research creation


I’ve been reading around on VJing, and Vague Terrain has this great issue. I particularly liked the look of the VJs Pillow and Mademoiselle ‘video souvenir’ and the work of Jackson 2bears. The Lara Houston article is fabulous, on VJing and Simondon. Houston also draws on the likes of Sher Doruff (her work on the translocal in performance is really groundbreaking but I’m not sure how much of it is published) and Brian Massumi, as well as a lot of good field work. Researching VJing via fieldwork must be fun – maybe as good as researching surfing.

I’m not a surfer but I always thought it would be a great area for field work. When I was 14, for a couple of weeks I was a dag hanging out at Evan’s Head, one of Australia’s best surfing spots, occasionally knocking good surfers off their boards at Angourie. I’m both proud and ashamed to admit that one of these incidents left me with a kind of large dent in my leg, and the surfer’s board a little smashed up on the rocks. While there, I went to a film presentation in a scout hall (Crystal Voyager of course), by a guy who’d done his PhD on surfing. That PhD thing sounded pretty good to me – and it’s just hit me that this might have led me to become an academic.

Of course, as most people seem to know, the academic surf has been pretty flat for while. Hopefully some decent sets coming through soon.

Jhave with the ice microphones

While at the Housing the Body (or here) event in MontrĂ©al, I’ve been wondering not only about the immanent critique of concepts in practices, but also about the way that practices, almost automatically, immanently critique themselves. This is not a matter of judgement – whether they are good or bad, better or worse, and certainly not whether they are true or not. It is not even only a matter of whether they fit or not, or whether they, as Deleuze says, “bring us forces or take these away from us”. It is more than this. It is, in Bateson’s terms, a question of ecology – of what I might call an accidental ecology.

Incline

To put this simply, a normal conference – a bit like the tick Deleuze discusses in The Fold – can get by with very clear or distinguished perceptions (at least in terms of structure). Give a paper (in tick terms “find the best place to burrow”), get some feedback (thankfully not always predictable although often, like the tick, involving an “olfactory perception of its prey”), have coffee (“a perception of light”), go out and drink too much (well some do). Wonder which city you’re in next morning (not necessarily because one has drunk too much). It’s a fairly regulated ecology – perhaps not too different from that Bateson writes about concerning alcoholism (where it is difficult to escape not because of the relationship between the drinker and bottle only, but because of an entire ecoloy of relations in which certain perceptions are distinguished and others remain obscure – Deleuze has a whole theory of appetites related to this in The Fold as well).

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Housing the Body, on the other hand, gives up its “regulated ecology”. It offers a structured space for a whole huge range of events, micro and macro (platforms, each of them with their ecological complexity, readings, movements, foods, etc) that must come together immanently – but are “critiqued” by the much more complex – and determinately accidental – ecologies that emerge. This is a problem/advantage for research-creation in general. It must accept these accidental ecologies, indeed seek them, structure them in … indeed if research-creation structures anything – if it differentiates the remarkable in any regularity – it is that which will bring these accidental ecologies into being.

discussion

The risk of course is that there is something of a survival of the fittest, which again does not necessarily mean the best – simple that which best fits the accidental ecologies that emerge. Once again the importance of accepting failure – the failure of emergence – alongside the success, not only of the invention of concepts, but of remarkable singularities that emerge and form new structures of experience.

When something “works” it is very beautiful. When things don’t – as is inevitably, ecologically – the case, they return to more obscure, more chaotic world of micoperceptions which remains, however, that into which we will plunge again so as to find life once this ecology has reached its own accidental satisfaction.

At times I wonder, however, if the practices sacrifice themselves in their auto-critique – fuelling the conceptual work (which as always in events such as Housing the Body occurs at a high level) which boils down to wondering whether I am a philosopher or a pragmatist. They are not always easy companions.