Don Asker

Australia °1947

Don is interested in human experience within particular places. His focus is informed by somatic, movement based improvisation  practice and considerations of the body as a multisensory and complex entity interactive with its environment.


He has directed, performed and choreographed projects in Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, Europe, Israel, China, Korea and South East Asia. With Jane Mortiss he runs a studio Naarilla at Kiah on the far south coast of NSW where they support creative arts practices.


Awards include a Churchill Fellowship, and an Australia Council Choreographic Fellowship. He has PHD and Masters in Arts awards from the University of Melbourne. He lectures and supervises postgraduate researchers at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and MCM of the University of Melbourne


research expositions

  • open exposition comments (2)


Exposition: Talking in Circles: Interview, Conversation, Metalogue (01/01/2014) by Amber Yared
Don Asker 26/05/2014 at 14:33

The submission ‘Talking in Circles’ makes a number of important contributions to the way we understand dialogue in art and education. 


It focuses on three concepts of communicative process - interview, conversation and metalogue and reflects on these terms and the types of engagements they attempt to define.  They show that as their project continued it became clearer that the form of dialogue was very important to knowledge production. Through reference to their own experience we learn of the characteristics and possibilities of particular dialogic forms, and this equips us to better understand the implications of the way we are communicating and learning.


Enfolded in and through the submission are several meta-layers of thought. The one that is more obvious is that the content of our processes of inquiry and artistic practices is reflected or reflects (reflexively) upon the structure and form.  The inseparability of these notions becomes a strategic tool and is well presented through the documentation provided of an interview, and conversation in the exposition itself. Here the researchers slip and slide between different perspectives on a range of artistic, social and educative situations.  With mostly collaborative or partnership projects as exemplars they reflect on issues arising as particular models develop and endure. The interview – a particular type of information and perspective gleaning process involving interviewer(s) and interviewee(s) - is shown to be a complex undertaking with many aspects that are often contradictory such as the need for some kind of encouragement, sounds, words feeding back to the interviewee to sustain and support their utterances, though this may influence the course or content of the interviewee. They point to limitations of traditional educative approaches, and assumptions about student and teacher roles.


The idea that conversation allows for many layers of understanding and perception to be present, without the need to be total or complete is introduced and considered in relation to assumptions that conversations must seek resolution or consensus.  The researchers destabilise such definition pointing towards notions of complexity (at least) and the co-existence of contrary perspectives, as more inclusive and reflecting individual difference.


The submission left me wondering about the implications for institutionalised research and practice? It seemed that collaborative methods and dialogues within group inquiry were being problematized in useful ways, and that their perspective on relational dynamics and complexity raised many issues of importance in developing methods.


The other metalogue is a pedagogic one – reflecting how teaching approaches and learning interact. How do we know and what is that process of knowing? How might that process be reconfigured in the light of recent understandings of learning experiences and patterns? The submission highlights a collaborative approach and questions traditional power structures and figures of authority. It raises the notion of space and I found myself extrapolating from communication as an insular inter-subjective event to consider its locational aspects. Where in space are we talking from, what is the nature of that place, its locality and how is the dynamic of my being in this place? In their example of ‘the booth’ I wondered about issues of familiarity, comfort and security for participants - interviewees and interviewers. How does this translate into galleries, so-called ‘public spaces’, classrooms and performance events?


The exposition reminds us of the need to question our assumptions about the way we seek to know things and the possibility of reconfiguring approaches and attitudes so as to optimise individual involvement in collective learning.  This has significance for fields of community arts, for those involved in collaborative processes in the arts, social sciences, and education and more broadly into communities concerned with forms of participatory practices. It implicitly invites us to reconsider our own forms of communication with others, including those within our projects and processes.


The exposition points in some ways to the interplay between artistic, cultural, learning and pedagogic practices. It speaks of diverse interests and skills and a much more horizontal shifting between and across fields. It seems that communication across fields and between differently skilled and informed individuals is challenging and full of potential. For me, the exposition raises the ontological question how might we be, communicate and interact better as a civil society? 


The simple symbolism of ‘circle’ - a looping and continuity - in regard to communication, speaks to the non finite-ness of knowing. It has other resemblances too - to being a closed entity, and perhaps the meanings attached to the title by the researchers of the exposition need more articulation. Given the accumulative nature of knowledge as the exposition espouses it seems to me that although communication may well involve a growing complexity it rarely comes back to the same place or finds communicants in the same state. It seems that communication might better be modelled as ‘talking in a helix’. So for me the template of ‘circle’ holds interesting paradoxes.


One of the insightful aspects of the exposition is that pedagogic change might be fed positively by appreciation of the complexity of things and seeking an abundance of perspectives – or as they nicely posit, an accumulative rather than reductive approach. There is much that can be unravelled here as one looks at the experiences, mechanisms and structures of community cultural partnerships.


The exposition provokes thought on the very nature of inquiry. It suggests we might tend towards particular models, and that the extremes of these might be reductive on the one hand and accumulative on the other. It suggests the latter to be a more inclusive and accurate model though it comes with implications of complexity. In keeping with the metalogue – that lurking thing within the exposition whose form and content tend to be inseparable – there is in this exposition a slippery structure, where no one notion can be dominant at the expense of others; that would be the beginning of reduction.


The exposition somewhat tacitly invites us to appreciate human-to-human communication as assuming forms reflecting the roles, perspectives and empowerment of participants. Within the broad spectrum of forms communication takes it differentiates several notions particularly interview and conversation. An example of interview provides an opportunity to consider the roles of interviewer and interviewee and the expectations of certain behaviours within the interview process is highlighted and problematized. The conversation as the researchers conduct it is an interesting example of many layers, individual interests, points of intersection and divergence. We are invited to share the complex nature of conversation in its many lights - as confusing, as multifocal, as the collision of subjectivities and as a source for emergent questions and learning.


The notion of communication in the exposition although it focuses on the form is less explicit about the embodied aspect of communication. Being present to another, be that as voice, video link or in the flesh brings many inter-corporeal considerations involving perception of the other, gestures, and relationships in space.  I was interested in the way the tone and dynamics of the recorded voices in the conversation informed on their content. In the interview and conversation recording we get to recognise some of the associated techniques of feeding back as both verbal and visual/embodied prompts. The booth project points towards embodiment concerns reflecting the ways participants engage behaviourally and physically.


The exposition contributes to a growing body of work that articulates perceptions that we have many different ways of ‘knowing’, and that ways of communicating are much more complex than we might first imagine. I was mindful of how the researchers’ work shared parallels with others concerned to expand the field of view points in areas as diverse as choreography, digital media arts, and ethnography.


It invites us to reconsider notions of complexity in communication and the idea of phenomenological reduction - that movement towards the essence of things - is challenged and we are invited to consider notions of explanation and knowing as something not necessarily to do with simplifying. The idea of consensus is problematised and we are provoked to consider how we might accommodate complexity and difference.








Exposition: Voice (a retracing) (01/01/2012) by Vida Midgelow
Don Asker 05/11/2012 at 09:37

Vida Midgelow explores the tension between the ephemeral nature of dance and the videographer’s artful endeavour. She is accompanied by musician and sound artist Tom Williams. Their exposition brings the creative and intellectual capacities of the researchers into a rich dialogue.  It touches upon many issues important/intrinsic to dance improvisational practice, and those that flow through to videography. The exposition makes transparent many methodological aspects of the collaboration and informs on their emergent process. In many respects there is an extension of the phenomenological stance of the improviser to include a critical and reflexive attitude. This is ably developed and sustained by both participants and individual perspectives and approaches are revealed. The reflective aspect of the exposition - that which endeavours to explore and indeed trace the creative process - is enriched by a high level of analytical and critical engagement. The printed text contributes a description of core elements and process manifesting as Voice (a re-tracing).

The conversational component of the exposition - a conversation that is structured around a number of word provocations - gives each participant opportunity to outline their experiential perspective and importantly the informing values that shape this. Such inter-subjectivity - even in the short sound bites of the conversational component of the exposition - enable individual values, methodologies and even hypotheses to be drawn and interestingly qualified in the dialogue.

The exposition provides a collective account of a particular collaborative process with a focus on an emerging lexicon. Its concerns with language - languages of the body, of sound(s) and  written and oral English – is underscored through the weaving of visual, audio and written materials so structured as to provide constant referencing to one another and a raft of interconnected discourses.  In some ways it gives primacy to the improvising dancer and it is her dialogue with her self that she and her collaborator explore through Voice (a re-tracing). However the conversational reflections provide insight into the substantial nature of their collaborative journey. That we don’t become inundated with references to others is a relief - we can go to the artist’s voices, values and constructions more directly.

Midgelow and Williams allow the work, their description of experience and their analytical and critical reflections to weave together. They draw on current performance and visual theory, and the approach reflects an emergent, (bricoleur’s) methodology - one grounded in some respects in phenomenology, while resisting rushing towards interpretive possibilities. The form and substance of their exposition is stimulating and richly informing. They allow the poetics of what they construct to also be known in relation to the processes of its formation. They also make no knowledge claims, but from my perspective their exposition affords the opportunity to engage with many concepts and notions surrounding improvisational practices and test their efficacy or meaning in my own practice.

This is largely a succinct and successful exposition. It delivers written statements about the core aspects of the work - moving image and sound, the work Voice (a retracing) and the ‘live’ discoursing of its two participants in a relatively transparent form. The artists reveal some of the intricacies of their approaches and the establishment of or clarification of a way of speaking about their practices and how this has lead them, as they put it, down unknown paths. In finding and affirming their individual and collective lexicons there is insightful reflection.   
In acknowledging the influence of Berio, Williams provides a tangible link to his past that has importance to Voice (a re-tracing) while Midgelow notes some important and informing dance improvisational developments. That said I am mindful that the exposition has perhaps resisted endeavouring to locate itself outside of itself. This is an important exposition, one which provides a lucid document of collaboration and the emergence of a lexicon. It describes the movement between conceptual and experiential knowing, and examines the attributes of improvisation, awareness, consciousness, attention, remembering and the ephemeral nature of live act. Notions of composing and choice are as present for the improviser as they are for the digital visual or sound artist and the exposition explores these, noting how considerations of repetition, and the tension between something and nothing inform the audience.

The exposition is a poly-vocal one – with both participants being ‘heard’. The detached ‘voice’ of the printed texts tends to contrast with the ‘conversations’. At times it seems there is someone else in the room and interestingly enough it is hard to know who is talking.