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theories and frameworks

sunday 16th october 2022

there was an interesting and broad discussion today in the whole course MA video chat on the topic of 'theories and frameworks'. i wanted to touch on an exchange i had with léa ⧉ shortly after, because i think there's something in it i can't quite ignore.

[8:20 pm, 16/10/2022] Léa: honestly just the word FRAMEWORK is a hard one for me.. it does sound like a structure, a frame, it's square and clearly "designed"
[8:22 pm, 16/10/2022] honor: the word framework definitely has rigidity to it. i kept thinking.. frameworks can be useful until your understanding has expanded enough to become instinct.. but instinct is problematic in its own way, as it's often unexamined
[8:23 pm, 16/10/2022] honor: framework as a gateway to intuitive understanding, a key to unlock the door
[8:23 pm, 16/10/2022] honor: not the door itself

this thinking of rigidity, getting pinned down to something outside of my control, is one i constantly fight against through my practice. i feel resistant to any external structure applying itself to what i do without my consent. i have been struggling with the concept that i might need to learn arbitrary new frameworks of reflection in order to complete the tasks of the first module! i have honestly been purposefully ignoring them in order to keep my reactionary, independent art-brain quiet. but here i am, acknowledging the struggle. hi.


when i was growing up - who i am i kidding, even today - i felt/feel my image of myself be distorted by who the world thought/thinks i was/am. my practice almost forms from a desire to assert my inalienable sense of self, to put a marker down in the world to say "i was here, and this is who i was while i was being here". my idiosyncratic choices of typography, asking others to use specific pronouns, shaving half my hair and dying the rest green - it's an outward assertion of my self. it's a symbol of an everyday rebellion, to signify i don't subscribe to the 'default' script. so how do i begin to reconcile being deliberately outside, embracing my alienation and giving it purpose, with writing as part of an established canon of academia?

i am by far the first person to grapple with these notions. anyone who is not 'default human' in the eyes of society will brush up against these tensions, either consciously or subconsciously, when making any assertion of self-hood in the wider world. so then does the question become: how can i compromise enough that you'll walk through the door i opened using your language, to the world i created? will you see me?

it's funny how these questions of authenticity, assertion of self, of being seen crop up just all over the place. i finished a re-re-re-re-read of amanda palmer's the art of asking: or how i learned to stop worrying and let people help today. now there's§ a book about being seen! it dances around the edges of this all-encompassing notion of love and trust and fear and authenticity that i honestly have a bit of an obsession with.


back to the squareness of frameworks. they have a rigidity, a self-consistent integrity that demands respect. the question comes as to who draws up the rules of engagement. frameworks can be liberatory, if designed in the full knowledge and understanding of what they are intending to do, and what the material impacts of their structure will be (#notallframeworks). a framework which perfectly encompasses your own practice might not be there off-the-shelf, but you can design it in your own image, to perfectly fit your needs, haute couture.

then the question becomes: how do you design your own framework? how do you carve out the space for your self in the eyes of not just yourself, but also others?

i think the answer to that is quite simply to just live it. interrogate your practice to ensure its self-consistency. live by the rules you set yourself. the framework will emerge. use the langauge which fits, discard that which doesn't. be outward-facing but inward-aware, and know how they touch each other.

i think this bespoke, DIY framework is the closest way to describe the understanding i have of my own practice. being fluent in the innate, intuitive method of creative self-critique and reflective practice, but absent the traditional theoretical framework due to learning pretty much everything 'in the field', i was forced to create my own methodology. my works adhere to rules i maybe never speak out loud, but exist nontheless. i have my own framework. often, when writing, i find myself trying to invent a word for something which already exists, that's already been identified. deborah newton's metacommunicative performative competence or lee miller and bob whalley's qualic exchange, or complicité - which all seem to describe the same sort of feeling, and all but one i found out about only after writing an entire essay on the topic of performer/audience interaction.

i return to the notion i expressed in the discussion (thanks for the mention helen!) ⧉ - the framework in academic writing is (usually) the practice of citing others' work to signpost to the underlying or alternate meaning of the idea currently being explored. to say 'hey, if you don't get what i mean here, maybe try this flavour - i like a lot of it but come back to see the bits i don't agree with and how i take those ideas forward'. to legitimise the idiosyncratic, intuitive, framework by using the framework that the established canon already understands. the key that unlocks the door.


framework (n.) 1640s, "structure for enclosing or supporting," from frame (n.) + work (n.). Figurative sense "adjusted arrangement" is from 1816 [source]