Strange knowledge

Matthias Sperling and Katye Coe in No-How Generator
Matthias Sperling and Katye Coe in No-How Generator, photo by Camilla Greenwell

I draw the phrase strange knowledge from writing by Sarat Maharaj on art-as-knowledge. Like the term no‑how, this phrase offers a helpful way of languaging the character of knowledge-generation in the context of choreographic performance as “knowledge, otherwise” – as embodying forms of knowing that exceed conventional definitions of knowledge.

This phrase emerges from Maharaj’s articulation of a ‘xeno-epistemics’ that describes the particular relationship between art and knowledge. In a summary of a conference presentation given by Maharaj, Alejandro del Pino Velasco helpfully outlines this concept:

From the combination of the terms “xeno” (which means strange, foreign, other) and “episteme” (which means knowledge), this expression achieves integration of both the idea of a specific cognitive production and the search for a type of knowledge that does not avoid contradiction and difference and is not consumed by rational and empirical criteria. …[T]his new mode of xeno-epistemic knowledge could be identified with the type of cognitive experience that is articulated in contemporary visual arts (and also in drama). (2007, p.135)

The terrain of ‘xeno-epistemics’ is a terrain of strange knowledge, and this is a mode of knowing that can be engaged in experiences of making, performing and encountering art. Strange knowledge embodies a form of knowing that, while holding specificity and generativity, is also able to hold the contribution of more-than-rational flows, processes and intelligences. No-how is situated within this terrain, and these dynamics, I argue, can be a lens through which to understand choreography-as-knowledge-generation, just as much as the other artistic fields that del Pino Velasco directly references above. Indeed, the embodied context of choreographic practice can be considered an especially relevant context within which to consider these dynamics: an emphasis on that which is cognitive and yet reaches beyond the rational is particularly pertinent to an artistic medium that engages closely with the body, and thus necessarily includes the full span of embodied cognitive modes, including more-than-rational as well as rational modes. The ‘xeno-epistemic’ choreographic space of no-how generation is particularly a space that enables the dialling up of the more-than-rational as a way of knowing, without needing to divorce it entirely from its complementarity and interdependence with the rational.

READ MORE in Section 5 of my written thesis, No-how: languaging a generative zone of knowing in practice