What does it mean to pose a question—and to whom, and to what ends, are such questions posed? We have seen much analysis about “the state of theory today,” whether reflecting on the formation and dissemination of concepts or interrogating the status of critical thinking in the arts and humanities. But such analysis, for all its attention to shortfalls and disruptions in our contemporary habits of thought, often begs the most basic and central question of any artistic or critical project: What is a question?
What is a question? How does one formulate a critical problem? We are interested in discussing the point(s) in the creative or analytical process at which something like a question takes shape. Quaerere: to ask, to seek. Etymologically speaking, questioning designates an open-ended and multifarious process of investigation, anything from an invitation to an interrogation, from an adventure to a quest. To the extent that a question begins to take on form—as an inquiry that might presuppose an answer, for instance—it might bear additional demands upon us as artists and thinkers. What is it we ask of our materials and our concepts? In what ways does methodology extend from the starting questions that we ask?
What is a question? In posing this meta-question in turn, we are not interested in reprising debates about the “state of theory today,” nor are we interested in pitting specific conceptual approaches against one another in order to derive a magical answer to contemporary methodological debates in the arts and humanities. Our aim here is procedural rather than evaluative, with the understanding that sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to address, or, at the very least, the most intricately bound up in the fulfillment of our conceptual aspirations.
We asked contributors to this forum to consider the following: As an artist or a scholar, how would you describe the interactions with materials, objects, archives, and preexisting concepts through which your intuitions, expertise, speculations, and hypotheses form, reform, or deform? Do all your questions form in the same way? What would you advocate exploring further in [End Page 29] relation to the question of the question? As an intellectual worker in the arts, how do you respond to the question, “What is a question?”