Friday, Sept 27 | 11:10am - 12:15pm

KEYNOTE 2 | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)

Performing Research: A Child’s Tug on your Sleeve

Lynn Fels 

wait, the moment whispers,
          you know me. 
this space-moment resonates. 
          go to your being, becoming.

         and so i realize performative inquiry, dancing on 
the edge of chaos, 

          and, in that moment,
                    recognize a landscape of possibility
                           (and impossibility).

Which research methodology will voice sound illuminate move within through my work as artist, researcher and educator towards moments of recognition and interstanding that are my hope and ambition?

Performative inquiry is a (re)search vehicle that embraces the arts as an action site of learning and exploration. Its tools of inquiry are our bodies, our minds, our imaginations, our experiences, our feelings, our memories, our skills, our biases, our judgments and prejudgments, our hopes and our desires — simply, our very being, becoming. A catalyst for performative inquiry may be a question, an event, a theme, an issue, a feeling, a line of poetry, a splash of colour on canvas, a stilled image from a video camera, a half-remembered melody, a fragment of lived experience, a narrative quest, a human condition: any phenomenon which we wish to explore. Analysis and motivation are questions/actions unfolding as we “lay down a path in walking” (Varela, 1987): What if? What matters? So what? Who Cares? These questions are not separate from but embodied within our performance. Through our work, emergent moments arrest us, like a child’s tug on our sleeve, each moment, a possible moment of natality (Arendt, 1958): “Each moment, a child of duration” (Milloy, 2007). These stop moments (Appelbaum, 1995, Fels, 1998, 2012) are action-sites of inquiry, interstices where choice is recognized, where new possibilities (and impossibilities) come into presence, calling us to wide-awakeness. As artists and researchers, our challenge and responsibility is to attend to such moments, and in doing so, we may encounter an unexpected stranger who calls us to mind the gap that dwells within us, within our communities, within our understanding of what it means to be human. And so, in a journey of storytelling, I will share the unexpected strangers who have called me to “wide-awakeness” (Greene, 1978), and invited response: a woman bringing in the clothes, the boy who didn’t want to be a cow, the tinsmith who secretly coveted the princess, and the artist whose painting on the wall made me cry.


Lynn Fels is an associate professor in arts education at Simon Fraser University. She is the former Academic Editor of EducationalInsights, an open-access journal that challenged conventional academic publishing, introducing hypertext, image, audio and video in scholarly texts. Lynn directed Woman Giving Birth to a Red Pepper (2013), and is writing a musical, currently on the back burner, as she attends to her research in arts in social change, arts across the curriculum, technology in performance, and eco-tracing. Lynn co-authored Exploring Curriculum: Performative Inquiry, Role Drama and Learning (2008), with George Belliveau, and is currently celebrating the 2014 release of Arresting Hope: Women Taking Action in Prison Inside Out, of which she is a co-editor.

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