A Practice of Practicing Practice
A Practice of Practicing Practice
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.
Through the development of this practice, I find myself questioning the nature of the knowledge or logic that has emerged and the paradoxical relationship between practical logic – which I relate to this knowing-how – and logical logic – which I relate to this knowing-what. In establishing my own unique cultural fields, as sociologist Pierre Bourdieu might refer to them, in which I can carry out my own practices of established practices, have I then also established my own habitus – or way in which I can truly become myself – in each cultural field through my engagement with each practice?
Can I develop a sense of power and agency in the doing of this practice, and thus create an environment for myself in which right and wrong no longer preside over my actions – in which I can take ownership of my practice of each practice? Could this sense of ownership then act as a marker or indicator of a successful engagement with this practice? Would I deem my encountering with a particular practice or discipline unsuccessful if I were unable to claim that ownership, or if I were unable to establish a repetitive act of practicing my version of the practice, which would ultimately facilitate the emergence of ownership? Are the knowledge(s) emerging as a result of this practice only found in the repetitive act of practice?
In the activation of the enquiry, I have found myself returning often to a particular passage from Bourdieu’s The Logic of Practice –
I believe that in the development of a practical mastery through a repeated engagement with an action I am grokking – or understanding profoundly, intuitively and empathetically rather than intellectually – that action and the practice or discipline with which it originally belongs. It is possible that my initial lack of knowing-how to execute the practice, and my limited knowing-what that practice is or requires, is allowing me to bypass a more intellectual engagement with the practice and instead develop a more personal and intuitive understanding of it.
I also believe that the individualised logic that emerges from this act of grokking is transferrable to other practitioners through a practice of facilitation in which I enable them to develop their own practices of practicing. In crafting an invitation into this practice, I have equated discipline and practice with Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Valera's notions of organisation and structure from The Tree of Knowledge –
With this in mind, a discipline can be viewed as the organisation that is made real by the structure of practice. My task as facilitator is to establish an environment in which each participant can develop their own structure of practice out of which an unknown organisation or discipline can emerge or be “made real” through the execution of the practice.
A recurring response to the facilitation of this practice has been a reconnecting to what many participants have referred to as a childlike sense of play, in which an unhindered form of creativity has emerged. These references to play and creativity, as well as a strong rejection of mastery, have led me to slightly redefine the practice over time – I now believe that I am potentially facilitating (whether in my own artistic practice or through a participant’s individualised encountering of the practice) the emergence of play as a practice of knowledging, which fosters individualised creativity and subverts institutional notions of mastery. Play may be the implicit knowing-how that builds upon and subverts a more analytical and explicit knowing-what. Moving forward, I intend to further explore the notion of “play” within creative practices, as well as its relationship to mastery or expertise. I would also like to question the political connotations of the practice and its subversive nature, particularly in regard to institutional ideals of mastery. And I ultimately hope to solidify my own position as the facilitator within the practice.
The theoretical framework of the initial stage of this enquiry is expounded upon in the scripted portion of a seminar presentation that took place on 12th March 2019 as part of the Developing Your Discipline unit of the MFA Performance Practice as Research course at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama –