This paper examines creative process and performance as a method of research for understanding self-in-context through the lens of my own artistic research for “Dress in Something Plain and Dark,” a project exploring my relationship as a woman to Mennonite religious and cultural identity, spirituality, and dance. Situating my artistic work in relationship to the fields of creative autoethnography, queer and transborder performance art, and somatic dance practice, I discuss the distinctions and commonalities of approach, methods, and practice of artists working in these fields, and the shared challenges of marginalization, translation, and contextualization. In response to these challenges, and the inadequacy of linear, Western, individualistic and mechanistic frameworks to address them, I draw from the ethnographic work of de la Garza, (formerly González, 2000) to seek a “creation-centered” ontological framework that the artist-researcher-performer may use to understand and contextualize their work. I offer the tree as an ontology to understand the organic, emergent nature of creative process, the stages of growth and seasonal cycles, and the structural parts that make up the creative and performative processes, and illustrate this model through a discussion of the growth of “Dress in Something Plain and Dark,” as it has emerged over two cyclical “seasons” of maturation.
Note: This work of creative scholarship is rooted in collaboration between three female artist-scholars: Carly Bates, Raji Ganesan, and Allyson Yoder. Working from a common intersectional, feminist framework, we served as artistic co-directors of each other’s solo pieces and co-producers of Negotiations, in which we share these pieces alongside each other. Negotiations is not a showcase of three individual works, but a conversation among three voices. As collaborators, we have been uncompromising in the pursuit of our own unique inquiries and voices and each of our works of creative scholarship stand alone. However, we believe that all of the parts are best understood in relationship to each other and to the whole. For this reason, we have chosen to cross-reference our thesis documents here, and we encourage readers to view the performance of Negotiations in its entirety.
Thesis documents cross-referenced:
French Vanilla: An Exploration of Biracial Identity Through Narrative Performance, by Carly Bates
Bhairavi: A Performance-Investigation of Belonging and Dis-Belonging in Diaspora Communities, by Raji Ganesan
Deep roots, shared fruits: Emergent creative process and the ecology of solo performance through “Dress in Something Plain and Dark,” by Allyson Yoder