Thinking Through Art

We’ve met at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London with all being present. Emma Drye led us through what research in art and what research through art could be, what critical engagement and what research& information skills requirements are there. As research in and through art in academic setting, Emma highlighted that reading texts need to consider the source as trustworthy or not. Text written in academics, being peer reviewed is an important facts. However, it doesn’t mean to restrict one’s research either to academic writing neither to be encapsulated in academics: ‘To get the juice out of it’ (Emma). Key is certainly a critical stance to sources, regardless who has written the text.

Questions to answer for ourselves:

The questions Emma asked us and my response to them

  • What does research mean to me? (The means of the word? The function of research?)
    => Re-search, a search in iteration, a quest, getting background and context, opening up to new and/or different viewpoints, extending my own viewing field, discerning my position in a critical manner
  • Why did I sign up to a degree?
    What did I want when I started?
    => To learn what art is, my skills, and my direction. To get a degree as additional support for my art therapy practice, possibly to leverage both into one direction
    What do I want now?
    => To build a stronger competence as an artist in expressing through materials and mediums by succeeding with quality a degree, what will be the evidence of achievement. To be able to communicate ideas and sensible explorations compellingly by opening up and raising questions through visual interrogations

 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - Research what and why?

Fig. 1: Research: What and Why? //  My emotional response of getting out of the ‘ivory tower’ – turning the tower into a lighthouse, to shine on and to give guidance 

We were split in four groups, each one getting to read and to discuss a text on research from various perspective, a practical exercise of collaborative research and reflection. The chosen texts were (the first one the text I looked at together with Mike and Alison):

  • Rachel Jones ‘On the Value of not knowing’ (Fortnum, 2013:16-31)
  • Phylida Barlow ‘Unidentified Foreign Objects’  (Fortnum, 2013:98-109)
  • Nicolas Davey ‘Art and Theoria’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:20-39)
  • Siùn Hanrahan ‘Poesis’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:143-155)

I was quite happy to notice that one of my coursebook reading text (Fortnum) were selected by Emma (Schaffeld 2018)

From Rachel Jones’ text that I got the chance to read deeply, I take the following aspects out:

‘Wonder is the ‘first of all passions’. In order for it to affect us, it is necessary and sufficient for it to surprise, to be new, not yet assimilated or disassimilated as known.’ – Rachel Jones (Fortnum, 2013:19)

  • Wonder as ‘the first passion’, a ‘vital openness’ through ‘floating, dancing, mocking’ (p.18). According to the author this might even inherit an ethical element through an openness to others without assimilating them (with a political dimension as well).
  • In the not-knowing a sense of becoming (e.g. material becoming) that reminds me strongly of Deleuze. Relating the not-knowing, the uncertainty to the conception of the sublime, as something deeply human and not to be grasped
  • According to Hannah Arendt dialogue between ‘promising’ (creating in continuity, as ‘isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty’, p.25) and forgiveness’ (to allow oneself to make it again) 
  • Heterotopias: discursive spaces where something is occurring in an abnormal place, alongside disturbing but also transforming felt sense. Example from text:  Saraah Cole’s photograph Birthplace Heterotopia (the cover image on Fortnum’s book). The term was coined by Michel Foucault (1984) and I will have a closer look at his text as I find it compelling.
  • An open question for me of how much assimilation of skills could be a barrier, e.g technical skills, mastery, political message

From the other group who looked at Davey’s text, I took away as a key message:

  • Me as artist can only look at one part of a whole. But I also only need to look at one part of it. As a sharing responsibility. be part and to invite others to add their part. A mutual approach to questions through visual and material based art.

Emma  invited us to write for 15 min in one steady flow about our project (my parallel project). This turned up to be a fascinating exercise as my intial thought that I would write kind of introduction to my project in a reflective and research guided way, was transformed in me talking out to myself of why this project is relevant to me and my struggle with it and my personal resonance. It felt a bit like writing out a draft idea for an artist statement (that had to be cut down to less words of course). Afterwards, Emma invited us to mark words that could be associated with either visual, material, process or idea. The visual image (Fig 2) showed in my case a rather uniform distribution. I would like to repeat this somehow, or at least to discern in a more critical way what aspects to stand out more for, as it could inform my preferred approach to work: performative, painterly, sculptural etc. Overall, an excellent approach as it allowed me to do two things:

  • to be restrictive in time (not time to procrastinate)
  • to not-overthink (by just following the line of writing) 

Last not least, it made me aware of how close writing is with drawing, though syntactically more one directional versus my ‘visual thinking’ maps are more multi-dimensional in space. 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - writing out

Fig. 2: Writing out- writing about project // a 15 min constant flow of ink, pouring myself out onto paper // discerning 4 aspects: visual, material, process, idea

 

The second part of the day we went around and each talked about their project and got some hints from fellow students and Emma. For my project, Emma mentioned Guattari and his relation to psychiatry. 

I found this day inspirational and do thank Emma for guiding and supporting us and Arlene for getting once again the venue and day organized.

 

(Comments re venue: the second part of the day became quite noisy due to a party downstairs (?). Also our ordered lunch didn’t turn up in the break time, so we went back to the room without meal.)


Reference:

  • Foucault, M. (1984) ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias ((“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967)’, in: Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité. [online].  At: http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf (Accessed on 06 May 2019).
  • Fortnum, R. (2013) ‘Creative Accounting; Not Knowing in Talking and Making’, in: Fortnum, R. and Fisher, E. (eds.) On Not Knowing: How Artists think, London: Black Dog Publshing,  pp. 70 – 96.
  • Macleod, K. and Davey, N. (2009) Thinking through Art : Reflections on Art as Research, Innovations in Art and Design, Reprint ed. Edited by Beardon, C. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) ‘Project 1.3: Visual Reflection’ [Blog post] At: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=829 
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6 Comments
  • May 24,2019 at 11:08 AM

    I am gutted to have missed this day, my childcare arrangements unfortunately fell through earlier that week and I couldn’t make it to London. Thank you very much for posting this, I feel I am able to at least get the essence of an area that I really struggle with in my own practice. Having come from a science background I am very used to the idea of scientific research, but really struggle to translate this into art. In science I start with a problem or question, collate prior knowledge, viewpoints and ideas, design an experiment that hopefully will unravel some of that problem. With art research, I think I get stuck at the very first hurdle and struggle to hold onto what the question is!! I am going to try the stream of writing analysis now – although knowing the 4 categories ahead will probably bias my thinking – but maybe that will be progress!

  • May 12,2019 at 11:34 AM

    Because I’ve spent all too much time in previous decades of my life doing research, I never go to the events such as this one, but I’m appreciating reading about them in several students’ logs, including yours. It took me time to even start to understand the relationship between research and the making of your own work in art. I do think there are maybe particular things relevant just to the creative arts, bbut I do also now think there are vast similarities with what you do in other fields when you get to the stage of using your research in an integrated way as part of the process of making something original. So I shall be following up some of the reading and references you’ve all been making in your very thoughtful write-ups.

    • Stefan
      May 12,2019 at 12:10 PM

      Glad to hear it supported another reflection on it. It seems to me about linking and re-creating, kind of drawing upon and drawing out . Just made a few experiments with painting with clay and found during the making how links appeared and meaning evolved. Would not happen with only thinking . Reading could directly inform my work but often it seems as my brain need to store and mix it with other things , re-connect neural networks and without knowing how – shifts and moments of epiphany appear

  • May 9,2019 at 3:43 PM

    Sorry you missed lunch! I should look for alternative venues

    • Stefan
      May 9,2019 at 6:56 PM

      Arlene – don’t get it wrong and feel obliged to change . I find the place good as it is quite central. Just a bad day from my side perhaps. Got back to he hotel with quite a headache – was an intense week. Normally, I eat dinner not much for lunch anyway. Thought just to add it in my reflection

      • May 9,2019 at 7:42 PM

        Hopefully productive too ! The place has good points but there are a few disadvantages so it would be good to investigate alternatives

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