Methodology: Artaud Within the Tacit Dimension 


“The possession of Knowledge, unless accompanied by a manifestation and expression in action is like the hoarding of precious metals - a vain and foolish thing. Knowledge, like wealth is intended for use” (Three Initiates, 1908, 97) 


I have chosen to open this methodology by citing the aforementioned Hermetic axiom demonstrating the serendipity between this philosophical system and the method of research undertaken within this study. Within this chapter I shall explore Nelson’s (2013) model of Practice as Research (PaR) in order to contextualise the process undertaken. I shall explore the role and value of the research process and discuss the placement of praxis within a theoretical body of research. In engaging with the process of PaR I initiate an alternative model of thinking, that of tacit knowledge. The second section of this methodology shall be devoted to exploring Polanyi’s (1966) model of tacit knowledge. I shall explore this idea within the context of this research and consider the process as phenomenologically driven. Research methods shall also be explored alongside the theories of Artaud; Artaud himself notoriously dismissed the need for books in calling for the “burning of the libraries of Alexandra” (Artaud, 1977, 5). The final portion of this chapter shall explore the data collection methods employed, method of research presentation and finally the analytical scheme.


Fundamental to the nature of this study is Nelson’s (2013) model of PaR. Within this model of research it is the objective to “avoid the historical binary between theory and practice and about how the one can be seen to be imbricated within the other” (Nelson, 2013, 29). This central idea emphasises the importance of practice and theory operating symbiotically in order to deliver “Substantial evidence of new insights” (Nelson, 2013, 26). Therefore I have not adhered to the research convention of providing strict research questions within this body of research, but intend to provide substantial new insight surrounding the embodiment of Artaud’s theories within a contemporary stage technology, alongside the conceptual framework of Alchemy. “In my experience PaR typically affords substantial insights rather than coming to such definite conclusions as to constitute ‘answers’. (Nelson, 2013, 29) The areas of focus within this study in which I aim to provide insight surrounding are;  

1)The role of technologists as performer operator being akin to Alchemist and Artaudian ‘Producer’.

2)The symbiosis between Artaudian and alchemical methodologies.

3)The position of 'The Digital Double' within an Artaudian alchemical conceptual framework. 

The model of PaR in no way demerits the value of theoretical knowledge but instead insists that the two forms sit side by side in order generate substantial insight. Nelson regards the reference of key literary sources within PaR “to mobilise an interplay between practical-doing thinking...and the more abstract conceptual thinking typically understood to be verbally articulated (in books and articles). ” (Nelson, 2013, 29). In the pursuit of “abstract conceptual thinking” found within consulted literature I am able to construct a conceptual framework from which the practice can sit. This is paramount to the effective conduct of this research, as the practice (in isolation) is unable to

3 take into account its own context.(Nelson,2013,64). Secondly the literature consulted allows the

research to locate itself within its historical lineage, identify similar studies conducted within this field and locate a niche from which substantial insight can be drawn. The simultaneous development of practice and theory generates a form of praxis; that is to say, theory explored through practice, and throughout the body of this research the literature consulted and the praxis documented through video should establish a “resonance” (Nelson, 2013, 11). It is also worth noting that the emphasis placed upon praxis invites moments of unexpected insight. “When we bring creative arts into a research process we are creating the conditions to encounter moments of surprise chance contradiction, of not knowing, as much as knowing...” (Hughes, 2014) Nelson notes that this is a key concept within the PaR mythology, and that a “third sense” is required in order to effectively capture these moments of insight. 4 

The process of PaR invites a new system of knowledge to the foreground, that of tacit knowledge. Michael Polanyi chemist and philosopher author of the The Tacit Dimmension 1966 states that “we can know more than we can tell” (Polanyi, 1966, 4). Polanyi’s theories are founded upon a gestalt based predication favouring a phenomenological perception of reality. Gestalt theory explores experience from the perspective of the collected wholes surrounding you as being infinitely more valuable than the subsidiary aspects of our focal awareness. (Polanyi ,1966, 6) Within Polanyi’s epistemology there lies the crucial factor of intuition; I shall draw this into one of Polanyi's examples.5 I recognise the face of my friends based not upon the individual aspects of their features (i.e nose, mouth and ears, which form the subsidiary) but based upon the totality or gestalt of their appearance. Within this process of recognition their lies an embodied tacit understanding that the sum parts of these features coalesce into the facial structure of one whom I recognise. The tacit nature of this recognition process is not present within a Positivist or Materialist epistemological view, hence Polanyi’s rejection. This becomes central to an exploration of the role of both researcher of this paper and the performer technologists role within this study. As the research is conducted within the practice of technological mediation of human form in real time; I can consider the technological apparatus, staging and movement, as subsidiary forms to the gestalt of the Artaudian theories being explored. 

Curiously a phenomena of transposition occurs in which attention to the individual tool is reduced in favour of attention towards the desired outcome. This phenomena is effectively explained within Polanyi's example of the hammer and the nail. 6 While I swing the hammer my attention is fixed upon the nail and the outcome of the task is centred around the driving of the nail into the surface. Extrapolating this practical example to the nature of this research, the technological apparatus becomes a hammer for the striking of the gestalt nature of the elucidation of Artaud’s theories. 


“The transposition of bodily experiences in of the perception of things outside may now appear, therefore, as an instance of the transposition of meaning away from us, which we have found to be present to some extent in all tacit knowing.” (Polanyi, 1966, 14) 

The process of ‘drawing together’ these subsidiary factors into one Gestalt formation is tacit, and within the body of this research it is my objective to attempt to make the tacit explicit. As Polanyi summarises; “Tacit knowledge dwells in our awareness of particulars while bearing on an entity which the particulars jointly constitute” (Polanyi, 1966, 61). Through the integration of the praxis within this study (in the form of video documentation and photography) I can begin to make transparent the subsidiary aspects of this investigation.

The approach towards this research method is further emphasised by consideration of the writings of Artaud. Artaud repeatedly stated the failure of consigning oneself to the realms of theory alone, and implored the reader to begin “ philosophy”. (Artaud, 1970, 3). Within the body of this study I favour a phenomenological approach to the theories of Artaud in order to immerse myself within the world of Artaud’s ‘Cruelty’ in an attempt to ‘live’ this theatrical experience. This is innately tacit knowledge that cannot be accumulated without practical first hand experience. I justify my choice of practical approach based entirely upon the evidence that Artaud himself gave; 

“Either these systems are a part of us and we are so steeped in them we live them; therefore, what use are books? Or we are not steeped in them and they are not worth living. In that case what difference would their disappearance make?” (Artaud, 1970, 3-4). 

Artaud demonstrated his frustration with the notion that knowledge is gained entirely through the consumption of written literature. I postulate that knowledge of Artaud and of theatre grows within me, through my own practical and theoretical experimentation. Within this body of research I am attempting to make these “systems” part of my practice. This is an organic symbiotic process between praxis and theory. “I must insist on this idea of an active culture, a kind of second wind growing within us like a new organ, civilisation as applied culture, governing even our subtlest acts, the spirit alive in things.” (Artaud, 1970, 6) 7 

The research pathway has developed from the framework of Nelson’s PaR in addition to what I believe to be an effective approach to engaging in the theories of Artaud. My proposal is a heuristic investigation which places the researcher not as an objective tool for the observation and recording of phenomena, but as the active mediator and subjective recipient of the study. Moustakas notes that; 


“...The self of the researcher is present throughout the process and, while understanding the phenomenon with increasing depth, the researcher also experiences growing self awareness and self knowledge” (Moustakas, 1990, 9). 

The role of researcher is placed as central to the outcome and analysis of this study. I shall argue within chapter three that my position of research technologist is akin to Artaud’s ‘Producer’, and extrapolate this within my conceptual framework this to the position of Alchemist. Therefore approaching the study with an empirically detached framework seems illogical. Verela et al notes; 

“the strength of the researcher is precisely the ability to give up the guise of detachment and to understand the source....the researcher is an empathetic resonator with experiences that are familiar to him and which in himself a resonant chord.” (Varela et al, 2007, 57). 

I’ve repeatedly stressed the subjective nature of this study, as such I have chosen qualitative data analysis based upon practice undertaken. This analysis is generated by the opinions of performers who have been interviewed in depth during the rehearsal process and after the completion of my various practical experiments. The data gathered from these sources shall be subjectively analysed alongside a collection of Artaud’s essays. I shall triangulate this utilising the Hermetic and alchemical philosophical framework built surrounding the Artaudian methodology. 

I have proposed a narrative based research strategy which explores the importance of the individuals within the theatrical experience which I create. It is difficult to establish a true relationship between artefact and experience when dealing with quantitative data. In this instance I favour the story as a social product, not a fact. If I consider the work of Dixon in Digital Performance (2007) the analysis which he presents is a description of the artefact supplemented by additional views of audience and critiques. This is quantified within the model of his taxonomy of 'The Digital Double'. The process Dixon utilises enables a description of the artefact, as well as an exploration of its effect within the performance. I believe a similar practice to be the best method of proceeding within my own research. The analytical scheme has developed through my study of Dixon’s taxonomy of 'The Digital Double'. The only difference being that Dixon’s own practice is only mentioned fleetingly within his taxonomy, and there are many other practitioners Dixon examines the practice of prior to his own. This in no way demerits Dixon’s examination and I agree that a full taxonomy of 'The Digital Double' could not be built through only upon Dixon’s own practical studies. This research on the other hand is primarily derived through personal practice due to the importance of the development of tacit knowledge within Artaudian theory. 

Within this data set attention must be payed to how the qualitative data is both handled and interpreted. As such data shall be catalogued with all email dialogues and performer questionnaires upon two password protected computers. These will act as an audit trail in order for ethical and professional practice to be verified. 

The praxis generated from this study shall be sat within my thesis. As I am a creating a website to host this thesis, I am permitted an element of intertextuality not usually possible within Gutenberg strategies, specifically the ability to imbed video clips within the body of my work. 8 Specific conversation relating to or arising from this research practice shall be accompanied by either the fully recorded production or a select scene demonstrating the subject matter practically. Therefore a rich symbiosis will be generated between the thesis and the research project. In the hard bound copy of this thesis, these videos shall be substituted for accompanying images of the practice I  refer to. I am aiming to diligently infer that the practice is an extension of the theory and vice versa and that both elements cannot exist without each other; such is the nature of PaR. The presentation this research we can be perceived as a realisation of Nelson’s PaR ideal; “my approach looks rather for a resonance between complementary writing and praxis itself” (Nelson, 2016, 11). 

It would also be prudent to notify the reader of the funding of three of the research projects which shall be included within this thesis. A Shadow of Grace (2017) was a production commissioned by the BBC as part of the Hull City of Culture Space Day Event. This production was a completely open brief and allowed me to pursue my interest in direct relation to this research.

Rosetta (2017-2018) has been commissioned by Vilnius Arts Council, and is similarly an open brief. Too Long the Heart (2016) was a drama funded by an external theatre company Siege Perilous. The production was a more conventional piece of written drama, and would not be in keeping with the focus of this research study. However, it does offer a strong point of contrast as to the nature of performance that developed entirely from a script and does feature representations of the self, in a variant of 'The Digital Double'. Eidos (2017) remains a project without funding and was created purely in order to practically explore the theories of Artaud, particularly the notion of theatrical ‘Cruelty’. All the research within the body of this work has been approved by the Hull University Ethics Committee. All research participants have been briefed in full and signed declaring their acceptance to be involved within this study. 

Within this chapter I have introduced my method of research and justified its appropriate deployment within this study. Nelsons model of PaR enables a dialogue between praxis and theory culminating in substantial insight. Within this model I see the practice contextualised by the theory it is sat within in order to initiate a ‘resonance’ between the two forms. This discussion has helped inform the position of this research in relation to theory and practice.
Now that I have laid the foundations of this research my attention turns towards establishing the conceptual framework in which this practice sits. This shall begin with a discussion exploring the origins and philosophy of Alchemy. 

3 See (Nelson, 2013, 27-29) for a discussion surrounding the value of practice in isolation as being an inadequate form of PaR. Self evident contextual pieces of artwork are a rare phenomena.


4 Documentation of practice in effectively capturing ‘moments of insight’ is discussed by Nelson in this video lecture. He notes that often students excessively document their research leading to hours of useless material that must be sorted through and edited. Nelson encourages the researcher to develop an insight to anticipate such moments, either after significant first rehearsals or performances etc.


5 See (Polanyi, 1966, 4-5) for a detailed explanation of the recognition within characteristic physiognomy through reference to the police method of facial feature isolation. 

6 Preston’s (2017) lecture provides a useful commentary on the operation of muscle based skills and the split between focal and subsidiary awareness in the achievement of an outcome. 


7 See The Peyote Dance (Artaud, 1976, Translated from French by Helen Weaver) Artaud’s ideals of culture are formulated upon his admiration for the people of the Tarahumara as the antithesis of Western culture. 


8 See (Harnald A 2013) for a discussion surrounding the merits of post Gutenberg strategies for research dissemination. 


Chapter One Alchemy: The Pursuit of Gnosis