Puppetry as a healing art: a view through the lens of practice
AuthorCuming, Ian David
AffiliationCentre for Cultural Partnerships
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
Open Access URLhttps://vimeo.com/274432050
© 2018 Ian David Cuming
This artistic practice-as-research has two presentational components: a fifteen minute video titled “Puppetry as a healing art: a view through the lens of practice” (the video https://vimeo.com/274432050) and a dissertation by the same title. Viewing the video first engages the practice: the practice is the lens that focuses the research. The video as praxis—the nexus of theory and practice—introduces the author’s puppetry practice. Two other non-presentational praxes—t’ai chi and puppetry—have also been integral to the process of this research, relieving and informing the production of both the writing and the video. Using these four praxes I have investigated four decades of my puppetry practice in the following way: Firstly, the video enabled me to engage memory and archive in a multi-modal way. Drawing from video essay as an inquiry method, the video inquires into the constructive, performative and relational aspects of my puppetry practice. Through the video I reveal some of the experiential and phenomenological dimensions of my puppetry praxis, in particular the attentional and intentional processes that generate form, drive content and bring people together, a process I refer to as cathexis. Secondly, T’ai chi as a method relieved the mind and the body of the memory-laden, screen-focussed inquiry and balanced the yin of the video with the yang of the writing as iteration and re-iteration informed edit and re-edit. Writing as an inquiry method relies on the auto-ethnographic layered account for the life-cycle structure of the writing—egg , caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly, egg— and weaves four epistemological strands—healing, puppetry, ecology and culture—and four methodological approaches— video, t’ai chi, writing and puppetry—through a series of puppet case studies. These exemplify aspects of practice: Punch and Judy, The Sugar Ant, Socrates, Seagrass, Birds, Weedy Seadragon and Anguila Australis. Finally, Puppetry as an inquiry method played a cameo role when a newspaper puppetry workshop with my post-graduate research cohort momentarily cocooned and transformed the praxical focus of the inquiry. This relatively minor engagement revealed puppetry as construction and performance in a circle. The epistemology commences with healing and leads towards puppetry because without an understanding of healing my praxis makes little sense. Ecology and culture then build on the foundation of puppetry as healing. Axiologically this privileges healing, focusses puppetry and places culture within an ecological frame. The value of this research may be found in the way it models how we attend to ideas, objects and people, how we encourage, how we honour and how we engage. This research finds that the principle of liveliness may serve as an ethical direction finder for the creative process, optimising personal efficacy at each stage in the creative cycle. In this holistic way—from conception and dreaming, through to construction, performance, exhibition and evaluation—puppetry playfully engages us in a meaningful experience of personal, cultural and ecological healing.
Keywordspuppetry; creative arts; culture; ecology; holistic; healing; first nations; liveliness
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