Politics is everywhere; there can be no escape into the realms of pure art and thought, or for that matter, into the realm of disinterested objectivity or transcendental theory (Edward Said (1993: 16))

I want to start with a joke. It is an old joke; many of you will have heard it:

An owl is looking down from her tree at a small rabbit in a clearing in front of a large cave. The rabbit wears glasses, is surrounded by books and papers, and is typing on a notebook computer. A fox enters the clearing, snarls at the rabbit, and opens his mouth to eat her. The rabbit says to the fox, “Excuse me, you can’t eat me.” The fox is dumbfounded, and exclaims incredulously, “Why not?” The rabbit answers, “Because I’m writing a thesis on the naturally superior fighting qualities of rabbits over foxes.” The fox is astounded and says, “What rot! I’m going to eat you.” The rabbit is unalarmed and says, “Okay, you can eat me, but, before you do that, would you accompany me to the cave where we can discuss it further?” The fox, incredulous at the rabbit’s calm, agrees. The owl watches them both disappear into the cave. There is a brief silence, followed by the sound of screaming and yelling, several loud thumps, and a tearing sound. A cloud of dust issues from the cave, and, as it settles over the clearing, the rabbit walks from the cave, brushes her fur, cleans her glasses, sits at the notebook, and recommences typing.

Soon, a grizzly bear enters the clearing, snarls at the rabbit, and opens his mouth to eat her. The rabbit says to the bear, “Excuse me, you can’t eat me.” The bear, dumbfounded, exclaims incredulously, “Why not?” The rabbit answers, “Because I’m writing a thesis on the naturally superior fighting habits of rabbits over that of bears.” The bear, astounded, says, “What rot! I’m going to eat you.” The rabbit calmly responds, “Okay, but before you do that perhaps you’d like to accompany me to the cave where we can discuss it further.” The bear agrees, and the owl watches them both disappear into the cave. There is a brief silence, followed by the sound of screaming and yelling, several loud thumps, and a tearing sound. A cloud of dust, fur, and bones issues from the cave and, as it settles over the clearing, the rabbit walks from the cave, brushes her fur, cleans her glasses, sits at the notebook, and recommences typing.

And so it goes on, ferocious animal after ferocious animal approaches the rabbit and each time is sent into the cave never to return. The owl is extremely interested. She flies down to the rabbit, and politely says, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help noticing all that with the fox, the bear, and the other animals. And I was wondering…” Here the owl broke off, suddenly embarrassed. “Yes?” says the rabbit, looking at the owl mildly.

“Well, I was wondering,” continued the owl, “if I could look inside the cave?” “Certainly,” says the rabbit.

So, the owl crosses into the cave. It’s cool inside, and very dark. A slight breeze ruffles the owl’s feathers. As her eyes adjust to the extraordinarily dim light (which is quickly because she is an owl), the owl notices blood around the walls, piles of bones, rotting fur, and at the back of the cave a faint shape stirring. Walking slowly to the back of the cave, she eventually makes out an enormous and vicious looking lion. The owl stays long enough to see the massive chest and muscled forearms, the drool dripping from the lion’s fangs, and its hideous claws. She then edges slowly out the cave back towards the rabbit, who is still typing at her notebook. “Very interesting,” says the owl, “but what does it mean?”

“Ah,” says the rabbit, “it means it doesn’t matter how ridiculous your thesis topic is so long as you have a strong supervisor.”

There are no more jokes in this talk. I include this one because it hints at a possible truth: research is inevitably a social practice that involves more than disinterested knowledge, it also, perhaps mostly, involves relationships of power. I’ll say nothing more about that now.

I hope you are not looking to me as a professional, a specialist, an expert with a developed methodology for research in what, for convenience, I will call the ‘creative arts,’ meaning the visual, performing, musical, and hybrid arts. I want to speak as an amateur, in Edward Said’s words someone who “instead of doing what one is supposed to do . . . can one ask why one does it, who benefits from it, how it can reconnect with a personal project and original thoughts?” (1993: 62).

Despite already citing Said twice, I really want to start with Gilles Deleuze in and on conversation:

It is very hard to ‘explain oneself’ in an interview, a dialogue, a conversation. Most of the time when someone asks me a question, even one which relates to me, I see that, strictly, I have nothing to say. Questions are invented, like anything else. If you aren’t allowed to invent your questions, with elements from all over the place, from never mind where, if people ‘pose’ them to you, you haven’t much to say… The aim is not to answer questions, it’s to get out of it, to get out of it… many people think that it is only by going back over the question that it’s possible to get out of it… It’s very trying. They won’t stop returning to the question in order to get out of it. But getting out never happens like that. Movement always happens behind the thinker’s back, or in the moment when he [or she] blinks. Getting out is already achieved, or else it never will be (Deleuze & Parnet (1987): 1-2).

Getting out of it. How to get out of it? Whenever I write, I am torn between, on the one hand, the impulse to be dutiful, responsible, sober, mature, thoughtful, logical, clear, precise, coherent, unassailable, perfect, scholarly and so to win the audience with the fineness and purity of my prose and the depth of my reading and, on the other hand, the impulse to dance, to turn the music up, to run with the blood, to grapple, fight with, and give over to the words, to stutter, to give into my impulses, to seduce, to fly with the realisation that I don’t want recognition of arguments but the baser joy of tearing someone apart, to be applauded, feared, loved.

Possibly we all feel this tear, this crack, this fissure, I don’t know. Of course, Deleuze (1990) and, following him, Lecercle (1985, 1990 & 1994) have demonstrated in some detail that all speech, all writing (and all research?) is riven with desire, with a delirium that is only faintly masked. And here am I at yet another conference on artistic work in the academy. How to have a conversation? How to move? How to get beyond discussing protocols and procedures and other institutional regimes? How inspire you? To what? For what? How to acknowledge my own delirium? What follows is partially a confession. (It’s the only way to do philosophy. Or performance. Or research.)

I come to academe from a radically different background than do most academics: my working life has been mostly spent as a performer and performance maker, an ‘untrained’ one at that, who emerged, however unconsciously, from the radical tradition of the Australian Performing Group and the Pram Factory. This tradition fostered in me a belief in the unavoidable and necessary interweaving of art and politics, and, further, in the efficacy of performance, of art, as political action. I carry that heritage with me wherever I go. Coming first as a doctoral student and later as a lecturer into a university system struggling with the Dawkins’ reforms, a system dealing with a much wider range of disciplines than those traditionally found in universities, I have been amazed to find in many of the institutions I have attended or worked an indifference or blindness to the (political) implications of traditional pedagogical and research conventions.

In my academic writing and teaching, I have tried to operate from the premise that research and pedagogy are not neutral tools used to discover and transmit ‘facts’ about the world and performance, but machines that intervene in and construct the world and performance (see, for example, Minchinton (1994) & (1997)). Not tools, but weapons. Writing about improvisation and theatre making practices, I might consult workbooks, interview fellow participants, and write ‘authoritatively’ about them. However, I do not see myself as presenting the facts or the truth about those processes, but a version of them.

Firstly, I don’t do cut-ups, cannibalise writing or crypto-fiction (attempting, for reasons of personal psychology lost to me, to move, if not fully into, at least towards the often impersonal and apparently logical register of academic prose). When writing, I see myself engaged in an experiment, that is, in a performance (and I will come back to that connection later). The idea for me is, in the words of Deleuze, not to find out “whether an idea is just or correct,” but to “look for a completely different idea, elsewhere, in another area, so that something passes between the two which is neither one nor the other” (Deleuze & Parnet (1987: 10)). I aim, but not always succeed, to ask:

not is it true? But, Does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? What new emotions does it make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body? (Massumi (1992: 3)).

Writing, putting this with that, what do I/we get? What does it disclose about performance? What interventions does it make possible? What new ways of conceiving of performance, of being myself in the world, does this writing open up? Who or what do I become? I might say I see myself writing a script, not an argument, not a report, not a documentation, even though I might use an argument as part of the script.

Secondly, I see myself at all times as someone with an agenda, certainly not a neutral observer gathering the facts; someone who has a history which must be acknowledged (as I’m doing now); someone whose opinions may have some effect in the world; someone who speaks for someone, and who recognises that “[e]ven when we are speaking for ourselves, we always speak in the place of someone who will not be able to speak” (Deleuze & Parnet (1987: 20)).

In summary, I see myself operating not as a researcher, but as an intellectual/artist (however you want to read the solidus between that pairing). I’m not sure when the terms ‘research’ and ‘researcher’ started to have currency. I suspect they really came into vogue after World War Two, but there is quite a big difference between seeing yourself as a researcher and as an intellectual/artist. Yes, you might say, that is obvious; but not to make too fine a point of it, I suspect one effect, if not intention, of research regimes is to transform intellectual/artists into researchers. And to be a researcher, rather than an intellectual/artist, is to be subject to a whole range of increasingly professionalised disciplinary mechanisms. On the artist/intellectual, Edward Said quotes C. Wright Mills (and I admit I have not read Mills in his entirety): “[t]he independent artist and intellectual are among the few remaining personalities equipped to resist and to fight the stereotyping and consequent death of genuinely living things” (Mills cited in Said (1993: 16)).

My experience of university research committees (and I have sat on them at various levels), and through them of Australian Research Council committees and the like, is that fighting ‘the stereotyping and consequent death of genuinely living things’ (while acknowledging that there may be some definitional problems with that phrase) is not what they see their task to be nor the task of research. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps the task of research is unproblematically to uncover ‘knowledge.’ I guess there are those who would argue that research provides the ‘basic knowledge’ on which artists/intellectuals’ interventions and commentaries are built and who might argue that intellectuals and artists are diseased with partisanship and questions of style. ‘Research’ is more respectable, more reliable, than art; more objective than informed intellectual opinion and writing; it has a reassuringly professional ring to it. But this is to ignore the social dimensions of knowledge and begs a number of questions about the exemplar of knowledge, science, which occupies such a space inside our heads and certainly the heads of research committees.

Now, there is a line of flight I could take in regard to the constitution of science as a body of knowledge (my metaphor is deliberate) concerned not with episteme (“pure or disinterested contemplation of general rules or principles whose intellectual process is demonstration and whose objects can be otherwise”), or techne (“craft”), but with phronesis (“or practical wisdom…being wise in the world through activity”) (Crease (1993: 114-117). But I do not want to pursue this line of inquiry too far because it takes me too close to an engagement with debates that in the end can really only distract me from the essential point which is, as Deleuze and Guattari have remarked, that “the way in which a science, or a conception of science, participates in the organisation of a social field, and in particular induces a division of labor, is part of that science itself” (1988: 368). My experience of research committees is that the arguments about the status of different forms of knowledge and the need for coherent methodologies, documentation, and so on, are always tied somehow to the exercise of power (over money, resources, position, status, and so on). Until that nexus is broken, I can only think of debates about methodologies as masks for unspoken desires, usually the desire to tear someone apart, or, in more polite terms, the effort to hold on to positions of privilege, to establish disciplinary compliance, through invoking a rhetoric of professionalism. This, as Edward Said has asserted in another context, is the greatest threat to the intellectual today, and always involves specialisation, certification, and a drift towards power and authority (see Said (1993: 59-60)). Or, to deterritorialise Greg Dening writing in another context,

Surrenders to conventionality are what disciplines are. The disciplines are social systems that raise their partial ‘as if’ perspectives from mere conventionality to mythic proportions… We will find them all, these rites de passages, in examinations, in selection, promotion, and establishment, in the residence rules of departments and schools, in the special languages, in the professional taboos. These are ways of making a blinkered view of the world seem mythically true. No matter that every science properly protests its rationality, the mood and sentiment created by each science’s social relations make the artificiality of its perspective as natural as good and evil (1996: 40).

Robert Crease, in his wonderful book, The Play of Nature: Experimentation as Performance chastises scientists and philosophers of science for their over-identification which the ‘mythic’ view of science. In this view, science is seen as “principally a body of information rather than practices” (1993: 18), a body containing “knowledge of the Demiurge, above human history and culture” (1993: 13). Science is “essentially theory making” where “[t]he truths aimed at by theoretical representations are held to be eternal, above human time and history” (Crease (1993: 17)) and its

principal work lies in formulating questions and interpreting answers. It is as if science were akin to the erstwhile television game show Concentration, in which contestants make educated guesses regarding what questions are written on a hidden face of certain video cubes; no sooner is a guess formulated than offstage technicians activate equipment to reveal the hidden question… …that information is thought to emerge fully formed and complete, and the process by which it does so, experimentation, is regarded as more or less automatic and machine governed (1993: 2-3).

Now, attacking the positivist foundations of science may be old hat, but such are their strength, and so deep are their internalisation and hold over our practices, that I think it is worth reminding ourselves how central they are to the environment in which we find ourselves working.

The mythic view privileges Aristotle’s episteme theoretike, “the mind’s beholding of fixed and immutable forms” (Crease (1993: 22)), and denies the social dimensions of science, refusing to recognise that science is the product of particular historical, cultural, and social (including personal) contexts. This leads to two conclusions for scientific mythicists: “First, science is essentially theory making….[e]xperimental methods and practices, which are historically and culturally bound play no constitutive role in them” and, secondly, “experimentation is essentially theory testing…[so e]xperiments are not to be thought of as creations, as constituting or making things, as bringing things into the world” (Crease (1993: 17)). The mythic view of science denies the centrality of experimentation, which obviously occurs in material, historical, cultural, and social circumstances, to the creation of scientific data.

For Crease, experimentation far from being mere “theory testing”–the gathering of preexisting data like the turning over of card-pairs in the game of Concentration–is the defining activity of science, and a form of performance or “poesis…a bringing-forth of some phenomenon through praxes” (1993: 167). In experimentation, “scientific entities are brought into the world through an artistic process” (Crease (1993: 70)). Traditional accounts of science overlook the importance of these creative processes and assume that the laboratory is a place where the scientist “eavesdrops…on a scientific world of imperceptible entities that govern the events that take place in our own world” (Crease (1993, 105)).1

Crease, however, recognises that experiments are performances and, like performances, may take four forms:

* failed in which something that was expected to appear does not appear;

* repetitious in which the encoding of the performance ensures that the same thing appears with predictable regularity (as in a player piano or video)

* standardised in which what appears can be predicted because the performance itself “cleaves to accepted practices” (in art this is a negative outcome; in science this is a positive outcome since experiments that have previously only been possible for particular practitioners become accessible to other practitioners); and

* artistic which “coaxes into being something which has not previously appeared. It is beyond the standardized program; it is action at the limit of the already controlled and understood; it is risk” (1993: 110).

Now if ‘research’ itself is thought of as experimentation, risk-taking, rather than the discovery of facts about the world, why should we be, why are we, making such efforts to produce models and methods which are themselves standardised performances?2 Nietzsche, bastardised by Deleuze, had some thoughts about this: in what Deleuze-Nietzsche calls the “dogmatic image” of thought, the image to which research culture would seem to have us cleave,

* “We are told that the thinker as thinker wants and loves truth”;

* “we are ‘diverted’ from the truth…by forces which are foreign to it (body, passions, sensuous interests” (for which read, by the nonsense of desire involved in the making of art); and

* “We are told forcefully, that all we need to think well, to think truthfully, is a method…” and through method we enter the domain of that “which is valid for all times and all places” (Deleuze (1983: 103)) where “when knowledge becomes a legislator, the most important thing to be subjected is thought” (Deleuze (1983: 100)).

To flee, but in fleeing to seek a weapon (Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet (1987: 135-136).

Artistic works should be, must be, regarded as research within the academy, without requiring exegesis and with only a minimum of documentation. There, I’ve said it. I do not really have an argument why that should be so. Well, really I do; in fact, I have several, but I must admit that I am not entirely happy with them. I suspect I agree with Jacques Delaruelle (1997) who has more or less wondered whether the academy was inimical to artistic work. Part of me has some sympathy for a position that says the academy has a right to demand different types of documentation, validation, and so on. I recognise the difficulties and have experienced the anxieties that ‘unfettered’ artistic work can cause and I can see the strategic wisdom of putting it in some sort of quasi-scientific form so that it can ‘pass.’ But these are only strategies.

If I want to see artistic work recognised as research, it is not because I fully believe that it is research, but because to put that proposition is fun, is provocative, is life-affirming. Do I ‘really’ believe artistic research should be in the academy? I do not know. But what does it make possible if I act as if I believe it?

I acknowledge there is an element of perversity in this.

Psychologist Frank Sulloway (1996) has argued persuasively in a respectably scientific and meticulously documented study of thousands of scientific advances, voting patterns in post revolutionary France and Russia, and so on, that birth order is statistically a more significant factor than race, gender, and class in determining people’s attitudes to new ideas, their likelihood of making conceptual advances, and to the probabilities of their making revolutions. According to Sulloway, later-borns are statistically more likely to instigate, further, and embrace new ideas and social formations than first-borns. If first- borns make contributions to new ideas, they tend to be elaborations within existing paradigms. First-borns also tend to utilise violence more willingly than later-borns. This is because, in evolutionary terms, first-borns learn that violence works; later borns have to be more imaginative in the ways they get parental attention or protect themselves. The late-born Charles Darwin is a case in point.

It strikes me that science as an institution, the A.R.C., and the academy are first-born institutions: socially conservative, determined to allow advances only within existing paradigms, and quite ruthless in the exercise of institutional violence against new ideas. (Of course, I’m exaggerating, aren’t I?) I am not Charles Darwin, but I am a late-born. I cannot help myself; it just seems that having artistic research in the academy is good because it is provocative, because it does not easily fit the existing paradigms, because it is troublesome, because it is fun.

If I seem to be being flippant, let me tell you that being flippant is a serious business. It is an era when, as my partner (a lawyer in Community Legal Centres regularly exposed to the ravages of the new economic order) says, “the world is turning to pus.” It is an era, in more sober terms, when:

Social revolution has already come, and keeps coming, in the form of accelerated systemic change and, for some in society, as the possibility of breaking free from disciplinary and normative institutions and inventing a self as if from scratch. But [a] self [that] is invented in and through commodity… Extreme change accompanied by utter conservatism: a possible definition of ‘postmodernism’ (Massumi (1993: 18)).

In such an era, an era when people’s lives are being increasingly circumscribed by economic regimes and a politics which blatantly seeks to rewrite the past and to shut down all movement towards difference, holding out the illusion of greater choice while instituting greater and more effective means of social control, I think it is important to maintain spaces of dissidence, resistance, and refusal; spaces where work can be made that cannot be made elsewhere, where artists/intellectuals can be nurtured. The universities are such a place. ‘Research’ should be a place not only for the ‘discovery’ of ideal and immutable forms, but a place of thought, and, as Deleuze says, “Thought is primarily trespass and violence.”

Discussing Nietzsche, Deleuze points out that:

[For] rational knowledge sets the same limits to life as reasonable life sets to thought; life is subject to knowledge and at the same time thought is subject to life. Reason sometimes dissuades and sometimes forbids us to cross certain limits: because it is useless (knowledge is there to predict), because it would be evil (life is there to be virtuous), because it is impossible (there is nothing to see or think behind the truth). But does not critique, understood as critique of knowledge itself, express new forces capable of giving thought another sense? A thought that would go to the limit of what life can do? A thought that would affirm life instead of a knowledge that is opposed to life. Life would be the active force of thought, but thought would be the affirmative power of life… Thinking would then mean discovering, inventing, new possibilities of life [which is] the essence of art (Deleuze (1983: 101)).

As an academic, as a mentor to young people who may (in the sort of phrases that get trotted out at university graduation ceremonies) go on to become ‘the leaders of tomorrow,’ I feel I must do, and be seen to do, more than merely reiterate the known ways of doing things, must be seen to be more than dutiful, going cap in hand to the institution, resisting the impulse to blow raspberries, comforting myself with the thought that I have served ‘knowledge’ or ‘reason,’ been respectable. If we teach art, we must be prepared to be on view, in action, performing, making trouble, at all levels. We must be having fun, even when fun causes us great anxiety. John Ralston Saul has argued that one of the effects of the dominance of “reasoned managerialism,” the legacy of Enlightenment, has been an obsession with problem solving and control, “forgetting that uncertainty is essential to successful action” (1997: 100-101). Too much of what passes for research has been concerned with demonstrating the reasonableness of its methodology, a methodology that aims to eliminate panic and anxiety by pre-scripting the outcome, a methodology that indicates the researcher’s expertise and ‘insider’ status. I do not have space to fully develop this argument here, but interested readers/listeners can look to Saul’s attacks on “Voltaire’s Bastards” (1992, 1994 & 1997). Let me record here that Saul points out how the application of common methodologies to military planning has led to untold horrors while military commanders, obsessed with logistics and methods, have not panicked, as though panic and anxiety were reprehensible. As he says:

[t]he ability not to panic has been turned into one of the great virtues of the last one hundred years. The rational method has become the cool approach of the insider (1992: 196).

The anxiety and panic produced by stepping outside the snug folds of traditional research methodologies can be invigorating, can lead to new strategies, can be productive.

In war, apart from a few basic principles, there is no universal system, only circumstance and personalities. (Charles de Gaulle cited in Saul (1992:189))

So what, you might say? We’re all doing that: trying to have fun, trying to ensure the survival of, not the arts, but thought, trying to infiltrate, to create or maintain a small space where new and dangerous thoughts/actions might occur. We just have different ways of doing it. Or you might say, it is important that we recognise the most effective way to ensure the survival of these new forms of knowledge within the hothouse of the academe is to put them on a properly academic footing, to oversee them rigorously, to document and explain. Well, I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

There is a real danger in building specialists and experts whose specialisation and expertise endorses only certain kinds of art, certain kinds of performance and performance making (whose ephemerality seems to cause the greatest anxiety). An approach built upon detailed note-taking, documentation, and exegesis largely favours only certain kinds of performance and performance making–precisely those that most appeal to academic canons of coherence, mastery, globalised, and centralised control–and also to encourage conservative writing. Peggy Phelan has written that performance theorists and critics, confronted with the challenge that the object of their meditation, performance, “disappears”

have tended to respond…by adapting a primarily conservative and conserving method. Writing about performance has largely been dedicated to describing in exhaustive detail… This urge to record has given rise to an odd situation in which some of the most radical and troubling art of our cultural moment has inspired some of the most conservative (and even reactionary) critical commentary (1997: 3).

Note that I said ‘largely favors’ above. There will be, of course, exceptions to this. I don’t want to stop people from documenting and analysing work, but I do want an acknowledgement that documentation and analysis constitute performance making strategies in themselves, that is, the products of such work are affected by the processes of documentation and analysis.

Don’t artists document and analyse the creative process and audience reception in practice? Don’t artists accumulate and possess detailed knowledges and understandings of their art? Don’t theatre practitioners already observe, record, document, analyse, and theorise through theatre itself? What is at issue here is what constitutes valid knowledge, ways of knowing and ‘expressing’ it. As Melrose comments, “only certain kinds of knowledge about theatre are transmitted through language” (1994: 49) and

Theatre communicates and often critiques other theatre practices each time it is produced, provided we are able to perceive this stream of interdiscursivity and interpraxia; to recognise the systems of allusion, quotation and transformation through image and practice, and to acknowledge the positions within it that given practitioners have chosen. All theatre practice, regardless of its practitioner’s intention, is caught up, not in a dialogue but in an ‘interpraxio-logue,’ an exchange both with the abstract theatricality itself, and with specific concrete instances (1994: 47).

This sounds to me like an argument for the recognition of those other ways of knowing and expressing knowledge.

Clearly, all researchers are involved in a set of performances for various communities. We should not let the quest for certainty that Dewey identified many years ago undermine us. Robert Crease writes of this quest that it

cannot be conducted in the practical realm, for ‘practical activity deals with individualized and unique situations, which are never exactly duplicable and about which, accordingly no complete assurance is possible.’ The quest for certainty is satisfiable in the mind alone, in the grasping of eternal and immutable facts about the world. It is thus more realizable in concepts than in acts, in theories than in experiments [in exegeses than art].

A first corollary of this view, according to Dewey, is that genuine acts of knowledge cannot be originative, for if they altered or created the known it would not be eternal and immutable. Instead, knowledge consists in the formulation of ideas that agree with some pre-existing state of affairs. Knowledge is thus necessarily a discovery, not a making, and what is discovered is antecedent to and unaffected by the inquiry that discovers it… A second corollary is that knowledge involving the practical realm– the world of the changing and temporal–is an inferior kind. This view therefore leads to the separation of the realm of knowledge and practical action and the elevation of the former over the latter (1993: 23).

What are the implications for the development of artistic research in the light of the above? What I am advocating here is a kind of intellectual disrespectability, a vagabondage which does not become obsessed with professionalisation and A.R.C. accounts and so on. If you can describe your project in terms which fit the A.R.C. and convince it to give money to you for it, good luck to you. If you cannot, then try to stretch the A.R.C. as much as possible, get them to adopt/adapt to you, and put into that project as much energy as you can without destroying whatever it was you set out to do in the first place. If you need to disguise what you are doing, do so. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it is about power and that ‘getting out of it’ always happens behind the thinker’s back.

In an early anthology of his essays, Félix Guattari distinguishes between ‘subjected or subjugated groups’ and ‘the subject group.’ Subjugated groups, according to Guattari (1984):

* receive their determinations from other groups;

* enforce traditional rules, concepts and modes of exclusion, constructing or offering the individual a parasitic immortality in exchange for or through horizontal (roles) and vertical (hierarchical) organisation; any breach of roles or order will be met with a tightening of roles and hierarchy;

* perpetually struggle against every possible inscription of ‘nonsense’ so that content precedes expression (‘nonsense’ here can be taken to mean anything that results from (a) any concept of research or practice that falls outside authorised concepts;

* refuse to face “the ultimate signification of the enterprises” they are involved in by adopting ready-made models of social organisation and representation (the group accepts the need for a hierarchy and does not question the research models used); and

* construct a “group fantasy” around “institutional objects” which are never called into question.

Such subjugated groups are seriously threatened by any challenge to these prescriptions.

In contrast, I want to suggest that researchers should form not subjected groups but ‘group subjects’ that put in place a complex series of practices whose effect, if not aim, recalls translator Brian Massumi’s description of Guattaris project at the La Borde psychiatric clinic: to abolish the hierarchy between researcher and practitioner, researcher and spectator/reader in favour of an interactive group dynamic that will bring the experiences of both to full expression in such a way as to produce a collective critique of the power relations in society as a whole. The ‘group subject’ “endeavours to control its own behavior and elucidate its object…[and] can produce its own tools of elucidation” (Guattari (1984: 14)). The group subject proposes to:

* rediscover its internal laws, its projects, and actions in relation to other groups;

* make transverse connections ‘across’ roles and hierarchies;

* question its goals and attempt to articulate new significations and form new modes of interaction; and

* construct ‘transitional’ fantasies “connected with the internal process of subjectivation corresponding to various reorganisations within the group” (Guattari (1984: 39)).

I would like to end by quoting Edward Said:

If specialisation is a kind of general instrumental pressure present in all systems of education everywhere, expertise and the cult of the certified expert are more particular pressures in the postwar world. To be an expert you have to be certified by the proper authorities; they instruct you in speaking the right language, citing the right authorities, holding down the right territory. This is especially true when sensitive and/or profitable areas of knowledge are at stake (1993: 58).



Crease, Robert (1993) The Play of Nature: Experimentation as Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

Dalaruelle, Jacques (1997) “Artists, Poets and Other Thinkers,” in Double Dialogues: Conference with a Difference, ed. Ann McCulloch (Geelong: Deakin University), pp. 7-12.

Deleuze, Gilles (1990) The Logic of Sense, ed. C.V. Boundas, tr. Mark Lester & Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia University Press).

Deleuze, Gilles (1994) ‘He Stuttered’: Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, ed. C.V. Boundas & D. Olkowski (New York: Routledge), pp. 23-29.

Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. Brian Massumi (London: Athlone Press).

Deleuze, Gilles & Parnet, Claire (1987) Dialogues, tr. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (London: Athlone Press).

Dening, Greg (1996) “A poetic for Histories,” in Performances (Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press), pp. 33-63.

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