In basic terms, hermeneutics is a theory of interpretation that, when employed as a methodological approach to an investigation, it gives researchers the capacity to gain deeper understanding of texts, art works or any kind of artefact. At the core of this paradigm is the shaping and reshaping of understanding and knowing. For the practice-led researcher who is concerned not only with their practice, but with elucidating complex phenomena, it is liberating in the sense that is can bring the two together. What this means is that the artist not only learns more about a chosen topic, they then interpret this through their practice (in my case it is performance) and upon reflection of these processes, they gain new perspective of themselves and their position within history and sociocultural contexts (McNamara, 1999; Davey, N.D).
Although I have only recently learned about hermeneutics, I am convinced that it is fundamental to the creative process of an artist. I have witnessed this in other choreographers’ and writers from viewing their ways of working, but here I speak for myself. Each time I create a work, I go through a route of interpreting literature that already exists; this is not limited to books, it can be audio, video, conversation etc. I then take this information and reinterpret it through my body. Then, when audiences see my physical interpretation, they tell me their reading, which then has the potential to expand my knowledge and ability to reflect. Each cycle of interpretation thus produces and reshapes the meaning that already exists. Mäkelä (2006) supports this, stating when practice and research work together, a cyclical structure is created, such as that of the hermeneutic circle and it enables an intermingling amongst art and research. This hermeneutic cycle is never closed but is ongoing (Gadamer, 1975).
When attempting to ask questions that surround the body, I believe the ability to consistently self-reflect is paramount. To study how people see themselves in the world, you cannot ignore how you see yourself or why you are intrinsically motivated to study people. I don’t think you can study people, unless you are willing to study yourself. When referring to self, I mean the self as a whole, not the one that exists in a private world, but a self that is projected in elements of day to day living.
Whist we are on the topic of self, I spent some time this week learning more about how information-rich societies are clouding ones judgement of self and are transforming the ways in which we perceive our being. According to Elliott (2014) the self is fractured and in a state of illusion because it is being fed from multiple angles from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep. We build and shape self through a process of management, stylisation and consumer identification. What we purchase in terms of objects, the groups we attend, the shows we watch, the types of foods we buy and the people we choose to interact with are all decisions that have been fed by something we have seen or heard. Where then, I have to ask, does agency come in to this equation? How do I know the difference between a decision made from my true self, to a decision that is the result of what I have consumed recently? Referring back to the above, I believe that spending time alone in a space of creativity, is one way to find the deeper and authentic truth. Try it. Write on paper, move your body, draw a picture. Respond to one question by answering it from the inside. Ask what prompted you to answer the question the way you did and then ask yourself the same question again. But this time try to remove the signals that prompted you to answer the question as you did in your previous attempt.