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Arts, Pedagogy and Cultural Resistance: New Materialisms

Arts, Pedagogy and
Cultural Resistance
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Arts, Pedagogy and
Cultural Resistance
New Materialisms
Edited by
Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
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Published by Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd.
Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB
Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd. is an affiliate of Rowman & Littlefield
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With additional offices in Boulder, New York, Toronto (Canada), and Plymouth (UK)
Copyright © 2015 Anna Hickey-Moody, Tara Page and Contributors
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems,
without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote
passages in a review.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: HB 978-1-7834-8486-7
PB 978-1-7834-8487-4
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
<to come>
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American
National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library
Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
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List of Illustrations vii
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction: Making, Matter and Pedagogy 1
Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
1 Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy:
A Single Vision 21
Aislinn O’ Donnell
2 Probeheads of Resistance and the Heterotopic Mirror:
Tiffany Chung and Dinh Q. Lê’s Stratigraphic Cartographies 41
Colin Gardner
3 Dorothy Heathcote: Practice as a Pedagogy of Resistance 59
Anna Hickey-Moody and Amanda Kipling
4 Art, Resistance and Demonic Pedagogy: From Parasite
Capitalism to Excommunication 79
Charlie Blake and Jennie Stearns
5 A Pedagogy of Possibilities: Drama as Reading Practice 95
Maggie Pitfield
6 ‘Let me change it into my own style’: Cultural Domination and
Material Acts of Resistance Within an Inner City Dance Class 113
Camilla Stanger
7 From Art Appreciation to Pedagogies of Dissent:
Critical Pedagogy and Equality in the Gallery 133
Esther Sayers
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vi Contents
8 Ethnocinema and Video-as-Resistance 153
Anne Harris
9 Manifesto: The Rhizomatics of Practice as Research 169
Anna Hickey-Moody
References 193
Index 211
Notes on Contributors 000
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Figure 2.1 Tiffany Chung. Dubai 2020. 2010 45
Figure 2.2 Tiffany Chung. When the Sun Comes Out
the Night Vanishes. 2013 48
Figure 2.3 Dinh Q. Lê. Persistence of Memory. 2000–2001 51
Figure 2.4 Dinh Q. – The Farmers and The Helicopters.
Installation view MoMA NYC. 2010–2011 55
Figure 2.5 Dinh Q. Lê. Barricade. 2014 56
Figure 8.1 Adiba. Still image from ‘Sailing into Uni’. 2013 164
Figure 9.1 Sylvano Bussoti’s Piano piece for David Tudor 4.
(Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, 3) 173
Figure 9.2 Touch me—Series of lines for making a text. 2014 174
Figure 9.3 Clare Stanhope. Glue skin. 2014 176
Figure 9.4. Beyond Technique Dance Workshop, The Centre
for the Arts and Learning (CAL), Goldsmiths
University of London. 2014 178
Figure 9.5 Amba Sayal-Bennett, In The Background
of Carlo Collodi, 2014 189
Figure 9.6 Amba Sayal-Bennett, Narcopolis, 2014 190
List of Illustrations
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We would like to thank all the contributors for their involvement and we
extend our deepest thanks to Martina O’Sullivan at Rowman and Littlefield
for her support and patience.
Tara Page would like to acknowledge and thank Bam of Bamage for being
my constant and Anna Hickey-Moody for her collaboration and unwavering
belief that everything is possible.
Anna Hickey-Moody would like to acknowledge the support of all mem-
bers of the Centre for the Arts and Learning, Goldsmiths, especially the work
of the doctoral students who continue to question and inspire.
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Making, Matter and Pedagogy
Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
Practices, teaching and art production practices are modes of thought
already in the act. Contemporary arts practices call us to think anew,
through remaking the world materially and relationally. Building on this
ethos of practice as thought already in the act, this collection from practi-
tioner arts educators and cultural theorists responds to the increased atten-
tion being paid to matter and creativity in social sciences and humanities
research, often referred to as ‘new materialism’ (Van der Tuin, 2011)
and the often associated Deleuzian informed methodologies (Coleman
and Ringrose, 2013; Springgay et al., 2008). Among other things, these
approaches are brought together by a shared belief in the transformative
capacities (or ‘pedagogy’) of matter. Such research practices posit affec-
tive, machinic, enfleshed, vital approaches to research in ways that embody
ideas developed in Continental philosophy (Ahmed, 2006; Whitehead,
1926; Heidegger, 1962) and, specifically, through the work of Deleuze
and Guattari (1985, 1987). New materialism (Alaimo and Hekman, 2008;
Barad, 2007; Braidotti, 2013; Barrett and Bolt, 2012; Coole and Frost,
2010; Hekman, 2010) calls theorists to revisit a Marxist emphasis on
materiality in research; it calls for an embodied, affective, relational under-
standing of the research process. So too do theories of practice as research
such as those developed by Carter (2004), Sullivan (2005), Smith and Dean
(2009), Barrett and Bolt (2010), Manning and Massumi (2011) and Nelson
(2013), who each, in their own way, argue that the intersection of making
and thinking is important. In this collection, we show that the way making
impacts on thinking is a material pedagogy.
In Material Thinking (2004) Carter argues that ‘the language of creative
research is related to the goal of material thinking, and both look beyond the
making process to the local reinvention of social relations’ (10). Building
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2 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
on the material transformation that Carter (2004) advocates through creative
processes of material thinking, Barrett (2007, 1) proposes that ‘artistic prac-
tice be viewed as the production of knowledge or philosophy in action’ and
specifically argues that
the emergence of the discipline of practice-led research highlights the crucial
interrelationship that exists between theory and practice and the relevance of the-
oretical and philosophical paradigms for the contemporary arts practitioner. (1)
As suggested by the quote at the beginning of this chapter, Manning and
Massumi (2011) also explore the many ways ‘making’ produces and requires
new thought. These are but a few of now established debates around creative
practice as research. In building on these debates, this collection brings some
concerns raised in arts education practice as research as a field to bear upon
recent developments in new materialist thought.
New materialism posits matter as agentive, indeterminate, constantly
forming and reforming in unexpected ways (Coole and Frost, 2010). Such a
perspective abandons any idea of matter as inert and subject to predictable
forces. Matter is always becoming. Matter ‘feels, converses, suffers, desires,
yearns and remembers’, and since ‘feeling, desiring and experiencing are
not singular characteristics or capacities of human consciousness’ (Barad in
Dolphijn and Van der Tuin, 2012, 16), new materialism offers a redefinition
of liveness and human–non-human relations. In order to incorporate such a
perspective, Barad (2007) explains:
What is needed is a robust account of the materialization of all bodies—‘human’
and ‘nonhuman’—including agential contributions of all material forces (both
‘social’ and ‘natural’). This will require an understanding of the nature of the
relationship between discursive practices and material phenomena; an account-
ing of ‘nonhuman’ as well as ‘human’ forms of agency; and an understanding of
the precise causal nature of productive practices that take account of the fullness
of matter’s implication in it’s ongoing historicity. (66)
Bodies and things are not as separate as we were once taught, and their
interrelationship is vital to how we come to know ourselves as human and
interact with our environments.
Exploring the porous nature of bodies and their co-construction through
and with systems of meaning, Blackman (2008) maps a selection of con-
cepts (and constructs) of the body including regulated and regulating bod-
ies, communicating bodies, bodies and difference, lived bodies and the
body as enactment. Blackman (2008) rejects naturalistic views of the body
‘as entities which are singular, bounded, molar and discretely human in
action’ (131), arguing rather that bodies, knowledge systems, sociability and
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Introduction 3
matter are co-constructed. Blackman (2008) explains that ‘the psychologi-
cal, biological and social are discrete entities that somehow interact’ (131).
The body is pivotal to new materialism; it is a complex intra-action (Barad,
2007) of the social and affective, where embodiment is a process of encoun-
ters, intra-actions with other bodies (Springgay, 2008). Thinking about mat-
ter matters—if bodies and things are produced together, intertwined, then
‘things’ and how they act on bodies are co-constitutive of our embodied
Bodies acting on things is, similarly, an important part of making subjec-
tivity. Manning (2009) explains that sensing and feeling are acts that matter:
A body . . . does not exist—a body is not, it does. To sense is not simply to
receive input—it is to invent. . . . Sense perceptions are not simply ‘out there’
to be analyzed by a static body. They are body-events.’ where ‘Bodies, senses,
and worlds recombine to create (invent) new events’. (212)
Thinking through events as the way that matter comes to matter, or mat-
ter impacts on bodies and futures, Whitehead (1926) theorizes bodies as the
catalyst of events. For Whitehead, bodies are processes of senses and feelings
that inform us about current but also past place-worlds, prehensions.
prehensions involve the ‘repetition’ of the world, and it is through these
prehensions ‘that the treasures of the past environment are poured into liv-
ing occasions’ (Whitehead, 1926, 339). Manning (2009), in her research on
touch, further explains Whitehead’s (1926) prehensions as embodied through
explaining that
we sense on top of senses, one sense experience always embedded in another
one: cross-modal repetition with a difference. We conceive the world not
through a linear recomposition of the geometric vectors of our experience,
but by the overlapping of the folds of sense-presentation emerging alongside
pastness. (215)
Thus, there is a temporal folding embedded in the notion of prehension and
in the materialist concept of the body that it mobilizes. Explaining this idea,
Braidotti (2000) asserts that the ‘enfleshed Deleuzian subject . . . is a folding-
in of external influences and a simultaneously unfolding outwards of affects.
A mobile entity, an enfleshed sort of memory that repeats. The Deleuzian
body is ultimately an embodied memory’ (159).
However, for Coole and
Frost (2010), a new materialist approach to embodiment is more phenomeno-
logical than Braidotti’s Deleuzian embodied memory, in the respect that it is
not only concerned with how power is produced and reproduced by bodies,
but emphasizes the ‘active, self-transformative, practical aspects of corpore-
ality as it participates in relationships with power’ (19). Such a perspective
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4 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
clearly has implications for how we understand the politics and significance
of being a body, contemporary practices of art making, viewing, teaching and
learning and, indeed, the constitution of thought.
A materialist ontology, concerned with matter and the processes of matter,
and intra-action between human and non-human things and worlds, recog-
nizes the intertwining of all phenomena—human, non-human, social, physi-
cal, material and immaterial. This intertwining, ‘withness’ (Whitehead, 1926)
or ‘mingle and mangle’ (Bolt, 2013, 3), is where phenomena are entangled—
‘the ontological inseparability—of intra-acting agencies’ (Barad, 2007, 338).
The concept of intra-action is central to Barad’s (2007) new materialism and
refers to the movement generated in an encounter of two or more bodies in a
process of becoming different:
The neologism ‘intra-action’ signifies the mutual constitution of entangled
agencies . . . the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not
precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-actions. It is important to note
that the ‘distinct’ agencies are only distinct in a relational, not an absolute,
sense, that is agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglement;
they don’t exit as individual elements. (33, original emphasis)
In other words, focus shifts from the subject and/or the object to their
entanglement; the event, the action between (not in-between), is what mat-
ters. Building on this meaningful intertwining in relation to the research
process, Taguchi (2012) details what she terms a
‘diffractive’ analysis, a ‘transcorporeal process of becoming-minoritarian with
the data, the researcher is attentive to those bodymind faculties that register
smell, touch, level, temperature, pressure, tension and force in the interconnec-
tions emerging in between different matter, matter and discourse, in the event
of engagement with data’. (267)
The empirical and conceptual nature of our engagements with knowledge
are co-constitutive of knowledge itself:
We do not simply respond to sense perceptions, we activate them even as they
activate us. No two experiences can be exactly the same because they are always
made up of different prehensions leading to new actual occasions (events).
(Manning, 2009, 315)
Not only are we always with/in bodies, but we are always with matter. So,
not only do we make matter and meaning, it also makes us; we are entan-
gled, co-implicated in the generation and formation of knowing and being.
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Introduction 5
As a way of exploring the entanglement and co-constitution of matter
and subjectivity, new materialism is a methodology, a theoretical frame-
work and a political positioning that emphasizes the complex materiality
of bodies immersed in social relations of power (Dolphijn and van der
Tuin, 2012). Inventive methods (Lury and Wakeford, 2012), including arts-
based (Jagodzinski and Wallin, 2013), visual (Pink, 2007; Rose, 2012) and
embodied/sensory methods (Ingold, 2008; Pink, 2009; Page, 2012a,b) are
increasingly being mobilized to explore the agency of matter and advance
vitalist frameworks. Moving beyond the problem-focused approach that
focuses Lury and Wakeford’s (2012) engaging intervention into methods,
this collection works the intra-actions of theory with practice to develop new
approaches to materialist research and to position the agency of matter as
pedagogical in its resistance. Matter teaches us through resisting dominant
discourses, showing us new ways of being. Bodies resist dominant modes
of positioning, political acts defy government rule, sexuality exceeds legal
frameworks—resistant matter shows us the limits of the world as we know it,
and prompts us to shift these limits.
This collection shows the pedagogical nature of matter, and catalogues
different kinds of arts practice and arts pedagogy as material cultures of
resistance, yet, we attempt to do so in a speculative rather than conclusive
fashion. Furthering what we hope is a generative, evolving approach, rather
than introducing all the chapters in this collection at the same time, we will
introduce the chapters at different points in this introduction with the theoreti-
cal content that relates to the argument of the chapter. Each chapter can be
read independently, and all chapters are intended as diverse responses to our
initial provocation
that matter is pedagogical and resistant. There are threads
of praxis (theory-thought with practice, Freire, 1970) that are entangled in this
collection, and in mapping the intra-actions of these chapters throughout this
introduction, rather than the usual separate section, we come to see matter mat-
tering in new ways. We hope this is demonstrated in the chapter by Amanda
Kipling and Anna Hickey-Moody, in which they discuss the materiality of
learning in terms of the continuity of knowledge production and developing
learning communities in drama education that operate through pedagogies of
engagement, rather than being driven by curriculum and policy agendas.
The concept of affect, and what Brian Massumi (2002) has famously
referred to as the affective turn, draws substantively on the work of Deleuze
(1988, 1990a,b, 2002) and Deleuze and Guattari (1983, 1986, 1987, 1994).
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6 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
Increasingly, over the last 10 years, affect has been utilized as a conceptual
resource in educational theory. Here, we consider some of the theorists who
brought affect into education, because the conceptual moves that accompany
this turn created space for embodied knowledges of art making to inform ped-
agogy. Affect validates emergent epistemologies, or subjugated knowledges,
which all too often remain silenced from theorizations of education. Christa
Albrecht-Crane and Jennifer Daryl Slack (2003), Megan Watkins (2006) and
Elizabeth Ellsworth (2005) are theoreticians working in and across education
who pioneered the use of affect for education. Other cultural studies theorists
who take up the concept of affect in ways that are of use in considering class-
rooms include Elspeth Probyn (2000) and Anna Gibbs (2002). We would like
to point towards their scholarship, as well as that of Brian Massumi (2002),
Felicity Colman (2002, 2005), Gregory Seigworth (2003) and Melissa Gregg
(2006), as resources of use in the theoretical project of taking up affect to
consider the pedagogical nature of matter and culture.
There has been work on Deleuze in education since the late 1990s, notably
becoming part of dominant educational discourses with Lather and St Pierre’s
(2000) collection Working the Ruins pioneering feminist approaches of
Deleuze in education. The concept of affect was not specifically introduced
into educational practices until 2003 when Albrecht-Crane and Daryl Slack
(2003) made the argument that ‘the importance of affect in the classroom is
inadequately considered in scholarship on pedagogy’ (191). While the work
of the theorists cited above moves to address the current gap in research on
affect and education, the potential of affect to reconfigure materialist theories
of education in significant ways is increasingly being realized. Julie Allan’s
(2013) work on the disabled body and arts practices in special education is
distinctive in showing the potential of work in this area. Affect maps the
micro political relations that constitute the beginnings of social change. In
order to understand the lived politics of disability in education, and indeed
to read disability as a kind of cultural pedagogy, we must begin by thinking
through affect (Allen, 2013; Hickey-Moody, 2009; Lines, 2013). It is our
contention that understanding, naming, illustrating and analysing the affec-
tive agency of material is imperative.
Albrecht-Crane and Slack (2003) provide a critical structure for thinking
pedagogy through affect by establishing a framework well suited to educa-
tional research. They do so in a discreet chapter in a cultural studies style
anthology of applied Deleuzian theory, titled Animations (of Deleuze and
Guattari). Taking Deleuze’s Spinozist body as a point of departure, Albrecht-
Crane and Slack (2003) note:
In most pedagogical models, individuals are defined or positioned to take
up posts or places in terms of who they are; that is, in terms of their social
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Introduction 7
identities, gender, race, class, ethnicity, and so forth, and they are seen as pos-
sessing varying degrees of agency—that is, an ability to act—as an attribute of
who they are. In contrast, Deleuze and Guattari do not begin with the question
‘What is a body?’ but ‘What can a body do?’ and ‘Of what affects is a body
capable?’ (192)
While Albrecht-Crane and Slack’s (2003) reading of the body as affective
is core to Deleuze and Guattari’s work, this model for thinking of the body is
not contra-agency. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Within Deleuze and Guat-
tari’s work, agency changes along with subjective experience and evolves in
relation to the affects of which a body is capable. Agency is conceived as an
inherent part of any body, be it a human body, a body of land or water, or a
political party. Following Spinoza, Deleuze (1988) takes material bodies as
a challenge to think through the physical dimensions of agency and states:
Spinoza . . . proposes to establish the body as a model, ‘we do not know what
the body can do’. . . . We speak of consciousness and its decrees, of the will and
of its effects, of the thousand ways of moving the body, of dominating the body
and the passions—but we do not even know what a body can do. (18)
‘What a body can do’ is a material act and it is also a degree of agency.
After establishing the affective body as the primary site—or origin—with
which a pedagogy of affect would be concerned, Albrecht-Crane and Slack’s
(2003) focus shifts from the body of the subject and the micro-political realm
to social machinations, and it is here that their theorization gains particular
momentum. It is this positioning of Deleuze and Guattari’s (2003) work as a
tool with which to analyse the ‘Molar lines [that] “overcode” dual segmenta-
tions that follow “the great major dualist oppositions, social classes, but also
men-women, adults-children, and so on”’ (194–5), which lends Albrecht-
Crane and Slack’s (2003) work to analysing affective movement of social
bodies more than of individual bodies.
In contrast to Albrecht-Crane and Slack (2003), Watkins (2006) takes a
micro-analytic approach to illustrating the possibilities of affect through a
research methodology designed to evaluate pedagogy through the concept of
affect. Watkins’ (2006) research is of particular interest because the meth-
odology she employs is designed specifically to record the embodied nego-
tiations pertaining to—and arising from—affect in the classroom. Whereas
Albrecht-Crane and Slack (2003) offer affect as a tool that will support a
meta-analysis of classroom politics and discourses, Watkins (2006) takes up
affect with a focus on learning and teaching literacy where in her fieldwork
she maps affective negotiations between students and teachers that are central
to the embodied affect occurring in the classroom, and are essential parts of
constituting a kinaesthetic economy of knowledge exchange.
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8 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
Learning becomes about the process of moving the margins of knowledge
from exterior to interior locations and this process of movement, or folding,
as an embodied act. This process also elucidates the kinaesthetic economy of
relations between teacher and student that leads the student to ‘invent’ or arrive
at the affective images that are part of learning to read and write, where the
teacher employs affects in her pedagogic practice: ‘She took on the character of
the pirate she was describing using an exaggerated tone in her voice to heighten
the impact of what she was saying (278). Ellsworth (2005) also addresses
pedagogy and affect as a material entity but also as a mode of cognition.
Elizabeth Ellsworth (2005) does not underpin her research with Deleuzian
theory; however, her arguments pertaining to affect have strong parallels to
those advanced by Deleuze. Deploying the word ‘affect’ to articulate a mate-
rial state of affairs, Ellsworth (2005) says:
Experience, of course, presupposes bodies—not inert bodies, but living bodies
that take up and lay down space by their continuous, unfolding movement and
that take up and lay down time as they go on being. When we begin to think of
experience as an event in time that also takes place, we can see why a number of
contemporary theorists are using media and architecture to help them structure
their concepts about experience. . . . The visual experience of watching a film
entails not only representation. It has a material nature that involves biological
and molecular events taking place in the body of the viewer and in the physical
and imagined space between the viewer and the film. Affect and sensation are
material and part of that engagement. (4)
Regarding cognition and affect, Ellsworth (2005) develops a theory of
pedagogy as an interleaving of the materiality affect and subjective processes
of cognition where
there is a difference . . . between the ‘evidence of the ocular senses’ in which
one notices ‘that the sensorium has been stimulated’ and this other way of
knowing, which he [de Bolla 2001, p. 49] describes as an interleaving of affect
and cognition. (4)
On one hand, Ellsworth (2005) conceives affect as taking something on,
changing in relation to an experience or an encounter, and on the other hand,
an affect is a material entity, an aesthetic compound produced in relation to
particular assemblages of space-time.
As discussed by Hickey-Moody (2009) and Hickey-Moody, Windle and
Savage (2010), there are parallels between the notion of affect as the con-
cept of taking something on, of changing in relation to an experience, and
the process of changing bodies that theorists such as Giroux (1999, 2004),
Lusted (1986), Ellsworth (1997, 2005) and Mc William and Taylor (1996)
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Introduction 9
call ‘pedagogy’. Just as the readings of affect discussed above each differ, so
too do the theories of cultural pedagogy put forward by Giroux, Lusted, Ells-
worth and Mc William. Affect can thus be considered an emerging point of
intervention and analysis in education, pedagogy and schooling. It expresses
the embodied experience of learning, the places in which we learn and the
histories and desires we bring to learning. Affect cannot be brought to bear
on a lived situation—it is the lived reality of the situation—the feeling of
learning and the excesses not captured through academic frameworks for
considering teaching, learning and making.
From a psychoanalytic perspective, in Revolution in Poetic Language (1984),
Kristeva suggests that creative practice does not name, but rather enunciates,
the very places of the material dialect that human science has yet to approach.
She explains that ‘practice is determined by the pulverization of the unity of
consciousness. . . . It is the place where signifying process is carried out’ (203,
original emphasis). The political power of creative action is core to Kristeva’s
(1984) argument, just as it is to the work of Carter (2004), Barrett and Bolt
(2010) and Manning and Massumi (2011, 2014), introduced above. Each of
these theorists, ‘with’ the work of new materialists such as Barad (2007) and
Dolphijn and van der Tuin (2011), argue that matter needs to be conceptual-
ized as an active agent. We contend, with Carter (2007), Barrett and Bolt
(2010) and Manning and Massumi (2011, 2014), that matter needs to be
conceptualized as an active agent within discussions of practice as research.
This materialist approach draws on Marx’s work in his ‘Theses on Feuer-
bach’ (1845) and Engels (1888), who stated that ‘those who asserted the pri-
macy of the spirit to nature and, therefore, in the last instance, assumed world
creation in some form or other—comprised the camp of idealism. The others,
who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of material-
ism’ (14). As Harper (1942) asserts:
What distinguishes Marxism materialism from other schools must be learned
from its various polemical works dealing with practical questions of politics and
society. To Marx materialistic thought was a working method. In his writing he
does not deal with philosophy nor does he formulate materialism into a system
of philosophy; he is utilizing it as a method for the study of the world. (1)
philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to
change it. (Marx, 1845, 13)
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10 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
This method of study or praxis, ‘that concerning the relation of thinking
and being’ (Engels, 1888, 14) underpins our approach to contemporary arts
practice, research, curriculum design and pedagogy within the Goldsmiths’
University of London research Centre for Arts and Learning (CAL).
CAL is a practice-led research centre where knowledge is conceived as
co-constructed through action, praxis. CAL’s aims are to enable, explore and
curate critical processes of socially engaged praxis that effect social change
through a variety of ways and means. Extending and enriching CAL’s praxis,
this collection shares responsive, located research that draws on arts practices,
modes of community engagement and collaboration. We do so with a particu-
lar focus, namely, we take matter as pedagogical, and focus on the pedagogy
of matter teaching the maker how they might make differently. Matter calls us
to respond to it, and this requisite responsiveness can rupture human ideology
and human design. Building on this collective focus, various chapters in the
collection engage with methodologies and frameworks that have not previ-
ously been considered within—or as part of—practice as research. These
include inventive methods, arts-based research, philosophy, media studies
and educational research. Hickey-Moody’s chapter, a manifesto for arts prac-
tice, carries on the feminist tradition of the political manifesto to suggest that
the materiality of making must be always already acknowledged as a political
act. Anne Harris’ chapter is an excellent example of the relationship between
arts-based research and new materialist frames of thought, as Harris employs
a video methodology to tell new youth narratives of subjectivity through
creative practice that are resistant to the hegemonies of video-based methods.
Until now, arts-based research, media studies and educational research
have not explicitly been concerned with matter as a post-human pedagogy,
although this collection invites authors to explore the embeddedness of mat-
ter as post-human pedagogy within these fields. Elsewhere, Hickey-Moody
(2009) has argued that the concept of post-human pedagogy posits a way of
thinking about post-humanism that moves beyond the cybernetic models of
thought, such as the work of Katherine Hayles (1997), that was developed in
response to Ihab Hassan’s (1977) now famous statement that ‘we need first
to understand that the human form—including desire and all its external rep-
resentations—may be changing radically, and thus must be re-visioned. We
need to understand that five hundred years of humanism may be coming to
an end, as humanism transforms itself into something that we must helplessly
call posthumanism’ (205).
Building on this idea of post-humanism, as Braidotti (1994), MacCor-
mack (2012) and many others have done, some of whom we cite above,
we are interested in Deleuze’s (1988b) Spinozist concept of affectus and
Deleuze and Guattari’s (1994) perception of art as distinct from, yet pro-
duced within, an embodied cultural space. These tools offer valuable ways of
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Introduction 11
reconceptualizing the post-human, as art is a post-human project that acts on
bodies within Deleuze and Guattari’s (1994) thought, and affect is the means
through which this post-human pedagogy occurs. Or to put it another way,
affect is the way in which art speaks and the materiality of voice is part of
the way art speaks. In this theoretical context, art has a politically effective
capacity, the capability to rework a body’s limits, to reconfigure individual
arrangements of structure/agency, augment that which a body is or is not able
to understand, produce, and to which it might connect.
Post-human pedagogy thus facilitates moments of contact with Other/s
that enable thought and art to access what Deleuze and Guattari (1994) have
called ‘the people to come . . . mass-people, world people, brain people, chaos
people’, people who open up passages ‘from the finite to the infinite . . .
(180–1, original emphasis). People who, indeed, ‘beckon a moment of the
infinite . . . [of] infinitely varied infinities’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994, 181).
Such a process of materially reimagining constitutes a politically invaluable
aspect of both art and everyday life.
Pedagogy can be defined as the ‘theory and instruction of teaching and learn-
ing’ coming from the Greek ‘to lead the child’ (Pearsall, 1999, 1051). This
definition resonates with Freire’s (1970) concept of ‘banking’ where teaching
and learning is conceived as concerned with processes of transmission, in
whichstudents are regarded merely as passive consumers’ (hooks, 1994, 40).
However, in opposition to such a conception, Freire (1970) and hooks (1994)
critically conceive pedagogy as a ‘union of the mind, body and spirit, not just
for striving for knowledge in books, but knowledge about how to live in the
world (15); here, pedagogy is an entanglement. Explaining this notion of
entanglement, Ellsworth (2005) states that ‘specific to pedagogy is the experi-
ence of the corporeality of the body’s time and space when it is in the midst of
learning’ (4), and with a focus on natural history, Barad (2007) reminds us that
‘In an important sense, both the special and general theories or relativity are
a part of classical physics’ . . . and this comes to matter because ‘Reality is
composed not of things-in-themselves or things-behind-phenomena but of all
things-in-phenomena. The world is a dynamic process of intra-activity and
materialization in the enactment of determinate causal structures with deter-
minate boundaries, properties, meanings, and patterns of marks on bodies.
This ongoing flow of agency through which part of the world makes itself dif-
ferentially intelligible to another part of the world and through which causal
structures are stabilized and destabilized does not take place in space and time
but happens in the making of spacetime itself’. (140)
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 11 7/28/2015 5:46:15 PM
12 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
As stated previously, bodies and the process of embodiment are core to our
ways of knowing-being. However, they are also fundamental to the entangle-
ment of matter and learning and teaching (pedagogy). This embodied entan-
glement of matter and teaching as pedagogy—the moments when materials and
spaces impact on bodies and bodies impact on ideas—is our primary interest.
As stated at the beginning of this chapter, through bodies and with matter,
we are always making, performing and learning. Therefore, we posit that new
materialist pedagogy is embodied and is an intra-action between bodies and
matter, as ceramic artist Edmund de Waal (2011) articulates:
Centering the clay, bringing the small ball into perfect reactivity for throwing,
involved a ripple of different movements from hand and wrist, an inclination in
the head and neck a slight tautening in the shoulders. It was . . . learning that
I could not articulate. (1)
This creative act of learning with body with matter (clay, wheel, water)
is what Van der Tuin (2014) asserts as an example of Barad’s (2003) study
of practices of knowing in being (262). Explaining the narrative of sculptor
Souriau, van der Tuin (2014) says that through the relationships of the clay, the
person, in the practice of working with, the hand, the thumb, the chisel that a
statue comes about’ (263), or in the case of de Waal, hand with wrist with head
with neck with shoulder with clay learning comes about, intra-acting, entangled.
However, new materialism does not focus on the individual’s practice but
the relationalities of matter with bodies (sensation with memory), as stated
by Haraway (2003), who explains, ‘Through their reaching into each other,
through their “prehensions” or graspings, beings constitute each other and
themselves. Beings do not preexist their relatings’ (6). Connerton’s (1989)
work on collective memory indicates that ‘social memory is embedded in
the performativity of commemorative ceremonies’ (4) in which bodies are
central and that through the repeated performance of acts such as walking,
journeying, ceremonies and rituals, groups, communities and cultures can
share sensory memories or, as Seremetakis (1994) calls them, ‘mediation on
the historical substance of experience’ (7).
Seremetakis (1994) maintains that these sensory memories are not fixed in
repetition, but are continually reconstituted through the practices of bringing
the past into the present, and therefore become an inextricable element in our
ways of learning, like Whitehead’s (1926) prehensions, Manning’s (2009)
folds of ‘sense-presentation emerging alongside pastness’ (215) and Barad’s
(2007) concept of memory in which she maintains that
memory does not reside in the folds of individual brains; rather, memory is the
enfoldings of space-time-matter written into the universe, or better, the enfolded
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 12 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
Introduction 13
articulations of the universe in its mattering. Memory is not a record of a fixed
past that can ever be fully erased, written over or recovered (that is, taken away
or taken back into one’s possession, as if it were a thing that can be owned).
And memory is not a replay of strong of moments, but an enlivening and recon-
figuring of past and future that is larger than any individual. Re-membering and
re-cognizing (sic) do not take care of, or satisfy, or in any way reduce one’s
responsibilities; rather, like all intra-actions, they extend the entanglements and
responsibilities of which one is part. The past is never finished. It cannot be
wrapped up like a package, or a scrapbook …; we never leave it and it never
leaves us behind. (ix)
We fold the past back into the present every moment as we encounter ‘the
now’ through our embodied histories. However, the pedagogy of matter is not
about describing sensation, or memories, but is about the learning and teach-
ing that these entanglements constitute (Page, 2012b). They are continuous
processes of embodied learning and teaching that are relational by definition.
Wenger (1998) developed various theories of learning, including ‘know-
ing in practice’ (141), which was originally conceived by Lave and Wenger
(1991) as ‘situated learning’, a process in which learning is no longer a pas-
sive absorption of factual information (after Freire, 1970) but is a social and
participatory process where theory is entangled with everyday practice with
others. This is demonstrated in Page et al.’s (2011) research with students
enrolled on the Goldsmiths MA Artist Teacher and Contemporary Practice
programme, in which students articulated that the sharing of practices with
fellow artist teachers had an impact on their emerging artist-teacher identities
but also increased their making skills, knowledge, understanding and confi-
dence. Situated learning is, as Wenger (1998) states, the ability to negotiate
new meanings’ (226) that are fundamentally experiential and fundamentally
social(227, original italics). Consequently, in Page et al. (2011), pedagogy
is continually being created through the relationalities of the social and mate-
rial. One student explains the pedagogical nature of this rationality through
the excitement of feeling part of the creative process, along with the ability to
begin to locate my work within critical theory and contemporary practices and
making… moving from an isolated position on the periphery of the community
towards feelings of inclusivity within the centre of a group of practitioners.
(Hyde, 2007, 298)
This ‘group of practitioners’, or learning community, ruptures the concept
that learning is a passive process where information is ‘acquired’. Learning
is conceived as a relational process where theory is entangled with everyday
practices, with others. However, pedagogy is not all ‘conflict-free, caring and
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 13 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
14 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
nurturing’ (Rose, 1993, 56); there may be tensions, conflicts, oppression and
The theories of critical pedagogy (Gallop, 1988; Giroux, 2003; hooks,
1984) and the work of Freire (1970) draw on anarchism, feminism and
Marxism, and are a teaching and learning approach that attempts to enable
the questioning and challenging of domination, and the beliefs and practices
that dominate (Shor, 1992). Shor (1992) defines critical pedagogy as follows:
Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface
meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, tradi-
tional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep
meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of
any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter,
policy, mass media, or discourse. (129)
The three assumptions of critical pedagogy are that praxis can enable social
transformation, that learning and teaching are not neutral, and that society
can be transformed by the engagement of those who are critically conscious
(Grunewald, 2003). These assumptions resonate with Barad’s (2007) dis-
tinction between critique, as an evaluative sensibility, and being critical as
A critical pedagogical approach also enables thinking through the intra-
action of pedagogized identities. Freire (1970) states:
Through dialogue, the teachers-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teachers
cease to exist and a new term emerges; teacher-student with student-teacher,
the teacher is no longer merely the one who teaches, but the one who is himself
[sic] taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also
teach. They become jointly responsible for the process in which all grow. (80)
Page (2012b) rewords Freire’s statement replacing the word ‘student’ with
‘learner’, which results in the following:
Through dialogue, the teachers-of-the-learners and the learners-of-the-teachers
cease to exist and a new term emerges; teacher-learner with learner-teacher, the
teacher is no longer merely the one who teaches, but the one who is himself [sic]
taught in dialogue with the learner, who in turn while being taught also teach.
They become jointly responsible for the process in which all grow. (160)
These intra-actions enable the continual reproduction and renegotiation
of learner, teacher, learning, the meanings of which are not predetermined,
therefore resulting in the creation of a ‘shared place of discovery and learn-
ing’ (Page, 2012, 73), that is not specific to an educational setting, but rather,
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 14 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
Introduction 15
is entangled with wider, global, discourses and power relations. These wider,
global, discourses and power relations are constitutive of pedagogy. Freire
(1970) explains that this becoming-other is effected through intra-action as
‘transformation’, and although we disagree with the ruminants of theology
echoing in this word, the marked, material change (or becoming) in capacity
being signalled is important. Freire (1970) goes on to explain that pedagogy
becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal
critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the trans-
formation of their world. (16)
Therefore, this practice of freedom is ‘about how we learn together and
make changes together’ (Page, 2012, 73), a practice in which learning as
responsiveness to matter and to space-time-mattering occurs within the con-
tingencies, differences and diversity of life.
This responsiveness, and the material aspects of responsiveness, is dem-
onstrated in Maggie Pitfield’s chapter, A pedagogy of possibilities in the UK
secondary English classroom. Pitfield examines the practices of a secondary
English teacher with her pupils’ in a London urban school, with a focus on
the ways the teacher’s practices resist policy-directed discourses. Drawing on
literary theory, Pitfield analyses the ways drama, as an embodied art form,
is integral to the pupils’ and teachers’ shared meanings in their intra-actions
with literary texts. Pitfield argues that the dramatic activity, in which the
teacher learners are materially and conceptually entangled, enables not only
relationalities of criticality and creativity but also the emergence of teacher
learners’ becoming active in their readings and production of culture.
Pedagogy can therefore be conceived as an open, continuously created
and recreated process that is specific to intra-actions of difference that make
a difference, not grounded in existing knowledges that attempt to equal-
ize, normalize or fall back on traditions of established values, concepts and
practices. This conception of pedagogy is further explored by Esther Sayers,
who worked as a gallery educator for Tate Modern (London, UK) for over
ten years. Sayers’ chapter explores the pedagogic entanglement of the audi-
ence with this unique contemporary art space. She considers how, through
the intra-actions of learner, teacher and cultural institutions, the differences
of matter and meanings emerged in ways that enabled the creation and re-
creation of pedagogies and methodologies that responded to local ways of
being and becoming.
Both Pitfield and Sayers do not perform an epistemology/ontology hierar-
chy but are both epistemological and ontological in their reconceptualization
of the role of matter in processes of learning. These chapters show us that we
may effect matter but matter also affects us in profound, although often subtle
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16 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
or hidden and inescapable ways, and that this is a necessary entanglement
that is altered with the different intra-actions of sociocultural constructions of
matter, and here, matter is also constructed as part of human existence. It is
the action between that matters; therefore, just as we know and learn matter
pedagogically, we also know and learn matter just by being.
Matter can be inherently resistant, but as the works in this collection show
us, matter can often teach us through showing us otherwise. Bodies resist
instruction, ideologies and political boundaries, and in so doing they show
the limits of political, educational and popular discourses and policies.
Matter resists manipulation; it inspires and demands attention, and through
engagement with matter, new modes of practice transpire. Yet, when the
praxis of seemingly heterogeneous scholarship is entangled, as it is in this
collection, ‘the patterns of difference that make a difference(Dolphijn and
van der Tuin, 2012, 50), the very intra-actions of matter and meaning are
made visible. In different ways across the works brought together here, we
see that intra-actions of matter and meaning enable dissent, change struc-
tures and ask for new responses, but they also generate resonances and are
therefore not only resistant to existing practices and ways of being but are
also pedagogic.
This analytic focus on resonances, and the pedagogical nature of things
and viral changes, is one of the ways the works collected here build on, and
contribute to, existing discussions of critical pedagogy. To be plain, we are
not just interested in how the pedagogical a/effects of objects change ideolo-
gies and popular practices, but in the rubbing up against each other, the reso-
nances—the material cultural and affective dimensions of change that make
subjectitives and make people aware of, and open to, change. More than this,
as Charlie Blake and Jennie Stearns’ chapter shows us, matter causes change
and the matter of parasites transforms bodies and capacities, illustrating a
material agency that interrupts consciousness and conscious choice.
As we stated at the beginning of this chapter, new materialism concerns
itself not only with relationalities of power, constituted and reproduced by
bodies, but also with how bodies participate in/with these relationships. Coole
and Frost (2010) assert that there is
‘increasing acknowledgment within theories of politics—and especially in theo-
ries of democracy and citizenship—of the role played by the body as a visceral
protagonist within political encounters’ . . . and ‘thus reveals both the material-
ity of agency and agentic properties inherent in nature itself’. (19–20)
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 16 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
Introduction 17
Everyday practices of democracy and citizenship are exactly such sites of
political reproduction and production. This is highlighted in a recent issue
of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine (24/25 May 2014) that aimed
to ‘give a sense of what today’s Europe feels and looks like- and how it is
changing’ (Kuper, 2014, 7). This popular commentary illustrates the ordi-
nary, yet always political entanglement of bodies and matter and the intra-
actions, the differences that make a difference, of how and ‘Why Europe
Works’ (Kuper, 2014, 10–11) or at times does not work. The entanglements
and intra-actions of bodies and the materiality of place, language and climate
are pedagogic.
Kuper (2014) asserts that Europe works because ‘little differences encour-
age cross-border learning . . . partly because European countries remain
slightly different from each other’ (Kuper, 2014, 10). The intra-actions of
the transport networks, rail, commercial flight companies, climate and the
proximal geography of Europe (higher ratio of coast to landmass than any
other continent or subcontinent) have enabled mobile Europeans to share and
exchange ideas and learn ‘with’ each other and place.
This place pedagogy emerges not only in the resistances of everyday prac-
tices, tables and chairs on pavements in London, gay marriage, hybrid accents
and languages, but also in politics. Through the founding of the European
Union, European countries taught democratic systems across borders, ‘from
1995–2013 the world’s fastest growing middle-income economics were the
Baltic states, Poland and Slovakia . . . (Kuper, 2014, 11). Europeans trans-
nationally debate different ways of knowing and understanding; employment,
free markets and the environment in ways that are prompted by the shared
proximity of communities.
In a different capacity, the same principle of intra-action operates in geog-
raphies of art. Explaining this radical materialism, Deleuze (1988a) suggests
that the arts have the capacity to operate in terms of general rather than fixed
limits. In his book Spinoza, Practical Philosophy (1988a) Deleuze describes
‘affectus’ as ‘an increase or decrease of the power of acting, for the body and
the mind alike’ (49).
So, to be affected is to be able to think or act differently,
though, as responses, affects easily become habitual. Familiar responses are
learnt in relation to bodies and subjects, and it is only through challenging
a ‘truth’ that is acknowledged in an expected or popularly known response,
or habitual behaviour, that we can create and adopt new ways of responding
and being affected.
Contemporary arts practices can offer these new ways of knowing, being
affected and new intra-actions between bodies. Systems of affect, kinaes-
thetic economies of relation, established through, or in response to, physical
discourses effect pedagogy through intra-action. People establish econo-
mies of relation based on physical responses and world views. Deleuze and
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 17 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
18 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
Guattari’s (1994) thought on affect and sensation extends this position that
ways of understanding are a product of a system of knowledge and material
beliefs, rather than as a singular ‘truth’. Such understandings enable alter-
native stories and knowledges of bodies, and ways of being a body, to be
developed with dominant systems of knowledge. The concepts of corporeal
and artistic affect developed in Deleuze’s (1994) work and in Deleuze and
Guattari’s (1987, 1994) joint scholarship explicate the ways artworks emanate
force and impact on bodies. Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987, 1994) scholarship
models understandings of ‘minor’
knowledge systems and develops a par-
ticular perspective on the kinaesthetic economy of relations created within art
as a minor knowledge system.
Duffy (2006) explains that Deleuze’s idea of an affective limit, or ‘thresh-
old’, has a specific meaning:
for Deleuze, the term ‘limit’ defines a margin or threshold beyond which a
mode’s capacity to be affected ceases to be animated by active affections and
therefore ceases to be expressed altogether, that is to say, beyond which a finite
mode ceases to exist. (151)
Affective, bodily limits shape the material world—they are thresholds
for what can be actualized. Additionally, the body is an extensive physical
mass; it fills space. But the body is also a liminal space that connects context
to subjectivity through a network of affective systems. As Graham (2004)
notes, we cannot assume ‘a clear boundary between objects and persons’
(299). We must remember virtual
possibilities for body–space connections
and changes, and an absolute belief in unambiguous boundaries ‘must be
abandoned . . . [as] persons do not finish at their skins’ (Graham, 2004, 299,
square parentheses added). The body and intra-actions between things form
extensive spaces; bodies produce virtual spaces and inhabit shared spaces.
Playing with notions of the body-in-space, the body as space and the possi-
bilities of virtual space, the chapter by Camilla Stanger discusses the politics
of choreographic techniques employed to devise the work around untrained
dancers’ bodies. Stanger develops a frame for thinking about bodily actions
as (re)positionings of racialized embodied histories.
Barad (2007) has also highlighted the importance of in-between bodily
spaces, those that we simultaneously inhabit and move away from unwit-
tingly in the pedestrian experience of living. It is in, and through, proximal
spaces that embodied histories are carried, performed and reframed. Indeed,
as Anna Hickey-Moody’s chapter shows in its discussion of the re-appropri-
ation of the Fremantle Asylum, embodied histories of corporeality and spa-
tiality can be re-territorialized
through creative work. Hickey-Moody shows
that the space that bodies perform in becomes more than a given condition
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Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 18 7/28/2015 5:46:16 PM
Introduction 19
of performance; space and place and traces of intra-action in space and place
need to be acknowledged as historical and political artefacts. This is what
Deleuze and Guattari (1987) call a ‘smooth space’, a place in which ratios
between matter and virtual possibilities are reworked (488). Art can teach
through challenging ready-made perceptions, slipping between cracks in
consciousness, assumption and the ‘known’, through making new bodies and
creating accompanying ways of knowing.
Collective arts practices redefine communities through articulating a vir-
tual body of difference. As Colin Gardner illustrates in this collection through
the employment of videotext, and the accompanying creative method of
sourcing lived experiences of the Vietnam war and the affective experiences
of war, proximal spaces become zones of corporeal learning, as viewers of
the film text extend and embrace space as ‘an intensive discontinuity in which
the subject degenerates’ (Braidotti, 1996, 74). Arts practices are, then, a form
of material thinking:
A thinker may . . . modify what thinking means, draw up a new image of
thought. . . . But instead of creating new concepts that occupy it, they popu-
late it with other instances, with other poetic, novelistic, or even pictorial or
musical entities. . . . These thinkers are ‘half’ philosophers but also much
more than philosophers. . . . They are hybrid geniuses who neither erase
nor cover over differences in kind but, on the contrary, use all the resources
of their ‘athleticism to install themselves within this very difference, like
acrobats torn apart in a perpetual show of strength. (Deleuze and Guattari,
1994, 66–7)
Artists are also material thinkers, ‘hybrid geniuses . . . philosophers but
also much more than philosophers’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994, 66). As
material thinkers, artists give form to new aspects of the world. The ‘very dif-
ference’ to which Deleuze and Guattari (1994) refer is sensation, the aesthetic
compounds created by artists. Such aesthetic compounds—sensations—are a
material realization of a new aspect of reality. Indeed, as Aislinn O’Donnell’s
chapter shows us, philosophy and science have long understood material acts
to impact on thinking, yet art has not always been conceived in such terms.
The matter of thinking is thus as important an ontological question as the
matter of making.
We hope this collection shows you some of the ways the materiality of
the arts teaches. More than this, we hope the social and cultural changes
that emerge through intra-actions between people and matter in processes
of making, collaborating and observing contemporary arts seem more
significant or are of increased interest after your engagement with this
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20 Anna Hickey-Moody and Tara Page
1. After Deleuze (1995, 99), we read subjectivity as ‘a specific or collective indi-
viduation relating to an event’. Human subjectivity is a collection of dividuations
which are activated differently in various machinic arrangements.
2. ‘Prehension is the basic, extrasensory awareness, or grasping, that all experi-
ences have of all earlier experiences. One might call it the super intuition on which all
conventionally recognized extrasensory perception and sensory perception are built’
(Anderson, 2000, 1).
3. And here we also remember Bourdieu (1990), who asserts that
The habitus, a product of history, produces individual and collective practices—more his-
tory—in accordance with the schemes generated by history. It ensures the active presence
of past experiences. (54)
In other words, through the ‘repetitions’ or practices (habitus) of bodies (sensation
with memory) with matter, we are constructing, performing, relating, knowing, learn-
ing and being.
4. Question-led, themed seminar series on material cultures of resistance for the
Centre for Arts and Learning (CAL), Goldsmiths University of London.
5. More recently, Body and Society have published a special edition on the turn to
affect, see 16 (29) 2010. Of particular interest is Patricia Clough’s Afterword, The
Future of Affect Studies’ (2010, 222–30).
6. Deleuze expands this definition through arguing that ‘affectus’ is different
from emotion. Affectus’ is the virtuality and materiality of the increase or decrease
effected in a body’s power of acting. Deleuze states:
The affection refers to a state of the affected body and implies the presence of the affecting
body, whereas the affectus refers to the passage [or movement] from one state to another,
taking into account the correlative variation of the affecting bodies. Hence there is a dif-
ference in nature between the image affections or ideas and the feeling affect. (1988a, 49,
author’s square parentheses)
‘Affectus’ is the materiality of change, ‘the passage from one state to another’ which
occurs in relation to ‘affecting bodies’ (1988, 49). In their collaborative work, Deleuze
and Guattari work with a concept of affect, which has three specific iterations, corporeal
affect, affect in art and affect in thought.
7. Politically marginalized.
8. Deleuze develops a specific notion of the virtual. After Henri Bergson, Deleuze
characterizes the virtual as possibilities for the actual, as the non-material aspect of
the actual world. The virtual has a different temporal structure from the actual, and as
such it folds in upon the actual in ways that bring the past into the present and connect
the present to the future. While the actual and the virtual are distinct, they are also two
halves of a whole; one exists in relation to the other.
9. The act of re-territorialization changes the aesthetic tropes and bodies of knowl-
edge through which a spatialized body is known. In so doing, re-territorialization
augments what the spatialized body ‘is’ and what it can become.
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Chapter 1
Experimental Philosophy and
Experimental Pedagogy
A Single Vision
Aislinn O’ Donnell
In a short essay in MaHKUzine, Irit Rogoff (2010) writes of the emer-
gence in the seventeenth century of a society for the study of ‘Experimental
Philosophy’. Their commitment to ‘take nothing on authority’, combined
with the value that they set upon ‘experimental philosophy’, constitutes, she
argues, some of the features of ‘creative practices of knowledge’ that might
serve to offer a form of resistance to the
endless pragmatic demands of knowledge protocols: outcomes, outputs, impact,
constant monitoring of the exact usefulness of a particular knowledge or of
its ability to follow the demands and imperatives of cognitive capitalism—
demands to be portable, to be transferable, to be useful, to be flexible, to be
applied, to be entrepreneurial and generally integrated within market economies
at every level. (39)
Rogoff (2010) acknowledges that the legacy of the Enlightenment is one
that seeks to verify through experiment or argument and suggests that it might
be rather better to think of singularizing knowledge and the ways that creative
practices of knowledge might enable the contestation of truth regimes. It is
useful to reflect more deeply upon this idea of experimental philosophy, both
in terms of its trajectory through the centuries and its subterranean potentials
in the present. The experimental philosophers to whom Rogoff (2010) refers
were indeed mavericks in many ways, engaged in collective forms of inquiry
(often through necessity), passionately curious and truth-seeking. Yet the
legacy of Francis Bacon and others was one which created experimental phi-
losophy as a practice enabling mastery over nature, abstracting phenomena
from their ‘natural’ environments, privileging replicability, generality, and
even universalizabilty, over singularity, locality or context. These practices
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22 Aislinn O’ Donnell
claimed the power to identify, classify and categorize. The complex rela-
tionship between truth-claims and power has been well documented, yet
the co-imbrication of truth-regimes and power remain resistant to efforts to
demystify and dismantle them. This essay acknowledges this and looks to
uncouple truth and power through a more tentative, mischievous, oblique,
joyous and experientially oriented ‘experimental philosophy’, resonant
with the recent turn in research called ‘new materialism’. The refusal of the
demand for explanatory force and the demand to give an account of itself,
as is commonplace in practices framed as research in art, philosophy and
pedagogy, is accompanied by resistance to both the imperialism of method-
ology and the hierarchy of theory. Experimental philosophy favours instead
material encounters, the genesis of ideas, creative methodologies and new
concepts that accompany and engender different more subtle sensibilities,
patterns of thought and singular knowledges.
Suspicion of all forms of hegemony, intellectual and otherwise, led Paul
Feyerabend (1993) to argue that science is an essentially anarchic enterprise.
His position was that ‘the only principle that does not inhibit progress is:
anything goes’ (5). In order to challenge the prescriptive notion that one first
has an idea or a problem, and only thereafter one acts, Feyerabend (1993)
pointed to the playful activity of young children as they explore the world. He
believed that ‘general education should prepare citizens to choose between
standards, or to find their way in a society that contains groups committed
to various standards, but it must under no condition bend their minds so that
they conform to the standards of one particular group (61). For the same
reason, Feyerabend resisted the notion that ‘knowledge [should] be changed
so that its presence can be checked by a single algorithm’ (218) and was criti-
cal of early philosophers saying that they ‘do not enrich existing concepts,
but they void them of content, make them crude, and increase their influence
by turning crudeness into a measure of truth’ (260). Moreover, Feyerabend
argues that the scientific and philosophical commitments and beliefs that
have shaped and informed the ‘rationalist’ imaginary, which offers an image
of itself as both objective and tradition-independent, constitute a ‘secularised
form of the belief in the power of the word of God’ (218). Such a rationalist
imaginary is impoverished, and its claims to identify the essential are pre-
mised on the elimination of the immeasurable or the singular. The idea of
objectivity as a form of secularization of theological belief is provocative, in
particular given the performative force of much of the language that circu-
lates in educational research, policy, corporations and institutions, academic
and otherwise. One example of this is found in the KEA report Impact of
Culture on Creativity (2009) commissioned by the European Commission.
This report advocates for the development of a European Creativity Index
(ECI) consisting of 32 indicators with six central pillars—human capital,
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 23
institutional environment, technology, social environment, openness and
diversity and creative outputs. It justifies the quest for creativity by arguing
for its instrumental value in driving economic and social progress.
Philosophers Deleuze and Guattari (1987) draw upon How to do Things
with Words by John Austin (1962) as well as Michel Foucault’s (1973, 1984,
1986, 1991) corpus in order to locate different elaborations of performative
speech. This informs their innovative concept of the order word. Unlike the
examples given by Austin (1962) that embed particular utterances within
social norms and practices, such as ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’,
order words can include words or phrases that lack signification or con-
tent, while retaining the power both to command and to produce subjects
and subjectivities. Examples today might include words like ‘creativity’,
‘innovation’ and ‘excellence’. The material force of this pervasive though
curiously empty, redundant, generic, abstract language that is encountered
in many policy reports and reviews is resonant of both Orwell (1946, 1948)
and Kafka (1989, 2009) as it aims to set standards, simplify, compare, effect
outputs, designate outcomes, and design evaluations across a wide range of
practice and activities of human existence, with little sense of the diversity
of purposes or material practices of human activity across the long natural
history of humankind. ‘“Is it not really strange”, asks Einstein, “that human
beings are normally deaf to the strongest argument whilst they are always
inclined to overestimate measuring accuracies?”’ (quoted in Feyerabend,
1993, 239). Instead of emphasizing operationalization and formalization of
procedures across all spheres of existence, Feyerabend (1993) asserts that
‘there are many different maps of reality, from a variety of scientific view-
points’ (245). Indeed, Ian Hacking (2000) writes in a review of his last book,
a compilation of unfinished manuscripts, that what Feyerabend (1993) most
resisted was what William Blake (1956) called ‘Single Vision—Newton’s
Sleep’; the image of single vision is very different from an epistemological
approach that values singularity, or is attuned to the specificity of diversity,
capacities required to develop the acuity and sensitivity needed for conscious
In order to foster an imaginary premised upon ‘experimental philosophy’,
points of affinity or connection might be developed between practices of phi-
losophy, art and pedagogy. These might include the seventeenth-century soci-
ety of experimental philosophers described by Rogoff (2010), and the image
of life as experimentation found throughout all the writings of Nietzsche
(1984), Deleuze and Guattari (1987) and Spinoza (1996). Nonetheless,
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24 Aislinn O’ Donnell
Feyerabend’s (1999) remarks on the use of experiments in the search for
‘reality’ offer a useful note of caution:
But the search [for reality] has a strong negative component. It does not accept
phenomena as they are, it changes them, either in thought (abstraction) or by
actively interfering with them (experiment). Both types of changes involve
simplifications. Abstractions remove the particulars that distinguish an object
from another, together with some general properties such as color and smell.
Experiments further remove or try to remove the links that tie every process to
its surroundings—they create an artificial and somewhat impoverished environ-
ment and explore its peculiarities. In both cases, things are being taken away or
‘blocked off’ from the totality that surrounds us. (5)
The interference that Feyerabend (1993) outlines is only a symptom of
the will to mastery guiding experimental science and he acknowledges that
understanding a subject means transforming it, lifting it out of natural habit
and inserting it into a model or a theory or a poetic account of it. But one
transformation may be better than another’ (12, original emphasis). As Henri
Bergson argued in Chapter 1 of Matter and Memory (2004), perception is
always a subtractive enterprise—to be able to act, to choose and to move
involves blocking off and ignoring much of the rich variety of life. How-
ever, a concerted effort to deploy a unidimensional and reductive method
that seeks to simplify the abundance of life is a matter for concern that has
existential, political, pedagogical and philosophical implications. It is not,
says Feyerabend (1993), that we do not need scientists, poets or philoso-
phers but rather that their interaction with their material of inquiry involves
a complicated interplay ‘between an unknown and relatively pliable material
and researchers who affect and are affected and changed by the material
which, after all, is the material from which they have been shaped. It is not
therefore easy to remove the results’ (146). These subjective elements create
conditions of existence, animating the dynamics of the world rather than just
registering ‘what is there’.
I am not averse to those practices of experimental philosophy and
pedagogy that invite abstraction in thought or create artificial conditions,
but with Hannah Arendt (1958), I resist equating experimentation with
hypothesis testing. Arendt writes critically of the way the understanding
of truth changed from theoria into the practical question of ‘what works?
so theory became hypothesis, and the outcome of the hypothesis became
‘truth’, ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’. As she writes in The Origins of Totalitari-
anism (1958), her fear was that the experiment produces reality and thus
guarantees its own success. I understand her reservations; however, I do
not wholly agree with her suspicions of pragmatism. I am inspired by the
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 25
subtle responsiveness of practices of empirical enquiry that are attuned to
the matter or material of inquiry, and to the possibility of unexpected lines
of enquiry and questions such as those opened up by Dada, Fluxus and con-
temporary art practitioners such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Seamus Nolan, and
Fischli and Weiss. Rather than seeking the ‘single vision’ of truth, such an
approach looks to create the conditions for new modalities of affective and
existential engagement that can serve to punctuate habits of cynicism
and ressentiment. Examples might include Suddenly an Overview, Fischli
and Weiss tender series of tiny clay figurines rendering the monumental
events of universal history or the Bijlmer Spinoza Festival, or Thomas
Hirschhorn’s (2009) collaborative intervention in an estate South-East of
Amsterdam, which he creates because he is a ‘fan’ of philosophy. My inter-
est is not in the new field of ‘experimental philosophythat generates ideas
to be applied by empirical scientists, in particular cognitive psychologists,
but rather in the way in which Deleuze and Guattari (1987) take up the
functionalist and pragmatist commitment to what works’. This, combined
with their vision of experimentation, involves singular practices and situa-
tions, and a pluralistic approach to epistemology, entails the retrieval and
assembling of an image of experimental philosophy that is more attuned to
singularity and more open to rich descriptions of particulars, to practices of
observation and to what Deleuze (1995) has called transcendental empiri-
cism—an experimental approach that seeks to create the conditions for real,
rather than possible, experience. This approach is both oriented by, and
seeks out, passion, curiosity, interest and wonder in a manner redolent of
early modern and medieval intellectuals. Thomas Hirschhorn’s (2009/10)
description of himself as a ‘fan’ of philosophy, in an interview with Birrell,
captures some of the naivety, enthusiasm and excitement that can help to
dissolve what William Connolly (2011) has called ‘embers of resentment
(293). In that interview, Hirschhorn (2009/10) says:
I am passionate about Spinoza because the lecture of Ethics had a real impact
on me and I am passionate about Philosophy in general because I enjoy not
understanding everything. I like the fact that, in Philosophy, things remain to
be understood and that work still has to be done. (2009/10, 1) . . . Again, I am
not illustrating Philosophy with my work. I am not reading Philosophy to do
my Artwork and I am not reading Philosophy to justify my work. I need Phi-
losophy for my life, to try to find responses to the big questions such as ‘Love’,
to name one of the most important to me. For this, I need Philosophy—please
believe it! But of course if connections, dynamics, influences or coincidences
exist in my work—as you pointed out in ‘It’s Burning Everywhere’—I am
absolutely happy. I want to be touched by grace, without belief in any cor-
relation to genius or obscureness or that it has something to do with artistic
ignorance. (4)
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26 Aislinn O’ Donnell
Such a sense of wonder, enthusiasm and fascination is vital to sustain and
energize practices in philosophy, art and pedagogy. In Lorraine Daston and
Katherine Park’s (1998) mapping of the histories of wonder, we are reminded
that it was seen as a ‘cognitive passion, as much about knowing as feeling’
(14), and are told that the cognitive passions of wonder and curiosity ‘briefly
meshed into a psychology of scientific enquiry in the seventeenth century’
(20). They describe the scepticism of natural philosophers in respect of the
possibility of a ‘philosophy of particulars’ because such phenomena were of
the order of chance, quoting De mirabilius mundi, whose author says:
‘One should not deny any marvelous thing because he lacks a reason for it, but
rather should try it out [experiri]; for the causes of marvelous things are hidden,
and follow from such diverse causes preceding them that human understanding,
as Plato says, cannot apprehend them,’ observing that ‘thus natural wonders
often overlapped with “secrets” and “experiments” (experimenta), another
group of phenomena accessible only to experience; these craft formulas, or
proven recipes for medical and magical preparations, often drew on the occult
properties of natural substances, and they were excluded from natural philoso-
phy for the same reasons’. (Daston and Parks, 1998, 129)
Openness to contingency and chance, as well as sharing of recipes, secrets,
experiments and ideas, are key features of my re-envisioning of ‘experimental
philosophy and pedagogy’ and in certain respects offer the possibility of what
Sarat Maharaj (2009) calls a ‘lab without protocol’ following Hans Ulrich
Obrist and Barbara Vanderlinden’s (1999) exhibition/project Laboratorium.
An experimental philosophy lies outside the strict parameters of natural
philosophy because of the value it places on the singular, in know-how,
instructions, secrets and recipes. This interests me because it interrupts the
image of knowledge, or what Deleuze (1994) calls the dogmatic image
(or tribunal) of thought, that seeks to prove, show, identify, classify or jus-
tify. An experimental approach is more interested in creating opportunities
for the sharing of ideas and practices that might enhance potentials for sin-
gularizing encounters and material engagement with and by students, situa-
tions, materials, disciplines, bodies, affects and ideas. This re-appropriates
the mantra of ‘what works’ from its universalizing, ahistorical and founda-
tional pretensions to the kind of toolbox methodology of ‘trying it out’, and
thus seems to me more faithful to the nuanced responsiveness of pedagogy
and the practices of inquiry of many scientists, artists and philosophers who
try to cultivate fine attunements to the terrains of the materials and ideas
that they are exploring. Wonder sustains attention and curiosity provokes
questioning, yet these qualities are not mentioned in those learning outcomes
detailed in course descriptors or funding proposals. Indeed, in my own
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 27
university the word ‘explore’ is prohibited from learning outcomes. This
is primarily because such forms of engagement are unpredictable, and thus
their outcomes are not guaranteed.
Avicenna observed that ‘so to whatever object the eye first turns, the same
is a wonder and full of wonder if only we examine it for a little’ (original ital-
ics, Daston and Parks, 1998, 136). Over two centuries from about 1370, many
people engaging in philosophical inquiry were not academic philosophers, but
were involved in practical fields of exploration like alchemy, materia medica
(pharmacology) and magic. A taste for the particular was essential in such
empirical investigation because particulars cannot be known through theory
or deduction. Daston and Parks (1998) call this ‘preternatural philosophy’ as
it ‘rehearsed new empirical methods of inquiry’ (137) and forced an aban-
donment of the ‘limpid certainty of scientia for the muddy waters of sensory
experience and probable opinion’ (141). They distinguish this epistemologi-
cal model of natural enquiry from the demonstrative ideal, suggesting that it
required a different sensibility. Later Belon would speak of the ‘singularities’
he found in the footsteps of Galen (Daston and Parks, 1998). The use of words
such as ‘wonder’ and ‘singularity’ have a curious ring to the contemporary
ear, yet creative and rich encounters with that which is new for us in the lines
of inquiry that emerge in our disciplines and practices as students or teachers
or apprentices or artists, or in our encounters with the ideas of our students,
can echo that sense of wonder as the world is disclosed anew. After a long
hiatus, they tell us, the language of marvels re-entered natural philosophy ‘in
the context of a new epistemology of facts and a new sociability of collective
empirical enquiry’ (Daston and Parks, 1998, 218) in the seventeenth century.
While Francis Bacon in 1620 constructed a New Organon to discipline the
mind’s aversion to particulars and to shuttle between the universal and the
particular, the early scientific journals, according to Daston and Parks (1998),
abound with the language of ‘new’, ‘remarkable’, ‘curious’, ‘extraordinary’
and ‘singular’. In contrast with Aristotelian empiricism, ‘the empiricism of
the late seventeenth century was grainy with facts, full of experiential par-
ticulars conspicuously detached from explanatory or theoretical moorings’
(Daston and Parks, 1998, 237). Of interest were strange facts—and facts
were themselves uncertain, unlike demonstrative knowledge.
In Histories of Scientific Observation (2011), Lorraine Daston and
Elizabeth Lunbeck say that the history of observation in the sciences needs
to be told, just as abstract terms like ‘experiment’ and ‘classification’ have
been shown to be rooted in concrete practices; ‘for example, how the first sci-
entific laboratories drew upon the skills and furnishings of the workshops of
early modern artisans, or how late nineteenth century astronomers employed
women whose eyes had been trained to discern the tints of embroidery skins
to classify stellar spectra’ (2). They argue that the coupling of observation and
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28 Aislinn O’ Donnell
experiment did not occur until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and
‘many practices that from a modern (or even early modern) viewpoint seem
to be clear examples of the observation of nature were instead designated by
the terms experimentum (a trial or test) or experiential (cumulative experi-
ence)—two words often used as synonyms, because they both referred to
results that could not be deduced from first principles’ (Daston and Lunbeck,
2011, 12). There is no sense with these stories that the diversity of the world
might be reducible onto a plane of comparative equivalents. The rise of gen-
eralized monetary equivalence emblematic of capital, and the prevalence of
discourses in education and culture premised upon formalization, measurabil-
ity, standards and comparison are, it seems, the air that we breathe today; yet,
a standard is, after all, an artificial affair, even if it has been reified to the level
of idolatry. Knowledge itself has taken on the features of the commodity, as
described by Marx in the Grundrisse (1993) and Das Capital (1906). For
instance, the primary features of the Bologna Process that sought to reform
and integrate European education systems are reminiscent of the commodity
form. These include:
Generalizability (rather than singularity)
Standardization (must be comparable)
Measurability (tied to some standard of measurement)
Homogenization (required for comparison and transfer)
Alienation (no direct relation to material practice)
Abstraction (no attention to genesis or process other than formal)
Abstract and homogeneous labour time.
Data or outcomes are viewed as more legitimate sources of evidence if
methods that have produced their ‘truth’ are replicable, comparable and
verifiable, the process and methodology operationalized for securing such
knowledge or information are ‘transparent’, the observational language ‘neu-
tral’, and the findings measurable. An aura of objectivity accompanies the
presentation of data secured in this fashion; however, the implicit metaphys-
ics that accompanies claims that what counts is what is measurable, that we
don’t understand until we measure, and that ‘the world comes as measurable’
(Hacking, 1992, 50) is seldom acknowledged. This is not simply a matter
of concern for epistemologists; it frames the ways practices of knowledge
and creativity are valued or not, and it is inscribed in funding guidelines,
policy documents, mission statements, module descriptors and evaluative
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 29
tools. Indeed, it seems that the idea of ‘impact’ as potentially progressive
also owes something to the image of causal force or collision in mechanical
philosophy because impact too must also be measurable, differentiable and
even predictable in advance of the intervention, event or exhibition. Interven-
tions the effect of which may be ephemeral, intangible or involve a temporal
lag, or might be better expressed in stories or images, or may be singular,
anomalous or unclassifiable may be deemed, in comparison with the security,
certainty and stability of quantifiable data, as just as occult and as ludicrous
as appeals to magic or phlogiston. Yet these immeasurables are the ether of
our practices.
In part as a counterbalance to these trends, and in part because I think it
would be more useful and more truthful, I suggest that we might return to
other ways of thinking about both experiment and observation by looking
at the medieval concept of experience as test or trial. I am curious about the
idea of observation as inquiry, and associated ideas relating observation to
meditation, consideration, experience, investigation and contemplation, a
shift involving the slow evolution from the monastic writers to writers in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Park (2011) writes that ‘the experimentum, a
well-established genre of scientific writing in medieval Europe, was typically
a set of directions—usually a medical, magical or artisanal formula—pur-
portedly derived from and tested by experience, including both purposeful
experience and trial and error. More broadly, ‘experiment’ corresponded to
knowledge of singular, specific or contingent phenomena that could not be
grasped by deductive reasoning as well as the process by which such knowl-
edge was obtained’ (Park, 2011, 17). This is distinguished from a concept of
experiment understood in terms of artificial manipulation designed to iden-
tify hidden (occult) causes. Daston and Parks (1998) note that the meaning
of experimentum changed in order to emphasize the elements of proof and
spectacle, and causal inquiry, but also observe the lingering etymological
affinity of experiential/experimentum. While I acknowledge the dangers of
‘mixing and matching’ concepts, such as losing the specificity of a concept,
or misreading a concept, new ways of thinking and sensing might open up
in the assembling of an eclectic collection of ideas that promote sensitivity
to the singular and to trial and error, alongside an image of observation as a
form of inquiry at once contemplative, meditative and investigative. These
might offer conceptual resources to think anew about practices in philosophy,
pedagogy and the arts.
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30 Aislinn O’ Donnell
In many respects, this chapter is trying to respond to a deceptively simple
set of questions: What are we doing? What is the purpose of research and
practice in pedagogy and in the arts and humanities? What matters to us
in these practices? Are there ways of re-engaging with them so that they
can become more alive, more vital and more creative? Are there ways of
describing them that are more faithful to the diversity of practices, that value
the singular potentials of different modalities of engagement, and that can
share ideas like recipes, secrets—the experiments of five hundred years ago?
Offering rich descriptions or sharing questions, tasks, ideas and experiments
is not the same as offering proofs or evidence. Problematizing the thinness
of discussion of practice in education and the abstraction of philosophical
thought from the everyday, and offering rich descriptions of creative meth-
odologies, material content and experimental practices, does not seek to inure
philosophy or pedagogy from normativity. Rather, such a methodology can
help us to notice the multiple constitutive flows that orient our practices,
including those of a more reactive or visceral timbre. Practices of research
in, for example, education that develop ‘what works’ theories, or that appeal
to randomized controlled trials, which retain little sensitivity to the complex
relational dynamics of the pedagogical endeavour or practice, arguably tell
us little about the world, and even less about how to orient ourselves in those
spaces as teachers and students. So too, philosophies that forget the world,
forget the origins and genesis of the ideas that move us. Learning with both
the matter of thought and engagement with others helps to foreclose the likeli-
hood of objectification or reification. However, I think there is still scope for
the more modern understanding of experiment in terms of the artificial cre-
ation of situations of thought or encounter. This does not aim to control either
output or variables, but rather to temporarily suspend the habitual responses
of the day to day, creating the potential for different modalities of attention
through ostension or through practices that abstract ideas or experiences from
their habitual unfolding, for example, in order to intensify or enrich the expe-
rience of them. Much can be learnt from ideas like Sarat Maharaj’s (2009)
dada epistemics that draws upon Aby Warburg’s dada methodology. This
methodology involves the assembling of components, non-representational
thinking and the kind of feeling for the reality of relations, as William James
(1912) elucidates in his descriptions of radical empiricism.
Ian Hacking (1992) has argued that the theories of laboratory sciences per-
sist ‘because they are true to phenomena or even created by apparatus in the
laboratory and are measured by instruments that we have engineered’ (30).
As I indicate above, I am agnostic about the artificiality of the production of
phenomena in pedagogical situations, which I distinguish from those peda-
gogical situations in the service of research agendas. However, I see that at
times such artificiality can be a useful tool in the construction of what I call
AQ: Please
check if the
of “inure
or pedagogy
from nor-
is clear.
“from nor-
be changed
to “to
AQ: Please
whether the
word “osten-
sion” is okay
as given..
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 31
situated thinking, as long as those practices are at the service of life rather
than truth, understood as proof, evidence, demonstration or determinative
judgement. Although I agree with Hacking (1992) that we should not equate
‘laboratory’ with ‘experiment’ (despite the popularity of such terms in recent
contemporary art practices), I still think that the artificiality of the laboratory
can be of service in creating a space that permits of the provisional suspen-
sion of the affairs of the world such that a different way of living the everyday
might be permitted, even temporarily, offering a freedom that allows one
to play with ideas, materials, knowledges, and different ways of imagining
one’s existence.
A practical example may illustrate this. In one philosophy class that I offer,
most of the men have spent some time in prison, and a number are home-
less. I mention their background because they are placed to the margins of
society and are often without voice or access to those quasi-public spheres
that allow for those difficult conversations that move between philosophy
and life, navigating complex images of what it is to be a man, what it is to
be human, and what it is to be a citizen. An interplay between philosophical
ideas and existential preoccupations allows spaces to be opened in which we
can explore the concept of melancholia or anxiety, the relationship between
melancholia and philosophy, or anxiety and existentialism, the stories of
Ancient Greece and Kant’s long walks, lunar cycles, the humours, as well as
their own stories and observation. This process is about venturing thoughts
and allowing them to be suspended and held within the space as they are so
they can play off against other ideas. It involves sitting with what emerges,
rather than dissecting or analysing stories or digging to the roots of existential
crises or problems. This is an artificial space that allows us to breathe without
having to constantly react, as we must in the world outside. For these men,
these classes allow for conversations, so they tell me, that they are ordinarily
permitted to have given the social norms of the worlds that they navigate as
men, men who have often been marginalized at that. There is an experimen-
tal quality as we move our lines of enquiry in response to whatever emerges
through our philosophical conversations. It is that ‘suspended’ quality of the
laboratory that I wish to retain. However, I do not believe that it is the only
kind of space that allows for surprise or engagement; many others might be
constructed in line with different sensibilities, dispositions and territorialized
Other voices that contest the hegemony of theoretico-experimental sciences
and their counterparts include those of geologist, evolutionary biologist,
AQ: In
the sen-
tence “An
it is not clear
what “their”
refers to in
“their own
Please check
and rephrase
if necessary.
Hickey-Moody & Page_9781783484867.indb 31 7/28/2015 5:46:17 PM
32 Aislinn O’ Donnell
palaeontologist and zoologist Stephen Gould (1980) and philosopher of sci-
ence Isabelle Stengers (2000). Stengers writes that ‘the science of evolution
learns to affirm its singularity as a historical science faced with experimenters
who, whenever there is no “production of facts”, can only see an activity of
the “stamp-collecting” type’ (2000, 141); however,
in Darwinian histories, a cause in itself no longer has the general power to cause;
each is taken up in a history, and it is from this history that it gains its identity as
a cause. Each witness, each group of living beings, is now envisioned as having
to recount a singular and local history. Scientists here are not judges, but inquir-
ers, and the fictions they propose take on the style of detective novels, implying
ever more unexpected intrigues. (141)
Stengers (2000) is attracted by the lack of a defined object and the impos-
sibility of judging a priori, saying, that in this case, ‘it has discovered the
necessity of putting to work a more and more subtle practice of storytelling’
(148). She calls this a style or an example, but not a model. Something of
such an inquiring and singularizing approach to practice might be of benefit
in pedagogy, and it also might open up ways of doing philosophy that are
less reverential towards authority and more reverential towards the abun-
dance of life and the potentials for constructing other futures, more singular
knowledges, and more ethical and creative responsiveness. At play here is
not simply the notion of ‘letting be’ that we find in some philosophers but
a more active and delighted ‘listening’, ‘sensitivity’ and ‘conversation’,
alongside the exercise through artifice of finding oneself situated differently,
allowing for the experimentation with different ways of encountering the
richness of the world. Again, Stengers quotes the embryologist Albert Dalcq,
who wrote:
In experimental biology, and in particular in the domains that touch on morpho-
genetic organization, deduction often requires a kind of art, in which sensitivity
has perhaps a place. . . . The very object on which the embryologist is working
is capable of reacting, and the research readily takes on the appearance of a
conversation: the riposte has all the unexpectedness and charm that one finds in
the response of an intelligent interlocutor. (cited in Stengers, 1997, 124)
No divide need be forced between the existential and the ‘objective’.
To refuse such oppositions might invite an ethos of engagement that could
inform a different interplay with the world, one involving the concomitant
cultivation of attention, wonder, curiosity and interest such that we might
even become attuned to the ways in which we are constituted by many forces
beyond the human, and the ways in which our affective lives often rumble at
a subterranean level.
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Experimental Philosophy and Experimental Pedagogy 33
It can be easy to close off to experience because of a visceral, pre-reflective
reaction; however, this may simply indicate the genealogy of our singular
histories, our beliefs, encounters, experiences, attitudes, dispositions, all of
which were formed and oriented by a thousand tiny encounters which remain
unnoticed until they rupture the threshold of consciousness and appear to
have the quality of ‘mineness’ and ‘chosenness’. If we wish to maintain the
language of creativity in education, it must not be overcoded by the image
of the created product or that all-pervasive slogan ‘innovation’. Learning
itself is a creative and a singular endeavour of understanding and attunement.
Creativity lies in a disclosure of the world for me in dialogue with it, much
as I might come to know another person somewhat more intimately. I learn