MIXED DOUBLES: COLLABORATIVE WRITING AND PERIPHERAL STRATEGIES
author(s): David Carlin, Peta Murray, JOSHUA MICHAEL LOBB, Catherine McKinnon
published in: RUUKKU - Studies in Artistic Research
This exposition attends to the theme of peripheral spaces, sites, practices, epistemologies and conceptions. It takes the form of a playful, nonfiction archival document that comprises the interleaving of two scripts within a series of photographic images. It stands as trace for an event—originally described as “peripherally performative”—that took place at an academic conference in creative writing in Australia in 2018 (the annual Association of Australian Writing Programs Conference, in Perth). As a research artefact, the methods and mode of presentation of this work are tangential to normative procedures.
This exposition co-mingles the performed accounts of two collaborative writing projects in which the exposition's four authors—Carlin, Murray, McKinnon and Lobb —had been variously enmeshed: the collectively written book project 100 Atmospheres; Studies in Scale and Wonder (Open Humanities Press, 2019), and the Murray/Carlin speculative research endeavour How To Dress For Old Age: an Enquiry with Costumes. Each of these projects experiments with devising creative methods of collaboration so as to approach research questions multifariously and heterogeneously. Slant, in other words.
What does collaboration offer writers and writing processes? How is vision refracted through a multiplicity of gazes? How does the peripheral make itself felt? In an era shaped by critical ecological transformation, the 100 Atmospheres project—speculative, poetic, provocative—pays attention to future ways of being and becoming. In a tightly scripted dialogue, Lobb and McKinnon reflect on a collaborative process involving an interdisciplinary ensemble of 13 people, that uses ‘cross-over writing’. This process allows for fluid boundaries, multiple entries and exits, and other peripheral strategies, to enliven living and practicing in the Anthropocene. This first script is met sideways by the more improvisatory, contingent approach of Murray and Carlin, who re-construct their process of framing and investigating “how to dress for old age,” as a live and unfolding methodology (including costume changes). They report on how, in improvising with writing methods that involve alternating responses, redirections, and unanticipated shifts in focus / tempo, they have been drawn to sport, theatre and domestic metaphors to negotiate evolving rules of engagement and exchange.
The original performance used a length of rope pinned with images to stand in for a tennis net and a backdrop. This malleable object allowed us to demonstrate materially the multiple experiences of collaboration: combative and communal, public and private. In our written document we will use inset photographs (portraits and images of place), columned text and variable typography: these will interrupt and intersect with the ideas discussed in order to amplify the complex interactions central to the collaborative process.
Our visual and verbal approaches assert tactics of peripherality to examine that which is often overlooked, irrelevant or superficial, and serve as a counterpoint to normative methods. Our approaches argue for a different kind of sensitivity in practice, one which pays heed to the dance of agency between subjects and objects.