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what does a research inquiry look like for me?

tuesday 7th february 2023

thinking about the task of putting together a research proposal when the topic is so nebulous as to be your own artistic practice. it faces me with - what even is my practice anyway? what in here is something i could measure, or evaluate, or apply some kind of (here are those words again) methodology or framework to? where do i even start looking?

through the course of the last module, i started to realise that all of my work is actually about listening. when i talk about exchanges of power, or performances where i force myself to trust everyone who walks in to not drop me on the hard concrete floor, or trying to get through to some unalienated truth - i'm really asking to listen, to be listened to, and to relish in the moment of listening.

similarly, when navigating issues of complicité, improvisation, collaborative performance, and communicating without speaking - i'm still engaging with a rabid pursuit of listening. to unselfconsciously, improvisationally, collaborate is to access a kind of empathic listening which evades comprehension in the moment lest it be rendered impotent. to look at it while it's present is to stop it in its tracks. is it futile to examine this further? to try and capture it?

it's astonishing how fast you can grow and develop, how fast old ideas seem passé, gauche, embarrassing. the last essay i wrote last semester was a defense of a rejection of methodology. it grew more from a stubbornness, a stuckness, than a place of truth. is it really too much to describe my knowledge as 'knowledge' rather than 'knowing'? is my practice truly 'autotheoretical' rather than 'autoethnographic'? where are the lines between?

but it matters, of course it matters. if we can't argue over the definition of the terms we use to describe our work, are we even accurately describing it at all? is it even possible to accurately describe one's work through writing, when the work simply has to be lived? i always want to get closer to that - to having the written experience reflect, echo, transmit the lived experience.

when i'm researching, and writing, i seek to do more than merely describe. i want to be able to pull the essence of an experience onto the page, and poke its guts, and see how it works. but is that true? do i actually want to do that? or is that just what i know i need to do to meet the requirements of this course, of what 'research' expects..

i guess it only becomes useful if you can communicate it in a way that's understandable to others. but maybe the best way to do that is to bring people in to the space, to the exchange, and ask them to commit in the same way you had to commit the first time you entered into that space.

i remembered a vital bit of information the other day, that plugs a chronological gap in an essay i submitted last semester. i remembered the in-between session, where i went from being a total novice at improvised collaboration to a bit-less-scared novice at improvised collaboration. in the essay, i talk about a clayhem performance at 2019's yarmonics that turned out to be a giant collaborative workshop, as well as a performance, and how that was step 1 of getting over my fear of collaborating in that way. well, it was step 1, but microplastic certainly wasn't step 2.

just before COVID, i was invited to somerset house to take part in a couple of sessions of improvised music making led by anat ben-david, a long-time friend and collaborator of my partner. that was step two - explicitly invited, sitting by the side to start but gradually growing more confident with the percussion, and the space, and spaces to hide, and spaces to gently, softly, land in the clutches of improvised musical performance.

i think a lot about people who are unafraid of using their voice when improvising. who are able to just sing, without knowing what's going to come out before they do. i wrote this down in conversation with charlotte the other day - "so much of singing is hearing what comes out before you sing it. i have worked to hard to not know what's going to come out." i want to get there one day! i think i'm en route, but i have a whole lot of fear to combat before i'm there.

so i think.. it's something about fear, and something about listening, and something about not knowing and doing it anyway. but i can't narrow it down more than that right now. looking for a project in amongst it all is intimidating. what do i measure? and how?