Framed dialoguing is an aesthetic research practice that I began to develop as an alternative to lecturing, that is, as an alternative to giving a lecture in contexts such as conferences or master classes. It consists of two phases that I denominate “diagramming” and “dialoguing.” In the stage of “diagramming,” I approach the object of inquiry—like in the case of the exploratory essay writing, a concept or a state of affairs—progressively, through the realization of an open-ended, text-based diagram. The process of diagramming departs neither from any pre-conceived and stable idea nor from any formal principles. Instead, it starts with some fragmentary or incomplete intuitions. I diagram slowly—this is a practice of very slow aesthetic observation—on a notebook, with a pencil and in various short but highly concentrated sessions of work. By doing so, I observe, thoroughly, meticulously, aesthetically—that is, in aesthetic conduct—the object of inquiry. This first phase consists, thus, of thinking the object of research aesthetically through diagraming. It consists of mobilizing my cognitive agencies in intimate touch—in close and deep interaction: in aesthetic interaction—with the agencies of the notebook, the pencil, the organized linguistic signs that emerge step-by-step, their distribution on the paper’s surface, the way they relate to one another, and the agencies of the architectural environment and the situation in which I—actually we, all of these agents—diagram.   

The second phase, the phase of “dialoguing,” consists of a collective (re)enactment of the diagram. Together with the participants—the co-practitioners, instead of the “audience”—in a (semi)public session of framed dialogue, I begin by briefly explaining the practice we are about to realize. I proceeded in this way: Firstly, I present the issue we are going to tackle; then, I explain that I have been diagramming on—better with—this issue; next, I show the diagram—not in detail, but just for my co-practitioners to have an image of the general form of the diagram; at that point, I explain that I’m going to begin to navigate the diagram—that is, to talk in interaction with the diagram; finally, I invite my co-practitioners to not only listen—“this is not a lecture!”—but, as soon as the feel like, to begin to talk. I then begin to read the diagram, or to be more precise, to think the subject-matter at stake through a reenactment of the diagram using my voice, and sooner than later, maybe after inviting a couple of times my co-practitioners to intervene—to ask questions, to say what they think, to open up alternative perspectives—we enter into a dialogue. The dialogue ends either when the collective energy is exhausted or when we achieve the time limit set in advance. Through this process, my aim is not to come to collective or individual conclusions—although it would be fine if it happened. As is the case in all of my aesthetic practices of research, my aim is to (co-)generate, (co-)organize and offer (to one another) conditions for an open-ended development of the tackled subject-matter in new fields of intelligibility.

Video recording of the framed dialogue on “not-knowing” that took place at the Research Pavilion #3 (Venice, June 13 2019) in the framework of  “lecturing as phenomenological research practice”, an experiment that Juha Himanka and I conceived and realized as part of the research cell Through Phenomena Themselves.


Exploratory essay writing is an aesthetic practice of very slow observation. Objects of observation through this practice are single concepts or a state of affairs, such as “the possibility to decide”, “practice”, “conditioning” or “aesthetic research” (see the list of my exploratory essays below). The field of shared agencies enabled by practicing aesthetically, that is, by specifying aesthetic conduct through a practice, allows in case of this specific practice for a mobilization of the agencies of writing a text and, almost simultaneously, of the written text. The writer, hence, is not the only agent at work. On the one hand, the textual morphology, syntax and semantics as well as the inscription and distribution on a surface of the signs that configure and organize the unfolding text and, on the other hand, all actions of the writing body in a specific environment are understood and performed as active enabling conditions—as agencies—for the emergence of an essay. Accordingly, I understand the practice of writing an exploratory essay as an embodied, situated and radically open-ended process of sense-making—or more precisely, as an embodied, situated and open-ended intervention in the on-going process of sense-making—through the production of organized linguistic signs. A process that, as introduced before, is not made or controlled by a single agent—the writer—but that emerges out of interconnected actions in a field of shared agencies. Approaching the outcome of this process in the same way I approach the process of its arising, I understand the reading of an essay, as an intervention in the network of processes of sense-making that enables and sustains the constitution of the concept or state of affairs observed. This implies to consider the essay—the text to be read, or better, the textual agent of the process of reading—as an efficient artifact to enable a process of very slow aesthetic observation. Accordingly, reading an exploratory essay can be performed as well as an aesthetic practice of very slow aesthetic observation.

Like all my other practices of aesthetic research, I consider that the cognitive function of writing and/or reading an exploratory essay is not to produce knowledge, which in this case could mean the production of a description or an explanation of the observed concept or state of affairs, but instead to destabilize the concepts or states of affairs observed. This presupposes that the observed entities have a more or less stable, clear, detailed and explicit meaning for the writer and for the reader when they begin to write and read, and that this meaning can be destabilized through the processes of writing and/or reading enabled by this practice. For this destabilization to be possible, a necessary operation to be performed before beginning to write can be named “epoché.” This phenomenological term designates the act of bracketing or neutralizing the validity of the concept or state of affairs to be observed. That means to temporarily suspend the meaning of the object of observation for the observer, that is, to address this object anew, as if it would be a barely known object—as if it would be an object encountered for the first time, an object that would not be conditioned by previous experiences of the observer. To depart from this quasi-neutral position of observation allows for a very slow, patient, attentive and receptive process of observation through writing—and reading—that leads, sign by sign, gesture by gesture, to a destabilization of the bracketed object, that is, a kind of realization or consolidation of the provisory and operative suspension enabled through epoché. As a result, the concept or state of affairs observed becomes open, available, at one’s disposal for new, unforeseen and maybe unforeseeable phenomenal constitutions—for new significances for the observer.  

Currently, I am extending this practice in two different ways. The first consists in the activation of already written essays through public readings. This can take place as interventions in different contexts or as lectures at conferences or similar events—which can be understood as interventions as well. The extension of the practice of writing through public readings opens up a new domain of agencies: the articulation of the text through my voice, my physical interaction with an audience—better, with co-practitioners—, the structure and organization of the spatial and objectual surroundings in which the reading takes place. These agencies are identified and activated in continuity with those mobilized through writing. Thus, my readings attain the same ultimate goal as my writing: to provide conditions of possibility for a concept or a state of affairs to be destabilized, that is, to disclose new fields for their intelligibility

The second line of development consists in writing exploratory essays in public, together with other practitioners. The first realization of this extension of my practice took place in the framework of …Through Practices, a three-day symposium in which different aesthetic practices coexisted in one space and timeframe. In this context a new essay was written at different spots of this space, projecting the text onto different surfaces while writing, and allowing two further practitioners to write simultaneously with me.


Background material: 

Auster, Paul (2004): Collected Poems. Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press

de Montaigne, Michel (1991): The essays. London: Penguin Books.

Dillon, Brian (2018): Essayism, New York: New York Review Books

This is the chronological list of my exploratory essay:


“On ‘decide’. Acousmatic Lectures as Conditions of Participation”, unpublished and unfinished, read publicly in the context of the conference “Acousmatic as a Laboratory” (Leuphana University, Lüneburg, November 15-16 2019). 

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“on practice” (with different contributors). In Alex Arteaga and Heike Langsdorf (eds.): …Through Practices. Ghent: APE (in print).



“Disclosing an architectural object. Settlement 14”, unpublished, read publicly in the context of PERFORMATIK 19 at KANAL - Centre Pompidou (Brussels, March 22-23 2019).

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“Auditory diagraming as an aesthetic/poetic practice?”, section of: “Auditory Diagramming: a research/design practice”. In Michael Bull and Marcel Cobussen: Sonic Methods. New York: Bloomsbury Academic (in print).



“Aesthetic Research”. In Alex Arteaga (ed.): Architectures of Embodiment: Disclosing Fields of Intelligibility. Zurich & Berlin: Diaphanes (in print).



“On conditioning—through practices”. In: Alex Arteaga and Heike Langsdorf (eds.): Thinking Conditioning through Practice. Ghent: APE. 2018.


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“2”, in: Arteaga, Alex: transient senses. Barcelona: RM. 2016.



“1”, in: Arteaga, Alex: transient senses. Barcelona: RM. 2016.

After having performed the practice of framed dialoguing several times, I consider it to be an efficient practice of aesthetic research. In contrast to a lecture in which knowledge is disseminated, that is, an explanatory or descriptive account on a subject-matter formalized through certain practices of writing is transmitted to a group of listeners by the use of voice, a framed dialogue mobilizes another, I would say bigger set of agencies—the agencies of diagraming (see above) and the agencies of dialoguing (articulated voices and their interaction, the positions and movements of speaking and listening bodies, the architectural space)—in order to generate and dispose conditions for a possible transformation of the treated concepts and/or estates of affairs to happen. If the practice works—that is, if the emerging dynamics of the dialogue enable all the agencies to be mobilized in a confluent waycollective and individual displacements in the relationships between practitioners and their common subject-matter might take place. I consider that in the case of framed dialoguing, the extension of the field of shared agencies and their mobilization through a dialogue framed by the reenactment of a previously realized diagram increase the potentiality for destabilization and consequent transformation of significances—of sense and, maybe, meanings—to take place.



I considered all the practices presented in this exposition (exploratory essay writing, practices of notation, framed dialoguing and the reading circle) to be aesthetic practices of very slow observation or, to be more precise, research practices of very slow aesthetic observation. I consider these research practices—these systematized networks of cognitive actions—to be aesthetic because they, in particular ways, specify aesthetic conduct: a variety of coupling between bodies and their environments based principally on the performance of sensorimotor and emotional skills. In doing so, these practices focus and therefore intensify the kind of receptivity and awareness that aesthetic conduct enables in a threefold way: They focus receptivity and awareness on the agencies of the object of research, on the agencies of the media in and with which the practices are performed, and on the agencies of the environments in and with which these practices take place. On this basis, “observation”—aesthetic observation—is not understood here as the scrutiny of a given and passive object performed exclusively by the observer, but instead as the action of becoming aware of the emerging phenomena co-constituted by the mentioned foci of awareness and receptivity and the mobilization of the referred agencies. Accordingly, aesthetic observation is conceived and practiced as a variety of interaction, that is, as the intertwinement of mutually conditioning actions performed simultaneously by different actors: the practitioners—the ones who are observing—the objects of observation, the media and the practices of observation, the elements configuring the surroundings in which the observation takes place and the emerging environment with which the observation comes to be. The last two sentences show that, on the one hand, the set of agencies at work is not reduced to the observer’s skills—any form of aesthetic conduct develops in the field of shared agencies that it enables—and that an operative distribution of these agencies substitutes the implicit and fundamental hierarchy based on the duality subject-object. On the other hand, and in coherence with the operative distribution of agencies, only the practitioners are consider here to be observers. Regardless if some objects of observation are able to observe and if they are performing this ability while being observed by the practitioners, from the perspective of the description of the practice—the perspective of someone, a third person, describing the practice—these objects are not considered here as observers. 

Aesthetic observation is performed through the different practices presented in this exposition in different ways. In the case of the practices of notation, observation takes place through the production of organized signs in correlation with the observed entities: contingent agencies; in the case of writing exploratory essays, the process of aesthetic writing realizes the observation of the concept or state of affairs at stake; in the case of the framed dialogue, observation takes place first through the realization of a diagram and afterwards through the reenactment of the diagram in dialogue with co-practitioners; and in the case of the reading circle, the entity to be disclosed is observed by the mobilization of a text’s agencies through a process of ruled collective reading and dialoguing

The performance of all these practices is conditioned by one common constitutive aspect: slowness. The complexity of the system of agencies at work and the observer’s receptivity and awareness—two specific elements of this complex and dynamic system of agencies—require a very slow pace in order to make it possible to become aware of the emerging phenomena, that is, to perceive, sense, feel what is happening through a specific practice of observation. The richness of the emerging phenomena is, potentially, unlimited, and only if the practitioners proceed extremely carefully, attentively, meticulously, will they be able to notice it—to welcome it.


I consider aesthetic practices of very slow observation—or, if you prefer, practices of very slow aesthetic observation—to be aesthetic research practices. The kind of observation that these practices enable allows for the specific kind of transformation of the inquired subject-matter that characterizes to practice in aesthetic conduct. The issues observed through aesthetic practices—if the performance of the practices is successful—lose their given phenomenal consistency, allowing consequently for the development of new processes of phenomenal constitution. That means that the observed objects of research, once destabilized, can be addressed in a new light—in new fields of intelligibility. Consequently, the domain of significances, that is, the significances that the inquired issue can possibly acquire for the observer, can be extended. On this basis, practices of very slow observation present, show the examined subject-matter in a way that allows for new, unpredicted and maybe unpredictable stabilizations, that is, phenomenal constitutions or in another words, presences of the inquired object with a transformed meaning and form.


The aesthetic research practices that I present in this exposition are conceived and practiced in the framework of the ecology of cognitive practices that they configure in coexistence with practices—and their results—developed in another sphere of research: philosophical phenomenology. In this section I clarify the components and their mutual relationships that enable this ecology—this system of research practices.

To begin, I am addressing the relationship between outcomes of philosophical phenomenological research practices and my aesthetic practices of very slow observation. In contrast to aesthetic research practices, I consider philosophical phenomenological research practices to produce outcomes. Accordingly, the results of the performance of these practices are products: objectness entities differentiated from the practitioners, means and process that generate them—processes that are traceable and repeatable: they are processes of production. I consider that philosophical phenomenological practices generate two kinds of results: firstly, and more fundamentally, descriptions of the inquired phenomena and secondly, concepts or conceptual artifacts: general and abstract accounts on the researched subject-matters, that is, theories. In a narrow sense, I posit that only the first outcomes—descriptions—are genuinely phenomenological, that is, results of phenomenological practices. The second ones—concepts and theories—are brought about through other, non-phenomenological but philosophical practices, based on logical operationsinduction, deduction and abduction—relating both to phenomenological descriptions and to consolidated philosophical knowledge. There is probably no sphere of research in which only the performance of practices is limited to those conceived in the strict terms that define this sphere. If this would be the case, every research process would take place as and by virtue of an ecology of cognitive practices. Coming back to the specific issue of this section, the aesthetic research practices I present in this exposition take some conceptual results of philosophical phenomenological practices as conceptual framework for their conception and performance. A detailed explanation of all these concepts would exceed the frame of this section. Nevertheless, I am going to briefly clarify two more fundamental concepts that frame my aesthetic practices of very slow observation: phenomenon and constitution. I depart from a primary understanding of “phenomenon” as the presence of a thing or a state of affairs for someone. Therefore, a phenomenon is an appearance, not in the sense of “the appearance (or aspect) of something” but of something-as-appearance, or better, something-as-it-appears-for-someone. The relationship between the appearance or presence of something and the thing that appears is highly controversial in the context of the theory of phenomenology—which is not necessarily developed through phenomenological practices and therefore is not phenomenology. Even a summary of the different positions would again exceed the scope of this exposition. In my work I suspend this controversy and operate with aesthetic phenomena, that is, with the presence of the inquired subject-matter that appears through aesthetic practices as the medium of research: Aesthetic phenomenology is research through phenomena by means of aesthetic practices.

Departing from this very basic outline of the concept of phenomenon, the question of its constitution is fundamental for my concept of aesthetic phenomenology and, furthermore, for the ecology of cognitive practices configured by aesthetic and philosophical practices of research through phenomena. As presence, a phenomenon, although apparently given, that is, existing in and for itself, comes to be. A phenomenon appears, acquires stability, is subject to change, disappears and might reappear. A phenomenon, thus, is a dynamic entity. Moreover, a phenomenon comes to (phenomenal) life—is constituted—by its so-called “correlates”: objective (the thing or state of affairs that appear) and subjective (the subject to which it appears) correlates. A phenomenon is co-constituted and, therefore, is a dynamic and radically relational entity. The attribution of agency to the objective correlate is also controversial among scholars of phenomenology—who are not necessarily phenomenologists—but it is essential for the practices I present here and furthermore for the connection I aim to establish between phenomenology and aesthetics. I depart, thusly, from the assumption that both subjective and objective correlates of a phenomenon are endowed with agency, that is, are agents actively involved in the coming to be of a phenomenon

After succinctly outlining these two phenomenological concepts, which are fundamental in the ecology of cognitive practices I am elucidating here, it is important to clarify the kind of relationship I establish between them and my aesthetic research practices. This relationship does not respond to the operation of “applying”. I do not “apply” these concepts “into practice”—I do not apply “theory into practice” (furthermore I do not think that this operation is possible at all). The concepts I outlined and the conceptual network in which they are embedded, function as a fundamental all-over hypothesis for the conception and performance of my aesthetic research practices. They underlay these practices as a fundamental as-if: they configure the heuristic frame for the world in and to which my aesthetic practices take place. To exemplify this relationship I briefly describe a simple case. Only if I understand a phenomenon, for example “practice”, as not given and consequently as not endowed with a fix and unalterable meaning, it is possible to perform the writing of an exploratory essay suspending the temporary meaning with or better as which it appears to me at the beginning of the writing process and observe this phenomenon aesthetically by writing, as a way of intervening in an open-ended process of new phenomenal constitution or, to be more precise, of the destabilization of the sedimented phenomena at stake in order for it to be co-constituted anew.        


I am going to address now another aspect of the ecology of research practices that I am analyzing here, an aspect that I consider to be even more relevant: the relationship between phenomena-oriented aesthetic and philosophical practices. The research ecology that they configure is focussed on one segment of the network of phenomenal processes: the phenomenal constitution, that is, the processes involved in the coming to be of a phenomenon. These processes encompass not only the phenomenon in itself but also a meshwork of pre- and proto-phenomenal dynamics, or in other words, a complex set of dynamic and relational conditions that enable a specific phenomenon to emerge. In this regard, and as one of the outcomes of this ecology of research practices, I postulate a new conceptualization of the concept of epoché. This concept was introduced by Husserl as the operation of bracketing the phenomenon to be scrutinized in order to pass from a naive or natural attitude to a reflexive or phenomenological attitude in regard to the inquired phenomenon. For Husserl, this change of attitude was a necessary condition for the performance of phenomenological research practices that he subsumed under the term “reduction”. Addressing the concept of “attitude” from the perspective offered by the theories of embodied and situated cognition—the conceptual framework in which I address phenomenology—, it is possible to understand an attitude as a form of interaction. The way someone addresses an issue—her attitude towards an entity—can be understood as a set of actions that this person mobilizes in order to interact with the intended object. Therefore, to “adopt an attitude” is to act in a specific way or, furthermore, accepting a comprehensive attribution of agencies to potentially every entity, to interact in a particular manner. On this basis, I propose to understand the concept of “epoché” as the substitution of a form of interaction proper from an operative, utilitarian, finalistic handling of the phenomenon—e.g., in our daily life we interact with a glass in order to drink—with another variety of interaction oriented towards understanding how the phenomenon specifically—e.g., the very same glass—appears to the person interacting with it. I propose the term “conduct”, referring to its etymology—to lead (“-duct” from “ducere”) with (“con-“)—to denominate these varieties of interaction. Introducing this word in the traditional terminology of philosophical phenomenology, it would be coherent to affirm that epoché is the action of inducing phenomenological conduct in order for phenomenological reduction—meaning to lead (“-duction” from “ducere”) back (“re-“)—to be possible. Departing from this slight displacement of the conceptual basis of the phenomenological concept of epoché, I consider that the naive or natural conduct can be also substituted by an aesthetic conduct. Instead of interacting with the phenomenon to be inquired suspending its meaning and all kind of preconceptions the researcher might have, in order to, again according to Husserl, identify the structure of intentionality of the investigated phenomenon first by means of phenomenological description, that is, instead of acting according to the phenomenological conduct, the researcher can address the phenomenon at stake by suspending, or at least diminishing, any goal and any will-based action and instead privilege sensorimotor and emotional actions able to increase the receptivity and awareness to the agencies of the researched phenomenon. This alternative variety of action that I denominate aesthetic conduct allows the researcher to develop other practices with the inquired phenomenon, practices that I subsume under the term aesthetic practices of very slow observation. These practices (writing, notating, diagramming, reading, dialoguing) specify aesthetic conduct through the systematization of single actions in different media (written, spoken and diagrammed language, photo, video, sound). Consequently, epoché in the ecology of phenomenological cognitive practices I am presenting here, can be understood as the operation of inducing two different kinds of conduct—phenomenological and aesthetic conduct—enabling the researcher to inquire into the phenomenon at stake through different sets of phenomenological research practices—philosophical and aesthetic practices. Aesthetic practices in contrast to philosophical practices, as already mentioned, are not only performed in the medium of written language. Epoché, therefore, can be understood as the access to both an aesthetic and a philosophical phenomenology. 

Based on my performance of the aesthetic practices of very slow observation, I can affirm that aesthetic phenomenological practices are efficient at providing access to the processes of the co-constitution of phenomena. The aesthetic being-in-touch with a phenomenon reveals, and furthermore, enables the researcher to operate with its fragility, its vulnerability—its dynamic, relational and emerging nature. The possibility of becoming aware of the actualization of the multiple agencies involved in the arising and maintenance of a phenomenon provided by acting aesthetically, extends the cognitive potentiality of phenomenological research. On this basis, it is possible to conceive and perform ad hoc methods—ecologies of cognitive practices developed in order to research a specific subject-matter phenomenologically—by mutually connecting philosophical and aesthetic practices.


Background material:

Bernet, Rudolf: “Phenomenological and Aesthetic Epoché: Painting the Invisible Things themselves”. In Dan Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. 564-582.

Cerboner, David R.: “Phenomenological Method: Reflection, Introspection, and Skepticism”. In Dan Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. 7-24.

Husserl, Edmund (2001): Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. Dordrecht: Kluver Academic Publishers.

Jacobs, Hanne. “Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty on the World of Experience”. In Dan Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. 650-675.

Mertens, Karl: “Phenomenological Methodology”. In Dan Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. 469-491.

Moran, Dermot (2000): Introduction to phenomenology. Abingdon: Routledge.

Moran, Dermot: “Intentionality, Lived Experience, Bodily Comportment, and the Horizon of the World”. In Dan Zahavi (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. 579-603.

Smith, Joel (2016): Experiencing Phenomenology: An Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

van Manen, Max (2014): Phneomenology of Practice. Abingdon: Routledge.

Zahavi, Dan (2003): Husserl’s Phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.



Notated agency: stuff. (May 3, 2019)

Notated agency: light. (Venice, May 17, 2019)

Notated agency: sound. (Venice, May 4, 2019)

In contrast to the other sections of this exposition, in which I present practices, concepts, ideas, frameworks and processes that I have been practicing, conceiving, developing and sharing in the last years—cognizing, in the sense of an embodied and situated cognition, or simply thinking,  as two concepts that encompass all the mentioned before—, here I am briefly exposing something that I am beginning to envision.

I am finishing this exposition confined in my apartment—in my neighborhood, in my city, in my country—and this situation, simultaneously personal, local and global, makes it even clearer to even more people that the so-called ecological crisis is, literally, a crisis of the logic of the house—“oikos:” house, dwelling place. It is, therefore, not only a crisis of the relationship between humans and (the rest of) nature: it is a crisis of relationships. It is a crisis of the way we realize—meaning simultaneously thinking and making—relationships, all kinds of relationships. It is, thus, in the most radical and comprehensive sense, a systemic crisis. Confronting this evidence, the question that unavoidable strikes me is this: What to do as an artist-researcher? My current and thus provisory answer is twofold. On the one hand, I think that what I need to do is to try to realize, again in its double sense of thinking and making, how my research practices specifically, and in general this kind of practices—aesthetic research practicescontribute to changing this situation for the better. This means for me to understand, formulate, communicate and, principally, perform, the specific intentional relationship between aesthetic research practices and their object of inquiry, which leads to my attempt to define an aesthetic cognition, that is, an aesthetic specification of the embodied and situated cognition. On the other hand, and addressing the problem not as the issue to be tackled but structurally, that is, attending to the set of relationships that estructure my work, I think that what I need to do—sincerely: what I think that must be done—is to realize, once more as thinking and making, ecologies of cognitive practices

Addressing the first part of my answer, I think, firstly, that the dimension and complexity of the crisis we are experiencing exclude the possibility of a way out merely based on the production of knowledge and its social implementation through the imposition of norms of behavior. This way has to be complemented with alternatives that approach the problem through strategies of transformation instead of substitution—the substitution of a non-functioning systemic relationship or a set of relationships with another, supposedly better one. Aesthetic research as a non-productive but transformative variety of research can contribute to this endeavor by intervening, aesthetically, in a fundamental meshwork of processes: the processes of perceptual, sensomotoric and emotional constitution of phenomena. Aesthetic research practices, as systematized forms of action that specify aesthetic conduct, aim at transforming the phenomenal relationships between researchers—in the most extensive sense, meaning all those participating in any form in the processes of research—and their object of inquiry by virtue of the specific coalescence of agencies enabled by aesthetic (inter)action. Acting aesthetically, that is, performing aesthetic conduct, means to establish forms or dynamic relationships with the environment by intensifying the performance of sensomotoric and emotional skills and neutralizing, or at least diminishing, any form of will-based and target-oriented action. As a result, the field of agencies in which the researcher acts changes its structure. It changes from a hierarchical structure in which the researcher stays on the top—or on the center—and the components of her environment are understood and used as the means for her goal, to a distributed structure configured by diverse agents connected only according to the performance of their respective agencies. When the researcher acts aesthetically, the relationships between the multiple agents are not governed by a central entity. Instead, they are spontaneously and dynamically established and organized. The cognitive system enabled by acting aesthetically, thus, is an emergent system: it acquires its systemic specificity enabled by the relationships that the different agents, or to be more precise, the unfolding of the different agencies spontaneously establish. The diverse, distributed and spontaneous structure of the cognitive aesthetic system is precisely the source if its transformative power. This specific variety of interaction mobilized towards an object of research allows to destabilize the phenomenal presence of this object, that is, the form and meaning with, or better,  as which it appears, in order to disclose new fields for its intelligibility and thus generate conditions of possibility for new, unexpected and probably unpredictable forms and meanings to be constituted.              


There is no doubt that aesthetic research practices can enable this fundamental kind of transformation. Different art practices but also other practices like somatic practices, or simply—we tend to say—everyday life practices like breathing, walking, cooking or eating have been enabling these kinds of transformations since they are performed aesthetically. But only through an efficient connection between different kinds of thinking performed through different varieties of research practices will allow us to find ways of achieving our common goal: to found and maintain the viability of our lives—of our common lives, of our lives, inevitably, in common. What is needed now is to create frameworks—like the Research Pavilion #3—in which diverse research practices can be experimentally conceived and performed “in touch” with one other, in a fruitful space of coexistence. I am not talking about fostering multi-, trans- or interdisciplinarity—in this exposition I did not once use the concept of discipline: it is absolutely unnecessary if we reinforce the concept (and the performance) of practice. I am affirming, instead, that we need ecologies of cognitive practices: systemic sets of dynamic and operational relationships between different (kinds of) research practices that, on the basis of their respective autonomies, enable the realization of the necessary multi-perspectival view on the crisis to be overcome.


Background material:

Bateson, Gregory (1991): Sacred Unity : Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind.Nuew York: Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books.

Bateson, Gregory (2000): Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Bateson, Gregory (2002): Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Cresskil, NJ: Hampton Press.

Margalef, Ramón (1993): Teoría de los sistemas ecológicos. Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona.

In the framework of the artistic research project Contingent Agencies, I am developing practices of notation. Contingent Agencies was conceived by Nikolaus Gansterer and myself to inquire into the agencies of the different entities that enable the emergence of a specific kind of presence, denominated with different terms such as atmospheres, ambiences, environments or figures. This modality of presence is basically characterized by being significant but non-objectified, precise but vague, ephemeral and enveloping.

For the development of these practices I depart from a minimal definition of the concept of notation as a process of production of organized signs, in different media, through different practices, and in correlation with entities different from the produced signs and their processes of generation. Accordingly, I understand notation, basically, as the production and organization of signs that refer to an otherness. Furthermore, for these organized signs to be considered a notation, I think that they should enable the notator and, potentially, the ones who face them during or after the process of notation, to extend, diversify and intensify their cognitive relationship with the correlates of the processes of notation, that is, with the notated entities. On this basis, I extend the minimal definition of notation by saying that for signs produced and organized in correlation with an otherness to be considered a notation, the set of signs should enable an expansion of the cognitive domain, that is, the field of possible significances of the correlates of the notation for the notator and any observer of the artifacts of notation.


The specific difficulties of developing practices of notation in this project derive from the nature of the otherness that correlate the notations. This otherness are contingent agencies—agencies in a relationship of mutual conditioning—regarded as enabling conditions  for the emergence of atmospheres. One particular complication resides in the objectless character of atmospheres. Atmospheres are always present around us but not in an objectified way, that is, without presenting the constitutive features of an object: basically, a clear contour that allows for an unambiguous differentiation from both its own surroundings and other objects, and an unequivocal signification. To put it simply: we can clearly point to an object and say “this is that”. We cannot do that with atmospheres. Atmospheres are vague, contourless, enveloping the persons to whom they appear, non accessible through to any single sensible modality, radically dynamic, emerging out of the dynamic relationships of potentially all entities present in the situation in which an atmosphere arises and non reducible either to single involved entities or to all of them as a set. Although intimately related to objects, atmospheres are objectless and therefore ungraspable. The very same difficulty appears in relation to the specific aspect of atmospheres that we are researching: the agencies of the entities involved in their emergence. Agencies are potentialities and therefore present as not-yet-but-possible. They are also objectless. Furthermore, an additional trouble we are facing is the contingent nature of the agencies we refer to through notating. These agencies are not isolated but depending on one another as part of the network of enabling conditions for atmospheres to appear. 

In this context and being at the beginning of the project, I can only formulate some basic aspects of the way I am approaching these difficulties. First, I conceive notation here as the generation of objectness entities constituted by signs produced and organized in touch with objectless presences. Second, guided by the idea of “being in touch” with the contingent agencies to be notated, I try to specify the possible and adequate kind of relationship that can be established between notation—both as process (to notate) and artifact (a notation)—and its correlate—the entity (to be notated). Due to the fact that contingent agencies are mutually conditioning potencies and therefore objectless, the act of notating cannot be understood as “grasping” or “fixing”, since these operations can only be executed with objects. Consequently, I address notating here as “notating with” or better “notating in touch with” rather than “notating that”. The practices of notation I am developing depart, thus, from the idea of trying to be in intimate touch with the agencies at stake and, on this basis, to produce organized signs while and conditioned by, that is, through being in touch. Hence, I am trying to develop indirect, tangential, contingent varieties of notation. 


I consider and perform my practices of notation as aesthetic research practices. “Aesthetic” because they specify aesthetic conduct as practices of notation, or in other words, because they systematize the aesthetic variety of action through notation and in order to notate; and “aesthetic research” because these practices, as written above, aim at expanding the cognitive domain of the correlates of notation for the notator and any observer of the artifact of notation in a specific way, which I consider to be aesthetic: disclosing new fields of intelligibility, or, phenomenologically speaking, opening up new horizons for the constitution of the notation’s correlates. On this basis, I think that to develop and performer specific and situated methods—meaning systemic relationships between practices: the first step in a wider ecology of cognitive practices—for the aesthetic research of contingent agencies as enabling conditions for the emergence of atmospheres is an efficient strategy of inquiry. Aesthetic conduct, that is, a variety of action based on a radically sensuous and emotional interaction with the environment that reduces the actualization of the agencies supporting the researcher’s goal-oriented action in favor of unfolding the agencies of entities situated in the researcher’s surroundings, allows for a higher receptivity of the presence of these agencies, in this case of the contingent agencies to be inquired. To mobilize the cognitive power of aesthetic conduct through its specification as practices of notation can thus contribute significantly to the general research topic “atmospheres”. Accordingly, I understand my practices of notation as one autonomous element in an ecology of cognitive practices which may include research practices developed and performed in other methodological fields such as philosophy, sociology or anthropology, focused as well on the inquiry of this topic.


The possibility to conceive and perform aesthetic practices as a specific and autonomous variety of research relies on the development of distinct methodssystemic sets of relationships between particular practices: aesthetic research practices—and, more fundamentally, on a clear definition of the specific intentional relationship between these practices and the object of research. I use the term “intentional” here both in a phenomenological sense—meaning the modalities of subjective actions towards the inquired subject-matter—but also in its colloquial sense of intending or aiming at something. The question to be answered here is this: What is the goal of aesthetic research practices? Or more precisely: What do they intend to achieve in relation to their object, that is, to the researched issue? The answers to this question tend to refer to the concept of “knowledge” and to be formulated as follows: “research practices, whatever kind, aim at knowing—explaining, clarifying, elucidating, describing—the object of research”; “research practices aim at increasing knowledge about their object of research”; or “research practices aim at producing knowledge about their object of research”. These formulations are based on a common structure. They are configured by two entities, the object of research and knowledge, and the relationship of the second to the first is established, explicitly or implicitly by the preposition “about”. Knowledge and the subject-matter to which it refers are two differentiated entities, which implies that they have an objectness nature. Moreover, the relationship between both is established only in one direction, characterized by a specific quality: aboutness. This structure mirrors the etymological composition of the term that commonly defines the field of study related to the issue at stake here: epistemology—“epi-“ over, beyond + “-histasthai” to stand

In contrast, I postulate that aesthetic practices—in general, also those which are not research practices—relate to the objects they approach not in terms of aboutness but of “withness”. Aesthetic practices—I will elaborate later on this issue regarding my concept of “aesthetic conduct”—establish non-hierarchical relationships between the actions and technologies that configure them and the objects addressed by them. Aesthetic practices enable specific forms of “touch” with their objects. Furthermore, aesthetic research practices do not aim at producing objectness entities—knowledge—that establish an epistemic relationship to the inquired subject-matter. Instead, I posit that these practices tend to transform their objects, firstly, destabilizing their given meaning and/or form, secondly, disclosing new fields for their intelligibility, that is, expanding the cognitive domain of the practitioner in relation to the inquired issue—meaning the field of possible significances of the inquired issue for the practitioner—and thirdly, exposing through specific dispositives the unsettled object for new, now possible stabilizations through other kinds of research practices. Aesthetic research practices intervene in the relationship between practitioner and her subject-matter enabling a transformation of these three entities—the researched issue, the practitioner and the practice—as well as of the environment in which the practice is performed. 

On this basis, I consider that the relationship between aesthetic practices and their objects of inquiry cannot be clarified in the conceptual framework of epistemology, that is, by specifying a concept of knowledge, its mode of formalization and the kind of aboutness that relates it to the investigated issue. Instead, I propose to address the posed question—What do aesthetic research practices intend to achieve in relation to their object, that is, to the researched issue?—in the conceptual framework of the embodied and situated cognition and more specifically in the line of thought that, originated by Maturana and Varela, led to the definition of the enactive approach to cognition. A comprehensive description of this conceptual framework would by far exceed the scope of this section. Therefore, I am going to focus exclusively on a basic outline of the concept of cognition formed in this context. According to the enactive approach, the concept of cognition is not limited to designate those epistemic achievements produced by rational capabilities—the so-called cognitive skills. On the contrary, in this framework the concept of cognition is extended to the concept of life. Cognition here is understood as the emergence of selves and environments out of the interaction between bodies—or more precisely, biologically realized autonomous systems—and their surroundings. In other words, cognition is understood in this framework as a continuous process of transformation of bodies into selves—at least in the case of humans, selves (present) for themselves and for other selves—and surroundings into environments— (present) for the emerging selves. Formulated in another way, cognition in this context is the radically relational process of sense-making, or more specifically, of emergence of sense, enabled by the realization of autonomous forms of organization as living beings in structural coupling with the components of their surroundings. Taking now a phenomenological perspective, cognition can be outlined as the emergence of phenomena and phenomenal worlds—that is, significant entities and all-over presences that integrate those entities in a significant way— (present) for those subjects that co-constitute them and simultaneously co-emerge as phenomena for themselves. This concept of cognition implies a radical specification of embodiment, situatedness and the fundamental intertwinement of both processes. Cognition comes to be through the interactions between bodies—or better, the processes of becoming the very interacting bodies—and their situation—or better, the processes that transform the surroundings of these bodies in the environments for these bodies. More radically: cognition is interaction between bodies and their situation—cognition is situated embodiment. Cognition, thus, is action: transformative interaction


On this basis, I aim at defining aesthetic cognition as a specification, that is, as a particular variety of embodied and situated cognition. Departing from the idea that cognition is interaction, this endeavor implies to define a specific variety of interaction. I denominate it as “aesthetic conduct”, referring to the etymological composition of the word “conduct”—“- duct,” from ducere”, to lead + “con-“, with. A body—a self, a subject—is able to interact aesthetically by adopting a specific disposition of its skills. This disposition is characterized on the one hand, by the intensification of sensorimotor and emotional actions and on the other hand, by the neutralization of target-oriented and will-based forms of acting. By doing so, the body privileges its most fundamental relational skills which allow a spontaneous development of the structural coupling between body—as body—and its surroundings. Acting in this way, the body takes a position of body-between-bodies, which leads to a de-hierarchization among the agents involved in the process of (aesthetic) cognition. Consequently, this kind of interaction—aesthetic cognition—develops in a field of shared and distributed agencies, which means that no agent involved—also not the aesthetically acting body—leads nor controls the process. Instead, the aesthetically acting body develops an extensive form of receptivity that allows it to become aware of the transformative processes in course. The aesthetically interacting body fundamentally becomes a highly sensitive “listener” to what it is “in touch with”.


Background material:

Arteaga, Alex: «Embodied and Situated Aesthetics: An enactive approach to a cognitive notion of aesthetics»,  in: Irma VILÀ and Pau ALSINA (eds.). «Art and Research». Artnodes. 20, 20-27 (2017). UOC.

Arteaga, Alex : “Researching aesthetically the roots of aesthetics”. In Nikolaus Gansterer: Cocker, Emma and Greil, Mariella (eds.): Choreo-graphic figures: Deviations from the Line. Berlin: De Gruyter. 2017. 255 - 263.

Cocker, Emma: “Tactics for Not Knowing. Preparing for the Unexpected”. In Rebeca Fortnum and Elisabeth Fisher (eds.): On not knowing: how artists think. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2013. 126-135.

Depraz, Nathalie, Varela, Francisco and Vermersch, Pierre, eds. (2003): On Becoming Aware: A pragmatics of experiencing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Gallagher, Shaun (2005): How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Gallagher, Shaun and Zahavi, Dan (2008): The Phenomenological Mind. An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. London: Routledge.

Johnson, Mark (1987): The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 

Johnson, Mark (2007): The Meaning of the Body. Aesthetics and Human Understanding. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press. 

Lakoff, Geroge and Johnson, Mark (1999): Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books.

Maturana, Humberto and Varela, Francisco (1980): Autopoiesis and Cognition: The realization of the living. Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Maturana, Humberto and Varela, Francisco (1987): The Tree of Knowledge: the Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambala Publications.  

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (2012): Phenomenology of Perception. Abingdon: Routledge.

Mersch, Dieter (2015): Epistemologies of Aesthetics. Zurich & Berlin: Diaphanes.

Noë, Alva (2004): Action in perception. Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press 2004. 

Thompson, Evan (2007): Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology and the Science of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Varela, Francisco (1979): Principles of Biological Autonomy. New York: Elsevier.

Varela, Francisco, Thompson, Evan and Rosch, Eleanor (1991) The Embodied Mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Varela, Francisco: "Organism: A meshwork of selfless selves". In Alfred I. Tauber.: Organism and the Origin of Self. Dordrecht: Kluver Academic Publishers. 1991. 79-107.


The reading circle is a practice of collective reading and commenting texts , or better, a practice of collaborative thinking through reading and dialoguing with and about texts . This practice was initially conceived during two preparatory meetings for the research cell Through Phenomena Themselves ( Research Pavilion #3. In these meetings we addressed different aspects of phenomenology and their (possible) relationships with our artistic and/or aesthetic research practices.  

The reading circle practice is enabled by a few rules that regulate a process of collective reading and dialoguing with and about one text—and the issues it allows to become in touch with in a specific way. These are the rules:


1. Someone in the group begins to read the selected text aloud and continues reading it as long as she decides. Every other practitioner simultaneously reads her own printed version of the text in silence. When the person that is reading aloud stops reading, someone else continues, and so on.


2. While someone is reading, everyone else or even the reader herself can interrupt by saying “stop” in order to comment or ask questions. Every practitioner can answer the questions—and, of course, question the question as well—, ask further questions and/or comment on what is said. This can give rise to a dialogue.


3. If this is the case, or even right after the first question or comment, every practitioner can intervene in order to resume the reading by saying “continue”. The reading will be resumed immediately.


 4. While reading, every practitioner can ask the reader to read slower (by saying “slower”), louder (by saying “louder”) or to repeat a sentence or a paragraph (by saying “repeat”). 


This set of rules can be modifiedchanged, extended, limitedthrough practicing


Practicing the reading circle I perceived an intense concentration by the practitioners perhaps fostered by the possibility of intervention at every moment and the absolute non-hierarchical distribution of power in regard to the development of the practice. The intertwined processes of reading, asking, answering, commenting and dialoguing becomes a complex and self-regulated dynamic that potentiates not only the engagement of the practitioners but also the possibilities of unforeseen realizations and the disclosure of unpredicted understandings. Due to this possible extension and/or specification of the cognitive relationships between reader and text I consider the practice of the reading circle as a research practice. On this basis, and due to the kind of interaction between reader and text—and between the readers, and, furthermore, between readers, text and the environment in which the practice takes place—that this practice enable to establish and perform, I consider this practice an aesthetic research practice. Reading collectively and dialoguing framed by the exposed rules (see above), the agencies of the text, of the reading bodies, and of the surroundings can be mobilized configuring a field of shared agencies. In the situation conditioned by this plural and nonhierarchical distribution of agencies, readers might begin to prioritize connective dynamics, that is, cognitive modes, based on sensorimotor and emotional activities and to increase wide-focus varieties of awareness and receptivity. If this would be the case, I would definitely consider this practice to be an aesthetic practice. In this framework, I guess it is obvious, that the reading circle can be considered as an aesthetic practice of very slow observation of the text and, through reading text and dialoguing about and with it, of the issues the text puts the practitioners in contact with.


This exposition presents both specific practices and conceptual frameworks that show, describe and explain the way I understand and perform research through aesthetic practices. In this section, I try to clarify, in an progressive, accumulative way, the terms that configure this formulation: I begin by elucidating my basic concept of practice, afterwards the criteria to consider a practice to be aesthetic and finally my reasons to affirm, that these aesthetic practices are realizing research

In relation to the concept of practice, a first defining step consists in positing that practices are systematized sets of actions. For a group of actions to become a practice, they have to be connected and organized in a specific way: they have to become a system, or better, it has to be possible for an observer—specially, the practitioner—to understand and (potentially) perform them as a system, that is, as a set of elements—the actions—related to one another in a determined and stable way. The systematization of a set of actions allows the practitioner to perform them repeatedly. I consider repetition, or at least the possibility to repeat, to be a second definitional aspect of practices. Integrating both aspects mentioned so far, a practice can be defined minimally as a set of actions that, by virtue of the establishment of systemic relationships to one another, can be performed as a systemic unit—that is, not as single actions but as one practice—repeatedly. Obviously, the repetition of the performance of actions implies, unavoidably, variations, or more specifically, changes in the way single actions are performed and relate to one another. Nevertheless the range of variations in the performance of one action must be small enough in order for this action to maintain its identity, that is, for this action to be understood and performed as “the same action”. Equally, the range of variations of the way actions relate to one another must be limited so that the whole system—the practice—keeps its identity and so the practitioners keep performing “the same practice”. The issue of a practice’s identity is more relevant than the one referring to an action’s identity. If one action varies so much that in fact is substituted by another, this new action can and should be incorporated to the set of relations that define the practice in a way that the practice—the system—maintains its identity. 

A third definitional feature of practices is their transformational character. Independently, if a practice produces artifacts, that is, if the practice is productive or not, the reiterated performance of a practice implies four interrelated transformations: the transformation of the object of the practice, of the practitioners, of the environment in and with which the practice takes place and the transformation of the practice itself. Obviously, the conception and performance of a practice aims at changing, in a way that can be more or less specified in advanced, the subject-matter intended by the practitioners though the practice. Opting for the concept of “transformation” in order to refer to this change implies the idea that the variation that the subject-matter goes through can be considered as such, that is, as the modification of one and the same subject-matter. If this is the case, the practice would not propitiate a substitution of the initial subject-matter for another one. Instead, the initial subject-matter remains present throughout the whole process of practicing, that is, it keeps its identity, although, or better and, it is transformed. To be able to affirm that this is always the case, that is, that the change of or in the practice’s subject matter is for all practices a transformation, would require a deeper and longer research. What I can affirm is that this is the case for the practices presented in this exposition. The concepts and state of affairs observed through exploratory essay writing, framed dialoguing and the reading circle as well as the agencies observed through notation, are transformed through these practices. To be more precise, the different subject-matters observed are transformed as phenomena, that is, as the very specific way they appear for the practitioners. These practices, thus, intervene in the intentional relationship between practitioners and their objects of inquiry enabling a transformation of how the latest appear for the practitioners. As a consequence of this transformation the practitioner, unavoidably, becomes transformed as well. To “see” something different(ly) implies to be transformed as “seer”to be transformed through the action of seen. Moreover, the repetitive character of the practice’s performance enables that the practitioner’s transformation becomes durable. The sustained and reiterative performance of a practice leads to habitualization, that is, to a transformation of the sensorimotor patterns—and beyond, potentially, all kind of intentional and behavioral patterns—that configure the actualization of the practitioner’s structure. A practice, therefore, can be understood as an intervention in the process of embodiment, that is, an intervention in the processes of transformation of bodies and, consequently, a transformation of the emerging selves. Departing from the basic idea that bodies and their emerging selves do not develop in a void but constitutively in structural coupling with their surroundings and their correlated emerging environments, the transformation of the first—bodies and selves—implies the transformation of the latter—surroundings and environments. If the subject-matter of the practice is transformed, the practitioner—as body and as self—and her environments, that is, the specific worlds that appear out of the interaction between body and surroundings, are unavoidably transformed as well. Accordingly, the practice itself cannot remained untouched. At this point it becomes evident, that the set of systematized action that enables the transformations described so far has to be unavoidably transformed as well. The practice, its subject-matter, its practitioner and the environment in which it takes place can be understood as components of a system of co-emergence: if one component is transformed the others are also transformed, probably in different ways, ranges and temporalities. The whole system that encompasses—among others—these four components, keeps its identity as long as its components maintain both their respective identities—that is, as long as they are transformed and not substituted—and the ways they relate to one another remain sufficiently stable. If these two conditions are not accomplished, the whole system losses its cohesion—its identity as one system—and consequently the practice loses its efficiency and must be replaced.    


On this basis, for a practice to be aesthetic, it must be performed in aesthetic conduct, that is in a form of interaction between practitioners and environment that privileges the mobilization of each practitioner’s sensorimotor and emotional skills and neutralizes her will-based and target-oriented varieties of action. The field of shared agencies that aesthetic conduct enables—a field of interaction configured by the practitioner and the components of her surroundings in a non-hierarchical but operatively distributed way—leads to affirm that an aesthetic practice is always performed by a set of agents. This statement goes beyond considering that there is one practitioner, or a group of them, and that everything else—architectural spaces, objects, other people and institutions involved, technologies, local and global circumstances—merely condition the actions of the practitioners. I posit that in the case of an aesthetic practice this duality is neutralized in favor of a radically collective performance of the practice that encompasses human and non-human, living and non-living and material and non-material agents, or more clearly, the practice’s performers. This radical loss of control by the apparently singular practitioner implies that an aesthetic practice is radically and ineluctably open-ended. Consequently, the intention of the one who conceives and, maybe, initiates an aesthetic practice can only be to deal with her subject-matter by means of the practices at stake: practice, that, according to its radical open-ended nature, cannot be fully defined in advanced but in the course of its performance by all agents involved


Nevertheless, the question of intentionality turns out to be more problematic if an aesthetic practice is conceived and performed as a research practice. In this case the coexistence of the non-teleological nature of the aesthetic and the teleological character of research—research is performed in order to achieve a certain goal related to the inquired subject-matter and/or to the relationship between the researcher and her subject-matter—inevitably generates a tension that can only be resolved by defining a specific variety of researcha specific concept of research: aesthetic research—not only in relation to its methodssystemic relationships between practices—but also and more fundamentally in regard to the nature of its goals. The inherent and constitutive features of the intended results of an aesthetic research practice must be fundamentally conditioned—if not determined—by the non-teleological, that is, open-ended and distributed character of aesthetic conduct. Consequently, the results to be expected cannot be discrete, objectness and possible to be foreseen at the beginning of the research process. If this kind of results, which are valid for other varieties of research are excluded—or at least not aimed for—, the results of aesthetic research practices cannot be produced or, in other words, the results of these kind of practices cannot be any kind of production or product. On the one hand, because a product is, obviously, the outcome of a process of production, and such a process obeys the finalistic logic: a goal—the product—is defined in advance, a plan to achieve this goal is conceived, the means to realize this plan are collected, and, “back to the present”—the whole conception of the production process is a projection into the future—the producer—not necessarily a practitioner—begins to implement the plan of production. On the other hand, as the etymology of the word “production” signalizes—pro-duction: to conduct outwards—a product is something that transcends the process and the means of its production. A product is something that was not there at the beginning of the process of production but instead comes out of it. Obviously, this schema differs fundamentally from the idea of transformation that I described in relation to my concept of practice. The results of an aesthetic research practice are immanent to the practice: they are transformations of the components of the practice—the subject-matter, the practitioner, the environment and the practice itself. Aesthetic practices, this is my thesis, enable a particular kind of transformation of the system practitioner-researched issue-practice-environment that manifests as the destabilization of the subject-matter for the practitioner and for those who, somehow, participate in or of the research. This destabilization is a condition of possibility for, firstly, new fields of intelligibility of the inquired issue to be disclosed and secondly, for new, unforeseeable stabilizations to be realized through other kinds of practices or processes of research than can obey to the logic of production. Through aesthetic research practices, if they succeed, the inquired subject-matter loses its sedimented certainty. It appears without the conceptual and/or formal unambiguity with which it is present when someone operates with it. Consequently, it loses or at least reduces its operativity and acquires a vague, uncertain, ambiguous, ambivalent and less contoured presence. It opens up, it becomes available, it stands at the disposal—of new, alternative, unpredictable certitudes to be possible, of new phenomenal constitutions to be fulfilled, of new forms and significances to emerge.


Background material:

Arteaga, Alex and Langsdorf, Heike, eds. (2018): Thinking Conditioning through Practice. Ghent: APE.

Jullien, François (2004): A Treatise on Efficacy: Between Western and Chinese Thinking. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Mersch, Dieter: “Medialität und Undarstellbarkeit. Einleitung in eine 'negative' Medientheorie”. In Sybille Krämer (ed.): Performativität und Medialität. München: Fink 2004. 75-96.

Schatzki, Theodor and Cetina, Karin Knorr, eds. (2001): The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory.  Abingdon: Routledge.