Below is a synthesis of questions on some issues drawn from the Presentation by colleagues and friends with whom I have been discussing the idea and scope of Performer Science. The aim of this page is not to provide exhaustive explanations but to provoke further questions to be tackled concretely in joint action.
Does Performer Science concern only performing artists?
Performer Science concerns those who would break free of the culture in which the types who are able to exploit established conventions succeed, and others fail. Such culture pervades all walks of life, across occupational, socio-economic, religious and political borders, often fostering ill being, hostility and oppression, rather than well being and creative encounters.
A «theatre grounded on pedagogy» born at the turn of the 20th century promoted an alternative culture to the typical “exploit market trends and succeed” mentality. It showed actors preoccupied with how to exploit the conventions of their craft that consciously and systematically exercising their innate cognitive faculties they could experiment new ways, not only for theatre, but for life.
Performer Science thus brings the awareness of performer pedagogy not only to those engaged in the performing arts, but to any person who values creative freedom in search of a better life.
Performer Science relates to what kind of knowledge? Theoretical, practical, self knowledge?
Most of us have learnt to regard knowledge as a commodity, a “knowledge that” or “knowledge how” which we can acquire, possess, transmit or exchange, very much like an article of trade.
Some would look at knowledge as some kind of representation of reality, while some would take a more critical view, challenging even their beliefs, but still regard knowledge as some “thing inside” them representing some “thing out there”, in the world.
Performer Science regards knowledge essentially as one with the knower, not some theory or skill possessed by the knower. Knowledge is the dynamic state with which we, as living beings, move and interact, each within his or her sphere of action.
If knowledge is a dynamic state of being, then learning is a process whereby that state alters, whereby the person as a whole is changed, in contrast with the view of learning as a process whereby a person accumulates “knowledge that” or “knowledge how”.
How does Performer Science relate to the thing called “science”, the methods and methodology of “scientists”?
The authority and prestige many people attribute to “science”, the trust they invest in it, derive mainly from the idea of a special scientific method whereby reliable knowledge, which can be generalised, is acquired and tested objectively, by means of procedures and instruments which would allow the scientist to collect data and process information avoiding personal bias, allowing fellow scientists to replicate those procedures, in order to confirm or falsify a given hypothesis.
Some people, on the contrary, regard such “science” with suspicion or contempt even, because they believe that the procedures, instruments and explanations of “science” tend to reduce the value of processes which acquire meaning only in their complexity and through subjective experience. Creativity in the arts is often counted among such complex phenomena which would defy the reductionistic explanations of “science”.
Performer Science considers science as any systematic investigation which builds upon basic cognitive faculties, common to all living beings that move (including us human beings, of course). For such beings are organised in a way that allows them to consciously make distinctions, trace relationships, make predictions and evaluate the outcomes of action and interaction, thus renewing their state of being (knowledge) in a creative interplay between theory (“seeing”) and technique (“doing”). With the emergence of language and the development of scientific discourse, enhanced by symbolic instruments in support of logic, maths and geometry, human beings have progressively sought to enhance their basic cognitive faculties along with the awareness needed to keep a critical eye upon their achievements and projections.
The quest of mindfully and systematically enhancing our human cognitive faculties is, of course, not exclusive to the procedures and instruments of the thing called “science”. It is a possibility open to human living in general, in all life practices.
Performer Science is basically stating that we can approach anything «as scientists» (Bateson) and that being mindful of our innate cognitive faculties would potentiate the actions we take towards living a better life – a life that would not be held hostage to the kind of ignorance which those who claim indisputable authority in the name of any “science” (any system of knowledge) would seek to exploit.
Of what import are the cognitive sciences to the scope of Performer Science?
If science is a basic faculty exercised by each one of us, then we ourselves, i.e. the dynamic organisation of those structures which sustain our daily living, are the primary scientific instruments we employ in our everyday interactions we call life, be it on a theatre stage, in a physics laboratory, in a classroom, at the office, at home… We ourselves are the primary instruments of science, brains included of course.
Nowadays few people would dispute the view that brain structures and functions underlie those mental faculties which enable us to move, act and interact – there is sufficient evidence to show that variance in brain structures and functions affects our mental faculties. Cognitive neuroscientists attempt to gain a better understanding of those brain processes which underlie every aspect of our everyday living and which we naturally ignore for the most part. We don’t normally feel or think about what is happening in our brains as we go about our daily business.
And yet we may gain important insights from brain studies which would allow us to improve upon the conditions and strategies conducive to enhanced cognitive faculties, potentiated creativity, better living.
Performer Science, drawing upon the insights of performer pedagogy into human knowing, might also bring important theoretical contributions to the study of mechanisms governing human cognition.
In concrete terms, how would Performer Science benefit people, within their particular occupational and everyday life dimensions?
Drawing upon insights from the performer’s pedagogy, philosophy, complexity theory and the cognitive sciences, Performer Science seeks to foster learning processes whereby each may cultivate a state of awareness that enhances the personal potential for action in everyday living, both within and beyond one’s specific occupational domains.
If knowledge is a state of being, then knowing differently means being differently and therefore living differently. Such difference, however, does not come about simply through explanation and understanding. Concrete benefits come as a result of concrete work, for as Jerzy Grotowski put it, «knowledge is a matter of doing».
It is through concrete work together, via ongoing dialogue and joint action, that Performer Science presents a concrete opportunity for personal creative growth. The theoretical inputs provided on the pages of this website serve mainly as a provocation and an invitation to concrete collaboration.
Contributions to the above questions and replies came from:
Elvira Di Bona, M.A. Philosophy
Violinist; Ph.D. student in Philosophy & Cognitive Sciences, Università Vita-Salute S. Raffaele, Milano
Natalie Debono, M.A. Creativity and Innovation
Argentine Tango dancer; Coordinator Green Drinks Malta, Director Core Green ecoFood & ecoEvents
Stefano Ercolino, M.A. Comparative Literature
Ph.D. Student Università degli Studi dell’Aquila
Marco Montalto, M.S.P.C. (Master in the Science of Performative Creativity)
Apprentice performer Groups for Human Encounters; Ph.D. Student University of Malta
Silvia Spadacenta, M.D.
Ph.D. student in Neurophysiology, Roma “La Sapienza”
Serena Stifani, graduate in Philosophy
Performer, pedagogue at Astragali Teatro; M.A. Student in Philosophy
Carmela Stillitano, Ph.D. (Digital Technologies for Performance Research)
Researcher in the Audio-Psycho-Phonology of Alfred Tomatis