I first came across this method of creative response whilst participating in the Abandoned Practices Summer Institute at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in July 2014 (run by Mark Jeffery (ATOM-r), Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish (Every house has a door). During the course the commonplace book response was used by participants as a way to reflect on each others’ work within a set of clearly defined parameters; creative restraints that allow for generative reflections on the work. Although this particular structure for responding to work was developed specifically for the Abandoned Practices Institute, it can be traced back to the practices and pedagogies of performance company Goat Island (of which Jeffery, Goulish and Hixson were members, along with Karen Christopher who is presenting work at this year’s Buzzcut).
When participating in the Abandoned Practices Institute, it struck me that through this kind of creative response we can bypass negative judgement and critique in order to focus on finding the value in the work of others in order to extend the work, or in the words of Matthew Goulish to “allow its resonance to proliferate”. For the duration of the institute, Matthew, Lin and Mark carefully structured the way in which we approached these responses (from the instructions that we received for devising them to contextualising justifications for the practice). Half way through the three week process Matthew shared the following thoughts on why this approach might be important:
“What we need is to understand how to value what we have done, to understand what value is. Valuing is an act of naming, or acknowledging, some quality of the work or its practice that a person brings consistently to it, and that another person wants to understand, perhaps to emulate, to carry forward, to keep near, to carry as a reminder. To value is to engage with the materials of the work, the forces that the work captures, and to speak of it and what it is like; to allow its resonance to proliferate. To understand a work’s value is to endow it and the practice that produced it with profound durability. To value is to try to escape the power game of praise and policing, and to replace it with acts of understanding, of moving forward with a candle in the darkness”.
Matthew Goulish On Response (full text available here http://www.abandonedpractices.org/onresponse.html)
In my experience of engaging this method on the course, the creative responses I made certainly allowed me to unpack and try to understand my own emotional response to the (potentially) accidental resonances between images in the work of my peers. According to Matthew Goulish’s reflections on response in the book Small Acts of Repair (2007) this is not an approach that attempts to separate the critical mind from the creative mind (a task that is in fact impossible) but rather to focus on the generative rather than the negative in our response to work. As Goulish argues:
“if we can destabilise the boundaries between the critical and the creative, we may enrich them both, and discover a communal practice – one that relies on one another for inspiration and energy, both critically and creatively”.
Matthew Goulish Small Acts of Repair (2007: 211)
My hope is that the inspiration and energy that might be gained from this communal practice could be of value to the community of performance making that will be present at Buzzcut. I also hope that capturing the audience responses to the work on this blog might in some small way document the inspiration and energy that is so characteristic of this festival and that will undoubtedly be thriving throughout the events at the Pearce Institute this March.
– Harry x