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.

some questions that shouldn’t be a surprise

These questions are pretty direct and they shouldn’t be a surprise. I would suggest writing direct answers to these questions as part of your ongoing work (some will be harder to respond to than others). Be as succinct as possible. Post to your respective blogs. Perhaps even do new versions every 3 or so days. Treat the responses lightly, and with utter seriousness.

  • What have you been doing (as practice)?
  • Who else has done similar kinds of practices?
  • What texts seem influential or relevant to this practice?
  • What do you plan on doing for your dpar project?
  • Why is it important? (How might it matter? So what?)
  • How will you do it?
  • What plans have you made for documenting or producing ‘additional materials’ for the project?

Any questions?

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: http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/11/ideas-bank/we-need-more-nourishing-metrics-than-downloads

some questions to consider (in silence)


Regarding your practice:

  • How does it fit (or not) with the lists of *practice* and *research* generated during the class?
  • What are your interests?
  • Do you have any questions about your practice?
  • Any ideas about how you might address these questions (through practice)?
  • Anything you’d like to change about your practice? How?
  • What kinds of relationships exist between practicing and making/choreographing?