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Performing Research Blog – Michael Richardson – Session 2

December 9th, 2013


It was a dark, wet and windy night on Thursday the 5th of December; but pathetic fallacy this was not as the spirit, energy and enthusiasm from those ‘performing research’ was uplifting (pathetic fallacy being the literary technique of applying human emotion to aspects of the natural world). Based in St Luke’s Church, Claremont Road for this week (and next) due to Culture Lab’s festivities we were tasked with a more visceral and embodied exploration of performance. Whether mirroring each other’s movement or through the creative ‘ensemble’ work we were moving without words in tandem to read and remember from the bodies of those around us.

Developing from our unguided creativity, Gordon introduced a frame to shape our movements. The ensemble was to move around the space, touching (at least) two colleagues at all times, according to the compass directions of North, South, East and West. Building from this was a second instruction which was fed from the themes we had generated in last week’s session. Given a ten second countdown to walk, crawl, climb, sit, carry, or be carried in between North, South, East or West we had to pose with our interpretation of the given theme. The theme of crossing-dressing brought the gratuitous laughter, but deeper themes of hope, death, entrances/exits and the like were also negotiated by the group. What does this have to do with research? Well that’s for you to draw conclusions on but for me: this framing of movement could read as my feminist geographical perspective; the movement itself could be my writing style; and the posed ‘freezeframes’ of themes could be my written analysis of research data. I frame, move, and pose within my work…only my materials are words rather than bodies.

During the session we also partnered off to tell a story based on a chosen theme which encouraged us to draw inspiration from ourselves and our own situated and lived experience within the creative process; a skill that not enough of us apply within our research contexts. Drawing on the session as a whole I used the childhood game of ‘Chinese whispers’ as a metaphor to demonstrate the occurrence of cumulative error and the importance of listening skills within research. I was challenged on my naming of the game as it could be considered offensive; I certainly meant no offence nor do I hope was any taken in my application of this schoolyard game. Certainly drawing from post-colonial literatures I can see how problematic this terminology is. I have since learned that the game is known in the US as ‘telephone’ which is both more appropriate and has a more universal appeal.

Interestingly, the use of this game was not pre-planned –despite observations from fellow group members that Gordon and I had set up links with me acting as a ‘stooge’ – the reflections emerged organically from the evening’s activities. Indeed it was the aforementioned mirroring exercises of the session warm-up where I saw (and felt) embellishment and misinterpretation of physical movements and thought they would prove worthy of further questioning in a listening, talking and research context. Lively debate followed based upon notions of fact and fiction. Perhaps though these concepts are relational and of most salience are our interpretations of what is ‘performed’.

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