I: Theoretical reflections

PAR methodology and the main research questions

It is important to note that the discussion covered throughout my research project ventures into comparative religious studies to illuminate possible cultural influences on Stanislavsky’s legacy rather than comprehensively explaining that particular field.1 Additionally, with this book. I’m not only attempting to understand certain aspects of Stanislavsky’s “system” that, in my opinion, are less analysed theoretically and maybe not enough explored in practice, but also, I am hoping to offer future practice as research students the example of my own experience.

Notions such as “practice as research” or “practice-based research” are both used to stand for endeavours very similar to the case study described. Christopher Bannerman draws a clear distinction between these two terms. On the one hand, “practice-based research implies [...] that the research may be based in practice, but that there are [...] other modes used to further the work”. On the other hand, “practice as research [...] implies that practice, in and of itself can be considered research”.2 In Robin Nelson’s thinking, “a research project in which practice is a key method of inquiry” and results in a practical form such as a theatre performance, can be “submitted as substantial evidence of a research inquest”.3

Barbara Bolt talks about a “double articulation between theory and practice” in so far as the “theory emerges from a reflexive practice” while, simultaneously, the “practice is informed by theory”.4 Although reluctant to engage in what he calls “the historical binary between 'theory' and ‘practice’”, Nelson appears to agree with Bolt. Finding “PaR [...] ineluctably centred in practice”, Nelson also considers “reading, as in any research programme”, to be just “another mode in a multi-modal research enquiry”.5 Similarly, Bolt argues in favour of “theory imbricated within practice”.6 She talks about two distinctive ways of knowing - that is to say, “Know-how and Know-what”. The first one represents the “Embodied knowledge” as in “Experiential, haptic knowing - Performative knowing - Tacit knowledge”, whilst the second remains a “distant knowledge” that needs to be “made explicit through critical reflection: - Know what ‘works’ - Know what methods - Know what principles of composition [...] - Conceptual frameworks”, and so forth.7

Focusing “on the ‘uniqueness’ of PAR’S production of knowledge”, Angela Piccini argues that it might run “counter to the wider critical engagement with ’knowledge making’ in the arts and humanities”.8 According to Piccini, by calling into question crucial notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘originality’, “PAR may significantly contribute alternatives to current ‘ways of knowing’”, also raising “critical issues regarding the ability to generalize such knowledge”.9

Citing Gunther Kress, Heli Aaltonen considers this “production of knowledge in performance practice [...] different from ordinary arts practice” to the degree that it can be both epistemological and ontological. As she explains, performative research “often requires methods that are applied in vocational training”, and these can make “the embodied knowledge explicit through the analysis of practices, multimodal discourses and contextual social settings”.11

In terms of theory versus practice as generator of knowledge, as opposed to Nelson and Bolt, who are in search of defining better ways of congruence, Helen Bendon finds this distinction unhelpful in expounding her practice. Quoting David Durling, who refers to “some forms of practice as ‘personal Journeys’”,12 Bendon simply chooses to name what she does as “the work”.13 According to Durling, there should be a clear distinction between practice and research. In his view, “research has goals quite different to those of practice” to the extent that it “asks questions, selects appropriate methods, tests the questions, analyses the results, and disseminates the conclusions unambiguously”.14 However, in my vision, based on the practical work explored on the stage, these research goals do not seem to differ from those of the practice, as Durling argues.

Both during training and while rehearsing, the actors find themselves in a constant need to ask questions, to select the methods appropriate in order to test these questions and, finally, to analyse the results. There is also a lack of ambiguity in disseminating the conclusions drawn. Being embodied in their own artistic creativity, the stage-floor experience of the actors becomes very clear to them, while the results are visible to the naked eye of the spectator. It might be that due to their ineffability, some of these personal results are not always easily explained and need a more profound and ongoing reflection. Nevertheless, as Monica Prendergast and Juliana Saxton argue, “the heart of the reflective process is the space it provides to bring into existence a personal relationship with the material”.15 Further:

Reflection allows time to consider the moral attitudes, principles, and beliefs that lie beneath actions and to see these in relation to the views, actions and feelings of others. Reflection lets us see how ideas are mediated and how thought is changed when it becomes concretized through action.16

In terms of research methods, Baz Kershaw and Helen Nicholson strive to bring forward ideas of reconceptualisation that can highly benefit studies of theatre and performance. In order to “resist unhelpful dichotomies and fixed binaries, which separate embodiment and intuition from intellectual practices, emotional experiences and ways of knowing”, they both support a methodology of “thinking philosophically, procedurally, and practically, about working processes”.17 As Kershaw explains, because “PaR is pursued through time-space events, its transmission - the means by which any knowledge/understanding/insight it produces are communicated - is always multi-modal”. Additionally, it “has the qualities of a moveable feast: always already the ‘same’ project but forever differently displayed through diverse channels”. Therefore, it ends up disrupting the “powerful parade of binary formulations: theory/practice [...], ontology/episte-mology, artist/academic [...], multiple formats/singular outcomes, and so on”.18

On the same note, without denying the importance of any of the views noted above, because the artistic creation leading to experiencing the creative state can be a very personal accomplishment, by relating to my own former training and acting experience, while using in places a strong personal voice, and by often bringing on indirect evidence, 1 have moved away from the normal academic ways of research, to look upon the findings and problems that are formulated and analysed in each chapter. These findings followed the structure in which the practice was organised and also considered the constant feedback coming from the actors.

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