the ouroboros

I read this last year in an article by MIT’s Sep Kamvar:

There is a Zen story about a man riding a horse galloping frantically down a path. His friend, who’s sitting by the side of the road, calls out, “Where are you going?” The man replies, “I don’t know. Ask the horse!”

This is probably stretching the practice-as-research thing a bit, but it made me think about how it might be that the critical aspect of doing practice-as-research is to sustain your practice so that it might start to lead you; as if the practice becomes animated so that you can then start finding out which are the best questions to ask of it.

What do you think the best tools are for generating questions? In other words, how do you go about generating questions? I prefer the most direct questions that tend to be more independent of the specifics of a project (or process). For example: What am I doing? What interests me about this? What and who am I reminded of? How resistant to change is my activity? How flexible? What conditions do I need to make it happen?

In the same article, Kamvar writes that, “metrics shape behaviour”. He quotes an economist Joseph Stiglitz who says, “What we gather our information about, and how we describe success, affects what we strive for.” This may seem even further from practice-as-research but how we frame ideas (the ‘metrics’ in example above) alters what is seen and experienced, and what we attend to. Importantly, the framing (by definition) also excludes things.

The question might be: what is the best way to frame my practice/work so that it is supported and appropriately articulated?

The paradox is that these frames would normally come from the activity (practice) itself. It is a type of Ouroboros.

Then, Kamvar discusses what he calls a cyclical tool that nourishes “the things upon which it depends”. For example: “Cyclical tools are like trees, whose leaves fertilise the soil in which they grow”. Perhaps practice-as-research is dependent on your practice as artists but it should also nourish this practice and help place your practice in various ecosystems (arts, politics, sociology, etc.)

The article is here: