I’ve been reading a collection of essays edited by Michael Schwab called Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research. The essays respond to science historian Hans-Jörg Rheinberger’s writing on experimental systems from the perspective of practice-research. There are a number of fantastic ideas in the book and so over the coming weeks I’m going to post small excerpts or quotes.
Here’s one about iterative processes and recognising difference:
It is all about the epistemic effects of these acts and activities. They don’t just occur out of the blue. Just to give an example: I have the impression that an artist like Cezanne, who painted hundreds of apples in his countless later still lifes, must have been caught in a kind of experimental system. It was all about tiny changes and iterations—doing it again and again and always with a small differential gesture. I am interested in the creation of differences through such processes of iteration, be it in the sciences or in the arts. Holding these small differences against each other produces knowledge effects. The very process of iteration brings these slightly different variants of an experimental process into contact with each other. It is not the relation between a thinking mind and object on the table in front of it, the classical relation between a knowing subject and an object posed before it; the basic idea is to introduce multiplicity at the object-level itself and thus to get rid of the classical dualistic structure of epistemology. Musical variations are a wonderful example of processes of iteration. In this sense, I think, scientific and artistic activities share something in common, although their respective knowledge effects may be of a different order or a different kind. Certainly the product is of a different kind.
– Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, in conversation with Michael Schwab. 2013. ‘Forming and Being Informed’. In Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, 198–219. Leuven: Leuven University Press. p.215
A while back I read Kieran Healy’s book about using plain text in the social sciences. He writes this early on:
The problem is that doing scholarly work is intrinsically a mess. There’s the annoying business of getting ideas and writing them down, of course, but also everything before, during, and around it: data analysis and all that comes with it, and the tedious but unavoidable machinery of scholarly papers—especially citations and references. There is a lot to keep track of, a lot to get right, and a lot to draw together at the time of writing.
Healy is of course talking about the nuts and bolts of collecting ideas, managing materials, etc, but his writing did make me think about the beautiful messiness of practice-as-research in particular. It can be a remarkable cocktail of uncertainty, rigour, care, intuition, desperation, and failed experimentation.
- Any of you who follow my personal blog will likely know that I am interested in text-based workflows. See https://simonkellis.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/word-academia-and-just-writing/ if you are super keen. ↩
- Kieran Healy, The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science. https://kieranhealy.org/files/papers/plain-person-text.pdf, 2018, p.4. ↩
- I’m currently reading Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research (edited by Michael Schwab, 2013) and I’ll discuss the book – and the nature of experimentation in practice-as-research – in a future post. ↩
Access to Christina Houghton’s practice-research PhD at the Auckland University of Technology. It’s a hefty series of downloads (10GB+).
The ethico-poetics manifests minimal and minor narratives of belonging with all species, releasing (attitudes of ) hierarchical control and guides the research deeper toward its ethical focus in relation to narratives of the Anthropocene. Joanna Zylinska’s minimal ethics and Erin Manning’s minor gesture, move toward fracturing grand narratives through thought-in- action as choreographic methods attuned to speculative pragmatics. The final conceptual coupling within this research exists across William Forsythe’s choreographic object and André Lepecki’s afterlives toward an un-mastered release for choreographic thinking-in-action, which lingers, hangs on, or survives after the choreographic event. Here an everyday poetics envelops in the way relationally distributed bodies of choreographic objects survive.— Christina Houghton (part of abstract)
Charlotte Nichol’s website for her practice-research PhD:
It’s worth spending time on the site to get a sense of the way it reveals more of itself to you …
Long time between posts …
I went to Becky Hilton’s workshop at Independent Dance back in December. It was a rich and playful weekend.
At one stage we were each given a certain amount of time to ask something or do something (I forget now). The group was quite mixed – artists, people just starting out on PhDs, others working in academia – and I asked them a question:
What is this culture of research doing (or has done) to art, performance and dance?
Someone said that it had given them time and space to work (perhaps this was referring to doing a PhD?), another felt that it had made the climate more competitive (perhaps this was about academia?). My sense is that the academic climate has become more competitive in general (after all, competition and neoliberalism are old pals: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-cult-of-competitiveness/), and that it would be hard to say that a culture of reseach has done this to the arts.
Another person mentioned that the Arts Council still thinks of research in terms of research and development. That research is the thing you do before you get to make the piece.
Becky described her sense of the “continuity of community” that the research culture has made possible. Reading between the lines I’d imagine that this – at least in part – has to do with the responsibility of engaging with communities of practice that is vital to research processes and practices.
And another person mentioned that they felt that research in the arts had become an antidote to R&D and projects. I like this, that research enables us to rethink the ways in which we pursue our curiosity and imaginations.