experiments and intensities

This is relatively new site for publishing writing and performance:

http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/published/

The most recent volume is on mediated performance:

http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/published/vol-3/

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politics of citation

This is not specifically practice-as-research related but it seems vital to be consider the politics of citation, and how who we cite (and who we don’t cite) influences and shapes the politics of in/visible discourses and practices.

I wanted to re-orientate my writing by what or who I was not citing. I have always been conscious of the politics of citation. I have always been aware of how worlds are built around citational habits; of how a body of work acquires consistency by which bodies are left out from that body.

– Sara Ahmed http://feministkilljoys.com/2015/12/30/feminist-shelters/

Thanks to Rajni Shah for the initial link (via twitter @rajni_shah)

processes and documents

On Sunday I participated in a discussion about practice-as-research as part of the Classical music hyper-production project at the University of West London. The discussion was chaired by UWL’s Simon Zagorski-Thomas, and included Ian Pace, Kristen Kreider and me.

The practice-as-research component seemed tacked on to the main part of the conference (we were definitely the graveyard shift), as if it remains something that is up for grabs – or in need of debate – in any project that has an element of artistic practice. It was also clear from the discussion and questions that practice-as-research remains a source of tension, confusion and perhaps even anxiety.

As part of the main project there is an online conference with practice-as-research relevant panels here:

My understanding is that a video of the practice-as-research discussion will be online in the next couple of days [1].

There are three things from the discussion that I’d like to comment on:

  1. Is all practice research?
  2. What does process have to do with anything?
  3. Researching and documenting

Is all practice research?

This question still surprises me. The short answer is no.

Yes, all artistic processes involve elements of research. That is, finding things out in order to inform the development of the artistic work. What we call research and development phases always exist when humans go about making things (whether we call these phases research and development or not). But I don’t understand this to be research in the sense of building on – and questioning – the nature of how and what we understand or experience as human beings. This latter kind of research involves being explicitly in relation to – or dialogue with – the circulation of ideas and practices in the community or field within which one is working. With students I’ve talked about this – as has Anna Pakes – as the difference between little r and capital R research. Not all practice explicitly engages with communities of ideas and understandings, although of course there are many many examples of practice outside of the academy that knowingly do this kind of capital-R research (Deborah Hay, William Forsythe, Tehching Hsieh spring to mind).

 What does process have to do with anything?

There’s no doubt that practice-as-research seems to emphasise process at the expense of other aspects of the work we do. The trap here is in assuming that just because one has been through a process that artistic-scholarly research has occurred. Processes are only important when there is something explicitly distinctive about them that contributes to how we understand and discuss making particular things. In other words, if the subject of one’s research is a particular aspect of artistic process, then process is important. In such cases (and they are rare, certainly in dance), the critical – and often difficult – aspect of practice-as-research is figuring out how best to give the community access to these processes that reveal the understandings and developments.

Artistic outcomes – that is what is performed or presented – do not necessarily have a direct relationship to the processes that made them possible. I understand the relationship between process and outcome to be slightly paradoxical, but it is (another) trap to believe that certain processes lead to certain kinds of outcomes (or that if we see the outcomes we know anything about the processes).

 Researching and documenting

During the discussion I heard how often these two words – researching and documenting – are placed together when people talk about practice-as-research. It is as if one is able to replace the other: “I document, therefore I research”. In practice-as-research we are obsessed with modes of documentation (I know this in part because my PhD was one big crash of documentation [2]). With documentation, it’s as if we as practice-as-researchers think, “If less is more, think how much more more will be”. The key consideration – in my opinion – is when particular aspects of a practice-as-research project demand some form of documentation because that documentation is able to reveal the specifics of those experiences or understandings (or potential for understanding). Less really is more.

Thanks to Simon, Kristen and Ian for the invitation and conversation. I hope these comments might serve to continue the discussion.


  1. I’ll add this to the post when it turns up.  ↩
  2. A key argument of my doctoral research was that documentation is not the right word for what happens as part of practice-as-research. Instead I talked about rememberings (and the possibilities of slippage, error and fallability associated with memory), but since then I understand the various aspects – or modes – of a practice-as-research project as being akin to the various surfaces of a diamond. I’ve adopted/adapted the term surface from Laurel Richardson’s seminal article (book chapter) called Writing: A Method of Inquiry. The basic premise is that practice-as-research involves creating a single research project that might be thought of – or “three-dimensionalised” – as a crystal. This crystal is singular, but it has many surfaces that are part of its suchness. The crystal looks and feels different to others depending on which perspective or surface they see or feel. The term surface might also be thought of as the various modalities and re/presentational possibilities of a practice-as-research project.  ↩

parip

I’m going to assume that people reading this blog aren’t necessarily aware of some more common (or perhaps obvious) resources to think through issues and ideas to do with practice-as-research. This is because I suspect – but definitely don’t know – that PhD and Masters students developing practice-as-research projects will be the main audience for the blog. Hopefully, as the site grows, it can become more useful for quite diverse practitioners, practices, and teachers.
The Practice as Research in Performance project – and associated conferences – marked a key moment in the development of ideas to do with practice-as-research. The website (which stopped being updated in 2006) is here:

bris.ac.uk/parip/

It contains a wide range of materials, questions and conversations and to get a sense of its breadth a good place to start is:

bris.ac.uk/parip/sitemap.htm

In 2002, I was in my second year of my PhD “through creative practice”. At that stage I hadn’t even happened across the term practice-as-research (or practice-led, practice-based research). I was busy building a methodological case for my research through experimental qualitative research methods (using the work of people like Norman Denzin and Laurel Richardson). Encountering PARIP was immensely important in helping me understand in particular the epistemological possibilities (and limitations) of practice-as-research.

I think it’s important to add that many of the arguments – even points of conflict – that you’ll see present in parts of the site still seem to come back quite frequently in conversations I hear (and have) with students and cyber-colleagues.

 

talking about practice

Two related conversations about practice-as-research coming up at Plymouth University:

  1. Performance. Presence. Experience – Practice as Research Symposium. Opportunity for practice-as-research postgraduate students to participate  (5 February 2016): https://www.eventbrite.com/e/performance-presence-experience-practice-as-research-symposium-tickets-20805849857
  2. Talking about Practice. “an invitation to communities of researchers who are interested in questioning, critiquing and shifting terrains of knowledge”. 6 and 7 February 2016. http://estore.plymouth.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=9&catid=85&prodid=791

I’m looking forward to contributing to the Talking about Practice event. Others speaking include: Dani Abulhawa (Sheffield Hallam), Stuart Andrews (University of Surrey), Anna Fenemore (Leeds University), Rachel Hann (University of Surrey), Victor Ladron de Guevara, Ruth Way, Russell Frampton, Jane Grant, John Matthias, Bob Whalley (all Plymouth University).

principles

principles.jpeg

Here’s a kind of review of some of the key aspects of practice-as-research. They are written off the top of my head so in time I’ll consider what might be missing (or need deleting)

  • emergence: the research emerges from the activity and actions of practice.
  • modes of practice: practice can take many forms, modes and ways (it isn’t necessarily studio-based). But, any kind of practice (including writing, or simply thinking) involves degrees of corporeality.
  • iteration: the process involves cycles of doing/practice, reflection, enquiry. Questioning and building on the substantiality, materiality and ‘traces’ of your work (remember, forget, alter, transition)
  • relational: in the work we identify different relationships with other ideas, people, practices, scholarship and artistic work. The work we do is always in relation to others, and the terms of those relationships are part of how you understand the value of what we do. This might also be thought of how you frame or position your work in relation to others, and how their work influences or infects/affects your practice/thinking
  • practice-theory: how might this not be a binary? Where can practice-theory occur and what are the limits, surprises, assumptions and possibilities of these terms? How can practice-as-research contribute to and test the temptation to isolate or simplify the conditions under which these terms are understood, articulated and worked?
  • inquisitive: questioning and challenging ourselves, our peers, our contemporaries, our histories, our assumptions
  • writing: open approach to writing (in many forms, including scholarly thinking/discourse), and how writing is another form of practice and is interdependent with physical practice
  • adaptation: openness to change (adaptation) and recognising what is ‘in front’ of you
  • ways of knowing: the epistemological terrain of practice-as-research has more to do with understandings than findings. What might we understand differently as as consequence of ongoing practice, and how might these understandings feed back into (and build) the development of practices, ideas, and the edges of performance?
  • remembering: what are the ways we might remember/document/archive and make available our practices to the world at large (or at small), and which ways are most appropriate to the work we are doing? What are the limits and possibilities of modes of documentation, and how do we give others access to our work?
  • attention: on what emerges from practice, and recognising what is important or significant. It is somewhere between relaxation and desperation