not knowing

I’ve been interested in the processes and values of not knowing and attention for such a long time. Here, Bryan Saner writes beautifully about knowledge and the limitations of knowledge:

In order for humans to believe or say anything with certainty we tend to select what we view. This selection is sometimes related to the characteristics of our physical body … We close one eye and look through a telescope to see the universe.

Yet sometimes what we see through these lenses shakes our world and challenges our previous identities or philosophical and spiritual ideologies. We thought that the world was flat, now we think it is round. That realization was a catastrophic shift for us. Scientific and philosophical upheavals throughout history that have totally changed our view of life and the universe are based on these glimpses of the part, without totally understanding the whole. Any philosophical or theological construct we have to live by, any ethical standard or concept of reality, is based on us looking at the world through a keyhole.

Maybe we don’t need to see the whole truth of the universe. We may not be ready for it. Maybe it’s best that we get bits and pieces slowly, as in a process of becoming. Perhaps what we should concentrate on is becoming comfortable with not understanding everything that is going on. Perhaps we should be comfortable with not seeing everything. After all, the beginning of knowledge is not knowing.

Alternative Spaces and Vision, Bryan Saner (2001), in Stephen Bottoms and Matthew Goulish. 2007. Small Acts of Repair: Performance, Ecology, and Goat Island. London: Routledge, p.37

supervision and the loop

One of the great pleasures and privileges of my job is to work with postgraduate – Masters and PhD – students who are interested in the possibilities and limitations of choreography. Each student brings diverse curiosities, backgrounds, (un)certainties, training and tastes such that my job, at least in part, is often to figure out how best to adapt to their way of working and thinking.

I attempt to make this adaptation by understanding which are the right questions to ask the students, or – better still – to create the space for the students to be able to ask themselves the best/most challenging/most surprising questions. Like all teaching situations, I understand this to be a process of making myself increasingly redundant. What might I add to this student’s development so that I am no longer needed (or even just thought to be needed)?

My expertise in the supervision of students is in different areas and mostly these overlap considerably with my own professional choreographic practice. This includes practice-as-research – and how it might be adapted to support and challenge artistic practices, screendance and other mediated technologies, collaborative practices, improvisation (and related concerns for presence, attention and awareness), and dramaturgy.

Underpinning these specialty areas is how we – the student and I – can together understand decision-making in creative processes, aesthetic, conceptual and practice-oriented assumptions, and how the idea and practice of artistic research might help test, sustain, extend and communicate the nature and understanding of choreographic practice.

Most of all, the work I do – as a supervisor and artist – circulates around fundamental experiences of genuinely not knowing what is happening. I understand that the loop – from attempting to ask the most appropriate/useful questions at any given time to being comfortable with not knowing – is the key common feature of artistic and scholarly work.