Not Knowing is Knowing More
.. this seems to be the creative way explored by Rebecca Fortnum in her article on ‘Creative Accounting: Not Knowing In Talking and Making’ (2013).
What differentiates art and painting from craft, design, or science? And what is creativity?
Some months ago, creativity was a topic of discussion at the OCA discuss forum: relationship intention and making, restrictions, and experimentation. I took that opportunity to reflect on my own approach so far (see my blog post Notes on Creativity).
Making of Uncertainty
Fortnum highlights three key aspects while taking some references to others :
- a solution focused approach and embracing the unpredictable and uncertainty, the unforeseen
- a knowledge beyond rationale thinking, ‚feeling the outcome‘, a ‚visceral moment’, a sense of ‚epiphany‘, measuring success and failure by that reaction
- a doing something new, a sense of originality. Knowing something as opposite to new.
I can relate to the approach of uncertainty, at times it feels like moving into uncertainty with assertiveness. To recognize the outcome through a non-rationale ‘thinking’ is often what I face in my works. How to recognize successfulm outcome? How to know what to do next, next brushstroke, next body movement, next decision? But are the ‘visceral moments’, as M Chevska expressed this, the measure for success and failure? Is my reaction alone the measure?
Her description of ‘originality’ brings me back to my earlier studies on Modernisim and Kant. The notion of authorship and originality was challenged and overthrown by post-modernist thinkers and artists, and is still today in contemporary art a rather ambivalent topic. Kant described a ‘genius’ the artist who ‘does not know, and so cannot explain, how he or she was able to bring them into being’ and thus ‘does not consciously follow rules’ (Ginsborg, 2013). Is this ‘not knowing’ just a modernist return with a Kantian affirmation?
Most interesting for me to follow her argumentation on space, process, and language related to painting. Where to make and how to make art, a painting, and now to talk about it?
The space has since Modernist times an aura of secrecy and could be seen a similar myth as the artist as genius. Fortnum argues perhaps for an artist’s studio as a mythic and privileged space, a kind of modernist sanctuary and ‘exile’. But also as a kind of opening up space, a space of possibilities and potentials, not yet realized as the work Mapping the Studio I , 2001 of Bruce Nauman can show. A surveillance film at night of the vacant studio of the artist, a space of leftovers.
The often recognized crowded space as an archive of accumulated stuff as ‘visual and material encounter’ (p. 75).
The feature image (Fig. 1) is a snap shot from my studio space in the process of making work for drawing 1.
Process of making
I found the examples given by Fortnum quite comprehensive, I can relate to most of them personally:
- Gathering information and data .. and make .. interconnected and overlapping
- Preparation and planning as enabler for making, action (see my mindmap approach, Fig. 2)
- Doing that leads to understanding
- Intuition, improvisation and critical thinking (discernment)
- Belief in the process ‘let’s see what this is and how it unfolds’ (Sonia Boyce), beyond intentiona and conception
- ‘Studio practice as mode of enquiry’ (Estelle Barrett)
=> The continuation during the process enables further decisions, what reminds me of the difference between start-ups and business founder, the first not knowing and seeking a business model, the latter already knowing it.
- Painting as subjectivity
=> this takes me back to me earlier reading of the book Thinking through Painting: Reflexivity and Agency beyond the Canvas, 2014 where the author Graw concluded that the notion of subjectivity of painting leads towards value attribution and lastly to market evaluation. But mostly to the conception of collectors of owing a painting as resemblance of ‘owing’ part of the artist.
A very fascinating aspect in art, how to combing visual with verbal language, and how to write or speak about it. This is another aspect discussed at times at the OCA discuss forum, and surely it was a key aspect in my last course unit UVC (see my blog post Writing About Art). One book that I found very helpful is Williams, G. (2014) who stated three aspects to look at while writing about art:
- What is it? What does the work look like?
- What might this mean?
- So What? Why does this matter to the world at large?
Fortnum investigated the territory with more question to ask oneself:
- Language: Commentary or prescriptive? Explanation or justification?
- Words to accompany art work: complimentary or as necessary condition ?
- Artist’ identity: to ‘unravel artist’s identities ..and understand how ..artist’s stories of process are imbricated in the larger project of identity formation’ (Linda Sandino, p. 79)
- Verbal articulation as enabler of doing, as affirmation, and as mapping of future production
- Direction: as private (inner) or as public interface ? Audience?
- Artist’s statements: formal or informal? gaining self-knowledge, insight as creative process, making values evident
In conceptual and post-conceptual art the text became an intrinsic part of the artwork, without the artwork would be misunderstood. A notion that led D. Joselit to argue for a change in attitude of artists ‘to resist the allure of its transparency in favor of tracking its plasticity (Joselit, 2016).
So how would I like to write about my art? And how to use artist’s statements? In the discuss forum I learned that rewriting an assignment brief as a short artist statement could be one practical way forward, and to learn. On the other side, I learned during my UVC course unit how to write academic essays – are these two opposites?
Fortnum explored in her article the example of the collaborative work between Vong Phaophanit (film) and Claire Oboussier (text) ‘All that’s solid melts into air (Karl Marx)‘ (2006)
What fascinated here were less the way text, visuals and sound was combined, but what thoughts and sensations are appearing. Phaophanit explains that the work was a way to overcome learned collective patterns and consciousness through a constantly suspicious and self questioning attitude. By that to find a new way of approaching a subject. More an intuitive, unconscious process of ‘wandering’, relating to Freud’s conception of the uncanny, a resurfacing of familiar aspects, that could trigger all kind of ‘uncanny’ sensations.
The text on the website states that ‘only forgetting and leaving things behind’ allow an afresh and new perspective on the world; knowledge derived from memory alone would allow only a narrow viewpoint.
The main aspects I am taking away (besides approaches I am already aware of):
- Process: not a consequence but an enabler for seeking direction and decisions
- Embracing uncertainty to allow new perspectives becoming realized alongside a belief in the process of getting there
- Understanding: not a rationale (or not only) thinking process, but through making and visceral responses
- Language: to write means to know oneself, to gain insight, and to communicate identity. Writing with a purpose that need to be understood in the first place, different to the process of making, more taking a step back and to reflect.
- Leaving behind: to leave as to start anew, with fresh viewpoints
And open questions related to the role of artist and studio:
- Genius (in a Kantian sense) and studio as sancturay space in modernist sense? or,
- Visual and material encounter of artist and space enabling becoming of possibilities (in quite a Deleuzian sense)? and,
- What would make the difference between studio and open space, outdoor artistic work?
- Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld (2016)– Studio view – work in making (from drawing 1)
- Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld (2017)– Studio view – visual mind map (from painting 1)
- Fortnum, R. (2013) ‘Creative Accounting: Not Knowing In Talking and Making’,
from On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, 2013, Fisher, Elizabeth & Fortnum, Rebecca (ed.), Black Dog Publishing, p70-87
- Ginsborg, H. (2013) ‘Kant’s Aesthetics and Teleology’, in Zalta, E. N. (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition) [Online]. At: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/kant-aesthetics/ (Accessed on 01 Nov 2017).
- Joselit, D. (2016) ‘Conceptual Art of the Press Release, or Art History without Art’, in: October. [online]. 158, pp. 167-168, At: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/OCTO_a_00276 (Accessed on 24 Sep 2017).
- Williams, G. (2014) How to write about contemporary art, Reprinted ed. London: Thames & Hudson.