In this paper we outline some of the issues involved in the ‘practice research’ context and make a few suggestions as to ways to tackle these in a Practice-as-Research (PaR) undertaking. We begin by writing about the ‘problem with writing’ for all researchers whose primary interest lies in creative processes, and about the question of research metapractices. We then focus on those ‘mixed-mode’1 research metapractices and how they might be addressed in the combined PaR submission. Our interim conclusion is that research writing is best produced dialogically, with the ongoing input of other research/ researchers and creative searchers and makers.
1 We use the term ‘mixed-mode’ to signal a range of different media – e.g. video, choreographic, writing – in place of the single mode that is writing.
[A] characterisation of performance research as bound up with practical wisdom is seductive in that it secures a ground for the epistemological distinctiveness of such research. To make the characterisation work, we need to conceive of art making as a form of intentional action, of which the cognitive value lies in the reasoned decision-making of the artist as agent. (Pakes 2003)
In our experience one of the biggest research dilemmas for the practitioner-researcher lies not so much in the nature and identity of the arts practice/s proposed in the doctoral research context, but instead in your relationship as a researcher to the writing you need to produce in that context. As an artist or maker, your writing is likely to aspire to be ‘new’, but at the same time it will be evaluated in part in terms of its relationship to other researchers’ published writing. The term ‘relationship’ is key here: a practitioner-researcher is unlikely to be able, in the doctoral research context, to write as she or he has always written in other contexts. There is a precise reason for this: as a PaR candidate you have submitted at the proposal stage, and been accepted for doctoral research, on the basis of work that others judge to be expert or to have the potential to be so – whether or not you want to admit this.
We have found that few artists like the term ‘expert’ but we want to insist on it here for quite specific reasons relating to knowledge and its status in the doctoral context. These reasons include others’ estimation of your technical and creative knowledge of, access to, ability to engage in, and ability to bring what is often a collaborative creative project to completion, and to expose it – putting your name to it as one part of a growing body of work – to an audience. Demonstrating growing expertise is a requirement of any doctoral programme within an institution of higher education, and you need, over the research period, to develop a specialism that will be recognised by others through the doctoral award. The doctorate is the highest academic award internationally, and it confers the authority appropriate to that award. The writing that you produce and submit as part of your doctoral enquiry is, similarly, required to demonstrate growing expertise, in its relationship both to the arts practices submitted, and to the writing produced and published by other researchers.
But how might expert writing in the doctoral research context work, when it may not be the central part of your enquiry; and what does it need to do, within that same enquiry? Such questions are underlined – and problematised – as soon as you realise that, in historical terms2, published practitioner-research writing has rarely been produced from this particular perspective – of, for example, making processes in the arts; and this means, in turn, that there are relatively few published examples available for the arts-practitioner-researcher to follow.
2 In historical terms, practice-as-research/led research/based research doctorates were first offered from the mid-1990s in the UK; few supervisors at that time were PaR researchers, meaning that the outcome of their supervision was likely to promote ‘academic’ tradition over PaR material.
1 Towards writing expertly
How do we learn to write expert-creatively in the doctoral arts-practitioner research context, and who can serve us as example, if it is indeed the case that much practitioner-centred research writing, for historical reasons, is not widely available? While some instances of practitioner writing (see for example Goulish 2000, Lee and Pollard 2006) are available, the register/s adopted are rarely those promoted and preferred in the university research environment – in significant part because they can seem to lack the fields and extent of reference that traditional research writing demonstrates and secondly because much traditional doctoral research writing is informed by an aspiration to ever-increasing complexity. At the same time, your own PaR writing is equally likely to need to be highly economical, precisely because it is likely to be secondary to your central enquiry through creative practice. These different demands and expectations introduce a peculiar tension to writing within the PaR enquiry. Doctoral writing is in part a matter of identifying, engaging with, practising and developing control of a particularly complex register or registers of writing in order to add to others’ understanding of – for example – choreographic practices, yet in the PaR undertaking that writing cannot operate effectively by itself; nor should any other researcher require that of it.
A number of twentieth century writers have engaged with the issue of expert-creative mastery3, and what it might consist of. In the early twentieth century one approach to poetic (as distinct from everyday) uses of language was called ‘defamiliarisation’ (from V. Shklovsky (1917) “Art as Device” or “Art as Technique”, in Berlina 2017): art-making, to extrapolate from this hypothesis, involves a technique that makes the familiar ‘strange’ to us, so that we perceive it differently. In the work of a number of key twentieth century practitioners, including (indicatively) Marcel Duchamp4, Allan Kaprow5 and Joseph Beuys6, by framing an everyday object the artist defamiliarises it, and in so doing she or he causes us and others to see it differently. The framing process itself theatricalises what is familiar, removing it from its everyday context, and invites us to see it differently, to look twice at it7.
3 ‘Mastery’ is plainly gendered, largely for historical reasons. The term comes from early 13c., mesterie, meaning the ‘condition of being a master’ but also suggests ‘superiority, victory;’ and from the 1660s it means ‘intellectual command’ (of a topic, etc.). See www.etymonline.com/word/mastery, viewed 2/11/2016.
4 Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968, was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player and writer whose work is associated with Cubism and conceptual art.
5 Allan Kaprow, 1927–2006, was an American painter, assemblagist and a pioneer in establishing the concepts of performance art.
6 Joseph Beuys, 1921–1986, was a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.
7 The notion of theatricality suggests something conceived, framed and presented for spectating, and for holding the regard of the viewer.
2 Technique, technicity (and knowing/not yet knowing what you are doing)
‘The artist’, in terms of defamiliarisation, is likely to use a familiar technique in the attempt to produce an outcome that may remain partly unknown to her or him throughout the making processes; the feeling that ‘it works!’ is likely to seem to come to him or her, from the work at hand, rather than as the outcome of forethought. He or she may or may not be able to reflect explicitly or critically upon a number and range of art-making processes, some historically-specific, within which her or his undertaking finds its place. That practitioner is likely nonetheless, to know what she or he is doing, and is likely already to master the technicity8 of the medium. In the doctoral context, however, you need to develop an explicit level of control, a practitioner-specific metapractice (Lyotard 1991)9, with regard to your own processes and the knowledge they involve. This developing auto-reflexivity constitutes one aspect of doctoral expertise. On this basis, the technical mastery involved in creative practice, from the point of view of the continuing development of expertise, needs to be made explicit, identified as a transferable element of that growing, discipline-specific metapractice.
8 Jean-François Lyotard writes that ‘It is perfectly possible to say that the living cell, and the organism … are already tekhnai, that “life” … is already technique’ (Lyotard 1991, 52).
9 This text includes his reflections on the acquisition of expertise and mastery of techne and the metapractice.
While in our experience many practitioners or artists are unwilling to celebrate technical mastery itself – particularly in their own work – and as a result may be reluctant to pursue its role in creative decision-making in expert practice, we start from the position that dance’s technicity, a term that already signals a greater level of abstraction from the material world (while engaging with it), is a condition or quality acquired, retained and developed through dance and dance-making practices themselves and from the feedback loops that apply. In our argument that technicity can be understood as one key component of artistry: it is quasi-independent of a particular practice or a particular choreographer’s signature and it is transferable. Dance’s technicity is involved, as soon as we observe that one or another example ‘doesn’t work as dance’, or that it might be ‘movement-based performance but not dance as such’, or that one or another dancer’s work ‘doesn’t quite make it’: judgement is at work, and to some extent it seems to be independent of individual taste. On this basis technicity is revealed to entail a set of more or less stabilised qualities, transferable across the performance genre; they inform creative decision-making ‘that works’, even though the role they play in creative invention is often overlooked – unless or until it is challenged.
3 Research into technicity
The role technicity plays in the performance of mastery is under-researched, in part because of its abstract quality (although Labanotation, indicatively, has attempted to systematise the technicity of dance at particular moments in its history. See for example Laban and Lawrence 1947); but mastery is a fact of work and of judgement in the wider fields of arts practices: as we suggest above, to identify ‘dance’ as such, and, indeed to recognise a ‘great performer’, in any performance mode, depends in part upon a complex judgement of performance quality; technical mastery self-displays, but it also points to the history of the practice/s involved – which means that what a practitioner does, what s/he feels – and what s/he judges, tentatively, to be ready to be performed before an audience – necessarily resonates with that history. As a creative researcher you need to acknowledge it as such. Research through practice in performance-making, in other words, is also a metapractice, albeit occasionally implicit rather than explicit; that metapractice always reflects on choices available, choices made and choices unmade, and thereby on the codes and conventions of the medium, whether or not the practitioner ever verbalises this as such.
Curiously enough, choreographic practice is always a metapractice with regard to ‘dance’10 (even if it claims to invent it); it ‘organises’ a dance whose technicity pre-exists it and it tends to mark it with choreographic signature11; it reflects, implicitly or explicitly, upon other established practices of dance. Choreographic practice can seem to be extracted from dance itself, and transmitted semi-independently of the dance it organises. Choreographic metapractice involves and signals the practitioner’s ability to step back from dance, metaphorically as well as literally, and to engage critically with its technicity – that includes options concerning time and space as well as the dancer and her or his training and ability to contribute as well as the practitioner’s aesthetic. Choreographic practices also tend to involve compromise with the ‘resistant materialities’12 of dance-making and performance in a particular cultural context. Let’s say so. Meanwhile, what we are currently writing here, and you are reading, is metadiscursive: we are writing about writing about practice, one mode of critical and reflective metapractice amongst others.
10 Choreographic practices may differ in this aspect from some directorial practices in theatre-making in their own relationship to acting; devised performance-making may seem to be ‘choreographed’, but it tends to lack (or avoid) the codification of ‘dance’, as well as the person of ‘the choreographer’.
11 By ‘signature’ here we mean a set of widely-recognised practices that are ‘impressed into’ the work, and that seem to refer back to a specific practitioner, whether Pina Bausch or Lucinda Childs. They effectively constitute one category of intellectual property.
12 This useful term comes from (Hayles 1999)
4 From the everyday to the expert in writing
The defamiliarisation of writing – not least of writing that we may take for granted in the everyday – is the first research tool we propose here. Use of a term like ‘the body’, for example, that some performance writers might take for granted, is ‘defamiliarised’ as soon as we reframe it in terms of the PaR making processes, in which a particular dancer’s identity as well as her or his background of training and experience might well be vital to the making. Use of a term like ‘the body’, in philosophical writing, may not serve a practitioner’s particular needs: the term generalises, and it anonymises13. As such, use of the term itself, regardless of your intention, tends to erase the importance of performer expertise and of individual identity in the performer, from the writing.
13 In performance-professional terms, at least, we are dealing with someone’s expert bodywork, which means that bald use of the noun trivialises professionals’ own undertaking.
How might we defamiliarise our own writing? A first response? Writing in the research context of expert practice is immediately framed by, and must explicitly and repeatedly acknowledge its own research context. In these sorts of terms, a practitioner-centred writing might well need to distinguish itself from a spectator-centred writing14 (we can categorise much academic writing in Performance and Dance Studies as spectator-centred). We return to this point in what follows. Another researcher into PaR should be able to expect, of that writing, that it will perform differently from writing in spectator-centred everyday contexts:
14 Susan Melrose with Renate Bräuninger, “Virtuosity and Performance Mastery”, Symposium (May 2003), e-PAI at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04
- first, in what it refers to. Research writing cannot simply ‘re-present’ (my) art-making – although it does need to do that; but it equally needs to ‘re-present’ other instances and traditions of research enquiry. This second task of ‘re-presentation’ is vitally important, because it serves to signal, to your reader, the extent and the quality of your own knowledge of the research field;
- second, in how it works: internally it needs to work effectively as a ‘research narrative’, that develops as an account of a research process pursued over time, but equally that references other research narratives, while – where pertinent – critiquing these as well as adding to them;
- third, in the rules it operates to: however maverick or iconoclastic you may come to feel in relation to the doctoral context and the university itself, these institutions cannot be ignored (a doctorate is the highest award that the institution can make), and the ‘research rules’ range from appropriate modes of referencing, to the accuracy of material quoted and attributed;
- fourth, in what it attempts to achieve: achieving ‘self-expression’ is not adequate to writing in the doctoral enquiry which necessarily targets a wider research community; instead, it needs to aim to make a real contribution to the body of research specific to the discipline or disciplines involved, while equally aiming to articulate your own specific perspective and concerns. In order to make an original contribution, it needs to acknowledge, as economically as possible, what already exists.
5 Problematising the everyday
Each time your everyday use of writing is defamiliarised, and you find yourself interrupting – and ‘problematising’15 – your own use of language in the PaR context, you need to identify further tools that might facilitate your own developing writing practices. The use of familiar terms – such as the widely used and apparently everyday term ‘the body’, as mentioned above, or the qualifier ‘intuitive’ – turns out to be problematic in expert writing, despite the frequency of their use: each of these terms is heavily loaded with research significance, appearing in the writing specific to a number of research disciplines – philosophy, history, psychology, education and sociology, amongst others – at particular times and in contexts that are likely to be discipline-specific. Within these disciplines, each of these terms has a history of use, a technical as well as a scientific standing that shifts over time, and in some instances, it might also figure metaphorically in such contexts. As a starting-point it is worth using a good etymological account in order to identify some of that history, and to explore how uses of apparently simple terms have changed. (‘Expertise’, for example, meaning the ‘quality or state of being an expert’, did not appear in written English until 1868, from the 16thC French. ‘Expertise’, meaning a quality or state, replaced the more common English ‘expertness’ that had been used between the 17th and the mid-19thC16.)
15 The term was widely used by the writer, Michel Foucault – see for example Foucault 1984. It is discussed in Rabinow 2003.
16 www.etymonline.com/word/expertise (consulted 12/04/2018)
No researcher can systematically reference such a range of discipline-specific uses of language when the task at hand is to produce a PaR commentary, but you do need first to acknowledge their existence, and secondly to note some of the different shades of meaning that different disciplines bring to the term. Philosophical references to ‘the body’ (see for example the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at plato.stanford.edu) tend not to match uses of the same term by an expert dance practitioner, whose own language may be informed by first- and/or second person experience as well as a highly technical grasp of performance practices. It is worth saying so. You might write something like this: ‘Writing as an expert practitioner trained in Labanotation, my notion of bodywork (and hence, ‘the body’) is likely to differ from uses in philosophical writing…’. However, in order to signal your growing research expertise, you do need to be able to reference some of the disciplines that seem to intersect with creative decision-making in practice – the Cognitive Sciences, Psychology or Education, amongst other examples. Take care when you do so, however: identify your sources including the research context within which that other researcher locates her or his work.
6 ‘By which I mean…’
The simplest tool we have found here starts with a formulation like ‘by which I mean …’, following use of even an apparently simple term. ‘Intuitive’ decision-making is a term (see Melrose 2017) that has come to the fore in a number of fields in the 21stC, which does mean that even an unreflective use of a term like ‘intuitive’ needs to be qualified: for example, ‘by which I mean a decision-making process involving ‘affective cognition’ (Protevi 2011), rather than either an irrational or an instinctive process’.
As soon as a term like ‘the body’ or ‘intuitive’ is qualified in this manner, we are at the edge of an expansive field of research writing, and it is a matter of judgement just where you want (or need) to close off that field. You are unlikely to be expected, in PaR writing, to lay claim to expertise in Philosophy or the Cognitive Sciences, but it is absolutely appropriate to identify productive overlap. How you do so is a matter of some debate in doctoral circles, however. Doctoral researchers in general should be able to recognise and communicate with each other, across a number of different disciplines. The research engagement itself and its modes of enquiry, according to certain writers (Knorr Cetina 2001), traverse different disciplines. In addition, any engagement with performance writing over the past few decades is likely to reveal that its writing has been informed (metaphorically, at least) by one or another field of scientific enquiry: these are called ‘turns’, and they include the ‘linguistics turn’, the ‘discourse turn’, the ‘ethnography turn’, the ‘psychoanalysis turn’, the ‘philosophy turn’, and the ‘cognitive sciences turn’. Each involves borrowing what seem to be ‘ready-made’ research methods and terminology that are applied, more or less metaphorically, to an area of performing arts or arts-practices enquiry. The aim of its application tends to be to produce new insights but danger lies in assuming that you thereby become an ethnographer or a philosopher: you do not.
7 The Specificity of expert-creative practices
One of the most important reasons for marking the distinction between disciplinary fields from which you might be tempted to borrow relates to the ‘underwritten’ nature of creative practitioner-research that we identified above: while there has been much published writing concerned with ‘creativity’ and even with ‘Dance’ and ‘Choreography’, it has rarely been articulated from the position of the expert arts practitioner-researcher. Instead, as we suggest above, it has tended for the most part to be written by an external observer to the processes of expert making, often engaged – as ‘expert spectator’17 – with the outcome of decision-making rather than with those processes themselves. In what follows we demonstrate one indicative commentary-construction process, which starts with the term ‘the body’ (instantly problematised), and proceeds towards what might be called ‘ever-increasing (doctoral) complexity’:
17 Susan Melrose with Renate Bräuninger, “Virtuosity and Performance Mastery”, Symposium (May 2003), e-PAI at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04
‘I have used the term ‘the body’ (appearing widely in Brian Massumi (2002)) but the term ‘bodywork’ might be more appropriate here because I am interested in working with a particular named dancer trained in contemporary dance. Massumi’s own writing is illuminating but it emerges in the context of Cultural Theory, and although he starts with an encouraging formulation about “my body” (“It moves. It feels.” Massumi 2002, 1), his observations come in part from his long relationship with the writing of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (Deleuze and Guattari 1987).
Deleuze’s reappraisal (1988) of the writing of the 17thC Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza provided researchers in the late 20thC with startling insights into what Spinoza’s ‘ethological’ enquiry termed “a body”. What is the difference between the three different wordings – ‘the’, ‘my’ and ‘a’ body?
‘the body’ (use of the definite article generalises);
‘my body’ (use of the possessive particularises but might equally refer to the individual experience of each of us, whether you are a trained dancer, a gymnast or an academic writer);
‘a body’ (indefinite article: for Spinoza any and every body – including a tree, a wasp or a rock).
According to Deleuze, Spinoza’s concern in the 17thC was that ‘we don’t even know what a body is capable of, we prattle on about the soul and the mind and we don’t know what a body can do. But a body must be defined by the ensemble of relations which compose it, or, what amounts to exactly the same thing, by its power of being affected’ (my emphasis)18. What can we say, against this background, about a named dancer’s expert – and signature-specific – bodywork?’
18 Deleuze/Spinoza, deleuzelectures.blogspot.co.uk
8 PaR and/as ‘a philosophy of (expert-creative) practice’
Deleuze’s philosophical writing is equally interesting to some practitioner-researchers because of his introduction in 1970 of the term “practical philosophy”19, which seems at first glance to resonate with PaR enquiry in its focus on a ‘philosophy of practice’ (or ‘philosophical practices’). We have just written ‘at first glance’, because it remains the case that the philosopher writes from a particular position, which tends not to be that of the artist or expert-practitioner. We can’t overstress this difference, but let’s turn it around, to make a positive of it: whatever you feel that you know through art-making is likely to be absolutely unavailable to the professional philosopher (and Sociologist, Cultural Theoretician, or Ethnographer). Neither one nor the other of these trained writers knows what the expert-creative practitioner knows and does, nor the motivations or intentions that drive her or him.
19 Deleuze/Spinoza, deleuzelectures.blogspot.co.uk
This is important, so say so, not just from the outset but systematically throughout your written commentary: positioning with regard to the sorts of observations and questions produced is vital. The expert writer-philosopher tends to write, and to watch, and to write again, amply but sometimes implicitly referencing the historical institution of philosophical writing as s/he does so. Her or his writing, in other words, speaks of more than it says (Bourdieu 1977). However, as we point out above, she or he tends not to know what expert practitioners know (and may choose not to know) through making work, for an audience, that is often collaborative and tends to be made public under controlled circumstances. These circumstances are both constitutive and they are highly peculiar, never applying to the professional academic writer who writes alone; in this sense they do not match the working conditions of the ethnographer, the sociologist or the psychologist. Make this clear, consistently. Even the circumstances of the expert writer-educator differ from your own, in the sense that the educator tends to be more interested in enhanced learning in a group and in ‘good practice’ in educational terms, than in the professional work of a performer or the expert invention of a choreographer or composer for other artists as well as an audience.
Nonetheless, some philosophical writing can be of interest to PaR: the Deleuze-Spinoza reappraisal of the later decades of the 20thC both sharpened, and echoed, wider concerns in that later 20thC context. The work of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1977), in his enquiry into what he called, in the 1970s, an ‘outline of a theory of practice’ resonates with Deleuze’s ‘practical philosophy’ (Deleuze 1988). Bourdieu at least attempted to direct attention to actual practices of specific groups, if not to an embodied engagement from within creative practices. However, many such enquirers continued to do so within an expert writing that remains particularly complex and often abstracted from the material and embodied. Brian Massumi (Massumi 2002), in turn, shifted his enquiry at the turn of the 21stC to fields more familiar to practitioner-researchers in Dance and Performance, venturing closer to performance-making expertise, even if he does not use the term as such, and even though he could not and cannot claim to be writing as creative practitioner20 within a performance-practitioner-centred enquiry into knowledge.
20 We argue that Massumi’s work in writing is inventive, as well as expert.
Does this sort of omission (or lack of competence as well as orientation) mean that these three instances of ‘expert writing’, noted above, fail the creative practitioner-researcher? Not necessarily, provided your writing acknowledges the positions from which they and you write, and some of the limitations thereby imposed on their discoveries and the challenges specific to your own. What is important in more general terms is that any of these three names, and their three different references to ‘body’, with which we began, open onto extensive fields of already-established research enquiry, which no doctoral researcher using the apparently simple and everyday term can afford to ignore.
9 Appropriations (or who can borrow what, and to what effect?)
We have sketched above the briefest detail of an outline of research uses of the noun ‘body’, in order to demonstrate that ‘research rules’ apply to what some of us may take to be the simplest – and ‘commonsensical’ – use of language in a research context. A PaR researcher, in performance-making, is likely to refer to bodies, but in order to demonstrate growing expertise in research writing, s/he needs a formula that takes into account both similarities and differences between performance-writing and philosophy: ‘in a Deleuzian/Spinozan sense’ (Deleuze 1988), we might write, ‘I do not “know what a [dance-trained] body can do” (Ibid, 60), until we begin to work together in the studio’. But how to continue? Performances are not simply ‘about bodies’. The Spinozan example concerned relations between bodies, and the affects triggered by the actions of heterogeneous bodies. We have found that relational quality particularly difficult to write about, not least because performances tend to involve movement and change. In Deleuzian terms, the shifting interface between the choreographer’s and the performer’s work, eventually staged for spectators, can be described in terms of an “assemblage”21 – a dynamic meeting and altering of relations between a body and an other (different) body or bodies, which ‘dynamic meeting and altered relation’ might seem to some of us to constitute part of the technicity of ‘new work’ in performance.
21 ‘assemblage’ is the term brought by Massumi, as a translator to Deleuze and Guattari 1987 although their term, in French, was ‘agencement’, whose implications are slightly different.
You might want to add, following this thread, something like this:
‘Spinoza’s “ethology”22, originally “the study of animal behaviour, the affects and capacities of animals”, of man, and their environment” (Deleuze 1988, 27) reveals itself to be, via Deleuze (Ibid), a study “of the relations of speed and slowness” between human, animal and all other bodies, defining those “bodies, animals or humans by the affects they are capable of”. Philosophic observations of ‘relations of speed and slowness’ might transfer in theory to aspects of performance, but few philosophers pursue those relations in the case of the specificity of expert-creative makers and the highly-trained, energised and experienced bodywork of named dancers working with a choreographer and others. On the other hand, affect, as Massumi points out (Massumi 2002) is a term of considerable expert/professional interest to arts practitioners, for reasons I proceed to explore in the performance-making practices central to this undertaking, and in the accompanying commentary.’
22 ‘Now, from the viewpoint of an ethology of man, one needs first to distinguish between two sorts of affections: actions, which are explained by the nature of the affected individual, and which spring from the individual’s essence; and passions, which are explained by something else, and which originate outside the individual. Hence the capacity for being affected is manifested as a power of acting insofar as it is assumed to be filled by active affections, but as a power of being acted upon insofar as it is filled by passions.’ (Deleuze 1988, 27)
In the brief example above, we try to demonstrate the research complexities of otherwise everyday uses of language but also the difficulties of direct borrowing from published writers into expert-creative performance writing. As soon as that everyday term is articulated in an expert or performance-professional context, its technicity is underlined: it is immediately repositioned within a complex set of knowledge-practices specific to that expert practice, and its register has shifted. The complex interrogation begins to signal mastery in research writing itself: other researchers recognise, even in a compressed form, that you are writing more than you write. You are writing yourself into research writing, while acknowledging its own processes and history. When that sort of compressed, resonant writing is re-articulated in the PaR framework, the complex set of knowledge-practices involved grows exponentially, and what you are then engaged in is further developing the already existing web of complex, mixed-mode PaR metapractices.
10 Expert writing as metapractice: writing ‘about’ writing ‘about’ practice (as metapractice)
We have begun to look at some of the key issues involved in the ways PaR researchers approach creative practices in the doctoral context, and how they might write about them, using a doctorally-appropriate register or registers (Denzin and Lincoln 1994). But we have only touched briefly on the complex issue of doctoral writing and knowledge itself: one of the key institutional requirements for the award of the PhD (or Dr of Philosophy) is that doctoral research needs to contribute to knowledge (in both the wider PaR research context, and more generally). Your mixed-mode work23 is required to contribute to knowledge in the field and beyond it – in other words, you are not, finally, writing for yourself but for ‘researcher others’, and for the field and/or discipline. The knowledge issue, from this perspective, seems simple and stark: how can my creative practices actually contribute to (others’) knowledge, and how might a practitioner-centred theoretical writing practice work? What does/can a practitioner know, in and through creative practice, and what might she want to write about what she knows, when the combination of the expert practice and metapractices submitted (for doctoral examination and wider dissemination) are required to make a contribution to knowledge in the field (or fields) itself?
23 The term ‘mixed-mode’ emerges from the observation that academic writing is relatively speaking a single and uniform mode of practice whereas PaR involves and incorporates a range of heterogeneous modes of practice both in the doctoral research activities and in their submission. The term derives from the work of linguist Michael A.K. Halliday in Halliday 1978.
11 Research method, ‘methodology’ and research metapractices
Rethinking your making processes as a complex research undertaking or a series of research undertakings is challenging but a task you need to have taken on as quickly as possible. You have a double agenda, in research-methodological terms. You are likely, in the research seminar, to have engaged with the issue of research methods (and the differences between methods and the widely misused term, ‘methodology’), and such an enquiry may well suggest that the term ‘method’ can be applied to both literature-based research and expert-creative research activities. The question of method – from meta- (‘in pursuit or quest of”) + hodos (system or way or manner)24 – has always included the notion of a regular, orderly and systematic practice or practices – e.g. the ‘choreographic method’ involves just such an idea.
24 Online Etymology Dictionary: www.etymonline.com/word/method
The notion of method figures large in the discourses specific to the multi-disciplinary doctoral framework in the university. Ironically enough, it is to some extent through your ability to engage with issues relating to research methods and their outcome that your PaR undertaking can be grasped and assessed by other researchers. In other words, the discourse of research method – and the meta-enquiry supposed by the use of the term ‘methodology’ – has a particular symbolic value in the doctoral context, and is often woven through the writing produced. At the same time, ‘method’ suggests a degree of stability and reiterability with regard to both writerly and creative research processes.
A research method is a mode of practice in research; it tends to be reiterable – a repeated or reapplied practice in research which produces something, according to already-established research programmes. ‘Method’ needs to be made explicit discursively as such. ‘Methodology’, meanwhile, like many nouns ending in ‘-ology’, suggests a field of critical knowledge or a science of methods and what they may or may not produce on the basis of a particular, often scientific, rationale. ‘Methodology’ refers to a veritable programme of investigation, often involving a number of methods brought together according to a particular logic of enquiry. Given that PaR currently lacks a sustainable methodological programme of universal application and relevance, try to avoid the noun, which is effectively inflationary. On the other hand, use of the qualifier, ‘methodological’, is entirely appropriate, because it describes a type of enquiry, rather than a disciplinary programme. Research-methodological enquiry entails a critical enquiry into research methods themselves and into what informs them.
In the simplest of terms, you need to consider, first, what methods might be most appropriate to an attempt to answer the questions you want to investigate. You may well need to proceed through trial and error, reflecting critically on the tools you have identified and applied, and on their outcome. Identifying a cluster of methods that enable you to develop your enquiry begins to allow you to constitute your methodological position from a constructive as well as a critical perspective. A critical engagement with the question of research methods tends to emerge as soon as you start to realise that no single method or set of methods suffices: in creative practice as research you are attempting to bring together a number of heterogeneous (or ‘non-commensurable’) systems of practice – one of which involves writing. There is no ready match between the practices of academic writing and practices specific to creative invention.
Unlike a PaR enquiry into performance technicity through making, introduced earlier in this chapter, many of the performing arts research methods proposed in the wider doctoral context are borrowed from other, more established fields of enquiry and their application in PaR tends to be strongly metaphorical. What’s more, practitioner-researchers’ recourse to them is likely to be notional, with regard to those disciplines, rather than methodological: in our experience, notions borrowed tend to appeal to a practitioner’s sense of ‘empirical fit’ between a way of writing specific to a particular author or discipline, and something she or he experiences in her/his own creative practice. It is worth noting that your notional use is pragmatic and specific to context rather than systematic. Notional borrowing – from writing in, for example, psychology, critical ethnography, cultural theory or anthropology – can be attractive, in part because these disciplines are well established; in part because you are likely to want to ‘get on with the practice’ and you may well feel that what you need is a theoretical tool-kit, cobbled together on that sense of empirical fit and of metaphoric transferability.
Do make that point in your commentary, if that is the case. Finally, in terms of auto-reflexive metapractices, remember that any PaR undertaking is always already a call for others’ validation of creative practice as an appropriate mode of research in Higher Education research contexts. You need to bear this constantly in mind, and return to the issue at key points in your research commentary, just as you may want to return to it in terms of the ways you ‘stage’ performance metapractices.
12 Knowing, ‘not-knowing’ and writing
You can’t escape the doctoral ‘knowledge conundrum’ sketched out above, so let’s tackle it head-on: the question of what a practitioner knows/can know, in and through creative practices, and can write about it, is likely to be unanswerable in the conventional registers of writing that meet widely-established academic requirements – although there have been notable interventions that in historical terms followed the sorts of later-20thC enquiries represented above. In one key example, qualitative research strategies and tactics (Denzin and Lincoln 1994) are revealed to be historically specific (late 20thC) and to have emerged within particular areas of critical enquiry; they include critical engagement with quantitative research; and in some disciplines or areas within disciplines they have instituted a number of shifts in research orientation, register/s of writing, and research methods25, drawing, indicatively, on use of the first person and auto-reflexivity in research writing and on the use of the individual case study, amongst other methods, to promote the ‘extension of [individual] experience’ (p. 245) to implications for the wider group. Quality, in qualitative research, is central, in place of the quantity of examples sought in evidential terms in some conventional scientific disciplines.
25 See for example Janesick 1994; her strongly metaphorical application is not however unproblematic.
A number of the tropes promoted in the Introduction to Denzin & Lincoln’s Handbook of Qualitative Research (1994) might seem to be ‘feminised’ in contrast with more traditionally-‘masculine’ values like ‘rigour’, ‘objectivity’ and the ‘systematic’. The writers stress that the word qualitative ‘implies an emphasis on processes and meanings that are not rigorously examined, or measured […] in terms of quantity, amount, intensity or frequency’ (Denzin and Lincoln 1994, 4). Qualitative researchers, they add, ‘stress the socially-constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape enquiry’ (ibid). Well and good, but to what extent might this discourse be transferred to the context of your own creative-expert commentary? The preferred terms in this extensive handbook dating from 1994 are ‘critical’ and ‘cultural’, and its disciplinary orientation tends to be sociological, ethnographic and anthropological, rather than applied to PaR.
The writers note the interest of terms like bricolage, bricoleur (Denzin and Lincoln 1994) – used metaphorically in the 1960s by the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (Lévi-Strauss 1966) to signal ways of life and ways of doing that are patched together from what is at hand rather than according to a major discursive or aesthetic principle; and the term has been widely taken up under the heading of the postmodern to signal not just an artist’s work but a qualitative researcher’s work as well. But neither the critical – a historically-specific mode of enquiry that seeks to break a practice down from a critical perspective, as though it is ‘out there’ – nor the ‘cultural’ – tending to interest itself in the wider practices of larger, identifiable groups – is necessarily useful today to the expert-practitioner-writer in the fields of the Arts who seeks to write about her or his own practices.
The Handbook includes no entry for ‘creative process’ in its Subject Index, while there is one entry only for a ‘practitioner research’ (Denzin and Lincoln 1994, 626) that concerns itself however with ‘critical worker research’ rather than with PaR. It remains the case, in other words, that some writing emerging in the qualitative research framework can continue to present certain problems for researchers in PaR, not least for those whose interest lies in (‘my own’) creative decision-making processes and how these might be researched and communicated to the wider research community.
13 Towards an ethics of research writing practices in the PaR context
We have argued that doctoral-specific research practices, in the PaR context, are highly particular, amongst doctoral research in the full range of academic disciplines, and that they are not, therefore, the latter’s poorer relative. They do not need to borrow, as a result, other disciplines’ hand-me-down theoretical tools, unless those tools are particularly and locally useful. None of us, in the performing arts, is likely to be a trained ethnographer, literary theorist or philosopher, although we might borrow occasionally from an ethnographic or literary-theoretical or philosophical enquiry, as we demonstrate in this chapter. That borrowing does require, however, to be explicitly identified as part of an ethnographic or philosophical turn26. What we do need, on behalf of the specificities of PaR undertakings, and on behalf of other researchers, is to identify exactly what is specific to them, the role that a borrowed turn might play, and how we might word that specificity. In addition to some of the questions posed above, we need now to focus on the following:
26 On ‘turns’, see section 6 above.
- are these PaR undertakings in fact ‘my practice/s’, or are they actually practices acquired in part through mastery of a discipline, and in part through collaboration/s – requiring of my writing an explicit engagement in an ‘ethics of practice’?
- what precisely do these practices allow me to investigate?
- what research methods and tools do I need in order to investigate them?
- what is the role of judgement in these processes, and does judgement operate differently in the creative decision-making processes that are central to this enquiry?
- how should I ‘write up’ or otherwise represent those investigations in a research context?
There is a relative lack of focus on the link between creative decision-making process and professional outcome, in published writing within wider fields of the arts, and in the case of expert performance-making there are many reasons for this: Lucinda Childs’ work with Robert Wilson and their performers, to make work that would appear in the public arena27, involved collaborative processes that are far from transparent; they were likely to have been informed by apparent abstractions such as affinity as well as professional and aesthetic trust; they were certainly informed by expertise; and, importantly in research terms, few of these processes and the abstract elements that inform their working were evident in or available to a spectator engagement with the outcome alone.
27 Marguerite Duras’s novella La Maladie de la Mort (1982) was staged in 1997 by Robert Wilson, with Lucinda Childs and Michel Piccoli. It was presented in London at the Peacock Theatre.
Their decision-making was likely to28 have been time-sensitive; to have depended in part upon a mutual appreciation of past work by the individuals concerned, by the sort of understanding that the one has of the other, by shared or complementary (or disjunctive!) ways of working, by feelings (including exasperation?) and possibly by affection for the other. As the words ‘likely to’ (‘tend to’; ‘seem to be’; ‘are arguably…’) suggest, while we might want to identify these factors as central to working together and to creative decision-making in the collaborative mode, we cannot provide incontestable evidence for their role; nor do we have the means to measure them in conventional ‘Human Sciences’ terms (recalling notes on qualitative research from Denzin and Lincoln above).
28 ‘Tends to’ comes from ‘to incline, to move in a certain direction,’ mid-14c., from Old French tendre “stretch, hold forth, offer’ (11c.), from Latin tendere ‘to aim, stretch, extend’. In academic writing the term, along with ‘likely to’, signals speculation rather than verifiable fact.
The processes involved, driven undoubtedly by a shared history – as well as individual histories – are time-sensitive, professionally sensitive and signature-specific (see Melrose 2005). In the event, they are likely to be felt, by the practitioners involved, to be owned by them, both ethically and legally, in terms of intellectual property ownership. Above all, they are unavailable to the outside observer – but these ‘knowledge problems’ are not limited to the role of the outsider. To the extent that much expert knowledge proceeds intuitively – as a key factor in expertise29 – those creative decision-making processes may genuinely be experienced by those involved as unspoken/ unspeakable, arrived at through catalysis30 between a number of practitioners’ input, hence owned not by one practitioner but instead – in terms that recall Spinoza in Deleuze’s appraisal – by the one meeting, affecting and affected by, the other. These sorts of issues may well be familiar to you with regard to your own artistic practice, and you may find yourself resistant at times, as a practitioner, to approaching your own work in new ways with this sort of practitioner researcher agenda, enquiring into processes that you hitherto did not need to think about further. If this is indeed the case, then in research ethical terms you need to engage explicitly with that dilemma in your written commentary. You do not need, however, to resolve it.
29 Since the turn of the 21stC, much enquiry into professional practices supposes that a key stage in decision-making is ‘expert-intuitive’. See Susan Melrose 2017.
30 Catalysis, in technical terms, refers to the increase in the rate of a chemical reaction due to the participation of an additional substance called a catalyst. Often only tiny amounts of catalyst are required in principle. See also www.anl.gov/articles/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-catalysis. (consulted 25/06/2018).
Any PaR-driven enquiry into knowledge in and of creative decision-making needs to identify these sorts of sensitivities and exclusions as specific to the project as it has been understood, and to signal, to a research reader, how a creative practitioner-researcher proposes to deal with them. To return to the issue of outcome and process, and to the question of knowledge in and of creative practice, it is worth noting that a published, spectator-centred knowledge of outcome (as discussed above) is unlikely to provide you either with useful knowledge of process, or with a model that you might want to borrow. You know more, as an expert-practitioner, about these processes, than does the most penetrating expert-spectator critic and you know differently. Say so.
14 (Expert) judgement at work in art-making practices and writing
If, as we argue above, enquiring into one’s own practice reveals that whereas certain aspects recur and are relatively stable and consistent (‘my way of working’; contact improvisation), other aspects of your own practice may well remain enigmatic or obscure to you, and you may well treasure that enigma: in our experience, many expert-creative practitioners celebrate this apparent ‘unknowing’. We prefer to identify it as an ‘expert unknowing’: the experienced practitioner who works deliberately openly, who makes her or himself available to what seems to come to her/him, or who works collaboratively so that what a particular performer might bring to the undertaking plays a significant role in creative decision-making, continues to bring expert judgement to bear on the development of the material that emerges.
A glance at recent research in the Cognitive Sciences, via the published work of an expert-practitioner researcher who is also a professional performer in music (Bangert et al. 2014) suggests that in the case of the creative decision-maker, there are two decision-making processes involved: the first is ‘expert-intuitive’, and can seem to come from somewhere else; the second is ‘deliberative’, a process of reflection and reasoning (regarding the same intuitively-derived ‘stuff’) on the basis of an expert understanding of the codes and production values specific to the creative genre in general and to your own work and your emergent ‘signature’ in particular.
Similarly, your own ‘signature practices’31 are expert – they emerge from and in modes specific to an established discipline and/or genre, but they bear your mark as a maker; they are informed by feedback – they are relationally-defined (involving and ratified by others’ judgement); and they are singular, specific to your own highly particular ways of knowing, seeing and doing. It is well worth saying so, provided you are able to demonstrate just what you mean by that claim.
31 www.sfmelrose.org.uk see “Confessions of an Uneasy Expert Spectator”
Judgement is of keen interest to philosophy, but as we have just suggested, it is also something that experts exercise in their work practices on an everyday basis, in the case of self-evaluation (of their own) and evaluation of others’ work. We all exercise it almost constantly in our specific areas of expertise, which suggests that judgement is practised, a mode of action and sometimes intervention, pursued in relation to something or someone else, but looping back, at the same time, to our own acquired judgements of taste and value32. How do I know when it works? How do I know when it is ready/finished/ unfinished? How do I know when to make it public? These are apparently banal questions, but the issues involved are key to understanding expert decision-making; many are misunderstood by writers of performance theoretical text. Some of them link back to the questions we began with. What determines whether we identify a piece of developed PaR enquiry as ‘unfinished’, a ‘work in progress’, or a workshop fragment, as distinct from ‘a work’, judged to be ready to make public, to submit for others’ involvement/examination/feedback? What are the specific evaluative mechanisms at work in the process examined and how are decisions made? Who makes those sorts of decision and how do they come about? What are the processes of reflection that take place in decision-making, and where are spontaneous decisions made that emerge from internalised productive mechanisms and their respective evaluative mechanisms?
32 The term is used by Pierre Bourdieu, in Bourdieu 1987. Bourdieu’s work was explicitly informed by his Leftist agenda, which has implications for those who might want to borrow from his writing.
15 Towards a practitioner-centred enquiry
What we have tried to demonstrate above are some of the bases for ‘rethinking’ PaR writing in the light of the specifics of research into expert-creative decision-making by the practitioner-researcher him or herself. What are these ‘specifics’ of practitioner-led research? Firstly, your writing is likely to take, in large part but not universally, the first person, where decision-making processes are both your own, may include the work and input of collaborators, but are also specific to the exercise of a performance discipline. The ‘I’ of the artist tends to align with the ‘I’ of the researcher, which means that the research narrative and the creative narrative you construct may equally align themselves. The fact that creative decision-making can seem to remain a mystery to the maker her or himself need not diminish her or his ability to account for decisions taken, rather than intentions, and it can contribute to research in the field on that basis.
Second, the matter of positionality is vital here: where do you research from – not just from what position, although this is important, but also from what writerly position? We have attempted to demonstrate that much writing in the fields of Performing Arts and Dance Studies (as well as published writing in Philosophy, Psychology, Cultural Theory, amongst other disciplines) is actually produced from the position of expert-spectating33 in the event of (often public) performance, rather than from the perspectives of the makers of performance, which can mean that its adequacy to the attempt to write from the position of a maker is in question.
33 ‘Expert spectating’ is a term first formulated by Susan Melrose in “Who Knows – and Who Cares (about performance mastery)?” at a symposium Virtuosity and Performance Mastery, at Middlesex University, and appearing online at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04/performancemastery
As we indicate above, writing from the position of expert spectating engages, apparently irresistibly, with expert-spectator-centred ways of seeing, doing and knowing in the performance event – as distinct from those specific to performance-making. We have tried to demonstrate that spectator-centred ways of seeing, doing and knowing reproduce what can be called expert-spectator-centred models of intelligibility (or ways of understanding and interpreting) which – in the crudest terms – they naturalise, or present as normal. Terms like ‘the performer’, ‘the body’ and ‘the event’ signal models of intelligibility that are readily marshalled by the expert spectator, because they readily represent the position and distance specific to spectating (which distances and may anonymise or generalise) whereas what we are searching for here are ways to write about ‘my work (processes)’, whether you are a choreographer or performer.
16 A Counter-example?
We have argued throughout this chapter that the models of intelligibility specific to much writing ‘about’ performance are spectator-centred and focused on product rather than practitioner-centred and concerned with process. We have claimed that much philosophical writing and some critical-analytical writing is similarly positioned at an apparently ‘safe distance’ from the times, spaces and ways of seeing, knowing and doing specific to performance-making by expert-creative practitioners. We have asked how PaR doctoral candidates might identify – and write – practitioner-specific ‘models of intelligibility’ if many of the theoretical texts we consult in the doctoral seminar are specific to and often implicitly positioned in terms of an expert spectating.
On the other hand, contemporary philosophical writing is changing: the terms affect, relationality, assemblage, along with diagrammatics/diagrammicity and rhythmicity, widely introduced by Gilles Deleuze and taken up and developed by – amongst others – Brian Massumi, remain ‘philosophical’ or ‘cultural-theoretical’ in register. Yet Deleuze was explicitly interested, in the second half of the twentieth century, in the implications of philosophical writing for life for us ‘today’34. Much later 20thC/early 21stC writing, besides, has demonstrated a ‘turn’ to the speculative, to the experiential and to expert-intuitive decision-making processes, as modes of engagement with complex knowledge. These areas of enquiry have certain implications for research through creative practices into creative practices, and the ways we write about them.
34 Gilles Deleuze 1988. Chapter 6 is entitled “Spinoza and Us”.
Our sense – and we use the term advisedly – is that these sorts of shifts might well be applied to an engagement, from within, with experimental practices; one which is thus not about spectating as such, nor embedded in the knowledge specific to spectating or accounting for spectating, in spite of the latter’s long-established formalisation in philosophical writing. The importance of such notions to a practitioner-centred enquiry into performance-making practices seems to us to be evident from what we know about the experience of, as well as the contexts of performance-making and its event/s. Their emergence in the field comes from a number of sources that were radical in their respective times and concerned with the nature of knowledge itself.
We want to re-direct your attention at this point to one of these: Massumi, taking up his own research into Deleuze’s writing at the end of the 20thC, identified an area of enquiry that seems to us to be particularly pertinent to many artists’ PaR undertakings: the ‘space of experience itself’, he writes (experience is a vital aspect of expertise, as the shared morpheme ‘exper
-‘ reveals), can be viewed as ‘a topological hyperspace of transformation’ (2002, 184) wherein ‘lived diagrams’ are ‘revived to orient further experience’ (Massumi 2002, 187).
The lived diagram, or ‘biogram’, is experienced, Massumi argues, ‘at the border of what we think of as internal, personal space and external, public space’ (187), and it ‘is borderline in time as well’. Massumi argues that on the basis of your recall of prior experience – experience and its recall are vital to developing expertise – your expert-intuitive experience of your ‘biogram’ is likely to be ‘accompanied by a feeling of ‘portentous’ déjà vu’ (Bastick 2003, see also Ulmer 1994) that is specific to expert-intuitive cognition. You may well experience an ‘Aha!’ moment or discovery in the making processes. Rhythmicity, according to Massumi (180), works within space-experienced and although his writing is not specifically concerned, in his first text, with art-making perceived from within it, we consider that his articulation allows us to think that the transformations are likely to typify your own, singular decision-making processes in creative practice.
Massumi continued, in 2011, to develop this notion and his wording of his own enquiry is characterised by speculation: under the chapter heading of “The Diagram as Technique of Existence” he cites the American semiotician, Charles Peirce who wrote that ‘[t]he greatest point of art consists in the introduction of suitable abstractions. By this I mean such a transformation of our diagrams [or techniques of existence] that characters of one diagram may appear in another as things’35. This does not seem to be the language of spectating36 and on that basis it may well help us to understand how some professional choreographers – possibly yourself included – think, in large part, in action, how they proceed via a complex and often dynamic choreographic imagining, working schematically as well as ‘freely’, to a material representation which is in its own terms transformative.
35 Charles Peirce 1997, cited in Massumi 2011.
36 Spectating and its own discursive representations may well consist of transformations pursued through one or another model or intelligibility specific to a constitutive diagrammatics (or written review).
In a section sub-headed “Felt Perception”, Massumi cites the observation that movement is a phenomenon in itself that ‘may detach itself from [the] objects of sight’ (Michotte 1963 cited in Massumi 2011, 106) such that we are ‘experiencing momentum to which nothing visible corresponds as such’. That lack of correspondence severely challenges an attempt to write its account in everyday language: what we perceive, in this ‘nothing visible’, is ‘a movement involving a change of state’ that is not able to be pinned, as commensurable, to the material aspects of the event, nor readily represented in commonsensical uses of language.
Writing, in this case, proceeding via the de-familiarisation we recommend above, becomes speculative and remains so, with certain clear implications for the ways a practitioner-researcher writes about – or with – her or his enquiry, through expert practices into practices. In our own undertaking these sorts of shift in wording (and in the models of intelligibility which inform that wording), allow us to contemplate the movement from – for example – choreographic speculation, to the workshop space where it meets and is transformed by the performer’s own imagining and enactments, on the way to yet another complex abstraction (equally choreographic); thence to a performance event or staging, to which an expert practitioner tends to want to add her or his signature.
17 Writing Practices – in Conclusion
Curiously enough, then, Massumi’s account of complex and slippery processes does not seem initially to involve the sort of ‘reasoned decision-making’ in arts practices as research that Anna Pakes writes about at the start of this chapter. His language is necessarily speculative and it invites speculation; its register is often technical (‘interoceptive senses, especially proprioception, are crucial’ (Massumi 2002, 35)), but most importantly it is inventive within those constraints. Reasoned decision-making, from this perspective, may well follow certain more nebulous – but wholly vital – processes within invention, whose complexity and internal differentiation needs to be acknowledged: in our experience we do not draw on our expertise, in whatever professional circumstance, to make lightning decisions that we cling to throughout, even though we may feel at the time, with some conviction, that the immediate option is the right one37; but what is equally engaged is an awareness of an array of possibilities that may or may not work in practice, and that need to be tested.
37 Tony Bastick cited in Ulmer 1994, 114–133.
The edgy, or borderline/liminal, or combative or interrogative intention or impulse, like the ‘great idea’ that may mark initial engagement with the medium, tends to come swiftly into contact with the ‘resistant materialities’ that we identify above (particularly within work involving other expert-practitioners and collaborations). Awareness, in the expert-practitioner, of problems in the eventual realisation of the initial idea or impulse tends to bring with it, over time, different tactics and strategies, and different processes of engagement, within that single undertaking. This notion of differentiated processes operating over time (where the processes are themselves time-sensitive, as is generally the case in performance-making) suggests once again the usefulness of the ‘dual-process’ theory of cognition in expert/professional and creative decision-making (Bangert et al. 2014) that we reference above. Bangert et al. write about a ‘spiral movement of creative decision-making’, which operates over time and with increasing expertise along an intuitive-deliberate continuum. That increase in expertise emerges as the practitioner tests out the intuitive in the conditions of making, and reflects critically on what has emerged. Elements of the feedback loop tend to be taken up in further undertakings – the deliberative informs the expert-intuitive and vice versa.
We are arguing here that a register of practice that employs technical and speculative processes, and attempts to account for them in an equally speculative and technical register of writing – and an account that notes the differences between different registers of action, at different stages of complex practices – might begin to be appropriate for a practitioner-centred theoretics of performance-making. Remind yourself, once again, that you are carrying out research for someone (as well as yourself), somewhere (a doctoral as well as a performance space, and one that is also a research set-up, within which writing plays its part), and to a particular end (or set of ends, one of which might be new creative work, but another of which is your own contribution to knowledge).
In knowledge-contribution terms, your accompanying commentary needs – as much as does your artwork – to be authoritative38. Your combined undertaking and submission can only be authoritative if it is aware of, acknowledges and can relativize the contribution to knowledge of other researchers in the field/s concerned. Your written commentary is likely to begin to achieve that authority when you demonstrate that you are aware of and can critically commentate on the inscription of your mixed-mode doctoral submission within an established field or fields of interesting research practices that include (Practice-as or Practice-led) research writing.
38 authoritative (adj.) “c. 1600, ‘dictatorial’ (a sense now restricted to authoritarian), earlier auctoritative (implied in auctoritativeli ‘with official approval or sanction’), from Medieval Latin auctoritativus, from Latin auctoritatem (see authority). Meaning ‘having due authority, entitled to credence or obedience’ is from 1650s; that of ‘proceeding from proper authority’ is from 1809.” See also ‘authority’, at www.etymonline.com/word/authority.
- We use the term ‘mixed mode’ to signal a range of different media – e.g. video, choreographic, writing – in place of the single mode that is writing.
- In historical terms, practice-as-research/led research/based research doctorates were first offered from the mid-1990s in the UK; few supervisors at that time were PaR researchers, meaning that the outcome of their supervision was likely to promote ‘academic’ tradition over PaR material.
- ‘Mastery’ is plainly gendered, largely for historical reasons. The term comes from early 13c., mesterie, meaning the ‘condition of being a master’ but also suggests ‘superiority, victory;’ and from the 1660s it means ‘intellectual command’ (of a topic, etc.). See www.etymonline.com/word/mastery, viewed 2/11/2016.
- Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968, was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player and writer whose work is associated with Cubism and conceptual art.
- Allan Kaprow, 1927–2006, was an American painter, assemblagist and a pioneer in establishing the concepts of performance art.
- Joseph Beuys, 1921–1986, was a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.
- The notion of theatricality suggests something conceived, framed and presented for spectating, and for holding the regard of the viewer.
- Jean-François Lyotard writes that ‘It is perfectly possible to say that the living cell, and the organism … are already tekhnai, that “life” … is already technique’ (Lyotard 1991, 52).
- This text includes his reflections on the acquisition of expertise and mastery of techne and the metapractice.
- Choreographic practices may differ in this aspect from some directorial practices in theatre-making in their own relationship to acting; devised performance-making may seem to be ‘choreographed’, but it tends to lack (or avoid) the codification of ‘dance’, as well as the person of ‘the choreographer’.
- By ‘signature’ here we mean a set of widely-recognised practices that are ‘impressed into’ the work, and that seem to refer back to a specific practitioner, whether Pina Bausch or Lucinda Childs. They effectively constitute one category of intellectual property.
- This useful term comes from (Hayles 1999).
- In performance-professional terms, at least, we are dealing with someone’s expert bodywork, which means that bald use of the noun trivialises professionals’ own undertaking.
- Susan Melrose with Renate Bräuninger, “Virtuosity and Performance Mastery”, Symposium (May 2003), e-PAI at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04
- The term was widely used by the writer, Michel Foucault – see for example Foucault 1984. It is discussed in Rabinow 2003.
- www.etymonline.com/word/expertise (consulted 12/04/2018)
- Susan Melrose with Renate Bräuninger, eds., “Virtuosity and Performance Mastery”, Symposium (May 2003), e-PAI at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04
- Deleuze/Spinoza, deleuzelectures.blogspot.co.uk
- Deleuze/Spinoza, deleuzelectures.blogspot.co.uk
- We argue that Massumi’s work in writing is inventive, as well as expert.
- ‘assemblage’ is the term brought by Massumi, as a translator to Deleuze and Guattari 1987 although their term, in French, was ‘agencement’, whose implications are slightly different.
- ‘Now, from the viewpoint of an ethology of man, one needs first to distinguish between two sorts of affections: actions, which are explained by the nature of the affected individual, and which spring from the individual’s essence; and passions, which are explained by something else, and which originate outside the individual. Hence the capacity for being affected is manifested as a power of acting insofar as it is assumed to be filled by active affections, but as a power of being acted upon insofar as it is filled by passions.’ (Deleuze 1988, 27)
- The term ‘mixed-mode’ emerges from the observation that academic writing is relatively speaking a single and uniform mode of practice whereas PaR involves and incorporates a range of heterogeneous modes of practice both in the doctoral research activities and in their submission. The term derives from the work of linguist Michael A.K. Halliday in Halliday 1978.
- Online Etymology Dictionary: www.etymonline.com/word/method
- See for example Janesick 1994; her strongly metaphorical application is not however unproblematic.
- On ‘turns’, see section 6 above.
- Marguerite Duras’s novella La Maladie de la Mort (1982) was staged in 1997 by Robert Wilson, with Lucinda Childs and Michel Piccoli. It was presented in London at the Peacock Theatre.
- ‘Tends to’ comes from ‘to incline, to move in a certain direction,’ mid-14c., from Old French tendre “stretch, hold forth, offer’ (11c.), from Latin tendere ‘to aim, stretch, extend’. In academic writing the term, along with ‘likely to’, signals speculation rather than verifiable fact.
- Since the turn of the 21stC, much enquiry into professional practices supposes that a key stage in decision-making is ‘expert-intuitive’. See Susan Melrose 2017.
- Catalysis, in technical terms, refers to the increase in the rate of a chemical reaction due to the participation of an additional substance called a catalyst. Often only tiny amounts of catalyst are required in principle. See also www.anl.gov/articles/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-catalysis. (consulted 25/06/2018).
- www.sfmelrose.org.uk see “Confessions of an Uneasy Expert Spectator”
- The term is used by Pierre Bourdieu, in Bourdieu 1987. Bourdieu’s work was explicitly informed by his Leftist agenda, which has implications for those who might want to borrow from his writing.
- ‘Expert spectating’ is a term first formulated by Susan Melrose in “Who Knows – and Who Cares (about performance mastery)?” at a symposium Virtuosity and Performance Mastery, at Middlesex University, and appearing online at www.sfmelrose.org.uk/e-pai-2003-04/performancemastery
- Gilles Deleuze 1988. Chapter 6 is entitled “Spinoza and Us”.
- Charles Peirce 1997, cited in Massumi 2011.
- Spectating and its own discursive representations may well consist of transformations pursued through one or another model or intelligibility specific to a constitutive diagrammatics (or written review).
- Tony Bastick cited in Ulmer 1994, 114–133.
- authoritative (adj.) “c. 1600, ‘dictatorial’ (a sense now restricted to authoritarian), earlier auctoritative (implied in auctoritativeli ‘with official approval or sanction’), from Medieval Latin auctoritativus, from Latin auctoritatem (see authority). Meaning ‘having due authority, entitled to credence or obedience’ is from 1650s; that of ‘proceeding from proper authority’ is from 1809.” See also ‘authority’, at www.etymonline.com/word/authority.
Reference List and Additional Resources
Bangert, Daniel, Emery Schubert, and Dorottya Fabian. 2014. “A Spiral Model of Musical Decision-Making.” In Frontiers in Psychology. Accessed October 19, 2016. journal.frontiersin.org/journal/psychology.
Bastick, Tony. 2003. Intuition: Evaluating the Construct and its impact on Creative Thinking. Kingston, Jamaica: Stoneman &Lang.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Translated by R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Translated by R. Nice. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Bryant, Levi, Nicholas Srnicek, and Graham Harman, eds. 2011. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Melbourne: re.press.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Denzin, Norman, and Yvonna Lincoln, eds. 1994. Handbook of Qualitative Research. California: Sage Publications.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Translated by R.Hurley. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
Etchells, Tim. 1999. Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment. London: Routledge.
Foucault, Michel. 1984. “Polemics, Politics and Problematizations.” Interview by Rabinow.
Goulish, Mathew. 2000. 39 Microlectures in Proximity of Performance. London and New York: Routledge.
Halliday, Michael A.K. 1978. Language as Social Semiotic. London: Hodder and Arnold.
Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman, Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Impett, Jonathan, ed. 2017. Artistic Research in Music: Discipline and Resistance. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Janesick, Valerie. 1994. “The Dance of Qualitative Research Design.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research, edited by Denzin, Norman K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln California: Sage Publications, 1994.
Knorr Cetina, Karen. 2001. “Objectual Practice.” In The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, edited by K.Knorr Cetina, T.R. Schatzki, E. von Savigny. London & NY: Routledge.
Laban, Rudolf, and F.C. Lawrence. 1947. Effort. London: MacDonald and Evans.
Lee, Rosemary, and Niki Pollard. 2006. Beached: A Commonplace Book. London: Rescen Publications.
Lyotard, Jean-François. 1991.The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Cambridge: Polity Press. Translated from L’Inhumain: Causeries sur le temps (1984), by Lyotard, Jean-François. Paris: Editions Galilee.
Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. La Pensée sauvage (1962). Translated as The Savage Mind. Oxford: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Massumi, Brian. 2011. Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Melrose, Susan. 2017. “Running in Circles with ‘Music’ in Mind.” In Artistic Research in Music: Discipline and Resistance, edited by Jonathan Impett. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Melrose, Susan. 2005. “just intuitive…”, www.sfmelrose.org.uk/justintuitive.
Pakes, Anna. 2003. “Original Embodied Knowledge: the epistemology of the new in dance practice as research.” Research in Dance Education Volume 4, Issue 2, 127–149.
Protevi, John. 2011. “Ontology, Biology and History of Affect.” In The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Bryant, Levi, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman. Melbourne: re.press.
Rabinow, Paul. 1998. Essential Works of Foucault Vol. 1. New York: The New Press.
Ulmer, Gregory. 1994. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Susan Melrose is Emeritus Professor in Performing Arts at Middlesex University. She is widely published in the Performing Arts and many instances of her work can be found on www.sfmelrose.org.uk
Stefanie Sachsenmaier is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts, BA Theatre Arts (Performance) Programme Leader and Senior HEA Fellow. Her research interests and publications relate to the processual in creative practice. Over ten years she closely worked with British choreographer Rosemary Butcher in a research context and has published a series of writings in this context. Further research areas include collaborative practices in performance-making, political philosophy and theory. Steffi sits on the editorial advisory board of Choreographic Practices Journal. With a background as a performer, she is an experienced tai chi practitioner (Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan).