gadamer and understanding as an event

Gadamer conceives our interaction with historical texts as dialogic, on the model of conversation. Understanding the performance means neither discovering its original meanings, seeing and hearing it as it was originally seen and heard, nor imposing our own meanings on it. ‘Understanding proves to be an event’, the emergent result of the conversation between ourselves and the performance, a conversation to which both sides are understood to contribute. ‘In this the interpreter’s own horizon is decisive’, writes Gadamer, and this is necessarily true, as the conversational event takes place in the present, against this horizon.

— Philip Auslander, Reactivation: Performance, Mediatization and the Present Moment, in: Chatzichristodoulou, M., Jefferies, J., Zerihan, R. (Eds.), Interfaces of Performance. Ashgate Publishing Limited, Surrey, pp. 81–94. This quote from pp.87-88.

learning and knowing by doing

By adopting an explicitly apprentice-style method, or by actively engaging in the practices they study (see, e.g., Lee & Ingold 2006; Retsikas 2008), the contributors to this volume have developed their individual understandings about learning and knowing by ‘doing’ what they study. Cultivating such understanding, as they convincingly convey, demands long [p.S11] immersion, perceptual and kinaesthetic awareness, careful reflection, persistent questioning, and a constant probing of the complex and multiple factors that constitute any field of practice.

— Marchand, T.H.J., 2010. Making knowledge: explorations of the indissoluble relation between minds, bodies, and environment. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16, S1–S21.

(Let me know if you can’t track down a copy of Marchand’s introduction).

articulating process

I read this statement the other day:

In the spirit of practice-led research the artworks in this article articulate process.

— Anne Scott Wilson, 2016. Technology as collaborator in somatic photographic practice. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 8, 11–19.

I’m curious about the extent to which ‘articulating process’ is merely a truism of practice-research. Who said that this is the spirit of practice-led research? Or is it simply an unquestioned convention?

In part I worry that we end up reifying process in the way that Barthes warns us about method:

Some people speak of method greedily, demandingly; what they want in work is method; to them it never seems rigorous enough, formal enough. Method becomes a Law …. The invariable fact is that a work which constantly proclaims its will-to-method is ultimately sterile: everything has been put into the method, nothing remains for the writing; the researcher insists that his text will be methodological, but this text never comes: no surer way to kill a piece of research and send it to join the great scrap heap of abandoned projects than Method.

— Roland Barthes, (1986). The Rustle of Language (R. Howard, Trans.). New York: Hill and Wang, p.318.

seeing showing subjects

To produce film is to not only make the politics we study visible to a wider audience and to consider the way that knowledge is aesthetically produced and consumed, but to think about the ways individuals (both as viewers and co-producers) are brought into research not as objects but as seeing/showing subjects and how our research discursively constitutes, has impact on, and is intertwined in the world (in) which we research.

— Dean Cooper-Cunningham

scrivener on what might be

Stephen Scrivener’s work on epistemic concerns in practice-as-research has always been thoughtful, provocative and rewarding. See for example his work on the art object not embodying knowledge from 2002.[1]

In Scrivener’s contribution to Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research (2013) he develops a case-study based on the PhD research project by Su Zheng (2007) called Eye-Jump:

Like problem-solving design research, the work was directed toward a desirable future. However, problem-solving design research begins with an undesirable situation in the designed world that prompts reflection, for example, "Why is this artefactual situation not as it ought to be?" That is to say, the process begins with the recognition that there is something known: a better world, which has not been realised. The Eye-jump story, in contrast, began with making and thinking that was not attached to specific instances of undesirable life conditions; it was not concerned with what ought to be but with what might be. In a problem-solving research process a theory of the problem is transformed into a theory of its solution, which is then affirmed through the testing of a new design; material interventions are solely for the purposes of testing the solution theory. In contrast, the Eye-jump project progressed from untargeted material interventions, through unprecedented artefactual situation, to reflection on its potential significance.[2]

This is important for all practice-as-research, including those of us working in dance and performance. We are all involved in the question of what might be, and then part of our responsibility is to attempt to communicate why these things matter and to whom (i.e. the question of significance). Although artists working outside of the academy are likewise profoundly working with what might be they are under no pressure to talk to the significance of their work (although many do).

[1]: Indeed, all of Scrivener’s writing for the various "Working Papers in Art and Design" series are fantastic (they can be tracked down with a Duck Duck Go search).

[2]: Scrivener, Stephen, 2013. ‘Toward a Practice of Novel Epistemic Artefacts’, in: Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, Orpheus Institute Series. Leuven University Press, Leuven, pp. 135–150. (excerpt from p.147)