen's University. A member of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation and an interdisciplinary artist and scholar, she received an MA and PhD from the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at Western University (2018), and MFA in contemporary art (Simon Fraser, 1997). An exhibiting artist since the early nineties, Manning led the virtual reality and projection series Emerging from the Water which features three artworks, BETA, Gather and Resonance, and co-created the interactive dome projection Parkway Forest Time Machine. She was awarded the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation for the exhibition, “Into the Light: Eugenics and Education in Southern Ontario” at the Guelph Civic Museum (2020). As a scholar she is well known for her theory of mnidoo worlding, advanced in “The Murmuration of Birds: An Anishinaabe Ontology of Mnidoo-Worlding” in Feminist Phenomenology Futures (2017). Dr. Manning is Founder of Aki Arts: Digital and Traditional Creative Co-Lab,  and co-director of the Peripheral Visions Co-Lab, and member of Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society. She points to her early childhood grounding in her mother’s cultural lessons as her primary source of philosophical and creative work. Manning has wide-ranging interests in Anishinaabe ontology, critical theory, phenomenology, and art, investigating questions of Indigenous imaging practices, mnidoo interrelationality, and the debilitating impact of settler colonial logics.

Mary Bunch is an Associate Professor Cinema and Media Arts and a Canada Research Chair at York University. She mobilizes queer, feminist, disability and decolonial frameworks to better understand peripheral worldmaking imaginaries in media arts and intermedial performance. A member of York’s Digital Justice Research cluster, and executive committee member of Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, she connects embodied and multisensory engagements with image and story, to a correspondent political ontology - that is, the social and political implications of different perceptions of reality. Her theoretical concept development emerges both alongside, and through her creative practice. Her theory of access aesthetics as worldmaking proposed that access aesthetics is a political ontology. She develops this approach in “Blind Visuality in Bruce Horak’s Through a Tired Eye” (Studies in Social Justice, 2021) and “Access Aesthetics – Toward a Prefigurative Cultural Politics,” which introduces her co-edited special issue on Access Aesthetics of Public: Art|Culture|Ideas. Bunch co-created the media arts works Gather, Resonance, Emerging from the Water BETA, and Parkway Forest Time Machine. She has published articles in such journals as Culture, Theory and Critique, the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies; and Feminist Theory. Her current projects include a monograph titled Ecstatic Ethics, and the research creation project Pluriversal Worlding with Extended Reality. Dr. Bunch is co-director of the Peripheral Visions Co-Lab, member of Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, a Fellow at the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and an Affiliate of Revision Centre for Art and Social Justice.

Local Participants:

Stephanie Heit (she/her) is a queer disabled poet, dancer, teacher, and codirector of Turtle Disco, a somatic writing space on Anishinaabe land in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is a Zoeglossia Fellow, bipolar, a mad activist, shock/psych system survivor, and a member of the Olimpias, a disability performance collective. Her book of hybrid memoir poems, PSYCH MURDERS (Wayne State University Press, 2022), won the 2023 Midwest Book Award, and invites readers inside psychiatric wards and shock treatments toward new futures of care. Her first poetry collection, The Color She Gave Gravity (Operating System, 2017), was a Nightboat Poetry Prize finalist, and explores the seams of language, movement, and mental health difference. Her current project is Every Horizon Turns Liquid, where neurodiversity meets ecopoetic immersion. Water is at stake amidst climate change and evolutionary rigors that task the bodies – human, animal, plant, imaginary – that inhabit these biomes and plot escapes. This work emerges out of somatic engagements along the shorelines of Lake Michigan and other real and imaginary locations. Stephanie’s work has appeared in journals such as Orion, Sonora Review, BathHouse, Venti, Rogue Agent, Ecotone, Anomaly, Bombay Gin, and About Place. Disability culture, collaboration, and her lived experience with mental health difference inform her community engagements.

Jennifer Lickers (she/her) is a biracial First Nations artist with ties to both Detroit, Michigan and Six Nations, Ontario. She grew up in the Detroit area. As a child she had little contact with her Indigenous family and information about her native identity was formed through old photos of the west and one sided history books. Beliefs of the vanishing race theory started to surface early in her childhood. She often lived in two worlds. During the school year, she spent her time between Dearborn and Detroit. During the summer, she was with her grandparents on Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. The space between two cultures is the focus of her work. Her main artforms are drawing, painting, and installation practice. She is the interim curator at the Washtenaw Community College Gallery.

Charli Brissey (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and teacher who works choreographically with various technologies and materials. This primarily includes bodies, cameras, language, instincts, and ecosystems. Their research integrates studies in feminist theory, technology, and science, and centers choreography as an invaluable methodology to research social-political-ecological phenomena. Brissey has been creating performances, installations, experimental videos, and written scholarship for over seventeen years, and has been presented in various galleries, conferences, film festivals, and performance venues nationally and internationally.


Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a German community performance artist, a disability culture activist, and a wheelchair dancer. She uses social somatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. She has been engaged in community dance and disability culture production since the late 80s and continues to lead workshops internationally. Petra’s fifth academic book is Eco Soma: Joy and Pain in Speculative Performance Encounters (University of Minnesota Press, 2022, open access), which won honorable mention by the National Dance Educators’ Organization and was shortlisted for the de la Torre Bueno Prize by the Dance Studies Association. Her new collection, Diver Beneath the Street – true crime meets ecopoetry at the level of the soil – will appear in February 2024. Petra was a 2021 Dance Research Fellow at the New York Public Library's dance division, a 2022/2023 Dance/USA Fellow, and a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow. She is Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with her wife, poet and dancer Stephanie Heit, from their home on Three Fires Confederacy Territory, colonially known as Ypsilanti, Michigan. Petra is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan.

Additional Visitors:

Akhila Vimal (she/her), a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at WAC/D UCLA, originally from India, specializes in the intersection of dance and disability within the context of India. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from JNU, New Delhi, India. Her current research focuses on blind dance pedagogies and practice. 


Ashwini Bhasi (she/her) is a bioinformatician from Kerala, India who is exploring the somatics of trauma resilience, chronic pain and disability through molecular genetics, poetry and visual art. Ashwini is a 2023 Room Project Fellow for visual poetry, an associate reader for the MQR, and a founding member of the Hummingbird Collective. Musth, the winner of the 2020 CutBank chapbook contest, is her first poetry collection. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, MI.      


Laura Murphy (she/her) is a PhD candidate in Design Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her work explores ways to make engineering design processes more empathetic and inclusive so that design outcomes across industries are more inclusive. Her work pulls from disability studies and qualitative front-end design research and her prior practice in product design and manufacturing supply chains.


Lori Esposito (she/her) is a mother, sister, and daughter with an interest in relating drawing and painting with performance. She is a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University studying artistic practices of maternal care and disability. To those who know her, she is also a synesthete and long hair grower.


Judy Fox (she/her) is a mother, grandmother and background actor. She has been seen dancing, driving and drinking in Westerns shows such as Longmire, Manhattan, and Gold. She enjoys supporting her daughter's (Lori Esposito) projects and can communicate with bees and wasps as easily as some can with their dogs. 


Marc Arthur (he/him) joined the Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University in Detroit as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2022. Before that, Arthur was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD from the Department of Performance Studies at New York University in 2019. As an artist, he incorporates methods from community-based theatre, dance, and painting.


Images from the Symposium: Duderstadt Video Studio experiments with dance video/live score interaction; and with 360 camera live improvisation.

More photos of the symposium's video/immersion experiments, and from our lake day: creating augmented reality photos with scanned objects, interlacing land, bodies, sensations.