feeding research

A bit more than a year ago I participated in a Research Salon at the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries at Auckland University. Each of the people involved were asked to introduce their work by responding to five questions. I started with a very brief introduction and then had a go at the questions.

Introduction

I wondered about starting a list of things that I have next to no understanding of but would like to understand or know better. That word know is disruptive and probably inappropriate to the epistemological possibilities of practice-as-research.

It seems important to not start at a place of knowing, even in a small meeting like this. To come clean. To not present any (false) idea that I know what’s going on. To make myself small, to shrink. To be clear that it’s all rather vague or murky; the visibility is poor. To make no claims. To be comfortable in getting and being lost. To find the means to recognise – and value – the gaps; the places in which we might fall. To consider the limitations of the methods we employ. To understand when to stop, and when to start. To recover. To breathe. To write and tumble into the abyss. To be adrift. To leave the terrain unmarked. To mix my metaphors.

Here’s the list. Each item might be prefaced by the words “I have next to no understanding of the nature of …”:

  • innocence and naivety
  • desire
  • transformation
  • listening
  • ethics: anonymity, withdraw (something to do with privacy and opting out)
  • value: axiology (philosophical study of value (ethics and aesthetics))
  • experience of time underwater: at once achingly slow and terrifyingly fast
  • fear and panic
  • transparency
  • ideologies of and in research. What are our agendas (hidden or otherwise)?

Questions

How are you defining research for yourself through your current projects?

I really like this idea of defining research for myself, but I am sceptical about how that privilege might be understood by people outside of this room (and perhaps some of us inside it).

I understand research to be about change and difference. That, in some way, things are altered as a consequence of research processes. That the world – however local or translocal that might be – will be different. And as a researcher my work is to find ways to not only make change or difference possible, but to recognise it when it happens as well.

What are you currently (February 2016) preoccupied with?

Two things:

  1. How dance and performance is consumed and the possibilities (and limitations) of its consumption. I like this word consumption because of its link to “death by” (as in tuberculosis). Being eaten alive by TB. In particular I am interested in the ways practice-as-research might be useful in recognising the ways in which screens are enveloping, closing, opening, expanding, limiting the nature of our perceptual and attentive experiences of performance (making and consuming).
  2. Working closely with Colin Poole in London: Our White Friend. Part of “What Remains” exploring influence, with brief to choose an artist to respond to, or be in relation with. Colin and I chose a man called Tim Wise, who is not an artist. Here’s blurb:

Tim Wise is an American authority on white racism. Through public lectures and books he educates white audiences to recognise and be responsible for their race-based privileges. We are interested in Wise’s craft in public speaking, his authority on race, and what might happen if we were to imagine that he is an artist. How might this proposition enable us to test the limits of Wise’s practice as public speaker and white ambassador? Whose voices count in this debate, and whose faces are acceptable?

I’m fascinated – as someone who ticks a lot of privilege boxes (I’m not sure there are any unticked) – by the complexity of a scenario in which the more I understand, the more important it might be to listen and not speak (which is different from being inert or passive). As an afterthought, I see also that there’s an iOS app for splitting a bill based on privilege. It’s called equipay (US only)

Are there any particular questions you are asking?

Kind of covered more specific ones already. But I remain worried that in practice-as-research we have stopped considering the epistemological nature of the work we do; or that we have settled into a kind of limbo where we vaguely hope that how we understand what we understand that we understand is all sewn up. It seems a long time ago that people like Anna Pakes and Steven Scrivener were trying to deal with this problem. My sense is that it remains the critical unknown (or mis-understood) aspect of the work we do as artist researchers, and that without getting to the heart of the epistemological matter it will be hard to have the work we do become part of broader conversations about human understanding and research. In a sense I think this might have to do with understanding the value, potential and role of practice-as-research.

Are there any interesting links between practice and theory that you are making?

No, probably not.

How do you feed the ‘animal’ that is your research?

I need to know what kind of animal research is. Is it an aloof cat that keeps to itself, and ignores all of your advances or efforts to stroke it. Or a needy dog, willing to do anything for some attention? I think I’ll go for a Cormorant. These great fishing birds. They are kind of pre-historic looking, and are often seen drying their wings (outstretched). But there’s something about the way they paddle around on the surface, looking, noticing, searching. But the moment of direction, the point at which a cormorant dives to fish is beautifully directed and streamlined (and surrounded by bubbles). I like this potential for paradox: of waiting patiently noticing, and then total commitment. Perhaps describe seeing one.

But none of this has anything to do with how I feed myself and my research. I think I’ve become more patient, at allowing ideas, images, texts and practices to circulate, collide and to be placed in situations that are not so obvious. To be able to wait and watch and listen. To luxuriate in the not-knowing. To consciously not delimit my reading, writing, dancing to regular sources or environments. To actively find ways for cheapness, frivolous ideas, words and images, and crudeness to be included. To do more than feed this animal a regular diet of continental philosophy and performance studies writing. To imagine the digestive possibilities of a unstaple diet. I think I’m learning about being less precious. And as an add on, I’m less sceptical about newness these days

Advertisements

on leaving facebook

There are, as you can imagine, a number of posts that list reasons to leave Facebook: there’s the Men’s Journal reasons, the New Year’s resolution list, and Douglas Rushkoff’s reasons:

Facebook does not exist to help us make friends, but to turn our network of connections, brand preferences and activities over time – our “social graphs” – into money for others.

… remember that Facebook is not the Internet. It’s just one website, and it comes with a price.

I’d been wavering for some time – to do with issues of privacy, and echo-chambers, and clicktivism, and also the sense that I was involved in a false game of how we want our lives to be represented – and had started to only use the site on the weekend as a kind of pastime.

The final straw was when I read some writing by Dmytri Kleiner in a book called Ours to Hack and Own:

It’s tempting to look at sites like Facebook and YouTube and conclude that they earn their profits by exploiting their own users, who generate all the content that makes the sites popular. However, this is not the case, because the media is not sold and therefore makes no profit and captures no value.

What is sold is advertisement, thus the paying customers are the advertisers, and what is being sold are the users themselves, not their content. This means that the source of value that becomes Facebook’s profits is the work done by the workers in the global fields and factories, who are producing the commodities being advertised to Facebook’s audience.

The profits of the media monopolies are formed after surplus value has already been extracted. Their users are not exploited, but subjected, captured as audience, and instrumentalized to extract surplus profits from other sectors of the ownership class.

– Dmytri Kleiner 2016. “Counterantidisintermediation.” In Ours to Hack and Own.

I’m not a luddite: I love computers, and code, and the web, and what they make possible. I want to participate and be involved. But I also want to do that (to the best of my ability and understanding) on terms that I feel comfortable with. And so I deleted my Facebook account, waited the necessary two weeks, and then it was all gone.

It feels good. I’ve had no sense of FOMO.

The other thing that happened is that I didn’t say goodbye to my Facebook friends (the ones I knew, the ones I didn’t know) and I feel a bit bad about that. Perhaps if any of you happen to be reading this you can post it as a way of letting people know.

Or not.