Phronesis – knowing through performance, action

A few years ago I printed out this article to read!  Today I began reading it.  Wonderful.

Art as action or art as object? the embodiment of knowledge in practice as research
Dr Anna Pakes, Roehampton University of Surrey, England

If I can make a short summary: Through action we know stuff.

This is right on the topic of my science & Psychodrama paper, and goes back again to Aristotle:  Phronesis (see earlier post of mine) I have highlighted a bit in the quote below that may as well describe a Psychodrama session.  She relates the knowing to dance, but and I am sure it applies equally if not more so to Psychodrama which is a conscious form of experimentation in addition to all that she describes.

Quote follows.

working papers in art and design, volume 3:

Phronesis is a capacity to respond to the particularities of experience, and to evolving relationships with others, which for Aristotle both enables and flows from the human being’s living well within the polis. Phronesis is thus associated for Aristotle with the domain of praxis (social action) rather than poesis (making); but Carr’s argument is that contemporary art making both depends upon and has the potential to develop a form of phronetic insight. Even if the action of the artist is a poeitic production of art works or objects, her processes also involve a sensitivity to materials and the evolving situation more akin to practical wisdom than to mere technical competence.

One might argue similarly with respect to practice as research, characterising its epistemological mode as phronetic rather than either technical or theoretical. The parallel does, arguably, help highlight important dimensions of art-making activity, at least insofar as performance practice is concerned. The performing arts necessarily involve collective production and collective action, a number of agents working together to produce performance events. So these events take place within – and are the result of – an intersubjective context in which it is crucial to have a creative sensitivity to others participating in the process, to the materials at hand and to the evolving situation. This creative sensitivity – and the ability to act in accordance with what it suggests to be the “right” course – is arguably an essential element in any performing artist’s practice, because decisions are not generally made in accordance with a technically rational view of how to achieve a pre-conceived effect. Rather, they arise out of the circumstances of the moment and are governed by a different, more flexible kind of rationality, sensitive to contingencies. It was on this basis that, in Pakes (2003b), I argued that we might conceive of dance practice as research as phronetic – that is, as bound up with a distinctively practical mode of knowledge, which reaches behind the professional norms of the dance world. This world, in its contemporary form, tends towards commodification, to treating artistic practice as primarily the production of dance works, presented, packaged and sold as commodities within a system of exchange (Pakes 2001). But, in contrast, presenting practice as research – or, more particularly, as generative of phronetic insight – reasserts the nature of dance-making as intersubjective action and allows the artist a space to develop increased self-consciousness about her conduct in that making process. In her reflexive awareness of what she does, and of her relationships with dancers, other collaborators and audience members, the dance artist-researcher develops a kind of knowledge that is valuable in reflecting on both specifically artistic processes and, more generally, on the nature of social relationships.

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