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					“Grappling with a difficult idea”

   An Adventure in Creativity Country
          Dr Ainslie Yardley
• But how could we evaluate a journey like that
  – a lengthy complex process from which may
  emerge no more than an ephemeral product.
• Performed today and gone tomorrow. We
  need to measure something don’t we - to
  prove an outcome, to validate our premise –
  to show that we did was real, to show it
  worked and why.
• Perhaps we could go the academic route,
  team up with a sociologist, or an ethnologist,
  ask them to give us a hand to do an
  independent observational study.
• Maybe we could develop an industry
  partnership to look into the cultural
  particularities of the inhabitants of Creativity
  Country to see where they fit into the market
  place.
• Lets try the social scientists first (and I need to
  point out here that I am one – a kind of a one
  – myself. We show them in and wait to see
  what they might find?
The indigenous inhabitants of Creativity
Country it would seem are a strange lot. There
are angels in residence of course, including
some pretty scary ones; the archetypes are
present, and many kinds of daemon. Elves,
fairies, all the muses - some major and minor
gods, ancestral spirits, naiads, nymphs and
maybe even pixies, if you’re into that kind of
thing.
• Whether these inhabitants dwell exclusively in
  Creativity Country is a matter for theological
  conjecture, however, there is no doubt of their
  presence in this numinous landscape.
  Observational analysis, the researchers
  eventually decide, is a fruitless exercise –
  everyone keeps disappearing …
• … with such frequency that they began to
  doubt that any of the inhabitants had really
  ever existed there at all. They have a
  brainwave and decide instead to conduct a
  series of in-depth interviews. They’ve begun
  to notice many visitors about the place,
  brimming with group enthusiasm (they’ve
  been doing Sound Circles), or individuals deep
  in concentration and determined singularity.
• Whether alone or together these visitors seem
  oblivious to the need for taking a firm hold on
  the methodology.
• When interviewed each participating visitor is
  quite adamant, “Oh, they’re here all right -
  we’ve seen them. Not only have we seen
  them, they’ve been our guides, how else
  would we find our way about this place -
  blighted as it is with twists and turns and
  sudden chasms - without doing ourselves an
  injury.”
• Strangely, Creativity Country has no
  permanent human residents - that was a hard
  one for the researchers to explain. At any
  given time it is home to an unusually vital and
  energetic visiting population from every
  country across the globe, but no one stays for
  very long.
• Numbers vary, depending on the resources
  available to travellers wishing to visit, but
  some devote a lifetime to returning as often
  as they can becoming the athletes of the
  creativity playing field. Sadly, space and time
  are frequently at a premium in countries of
  origin.
• Though the researchers went at it with
  genuine determination, in the end they got
  confused (refusing as they had to trust in
  guides they couldn’t see and territory they
  didn’t know) and they crossed the border by
  mistake into Milwaukee and having finally
  realised the error - no matter how carefully
  they tried to retrace their steps, they couldn’t
  get back in. And that was that.
• But, surely that’s just rubbish. There are no
  faeries at the bottom of the garden. What we
  need is some serious science.
• This fellow on the screen with the pretty
  brains is neuroscientist Antonito Damasio who
  has described extended consciousness, very
  adroitly in my view, as the very core of human
  relationality and communication, hinging on
  the ability to create an autobiographical
  record in which one’s sense of Self, the “core
  you” is “connected to the lived past and the
  anticipated future.” (DAMASIO, 2000, p.196).
• We make these connections, Damasio says
  (along with many others working on the
  theory of mind) by accessing autobiographical
  memory and creating a continuously updated
  narrative.
• Core consciousness (a faculty we share with
  other creatures), DAMASIO reminds us,
  provides a rite of passage into knowing, and
  extended consciousness builds on that
  capacity, permitting levels of knowing which
  can sustain human creativity and
  communication (Yardley, 2008).
• It is extended consciousness that gives us that
  troublesome knowledge of Selfhood, eternal
  separation from one another form our herd -
  that sense of otherness.
• The crucial link this theoretical standpoint
  provides, for me, as it describes the workings
  of consciousness and emotion is the capacity
  which consciousness extends to creativity. The
  stunningly obvious realisation that these two
  human faculties are intimately and indivisibly
  linked jumps out and knocks me flat – or was I
  knocked flat first – I can’t remember.
• Creativity and consciousness are the mirror
  image, and enablers of one other. If we take
  away extended consciousness creativity
  simply vanishes – it is no longer needed and if
  we take away creativity, and its processes –
  the making of narrative artefacts in whatever
  form or medium to share with others -
  extended consciousness becomes a chaotic
  existential curse (Yardley, 2006).
• But what has any of this got to do with
  methods of evaluation?
• Creativity is a place of distortions and
  disruptions. A place of sometimes, violent
  contradictions. Intermittent unpredictable
  transformations, intermingled with frightening
  upheavals? Sometimes mediocrity emerges.
  What methods could we put in place to
  truthfully evaluate experiences like these.
  Evaluation processes after all, feed policy.
  They provide our sustenance.
• Finding a way to evaluate what we achieved,
  to learn from our mistakes and maintain
  credibility, can seem like wandering through a
  wilderness. We talk of transformations, but
  rarely are there opportunities to track back,
  for ourselves, and experience what might have
  happened after we have gone – the legacies
  we have left behind.
• Some of us are lucky enough to have that
  privilege – to make the return. But most do
  not.
• Arts practitioners and researchers, along with
  NGO’s and community-based social service
  providers have all felt the need over the last
  fifteen years or so, to absorb and use the
  language of New Public Management and
  economics in their search for legitimacy and a
  place at the funding table. Words or phrases
  to do with nurturing, wellbeing and
  relationality have become pejoratives.
• They are seen as motherhood statements and
  emotional deviations characteristic of a nanny
  state; worthy of excision from the policy-
  makers’ and policy implementers’ lexicon. In
  the process the language of creativity and
  communication withers and atrophies, and
  evaluation becomes nothing more than a
  means to an end.
• But we don’t lie around too much and ponder
  on that do we - we get out there along with
  the cast of thousands and get stuck in.
• The language of creativity though, is an
  embodied language.

• Tingling, thudding, rumbling, sighing. Full of
  anxiety and hope, anchored in and reflecting
  multi-layered lived-time and lived-space.
  There are no certainties and absolutes
• Conceptualising what might be possible in
  policy development becomes more than an
  intellectual exercise, or an exercise in logistical
  and fiscal control, if the body and the space
  the body occupies with other bodies is not
  forgotten.
• What can we do to keep our language and our
  practice vital and alive when we are asked to
  be accountable only on the basis of
  quantifiable results, indicators and outcomes?
  Evaluative processes matter, of course they
  do, and input from independent researchers is
  a good thing, as are industry partnerships – if
  they are the right ones, but never at the
  expense of handing over your passport into
  Creativity Country. Never.
• In a sense it doesn’t matter what kind of
  methodologies we use to evaluate the work
  we do. Whether we undertake Self-
  evaluation, or bring in independent
  researchers, whether we use participatory
  action research, research as performance,
  performative social science, or any other
  qualitative methodologies …
• so long as we stay connected with creative
  space, with country, so long as we continue to
  use collaborative, embodied creative language
  - keep on learning and discovering new ways
  to reach across the that great divide of
  misconceptions and pre-conceived ideas
  about who people really are inside their skin.
• To do this we need to become textually multi-
  lingual, create a new evaluative language that
  educates as well as informs, that makes a
  serious and potent contribution to the
  philosophical discourse that eventually will
  filter into policy.
• This is the way we will change the thinking of
  those who make the decisions that affect us
  all.
• I will leave you right back in the thick of
  things, with the Bosnian Community Choir,
  who my partner and I worked with up here in
  Brisbane – they wanted skills to help them
  loosen up and develop the physicality of their
  performances. The song playing throughout
  was written by the choir’s artistic director and
  sung along with the Refugee Claimants
  Support Centre Choir on their CD, Scattered
  Peoples.

				
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