The following is lifted from the scripted invitation into an encountering of a practice as research enquiry that took place on 3rd July 2019 as part of the BRINK Festival at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, as well as a slideshow presentation and post-encounter questionnaire that accompanied the event.
“An agent who possesses a practical mastery, an art, whatever it may be, is capable of applying in his action the disposition which appears to him only in action, in the relationship with a situation.”
– Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice
“During the course of repetitions, meanings are transitory, emerging, dissolving, and being altered.”
– Ciane Fernandes, The Aesthetics of Repetition and Transformation
I encounter a practice and it encounters me.
How do I utilise repetition to develop my own knowing-how to execute an established practice based on my limited knowing-what that practice is or requires?
How do I then utilise this repetitive practice of my version of the practice to understand profoundly, intuitively and empathetically – or grok, as coined by Robert A. Heinlein – the original practice and the discipline within which it’s situated?
Does the practice grok me in return?
How do I know when I have successfully grokked the practice through the practicing of my practice of the practice?
And what kind of knowledge(s) emerge as a result of this grokking of the practice?
My current practice as research enquiry problematises the preceding set of questions through the continued development of my own practices of pre-existing practices – such as figure drawing, playing the harmonica and playing the piano – based on my own limited prior knowledge or memory of what those practices are and might require, but without any practical knowledge of how to execute the practices.
In other words, I’ve been playing at playing the harmonica. Or playing at figure drawing. And developing and mastering my own practices of these practices, and – in turn – intuitively understanding the disciplines within which these practices are situated.
I believe that by developing a practical mastery through a repeated engagement with an action I am grokking – or understanding profoundly, intuitively and empathetically – that action and the practice or discipline with which it originally belongs.
Your individualised encounter with this practice of practicing practices has allowed me to open up this enquiry and ask how others may develop their own knowing-how to execute established practices based on what they already know.
Utilising the three steps listed below, I am inviting you to master the practice presented before you over the course of 15 minutes:
Encounter the practice by identifying what you may already know (and not know) about the object and the practice before you. Drawing from this knowledge and tapping into your gut instinct, spend some time mastering it, perhaps by establishing a series of repeatable actions as a way of executing your own practice.
Practice the practice. There are many ways to practice a practice – experimentation, improvisation, reflection, etc. – many of which are executed through a series of repetitions. Allow your practicing of the practice to remain in a constant state of process, placing the emphasis on the practicing itself, not on the outcome.
Allow for the possibility of developing an implicit knowing-how to execute your individual practice and the potential occurrence of an “Ah-Ha!” moment – a profound, intuitive and empathetic understanding of the practice that may alter its form or the way you engage with it.
I can assure you that there is no right or wrong way to practice this practice. There is only your way of practicing the practice.
I have spent months encountering a range of practices with which I’ve had no prior training or practical knowledge, often only experiencing an “Ah-Ha!” moment after dedicating many hours to this repetitive and reflective practice of practicing. This is an invitation into the initial stage of this process, so I encourage you to enter into this encounter without the expectation of a tangible product or end-goal.
Enjoy the practice of practicing your practice.
I will leave you alone in the room to encounter your practice, as I have found this initial stage to be a fairly personal and intimate process. After 15 minutes, I will return to the studio – I’ll give a knock on the door to let you know that I’m entering – and ask you a few simple questions about your experience. You will not be expected to present your practice to me or to anyone else. This practice is for you and you alone.
Have you begun to develop your own unique practice over the past 15 minutes? If so, how did you determine that you had developed a practice?
What did you learn (if anything) about yourself in the actual doing of the practice?
Did you at any time feel beholden to any predetermined or preconceived notions of what this practice should be? And if so, were you able to at any point let go of those notions?
How would you know when you know you’ve mastered the practice?
If you would like to continue to develop your practice of practicing this practice beyond today's encounter, I encourage you to take one of the packaged versions of this object home with you. It's yours to practice with as you choose. You may also choose to leave it behind, along with the practice itself.
Thank you for taking part in my practice today.