If knowledge in a general sense is coextensive with life and has no need for archival inscription, we nevertheless must recognize the role played by archives and inscription in any institutionalization of knowledge that goes beyond direct interpersonal transmission. This is the point at which I would hope to intervene in the politics of knowledge, research, and academia. If scholarly institutions of knowledge are founded on particular relations with archives, rather than specifically on the medium of writing—by which I mean all forms of numerical, textual, and musical notation—then the advent of audiovisual research stands to radically transform the university and perhaps knowledge itself. At issue here is not only the forms that research can be understood to take, but also who can be recognized as conducting research and what can be counted as knowledge.
Published today through new imprint Advanced Methods at punctum books, Ben Spatz proposes a novel approach to the laboratory of the performance space, reconfiguring artistic research through BDSM ethics and a queer adaptation of Grotowski's "poor theater." Making a Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video is published in print and digital open access at punctumbooks.com.
Making a Laboratory defines a new audiovisual embodied research method that short-circuits experimental practice and video recording to generate new kinds of data and documents. Overturning conventional hierarchies of knowledge, “Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video” (DCTV) grounds both discursive and audiovisual knowledges within the space of embodied practice, synthesizing insights from historical epistemologist Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and philosopher of science Karen Barad to offer the first rigorous definition of laboratoriality outside a techno-scientific paradigm. In this concise book, nonbinary practitioner–researcher Ben Spatz situates the DCTV method in the context of artistic research and alongside emerging audiovisual methods in other fields, while highlighting its unique characteristics.
Across six focused chapters, Making a Laboratory introduces DCTV as a queer feminist adaptation of Jerzy Grotowski’s “poor” theater laboratory and defines its core elements, drawing on a range of thinkers including Giorgio Agamben, Rebecca Schneider, and Hito Steyerl, in order to examine power, identity, and documentation in lab practice. Drawing from the ethical consent practices of the BDSM community, it lays the groundwork for a radical reinvention of audiovisuality from the perspective of embodiment — the audiovisual body.
Ben Spatz (Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Huddersfield) is a nonbinary researcher and theorist of embodied practice. They are the author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015) and Blue Sky Body: Thresholds for Embodied Research (Routledge 2020), as well as numerous articles. Ben is also the founding editor of the videographic Journal of Embodied Research (Open Library of Humanities) and the Advanced Methods imprint (punctum books), and is also a co-convener of the Embodied Research Working Group within the International Federation for Theatre Research. They have more than two decades of experience as a performer and director of contemporary performance, working mainly in New York City from 2001 to 2013. For more information, please visit urbanresearchtheater.com.
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