A common approach in the field of Artistic Research is to adopt a philosophical position from another field and apply new methods towards one’s individual artistic practice. However, such an approach can lead to confusion as the researcher often lacks the context and knowledge of the secondary field to flexibly integrate the methods in a way which leads to fruitful productivity. The problem is exacerbated when we consider that artistic practices and methods are often disciplinary specific and may not be applicable towards employability in the wider cultural sphere. In the Tallinn Lab we focused on devising a bootcamp in which participants are invited to learn about a commonly adopted methodology for artistic research, Autoethnography, away from their own research topics. Autoethnography is a methodology which focuses on exposing the individual experience as a representation of its cultural backdrop. The skills of an Autoethnographer focus on the understanding of Self, the revealing of taboos, and the expression of cultural experiences through unique and often overlooked positions in society. Our approach was not to invest a great deal of time into the theoretical explanation and justification of Autoethnography, but to provide participants with a chance to literally practice the methods as it suits their own individual personalities. It was our intention to create a Lab where participants can build up the skills necessary for applying the method not only in their own research strategies, but in any other field of development where they may find themselves. In the case of Autoethnography, the applied methods could be transferred towards any goal concerning personal development and/or cultural agency.
Identity was chosen as the main focal point for all methods used in the Lab. The reasoning behind this relied on the purpose for taking an Autoethnographic approach. One of the main concerns for this methodology is how subjective experience can be seen as a representation or even a contradiction from the culture in which it is formed. In order for our participants to gain a deeper understanding of the intent of Autoethnography, it was necessary to make the act of revealing identity a main aim inside of our Lab. Furthermore the terminology used when referring to an artist’s activities and their associated identities (composer, performer, improviser, and conductor) contain a degree of ambiguity in the current state of the arts, where interdisciplinary artistic practices are becoming standardized. If we consider that a great deal of implicit knowledge is communicated during the formative years regarding the roles, attitudes, behaviors, and ethics a particular artistic identity contains, then young researchers may require a degree of self reflection in order to transform some aspects of their identities into conscious awareness. Applying Autoethnography inside of artistic practice may help young researchers clarify their own sense of artistic purpose as well as draw them closer towards the concepts, practices, ethics, and aesthetics which they seek to pursue inside of their careers.
Though reflective action is typically considered as a tool where the self looks back onto the self, we felt it was necessary to broaden this scope by devising themes which incorporate other viewpoints into self reflective processes. Each day focused on a different pathway of reflection consisting of: The Self, The Other, The Moment, and The Society. The reasoning for this was due to the intention of Autoethnographic research. Though subjective in nature, the researcher should still embrace the ethnographic side of the field, which is the intention that the subjective experience can be seen as a wider representation of the culture from which it originates. In this sense using one’s surroundings, peers, friends, families, and communities as part of the reflective process can help strengthen the knowledge unpacked when investigating identity.
All methods used in the lab were orientated towards these different reflective pathways. The first day was for introducing the Lab’s concept and the main tenets of Autoethnography. Day 2 focused on applying reflective methods towards the self through the use of memory tactics. Interviews and dialogue were used as reflective tools on Day 3. Day 4 looked into real time tactics where reflection is focused on the present moment in a group. The last day was dedicated to reflecting together as a group concerning artist roles in society. The whole week unfolded from working with the self towards working with reflection inside of larger groups.
A brief summary of the methods used in each day are described below. More thorough explanations of individual methods can be found in the documentation section for our Lab.
1. The Self: Using Memory as a Method
Memory methods are designed to reflect on the past and how we interpret its effects on our present. Such methods included storytelling, biographical timelines, and object/space symbolism. The researcher applies these methods to investigate and/or discover a reoccurring theme in their lives which has contributed to their sense of identity and practice.
2. The Other: Autoethnographic Interviews
The Interview workshop introduced general interview practices and created a playful setting for the participants to experiment with an Autoethnographic approach to interviewing, having them discover new meanings to their own experiences through dialogue. Interview methods included focusing on the daily life, performing an interview, and reflecting on the self through listening to the other. Attentively self-listening was included as a practice.
3. The Moment: Methods for Real Time
The focus here was on realizing that during the real time our identities are integrally involved in the production of meaning formation. Artists learn by doing in the real time, but in this real time our own identities are shaping, moulding, filtering, and projecting the information we are receiving. Role playing was a method used for uncovering the influence of identity over the real time.
4. Society: Collaborative Methods
Here we used collaborative group work to clarify and map our own perspectives inside of the web of our cultural space. By collecting the perspectives and understandings of others as well as how such positions came into being, we can better place our own ambitions and desires inside of the broader socio-cultural sphere.