PANEL 5: Practice (knowing) Research

PANEL 5: Practice (knowing) Research

Friday 15th January 2016 – 11:30AM-1:00PM – Rehearsal Room 2


  • Practice as “Search” towards a different form of knowledge. Dr Anna Troisi


“Research” has always been a tricky word when associated to the practice towards an artistic purpose. The major aim of research has always been related to a form of investigation, analysis, inspection and assessment. The epistemological intrinsic aspect of the research brought us thinking that every approach to create knowledge and awareness should pass through a research methodology to deserve the right to be validated and to produce an appreciable output.

As digital artist and performer, my input material, my research pathway and my final results, collide in a mixture of scientific and artistic vibrant matter, but it is not always true that they are really so distinct. I use to code and I use my scientific background while sculpting my artistic outputs, but I never considered the practical side of my work as a standard research process but rather a “search”. I spend my academic research time looking trough physical, abstract or virtual spaces carefully to find the right interpretation for something that I already have in my mind. Instead of “researching” I look for paradigms that enable my performances to use the real world as a media. I search and my every day practice is searching towards a form of knowledge that cannot be described with scientific words such as “output” or “finding”.

Do we really need to investigate, inspect or assess in order to produce arts?

Additionally while being able to contextualise our artworks is of great help to enhance the philosophical potentiality of our work, will it be likewise useful for the audience to perceive a performance as a layered sliced form of expression where every detail is revealed? Is academia trying to force a different form of knowledge in a context that worked well and still works well for other forms of knowledge?

Dr. Anna Troisi is a digital performer, artist, musician, composer, programmer.

She has a background in computer science and music. In 2009 she achieved a PHD in Nanotechnology. She worked ICCMR Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, (University of Plymouth 2009- 2010). In 2013 she worked as research associate in multimedia programming at CRASSH, University of Cambridge. She is currently Lecturer in Digital Media Design at Bournemouth University and member of Emerge (Experimental Media Research Group). Recently she started a fruitful collaboration with Office of Experiment. Anna’s research interests include performance, design of new interfaces for performances, multi-sensory digital installations.

  • Practice (confounds) Research: Grappling with ‘Lost Causes’. Adelina Ong


In 1993, The Substation held the inaugural Substation Conference titled ‘Art vs. Art: Conflict and Convergence’. Singaporean art historian T K Sabapathy emphasised the need to constantly articulate the nature and importance of artistic experimentation in Singapore. He warned, ‘If we do not, no one else will. And silence exacts a heavy price’ (Sabapathy 1995: 20). The Substation Conferences were groundbreaking for Singapore’s arts scene, stimulating passionate debates between artists, arts professionals, practitioners, academics, critics, audiences and arts administrators working for government institutions. These debates explored controversial issues including the impact of monumental arts centres and museums where ‘commemorations, orthodoxies and authoritative significance are enacted’ on independently-managed places dedicated to ‘exploratory, divergent, challenging practices and provocations’ (19).

Today, the urban arts scene in Singapore is transitioning from independently-organised ‘guerilla-style’ events to large-scale, high-visibility, government-funded festivals and projects focused on the engagement of ‘at-risk’ youths. While urban arts practitioners are encouraged by this increased investment in urban arts, I suggest that it is timely to consider the possible impact of these large-scale events on the more exploratory, provocative, messy, ‘guerilla’ aspects of urban arts practices. Reflecting on conversations and walks with urban artists about lost causes, this provocation speculates what might be lost. It grapples with the contradiction of researching ‘lost causes’: ideas and visions that have been lost in translation, dialogues that have fallen silent and young people who have been written off. As an applied theatre practitioner who initiates collaborations with urban arts practitioners for applied theatre interventions with young people, this presentation also considers how my practice might be implicated in this tangle of lost practices and forgotten people.

Adelina’s research looks at how parkour, skateboarding, ‘breakin’ (breakdancing) and graffiti create compassionate mobility for young people. She has been active in Singapore’s theatre scene from 1997, as a performer and co-organising interdisciplinary street x art festivals such as Pulp (2003). As an applied theatre practitioner, she managed an interdisciplinary, free arts school for low-income children and youths. She currently serves as Assistant Convener for Central’s Theatre Applied Centre for Research in Performance and Social Practice.

  • Finding the Woo Woo: when Practice does Not Become Research. Royce Sparks


This presentation offers a direct challenge to the notion of Practice as Research. It begins by addressing the problematic notion of the case study, the idea that the description of an experience can be accurate, and beyond that possibly translate to claims about other groups of people. It utilizes specific findings in cognitive psychology as its bridge, including work from Daniel Dennett, Elizabeth Loftus, Michael Shermer, Keith Stanovich. It first outlines the problematic and inherently untrustworthy attempt of describing one’s experience, subject to unreliable tenets of cognition such as the confirmation bias, selective bias, and Type I and II errors, as well as issues in reporting memory. It then argues that, despite what Carol Tarvis describes as the ‘neuro-hysteria’ that has gripped many of the domains of performance, particularly actor training, Practice as Research is fundamentally incompatible with using any scientific research to support its claims, lacking the analytical branch of inquiry essential to communication between scientific mediums. At best, PaR can hope to rise to the level of pseudoscientific claims or cherrypicking data, and many of the claims within it run the risk of either being false due to human errors in reporting, or will be overturned by the convergence of evidence from the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and other branches of the sciences.

Royce Sparks is an alumni of Central (MA Actor Training and Coaching, 2012) who specializes in independent research on the convergence between the sciences and performance, specifically actor training. He has a performance background that includes practice internationally with the Noh Theatre of Japan (Kita/Kongo styles), Odin Teatret, as well as exposure to some of the performance traditions of Botswana over the course of nearly a decade. He is a practitioner of the Meisner technique, being certified by Larry Silverberg, as well as with five modular years of training and performance at the Impulse Company with Scott Williams.