Centre for Cultural Partnerships - Theses

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    Composing contemporary ceremony
    Mackay, Margie ( 2017)
    Towards a praxial technique from a critical ‘practice as research’ perspective. Composed between 2007 and 2014, in collaboration with artists, Elders, and general public, Contemporary Ceremonies map multi-sited, transcultural ritual-art practices where Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians meet in reflexive exchange. This thesis posits a theory for composing these events from an emplaced and relational perspective utilizing Nelson’s definition of ‘Practice as Research’ which interrogates the “know that, know how and know what” of composition. This perspective includes propositional knowledge as found in ritual studies and Indigenous studies, procedural knowledge found in practice, and the ethical and instinctive choices made from experience and insight, which temper and guide aesthetics and poetics. An ‘Indigenist oriented research paradigm’ guides each step of this research, its findings, and outcomes, in an emplaced reconsideration of ritual theory and the artistic praxis of ceremony making. One vital ethical and relational imperative has been to articulate compositional ‘matters of concern’ from Western onto-epistemological lineages that I find to be in concert with Indigenous “Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing.” In doing so, I acknowledge and interrogate my own heritage and story in accordance with Indigenous protocols of research, as articulated by Shawn Wilson in ‘Research is Ceremony.’ The post-humanist philosophies of Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk and their complimentary theories of spheres and networks have assisted in articulating the ethical, relational, and spatial perspectives in this approach. Through abbreviated grounded theory analysis of the structural, philosophical, and social dynamics revealed in four case studies, theory coalesces throughout the passage of the thesis to reveal the proposed praxial technique for Contemporary Ceremony composition as conclusion. Data collected for analysis includes auto-ethnographic accounts of case studies, artist’s diaries, video and photographic documentation, anonymous questionnaires, and working drawings, all of which have enabled the ‘matters of concern’ found in compositional dynamics to be identified and grouped into ‘categories of meaning.’ Categories of meaning emerged from scrutinizing data through a ‘Lefebvrean lens’ which considered producing the space of CCs, determining how they were conceived and perceived, and charting them as they evolved and were enacted in lived experiences. Hyperlinks in the text enable an experience of a mediated version of these CCs, and further detail is provided in auto- ethnographic accounts of each of the case studies. This thesis is structured in three books. It honours Wilson’s contention that ‘research is a ceremony’ through following the trifold schema of Arnold van Gennep’s theory on rites of passage. The first book, ‘Cosmos – Rites of Separation’ considers how the cosmos of Contemporary Ceremony is conceived. The second book, ‘Community – Rites of Transition’ considers the communities’ and other entities’ perceptions of CCs, whilst the third book ‘Artist’s Self – Rites of Incorporation’ reveals the artist’s material thinking, and from analysis of lived experience, disentangles the praxial technique.