- Purpose and Aims
The over-arching purpose is to develop and consolidate a new methodology for artistic research and therapeutic-creative practice. At present our 'ornamentation' method is a way of making things: poems, music, events. It has proved highly fruitful thus far, and we aim to develop the method into a transferable methodology which will benefit other researchers and other disciplines.
We aim to lay the foundations for this methodology by investigating some fundamental issues of how meaning is made, un-made, and re-made. In our new adaptation of the 'ornamentation' method this is done via the sonic journey from repetition through nothingness and into intelligibility. We aim to 'hot-house' an ecology of connected methods, meanings, and affects, to the broadest possible extent. These ambitions may seem huge for a novel method which begins with only two musical notes but we take our inspiration from science as much as art. The science of chromatography began with the simple method of repeatedly dripping water onto a homogenous sample on blank paper (Siouffi 2005). The analogy is close to our practice-led research. While our artistic research contributes to performance philosophy, musical praxis, and social epistemology, our impetus is to make parallel advances in therapeutics and social negotiation, working on three levels:
At a micro level we will explore ornamenting as a means of bringing forth original works in sonic performance and to refine our methods in artistic research. At this level it is also an exploration of our own motivations and biases, reaching beyond our personal concerns as artist-researchers to connect with other practitioners in new ways.
At a meso level we aim to move from specifically musical methods to a broader methodology. We will apply our processes to interactions with other artists and institutional dialogues. We have already successfully used the method with a wide range of international, cross-cultural, and interfaith/no faith collaborators, ranging from Jewish-Irish and French-Mozambique musicians, Swedish and English theologians, as well as in our own international work. We will work with peers and students via workshops and artistic research sessions, gearing ornamentation practices to areas beyond music – performance philosophy, theology, and artistic research in academic settings. This involves developing new courses and curricula in Higher education such as a MA in Performative Theology at UCS, linking cultural expression, epistemology, and human rights.
At a macro level we aim to test the methodology in wider social settings beyond academia. We wish to create a tool-kit of original techniques which make connections between disparate academic fields, educational and therapeutic settings, inter-faith dialogues, wider society, and people exiled from those zones. Dr. Laasonen Belgrano has extensive experience of vocal performance as a connection to ‘the Unknown’ and non-linear ‘space-time travelling’ via lamentation (Laasonen Belgrano 2011, 2016, 2020, Uehara & Laasonen Belgrano 2020). She also has extensive experience of therapeutic interventions, pastoral care and counselling with palliative patients, and elders suffering from memory-deterioration and dementia. Dr. Price has worked with terminal care patients, the homeless, and intervention projects for persistent prolific criminal offenders (The POPS project with Prof. Ken Hahlo). We plan to bring our combined skills and experience to develop the potentials of ornamentation methods in a wide spectrum of such 'crisis situations'.
There are philosophical and scientific roots to our artistic research. Schopenhauer figured music as the perfect embodiment of the noumenal 'Will': madness is a 'break in the thread of memory', such that the relation of the self to time is disrupted (Schopenhauer, WWR, chpt.32). The idea is developed in Freud's concept of trauma and 'Nachtraglichkeit' – a dislocation of the normal rhythm and direction of time. Commentators on 'hauntology' such as Barad (2010 ) and Derrida (1993) note this uncanny tendency of meaning become 'non-self present', to float forwards and backwards in time: especially when related to trauma. Price's work on the Lenkiewicz project found similar cases of temporal disjunction. What was surprising was how many of the second-and even third-generation Holocaust survivors he interviewed for the two Lenkiewicz books (2021, 2022) expressed a sense of temporal as well as geographical exile. Many did not feel in the least traumatised until much later in life when the phenomena suddenly 'ripened'. Thus the four main objectives of the research are:
1. To investigate relationships between sound, meaning, and the sense(s) of self. This sense of self of course implies significant encounters by/with/through the 'Other'. This in turn requires an examination of how we make sense of Otherness via processes akin to musical praxis: consonance, dissonance, 'pure voice' and ornamentation.
2. To use our artistic research to map experiences of trauma and Exile in all forms: forced physical re-location, 'spiritual homelessness' and existential isolation, loss of meaning, excommunication, experiences of social 'Othering' - many of which necessarily overlap.
3. To investigate the cancelling of normal time-conditions in a variety of 'non-normal' situations: trauma, dementia, ecstasis, so-called 'mystical experiences', prolonged social isolation: and to investigate the relationship of this non-linear temporality to trans-generational and social trauma.
4.To develop, refine, and disseminate a methodology: a set of practical testable and teach-able interventions to mitigate 'Exile-related traumas' in the broadest sense. We have realistic hopes that some of the harms done by social isolation, ex-communication, and aggressive confrontation and 'Othering' are amenable to novel creative interventions.
The answer to the question of why our research is important is tragically timely. Two years of pandemic and recent wars highlight the extent to which nihilism, cynicism, paranoia, and increasingly aggressive modes of (non)communication are normalised in the wake of digital globalisation. The de-sacralisation of the world and the amoral managerialism of 'Capitalist Realism' is proceeding apace (Fisher 2009). If humans are to survive and flourish they need new techniques for the creation of new meanings. They need to discover new zones of significance beyond the horizon of the profit-motive or a retreat to ''taking up positions'' in increasingly entrenched and aggressive dogmas and ideologies.
In a theological and philosophical register, Simone Weil's work foreshadows our use of Nothingness as a component of the research. Weil's concept of 'de-creation' as a necessary prelude to creativity is obviously linked to a strategic 'emptying out of the self' to make room for radical renewal. Her concept of the value of non-egoic attention to the world rather than one's self is also a key point. Matt Osmand's recent research on eco-politics, ethics and the dual spiritual/materialist mysticism of The Black Madonna (2022) is also a point of reference.
In an artistic register, Diamanda Galas' ''Plague Mass' (1991) must be noted as a landmark in the field of vocal trauma-intervention. Her performances for the dead and dying changed public perceptions of AIDS/HIV and her later work 'Defixiones' for the victims of the Armenian genocide is similarly relevant. For Galas, the work of lamentation is 'separate from a safe and useless concept of ''music''' and aimed 'to encourage action' in the face of trauma and death (Galas, in RE/Search, 'Angry Women', San Francisco, 1991).
For scientific evidence of sonic arts research as therapeutic intervention, we note the documentary film 'Alive Inside' (2014) on Dan Cohen's work with dementia sufferers. A growing body of scientific evidence supports Cohen's approach: ''Listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward. Two recent studies [...] found that music doesn't just help us retrieve stored memories, it also helps us lay down new ones […] Researchers at the music and neuroimaging laboratory at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have shown that singing lyrics can be especially helpful to people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury.'' (Music as Medicine: The Impact of Healing Harmonies Longwood Seminars, April 14, 2015). More recently musicandmemory.org, uses musico-social work to deal with Covid isolation. Similar research is being undertaken by the Music Therapy Association in the USA.
Of course memory-loss need not be all negative, pathological, or privative. Habits of thought and embodied practice need to be forgotten in order to develop new ones. This strikes us as an opportunity to share and cross-pollinate our investigations with the artistic researchers Lindal, Larsson and Jutterström who are presently investigating the positive role of forgetting in their project ''Lethe''. Laasonen Belgrano's research practice is at the forefront of these new sonic possibilities (Laasonen Belgrano 2016, 2020, Uehara & Laasonen Belgrano 2020) but as we have already stressed, our new research here is wider and more important than 'music'. We weave the artistic research practice with a wide range of philosophical, theological, sociological and scientific material, following clues provided by neurological research (Blunden et al, 2020).
- SIGNIFICANCE AND NOVELTY
To the best of our knowledge nobody else is exploring the wider implications of ‘ornamentation' as a research method. Some are pursuing it more narrowly in terms of musicology and musical performance. Our aim is different: our method offers new roads for connectivity beyond 'the individual' or 'academia'. Taking up a well-known theme from Deleuze and Guattari the key significance of our research is a voyage into rhizomes, diffraction, virulent ecology. The research is practice led, and thus the artistic, intellectual, and therapeutic ornaments of this project will curate us at least as much as we curate them. Whatever happens, happens in between the 'fixed notes' and definitions.
One of the most novel and significant uses of our approach is the utilization of ornamentation to bridge disciplinary gaps which have in many cases widened to chasms and fragments. The theologian Alan J. Torrance writes: 'Scholars are often reluctant to listen to, or indeed respect, the voices of other disciplines as much as the familiar voices within their own. This is especially the case when those from another discipline are perceived as challenging established beliefs and practices. When this happens, it can be enormously tempting for scholars to withdraw into the comfortable echo chambers of their own fields. '' (Clarity is a Virtue, Alan J. Torrance, St Andrews University). Most importantly a new, highly flexible and transferable methodology for artistic research and social-therapeutic practice will benefit local and international researchers in a wide variety of disciplines. It is hoped that they will not only use but also build upon the methodology to create further connections, interventions, art-works, and practical knowledge.
- PRELIMINARY AND PREVIOUS RESULTS
During the last two years we have explored philosophical, theological, and aesthetic issues via our novel praxis-led 'ornamentation' method. Starting from NOTHING, we allow elements which seem meaningless in themselves to ‘flash up’ (Barad 2017). The ornamentation process is not a dialogue, a dialectic, nor even 'two persons making something together'. It is a trans-human performance, a method for allowing the space and material between the contributors to “endlessly open [...] to a variety of possible and impossible reconfigurings” (Hinton 2013:182); “blasting, bursting open, and scattering […] to effect a complete reorganization of meaning” (Barad 2017:41); we have opened up a live ecology of forces (not things) in which the world can create itself.
Inspired by Simone Weil, Emilia Fogelklou and William Blake, we have worked by paying attention to the 'minute particulars' of the world. Blake's 'Jerusalem' foreshadows one aspect of our method, creating connections to Belgrano’s work on the Biblical Lamentations and the Falling of the city of Jerusalem through her exploration of the ornamented vocal Baroque meditations ‘Lessons in the Shadows of Death’ (Leçons de Ténébres) by Michel Lambert (1610-1686).
“Labour well the Minute Particulars, attend to the little ones […]
/ General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and
Flatterer / For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely
organized particulars, / And not in the generalizing
demonstrations of the Rational Power; / The Infinite alone
resides in / Definite and Determinate Identity”
(William Blake, 1820, Jerusalem,f. 55, ll.)
The ‘ornamentation’ method is extraordinarily productive. Even though the researchers have so far met only online, the method generated a large body of original performances and writings including a nine-hour, narrated and sung vigil for the 'Borrowed Time/ Art Earth' conference on Death and Mourning (2021). A wide collection of our ornamental pilot studies are curated and exposed in the open-access RC artistic database. This prepares the ground for future international peer-review publications as well as live performance expositions.
Dr. Laasonen Belgrano's work in Jerusalem has generated two book chapters, two journal articles and several conference performances which articulate the traumas resulting from the collapse of meaningful communication. Exploring death, exile and lamentation via Michel Lambert's 'Lecons de Tenebres' and the biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, her work is a solid base on which to develop further 'ornamentational' approaches to de-creation, societal failure, and personal collapse. Laasonen Belgrano has strong connections to the Swedish Theology Institute in Jerusalem, a crucial global hub for inter-religious and cross-cultural dialogue. The Institute would be among the most auspicious venues in which to pressure-test new research outputs and methods.
The RC expo 'No Self Can Tell' showcases our progress.
- PROJECT DESCRIPTION
• Theory and method:
We are still exploring the central ornamentation method. It seems especially applicable to issues of trauma because much like the 'ripening' of trauma, what a piece of ornamented music 'is', can not be decided in advance. It is a becoming, not a being. 'What it is' makes sense only by a certain double reading, both forwards and backwards in time. 'Ornament' may be a term usually associated with the frivolous but in music 'ornament' is profound. Pursuing ornamentation with commitment entails an open-ness to the totally UNKNOWN. Thus far, our new methods seem usefully commutable between theology, philosophy, empirical science and the creative arts. Ornamentation is entirely non-doctrinal and experimental. It assists the participants in reflecting on fundamental questions which transect disciplines, such as: What in any encounter causes acts or ideas to change direction and transform? How does the emergence of 'parts' relate to and transform the 'whole'? How might we judge if these connections are significant? Does apophenia have positive potentials?
The research draws on theories most historically at home in philosophy, music, theology and aesthetics. The project title 'No Self Can Tell' is a reminder that 'the' self is a grammatical fiction. Any self exists relationally, which is to say: subjectivity is ecology. The 'I' is formed by complex interdependent networks which include but are not limited to biology, language, and culture. Any borders between inner and outer systems are of necessity porous. For these reasons, aesthetics (conscious or unconscious sensate encounters with an 'Other') are a fruitful zone of exploration for trauma-related disorders of identity, be they 'personal' or the social traumas of out-group identity and antagonism.
We can if we choose draw upon the theoretical resources of three PhDs - Price's first PhD on violence in philosophy (2002), his second on apophenia and autopoesis (2017), and Laasonen Belgrano's celebrated PhD thesis on Performance of Nothingness and ornamentation. By chance the separate Laasonen Belgrano/Price projects inter-acted via the Performance Philosophy Network. The online conversations acknowledged the need to avoid standard models of inter-faith/ no-faith interactions. The researchers agreed on one fundamental point: that methods, theoretical commitments, and value-judgements for this project should be reduced to a bare minimum – as close as possible to NOTHING- in order to re-build. Non-theoretical consonances and dissonances developed, multiplied, and creatively mutated. This led to ideas for sonic and philosophical collaborations relating to Laasonen Belgrano's work on 'Ornamentation-as-Methodology' (2018, 2019), The traces (results) of poetry, sound, and survival-narratives led to this current application. The research is informed by a kind of abandonment of ego and a deep trust of the 'Unknown Other' (Lingis, 'Trust', 2004).
Because we are testing the potentials of an entirely new approach there is a meta-level to the question of our research methods, which are highly eclectic. They range from phenomenological and hermeneutic techniques, to diffractive arts practice, to textual exegesis and depth-psychology. These are the spokes of the wheel. The hub of the research is our novel adaptation of the Seventeenth century concept and musical performance praxis of 'ornamentation'. This traditionally begins with a music manuscript, which is performed as a research-meditation-through-action. We have successfully adapted and applied the method to a wide range of ''texts'', and by text we mean any system of signification. The research aims to find the limits and practical uses of our approach in creative, educational, social and therapeutic settings.
The research has a strong basis in empirical facts. In physics, the interactions of two pure sine-waves (pure-voice notes) create overtones, rhythms and emergent serial harmonics. Recent psycho-acoustic and cognitive research demonstrates profound links between music, meaning, and memory. The interaction of two audible frequencies and how humans interpret 'what happens in between two notes' is a humble beginning but by repetition and close attention much is achieved. From Laasonen Belgrano's perspective the ornamentation process is associated with Ignatian prayer-cycles and the 'de-creation' and re-creation techniques of Simone Weil. From Price's perspective it is suggestive of self-organising fractal processes in non-reductive materialism, the 'automatic writing' of the surrealists, and the experiments recorded in the Lenkiewicz diaries and aesthetic notes. Repetition, close attention, and a commitment to patience while allowing NOTHING to happen are at the heart of the project. In terms of theoretical perspectives, the project has three main strands:
1) Philosophical and Theological Aspects of the Project.
In monotheistic sacred history the human narrative begins with the Exile from Eden. Science discredited literalist evaluations of the Abrahamic world-view: we know the planet is far older than scripture attests. We gain in scientific truth, but in losing the monotheistic territories of time and cosmology, western cultures suffered a double trauma. This 'Exile from the Exile' is linked to personal 'spiritual' crises, social disintegration, and epistemological fragmentation. Nietzsche presciently commented on nihilism as the greatest risk for European cultures which were already well advanced in their ''globalisation'' by missionary work, commerce and colonial violence: "Everything lacks meaning" (the untenability of one interpretation of the world, upon which a tremendous amount of energy has been lavished, awakens the suspicion that all interpretations of the world are false)'' (Nietzsche, WP, Book 1, 6. 'European Nihilism'). Taken in its epistemological and ethical registers, nihilism is a void in which all values perish. Some thinkers reacted with unconcealed horror (Kierkegaard, MacIntyre): others with hope and affirmation (Benjamin Noys, Jill Marsden, Judith Butler). What seems general is an agreement that 'grand narratives' are vanishing. Our research acknowledges nihilism as a starting point, not an inevitable destination. We begin with the reduction of sonic differences to the barest minimum and utilise repetition and 'nothingness' as creative forces.
2) Aesthetic-Experiential Aspects of the Project.
Fortunately, ''meaning'' is not to the only star by which cultures navigate. There are other guides to human flourishing: aesthetic values. Alphoso Lingis, Jill Marsden and Jane Bennet's works engage with the self-organising powers of matter without the need for an 'architect' or directing consciousness. Our project explores how performances 'compose themselves' in ways which can not be planned or predicted. Allowing the 'raw material' to take an active role in the research involves a certain abdication of authority – an admission that there will be many occasions when the researchers literally do not know what they are doing. We wish to allow the research materials as full and free a life as possible, In many ways the ornamentation methods are centrally concerned with opening the artist/ researcher to new kinds of material encounters with the unknown: to trust.
1) Therapeutic/Communitarian Aspects of the Project. Many practical and communitarian issues are raised by the philosophical and aesthetic issues. Instead of the 'standard model' of a community based on the idea of self-same 'individuals', we explore newly emerging models of community which use ideas of 'sympathy', 'intimacy', 'inclusion' and ‘touch’ beyond the humanist principle of (self) identity. As Jane Bennet has shown, there is a democratic but anti-humanist impetus to be found in 'an older, more bodily definition of sympathy as a physics or network of affinities between natural bodies'' (Bennet, Whitman's Sympathies, p. 610). What implications do these thoughts have for our research? The obvious starting point is that an aesthetic engagement with notions of 'self' and 'community' gives us a different grammar of thought to work with. To have 'aesthetic' or 'musical' relationships to others is to connect in ways which do not reduce their differences from us to sameness. To connect aesthetically is a powerful form of intimacy, a connection which takes place via currents of sound and movement which transverse the borders of bodies and 'separate communities' all the time - but are seldom consciously noticed. Ornamentation suggests ways to re-think and re-encounter 'self' and 'community'.
We must stress that our research does not presuppose a specific community, especially not a community of shared values or beliefs. To enter into ornamental practices and ornamental thinking is to be enchanted by one's thoughts and actions again, because they are not precisely one's own. Nor are they the thoughts and actions of 'the other' participant. The other participant could just as easily be a human, a bird-call, or the sound of a waterfall if repetition, close attention and 'nothingness' are properly deployed. Untethered from an egoic understanding which implies 'taking up a position', the ornamentation process opens onto an experiential space where something genuinely new might enter in: a 'temenos' with no requirement for belief, no commitment to dogma or metaphysical speculations. The ornamentation method avoids the prejudice that there are separate, pre-existing parts which enter into external relations – a questioner and an answerer, a self and an Other, 'your culture' meeting 'my culture', the judge and the accused. Obviously, the process of ornamentation involves sensations, experiences, perhaps even words and concepts which connect the 'being' of the participants. But the 'beings' are co-creative and produced against the ground of a third term which is 'no-thing'.
Experience is not internal to the 'self' in ornamentation – it is formed by an ecology of forces which are not initially stabilised as things. The methods, methodology and creative forces do not 'belong' to anyone. We envisage this as a project which places key emphasis on 'between-ness' and connection rather than ownership and mastery. One of our few axioms is that the work should be entirely open to fellow-travellers and future researchers: recordings of our live performances, seminars/workshops, lectures, journal articles, and a book detailing the workings of the methodology. It is hoped that this will provide a launch-pad for others to travel further and in new - directions.
• TIME PLAN and IMPLEMENTATION
• PROJECT ORGANISATION
- Elisabeth Laasonen Belgrano, PhD in Theatre and music Drama (Univ. of Gothenburg, 2011). Project leader. Research activity incl. equally shared project coordination: 50%.
- Mark D. Price, PhD in Philosophy (2002), PhD in Poetics (2017). Research activity incl. equally shared project coordination: 50%.
- Petra Carlsson, PhD, Sweden (Radical Theology/Art/Ecology),
- Will Daddario, PhD, USA (Theatre/Performance-Philosophy/ Psychotherapy),
- Rick Dolphijn, PhD, The Netherlands (Philosophy),
- Einav Katan-Schmid, PhD, Israel (Dance/Performance Philosophy/Pedagogy),
- Daniel A. Siedell PhD, USA (Curatorial praxis/ Art History /Theology)
Basic needs: Computers, microphones for recording, software, literature.
• NEED FOR RESEARCH INFRASTUCTURE
University College Stockholm (EHS), Sigtuna Foundation and Swedish Theological Institute Jerusalem (STI) have all agreed to provide our project with relevant research infrastructures including libraries and study space. We are at present working online at a distance which will continue throughout the full project period.
INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL COLLABORATION
Karen Barad (Gender Studies / Philosophy / Physics/Justice), Alphonso Lingis (Philosophy), Silvia Battista, PhD (Performance, Religion and Spirituality/Experimental Theatre/ Activism), Maria Leppäkari (theology/intercultural-religious studies/director STI Jerusalem), Claire-Maria Chambers (PP/theatre studies/theology/existential therapy), Joshua Ben Joseph (singer-songwriter/ poet), Johannes Landgren (Artistic Research / Church musician), Anna Lindal (Artistic Research / violin), Will Self (Literature / Philosophy), Jill Marsden (Literature / Philosophy), Mat Osmond (artist, poet, ecological activist), Lars Iyer (Literature / Philosophy), Laura Cull O'Mallarche (Performance Philosophy) Kerstin Dillmar (Priest, Sigtunastiftelsen/ Theology / Art/ Palliative Spiritual Care) and more….
REFERENCES and SOURCES
Barad, K. (2014), Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together/Apart, Parallax, 20-3, 169-187
Barad, K. (2017). What Flashes Up: Theological-Political-Scientific Fragments. I: Keller, C. & Rubenstein, M.-J. (eds.) Entangled Worlds. Religion, Science, and New Materialisms. Fordham University Press, New York, 2017. Pp. 21-88.
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Belgrano, E. (2011) ’Lasciatemi morire’ o farò ‘La Finta Pazza’: Embodying Vocal Nothingness on Stage in 17th Century Italian and French Operatic Laments and Mad Scenes, ArtMonitor, doct. diss. Gothenburg, 2011, ISBN 97891-978477-42.
Belgrano, E. (2016) Vocalizing Nothingness: (Re) configuring vocality inside the spacetime of Ottavia, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Vol. 1 Number 2, pp. 183-195,
Belgrano, E. (2018), Ornamenting Vocality: Intra-Active Methodology for Vocal Meaning-Making. Ruukku Studies in Artistic Research, Vol. 9,
Belgrano, E. L. (2019) A Singing Orna/Mentor's Performance or Ir/rational Practice, Ruukku Studies in Artistic Research, Vol.11,
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Uehara, Mayuko & Belgrano, Elisabeth L. (2020) Performance philosophy seen through Nishida’s ‘Acting Intuition’, in: The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy, Cull, L. & Lagaay, A. (eds), Routledge Press.
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Lenkiewicz, R. (2000) The Addictive Behaviour Project, paintings and extensive sociological notes.
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Price, M. D. (2002) PhD 1 Violence and Value in Post Kantian Philosophies. Bolton Institute (BIHE).
Price, M. D. (2017) PhD 2 50% Death. Manchester Metropolitan University
Price, M. D. (2021) All Is Welcome: The Life of Robert Lenkiewicz, Vol. One, White Lane Press, Plymouth.
Price, M. D. (forthcoming, April 2022) The Life of Robert Lenkiewicz, Vol. Two, White Lane Press, Plymouth.
Price, M. D. (2021) Dekalog, https://blackboxrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/dekalog
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