peer-led practice-as-research 2016

This is a message from Jenny Moy and Paul Hughes:

Dear all,

We hope your experience of following this blog for the past few months has been anything like as useful and interesting as participating in the DPaR class was for us. Although Simon Ellis has now left Roehampton, Dance Practice-as-Research will be continuing as a peer-led class next term with participants from last terms module, other Roehampton students and also people from outside the university. Class meetings will be Mondays 3.30-5.30 in Michaelis Studio from January 11th – March 21st but we also see the new DPaR blog as a way to fully participate in the module & warmly invite you either just to follow the new blog or  request to become an author so that you can also post. You’d also be very welcome to join the face-to-face meetings if you’re free at that time.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

All the best,Jenny Moy and Paul Hughes

for Jenny re tomorrow (Friday)

Title – Presentation as a Silent Dawn Walk: Friday 11th December
There will be two chances to join
dawn (7.15am) outside Michaelis Studio &
2 hrs after dawn (9.15am) outside Michaelis Studio – please come in together at 9.15
You can choose your own path – but if you want to be adventurous: wear sensible footwear & clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
Official explorations end at 9.35, but some may wish to stay non-verbal a while longer. Make your own way back to Michaelis by 10.50 for Orley’s presentation
Refreshments will be provided
Look forward to sharing this research with you

mattering and repeating myself

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.


some brain pickings from 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.

iteration and selection

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)

appropriated space

I don’t remember when or how I happened across this but I thought the writing might be useful to you (as an example) with respect to how you might make words work towards your practice(s).

I do not know you, you do not know me. There is a space between us. Within this space there occurs a series of collisions, misfires, commonalities, and inescapable bounds wherein we are tied by a relation of non-identification and otherness. We form our own narratives based on our inability to understand completely.

Here’s the complete PDF: Appropriate Text

And this is where it’s from:

performance on a paper floor

This might be of interest (available through the library):

Asentić, Saša & Ana Vujanović (2008). My Private Bio-Politics A Performance on a Paper Floor. Performance Research 13(1): 70-78

Here’s a sample:

You enter the hall. Working lights. A male performer in trousers and t-shirt is already on the stage. The stage is about 11m x 8m. On the left page you can see a square of mostly paper material on the floor. Among them you can recognize some books, a video camera, a lot of documents, one chair, an unrecognizable black box-like object and along the diagonal of the square several ceramic pots. On the right there is another square; it is a ‘ring’, like a boxing ring, marked by very thin white thread, Some 10cm from the ground. In the right back corner of the ring, there is a goblin on a gantry; it depicts the figure of a female dancer. The performer is preoccupied with the needlework.

does not observe a distance

It’s a little out-dated but Borgdorff’s summary of the practice-as-research field remains very useful indeed. Borgdorff describes many of the kinds of issues that we have discussed and I wonder where you position yourselves in relation to them now.

Donald Schön speaks of ‘reflection in action’ in this context, and I earlier described this approach as the ‘immanent’ and ‘performative perspective’. It concerns research that does not assume the separation of subject and object, and does not observe a distance between the researcher and the practice of art. Instead, the artistic practice itself is an essential component of both the research process and the research results. This approach is based on the understanding that no fundamental separation exists between theory and practice in the arts. After all, there are no art practices that are not saturated with experiences, histories and beliefs; and conversely there is no theoretical access to, or interpretation of, art practice that does not partially shape that practice into what it is. Concepts and theories, experiences and understandings are interwoven with art practices and, partly for this reason, art is always re exive. Research in the arts hence seeks to articulate some of this embodied knowledge throughout the creative process and in the art object.

– Henk Borgdorff


plato and not learning anything new

From Alva Noë:

Plato articulated a variation on this same puzzle a couple of thousand years ago: You need to know what you’re looking for in order to tell when you’ve found it but, if you already know, then why go looking? The upshot, for Plato, is that you can’t learn anything new. Perhaps he would have been better off noticing that hearing, perceiving, learning, is always a matter of using what you know to make sense of what is on offer.

In practice-as-research the ‘what you know’ part comes from a deep and ongoing understanding of the nature of your practice(s).