Research

I’m currently conducting a research into Performative Well-Being through performance and improvisation.

I  just completed a one-year post-doc research project (2017-18) at the Performing Arts Research Center (Tutke) at the University of Arts Helsinki.  This project was funded by a year-long grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation.  Thanks to all invovled for supporting that work!

At the moment, I am reflecting on this project and processing the data gathered.

Here’s a summary of the project:

Performative Well-Being (PWB) is a new critical term, an idea and a practice, which I introduce and explore in this project primarily through improvisational practice and its reflection. On one hand, PWB, as a mode of creative arts practice and research, may be potentially salutary to individuals and groups, as other creative arts practices have been shown to be (e.g.,Clift & Camic, Jennings, McLeod). We can truly heal through performance. On the other hand, PWB is a problematic concept when we consider society’s incessant focus on individual performance, adaptation, and resilience (well-being). Such an emphasis on personal change may be contributing to the divestment of personal political subjectivity through a gradual impoverishing of the imagination and the capacity to act through it to transform our world collectively (Chandler and Reid, Mouffe). Indeed, performance, and performing healthiness is an essential part of performative capitalism, and is problematic as such (McKenzie).

This research gives us tools to become aware of this problematic and to approach PWB critically and creatively. As compared to purely applied, empirical research, we will experience and analyze PWB directly through its practice and reflection. What are the capacities and qualities of performative well-being? How do we reconcile the individual benefits of cultivating well-being with its potentially deleterious influence on human autonomy and freedom? Is there more to performative well-being than can be achieved through personal adaptation and growth? What is it to perform a “healthy” life and how can we reperform (transform) “well-being” individually and collectively? What role do freedom, imagination, and power (i.e., subjectivity) via an active engagement with ourselves, others, and our world play in performative well-being? How is performative well-being connected to performative power? I lead participant action researchers in exploring these and other emerging questions, using arts-as research and participatory action research, drawing on an open improvisation discipline, (Inter)acting with the Inner Partner, in dialogue with ideas and processes from critical education, encounter groups and positive psychology.

The result of our research may provide a radical response to dominant evidence-based research rooted in medicinal understandings of and justifications for well-being, its cultivation, and study. This has the potential of having great significance for understanding the societal importance of the (performing) arts and creative arts therapies, especially in how we cultivate, transform, and deploy performative well-being and performative power.

I am also interested in clown-bouffon.  I am beginning to explore how these forms may provide insights into PWB and vice-versa.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.  You can also follow me on Research Gate.

Thanks!

Best,

Alex

July, 2018

 

 



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