Joséphine A. Garibaldi


My work focuses upon the rigor and challenge of collaborative creative process and the valuing and impact of artistic research on cultures of research and learning. As co-directors of Callous Physical Theatre, Paul Zmolek and I have developed and continue to explore dialogic devising as art-making strategy. Dialogic devising is informed by the radical pedagogies of Paulo Freire, John Dewey, and John Rice (founder of Black Mountain College) and the interdisciplinary art praxes of the Zenist John Cage, the integrated corporeal theater of Harry Partch, and the 20th century Russian Cubo-Futurist, Dadaist, and Fluxus projects. This dialogic process traverses all levels of experience, training, and ability, revealing limitless potential to democratize all voices and ways of working within the group. The process is polyvocal and polyrhythmic, held together by brackets (and I mean this in the very Cageian sense) which provide a “container” of sorts that makes way for risk-taking. Through this work, I am attempting to provide for disparate voices and mediums to co-exist in the same space at the same time while balancing multiple points of view and ways of working to solve a problem that honors all participants in the process.


Runescores, directed by Joséphine A. Garibaldi and Paul Zmolek, Artistic Directors of Callous Physical Theatre, is a group-sourced collaborative project of performance scores structured in response to each of twenty-five rune stones of the Norwegian Runic System. In the egalitarian spirit of Fluxus, a non-curated call to participate was published via social media. Participants received one of the scores determined by drawing a rune from the bag. From this, collaborators solved the score, creating responses in the medium(s) of their choice and submitted digital files for this online installation.

Contributing artists (in alphabetical order) include: Logan Castro, Bridget Close, Joséphine A. Garibaldi, Robert W. Dillon, Jr., Aaron Ellis, Mandy Herrick, Gary Lappier, Katie Stricker Lappier, Aigars Larionovs, Julie Leir-VanSickle, David Ollington, Cathy Santome, Jennifer Wolbrecht, Gary Zmolek, and Paul Zmolek.

While each individual work is complete in itself, viewing all of the works successively with their accompanying process statements provides a fuller sense of the project as a unified work.

How Runescores Emerged

Spring 2020, rummaging through the bins in the depths of our closets, Jo uncovered Paul’s new age bundle of Rune Stones, Tarot cards, and crystals that had been in storage since the ‘80s. The stones and cards were placed on the dining table, thinking that we could maybe utilize them in our artistic research.

Preparations for our “Cagevent 2{020}: Sometimes it works, Sometimes it doesn’t Redux” at the {re}Happening Festival at the historic site of the Black Mountain College included a revisiting of Fluxus events, John Cage’s seminal book “Silence: Lectures and Writings” and William Fetterman’s incredibly detailed “John Cage’s Theatre Pieces: Notations and Performances”. Unfortunately {re}Happening had to be canceled due to the pandemic but our research sparked an interest in exploring Cage’s aleatoric approach to creating non-determinant scores structured with time brackets for actions to occur.

Neither of us are familiar with the I Ching (John Cage’s oracular device), but we had the tarot cards and the rune stones and a “why don’t we” challenge quickly emerged. The seventy-eight cards in the tarot deck were a bit whelming so we opted for the smaller collection of twenty-five runes and Runescores emerged.

The Process

Scores corresponding to each of the runes were created. The draw of fifteen stones (determined by the number of operations that fit neatly on the line paper in Paul’s notebook) ordered the score of actions. Guided by Ralph Blum’s “The Book of Runes”, actions were defined by ‘significant’ words (a technique from our dialogic devising methodology) extracted from Blum’s description of each corresponding rune (the interpretation of each significant word is always the problem the collaborating artist must solve).

Based upon the number of the rune (as presented by Blum) and following the structural logic of John Cage’s time brackets, the timing of each event was progressively notated as either positive or negative: if a rune drawn was upright, time was notated as positive; if the rune drawn was reversed, time was notated as negative. The shortest score is 1:26, the longest score is 5:19.

Score for Runescore 1 – Mannaz.

“The starting point is the self. Its essence is water.”  – Ralph Blum, The Book of Runes

Drawing a single rune (Odin’s Rune, as this casting is named) is the most simple cast yet does not, by any measure, render a singular answer. An Odin’s Rune reveals “an overview of the entire situation…the issue, present conditions and resolution” (Blum 46).

Mannaz is the first rune that was drawn for me and coincidentally, the first rune of the Oracle, Mannaz: The Self. Following the logic of Odin’s Rune, I surrendered to the rune which in turn, defined the thematic arc of the work: Self and Water. I have come to realize that having the first rune Mannaz is a great privilege and more to the point, a great responsibility. In working through Mannaz, the reckoning of Self is relational to Others, those close to me as well as those near and far away.

The activity of washing hands lingering in warm water and silky lather allows for a self-indulgence that briefly pauses time in an intimate, intertwining dance of palms, fingers and soap. Within the context of the pandemic, my self-indulgence is a deliberate act of disinfecting for the safety of self and others. A familiar tension of sensuality and sanitization emerges: a simultaneous nod to the simple yet complex balance of Life and Death, a balance that strives to minimize sickness and suffering.

The spoken text of the sound score I excerpted from Blum’s writing on Mannaz. The durational time values of each of the 15 runes drawn by Paul to structure the rune score was determined by the number of the rune and whether it was upright or reversed when pulled and set on the table. Water sounds within the soundscape were determined by the tone and qualities of the accompanying Blum text of each of my 15 runes.

This video accompanies Runescore 1 – Mannaz.

Score for Runescore 12 – Wunjo.

I struggled with this rune. Drawn upright, Wunjo means joy, light and happiness. I certainly do not perceive myself as embodying these traits. Happiness is work, a conscious choice I endeavor.

Clearly this rune called upon my many memories of a lifetime of joy and love of living. The years of stress and struggle are mapped on my face and hands but there is light there and I am happy.

I surround myself with all that embodies joy:

  • my daily relationship with my partner,
  • my love of the outdoors,
  • digging in the dirt,
  • watching the birds and the butterflies in the garden(s) we have created,
  • fat tire single-flowy track and strenuous uphill climbs,
  • chewy beer,
  • homemade dark sourdough rye bread,
  • red shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers and frogs on our windows,
  • waking up to the sound of a herd of elk grazing in the high mountain meadow next to our backcountry camp in the Wind River Range,
  • frigid cold that freezes your wet hair when stripping off the sweaty layers after a morning’s cross-country ski in -15 below temperatures in Decorah,
  • fresh prosciutto and sheep’s cheese on a warm summer’s day at our first artist residency in Assisi,
  • hearing the sublime song of the lyre bird in the Tarra Bulga rainforest in Gippsland,
  • building and living in our performance and art space Barefoot Studios at the end of the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma,
  • coming of age in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s,
  • our cats Fatty Arbuckle and Miss Becky,
  • my ’75 VW camper bus,
  • grandma’s attic …

the list goes on in perpetuity.

The images of Wunjo I pulled from my storage of unused footage from past projects and travels. The sound is from field recordings of a rusty windmill and sheep’s bells layered with grasshopper song captured while walking on a country road near Messejana, Portugal.

This video accompanies Runescore 12 – Wunjo.

Score for Runescore 19 – Hagalaz.

“The rune of elemental disruption, of events totally beyond your control…” – Ralph Blum, The Book of Runes

 Jo: For this rune, Paul and I agreed to take alternating interpolated sections of the score (renamed A and B) and work independently of each other. The first round was dedicated to sound: Paul worked on A; I had B. Guided by the overarching theme of disruption and the associative words of the subsequent runes, I found sound that I felt was evocative of the spirit of Hagalaz. Hagalaz speaks to Natural Forces and Elemental Power. Now living in Florida, life is increasingly disrupted by storm activity. While devastating, the experience of these Gulf storms is sustained and durational; the sound, unforgettable.

Paul: My solution to the sound score was to recite each of the 5 words associated with the action prompt during the duration of each time bracket. As it proved impossible to recite 5 words in the one second time bracket of my first prompt, I layered a recording of two words over one of three words and then added the single word associated with the “action rune” recited over the entire duration of the bracket.

Once sound files were completed, we switched Hagalaz A/B scores to work on image content. Responding to the visual element of the runes, I went into our garden with a video camera to find plants that roughly corresponded to the shapes of each of my assigned action runes.

Jo: Visually, I perceived Hagalaz as tectonic plates violently shifting. Originally from California, I have lived through many earthquakes. Power outages often result and after the quakes have subsided, a sublime serenity settles. This peace reminds me of ‘Thin Space’. Celtic in origin, ‘Thin Space’ is the place where the spiritual world and natural world meet, the place of balance, the meeting place of dark and light, above and below: the red road.

This video accompanies Runescope 19 – Hagalaz.

The Runescores alphabet.



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