Amphibious Trilogies

On transductive methods in artistic research

Addressing matters of feeling, sense and the elusive, from a view in art therapy and art making, Learmonth and Huckvale (2013) discuss how more systemic concepts and methods may be developed when working reciprocally with inductive and deductive methods. We quote a paragraph of their work at length as it echoes many of our own concerns, even though we have been working with movement rather than the image as our core conceptual and contextual material. Learmonth and Huckvale, (2013: 105) write that:

The vivid, vivifying, libidinous, Dionysian and mercurial creative process will not disclose much knowledge to capture, vivisection and autopsy. We need to study our creative processes as dynamics every bit as alive as natural habitats. Sometimes the life of images feels like a glimpsed, imaginal, flora and fauna at work and play in the ecologies of how we think, play, feel, imagine communicate, suffer, survive, grow and change. With their apparent autonomy they assume personalities and shape-shift: as shy as deer, as magical as Invisible Lions, or as sly as Schrödinger’s cat disappearing into the bushes, just when we want to ask them some questions.

Central to artistic inquiry as they too assert, is to be cautious when working with the slippery. From a therapy view creative expression needs to be let go of in order to find its possible realisations. 

In Amphibious Trilogies this has meant we have literally needed to discard many of our preconceptions yet also refer to prior knowledge when and as needed, always influenced by its existence and at times presence, not always explicitly sensed or known in the moment, of a visit or an event. On occasion this has been much a matter of working with improvisation, drawing on practices and techniques and prompts from dance and choreography, fiction and photography. Concerning mixed methods – form the humanities, social science, art, design and technoscience – we have enacted an experimental practice (Papadopoulos, 2018) that has been a hybrid of the method and techniques choreography, narrative, historical, societal, systemic and mediational.

As the project has advanced, rapid changes in climate science and change, global economic and public health, geo-politics and social movements and social media have occurred. Papadopoulos (2018), who also works with migration as we did on this project, also refers to a Baroque methodology as I do (Morrison, 2017): from vocabulary generation to fieldwork meanderings, including historiography and speculative fiction. However, in contrast, our ‘amphibious project ship’ sails with a dancer and a choreographer, an artist and an actor, a social scientist and a historian, a fiction writer and a teacher, more skills than surnames, more hats than heads, in effect an octopus like factive-imaginative hybrid (see our OCTOPA and OCTOPA’s Journey).

A globe spinning on its axis but also in a spin. We had not known that the metaphor and mechanics of our interface would be quite so expanded and expanding! Early in the project we looked at Paul Carter’s work on vortex in the context of climate change and the design of complexity (Carter, 2015) and the Bakhtinian centrifugal and centripetal. Extended choreography has not only addressed matters of an expanded field and its movement actualities and potentialities. It has needed to engage on the move with the turbulence and models for knowing and working with it transductively.

The research has also been how responses to emerging and changing matter and contexts – often steeped in history or challenging understanding of the present – have demanded improvisation related to settings and people, extending into fieldwork experiments and experiences, and to seeming contradictions between the given and the transient, the graspable and the slippery (see also Levine, 2013).

In ‘Capturing the transient’ Corinna Brown (2013) discusses ways dance/movement therapy (DMT) may be more actively and insightfully a part of the content and processes of creative arts research. She argues that it is possible to conduct such inquiry by ‘asking and analysing through movement’ (Brown, 2013: 120). Noting that sensitive material, especially when deeply personal, needs careful communication, and often to small audiences, Brown also notes that ‘findings’ may be performed for different audiences, in different venues and with varied intentions and to allow a diversity of feedback, review and critique. Here she refers to her own more autoethnographic enactment of her work, referring to the ‘creative analytic practice’ outlined by Laurel Richardson and Elizabeth St Pierre (2005). For Pat (Allen 2013: 17):

A critical part of art-based enquiry must be the physical inactivity of the stories our images tell, bringing them to life before an audience, performatively and emotively transmitting the truth of the images so that they enter bodies as well as minds. The image and its information of it it’s not only the mind but also through the heart and the gut.

Here ‘truth’ is visceral, embodied and felt. Yet, in writing on artistic research methods concerning modes of knowing, Learmonth and Huckvale (2013) examine what may be provided and prompted by working from deductive and inductive methods. They conclude as follows:

Deductive reasoning can make the slippery and elusive behaviour of art glimpseable, and never quite graspable. Unchecked, inductive processes grow magnificent associative briar patches that can soon hopelessly entangle clear thinking. Spontaneity and discipline are as implicitly interdependent in art-based research as an art making: gardeners need seeds and secateurs …. (Learmonth & Huckvale, 2013: 107).

In closing by saying that artistic researchers can only have peripheral vision at best, we are reminded that this is similar to our experience in seeing shapes and patterns and problems and potentials just at the edge of our field movement. Our interest is not the image itself but knowing through moving artistically and by way of shaping moving methods and moving practices themselves: in, as, by and about movement.

There is a key opportunity for artistic research views on enacting making knowledge: a need for a far fuller and indeed exploratory and experimental engagement with knowing by movement and critiques of knowledge that are arrived at by moving. Slager (2015: 90) motivates for ‘Models inventing dynamic notions of mapping (or counter mapping’ able to communicate that the world is in the process of becoming fluid with open models for a “coming community”.’

One way we need to develop the notion of reciprocity further in working towards common methods with different horizons  is to move to include and move through the abductive or transductive in our making and inquiries. This is less a reciprocity between top down or bottom up methods but more a matter of identifying and enacting ways to MOVE through and across and between elements of a what is no less than a creatively infused, dynamic, unfolding methodological becoming. This is a matter of enacting and critically reflecting on not two but three relations: deductive, inductive and abductive.

In addition, and using movement to articulate a wider notion of extending choreographies as practices (that is as verbal and plural and dynamic), we suggest that these three modes of analysis and methods are related by way of their being transductive. This entails a move from the general to particular and the reverse and by association and allusion in abductive ‘logics’ and transdisciplinary assemblages. 

Given the title of the Amphibious Trilogies project with its focus on amphibiousness, concerning creative and critical methods we have adopted the notion of  ‘a transductive trilogy of kinetics of knowing’ to encapsulate the complex weaving of relations – needed and used and offered and only half known – through our investigations together.

. . . . . . . . . .

Allen P. (2013). ‘Art as enquiry: Towards a research method that holds soul truth’. In McNiff, S.  (Ed.). Art as Research: Opportunities and challenges. Bristol: Intellect. 11-18.

Brown, C. (2013). ‘Capturing the transient’. In McNiff, S. (Ed.). Art as Research: Opportunities and challenges. Bristol: Intellect. 221-228.

Carter, P. (2015). Turbulence. Perth: Puncher & Watman.

Learmonth, M. & Huckvale, K. (2013). The feeling of what happens: A reciprocal investigation of inductive and deductive processes in art experiment’. In  McNiff, S.  (Ed.). Art as Research: Opportunities and challenges. Bristol: Intellect. 95-108.

Levine, S. (2013). ‘Expecting the unexpected: improvisation in art-based research’. In McNiff, S. (Ed.). Art as Research: Opportunities and challenges. Bristol: Intellect. 125-132.

Morrison, A. (2017). ‘Design-Baroque-Futures’. 2nd International Conference on Anticipation. 8-10 November. London: University of London.

Papadopoulos, D. (2018). Experimental Practice. Technoscience, alterontologies and more-than-social movements. Durham: Duke University Press.

Richardson, L. & St. Pierre, E. (2005). Writing: A method of inquiry.’ In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage. 959-978.

Slager, H. (2015). The Pleasure of Research. Ostfildern: Hante Cantz.


Click & Drag: Rotate the view.
Right Click & Drag: Pan the view.