brain pickings from Judith Butler

Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting.


An active and sensate democracy requires that we learn how to read well, not just texts but images and sounds, to translate across languages, across media, ways of performing, listening, acting, making art and theory.

And finally:

We have to continue to shake off what we sometimes think we know in order to lend our imaginations to vibrant and sometimes agonistic spectrums of experience.

other than scholarly values

At present research focuses on the scholarly virtues: accuracy of reference and care in drawing conclusions. These are valuable because they counteract our normal sloppy thinking. However, there are many more qualities of thinking: grace, charisma, intimacy, spontaneity, wit, depth, simplicity, grandeur, warmth, openness, drama, intensity and generosity. These vital and passionate qualities are linked to the power of ideas, the ways in which ideas get inside our lives and come to matter in everyday existence.

– John Armstrong

privileged access

… if artistic research is supposed to be different from all other kinds of research, it is natural to focus on the artist as the researcher, and what is specific for the artist is her or his privileged access to her or his own creative processes.

— Kjørup, Søren. 2010. “Pleading for Plurality: Artistic and Other Kinds of Research.” In The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, edited by Michael Biggs and Henrik Karlsson, 24–43. London: Routledge. p.25

And hence the seductive power of not relating one’s own work to the work around you (or the work that has gone on before you).

some questions that shouldn’t be a surprise

These questions are pretty direct and they shouldn’t be a surprise. I would suggest writing direct answers to these questions as part of your ongoing work (some will be harder to respond to than others). Be as succinct as possible. Post to your respective blogs. Perhaps even do new versions every 3 or so days. Treat the responses lightly, and with utter seriousness.

  • What have you been doing (as practice)?
  • Who else has done similar kinds of practices?
  • What texts seem influential or relevant to this practice?
  • What do you plan on doing for your dpar project?
  • Why is it important? (How might it matter? So what?)
  • How will you do it?
  • What plans have you made for documenting or producing ‘additional materials’ for the project?

Any questions?

satisfying curiosity

Habermas’ insistence on the interests behind research procedures can be seen as a blow to a positivistic insistence on impartial objectivity of research: we choose scientific methods out of interests! And of course we do. Research is not just following certain rules, but trying to find answers to questions that we find pressing or interesting, solving urgent problems, creating things we want or need – or just satisfying curiosity. And hopefully we find the relevant methods for solving those problems. But Habermas’ insistence on the interests behind research may remind us of the one thing that we more often than not must search for in vain in general and abstract discussions of artistic research, namely statements about the aim of these kinds of research. What do we want to know that artistic research will be able to tell us? What do we want to achieve through artistic research?

— Kjørup, Søren. 2010. “Pleading for Plurality: Artistic and Other Kinds of Research.” In The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, edited by Michael Biggs and Henrik Karlsson, 24–43. London: Routledge. p.30

this particular death

We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centres of culture … Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well, the latter then allotting itself the important task of discovering the Author beneath the work: when the Author has been found, the text is ‘explained’ – victory to the critic.

— Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text (1977, pp.146-147, my emphasis)

bridging with choreography

I wonder – for those of you immersed in choreography – how you might start to connect your work in this module with your choreographic work in other instances. How might practice-as-research inform your making in other arenas? How might it help you situate your practice(s)? What are the questions that you are grappling with in the module and how might you make these questions related to choreographic concerns?

For example, I am still writing these love letters as a practice. It doesn’t really relate to my ongoing choreographic work at all but how might I turn my attention to it in such a way that it breathes life into the choreographic? I might consider the nature of relational work. I could think of it in terms of tracing process. I could think of it in how I am only ever approaching understanding. I could try it in relation to processes of building/making through repetition and reformulation (or translation). etc.

It’s about adopting a kind of light and playful relationship with the ideas and then considering how this might help transform my understanding of a) how I understand the practice itself, and b) how it might matter to me in my development as a choreographer.

This module is concerned with “a”, but “b” is perhaps a fringe benefit.