composition is not research

Some fairly provocative ideas from John Croft here:

He makes a lot of very broad assumptions about research which I find hard to reconcile but it’s definitely worth a read.

the cognitive content of art while insisting on its resistance to conceptualisation – it presents rather than represents, discloses without describing. In terms of Wittgenstein’s famous distinction, such things can only be shown, not told.

And here’s Ian Pace’s response:

On 25 November there’s going to be a conversation about these ideas.

I have plans to make it along.

conference on writing and practice

There is an international conference on artistic research in the spring and below is some text from the call for proposals that is very relevant to the conversations we’ve been having.

The relationship between artistic practice and writing in the context of research is a challenging and much debated topic, both in and outside the framework of art degree programmes. Often the relationship is felt to be one of friction, opposition or paradox. Writing gives an explicit verbal account of the implicit knowledge and understanding embodied in artistic practices and products while at the same time art may escape or go beyond what can be expressed by words and resist (academic) conventions of accountability. A ‘written element’ is almost always asked for in the context of higher arts education, as well as by funding agencies, so the artist-researcher in that context often feels cornered, and has to meet opposing demands at the same time.

However, in the debate on art practice and writing the fact that writing itself is a practice is often bypassed. Giving a linguistic expression to one’s research is work that demands as much dedication and commitment as creative work does. Moreover, writing is not just practice, but itself creative work, a constructive process that enables the emergence of the new and the unforeseen. What is the role of writing in artistic research and what type of voices may emerge?

Furthermore, while writing can be seen as a form of practice, the same is true for the inverse: in the context of artistic research, practice is a form of writing; a non-propositional form of writing, to be sure, but in artistic research material practices and products not only embody knowledge and understanding, but as agents in a methodological sense, are also the vehicles by which that knowledge and understanding is produced and conveyed. Here practice is making a case, a claim; a discursive practice that comprises (paradoxically?) non-discursive, i.e. non-propositional material.

This years SAR conference will address writing in relation to artistic research from these perspectives: writing as practice and practice as writing. How do both writing and practice operate as ways to convey new knowledge, understanding and experiences by which we (re)organize our lives? In workshops, demonstrations, performances, discussions, open sessions and on-the-spot encounters we will contribute to the ongoing development of the relationship between practice and writing in the context of artistic research.

Details of the conference:

International Conference on Artistic Research, The Hague 28-29 April 2016

Please submit your proposal, of no more than 300 words, before 11 January 2016. Indicate which strand you are submitting for and the duration of what you are proposing as well as any special requirements you may have for your contribution. E-mail your statement to, including your name and e-mail address and, if applicable, your affiliation and relevant web link.
The selection of proposals will be completed by 15 February 2016.

The journal connected to the conference is here:

relationship between writing and practice

This list assumes that writing is distinct from the practice (or that writing is not a practice) so forgive the simplistic tone of the binary.

  • let the writing do its work, and the practice do its own work
  • parallel trajectories that focus on different (but related) concerns
  • writing that critically reflects on the practice (careful here not fall into traps of justification, complication, validation)
  • writing that helps to cohere
  • writing that serves to mess it up (careful: how to make it clear that you understand the nature of your project?)
  • “to discover a way for repeated words to become performative utterances rather than constative utterances” – Peggy Phelan (1993, p.149)

hypothetical practice as performance

Jenny has asked the following of me and this blog:

is this a performance that you’re doing here for us? And is it practice as research? If so, could it be useful for us if you answered some of your own questions in relation to your practice of posting on this blog?

Before I begin, yes, I think it is performative. My decision to make the space public has many functions, but the performative component of this is strong. I wouldn’t have thought it is practice-as-research but I’m happy to think of it in this way.

What have you been doing (as practice)?

It’s irregular but for the most part I have been collecting ideas that I think might stimulate others to expand their own work, thinking and practices. I have then been posting these to this blog. At the same time, this collecting – and how you have been responding (or not) – informs my own understanding of the possibilities, limitations and structures of both practice-as-research and pedagogy.

Who else has done similar kinds of practices?

I’m going to delimit this to the ‘practice of blogging’ (and not so much the pedagogical and practice-as-research angles). Two people come to mind.

What texts seem influential or relevant to this practice?

I would start with Lucas and Michel above. But, it would also depend on which ‘line of flight’ I take. I would tend towards Foucault as I like how he thinks through the nature of friendship in relation to power. And yes, part of my understanding of this ‘practice’ of blogging in a learning and teaching environment is to attempt to destabilise my position as the knower. My worry in responding to these questions (questions I initially asked of you guys) is that I am asserting my ‘understanding’ of practice-as-research. Ugh.

What outcome are you working towards? How will you do it.

I am not [working towards outcomes] but if I were I’d try a couple of tests. The first would be to print out these posts on large format paper and tape them to the floor of the Mi.131. They would become a kind of paper carpet that people would walk (and dance) all over. The second would be to project the posts onto the entire space of Mi.131 and then have the letters slowly degrade over time.

Why is it important? (How might it matter? So what?)

It’s important because blogging is the most striking change in how ideas are communicated, and indeed who has the power to ‘broadcast’. It’s important because blogging affords alternative kinds of voices (no, my voice is not that alternative). It’s important because I understand my role as a teacher to somehow find a way to get out of the way of the curiosity, commitment and generosity of the students I am working for.

What plans have you made for documenting or producing ‘additional materials’ for the project?

The project is documenting itself as it is developed. However, I’d look to find other ways of playing with the texts. This would involve selecting aspects (key components?) and making them physical objects (life beyond the screen). This denaturing of the materials would allow me to mess with them, to understand them in different ways. I’d probably try and build some kind of flickbook out of the texts (at least to start with). At the front of my mind is how this practice (and its outcomes) might be remembered and communicated beyond its own form, and whether indeed this is necessary and/or appropriate.

Not for a second am I sure about this statement but perhaps it might help you consider the range and limits of your approaches to your practice(s).

Artistry may seem divine, but practicing is always mundane. Practice immerses you in your daily self — this body, these moods… You struggle with mistakes and flaws. The work is physical, intellectual, psychological. It can be exhilarating and aggravating, fulfilling and terribly lonesome. But it is always just you, the instrument, and the music, here, now. Practicing is the truth of who you are, today, as you strive to change, to make yourself better, to become someone new. The goal is always to bring old notes to life. Even so, while you sit down to work every day, it may take years before you know what you’ve practiced.


the copulation of practice and theory

Following on from a comment during Monday’s session when one of you expressed some anxiety about theory in relation to your practices, I thought you might enjoy this (it was recommended to me by Bob Whalley):

You’ll be able to download the full article via the library.

One other thing to consider is that working with (and indeed against) theory can be a type of practice. Don’t limit yourselves to understanding practice as being something that happens within the boundaries of a studio.

bodies and writing

These are the notes from Emilyn’s session today.

Moving, describing, witnessing, noticing, interpreting, remembering, reflecting …

This studio-based workshop introduces different modes of writing from embodied practices. We will reflect on how interweaving interactions of writing and moving can initiate research themes.

writing is something profoundly more dynamic, active, fluid, and indeed mobile and ephemeral and uncontainable than it is usually perceived as being

– Allsop and Lepecki, 2010: 2

All tasks are intended as examples of how you might conduct/expand/challenge/navigate/change your own practice as research.

Task 1: Ten-minute physical warm-up


  • What did I do?
  • What happened as I did it?
  • What are some of the generic influences/sources for my warm up?

This task evokes a creative tension between doing and noticing what I am doing. How can I be present in the moment of warming up, while also aware that I am going to write about it?

Task 2: Noticing & Describing

  • With a partner (A&B).
  • A – walk, pause and walk again. Write the action of doing.
  • B – writes what s/he sees.
  • Compare writings – doing and seeing.
  • Try to be descriptive rather than interpretive.
  • Pull out the differences in the writing.

This task draws on the phenomenological practice of ‘bracketing’ (Husserl) and whether it is possible to describe what you see without bringing your own experience to the seeing.

  • What do I notice?
  • What do I notice this time?
  • How useful is this descriptive writing to me in my research?

Task 3: Interpretation

  • A – falls slowly the floor.
  • B – interprets in writing what he sees.
  • Change roles.

What do we each bring – cultural backgrounds, age, life experience, family… to our interpretation of the action? What kind of language do we use, poetic, performative, autobiographical, pragmatic? We never not interpret (Staemmler) – yet we can be aware of when we notice and when we interpret.

Task 4: No beginning, no end

  • A – tells a story, memoire, personal narrative based on a theme (e.g. stumble, smell of toast, rain).
  • B – listen and write what stands out for you.

Reflect on what you have written, draw out starting points for further research in relation to your own practice: choreography, performance, anthropology, dance history etc…

Look at all of your writings.

  • How do you present your hand writing on the page?
  • What choreographies are at play with your words on the page?
  • What kinds of movement phrases are your words displaying?

up until now

An interview with Deborah Hay. I’m posting it here not so much because of Hay’s interest in particular kinds of practices but because of how central the principle (or perhaps concept) of practice is to her work.

We want to hold on, we want to know, if we do this much more … if you could just get it. What if we could learn not to grasp … or try and hold on …