research and assumptions

I understand that processes of research (and indeed learning) are fundamentally tied to how we reflect on, recognise, and challenge our assumptions.

If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.

– Miguel Ruiz

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

— Abraham Maslow

meg stuart on assumptions

I hate assumptions in choreographic practice. Around 2000 there was a schism among choreographers, in Europe anyway, of those performing ideas and of others working with dance and theater concerns. With this conceptual approach there seemed to be an assumption that to articulate one’s ideas, one had to adopt a neutral pedestrian behavior, reject theatricality, and even resist movement all together. I completely support the ongoing re-examination of the performative contract of dance-making, but at a certain moment I felt like screaming. A lot has happened since the ’60s and Judson Church. It must be possible to acknowledge this research. What about bodies in crisis? Bodies that are not in control? What about complex physical and emotional states? Is it possible to give these irrational bodies a platform to address contemporary issues while embracing a theatrical context? I created ALIBI (2001) with these questions in mind. Dance for me is not analytical or rational, and it doesn’t need to be, but that doesn’t mean it is simply intuitive or free flowing either.

– Meg Stuart

The entire conversation between Stuart and Catherine Sullivan is a treasure-trove of ideas about choreographic practice.

thinking more on assumptions

Just read this in Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything:

Yale law professor Dan Kahan, the lead author on this study, attributes the tight correlation between “worldview” and acceptance of climate science to “cultural cognition,” the process by which all of us—regardless of political leanings—filter new information in ways that will protect our “preferred vision of the good society.”

– Klein, Naomi. 2014. This Changes Everything. New York: Simon and Schuster. p.72

Perhaps it’s a stretch to go from climate change to practice-as-research[1], but it seems relevant to recognise that assumptions (and cognitive biases) run deep. We want to “protect” our vision of the world and profoundly human processes like confirmation bias demand we adopt a skeptical and perhaps even vigilant stance to our expectations, hopes, interests, desires and work as practitioners and choreographers.

[1] And I certainly don’t intend to trivialise the seriousness of the climate change problem.