A cautionary note or two, amid the pleasures and pains of participation in performance-making as Research (revised 2019) [keynote]

Melrose, Susan (2019) A cautionary note or two, amid the pleasures and pains of participation in performance-making as Research (revised 2019) [keynote]. In: Participation, Research and Learning in the Performing Arts Symposium on the 6th May 2011, Centre for Creative Collaboration, London. Organised by Royal Holloway, University of London, The Higher Education Academy and PALATINE Dance, Drama and Music., Mar 2019 (revised), Centre for Creative Collaboration, London. . [Conference or Workshop Item]

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What constitutes participation-based research in the performing arts, and why are we discussing it here today? In the most reductive of terms, participation-based research is a mode of qualitative research, ethnographic in its origins and orientation and often concerned with research into community, carried out in many instances by researchers who are not normally members of that community. Its research focus is likely to be something like ‘understanding and facilitating distributed collaboration’ and within these sorts of parameters we are also likely to find ongoing critical-methodological enquiry into the ethical implications of this sort of research focus and application. The terms ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’, used in some accounts of ethnographic research, give some sense of some of the wider ethical implications: traditionally, the ethnographer is likely to be ‘non-indigenous’, while the focus of her or his enquiry is indigenous: the former’s research focus might be, in one example, ‘traditional instruments’ used in East Javanese marriage ceremonies, carried out by a European or American musicologist. So far, it might seem that this kind of research has little to do even with qualitative research into the Performing Arts, although there have been exceptions: what used to be called ‘theatre anthropology’ took up precisely this sort of focus; and over the past decade there have been a number of doctoral research undertakings in the Performing Arts that have taken certain aspects of the ‘auto-ethnographic’ tradition and terminology as their model.

On the other hand, one example of ‘distributed collaboration’ in professional performance-making terms is provided by the UK choreographer Rosemary Lee’s 1992 ‘large scale participatory works’, which drew on the participation of untrained (community) dancers of all ages, who worked with a small number of trained dancers and a professional choreographer to produce work staged in a public space. Might one of those community-member dancers actually have been a ‘practitioner’-participant-as-researcher? It is more likely, as far as I am concerned, that either the choreographer herself, or one of the experienced dancers, could have played the role of practitioner-researcher, participating in and helping to guide those processes, and reflecting on these after the event, sometimes drawing on practice logs and sketches to authenticate the enquiries premises and processes.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Additional Information: Revised in March 2019
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
Item ID: 26378
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Susan Melrose
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2019 07:42
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2021 23:36
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/26378

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