A Four and a Half Minute Manifesto for the Creative Critical

By Emily Orley and Katja Hilevaara


In the face of the current political climate and the growing sense of helplessness and cynicism within university arts and humanity communities, we are making a call for experimentation, imagination and transformation.

We believe in the potential of scholarly writing to make a difference. We take its challenge seriously. We appreciate the usefulness of established rules. But when those rules – the norms and conventions of our fields and disciplines – get in the way of the work our words can do, we have to act.I

We want to destabilize the boundaries between the critical and the creative, and in so doing enrich them both and discover a communal practice – one that relies on another (one another) for inspiration and energy, both critically and creatively.ii

We take up the words of Karen Barad when she says that is through specific intra-actions that phenomena come to matter – in both senses of the word. Boundaries do not sit still.iii

We have to expand our idea of scholarship.iv We have to question and destabilize the notion of what constitutes scholarship and to make space for the possible and that which is not yet known. There is a vulnerability in leaping forward into the unknown, but such leaps are full of potential, whether they end up in failure or a tentative grasping of something genuinely new.

Boundaries do not sit still.

We call for the legitimisation of artistic practice as a mode of thinking, as a mode of research that draws its very strength from not knowing in advance.

Boundaries do not sit still

Let us celebrate a writing of openings in which there is room to move and air to breathe; writing which makes and maintain space for the possible.v Let us embrace the arts practitioners with the academic hats on who are reflecting on and critiquing their own work and the work of those around them. Let us embrace those thinker-makers, maker-thinkers who find themselves standing in the still contested, yet enormously rich terrain of practice as research. The practitioner-researcher, the artistic-researcher, the you (yes you) doing P-a-R, you, doing research creation, you, doing practice-led research, art practice as research, performance as research. Are you still feeling uneasy? Do you still feel as if your work comes under particularly heavy scrutiny?

Stay strong and believe that the reverberations of making (and recording and thinking about that making) will lead to a transmission of a desire to be boldly creative. Let us take seriously Brian Massumi’s notion of ‘creative contagion’ and see the world as self-augmenting.vi

Even the smallest efforts at production bring something new to the world.

Activities dedicated to writing and thought are – need to be – inventive, even though they might augment only on a microscopic scale. Set against the academic thesis requirements of originality, significance, rigour and contribution, we must prioritise techniques that embrace their own inventiveness.vii

Boundaries do not sit still.

We have to expand our idea of scholarship. In the spirit of Emmeline Pankhurst, we must be militant, each in our own way.viii We are not interested in negative critique. In the words of Barad it is over-rated, over-emphasized and over-utilized to the detriment of feminism.ix It is a tool that keeps getting used out of habit perhaps, but it is no longer the tool needed for the kinds of situations we now face. It is too often a destructive practice meant to dismiss, to turn aside, to put someone or something down—another scholar, another feminist, a discipline, an approach.x

Rather we call for affirmative methods.xi Ones that do not subtract, distance and other but ones that embrace suggestion, inventiveness and vision.

We must take it upon ourselves to stay inspired and be generous.

Works cited:

Bammer, Angelika and Ruth-Ellen Boetcher Joeres, eds. 2015. The Future of Scholarly Writing: Critical Interventions. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Barad, Karen. 2009. ‘Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter’ in Material Feminisms, 120-154, edited by Alaimo and Hekman. Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Barad, Karen. 2012. Interview in New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies, 48-70, edited by Dolphijn and Van der Tuin. Ann Arbour: Open Humanities Press.

Benson, Stephen and Clare Connors, eds. 2014. Creative Criticism: An Anthology and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Goulish, Matthew. 2007. ‘Creative response’ in Small Acts of Repair: Performance, Ecology and Goat Island, edited by Bottoms and Goulish, 210-211. London and New York: Routledge.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables of the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


I Bammer and Boetcher Joeres (2015: 26)
ii Goulish (2007: 211)
iii Barad (2009: 135)
iv Bammer and Boetcher Joeres (2014: 65)
v Benson and Connors (2014: 12)
vi Massumi (2002:19)
vii Massumi (2002: 13)
viii Pankhurst in her now famous speech delivered at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 17, 1912.
ix Barad (2012: 49)
x Ibid.
xi Massumi (2002:13)