Western science is one of those stories that we repeat to ourselves in order to validate our society.
David Peat, physicist
I had been mulling of over the possibility of an artistic research PhD lately, and in the course of reflecting, a variety of issues I would consider significant became apparent.
The fact that theorizing about artistic processes is still in most cases paid better than actually engaging in them (the same seems to count for ethics), and that ultimately the artist has to apply methods of science in order to achieve credibility in the face of the academy, still shows that structures and thought patterns are in place that prevent a true integration and transcendence of hierarchies and concepts.
By doing so it also prevents the unfolding of creative potential.
I could put it bluntly and say: I am not a researcher, I am a poet. Even if that would be a simplification for the sake of categorization.
But to ask of a poet (or some artists) to become a researcher in order to be able to work in the context of the academy, to my understanding, misses the point of transdisciplinary collaboration, and it misses the harnessing of its full potential.
Personally, I am more than curious and willing to engage in such collaboration, and eager to share my motivations for it, but the form of a research proposal, including its research question, even if artistic in nature, to me, seems to be overlooking, and to a degree continuously veiling, the silence that creative expression originates from.
Something needs to be found, to be verbalized, turned it into ‘knowledge’, with the purpose of instrumentalization.
This, to me, represents one of the core themes why we are in the predicament we find ourselves today, and it also points at its transcendence.
A sense of reverence and acknowledgment of the unspeakable, the undefinable, the recognition of the mystery that is life, to me is a basic and necessary ingredient of living and acting mindfully and in harmony with ones’ surroundings.
It is out of recognition of this phenomenon that would I propose the creation of spaces for disciplines of the arts, of contemplative practice, as well as science, to meet, without the objective of accumulating knowledge or deriving a formula, but for the purpose of meeting itself, of interaction and potential individual transformation, that will ripple out in its own ways.
It might be compared to preparing a fertile ground for a garden.
If the intention is genuine and the knowledge about conditions is given, a garden should grow and unfold that will change with the seasons and the years, and continue to offer and teach on innumerable levels – to those who are open and know how to listen.
More concretely, my proposition would be to establish a project that brings together and fosters artistic and contemplative practice, focussing on artistic improvisation, set in a context where direct exchange and interaction with the natural environment is possible, and to invite members of the scientific community, who sense a curiosity and interest.
Such a project would equally offer a basis to build bridges to Indigenous science and contemplative practice.
Collaboration and integration, the focussing on process over product, the consideration of ethics, meaning and reciprocity would be core themes, blending into ways of enacting.
To me, this represents a research institute that, while engaging in new ways and insights, at the same time would foster and allow poetry, the existence of paradoxes and of silence, of things as they are. It would revere and acknowledge what in the Buddhist context is called ‘Dharmakaya’, the body of the cosmos, which in Catholic terms might be described as ‘The Kingdom of God’.