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Words Matter/Matted Words

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posted on 18.11.2021, 03:31 authored by Geraldine BurkeGeraldine Burke, Miriam PottsMiriam Potts

Words Matter/Matted Words


Text: Geraldine Burke and Miriam Potts (based on a presentation given at the Critical Autoethnography Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 1 Oct 2021) Artwork: Geraldine Burke and Miriam Potts Photographs: Geraldine Burke, Miriam Potts, Laurie Hogan

A duo-ethnographic arts-based process: This collection shares a duo-ethnographic (Wyatt & Gayle, 2018; Farquhar & Fitzpatrick, 2016) arts-based exchange between Geraldine Burke and Miriam Potts that documents the ‘becoming’ of creative matter.

Sharing small narratives: We begin by creating mini-stories that respond to Covid times as experienced during the long Melbourne lockdown (one of the most locked down cities in the world during the Covid pandemic to date). Our stories were shared through a presentation entitled ‘Bubbles, Beauty and Vulnerability’ (Critical Autoethnography Conference, Melbourne, 1 Oct 2021). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKiWgeokXAw (at 30 min). Miriam’s autoethnographic story explored a series of multiple crises experienced through the intrusion of ‘Mouse’ into her everyday life. Her story is indicative of Braidotti’s ‘posthuman times’ (2020). For Miriam, Braidotti illuminates the tension between the multiple crises of the ‘posthuman condition’ (Braidotti, 2020, p. 465) and the finite resilience of ‘zoe’, more-than-human life forces (p. 468). Whereas Geraldine’s autoethnographic story refers to Braidotti’s point that although in it together, these Covid times are not all one and the same. Braidotti calls us to 'an affective resistance' (2020, p.466) to meet the long intensity, boredom and vulnerability of Covid times. Geraldine’s story focuses on the inability to visit her mother in an Aged Care facility during Melbourne’s lockdown. Instead, mother and daughter share virtual walks along local beaches, through technologically-mediated experiences of beach and music, rendering presence through absence.

Disrupting themes: Same event, different experiences: In line with the chaos of our times, the everchanging in-and-out-of-lockdown life we lead at-work-not-at-work-at-home-on-line we turn to duo-ethnography as a means to interpret our pooled autoethnographies to 'reflect (on our) different perceptions' (Martinez & Merlino, 2014, p. 990) that exist about the same Covid event. We noted common themes across our experiences through traditional qualitative analysis methods, but this traditional approach seemed so inadequate to even come near our experiences of lockdown. So, with Braidotti in mind we opened up our methods and meanings to affective and performative activations. Like Covid, these activations are ongoing and remain unsettled.

Poetry matters: As artists/researchers we called on the Surrealist notion of the Exquisite Corpse parlour game to unsettle our findings. Cutting up our words into Dada-d/arta-bubbles, each of us separated meaning from context. We wrote our words in invisible text, only revealed to each other when each had finished their contributions. See: Invisible Exquisite Corpse. Miriam Potts and Geraldine Burke (2021)

Matted Words: And yet, our cut-poetry doesn’t cut it either. Instead, we cut up our methods and meanings to perform affective creations. We loosen up, free the words anew, returning the pass as we go.

We rip up our Dada-d/arta-bubbles, we obscure and embody the words. See: Transparent words. Miriam Potts (2021) We write the poem anew, and scrunch it up through material transformation. See: Scrunched words. Miriam Potts (2021) Snap! We re-configure the Dada-d/arta-bubble – long and sudden like our Covid times. See: Snap (Video). Miriam Potts (2021) We burn the poem. See: Burnt words. Miriam Potts (2021) We re-see our words through morning light. Layers of visibility and invisibility penetrating the meaning, while the wind rips and tears at the text. See: Words with wind, light and water. Geraldine Burke (2021) As we throw words into the sea, water and ink and tide reshape it all with affective intensity. See: Becoming torn. Geraldine Burke (2021) We work collectively, reimagining our poem, with fading words. See: Becoming submerged. Geraldine Burke (2021) Our words are now saturated with light and resonance. See: More than ourselves. Geraldine Burke (2021)

An affective intensity emerges: Our remaining poetry/Dada-d/arta-bubbles now have no words. They trace our collective ‘transversal ensembles’ (Braidotti, 2020, p. 469) with Mouse, Mum, Bird, Son, Sea, Flame and Sand. What comes through now is the light, texture and form of each moment. These aesthetic fusions are affective ways of intervening in Covid times. As we continue to world our work together-apart, we realise that our writing/making/virtual meetings also provide opportunities to create positive affect.


Braidotti, R. (2020).“We” Are In This Together, But We Are Not One and the Same. Bioethical Inquiry 17, 465–469 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-020-10017-8

Farquhar, S. & Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Unearthing truths in duoethnographic method. Qualitative Research Journal, 16(3), 238-250.

Martinez, A. & Merlino, A. (2014). I Don’t Want to Die Before Visiting Graceland: A Collaborative Autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(8), 990-997.

Wyatt, J., & Gale, K. (2018). Writing to it: Creative engagements with writing practice in and with the not yet known in today’s academy. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(2), 119-129.