Step 0.75: Insertion
Before you dive into this, I’d just to preface with a note that the first version of this exposition was submitted to Tero, one of the editors of this issue of Ruukku, on June 5th, 2017. This first version included Steps 1-4 below. It didn’t include this Step, Step 0.50, or Step 1.5. Since then, I added this Step, Step 0.50 and Step 1.5, and updated Steps 2-4 a bit, but left Step 1 more or less as it was originally submitted in order to leave a trace of the past. The version of the exposition submitted for peer review in the spring of 2018 did not include the Introductory Video. The version you are reading now was modified by adding the Introductory Video in response to peer reviewers' feedback in summer of 2018.
Enjoy your adventure!
Step 1: Responding to Ruukku 8’s conditions of sharing.
The practice of artistic research and some of its practice architectures.
Since Ruukku 8 has asked us to consider “conditions of sharing”, it seems apt, and interesting, to start this exposition through a dialogue with the conditions of sharing that the Ruukku 8 editors, Mika, Tero, and Leena, have offered us.
You can read the conditions they have offered for this issue’s submission here:
The people at Ruukku and the Research Catalogue have also set out other conditions of sharing. They are here:
and here: http://ruukku-journal.fi/en/terms-of-use
and here: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/portal/about
and here: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/portal/terms
and here: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/portal/copyright
Many thanks to the people at Ruukku and the RC for offering us these conditions! 😃
I propose we see these “conditions” as part of “practice architectures” or certain arrangements “that are brought to a site where the practice occurs: [these are] cultural-discursive arrangements that support the sayings of a practice, material-economic arrangements that support the doings of a practice, and social-political arrangements that support the relatings of a practice.” (Kemmis et al. 2014, 55, original emphasis). I understand “practice” as:
…a socially established cooperative human activity in which characteristic arrangements of actions and activities (doings) are comprehensible in terms of arrangements of relevant ideas in characteristic discourses (sayings), and when the people and objects involved are distributed in characteristic arrangements of relationships (relatings), and when this complex of sayings, doings and relatings ‘hangs together’ in a distinctive social project. (Kemmis et al. 2014, 52)
The practices at hand being: The doing of artistic research and the process of submitting and potentially enabling an interactive, participatory research project through Ruukku and the RC platform.
In terms of some of the cultural-discursive arrangements that I perceive to be “enabling and constraining” (Kemmis et al. 2014, 56) our practice of “doing artistic research by submitting and potentially publishing,” there is, most obviously, the thematic framing of Ruukku 8’s conditions of sharing, as cited above. It is likely that other discourses of “artistic research” are relevant to the sharing practice, for example, the TUTKE (Performing Arts Research Centre at University of the Arts Helsinki) mission statement and how it defines artistic research may affect how this submission and others are viewed as examples of “artistic research” (http://www.uniarts.fi/sites/default/files/Tutke_mission_vision_2017_2020_en.pdf).
I believe other sayings are conditioning this sharing too. For example, there are certain dominant discourses in the artistic research community in Finland and internationally as I have experienced them over the half a year or so. Specifically, I am referring to the discourses of posthumanism and new materialism, which I find to be inspiring in how they contribute to the decentralization of humanity as the most valuable planetary species. On the other hand, the idea of putting the earth first is not an entirely novel idea, at least outside the academic world or academic philosophy. Think of the conservation movements of the 19th century in the U.S.A. (like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau), or even more radical, modern notions of ecology and environmentalism in the 20th century in the 1970s and 1980s in different parts of the world. 😀
I feel there is a problematic tendency in posthumanism and new materialism in their frustration of the performative power of “the political animal known as the human” (Chandler and Reid 2016, 164), thereby creating a kind of complicity with the ways, means, and folks in power now. (More on that problematic further on.) If I’m right, that’s a real bummer. 👎 Moreover, when I approach these discourses as “imperative discourses” (see Foucault 2007, 3; Chandler and Reid 2016, 148-9) in the research community, I get the uncomfortable feeling that my sayings, which are supportively critical of those and come from other perspectives, will find themselves at the margins of these dominant discourses. 😞 Well, we’ll see, won’t we? 😉
Other sayings that I feel condition the sharing of my artistic research practice include language in the research community that claims there is some art and artistic research work where “art has an intrinsic value” and other work whose primary concern is “applied” (e.g., https://koneensaatio.fi/en/tuemme/grantapplicants/, see section one: “For What Purposes Does Kone Foundation Grant Funding”). I perceive this as drawing a distinction as to what is and is not valuable (albeit to certain people and to certain institutions), which artistic work should be supported, and which artistic work shouldn’t. It is, of course, each person’s and institution’s prerogative to support what they feel is important. 👌 If and when such ideas become echoed by other members of the community through their sayings, then these create conditions that provoke me to defend my artistic research approach, which rejects a distinction between artistic work where “art has an intrinsic value” and other artistic work that is “applied”. My understanding is that all art and research has a social and ethical (read: instrumental) impact in our own professional communities and beyond. Especially when we consider the fact that art cannot exist without an audience, our responsibility to the latter in terms of aesthetic-ethical impact means considering instrumentality: how artistic work is applied and applicable. The role of the audience in terms of these aesthetic-ethical questions seem to me a particularly pressing issue in need of discussion in the artistic research community.
Whether or not we acknowledge and work with these questions of ethics and impact is another thing. In any case, I believe egalitarian, non-divisive sayings would enable my practice, rather than constrain it. I do find myself attracted to anarchy and pacifism very much. If you do too, how about meeting for a coffee? Drop me a line, please. Egalitarian sayings are what I strive to work with in my research. I also believe that non-divisive sayings would bring us together as a community, one in which all members are engaged in diverse and equally valuable work. This may even lead to discursive cooperation instead of discursive polarization. But people also need to agree to disagree sometimes too, right? 😀
In terms of the material-economic arrangements influencing this artistic research practice, we could highlight the privileged position of the University of Arts Helsinki having a highly sophisticated technology apparatus and the ability to fund such a highly sophisticated technological apparatus to make the Research Catalogue and Ruukku possible in the first place, especially when compared to the lack of such privileged material-economic conditions in other parts of the world. I could also point to my current privileged material-economic position as a funded researcher (as of now until the end of February, 2018 when my material-economic position may change), and the existence of the funding mechanisms in Finland for that. I could also point to the cost-saving measures of the current government in Finland, part of a global neoliberal austerity package for those except the privileged few, and how these conditions are constraining research. 😡 😡 😡
Lastly, in terms of some of the social and political arrangements influencing this practice, we can point to the influential position of the peer-reviewers and the editors of this edition of Ruukku and their power to accept, reject, and criticize this and other submissions. I also consider these individuals’ relative position in the academic hierarchy (as professors, docents, contracted staff, etc.) affecting my research; that is, their role also “outside” the submission process (we collaborate in one institutional community) in relation to me also conditions how I relate to them through this exposition.
I have highlighted a few of the aspects of the practice architectures, i.e., some of the conditions of sharing, that enable and constrain my artistic research practice. I have also indicated what I feel is the importance of considering practices and practice architectures with an eye to making them more just, reasonable, and regenerative. This is part of our research’s transformative efforts.
I also presented this process of critical examining “practice architectures” because my research approaches the practice(s) of performative-well being by critically supportively examining those practice practices and the architectures that enable and constrain those practices, including our own artistic research and pedagogical methods.
However, since we have only just begun to investigate the practices and practice architectures of performative well-being in our research in depth (with two research groups starting in September, 2017), there is not much to share with you about that process right now. It is too soon to give a “report” of any specifics yet.
Instead, what I would like to do now is share some of the conditions – the sayings, doings and ways of relating – that I am working to integrate into our practice, those we hope will shape our critical artistic action research methodology with the aim of transforming performative well-being practices and practice architectures so they are more just, reasonable, and regenerative. I will do this by jamming on my response to the conditions of sharing offered by Ruukku 8. 😃 Please do not consider my jamming in any way an exhaustive explication of the conditions of our research process. What I hope is that what little I offer here piques your interest, so you join us in our artistic research process yourselves, participating in the shaping of our sayings, doings, and relatings. In effect, all this writing is just an introduction to some practical artistic research work I invite you to engage in. That performing will likely be the principal project and practice of this exposition. More about that at the end of the jam session…
Oh, and I just remind you now that if you have to go to the loo or grab a drink of water, please do! I’m off to do that now. Be right back!
Jamming on our methodological values.
I see Mika, Tero, and Leena’s conditions as the first offer in a collective and collaborative process of building the context within which we will now proceed with this exposition. Making and accepting offers as a way of creating a situation within a given context through which mutualistic interaction occurs is an important condition we explore in our research. This is also one of the basic dynamics that constitutes improvisation.
I, personally, find it quite inspiring to engage with the offer given by the editors for the submission call for this issue of Ruukku. The conditions of how we share our research stimulate my curiosity. Indeed, how does actively dialoging with Ruukku 8’s conditions through our research involve provocation, excess, limited resources, reduction, absurd argumentation, populism, conspiracy, amateurism? How does it not? How have I already, in this research exposition, engaged some of these themes? 😉 How will we engage with these and other themes as our exposition progresses? I hope that my personal interest in pursuing these questions in the way I do is also shared, collective. If it isn’t, I hope it may become shared or collective. Interest, curiosity, and the personal as collective (the personal becoming collective) are also important conditions of our research practice.
When I speak of “share”, I mean it in three senses. First, I mean “share” in terms of relating (communicating) our research to you. Second, I mean it in the sense of giving our research to you, and you giving to our research. Third, I mean “share” in terms of participation: We experience this research event together and are responsible for it also collectively in some ways. These meanings of sharing are significant conditions of our research practice. Our practice is communicating, giving, participating. 👍
I accepted the conditions the editors have offered. I have also begun to approach the conditions they offered in a critically supportive manner, considering these conditions in terms of how they are just, reasonable, and regenerative from my perspective. (I invite you to consider how you perceive they are just, reasonable, and regenerative from your perspective.) This means I will question, challenge, and attempt to transform those conditions in order to practice negotiating my needs in relation to the conditions offered in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect. Accepting offers then negotiating personal needs with collective ones in the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect with others are also aspects of our improvisational research practice. 👍
Of course, when you are working with conditions someone else has given you, you sometimes fail to meet them. Come to think of it, this happens pretty often when you give yourself conditions too. I have already failed to meet one of the conditions set by the people at Ruukku in their call. 😗 My failure thus “challenged” Ruukku 8’s conditions of sharing. 😀 I have attempted to present this challenge in a respectful manner by communicating with someone at Ruukku, Tero, about my failure and requesting their understanding and cooperation. I did not consciously set out to test these conditions or Tero, but now that I reflect on it, my issues with non-democratic authority and resistance to having conditions imposed on me – especially in an artistic research process – likely played a role in my failure and my challenge. Now I am more aware of what I did. Resistance, challenge, skepticism (not for its own sake but in order to develop practice), an awareness of why you act as you do, an acknowledgment of limits (as in the Stoic tradition), and failure (fallibilism) are also conditions we are working with in our research.
Tero has been tolerant of my failure. 👌 Tero was flexible about the condition of sharing I failed to meet. I am grateful for Tero’s toleration and flexibility. Thanks Tero! Tolerance and gratefulness are also conditions of our research. 😄
People practicing tolerance and flexibility, and the fact that people can and do practice tolerance and flexibility, are important research conditions as well. The question of which conditions – e.g., virtues, capacities, qualities, dynamics – need to be present so that you are able and choose to practice in this way or another, if you so chose, points to performative fitness and the exercise of performative power.
We approach performative fitness as the individual and collective conditions of being able to learn through and benefit from a performance situation. The hypothesis is that the more “mature” the performative fitness, the more “fruitful” the performance situation is. What “mature,” “fruitful,” and “benefit” are, what they mean, are important questions for us too, especially if we approach performative fitness critically and transformatively in terms of investigating virtues. One way we see “virtues” is as characteristics that enable "people to live in harmony with their own nature", others, and their world (Brinkmann 2017, 120). From prior research through solo improvisation, it seems as if performative fitness has to do with certain virtues of a performer, for example, their ability to pay attention to their actions in the present moment, maintain a self-awareness that supports the development of the current event dialogically, and the ability to regulate psychosomatic tension, just to name a few. Our hope is to identify virtues that are also group, collective, and earthly and to propose if and how these can be practiced through solo and group improvisation, its modifications, in combination with research and learning methods form other disciplines. 😄
We approach performative power as the ability and willingness to act consciously and reasonably to change ourselves and the world we share. By practicing (creating?) performative power, we may be able to also act “as a collective, plural, active and transformative subject” (Chandler & Reid 2016, 47, discussing Hannah Arendt). That’s a cool idea, isn’t it? 👍 For example, we approach performative power as a human responsibility for our human world and how it influences other worlds. We conduct research into what performative power is, could be, and should be from those perspectives. Again, we do so through improvisation, like this one, and research and learning methods form other disciplines too.
As human (but not exclusively) performative power is something we are concerned with in our research, I feel it is important here to interject a brief note about how I have experienced the idea of human responsibility (or even the “human”) in what I feel is a well-intentioned but problematic way in the last few months through various sayings, doings, doings and relatings in the artistic research community concerning posthumanism and new materialism. I write of these also because I feel these dominant discourses constrain and enable my research work, as I keep getting the feeling that if you are concerned with human beings in your work it is terribly uncool. Perhaps I should just get used to being terribly uncool to some people. 😀
It will be for another time and space to address the problematic impacts of some of the ontological and epistemological discourses of posthumanism and new materialism thoroughly. On the other hand, the prospects of doing so are fatiguing. I’d rather just put on my clown nose and do my own very uncool, super-hip thing. That’s always an issue, isn’t it: Balancing between struggling against and creating something for? You can’t seem to have one without the other sometimes, right?
Here, in relation to discussions of performative power, I believe it suffices to say that beyond some of the contributions posthumanism and new materialism have made to some academic practices and their architectures, I perceive the sayings, doing, and relatings of these two discourses as also leading to a divestment of human subjectivity and our human performative power to change our human world and make our practices more just, reasonable, and regenerative. To me, that’s a total bummer. 😡😢 Considering the shit (pardon my French) that we (primarily) humans have (primarily) created and seem to keep creating, and in order to deal with that shit (pardon encore) right now, our research methodology sets as a condition the acknowledgement of human responsibility, human subjectivity, and human performative power. So we adopt a transformative ethos and methodology of artistic action research (inspired by Kemmis et al. 2014 and Mouffe 2013). This is a pragmatic artistic research methodology (inspired by Brinkman 2013), which develops off of the phenomenological roots of our main improvisational discipline, (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner, as well as humanistic psychology, Taoism, and Buddhism. Our sights are set on a reinvention of (not only) our human institutionality (this term is inspired by Kirkkopelto 2015), so that our impact on our own and other worlds, to which we are inextricably related to and that also constitute us (we need to maintain this strategic paradox), becomes more just, reasonable, and regenerative. These are high goals that are indeed serious. Just the same, it’s important to have a good guffaw while we’re at it, which, curiously enough, is very transformative. 😆
The fact that Tero changed Ruukku 8’s conditions through his actions, also shows how there are no objective, universal “conditions” as such. The conditions are conditional. In other words, the conditions only exist, effectively if not at all, through practice with others. These conditions of performativity and instability, of no universal unchanging ideas coupled with the practice of human beings building patterns to “stabilize momentarily what is unstable” (Brinkmann 2017, 122-3, discussing the philosophy of John Dewey) in order for certain practices and values to play out for a purpose, are also conditions of our research, very important ones at that. In the midst of instability, Tero and I have stabilized our world…for a moment. More importantly, we did so, it seems, also to “live reasonable lives under the applicable contingent conditions” (Brinkmann 2013, 16). I still have to ask Tero about if they see it that way too. Best to do that in person, I think.
It would seem safe to surmise that Tero, and the other people at Ruukku, who are practicing the conditions of sharing for Ruukku 8, are also practicing certain values. Of course, I can only speak for myself, so perhaps it would be more appropriate for me to say that I am trying to be aware of myself and others practicing (acting on) values, and what the qualities and impacts of those values are. This is also a vital condition of our research because: “Ethics are just one aspect of human life, yet there are no parts of human life that are beyond ethics” (Hans Fink quoted in Brinkmann 2013, 27). In effect, this means we practice artistic research, often considered from a predominantly aesthetic perspective, from an aestheticethical (ethicalaesthetic) perspective.
Which other values do I perceive Tero practicing besides tolerance and flexibility? I see Tero practicing values of understanding, acceptance, and cooperation. Personally, I prefer these values to others like, for example, intolerance, rejection, and demeaning criticism. 😀 My students/co-researchers and I are aiming to conduct research that is pedagogical, so it has as one of its guiding principles the following condition: Do good. And, if you can’t do good, at least do no harm. This means that we consciously condition our research by practicing values that are likely to do good and not harm. Of course, one or some or all of us may fail in doing good, or even fail in understanding what good (and harm) is. C’est la vie, sometimes, right?
In our research, we purposely ask about “good” and “bad” as well as other values and virtues like wellness, reasonableness, emotionality, environment, success, technology, limits, materiality, normativity, imagination, individuality, participation, process, puzzlement, human as subject, reconstruction, collectivity, vulnerability, strength through open improvisation, for example. Our research creates conditions so that these virtues and values are events of investigation. Should these, and other, virtues and values condition our research on and through performative well-being? Why they should or shouldn’t they? These questions, this kind of questioning, is a condition of our research.
I would like to write more about this, but I cannot commit the time to it now. My apologies. I must submit this text along with the text about Steps 2-4 below. Also, it is evening already and I would like to pay attention to my sons and wife. Oh, back to the conditions that enable and constrain how we share research! See you soon!
Step 1.5: A Longer Insertion
FYI: Tero has given me permission to use our correspondence in this submission.
I waited. On June 7th, 2017, Tero responded to my proposal. He wrote, among other things: “It looks promising and alongside with the video should work as a proposal…”
Nice! 😀 👍 👏 !!!
(What video? More on that below in Step 3.)
and….”Lea should be Leena, it’s Leena Rouhiainen co-editing the issue.” Oh, silly me. I am notorious for silly mistakes like those. As you may have noticed from the text above, I changed all the “Lea’s” to “Leena’s” already. It would be very unprofessional to misspell one of the editors’ names in my submission! 😀
But more important than helping me with spelling, Tero has accepted my offer!
After Tero’s acceptance, I reworked my submission and submitted to Ruukku through the Research Catalogue on June 14th. On June 21st, Tero wrote in an email (the following isn’t the entire email, just a selection):
Your submission for RUUKKU has been accepted for peer review.
With your exposition, this may mean something different than usual. The editorial board did not give very specific comments about the ways the exposition could now be developed, so, please continue with your plan.
However, we'd like the exposition to be in a substantially more "finished" condition by the mid of August, 2017, so we can consider the peer review options.”
😀😀😀 👍 !!!
“That’s awesome,” I thought! On the other hand, I was like, “What do they mean in a more finished condition? It’s not finished it enough?” (Please note that I didn’t make the nationality pun I could have. 😉)
So, I wrote back to Tero on June 21st: “I appreciate that the editorial board trusts my efforts. Do you have any suggestions on how I can put the exposition in a more “finished” condition?” I also clarified that the video (you’ll see further down in a just a few minutes), will not be posted in the submission, but that the audience member (that’s you), would contact me for a link and then I would send it to them (you).
I didn’t get a response for a long time. You know, it was summer already, so we were all taking it easy after a long academic year. The weather is not that warm or sunny here in Finland for more than a handful of months, so you really have to take advantage of the summer and enjoy it. And, like many places in Europe, you really can’t get much done in the summer because everyone’s picking cucumbers. That’s what they say about August in the Czech Republic, when you can’t do anything there. You can’t get anything done in August because it’s cucumber season, everyone is off somewhere picking cucumbers. I guess it would be called “blueberry season” up here, and it would be in July. Blueberry season is excellent. I think it’s especially excellent for performative well-being, actually. Where I’m from, NYC, people actually try to get stuff done in July, but it’s so terribly hot and humid usually, it’s absolute torture.
I guess I still have some of that ingrained NYC-American in me - Can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right 😀 Bark, bark! I sent Tero a query about responding to my email on July 25th, thinking that maybe he’d respond. Of course, Tero was resting and enjoying himself (I hope), and didn’t respond to me until August 14th. When he did, he wrote:
I have to say I'm sorry I have not replied before, I could not really think about this during the summer.
When I was saying it might be in more "finished" condition, the expositions will have to go to peer review soon-ish, so I'd hope the exposition presentation is clear/rich enough so that reviewers can have some comments about it.
This does not mean all the material you are working on has to be there now, but it also has to be in some way clear what is going to happen and what kind of materials will be connected to the publication in later date
We are trying to get the RUUKKU #8 issue out this year, sooner rather than later!
Cool, I thought, I’d like to get this out to this peer review stage soon too. But, I must say, I still felt like I could use a bit of feedback from the editors so I wrote Tero back on August 22nd:
Ei mitään. I understand. It’s good you didn’t reply. I hope you had a mind-clearing summer.
I’ll take a look at the exposition next week. Would you have any feedback at all about it for me either in terms of the presentation or the content?
Maybe I was expecting a bit too much in terms of editorial feedback; hard to say. Tero wrote me back on September 12th. The pace of our correspondence was not the speediest on either of our parts during these summer months. 😀
I'd like to send this to peer review fairly soon.
Apologies if I can't comment on it better now, because I can't access the exposition directly before it's been submitted again.
If there is material to be added in the future it can be explained why and how it will be so.
But this is so there would be something that can be sent to peer reviewers, as the RUUKKU review process sort of requires it.
The fact that Tero couldn’t access my submission before I submitted it was a bit of a vexing technical condition, speaking of conditions of sharing. Then again, he wrote that I could always add stuff to it in the future. There was some flexibility. In mid-September, I had a symposium to prepare for, so Tero and I agreed that the final deadline would be to submit it on September 22nd. He wrote on September 13th:
Ok, let's stretch it to next friday, but that's a final deadline for this stage :)
It’s cool that Tero likes to use smiley faces too sometimes. 😀
On the afternoon of September 22nd, I wrote Tero that I was having some child care issues, but that I would send it later the same day. In response, at 6:54PM EET, Tero wrote:
Nice to hear it's progressing. There's time to change things after review.
I would probably send it forward on monday, so please submit before then
Emails from mobile phones often have strange formatting.
Thanks to Tero, I had until Monday, the 25th of September, but I submitted it one day early on the 24th in the evening. Phew!
Just to make sure that I was totally ready for the peer reviewers, I wrote Tero on October 2nd, asking when the peer reviewers would be contacting me for a link to the video. It would just take me a second to post it on a private webpage, but I just hadn’t gotten around to that yet.
Woops!: On October 3rd, Tero wrote:
I was in the understanding the exposition was prepared for peer review, and we have been sending it to prospective reviewers.
Do you now/soon have any links to your materials? I'm sorry to say but if the material's not there the reviewers probably can't do a proper assessment of your work.
Since the pace of our sharing had been so slow, I figured it would probably take a while before a peer reviewer would contact me. I quickly posted the video and, to assure Tero that it was all ready, I wrote back the next day, October 4th, a day before my older son’s birthday:
Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering when exactly the reviewers would contact me. Now you've clarified that it will be soon.
The links are now ready for the reviewers.
As per the instructions in the exposition, they need to contact me by email and then I send them a link to a questionnaire first, after they respond to that I send them a link to the video, and then there's a questionnaire that goes along with the video. These are the conditions of sharing I've had set up in the exposition since the beginning. Still sound OK?
So now, I just had to wait for the peer reviewer to contact me… Nearly four months later, on January 24th, 2018, Tero wrote:
This has taken quite a lot of time. It has taken also quite a lot of thought and discussions between us at RUUKKU.
We are now proposing that your work for RUUKKU would be published in the issue in the form of a "voice" linked to the front page of RUUKKU, instead of a peer-reviewed RC-based exposition. The "voices" are often texts that relate to the issue call but do not present reseearch. They are conference reports, opinion pieces, polemics, transcriptions of lectures etc.
This would mean the text based elements in your work would take centre stage, and you could continue to work with it with more freedom. What was found most interesting in your work is the dialogue and relation to the RUUKKU publication call (conditions) and narrating the experience peer review process.
I think it would work very well as a "voice", whereas trying to fit it through the peer review process does not seem to work.
It's still possible to use the Research Catalogue to develop the text if you like, but it's also possible to simply write it in text format.
What would you say?
I was a bit like: WTF? 😡 😞 👎 But I didn’t say or write that, of course.
I mean, wouldn’t you be a bit miffed? I had already received a decision from the editors that my exposition was accepted for peer review and I had been waiting for months for that to happen. Our conditions of sharing all of a sudden had a spanner thrown in their works, as far I was concerned. From then on, the emails we wrote each other started getting a bit lengthier and weightier. What follows in the section below is a digest of the key points of each email starting my response to Tero on January 26th. If you’re interested in reading the particular emails, you can hover your cursor over the email dates in question, and a window with the full text of the email will appear. It'll take a lot more time and effort, I don't think you really need to do this, but if you're curious, go for it!
January 26th, 12:07PM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- I’m not clear as to the reasons why my proposal doesn’t fit into the peer review process.
- Seeing as the issue is about "conditions of sharing," it's quite appropriate not only to dialogue with Ruukku call (conditions), but also to call out to you for different "conditions" of peer review.
- My exposition is an offer to dialogue with you and to invite you to interact (intra-act) with the exposition in a process of co-creation, co-research.
- My exposition can only be complete with participation. In that sense, it can only be "peer reviewed" through participation.
- I am thematizing "traditional frameworks for sharing research" in other ways, which you invite in your submission call. These are "other terms" of sharing.
- As artistic research, in this submission and in my work, I'm focusing very much on the process of research and co-research, so the peer reviewers have been invited to become part of the process.
- I do not wish to unduly burden anyone. I would ask, please, for at least one person on the peer review panel to accept the offer in my proposal and to participate as I indicate above and as indicated in the exposition. I guess it would take about 30-60 min.
- Considering you accepted my exposition for peer review, I feel this would be fair.
- If I may say so, this kind of a co-developed, interactive exposition may be a refreshing change for (and challenge to) the RC and Ruukku.
January 26th, 2:10PM EET – Tero responds to Alex
-What you say seems well thought and justified.
- I would like the work to go through the peer review process in the way you intended it to.
- The problem is perhaps the participatory aspect does not go well through the process - and as such the peer reviewer is at loss as to what to review about the work, as it seems "incomplete". This is perhaps the primary reason why it does not seem to go well with the peer review process.
- The editors who have not seen the portion you wish to participate with (the video), are of the opinion that it might not even exist.
- I'll get back to you after I've discussed this more with the editors, stressing the point that the work ought to go through the review in a way that includes the participatory aspect.
- Understand that it may be bit more to ask than usually, as reviewers are often hard to find even as it is.
January 26th, 2:36PM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- Since I wrote the video was ready (October 2017), I've been waiting for the editors to contact me to ask for the questions, video link, and go through the process. The video is ready, and will only truly exist once contact is made.
- I suggest you contact some people who know my work for peer reviewer suggestions.
- I’m happy to volunteer to peer review for Ruukku at some point.
- Have a nice weekend. 😀
January 31st, 9:04AM EET – Tero responds to Alex
- I talked with the editors. We’ll attempt to put this exposition in peer review again.
- I understand that following the instructions of the submission, the peer review will reach the interactive part.
- But, can you summarize in a few points what’s expected of the reviewer?
January 31st, 11:04AM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- Here’s the info you asked for: This project is both a reflection of the research and part of the research, the reviewer will need to oscillate between roles, which we also do in our research: From a player (performer, co-creator) to an audience member (observer, reviewer). In this way, the reviewer negotiates a back-and-forth between being in the situation (immersion) and being out of it (distance). We believe that in artistic research, or at least in our approach, it is important to spontaneously negotiate participation-research on this spectrum of involvement-distance.
- What is hoped and asked of the reviewer is to begin by reading the exposition and, if they would like to participate further, they:
1) Contact me for a link to a questionnaire in which they will be asked about performative well-being, specifically about their experiences in performance situations.
2) After that is completed, they'll get a link to a video of one of our research participants practicing (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner.
3) They'll watch the video and answer some questions about their watching experience.
4) I will thank them.
- If someone does not want to participate in this way, I do not think they can review the exposition because they will not have experienced it.
- We hope that any review will be supportively critical, which I understand as giving feedback that contributes to the development of the research and to the people involved in the research. In fact, since they participate in the research, they will also be implicated in the research too. How did/do they negotiate that participation from the role of a "reviewer"? How was the destabilization of their roles frustrating? Fruitful? How did their participation-reviewing co-create and change "conditions of sharing"?
February 5th, 11:17AM EET – Tero responds to Alex
- OK, but there’s one more issue: ought to be one-directionally anonymous (“single blind”), so that you do not know the names of the researchers/reviewers.
- So they can’t contact you for the links. Is it possible to send this link to me, and I would pass it on to the reviewer?
February 5th, 11:34AM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- One of the conditions of this process, was to "deobjectivize" it, to implicate the reviewer in the process of research and communication with me. This comes from one of my concerns with so-called "objectivity" and a tendency of artistic research to copy this kind of a "scientific" research approach. So the effect of keeping it anonymous during the process seems to be clinging to some scientific standards of objectivity. Or is there something important to it for those of us doing artistic research?
- To me, artistic research involves subjectivity, participation. Also, the fact that I would know the person during the process makes it a new kind of situation they need to negotiate. This is intentional. They need to negotiate the "subjective" position and an "objective" one. And the research gets personal. How will that fact that I know who they are affect their review?
- Would you kindly clarify why it needs to be "single blind"? Why is that important to you or Ruukuku? Is the potential peer reviewer uncomfortable communicating with me directly?
-I'll think about your offer too.
-Thanks for your time. 😀
February 5th, 2:36PM EET – Tero responds to Alex
- The exposition needs to be "in review" because of the way the system is made, the persons invited as reviewers would not be able to look at the exposition if it is returned to you.
- I know this can be a bit clumsy in a work such as this. I've not come across a very good way to make the simultaneous editing and review possible. From here arises a technical condition that arises from how the Research Catalogue is made and how it is supposed to facilitate review.
- Due to your argumentation, to me the best reason to submit the work to peer-review was that the work becomes positioned in an interesting way-to reveal about and to interact with the idea of the review process itself, through an “artistic research” approach.
- However, if the reviewers cannot function as reviewers as much as possible defined by the framework of RUUKKU, the experiment in my opinion becomes less interesting.
- Re:"role". Reviewers become such through a) having relevant expertise for the subject matter of the research b) approach work through anonymity and with c) the acceptance of the appointed task of looking through the work with the review task in mind, as defined by the peer review form.
- Although it is by this definition possible for the reviewer to perform in a reviewer role without the single-blind orientation, it is still an important part of the role in the RUUKKU review framework. This means to me that the reviewers need, at least in principle, be able to first approach the work behind anonymity.
- Therefore I'd prefer if the starting point was more closer to the RUUKKU reviewer position (i.e. single-blind anonymity) as that would help supply the exposition with the tension that it in my mind seems to promise.
February 6th, 9:23AM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- Your logic is sound.
- I would request, please, for the exposition to be reactivated or reopened, so I can develop it after the peer review instead of creating a new exposition from scratch.
- Can the peer reviewer be open to communicating with me directly to answer a few follow-up questions after the peer review is complete? In this way, the anonymity is retained during the review and we maintain an openness to collaboration with the peer reviewer after the review.
- If the above’s alright with you, I’ll send you a link to a questionnaire before they watch the video. This will be anonymous. I’ll also send you a new link to the video with a password and a link to a questionnaire to fill out after watching the video. This will also be anonymous too.
February 8th, 11:50AM EET - Tero responds to Alex
- OK, but let’s leave the question of anonymity and participation after the peer reviewer up to the peer reviewer.
- Please send me the links.
February 8th, 1:11PM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- Thanks, sounds good.
- I have a grant application due tomorrow. I’ll make the links anonymous and send them to you Monday afternoon.
Then, I sent a link to the video with the password the same day to Tero so that he could rest assured that the video was still there and ready for the peer reviewer. On February 12th, I realized that my rights to use the University of Arts computer system, which I had been using for the surveys, was to expire at the end of the month. I wouldn’t have access to it anymore, since my visiting researcher status would end then. My privileged position as a visiting researcher was soon to end. My postdoc grant period was almost over! I would now be unemployed.
In the next few days, I suggested using another survey program, Tero agreed, and I sent him a link for the first survey on February 13th. Now we were ready for the peer review (again)!
In the next two weeks I checked back with Tero to see if anyone one was ready to peer review it. Alas, no, Tero wrote. The only slightly dramatic development was on February 21st, when Tero wrote, “…there’s been talk your exposition could be moved to a further Ruukku issue – However, we’d certainly prefer it to be part of the current one, in the theme it clearly belongs.”
I was like: 😮 😮 😮 !!!
I wrote back right away saying that I really did hope this submission would make it into this issue and that I’d been waiting quite a long time for the peer review (since October of 2017). Now, I didn’t want to sound like I’m complaining or anything, but this process of sharing had been taking quite a long time to get to it’s goal of peer review and finally publishing the submission. On the other hand, I thought, “Hey, but that goal, in some sense, has become a secondary one, hasn’t it? What seems to be most interesting is this improvised dialogue Tero and I have been having. I’ll be patient and wait.”
Now on April 6th is when there was a bit of a pre-climax to the back-and-forth Tero and I had been having. At the occasion of my friend Otso Huopaniemi’s doctoral defense, specifically during the reception afterwards, Tero and I bumped into each other. We began talking. I enjoy talking to Tero. Somehow, I feel we have a shared sense of humor. There was a bit of small talk and such, mostly about the defense, which both of us thought was interesting, although I thought it could have been paced a bit better with a break somewhere in the middle. But hey, I wasn’t running the show, was I? Right?
After a bit of this small talk, Tero mentioned to me that a – or a number? – I don’t remember if it was singular or plural, but let’s go with plural since it makes it sound more serious – a number of prospective peer reviewers had not been interested in reviewing the work, chose not to review it because, as they had telegraphed to Tero, the work “takes more than it gives.” 😡 😢 😡 ???? Remember, this was before this step, 1.5, was written.
I was really quite surprised to hear this, especially considering I mention in the text above the importance of “giving our research to you, and you giving to our research.” I also found it an odd kind of synchronicity that Mika Elo, during his critique of Otso’s fantastic dissertation, discussed the distinction between research being generative and generous.
When Tero relayed this critique to me, I felt it both interesting and fantabulously perplexing – what gives? Responding to a brief questionnaire, watching a short video of improvising, and then answering some questions was somehow “taking more than it gives?” I didn’t get it. Tero suggested I take the comments seriously. He said he would send me an email about it soon. I said alright. We were at a festive event, so I didn’t give it much thought anymore. But then the issue followed me to Otso reception later in the evening…
I was sitting at a table drinking red wine at Villa Kivi, a lovely old wooden mansion not far from the Central Railway station in Helsinki. I turned to one of the other people at the table – it wasn’t Tero – and I said to them, “May I ask you a question?” The person replied, “Yes, as long as you don’t ask me to peer review your Ruukku submission.” I was a bit shocked, to say the least, but I just shook it off and said, “Umm…no…I just wanted to ask you what kind of art you do…” Pretty crazy that this happened just few hours after Tero had told me about the feelings of some potential peer reviewers, don’t you think? In any case, I didn’t give these incidents a second thought then, but then the proper climax – at least thus far in the Tero-Alex improvisation – happened four days later, when Tero sent me the promised email about the prospective peer reviewers’ critical comments. Here’s the email in full:
April 10th, 11:56AM EET - Tero to Alex
I have for the moment returned the exposition for you to edit, in case you want to add something now.
There will still be some time before a reviewer can go through the work.
The critiques already from prospective reviewers was that the work seems to "take before it gives", indicating they do not want to participate in a work that takes more of their time and seems less interesting for them, based on what they have seen so far.
The reviewers are not inclined to see the participative/interactive parts as something that adds to the reviewing experience (=giving), instead these portions may be seen as a chore or something undesirable. (=taking)
This may have something to do with how the idea is presented rather than the task itself, but I'd still take it rather seriously.
So, before the review you might still:
-Reconsider the abstract/text that accompanies your work
-Possibly develop the framing text overall and its presentation
-If there are some elements you might want to add, such as more about this correspondence it might be done already by now.
So what did I do? I put off responding to it. I had other obligations. Plus, I had to spend some time processing all this. And then it all came to a head. It all came to a heart. This back and forth, these random comments at social events, the anonymous critiques, just reached a boiling point in me and I realized I was quite angry. What I thought would be a simple, playful attempt, on one hand, to jam off of Ruukku’s conditions of sharing, and, on another, engage the audience – people like you – in our research by watching a video of our improvisational research method, had turned out to be a struggle, where I ended up being criticized by nameless folks, by these prospective peer reviewers. On the other hand, what did I expect by engaging Ruukku 8’s call in such a provocative way?
Well, I’m sure you know what happens when emotions and email mix, right? Yes, my replay was lengthy and passionate. Below are the points I find salient now. You can hover your cursor over the email date for a full text of the email. Remember: It’s on the longer side of things, so I suggest you just go with the digest below. 😀
April 23rd, 1:02PM EET - Alex responds to Tero
- I find it unfair to respond to anonymous not-quite peer-reviewers. Please forward this email to them.
- This complicated communication and relationship with prospective peer-reviewers is showing some of the constraints and limits of Ruukku as an artistic platform, and its conditions of sharing.
- The prospective peer reviewers make unfounded assumptions: They say it will take more time than other texts, when I don’t think it will.
- It is clearly the prerogative and freedom of the artist to set conditions of sharing, even as this is always done with other partners (e.g., venues, producers, etc.) in the process. Is asking a “peer reviewer,” who is an audience member in my research process, to watch a short video of someone doing that research process, somehow beyond what many recognized scholars see as part-in-parcel of artistic research?
- I believe their resistance to being involved in this project is because of its participatory peer-review character, which is unconventional for traditional peer-reviewing.
- In this sense, I feel that conventional notions of “objectivity” are highly problematic for peer-reviewing artistic research in general, and mine in particular.
- The personal aspect of (my) artistic research is something that helps distinguish it from “scientific” research and claims to “objectivity.” Why not question and struggle with these conditions of sharing?
- The peer reviewers state it “takes more than it gives” without even going through the process, and without giving specific examples of why they feel this. This is unfair. How does it take more than it gives?
- The prospective reviewers’ response is analogous to “saying no” in improvisation. They assume and prejudge before they actually go through the experience. If a “no” comes into the improvisation, then it is the responsibility of that “no-sayer” to provide a new offer, a “better” suggestion, to participate in building the situation from their perspective. They did not do that.
- I will take the suggestions in your email and consider developing my submission.
- Thanks for your time and energy. Fine conditions for sharing we’ve worked out together through participation and interaction, I say! 😀
Well, Tero wrote me a very understanding, sensitive reply. Again, you can hold your cursor over the date for the full email. I’d say the main points are:
April 26th, 12:36AM EET - Tero responds to Alex
- I’d like to clarify: I find myself in a position of potentially mis-representing various standpoints, such as your work to other editors and the reviewers, the reviewers’ positions to you and so on. I’m to blame for any antagonism, where there may have been no reason for it.
- At the beginning, editors thought your work relevant to theme and interesting enough for peer review. You were late sometimes, but that happens and it wasn’t a big problem.
- This issue has not yet been published for other reasons than your work. But, in the original timeline, there was a “rumour” that your submission might be to stretch the Ruukku conditions of sharing to a breaking point, and that there may not be a video.
- Maybe I shouldn’t have relayed the prospective peer-reviewer comments to you. The limited glimpse made them seem like an “enemy” and they are not. I was more transparent than usual because of the nature of your work and the theme of this issue.
- Reviewers are busy. Maybe they just didn’t have the time for this but didn’t say it outright.
- I’m siding with the reviewers that they can have the right to see something more “finished” rather than participate in the formation of the work. They may see no novelty or interesting aspects in the participatory part.
- Reviewers are generally well-versed in artistic research, though may be more familiar with a traditional journal review process.
- Critique of ongoing work is a common thing in teaching and researchers, so to participate in the formation of a work is not an alien concept. If some refuse to, I turn to you as it may have to do with how your work is presented.
- I don’t feel you need to respond to the potential peer reviewers’ responses. The relayed comments are my pickings, not incomplete peer reviews. This might have worked. It might have created confusion and misunderstanding.
- There’s a reviewer waiting to look at your work. Please make your changes soon.
- I also think this dialogue has been quite interesting and has contributed to my thinking about Ruukku and artistic research.
I then wrote an excessively long email to Tero, and also sent it to Leena and Mika. I failed in sending it to Mika initially because I sent it to “miko.elo” by mistake so it bounced back. Again, another silly mistake!😊 😀
It’s a long email, but its substance concludes Step 1.5. I have used potions of it in the conclusion below. You can read it here (April 30th, 3:21PM EET - Alex responds to Tero) if you’re interested, but really, most of the good stuff is below in the Conclusion for Step 1.5:
Conclusion for Step 1.5
While composing the email, I began to understand that this process had not only been rewarding and difficult for me, but also for the other people involved as well. I thought of the potential, not-quite peer reviewers and what they said. I thought of the “just don’t ask me to read your submission” – incident. I thought of the fact that the editorial board had imagined that my video didn’t even exist and that I was trying to stretch the conditions of Ruukku to a breaking point. I imagined that it may have been difficult for all these people. I said to myself: “This process has been a struggle!”
A dramatic struggle. A dramatic, agonistic struggle.
Agonistic, not antagonistic. Here, I bring in the work of Chantal Mouffe, who discusses the difference between agonism and antagonism:
The difference is that in the case of agonism we are not faced with a friend/enemy relation but one between adversaries who recognize the legitimacy of their opponent […] adversaries nevertheless accept a set of rules according to which their conflict is going to be regulated. What exists between adversaries is, so to speak, a conflictual consensus – they agree about the ethico-political principles which organize their political association but disagree about the interpretation of these principles. (Mouffe 2013, 138-9)
Simply put, we have all been playing in the same match, but we are, to some degree, on different teams, it seems. The editors on the side of those who initially set and maintain the conditions of sharing. I as the one who has been given an offer to respond to them. To this dramatis personae, we may add the audience. First, there’s the non-peer reviewing audience. Hi! And then there’s the peer-reviewing audience. Hi to you!
Since this submission is now going to peer review (again), allow me to address them briefly in the following:
Dear peer reviewer person,
Your role as peer reviewer in this agonistic struggle, in this improvisation, your participation in this research, is particularly current right now. How will you perform your role as a peer reviewer in this match? How will you at once balance the “conditions of sharing” as set out by the peer-reviewing instructions given to you by the editors, the conditions I have proposed, and your own freedom? How will you participate in questioning, challenging, supporting, the conditions of sharing of Ruukku 8, of this exposition, of “our” research of and through performative well-being? Will you accept the values I propose for our research? Will you bring your own? How will you do so in a way that explores, practices, your individual performative well-being as well as the performative well-being of your partners in this project?
In this match, we are bound by the ethical-political principles of academia, art, artistic research, Finnish society, and so on. Yet, my wish and proposal to us all is that we may also change and transform these conditions together while respecting each other personally and professionally. It is this struggle that binds us together. This is a fascinating and dramatic dynamic, isn’t it?
Let me reiterate that my position from the beginning has been to dialogue with the conditions inspired by some of Ruukku 8’s very own themes: like provocation, excess, limited resources, absurd argumentation, populism, conspiracy, amateurism, but always in a way that is deeply infused with a respect for the journal, the community, and with each of the editors as people. And with you, the audience, even thought I don’t know who you are yet.
I do regret if anyone has suffered due to this improvisational process. I do not regret if this process, in its unconventional in its interactive and participatory improvisational form, has ruffled the feathers of Ruukku’s conditions of sharing. As it should have. I do not apologize for that. I believe that respectful challenge to power is something we need more of in our community and our community versus controlling powers “above us” (like deciders of educational budgets) both in art and in life.
I will continue to advocate my own efforts to play with Ruukku’s themes and conditions in a respectful, improvisatory, yet questioning manner, and would advocate the efforts of others in our community to examine practices and practice architectures that ruffle their feathers, as well as the individuals who participate in them (which is all of us and those “above” us), especially when they are not democratic. We ruffle not just for the sake of ruffling, although that can be fun, but with an eye on making the conditions we create and that create us more just, reasonable, and sustainable. I believe this is a collective undertaking.
To conclude the conclusion, I would like to send a very special, big thanks to Tero for his participation, feedback and support. 😀 Without him, this submission would have been a lot less dramatic. Yes, the text would have been a bit shorter, 😉 but a lot less dramatic. Kiitos!
Thanks to the editorial board for supporting this submission.
Thanks to you, audience-participant, for spending time reading this.
Oh, and if you’re the peer reviewer, thanks in advance for improvising these conditions of sharing with us. You’re next on stage, and that ain’t always an easy place to be. Break a leg! 👍
And now, you are welcome to proceed to the differently interactive, participatory parts of this submission…
Step 2: Info - You can read more about this exposition, its goals, as well as a little something about our research project all in the context of "conditions" and "sharing". It’s a lot less interactive than this step, a bit dry, I’d say. It’s also from June 2017, so it’s a wee-bit dated. But, still, the info might be “good” to know. To go to Step 2, please click here. Otherwise, if you’d like to skip this and head to the video viewing, please go to Step 3.
Step 3: The “Main” Event - This step is the “main” research event in this exposition.
If you choose to participate, you will watch one person, named Ida, practicing (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner (IwIP), the principal artistic research methods in our research project. You will then respond to some questions about that event.
F.Y.I., IwIP is a solo, open improvisation discipline. You can read a brief summary of IwIP at Step 3 at the bottom of the page. Ida is a long-time practitioner of IwIP. She didn’t want her last name to be used, so she’s just going by Ida.
If you are interested in learning a bit more about Step 3, or if already know you’d like to participate in this research event by taking this step with us, please click here.
Step 4: Finale – I’ll read the responses from you and share them with Ida. I’ll ask her if she would like to respond to some of them. I will respond to some of them as well. Ida and I will talk about how much of this material we would like to share publically on the RC. If you participate by viewing the video and by responding to our questions, we will bring you into the discussion about the conditions of sharing. Then, if there’s a collective will to share the results of our research publically, we will do so on the RC.
Let’s see what becomes of our conditions of sharing.
Oh, and in case you don’t take any further steps with us, thanks for your attention and cooperation!
Be well! (And please wonder what being well means…)
Text submitted by Alexander Komlosi
First submitted to Tero June 14th, 2017, Helsinki
Second version submitted through the RC on September 22nd, 2017, Helsinki
Third version submitted through the RC Spring of 2018, Helsinki
Fourth version submitted through the RC Summer of 2018, Helsinki
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Chandler, David. & Reid, Julian. (2016) The Neoliberal Subject: Resilience, Adaptation and Vulnerability. NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Heikkinen, Tero. (2017-2018) Email correspondence with Alexander Komlosi.
Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., Nixon, R. (2014) The Action Research Planner: Doing Critical Participatory Action Research. London: Springer.
Kirkkopelto, Esa. (2015) “Artistic Research as Institutional Practice” / “Konstnärlig forskning som institutionell praktik”, From Arts College to University, Yearbook on Artistic Research 2015 / Från konstnärlig högskola till universitet, Årsbok 2015, Swedish Research Council / Vetenskapsrådet, 41−53.
Komlosi, Alexander. (2017-2018) Email correspondence with Tero Heikkinen.
Mouffe, Chantal. (2013) Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically. London: Verso.
Reviewer, Peer. (2018) (probably) (Title unknown). Ruukku 8: University of Arts in Helsinki.