It is not easy to explain the project “Judaica: An Embodied Laboratory for Songwork.” Funded by a Leadership Fellow award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-2018), the core of this project was six months of full-time embodied practice research involving three skilled practitioners working closely together, first in a studio and later in a variety of other places.
The aim was to test a new kind of research design that would realise contemporary theories of embodiment, identity, and knowledge through experimental practice. The three core researchers brought training and expertise from theatre, dance, music, somatics, and other forms of physical culture and embodied practice into the studio. Drawing on ethnomusicology and Jewish studies as well as performance studies, speculative materialism, and critical identity work, we approached the studio as a laboratory in which songs, bodies, and identities interact in unexpected ways.
Gradually we invited guests to join us in the lab and eventually we took the research to other sites and locations including theatres, universities, and Jewish cultural centres in the United Kingdom, United States, and Poland.
As the project was officially coming to an end this summer, I asked guest photographer and videographer Garry Cook to create a short documentary that might help introduce our research to a wider audience. I am happy to officially release Garry’s video here:
As Garry suggests, these audio and video fragments are only the tip of an iceberg. Together the three core researchers recorded hundreds of hours of recording across the laboratory period. (You can see a narrow diachronic slice of these videos across several months in the online Songwork Catalogue.)
This material is currently being edited into a series of “illuminated” video essays, the first of which has just been published in Global Performance Studies. On the project webpage you can find more videos and photo galleries, as well as information about the project team and the series of public presentations we made during the lab period.
Here are a few photographs from the project archive:
Written publications coming out of the Judaica project include “From-ness: The Identity of the Practitioner in the Laboratory” by Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, forthcoming in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training; “Molecular Identities: Digital Archives and Decolonial Judaism in a Laboratory of Song” by myself, forthcoming in Performance Research; and a short book called Making a Laboratory that describes in detail the audiovisual research method we developed, which will be published in the new Advanced Methods imprint from Punctum Books.
For any artist-scholars and practitioner-researchers who are also using audiovisual methods to explore and articulate embodied knowledge and practice: Please take a look at the new videographic Journal of Embodied Research, published by Open Library of Humanities, and consider submitting your work.