Writing embodied practice from the inside : outside the exegesis

Stock, Cheryl F. (2014) Writing embodied practice from the inside : outside the exegesis. In Ravelli, Louise, Paltridge, Brian, & Starfield, Sue (Eds.) Doctoral Writing in the Creative and Performing Arts. Libri Publishing Ltd., Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, pp. 297-318.

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The textual turn is a good friend of expert spectating, where it assumes the role of writing-productive apparatus, but no friend at all of expert practices or practitioners (Melrose, 2003).


The challenge of time-based embodied performance when the artefact is unstable

As a former full-time professional practitioner with an embodied dance practice as performer, choreographer and artistic director for three decades, I somewhat unexpectedly entered the world of academia in 2000 after completing a practice-based PhD, which was described by its examiners as ‘pioneering’. Like many artists my intention was to deepen and extend my practice through formal research into my work and its context (which was intercultural) and to privilege the artist’s voice in a research world where it was too often silent. Practice as research, practice-based research, and practice-led research were not yet fully named. It was in its infancy and my biggest challenge was to find a serviceable methodology which did not betray my intentions to keep practice at the centre of the research.

Over the last 15 years, practice led doctoral research, where examinable creative work is placed alongside an accompanying (exegetical) written component, has come a long way. It has been extensively debated with a range of theories and models proposed (Barrett & Bolt, 2007, Pakes, 2003 & 2004, Piccini, 2005, Philips, Stock & Vincs 2009, Stock, 2009 & 2010, Riley & Hunter 2009, Haseman, 2006, Hecq, 2012). Much of this writing is based around epistemological concerns where the research methodologies proposed normally incorporate a contextualisation of the creative work in its field of practice, and more importantly validation and interrogation of the processes of the practice as the central ‘data gathering’ method. It is now widely accepted, at least in the Australian creative arts context, that knowledge claims in creative practice research arise from the material activities of the practice itself (Carter, 2004). The creative work explicated as the tangible outcome of that practice is sometimes referred to as the ‘artefact’. Although the making of the artefact, according to Colbert (2009, p. 7) is influenced by “personal, experiential and iterative processes”, mapping them through a research pathway is “difficult to predict [for] “the adjustments made to the artefact in the light of emerging knowledge and insights cannot be foreshadowed”. Linking the process and the practice outcome most often occurs through the textual intervention of an exegesis which builds, and/or builds on, theoretical concerns arising in and from the work. This linking produces what Barrett (2007) refers to as “situated knowledge… that operates in relation to established knowledge” (p. 145).

But what if those material forms or ‘artefacts’ are not objects or code or digitised forms, but live within the bodies of artist/researchers where the nature of the practice itself is live, ephemeral and constantly transforming, as in dance and physical performance? Even more unsettling is when the ‘artefact’ is literally embedded and embodied in the work and in the maker/researcher; when subject and object are merged. To complicate matters, the performing arts are necessarily collaborative, relying not only on technical mastery and creative/interpretive processes, but on social and artistic relationships which collectively make up the ‘artefact’.

This chapter explores issues surrounding live dance and physical performance when placed in a research setting, specifically the complexities of being required to translate embodied dance findings into textual form. Exploring how embodied knowledge can be shared in a research context for those with no experiential knowledge of communicating through and in dance, I draw on theories of “dance enaction” (Warburton, 2011) together with notions of “affective intensities” and “performance mastery” (Melrose, 2003), “intentional activity” (Pakes, 2004) and the place of memory. In seeking ways to capture in another form the knowledge residing in live dance practice, thus making implicit knowledge explicit, I further propose there is a process of triple translation as the performance (the living ‘artefact’) is documented in multi-facetted ways to produce something durable which can be re-visited. This translation becomes more complex if the embodied knowledge resides in culturally specific practices, formed by world views and processes quite different from accepted norms and conventions (even radical ones) of international doctoral research inquiry. But whatever the combination of cultural, virtual and genre-related dance practices being researched, embodiment is central to the process, outcome and findings, and the question remains of how we will use text and what forms that text might take.

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ID Code: 78093
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: "Collecting together a wealth of experience, this book conveys a broad and deep understanding of the unique and challenging form of the doctoral thesis in the creative and performing arts, where written and creative/performed components are combined. It gives insights into the nature of doctoral writing across a wide range of creative and performing arts disciplines and an understanding of student and academic experiences of doctoral writing in the creative and performing arts. Through varied approaches, the book helps to develop an appreciation of the specific forms of writing at the doctoral level in the creative and performing arts and of the unique and diverse forms of the doctorate in the creative and performing arts, where the written text is combined with a creative/performed work. Readers of Doctoral Writing in the Creative and Performing Arts will achieve a deeper understanding of the nature of successful research in these disciplines."
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ISBN: 9781909818477
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: Copyright © 2014 Libri Publishing. Authors retain copyright of individual chapters.
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Deposited On: 31 Oct 2014 00:03
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2015 15:20

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