I understand a key aspect of any research process to be able to (eventually) respond to the question:
How does this research matter?
This is really about understanding how your practice-as-research might be framed – or indeed what frames it creates – and what the implications for those framings are. These frames might be practice as process, philosophical, gender, race (or any socio-political perspective), performance studies, performative, etc. I should add that frames aren’t necessarily discursive (but of course they might be).
What frame is most appropriate? This question depends on how you understand the nature of the practice (what is at its heart?). This is why iterations of the question, “What am I really doing?” are so important. Or perhaps, at this stage, “What have I really been doing?”.
I think there is a tendency in practice-as-research (although I’m not sure if more than in other research approaches) to not adequately address this question of why the work is important. I don’t mean important in some grand way, but rather how you understand your work to be contributing to the circulation of ideas, practices, and thinking that underpin artistic and/or scholarly work.
Yes, I think I’m repeating myself here. It’s early.
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.
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.
This is from Carol Brown (and I’d recommend the Dempster writing she is responding to as well):
As both a subject who moves and a subject who writes, spoken and written language have mobilized my presence as an academic scholar. This normative practice is perpetuated in my current status as academic supervisor for a number of Masters and PhD students who are required both to perform their research and write about this performance as theoretically rationalized research outcomes. Like Dempster, I recognize that despite the ‘corporeal turn’ of much recent academic discourse, dance studies as a field has produced disciplined bodies persistently subjected to the commands of writing (see Lepecki 2006).
The twenty-first century presents us with a huge task: to understand the inherited knowledge and embodied practices of previous eras, but not to be so constrained by these that we cannot imagine different futures and ways of moving and creating. An evolving world demands continuously adaptable forms of creativity. it also demands recognition of the redundancy of those discourses that inhibit our ability to bring about a better future. As a choreographic researcher, I experiment and experience, I feel the angles and rhythms at the interfaces of performing bodies and performatively constructed worlds.
Link to Carol’s writing: http://jashm.press.illinois.edu/20.1/brown.html
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
Steal a solution.
– Brian Eno, Oblique Strategy.
Perhaps this might be a useful task even at this late stage. It has something to do with adopting a skeptical/critical attitude to your own work. It’s a bit like asking “So what?” of your own practice.
Make a critical study of my own work to date – as if it’s someone else’s.
– Brian Eno, 1996. A Year with Swollen Appendices. London: Faber and Faber, p.152
Even at this late stage don’t lose the sense of going back through materials, through this blog, of iterating, discarding, adding, testing, wondering.
In the process of selection the researcher/practitioner decides which are the best or most useful realisations derived from the task, and discards or temporarily puts to one side the others. Here each iterative step is an example of the operation of a selective pressure, somewhat like those that over aeons determine biological evolution and the success of genes and organisms. Biological processes hinge on the survival of the fittest, but fitness depends on the environment, so not all impressive species survive. Artistic selection processes are likely to be even more arbitrary, and there may be many fine specimens amongst the practitioner’s rejects. This occurs because practitioners are making these decisions in relation to the specific artworks they are shaping (what would be suitable for one may not be appropriate for another), or because they might miss a good idea at an early stage of the process where its relevance or potential is not apparent. In addition, although we might be tempted to think of these choices as individually motivated, they are made in response to broader social and artistic forces.
– From the Introduction to Smith and Dean (p.22)