Category Archives: 03.3 MA Project proposal

String as contemporary art medium

I found this fascinating article on the history of of string based-art works, which talked through a lot of the reference artists I have found on my travels, and a few new ones as well.

Starting from the sculptural works of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth with threaded string, resembling mathematical structures, and possible influencer Naum Gabo. Looking back at this, I notice that so much sculpture involving string is exploring geometry in nature, very little of it appears to be on a more conceptual basis. The installation is ore suited to this nature of art I believe. Once you start adding more complex craft to the work – weaving, basketry, embroidery, knitting and so on, you add layers and layers of more narratives which are based on the process and not the concept. Which is fine if that is the core of your work. However, I have never wanted to make statements about subverting a craft tradition, nor do I want my piece to comment on ‘domesticity and feminine arts’ which is what so many articles on textile/fibre work seem to do. So this brings me firmly out of the idea of making an object (bye bye map weaving) and firmly into contemporary installation territory.

The article, progressing onwards, takes us to the Minimalist string installations / sculptures of Fred Sandback.

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Untitled (Cornered Triangle, Fifth of Ten Cornered Constructions), 1980

His work used single strands of yarn from point to point to create precise geometric figures. This was of bifurcating three-dimensional space, these “intangible objects” became a meditation on the pictorial plane and architectural volumes. With this work I noticed the strength of simplicity that can construct a separate architectural space within a larger space. Comparing this to the massive complexity of works by other architectural influenced artists, such as Tomas Saraceno (pic below), I much more align myself with the more Minimalist approach.

039-tomas-saraceno-theredlist.gifGalaxy Forming along Filaments, like Droplets along the Strands of a Spider’s Web 2009

I am not however, making a pure geometric space, as this would be too much of an exploration of abstract spatiality. In the same way that my hope to use psychogeography as the core of my process roots the work too much into a specific locality. I want my work to be about both the here and there, while being firmly neither.

As I write this, I remind myself of what I had originally written in my project proposal, final version submitted back in November about creating a heterotopia, a placeless place: a real place which exists simultaneously outside of all places, neither here nor there. This is the effect I can create with an installation – which I am now firmly set on making large scale – and using it to construct a heterotopic space which manifests a physical, personal conception of my sense of self:

I am this place. I am no place. 

 

 

 

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Humanistic phenomenology

Interestingly, I spent four months on my research paper entirely focussing on phenomenology in philosophy and never came across the parallel ideas of phenomenology within psychology.

Looking more into Carl Rogers’ theories, I feel like I am hovering over the core of what my MA proposal is really about. I have only just made the connection that I started my own working career as a phenomenologist, albeit in physics, but as a researcher using the observation of experiences to guide our understanding of the workings of the world. This too is at the heart of phenomenology in both philosophy (getting back to Heidegger) and in psychology: our existence is a subjective construction – the ‘reality’ we observe is really a “private world of experience….the phenomenal field” ([1], Rogers, 1951/1977)

First some background: Unlike Freud, who teaches that our basic instincts are sexual and aggressive, Rogers had an inherently positive view of humanity. His theory, is built on a single ‘force of life’ he calls the actualising tendency, which is a fundamental motivation toward positive growth. From [3]:

Rogers disagreed sharply with major emphases of Freudian theory: its depiction of humans as controlled by unconscious forces; its assertion that personality is determined, in a fixed manner, by experiences early in life; its associated belief that adult psychological experience is a repeating of the repressed conflicts of the past. Rogers’s view emphasized conscious perceptions of the present rather than merely unconscious residues of the past, interpersonal experiences encountered across the course of life rather than merely parental relations in childhood, and peoples capacity to grow toward psychological maturity rather than merely their tendency to repeat childhood conflicts.

A few points in summary of his theory [2, 3]:

  • We value positive self-regard (self-esteem, self-worth or a positive self-image. We achieve this positive self-regard by experiencing the positive regard others show us over our years of growing up.  Without this, we feel small and helpless, and can fail to become all that we can be.
  • However, society can lead us astray with conditions of worth, when others only give us what we need when we show we are ‘worthy’, rather than just because we need it. (e.g. a dessert if we finish our greens, or love and affection if and only if we behave)
  • These conditions are very powerful and we can adapt ourselves determined not by our inherent self-actualising tendency, but by society. We begin to like ourselves only if we meet up with the standards others have applied to us, rather than if we are truly actualising our potentials. Since these standards were created without keeping each individual in mind, more often than not we find ourselves unable to meet them, and therefore unable to maintain any sense of self-esteem. This conditional positive regard leads us to deny parts of ourselves that elicit rejection.
  • The aspect of your being that is founded in the actualizing tendency and receives positive regard and self-regard, Rogers calls the real self.  It is the “you” that, if all goes well, you will become.
  • Where we receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an image of the self which is out of reach.

Rogers posits that people seek self consistency and a sense of congruence between their sense of self and their everyday experience. He believed anxiety is the result of discrepancy between experience and the perception of the self. Once this happens, the person will be motivated to defend the self; he or she will engage in defensive processes against the loss of a consistent, integrated sense of self.

Rogers describes a range of characteristics of what makes a fully-functioning person. These are in short a person who is: Open to experience, living each moment as it comes, trusting their feelings, not worried about disapproval, nonconforming, with deep feelings, rich and an expressive emotional life. One of the points struck a chord with me, this quote taken from ref [2]

2. Existential living.  This is living in the here-and-now.  Rogers, as a part of getting in touch with reality, insists that we not live in the past or the future — the one is gone, and the other isn’t anything at all, yet!  The present is the only reality we have.  Mind you, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remember and learn from our past.  Neither does it mean we shouldn’t plan or even day-dream about the future.  Just recognize these things for what they are:  memories and dreams, which we are experiencing here in the present.

This idea of experiencing the present moment is a key concept of the humanistic approach. Humanistic phenomenology emphasises the individual’s subjective experience of his or her world – in other words, his or her phenomenological experience. Quoting from [3]

  • The space of perceptions that makes up our experience is a subjective construction.
  • The individual constructs this inner world experience, and the construction reflects not only the outer world of reality but also the inner world of personal needs, goals, and beliefs.
  • Similar ideas can be traced back at least as far as the Allegory of the Cave by Plato, who depicted persons as perceiving mere shadows of reality, being unable to glimpse the objective world world of existence

These ideas, of an existential, subjective reality are going to be the basis upon which I build my project. I would like to investigate how we can map our sense of self by understanding the reality we have constructed – by looking at its manifestation in our sense of place, and places we identify with – these places being themselves a subjective experience of the world. Our ‘places of identity’ (for lack of a better term) are constructed from an overlay of real and imagined places, fiction, memory and promise.

References: 

 

[1] http://www.personalityresearch.org/courses/B15/notes/phenomenology.html
[2] http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/rogers.html
[3] https://quizlet.com/21110437/personality-theories-chapter-5-a-phenomenological-theory-carl-rogerss-person-centered-theory-of-personality-flash-cards/

MA Proposal v3: Mapping Identity

I have resisted getting sucked into writing and not doing things, so my project proposal remains untouched since November. In my head however, I have started to re-frame what I am looking at, and how I want to address my research question. My research question is still looking at the interconnection between our sense of self and sense of place. I want to make work which acts a reflector – asking us how we encounter ourselves in the places in which we are. Can we unravel our own journey through life to get a better understanding of ourselves?

Locality 

The key aspects I want to bring into my making process is locality – from my research I saw how you can generate place through action and agency (through dwelling or movement). I stated before that I wanted to use a process and materials which embody a sense of locality – I need to look deeper into all of the meanings locality can have. Locality can mean much more than just ‘from a particular place’ when you consider that in your mind you make your own place within yourself. This is how our identities can act as a map of ourselves

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What my project is not…

My work is not about space, it is not about our experience of space nor how the human body interacts as we move through it. Places are not the same as ‘spaces’; places are saturated with a human narrative: our experiences made manifest though material demonstrations of human practices, marking these places out from other purely abstracted spaces. Neither is my work about life in very specific places or cultures (like capturing the vibrancy of a local community) or about discussions on biological and cultural identities (feminist politics, race, religion, migration and so on).

Mapping Identity 

People define themselves through the filter of their experiences. How people navigate through their surroundings can shape their identity and create psychological associations with places. There is always a familiar ground on which we begin which branches out through our lives into different places, each following its own path. These paths create our different responses and the different facets of ourselves. They interact with the paths of others and with the very fabric of the world itself as we pass through it. We each exist as the root, with the different paths all being part of us and our sense of self. If we look at once at all of the branches from which our lives are made, we see a map of ourselves (=identity). You create your own map. Look at it, you understand it, because it is you, it is your story.

I am going to continue experimentation with the ideas around ‘mapping’ and the connections between identity and place. All maps are a mixture of objective truth and subjective representation –  an edge – as such are an ideal place to generate work from.

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As well as my material experiments which I will continue for now, I also have a new, grand idea about testing a new art process – using my psychogeographic rambling as a way to change the projection of the map. By changing the frame of reference we begin to see things we would not otherwise have seen. More on this later!

Unit 1 Assessment Feedback

We got our assessment feedback today. I feel like I really want to write about it – to process it – but can’t figure out what to say or what to think. The unit was essentially just pass or fail, and having passed (yay!) that’s great. Once HB gets home I will be seeking out that bottle of rather nice Pinot he sneaked onto the wine rack last week. Celebrate your successes and all that. On second thoughts maybe I won’t wait for him….

What I’m not so sure about is the written feedback. I can’t tell if it’s incredibly critical and condemning of my work or if its really helpful and hopeful that I can improve. Maybe it’s both. We have a chance to discuss it with Maiko on Monday so that should give me some time to reflect on it properly, but my initial reaction was to have got upset about it.

I think I’m just really tired, it’s been a really long term, and I’m frustrated that the tutors still don’t get what I’m trying to say with my work – neither in my project proposal nor in the work itself. I wonder if they are trying to say its actually me who still doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do. The other thing that frustrates me, is when they say “be more ambitious, take more risks”. What does that actually mean? What do I need to do to take more risks? I must be missing something as I just don’t know what they mean by risky. Should I know? is that what my problem is?

 

At least they liked my blog  🙂

Assessment time!

It is finally here! After 435 days at Camberwell our very first formal assessment has arrived. I don’t like rushing around in last minute panics, so I spent the whole day getting everything prepared and ensuring my table reflects my overall narrative. The tutors arrive for marking tomorrow…

In the end, I decided that the links shown from my work and my references are actually continuous, and even though I have iterated my proposal a few times (I am now on v2.2) it really is the same thing at the root which I have been searching for. I grouped all of my work by process – as the making process has become a core of my work, something I am very pleased I understand properly at last. We have to curate our samples, and since I have done rather a lot of them over the year, I had to choose what to drop out. Things like the #100cubes project (badly made), the daily squares (ill-conceived idea), some of the ritual baskets (materially confused). What ended up on the table was essentially either samples of basketry/weaving processes, or mark-making/drawing based on psychogeography. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!

I am surprisingly pleased by this fact, as I had been worried I wouldn’t find the narrative in my journey. And there it is staring me in the face. Here is a wee snapshot of my submission…

2015-11-09 14.24.29

The one thing I added to the table which wasn’t exactly in the requirements list, is a vision for my Unit 2 work. After the pearls of wisdom from Sandya last year, I have wanted to have a clear and focussed idea to move forward with. This I finally have, and I am very excited about being able to get into depth with this idea ready for the show. More in a future post about the project in detail….

A matter of A or B

In the list for the Unit 1 assessment is an updated project proposal, which I have neatly put on one side while writing my research paper. Well, time is nearing, as too is a decision on what to take forward into Unit 2. I have reached a point where it is becoming critical to have a clear vision on what I want – as I can’t efficiently work towards an ambiguous cloud of ideas. So what experiments do I do next??

A. Wheat/willow weaving.

This would allow me to do some contemporary sculpture using basketry weaving techniques. As well as the British willow artists I posted the other day, I have found the elegance of Japanese Bamboo weaving quite inspirational, it itself being a technique which embeds cultural and material locality very well. (Some info on this to come soon). With this I could use to do some site-specific / site-reponsive work as per the test of my wheat ring in this experiment. The intention of this was to show a juxtaposition of old ‘rural’ heritage traditions and the grit of urban reality. Not entirely convinced of this, but haven’t shown anyone the pics yet to discuss – taking this further could end up contrived or a bit staged, but could be great if done well.

B. Map weaving

The second option, is to go back to develop my ideas with the map yarn from the interim show – a contemporary cartographic language of sorts. This could nicely combine my ideas of time and place (the past as an alternate reality) and psychogeographic processes. Using different maps, city maps, or an interpretation of maps are all possible here. But, it is just too literal to use recycled maps??

How am I supposed to decide?

A change in perspective

With my project moving away from object-ness and more into the realms of knowledge and language, Maiko kindly arranged for me to have a tutorial with Susan, the director for Camberwell’s Book Arts MA course. It was a fascinating conversation and a different perspective on what I have been doing. We had a good chat about my still-too-large scope and where I am stuck, and my dichotomy between an interest in place / nature and place / language. Some good references and places to visit added to the to-do-list.

I showed Susan some of my latest experiments, and she was very interested in the Starfield piece – the only one I have so far I felt has that something. She noted the moving away from the stitched quilt into something more communicative of my concepts. We discussed that after Starfield, I went down the road of experimenting with natural dyeing ‘of place’; Susan commented that this has been done a thousand times over, and isn’t it a little safe? (Yes). Have my new experiments now lost the magic of that first piece? (Yes). We discussed the impact the written mathematical language has as an integral part of the piece, part of the materiality of the whole object. She said not to be frightened of tapping into my physics knowledge, this is the uniqueness of it – looking at place at a whole different scale – the cosmological place which humanity inhabits. Also a clear message that unit 1 is there to take risks – so go for it!

My learning from this week:

– nature and man all co-exist, so don’t get obsessed with “natural” fibres, look instead at the material properties I want to express
– materiality can be expressed in many forms, including the texture of the page and the quality of the drawn line, it’s not the preserve of 3D objects!
– I described my current practice as drawing, so far I quite like that as a description. Do some more reading to see how contemporary drawing is seen by the wider art world.
– stop being so afraid of venturing down the road into mathematical / scientific concepts.

So having decided it was time to re-evaluate what experiments to do next anyway (see last post), I think it is about time to start taking some bigger risks and steps forward.

Project proposal

Think bigger. I am making art to engage with more people than just me. I can now answer Maiko that I am not interested in exploring ideas around defining my identity though place – I don’t just want to look at difference, I want to look at shared experiences. I could look at place its most grandest incarnation – how we make sense of our place in the vast unknowable depths of the universe? Moving past the awe and mystery into tangible, physical understanding.

Research Paper

This is looming on the horizon and I have decided my current working essay concept is now out-of-date, firmly supporting research on place purely through experiments with nature materials. TIME TO MOVE ON! I’ve spent this week putting together some new ideas of what research could help me answer my unanswered questions….

….how can an artwork embody both personal experience and collective understanding?
….what works using ideas from mathematics / physics has actually been successful both visually and conceptually?

Experiments

I think it is time to return to the original ideas behind Starfield and take them in a different direction.