Practice as Research and The New Thing

My posts over here will probably seem a bit erratic, but I have decided to not follow a linear timeline of my research, embracing the chaos of my thoughts instead. I’m sure it will all make sense at some point.

My proposal was (is) practical, or what you can call practice-as-research (PaR), practice research, practice-led research, practice-based research, etc, etc. I have seen performance or embodied research used as well, but I eschew these terms because I am not a performer. My research does not happen with (or through) my body – I need the bodies of others to conduct it. Does that mean it is their research too? Possibly, because I do not see my performers as subjects but as collaborators. This is probably why I have been referring to my  laboratory as Performance Research Tests but I reckon that the answer to that particular question will come from the lab itself once it gets started.

I am still defining what these are and struggling with the fact that I have to design them within a more traditional academic framework, instead of having a starting point which may or may not lead to refining my research questions and methodology.

Whilst trying to wrap my head around all this, I have recently stumbled upon this manifesto on the Theatre, Dance, and Performance Training blog: The New Thing. I am not entirely sure how exactly what use it will be to help framing my concept for the PRTs, but it felt like a breath of fresh air. The following extracts from the manifesto are the ones that excite me the most at first glance:

  • horizontality of organisation
  • valuing of chance and composition
  • potentiality of performance as a means of creation
  • resist the pull towards the romance of self-assuredness and self-righteousness (things which unfortunately seem to plague a lot of the theatre industry)
  • the new thing as a process in perpetual reification, something which needs to be continually revivified/re-enlivened/re-newed
  • there is no product as such, there is only the search conducted on the edge of our knowing the unknown
  • newness cannot be absolute
  • its pursuit will inevitably disappoint
  • ungraspability and fugitivity (ironically, there is something quite tangible here about the ethereal quality of performance research and performance/theatre as an art form)
  • performance of political/utopian possibilities > the new thing tilts at windmills (and I am a sucker for anything Quixotesque)
  • it is against method and the instrumentalisation of art
  • performance is most itself when it is completely fake
  • confusion is a gift
  • bodystorming
  • collaborative questioning
  • the new thing is impossible and we do it anyway

There is a short list of practices without any further discussion embedded in the manifesto that I find intriguing too. These are:

  1. bracketing of meaning
  2. distillation of experience
  3. rupture
  4. dream logic
  5. form as content
  6. content as form

I would like to invite any readers to check out the full text in the link above and expand on what these practices might represent and how (or if) they can be applied to their own work.

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