aftermatch of Alys Longley’s hacking

After a brainstorm about the nature of research, we discussed what was absolutely necessary for research to occur. This is what remained.


11 thoughts on “aftermatch of Alys Longley’s hacking”

  1. I was dipping into Metaphors we Live By (by I think George Lakoff) on the way to this class & afterwards I wondered whether the difficulty of pinning down research essentials might relate to it being a word used to cover several different embodied experiences (loosely associated with exploration).

    Sometimes we explore because we’re looking for a specific thing, with no real interest in the general territory; sometimes we want to become oriented, so that we can find what we need in future; sometimes we want to make a map, either for ourselves or others; sometimes we know we’ll never come back but just want to enjoy satisfying our curiosity. These motivations & experiences are sufficiently diverse that it’s difficult to find factors common to all of them.

    However a word that came to me, when I was trying to find a more satisfying synonym for hope than motivation, is “desire” & I could see an element of desire in all the experiences above.


  2. Ha that’s funny – when I first opened the post & while I was writing the comment above, the photo didn’t download – so I thought you meant you & Alys had continued the discussion after class until nothing at all was left on the paper :-)


  3. I think desire is a tricky thing because it tends to prevent us from noticing what’s going on in the moment (or at the time). Desire is about the future but practice is (more) about what is happening now, and what am I noticing now, and becomes available now as a consequence of my doing.


  4. But some practices are rooted in futurity, no? Utopianism, wishes, desire, building are all things about or concerned with the future, but they can also be driven from a hyper-awareness (and articulate agitation) of the present.

    I’m mostly thinking about José Esteban Muñoz here; it seems like lots anti-institutional or queer practices operate through an imbalanced present that necessitates a concern for where they’re moving towards. In the introudction to Practice-as-Research: In Performance and Screen, I think they talk about PaR operating this way within the academic institutions – by it’s very nature an institutional critique, offering/developing/exploring new meanings of what research might be?


    1. Cheers Paul. Yes, I agree, but my thinking is in our sensitivity to what our practices are involved in and that there is perhaps a certain trap in thinking of its endgame. This is not to say that one shouldn’t consider beyond the now, but in part it’s about degrees (meaning a balance between *now* and *then*), and in other ways its responding to my experience of students getting so concerned with outcome(s) that they stop attending to what is going on as they are practicing.


  5. Oooh – I’ve been being bad & reading around in the other group blogs: although I guess Simon was intentionally inviting this by putting the links in the sidebar here.

    Anyway, I read Paul’s post below last night & it felt interestingly challenging – vaguely considered asking if he would like to engage collaboratively on the final presentation – but this morning I notice how deeply collaborative my practice already is.

    My original idea was to use my weekly Gestalt therapy sessions as a practice to research, but as this isn’t a daily practice, I translated it into having a meditative hot drink. Over the last 6 weeks, I’ve been noticing how this internal process of self-reflection interacts with the hyper aware dialogue space of the sessions (and also with my involvement in trying to set up a community from a shared practice of creative improvisation).

    This week’s Monday seminar was particularly fertile for me – and I’ve been seeing all kinds of connections between: how societies create inhabitable space; co-created space in counselling; imaginative space in story-telling; ritual space & performance. Then yesterday, the Gestalt session seems to be radically restructuring my relationship to space in really profound ways – Am I a plant or an animal? Am I in a space created with a single other, or in a wider space with many inhabitants? How do I see and am I seen? How can I move in relation to that?

    However, although I’m clear the final presentation will definitely be a product of this collaboration with the therapist: I guess this doesn’t address Paul’s concern about the inclusion of others in theorising/presenting/defending work as well as producing it. As my therapist is also a student – accumulating recorded hours towards being certified – I wonder if there’s a parallel issue there about non-inclusion of clients as theorisers/presenters/defenders of that data?

    Paul’s Post

    “Something I’ve been thinking a bit about is PaR self-positioning as critical/responsive to the acamedic institution (either necesserily/always the case, or simply to the current system). One quite defining limit or form to me that seems unchallanged is that of the solo artist-academic – is there any precident for collaborative PHDs within this field? Rather than the artist-academic working with collaboration (e.g. their practice as engaging with a community but then working on this/theorising/presenting/defending as a single name) but multiple people operating as a single artist-academic?

    Thinking of Foucault/Jerome Bel’s critiques of the singular artist, lots of collaborative theory around where the labour/prestige/cultural capital sits (a big issue with political/artistic work). Gilbert & George claim not to be collaborators – they posit themselves as a single artist – there’s maybe multiple ways to approach/entangle this.

    Feels like PaR to be restricted to the single accountable/representative individual leads to a strange limit on its possibilities.”

    I’m guiltily hiding the above comment here in the archives to disguise my eavesdropping. I’m assuming Simon will instantly, omnisciently notice its existence anyway, but maybe Paul won’t? I get emails about Simon’s posts, but I have to come to the site to look for others comments: although maybe I could set it up to get notifications of those too? I notice there’s a tick-box below that will tell me about new comments here.


    1. Hey Jenny,

      I’m super interested in your practice – I think these questions of co-habitation, co-authorship, co-creation are especially important in pedagogical spaces. It seems to me like the studio, the home, the classroom as laboratories in which we can interrogate & build political questions of how we engage, support, learn & work with each other.

      There is something a little panoptical about these blogs, but in my mind they also offer possibilities of horizontal communications & work between students that I don’t see so much in traditional model of teacher-at-the-front-of-the-classroom & the ‘class’ only being active during those hours of teaching. I’m curious about my own desire to be within this learning environment – to relinquish certain autonomies & powers over my practice & research in looking for support/encouragement/aid/space. I’m super interested in the rise of collective led MFA’s that have arisen over the past few years – Open School East, School of the Damned, Alt-MFA, among others – they don’t have an institutional backing (um, not quite true for all of them) but the students decide how they want to organise, who (if anyone) they want to invite in. I recognize that all of these questions are significant to me, but that I also possibly need some support frameworks to explore my research deeply without having to engage with this politics – a kind of selfishness, I think, but one that I’ve made peace with (for the minute). There’s only so much one can do at any one time.

      I’m reminded of Simon’s comment on the first day of class – to paraphrase – “If you think need more structure, just give yourself some structure”. I like the way you describe the co-created space of counseling – how can we fluidly adopt and shift the support roles with each other? I was thinking about this a lot while Danielle was explaining her practice – she was noticing the literary roles of heroine, shape-shifter within a pedagogical relationship – my question might be as to how might we be simultaneously/fluidly teacher AND student to each other.

      A sudden vision in my mind – perhaps we could take the model of this class and re-perform/return to it in next semester – but in a more self-determined manner? Options of inviting guest tutors in or a more fluid structure in which each person might ‘lead’ each week. Collaborative or exploratory possibilities of PaR….


      1. Dear Paul

        I’ve just had a look at the websites for the MFA’s you mention. School of the Damned and Alt MFA do seem very lightly structured – maybe most attractive to those for whom an ordinary MFA feels too structured. Open School East felt like a more comfortable amount of structure for me personally – but that’s because it’s not entirely self-organised. In fact, digging around the website a bit for more info on how it runs, it seems quite conventional in some ways: a staff team who organise a programme for the students – but on the cheap because guest lecturers/tutors are volunteering their time unpaid.

        I’ve just come out of a frustrating 2 hour skype about the Spanish arts community – so organisational issues feel very live to me. I feel like there’s the core of a really exciting project there & two other people I’d happily work with to make it happen. Unfortunately those two currently seem to be prioritising moving forward as a “whole group” i.e. not doing anything without consensus enthusiasm from about 12 people, all but about 3 of whom want to be doing something else (not just from me, but also from each other!). So right now, I’m really attracted by structures which support improvisation without themselves constantly needing to be improvised and vulnerable to being deconstructed moment by moment.

        Anyway – I really like your idea of redoing this module next semester. I’ve found structures where a small group commit to meeting each week – with people taking turns to facilitate or co-facilitate – have worked well for me in the past. Guest facilitators sounds like a good variation too.

        Also – would you be interested in doing some embodied collaboration on what we’re each working on now? I’d been wondering if there was some way I could translate the experience of the Gestalt dialogue into movement & I just came up with a score that feels worth trying. It would take about an hour. I’d also be up for experimenting with what you’re doing with video (at least I think so – haven’t heard the detail yet!). I’m normally only on campus on Mondays, but I could be more flexible next week as there’s no class. Not sure where you live, but there’s also often space available at the church where I work in Notting Hill.

        All best



  6. I’m loving these ideas. Perhaps – re collab – the chapter in Freeman about the practice of Bob and Lee might be worth a look (they did their PhD – through practice – collaboratively).

    Yes Jenny, the idea of sharing the blogs is for cross-conversations to go on.


  7. Hey Jenny,

    At the risk of having a cute little moment in the corner of this blog – I’d LOVE to hang out – I’ll send along an email of my plans for the next few days.

    I def the questions of structures are tricky & interesting – how much locking something down can be useful or not, how to not get lost in a sea of possibilities, how to give yourself motivations… and how to offer or decide on structures within a collaborative process. Currently a lot of my practice are about simply finding the time/resources/possibilities to turn up (be that travelling across the country to work with someone, getting into the university, or putting a canvas in front of you). From there, I follow momentum, energies or impulses within people’s, gifts of limitations or necessity – there’s probably something to follow, it’s a question of how to tune ur hearing.

    (god that turned into self-satisfied pile of crap)

    anyway. Spanish project sounds tough but with lots of glimmers of possibility. Consensus and large groups are tough; I don’t think I’ve ever managed to participate well within a group with more than 4 or so folk that hasn’t needed a ‘leader’ or ‘facilitator’. Hoping the wading through the tricky discursive talks won’t sap the energy for the important stuff after – though I guess discussions around and in establishing a practice are just as significant as any ‘making’ that happens later.

    Sleepy sleepy here, so sorry for the rough writing. Speak soon,


  8. Hey Paul

    Yeah – this is a weirdly public/private space for me too. Especially the comment thread on this post, which definitely feels like a private corner (or more specifically a hidden room) even though I have belatedly realised that no matter where you write anything, it’s glaringly visible in the recent comments section – at least for a little while.

    Anyway, I’m deliberately choosing to reply to you here, instead of to your email to play with that.

    I’ve had a kind of odd day: still really engrossed in processing the Gestalt session. We changed the format this week in a way that made things much more equal – and I spent some time wondering if there’s still any concept of role left at all. After much thought, I decided that whatever other aspects of “therapist” he’s agreed to give up or let me take on as well, I’m “still” counting on him to keep track of the time. I say “still”, cos up until a few weeks ago, this was an aspect of his role I consistently subverted – there was even an early session where he lost track & I had to point out time was up – but since things got darker, I notice I’ve stopped taking care of this.

    I’m interested that, given how hard I’ve been working to equalise the space, it’s quite disturbing to have succeeded to this extent & I suddenly feel a great weight of responsibility for his well-being if he’s going to allow his own unprocessed deep material to surface.

    I’m also still disturbed by the Spain Skype last night. I can feel myself trying to let the two disturbances resonate with each other through the image of “family” and how I can/do relate to it.

    In those contexts, I’ve keep re-checking this blog throughout the day – partly to see if you’d responded to my invitation to collaborate – also just because I seem to be attaching to it as a source of general intellectual stimulation. I like the way I’m now much more experiencing it as a complex space than a linear thread. At one point I read the whole of the article with Dennis Cooper you posted a link to in your group blog & then also the Sluts extract on his website. I enjoyed both – but have to admit I engaged with the novel much more as porn than as experimental fiction.

    This evening, I should be at a 50th birthday party for the guy who organises most of the Contact stuff in London. I’ve been lying on the sofa with an aching back wondering if I’m going through a phase of deliberately sabotaging social relationships out of some self-destructive impulse. It was therefore nice to emerge from that & find your reply :-)

    I really resonate with what you say about simply finding the time/resources/possibilities to turn up – and also to make the effort to re-connect somehow, when you’ve messed up & left things badly. Trying to tune my hearing to follow energies, momentum & impulses within people’s gifts of limitations or necessities feels exactly like what I’ve decided I need to do re Spain right now. Will be able to try that out shortly, cos one of the people involved has been at the birthday party & is now heading here to stay the night.

    So, definitely hoping to hang out with you next week – will reply to you email re specific times – but as for the dawn walk, yes, you’re very welcome to join (especially as that means I’ll actually have to do it :-) I’d been thinking to try before the next Monday session, so 9 November. Dawn is at 6.31 & this first time I’d like to start at Putney Bridge station – though I’m open to trying Barnes another week. I’ll be on the street side of the ticket barriers by 6.30 & start walking at 6.31. I want to be strict about it being an entirely silent walk – so no verbal greeting or exchange before it starts. It will likely end up being a walk all the way to campus & hence take longer than an hour. If so, I think the end point is entering the gate from the road, but it could be climbing the cedar by the lake, or it could end when the “hour after dawn” alarm goes off. I’d definitely be up for coffee/breakfast after.

    Unless you let me know in advance you’re not coming, I will be there – but it doesn’t matter if you don’t show: I’ll be glad to do it anyway. I’m putting it here to also make it a general invitation to the group.

    Wow – after midnight!

    Sleep well


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