In connection to talks in the working group ‘Crossing disciplines’ I have tried to see what is potentially unique about the ArtsCross concept from a disciplinary perspective. Discussing disciplinary approaches is of course inspiring in light of the versatile framework of the project, in which national, linguistic, cultural, pedagogic and aesthetic boundaries are crossed – just as the theme of this year’s edition of ArtsCross indicates. However, rather than navigating disciplines to speculate about the concepts of home or elsewhere, or simply decode what is being encoded I rehearsal processes, I have pursued crucial meeting points between the project management, choreographers, performers and academics. The mentioned roles and functions are often considered as integral parts of case studies in so-called performance-as-research projects in which the artistic processes epitomize the investigations but where the multimodal make-up of the projects such as management, documentation and critical reflection also hold significant functions. So is it possible to detect the unique qualities of ArtsCross from a performance-as-research perspective? Let me try to answer that question from a broad disciplinary horizon.

As I mentioned in my first posting within the ‘Crossing disciplines’ forum I look upon the performance processes as the core activities of the project. And as Martin pointed out yesterday these processes have proven to be experimental in several of the choreographic processes. To synthesize these comments, I view the experimental scope of the performance processes as the gist of the ArtsCross concept. Experimentality pertains to all research orientations within higher education institutions, although in different ways and for different purposes.

Experiments are central to natural sciences such as medicine. In order to produce a new vaccine in lab experiments different components are often introduced in order to observe new reactions to a pathogen. If successful, the test will need to be repeated over time in order to corroborate the predictability and sustainability of the result as well as go through an ethical clearance procedure.

In many ways social sciences are less experimental in so far as they mostly aim to investigate what actually goes on in society and social relations. If we stick with the medical experiment, laboratory experiments often turn to the social science of epidemiology in order to corroborate the success and stability of a new medicine. Again, this is done in light of how people actually live, how susceptible lifetyles are to a certain ailment and how effective a vaccine would be against the ailment. So an experimental test group (who tries the vaccine) is set up alongside a control group (who is given a placebo) under normal living circumstances. Again, it is the medical trials that are experimental, not the social aspect of the people who are ready to test it. To take another although related example in the social sciences, the ethnographic fieldwork of anthropology has built up a whole paradigm of philosophically and ethically motivated paradigm to demonstrate the merit of observing, rather than intervening or otherwise altering, the behaviour of people (even if this is changing in connection to self-reflective and participatory fieldwork methods).

When it comes to the arts and humanities within conventional higher education institutions, they are quite difficult to appreciate in terms of experimentality. On the one hand they are often focusing on experimental practices in the arts that disrupt and alternate linguistic, performative, corporeal and other phenomena, but do not usually intervene or alternate the events or objects they are studying. In a similar manner, the ArtsCross project is designed to keep performance processes and observing procedures apart in order to optimize the practical/professional and analytical/academic achievements in their own respective right. In the working group ‘Crossing disciplines’, however, we have discussed, on recommendation of Ted, possibilities to take on our assignment as ‘ArtsCross studies’, or perhaps an ‘ArtsCross discipline’. This would imply studying our meeting in a multidisciplinary and multimodal way, that is, in the portfolio format that performance-as-research projects are often assessed and evaluated.

Performance-as-research (or ‘artistic research’ as it is more commonly called in continental Europe) is a relatively young category in higher education which acknowledges practical studies such as dance as disciplines of knowledge in their own right. Due to its novelty its official academic qualities and assessment criteria are not fully developed. Hence artistic qualities must be legitimized in terms of assessment criteria that suit natural and social sciences better than artistic pursuits. However, a project like ArtsCross can provide opportunities to amend this predicament if appreciated in a multidisciplinary way and, especially, in terms of an ‘experiment’ in its own right. Experiments usually involve interventions into pre-existing phenomena and processes in order to explore new modes of understanding, practices or products. Just like a science experiment, ArtsCross mixes pre-existing components (institutional pedagogies and artistic agents) in a laboratory-like fashion (protected but open to observation), although with the critical difference that the performances tests the open-ended and unpredictable outcomes of intercultural, human collaborations. The ArtsCross concept can of course also adopt the observation-based methodologies and critical discourses of the social sciences, besides specialized arts and humanities-approaches like dance studies and performance studies.

What we get from this multidisciplinary framework is not only a dynamic project format with potentially unique qualities (which can contribute with essential bodily, site-specific and open-ended qualities, I believe, to an otherwise mainly linguistic discipline such as intercultural communication), but also a potential to develop a special type of assessment criterion in the name of ‘experimentation’, which ought to be ascribed as much significance as ‘predictability’ in natural sciences and ‘interpretation’ in social sciences. I would not encourage us to develop a complex and intricate concept like experimentation if it wasn’t for the fact that we have managed to produce quite excellent outcomes in previous ArtsCross editions. Hence, we seem to attain certain ends, or aims, which we might wish to justify in terms of innovative means, or research methods (cultural diplomacy, creative collaboration, analytical and critical reflections) as well as assessment criteria (such as experimentation). Just a thought.

How do we do it?

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