(Current Studies, by blog description (2015-16)) - Click on each label to see corresponding posts!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reflections on the past week... Project 2, Narratives of Class, Taste & Culture

I've spent a fair amount of time this week in the mode of both research and collecting.  The critical engagement is of course observation, and whilst our 'views' of class, culture & taste are often biased from where our own vantage point may be.  The 'starting point' has always been fundamental in the eventual location of class.  This is more simply explained as 'you tend to end up in the class that you are born into'...

Documenting the visual images of symbolism in class, culture & taste ( I shall abbreviate this to CCT), is highly engaging in itself. To scrutinise the way people, things, every-day objects are related to each other, but in particular, the status of the objects or 'things', whatever they may be, can link directly to the types of people, the class of people, who are within that particular environment, or are using the 'things' or objects.  At first, this sounds like gobbledegook, but when one applies a little thought, you can make that leap into another mode of observation.  This is the start of the narrative. It's like people watching on a grand scale, - something I think, most of us like to do,  but then doing the same with things and objects, so maybe I should call it, "thing-watching", or is it just plan old "observation" that I'm accidently trying to re-invent?

So take a random object... I'm looking out of the window at a bus... Who would be the types of people on the bus? what sort of person would be driving the bus? Where is it likely to be going at each terminus?  All of these enquiries can be assumed and equally, so can the answers to those questions.  They may be verisimilitudes, and assumptions can be wrong, but generally, the images of the mind, the imagination, is likely to be correct.  We have a cultural language, a vocabulary that can be drawn. It's more likely that the bus would have working class people using it. It's likely that the driver was born into the working class. The terminus points, particularly in town or city centres, tend to serve the greatest users of public road transport, so again can be safely assumed as being in a working class areas.   What an object then, is born into, the environment for which it's intended usage is going to be, gives an object or thing a kind of class position.  This is quite an abstract thought that has been going through my mind much of the last few months, much of the time.  I'm more aware of this underlying language, the symbolism and hence vocabulary of what's around me.

One can start to begin narratives through even the slightest snapshot of a view.  My reflection of Peter Doig's painting, "Grasshopper", (1990) Oil on canvas, illustrates this point, too, that a simple snap, like a click of a camera shutter, in any direction, at any time, can start a narrative.

Applying this imagination based on a narrative starting point through an imagistic, (perhaps in my own preferred 'painterly' way), - in other words through appropriate composition, is such a magical part of art's attractiveness, and particularly, the attraction of Contemporary Art that I feel is beginning to be understood by a much wider audience of viewers across all classes;  This is interesting as Art that was created say 200 years ago was generally only viewed by the privileged elite.  So, in this reflection, I'm making the case that art is at last becoming a class-free "thing" for which I'd set the boundaries up for in the beginning of this blog article.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Drawing with Projection

Another great morning of drawing with Prof. Swindell.  Today opened up a whole new dimension that I have considered to be a bit like cheating, however, when I found our that Vermeer and Rembrandt used similar techniques, something akin to the camera obscura, then if they can do it, then so can I...!

I'm talking about projection of outlines to get correct proportionality of subjects here.  With our latest technology, we can do this quite easily and effectively, making projection just another tool to add to the arsenal.  This technique has been particularly useful for my current project, which I've used to combine the Holbein "Ambassadors" painting with contemporary Ambassadors, Angelina Jolie and David Beckham...

We also talked further about the elegance of line, and I've found a little more pertinent research worth repeating here...

Achieving Line Variation and Line Sensitivity 

There are no specific "formulas" for achieving line quality and sensitivity.
The kind of line employed by the artist is a decision based on the artist's personal response to the form being drawn, and that response is undoubtedly influenced by a multitude of factors.
Lines vary tremendously in character, and each type of line has its own expressive potential.

Drawing Essentials by Deborah Rockman - pp. 52,53

What is meant by "Sensitive" Line?

Sensitive: having the power of sensation; ready and delicate in response to outside influences; able to register minute changes or differences; degree of responsiveness to stimuli; having power of feeling; of such a nature as to be easily affected.
Sensitive line is sensitive in its description of and response to both inner and outer contours or edges of an object.
Sensitive line is able to register minute changes or differences found along contours or edges.
Sensitive line is responsive to both subtle and not-so-subtle activity found along contours or edges.
Sensitive line has the power to convey a strong sense of volume, mass, form, weight, dimensionality, and space and can also convey a strong sense of feeling.
Sensitive line, in addition to its responsiveness to the information being described or interpreted, it is also sensitive in its own right, independent of subject matter.
Whether it addresses a particular form or exists independently, it can display various qualities including textured or smooth, dark or light, continuous or broken, curvilinear or rectilinear, heavy or delicate, thick or thin, and so on.
But ultimately sensitive contour line can be described as having three main qualities - weight, value, and texture.
Sensitive line is capable of describing a form with simultaneous regard for shadow and light, for position in space (foreground, middle ground, and background), and for perceived physical weight and the effect of gravity on a form.
The shifting quality of weight, value, and texture in line work invites various interpretations regarding light source, spatial position, and weight or grounding of objects.
The quality of line is determined by the artist's response to the medium being used, the surface on which the medium is being applied, and the subject matter with which the artist is concerned.

Gesture and Sensitive Line:

The use of gesture line allows the artist to capture a subject's movement, form, and character. There is a sense of power, excitement, and life within a form found just below its surface.
A gesture drawing, regardless of subject, portrays that essential form, position in space, and/ or movement of the subject absent of surface detail.
Gesture drawings yield critical underlying information in a nondetailed sense...

A Guide to Drawing by Daniel M. Mendelowitz, David L. Faber, Duane A. Wakeham - pp. 76,77

Thursday, 27 November 2014

- Body and Machine... Contemporary Art Practice in Context Lecture by Juliet McDonald

(...And with a sub-title of)

 "The hopes and fears of 20th-century technology".

In our current culture, there is an increasing fear of the vision of wars being conducted in future through automatons, - for example the unmanned drones currently being used in the 'war against terrorism' by the American Air Force services...

However this use of machines in wartime activity has been apparent (in different forms) since the middle of the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, even the famous social commentator, philosopher, artist and art-critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) felt that we were 'losing our lives' to technology. Later in the same century, William Morris (1834-1896) who was much influenced by Ruskin, founded the arts and crafts movement; It's principles essentially being a backlash to this industrialisation, and promoting the resurgence of hand crafted forms of production and socialism.  (It was during this period of massive social change in the United Kingdom that Karl Marx and Joseph Engles wrote "The Condition of the Working Class in England", (1845) Leipzig, The English edition (authorised by Engels) was published in 1887 in New York and in London in 1891; - Refeerence Source: Panther Edition, 1969, from text provided by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Moscow;(Reference; http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/index.htm).

Our progress during the last 10 weeks of lectures, has witnessed the journey of art through the 19th and 20th centuries, charting the changes in approach, appreciation and patronage of art, through to the advent of photography and then cinematic films.  If we now look particularly to representation of "mechanistic movement", that was key to influencing the genre initially through the more traditional forms of art in painting, such as the works of Pablo Picasso (1881 to 1973) and George Braque (1882-1963) in their development of Cubism. We can also trace the emergence of such further influence of "mechanistic movement" a little later, through the works of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), which is exemplified in his work entitled "Nude descending a staircase number two" (, which can be directly linked to the experiments conducted with cinematic film and the works of Edweard Muybridge - during the late 1890s.

So we now stand at the cross-roads of the 19th & 20th Century.  In the early part of the 20th-century, the world was still changing at an extremely, even alarming, rate.  Revolution was almost the 'order of the day', and the common man was keen to have his voice heard.  This led to one of the first 'movements' of the various artistic groups, to create their own 'manifesto', that being Futurism in 1909. Previously, 'Manifestos' had almost been entirely been the outcome of political theories (for example, the Comunist Manifesto, by Marx & Engles, cited earlier).  The main protagonist of this art movement called "Futurism" was one Phillipo Tomaso Emilio Marinetti (1876-1944), a particularly hot headed Italian leader of this new radical movement, - who is noted as saying that "war is part of the human spirit"; (Ref; .  It was the fashionable talk like this, that fired up the passions of the common man on mainland Europe.  So, with feelings as charged as they were, it therefore seems as though war might have been inevitable in that socio-political environment.

Meanwhile, pursuing our look into the development of mechanistic movement in the art world, in 1913, another Italian, a designer, artist and sculptor, Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), created a "Synthesis of Human Dynamism with unique forms of Continuity in Space" (1913)...

( See photograph on right; - Unfortunately, this piece was later destroyed, possibly by the 3rd Riech, during the 2nd World War, its' location remains unknown).

  Thinking of these early artists, who were prepared to experiment with the connection between traditional human objects and the new vibrant technology of the emerging 20th-century, contemporary society created an environment for another arts movement, equally interested in machines to be formed, but this time, instead of being in mainland Europe, it was formed in Britain.  In 1915 the "Vorticism" movement produced their first magazine entitled "Blast" in the United Kingdom.  This group was predominantly made up from English contemporary artists, and an example of the kind of work created through them is that of Sir Jacob Epstein KBE (1880 – 1959), who was an American-born British sculptor.(ref; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/190536/Sir-Jacob-Epstein).
  In his piece entitled "Rock drill" (1913 to 1914).  Together with the work he quoted;  "“I made and mounted a machine-like robot, visored, menacing, and carrying within itself its progeny, protectively ensconced. Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow. No humanity, only the terrible Frankenstein’s monster we have made ourselves into…".  (Ref; Tate Meuseum, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/story-jacob-epsteins-rock-drill).
And so, with all this fiery passion existign at this time, perhaps greater that any other time untill 1914, then,  sure enough the inevitable did happen.... In 1914 through to 1918 with the advent of the first world war also known as the GreatWar, (Virtually started as an accident through the misfortune of the Prince Duke Ferdinand of Austria, and his cavalcade, who  took an alternative  / unexpected route, which just happened to be on a journey that would take him past a radical Serbian, who rcognised the Duke and shot him at close rainge.

World War One began.

World War I the most vicious and callous events of the beginning of the 20th-century from 1914 to 1918 almost 1,000,000 soldiers lost their lives.  The Ministry of defence and the War office realised the potential of visual image for the purposes of propaganda.  They therefore implied a number of war artists such as Paul Nash and Charles Johnson.  Some of Paul Nashes artwork can be seen in the Leeds Gallery and I am glad to have witnessed one of those paintings called "world War one-the aftermath" by Paul Nash 1980 and "we are making a new world".

(Despite serving in World War I, and after having witnessed a number of awful atrocities, Paul Nash returned to the Army to become a war artist for the Second World War, and completed such works like "Dead Sea").

At the entry of the early battles of World War I, we were still quite primitive in our use of technology or walk purposes and we were still using the for example, horses, carrier pigeons and camels in the desert; used extensively by warrants of Arabia and other soldiers.  Around the same time, wireless telegraphy was being perfected by Marconi.  The telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell had existed for some time, but it wasn't until the escalation of the need to communicate quickly during wartime, on the battle fronts in particular, that after the war the telephone became ubiquitous.

Earlier in the first decade of the 20th century, Orville Wright and his brother invented the aircraft.  By the time of the commencement of World War I in 1914 the early aeroplanes had been significantly developed initially as a useful tool for surveillance, but then quickly modified as a carrier for bombs and small grenades.

The march of technology soon replaced the horse, with a new creature of war, that being the motorised tank.  Tanks were first used at the Battle of Cambrai.  The image of the tank was an extremely powerful device used in propaganda posters such as those by LeToures.  The military benefit of the tank was to get heavy firepower into particular positions very quickly.  Horses required men to drive them into position, and the weight of the large cannons together with the difficult terrain that the horses and drivers needed to negotiate, made them easy targets for opposing forces.  The tank allowed the use of large cannons or guns to be manoeuvred into position under a heavy cloak of armour.  Together with their development, the armaments of the tanks were all so changing, as the guns were getting bigger and bigger.

Once the world war was over, there continued to be pockets of pessimism in society about the future.  Fritz Lang in his 1927 film Metropolis, posited a future vision of dystopia where everyone in the city would be working for a very few select elite, and instead of machines being the slaves of humans, it would be the human population as a workforce becoming slaves to those machines and the ultimate ruling elite.  In the film Metropolis, the plot is rather simple.  The rulers' son falls in love with a woman from the working class (called Maria).  Meanwhile an eccentric professor invents a robotic wife, but wants to make look more human and chooses the image of Maria in order to discredit her, as the Prof is frightened that she is a radicalist of the working class.  So emerges a robot Maria.  The audience at the time may have found this most disturbing.

Fritz Lang was influenced by art deco, the emerging city of New York and the Gothic architecture which seemed to be becoming so vast and tall but to human scale had become minutiae.  This theme was exacerbated in the film Metropolis and together with the mechanical woman but was half human and half robot the early view of the dystopia and the negative influence of technology upon our world was broadcast to the masses.

In an attempt to subvert the march of technology and progress another artistic movement arose after World War I which was the "Dada" movement in 1918.  An artist called Richard Huelsenbeck wrote the Dada manifesto although its popularity quickly became present throughout Europe and the West.

Examples of Dada work would be Hannah Hoch's painting "cut with the Dada kitchen knife, in 1919 and the work of role house and in 1923 1924 and his ABCD self-portrait.  And in 1920 "mechanical head" the spirit of our time.

Whilst there was some limited postwar optimism after the First World War there was also a time of great depression.  The postwar optimism after the Second World War seemed to last much longer and the "Festival of Britain 1951" propagated the underlying feeling of rebuilding civilisation after the destruction of the two world wars.  Some of this sentiment can be seen in the symbol of the Festival of Britain, which was the Festival star logo designed by Abraham grey.  Within this logo there are symbols of war, that these are surrounded with images of the future.  A good source reference would be the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert or the VADS, like the Skylon built on London's South bank.  (See also Jacob Epstein).

Contemporary art during those first 50 years of the 20th-century and developed by now very significantly.  Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth were creating sculptures of people (such as those in Harlow new town near London), that say 100 years earlier, were unlikely to be have been comprehended by the general public.  That period of the early 1950s around the time of the Festival of Britain saw a much greater emergence of new graphic art.

So the notion of man and machine continued to develop in popular culture as the robot.  However by the time that we reach 1978 which was the year that "machine man" was first shown in a Marvel comic, the fear of technology post the 1960s and the American and Russian space race, and turned of the complexion completely around.  Machine man now fought to defend himself and garnered audience sympathy in a world that feared the machine.  (Jack Kirby was the artist who designed the front cover of the Marvel comic, but depicted machine man.  More can be seen at www.comicVine.com).

If we now jump forward to 2014, we are now seeing in terms of artistic interpretation, the second generation of machines.  An example of this would be the US air forces un-manned drone aircraft.  The first generation drone was called the predator.  The second generation drone is the Reaper which is now being used regularly or sorties over Afghanistan and Iraq.  (See the website www.droneWars.net).

Artists have already started to exploit the concept of these second-generation unmanned drones.  The art by James Brindle entitled "drone shadows" places images on the ground on pavements to create a radical interpretation of his message, which is that we have no sense of where "the battlefield" actually is, as the new theatre of war is very much remote from our daily lives, particularly in our Western culture.  We see images piped to us through television, but we are not in contact with the real danger, fear or threat.  James Brindle wants to get the message that people need to understand these new technologies otherwise they will remain disengaged.  Artists have a duty to communicate the issues of the day in order for civilisation to progress.

Another artist who is working within this sphere is Mahawish Christy who has created a number of "decorative" drones.

Anders I back or has created dystopian images panned together but in his case he has built his own drones in order to create a disembodied non-narrative survey that videos of the city.  This can joins the intrigue of the new technology, with the danger of the technology of the new world.  Together this creates something compelling, with opportunities and possibilities, but also with danger and uncomfortable realism, critical of the lack of engagement.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Ambassadors... A class, culture and taste bonanza!

Having thought about the tutorial on Tuesday, I recall that during our tutorial, we also discussed some points around the concept of taste and beauty, and the old favourite, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and it seems to me that this is often quoted in relation to contemporary art. 

Fred Wilson discusses the concept of beauty, "it can hide meaning", however he goes on to point out that there is meaning in beauty but there is also meaning in ugliness. The manipulation of this can be used to create art. For example a piece of work called "the whipping post" uses Queen Anne chairs to juxtaposed the position of high-class antiques, with something that is much more base. Beauty is complex. We are constantly looking for a sense of order, and how objects relate to each other. These translations, looking at society can be both adopted and adapted into your own work.

Cindy Sherman, created a series of magazine style photographs not dissimilar to those magazine, and used to portrait of herself superimposed over other fashion models, suggesting that she was attending supposed fashion parties, that have been retouched into the background. This work does not seem to be far away from the kind of work that I am thinking about doing at the moment with Angelina Jolie and David Beckham.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543), 
The Ambassadors (1533), Oil on Oak base.
© Copyright The National Gallery, London 2014
I think I discussed last week the possibility of using a base image of Hans Holbein the Younger's rendition of the ambassadors, and replacing the cleric (Georges de Selve, Bishop and friend of Jean de Dinteville), and the rich European diplomat (The French Ambassador to England as of 1533, Jean de Dinteville), with both Angelina Jolie and David Beckham, both of whom are United Nations Cultural Ambassadors, to contemporise a very classical image, but also includes the emblem of mortality in the form of the skull as per the original painting.  I have started to look at the work of Hans Holbein the younger, and the ambassadors in a little more detail. Some of the devices on the original painting are emblems of time measurement, and inference to education, mathematics, religion, but also of science through the use of celestial globes, and other paraphernalia (on the lower shelf concerned with music, harmony, and 'some discord' - see the broken string on the lute), which attempts to link the extremely high status and wealth of these two individuals, to an almost untouchable concept of the master class of the time, - being separated from the common man.

If I was to use the images in a contemporary environment, (which seems to idolise or worship the celebrity culture, which I feel Angelina and David fit with perfectly), the accoutrements and paraphernalia of today's neuvo- riche might be very different, but ostensibly still small expressions of status, such as pocket sized objects of the latest technology and gizmos, together with other examples of expressions of self importance and 'worth'.

And finally, before I forget, I need to also take a look at the work of Larry Rivers, and some of his paintings, which include support cigar box with paintings of the old Masters facsimile onto the top. I think that through a combination of collections of similar art pieces, I am beginning to see a series of paintings that could emerge from my idea of juxtaposing old Masters work with new images of current day symbolism of status and wealth, which ties in nicely as a narrative to taste, culture and class.  I should be able to have some fun with this.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

In narratives of class culture and taste-Tuesday tutorial.

Today we looked at a number of contemporary artists through that wonderful you tube mechanism on the Internet.  The first example was by Thomas Byrle, which was a beautiful multiplicity of 'minute' glasses with a branded lager logo upon the side, arranged in a painting to look like a large glass of branded lager.

Another piece of work from art that was originally inspired by Chuck Close, is from Robert Bechtel, and his piece called "near Ocean Avenue" 2002.  This is an example of super realism and is a painting made with oil on canvas.  A group of artists that practice super realism do their work through mechanistically gridding up a photograph in order to reproduce a mediated view of it, but by taking especially great detail, so that it almost looks like a photography piece in itself

Carol Boves is an artist who creates shelves in her workspace, but then uses the shelving to change the arrangement of art pieces to that it suggests that a number of items are running simultaneously stop this causes you to look at or very things, but seeing them as complex.  Another example of this sort of work a B in Carroll's piece "La traversee deficile", (2008) which is actually highly sized bronze peanuts.

The extra large peanuts plays on the fact that scale itself is an important element.  The transition from one scale to another makes an everyday object the new worldly one.

Mark Bradford, an American artist has created a video which is available through YouTube, and he explains the difficulties of wearing a huge dress with hoops in it, whilst playing a game of basketball.  He engages with the difficulties of how we approach much of our life, and the everyday activities we undertake granted.  Nevertheless we all still work towards "taking the shot".

Laura Simmons used an opportunity to film the Merrill Streep during her visit to video Hawaii.

Another player in this space might be Jeff Koons.  On the Internet site "Art:21", he discusses money and value, and what it means to him with regards to his art.  He has a workshop style Atelier to create his own stuff, however he implies a number of different craftsmen to actually deliver the work.

In reflecting and thinking about how we use our own studios at the Huddersfield, I genuinely do agree that we should also be working collaboratively.  I also believe that we should be working on a number of different projects or pieces, "on the go" at the same time.

William Kentridge is another illustrator who created Felix in Exile, an animation that we have watched before.  William Kentridge is an artist who has a sociopolitical conscience.  The content is particularly moving when it is placed in association with the appropriate music score.

Another artist I need to look at would be Mark Titchener, and his work entitled "I want a better world, I want a better me" (2008) - (Above). I should be able to find this on the art:21 website, which is a series of 3 to 4 minute vignettes.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Hank Borgdorff and the actor network theory. - Contemporary Art Practice in Context.

Last week we discussed the backlash of artistic research in comparison to our colleagues in the design based part of academia.  This was symptomatic of the situation at the time during the mid to late 1990s and the demonstrated how emotive the argument was becoming.  It was particularly brought to everybody's attention both in art, and design through a conference attended by many design based personalities and the resulting conference by Donald Norman completely changed the landscape.
Graham Sullivan's book changed the scene from the outset following Donald Norman's conference and more recently academic authors such as Robin Nelson and Hank Borgdorff have written extensively.
Borgdorff brings a new angle to the whole discussion regarding differences in using practice as research method, particularly in the role of academic research into art.  He uses work that was originally created by Bruno Latour - network or Actor Network Theory spawned from the book of the same name.  In Borgdorff's book, he uses the titles of epistemology (discussed at length by Polanyi), methodology and hermeneutics, with free exploration (i.e. interpretation) which is based on a material conceptual briccolage; and finally ontology which puts an emphasis on the non-conceptual content, which has also been written by Barrett and Barbara Bolt.  It is the combination of these last two points around methodology and ontology but Borgdorf brings together and calls the actor network theory.  ANT.  Within this Borgdorff engages with research and administrative processes, having been a university administrator himself, and so his work is placed and positioned in the University infrastructural sense.  In other words he thinks as a creative constructivists,-as building a framework of institutions, organisations, publications, conferences and so on in order for those to feed the whole cycle of methodology.  We saw a little of this in the work that James Elkins did prior to Borgdorf.However in this new approach he puts more emphasis upon the governing bodies and funding agencies of academia and university research.

The actor in actor network theory can be both human and nonhuman stop what is important is their connection to each other, the other actors in their performative dimensions.  This together with the concept of "what does research mean for academia" creates an environment of post-disciplinarity.

So, if an actor can the human, I crowd or an ATM machine, or even the University then in the ANT rationality and be constituted as performative.  Objects themselves come to the fore.

It also sets into place a version of "process philosophy" with supportive material such as magazines and publications etc, like the Parse magazine, the new platform for artistic research.

Borg Dorff thinks that all research practices should be included across the whole of academia and also with its interfaces with industry and so it includes all the scientific research process as well.  This all facilitates the concept of the post- disciplinarity approach.  In other words this is in effect, as collaboration, across all disciplines.  The expertise other and all skill sets of the academic and university fraternity being incorporated.  This is very different from the interdisciplinary concept of earlier research as bands discipline looks across the whole.

The knowledge from others "infects" the language of the whole group, a whole cross discipline interchange.  This is now known as mode to research (and Michael Gibbons has written a book concerning this).

All the practitioners from multiple disciplines can now create an environment of collaborative learning and research cultures in University and academic investigation.  This is supported by the Journal of Artistic Research, and other periodicals, which offer a collaborative sharing of research knowledge.

The working knowledge of Hank Borgdorff's "ANT",  is built on a legacy from Sociology and the "labelling theory", -  sometimes known as "Symbolic Interactionism", first explored by Irving Goffman's analysis of sociology in 1957.

During that period, classifications of 'things' abounded in the academic environment.  An example would be; by setting a label for 'schizophrenia' for a varied mental illness diagnosis, Goffman considered that this was completely wrong, simply because it covered so many different types of mental illness.
 - Goffman conducted his own experiment as a result, whereby he gave his students some instructions to go to their own doctors and to "tell them that they heard voices".  All the students were just given three words which were "empty, hollow, and thud"... -  Unsurprisingly, all his students then got committed to mental institutions, and he spent a considerable amount of his time trying to extract of them!
  A 'diagnosis' of each of the students that were admitted, were all very different,but still labelled "Schizophrenia".  When he published his findings, Goffman received a huge backlash and criticism for his unethical and problematic method of research, which could have ended up with very dangerous consequences.  He therefore conducted a further experiment, but this time,  he told the academic community and also the mental institutions, "That he was going to conduct a similar study", by using students to test the validity of the diagnosis of schizophrenia.  In actual fact no students were given any instructions. However, in the six months following his announcement there was almost a 50% reduction of admissions into the institutions, of people with schizophrenia!  This proved his point precisely!

Another legacy method, that Borgdorff calls upon, is that of "Paradigmatic Science", researched and written about, by Thomas Kuhn (which articulates "the science wars" of the early 1980s), together with the legacy of 'Post-structuralist Philosophy', which discusses the "revolutionary" type effects of scientific discoveries.

ANT therefore is a contemporary form of Process Philosophy.

The ongoing criticism of categorisation is also articulated by Faucult  and Deleauz.  This 'criticism' is not a fad or fashion brought out by Borgdorff, and, indeed has a massive intellectual history as Faucult and Deleauz testify.  The 'fluidity' of categorisations gives the Actor Network Theory credence, and Bruno Latour with other players also start to inspire the work of Hank Borgdorff too, with the concept of "performance".  He recognised that the rhythms, connectivity, and the coalescence of things into processes requires the need to document the behaviour of the actors.  Looking at people and things closely is essential, as there are many actors in any given that network.

To some, this can be likened as "opening the black box of science and technology".

The necessity to conduct "Micro-Studies" (qualitative) in laboratories, institutes, government departments, boardrooms and suchlike, was written extensively about by Bruno Latour in the early days.
The Universities and academic fellowship must embrace new concepts and environments for negotiation, and to allow "viral" changes in their processes of education.  Practice-based research, and the diversity of heterogeneous environments, calls for this transformation of educational methods to be successful.  
All of these new theories can be traced also to the 'semiotics' idea and the broadcasting of signs, and they work together with 'perceptual ideas and concepts' too.  These two things, semiotics and perceptual ideas and concepts,  are squeezed together to form Actor Network Theory.  But the word "theory" is actually something that Borgdorff is against.  He would have been quite happy if the whole concept had been called something else perhaps?
So as a result of this uneasy definition of theory, the word "rhizome" comes into play.  Now, we have actor network and rhizome as a form of research, because it is the "performance" piece that is critical to the whole concept.

For example, the inclusion of non-artistic or non-art objects in "Art Research" such as photography, such as the photograph of Lee Miller in Hitler's bathtub, through to the shattered fragments of the Banniyan Bhuddas, destroyed by the Taleban, are a classic example.

It is therefore the mediators (like the people who tweet on Twitter), that seem to actually change the fashion of things.  Art objects have an identity.  Caroline Christoph Barcovietz's work at the international Documenta 13, included lots of things that were not art objects.  But they asked the question "not who thinks, but what thinks".
At first I thought that this was bunkum, ... - how can an object think?

-It is the human the controls the agent (or actor), granted, but the point being made is that tthe agents ( or actors) sometimes control the humans.    Unfortunately the point is lost in the way that this question "it is not who thinks, but what thinks?" was originally phrased.  -  By wrapping a nonsensical idea into something that, on the face of it, is being positioned as an intellectual discussion, could be challenged as making serious intellectual academic research look foolish.  Beyond that,  the answer to this is that it "exacerbates the criticism" from some quarters that "All art is Fraud".  They therefore use these discussions, but in contrast, the case should be given credence, as they are making people think in different ways.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Working through some initial ideas - Girl with a Pearl Earing

Following on from some initial ideas I had last week, I  made some sketches and outlines around the concept of using "high art" Old Masters paintings as subjects that could be "chavy-fide"...  what I'm thinking of is using the classic old master's paintings as base ideas, then superimposing contemporary themes to attempt to bring them out of the "high class / high culture" paintings into pseudo low class, poor taste / celebrity culture type objects.

So the first attempt was carried out on Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earing.  A beautiful painting of circa 1665, from the Dutch style.

 A quick sketch of the original helped me to think about how I could adapt this image, to make a more contemporary face, by placing the eyes closer together for instance, narrowing the gaze and sharpening the nose....

The next step was to create a baseline template for an acrylic painting...

and then applying a more contemporary, "stretcher" style earing directly into her ear-lobe, together with an additional stretcher above it.

I've retained the smaller eyes, the narrow gaze, (with a bit more "attitude"), applied a little more eye make up to emphasise lack of sleep, and made the face a bit chubbier and podgy, to reflect the junk food diet that pervades typical contemporary nourishment.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Traditional drawing techniques and objective drawing.

 I thoroughly enjoyed today's lecture, which was more like an academy class in an Artists Atelier. In reflection, I picked out a number of key points;
Prof Steve Swindell discussed traditional drawing techniques, such as looking for the systematic approaches to style, materials, discipline, consistency, and the concept of creating exploratory series of paintings or works.
This last point is the most important; - the exploratory "series" shows a potential view of how things have been worked out.  "How have you arrived at your final piece"?
Art cannot be foreclosed, there is always a sense of continuum and the works of narrative & verse in art must be left open.
This is the antithesis to the scientific method which closes down on finding a solution, and leaves the reader with a "finality".  Art however, in contrast, must leave this sense of the continuum, - the view, being left open.  More questions need to be asked as a result of the piece, [of art] than the questions that are 'closed' by it.
Following Prof Swindells examples of objectivity drawing, the most important first step of any art project is to create the size limits of the work you are about to undertake. -This is known as starting the format.

We use our fingers to touch and sense an object, and so with our eye, hand, mind and body working together, we do the same in the performance of creating a drawing, - to use a piece of charcoal, a pencil, or brush, between our fingers in such a way as to 'cantilever' the agent of drawing, against the surface to which we are applying our trace.

Charcoal in particular is a wonderful medium, and can be used in such a way as to consider it as a sculptural process, to define contrast, to build a subject out of a solid piece of an imaginative geometric form.
 A sense of shadow and contour can thus be created well and by using compressed charcoal this can be used for greater detail and line contour in particular.

When we are about to commence the drawing or sketching of everyday objects, such as a simple cup or a mug, remember that when drawing in any form of perspective, the ellipses are also subject to the vanishing points of your diagram.

When creating any beautiful sketch, we are looking to create "elegance of line" which is often achieved through the speed of mark making.  This is particularly prevalent in the works of Dormier and Delacroix, these two artists in particular display considerable elegance in the way they have formulated a lines contained within their drawings.
"Honore Daumier was a master at exploiting the suggestive power of the sketch. He would let his hand move freely, conjuring the figure as he scribbled. His drawings evolved naturally from evocative impulses into more concrete and discernible forms, yet they always retained the sense of energy and movement found in his gestural sketches. 

...you can see this progressive development, taken in two different directions. to draw the right-hand figure, Daumier uses a strong singular line that overrides lighter ones and confirms and encloses the body's edges. Daumier recasts and intensifies the original lines of the left figure through repetition to build value that seems to fill out the body from within. A third figure, barely visible in the center of the drawing, suggests how Daumier began, using light marks to coax his figures into being. As the figures evolve, they become increasingly volumetric."  - Drawing From Life by Clint Brown and Cheryl McLean (2003) 3rd Edition, Cengage, New York. p. 23

Eugene Delacroix, Crouching Woman, 1827,
The Art Institute of Chicago,  Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Elegance is found through the application of touch.  It requires simplicity and yet sophistication, through the skill of an artist, in order to find its own elegance.  Consider the wonderful works of Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci who have the quality of line to perfectionism.  Their understanding of humanism during the Renaissance is unparalleled.
Contemporary present day artists such as Julian Opie, in his installation work at the Yorkshire sculpture Park, also demonstrates a contemporary sense of "elegance".

Consider the fashion model walking down the catwalk and the elegance with which she holds herself.  This is completely unnatural, and nobody would walk in the same way, - were they to take a journey down Huddersfield High Street for instance.  However, the emphasis is on them, that thin "fine-ness", combined with elegance creates the performance similar to ballet.  Indeed the word ballet which means to glide is a perfect explanation of the sense of elegance that we as artists are trying to achieve when we make a line in our drawing.
The line therefore, is about "affectation".

Just like the fashion model I have just mentioned, who walks on a catwalk in this very unnatural way, they are commentating upon the fashions that they are trying to show off, in their own paradigms of the fashion industry.  In other words it is a performance in that specific industry of fashion.
Likewise the line may also "play", to its own paradigms in the art industry.  The simple elegance of creating a line, with the intention to create affectation into a viewer, is exactly the same here, as in the previous example. Whenever we create any line in our drawings we need to think in terms of elegance and finesse which can only be achieved through practice, practice and more practice.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Tools for thinking, - Contemporary art practice in context..

This lecture was ostensibly about the use of diagrams and academic references particularly with respect to writing about contemporary fine art and illustration.

We briefly discussed the week before and how we were given a recommendation to view the Tate Gallery interviews which are available on YouTube.  Or our own interviews which will be required within the next two weeks we will need to ask ourselves what kinds of questions were being asked of an interviewee in order for them to respond in such a way that the interviewer need not have been recorded.  This opens up a new question to help us define our own practice.

The question to pose against ourselves might be "how can we use images and visual references in order to communicate with the wider world".  For example the work done by Brooke Taylor in 1790.  Or Robert Smithson's in his work "heap of language" (1966), or more recently the artist Rachel Whiteread and her work "Ghost" (1990).

The use of diagrams in order to create rough sketch drawings such as those created by Matthew Barney at Yale university.  He does performance drawing and design, and formulated such things as "drawing restraint" (which is available on his webpage), and "Crew Master one, choreographic phase 3" (1995), and other works such as Juliet McDonald's Ph.D. dissertation and thesis.  Usually a doctoral thesis or a Ph.D. consists of approximately 30,000 words.

A simple diagram might be the word boundary encircled, with an arrow whose origin starts within the centre of the encircled space, and arrow outside, suggesting the crossing of the boundary.

So the questions could be asked such as;

what is a diagram
is it a line
is it a boundary
is it a separate
is it a connector
is it a transgression
is it relationship

consider the above subjects or objects with the shape of an arrow to ask the question what is an arrow.

Is it a direction
is it movement
is it a passage of time
is it a passage of distance
is it an argument such as "if, then" for example, - a logical dependence?

Losciapo, F, (2011) created the works "Along lines and contours, a polyphony in the making - drawing and the body, KG52, Stockholm.

He wrote "the creative quality of the diagram consists in the fact that, as an early drawing, it creates information for something to happen".

We then spent some time looking at an interview of Kiki Smith through the Tate Gallery Tate shots entitled drawing and the New York artists interview.  - In the late 1970s through to the 1990s Kiki Smith was generally concerned with drawing of the anatomical details of bodies particularly the internal organs.
She starts the interview, tasked by explaining who she is and where she is located, together with where she has come from.
Stage II of the interview describes what she does now and what influences her together with who she collaborates with.
Stage III of the interview narrows down onto some specific recent work and the processes to get to that point of the work.  She uses the phrase "I just do it and see what happens".
I find that phrase rather frustrating as I believe it is a copout and shows no intellectual thought whatsoever, nevertheless she is an artist and so, does not have too intellectually prove where her ideas or thoughts come from.

Ultimately the job of the interview is to synthesise what place we are in at the moment with respect to the whole world in cultural terms.

My favourite poem that should help me to think about my artists interview comes from Roger Kipling.
"I have six honest serving men they taught me all I know. They are who, what and when where and which and how."

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

More thoughts on Class, Culture, Taste and narratives

We bounced around a number of ideas in order to kick-start the creative processes

Looking at Class, at a single point of enquiry; - at a high level we can divide this into;
  • divisions, 
  • orders,
  • relationships,
  • hierarchy & stratification
The question is;- who decides in which of these classifications of class does one fit?

A point of reference may be taken from Tony Ray Jones, who is a photographer of class and social structure.  He invites people to read an image, to study and to reflect upon the class and structure of his subjects.

Consider this against the work of Martin Parr, and his similar work in 1991, when he created "we wanted a cottagey stately home kind of feel".

both Jones and Parr take personal stands on their narrative of class. Parr is a little bit aggressive,
and tends to 'sneer' at people, whilst Jones is just simply mischievous in his portrayal of his subjects.

Another research item that I need to engage with would be Raymond Williams, and his book written in 1976. entitled "Culture".  This is defined as a vocabulary of culture and society,

Throughout the day I have been thinking again of one of my favourite quotes from Shakespeare, - Hamlet, Act one; "nothing is either good nor bad but 'thinking' makes it so!"...

I also recall another area of research that I can use, which would be the publication of the National Geographic Society, and the one in mind that I have is regarding the culture in Nigeria, and in Kinshasa in particular, and "The Culture of the Ghetto".

An example of a subculture was well well recorded by Richard Allen, who studied the "skinhead" culture of the early 1970s, which grew out of the working class opposition of middle-class Hippies of the 1960s and early 1970s...  - This then fragmented, got reinterpreted, and "co-opted" into the "Punk" movement of the late 1970s / early 1980s.

The process of 'culture' continues to develop.  Culture is always more into something new, for example the 1950s cultures of mods and rockers turned into skinheads & Hippies, then punk and and New Romantics.   - Maybe I can create a better, easier to read Hereditary Tree of cultures?

Coming back to earth,... I need to remember who will be the audience for my work?

I was particularly interested in another example of creating a narrative on culture today through my Lecturer's (Christian's) own performance art, which takes reference from Hank Williams and the "Nudie Suit" of the 1950s Country and Western music image.
This concept of the Nudie Suit as a badge of identity has been taken up by Christian's group "The Bongaleros", where they have taken an inexpensive second-hand suit jacket and painted it with logos in acrylic paint on the back and sides upon it.   The group tries to create an image of the subversive,
with an undertone of anarchy, together with the Carnivalistic barking of a circus ring master or carnival leader.  It tries to capture the act of celebration that sits outside class constructs,  with combinations of accoutrements such as horse brasses and references to Morris-Men working together with "clean black shoes that have once been worn to Interviews", and other idiosyncratic devices.

References and signifiers;
differences and similarities;
behaviour and manners; - 
the contexts of all of these can often be seen in the way that people or group of people, in other words the tribe, dress themselves.   For example the use of uniforms, garments, trade identifiers, badges etc,, - what does dress say about the tribe or a group?
For example, clean black Oxford style shoes, other shoes, boots, sneakers, trainers?...

How do we read and understand semiotics?  This will be crucial to this project...

In order to build narratives, I spent time in the library using the book written by Nicholas
Merzoeff, (first published 1998 by Routledge, Oxford). 2nd Edition published in 2002, reprinted in 2008). Entitled "The visual culture reader".  (2nd Edition). Within this book, Nicholas Merzoeff
provides a highly detailed reference place in order to truly understand the subject of visual culture.

Another point of reference that I need to research is at the work by Carl Rogers, and his book
the window on the self.  Within this he describes how one sees oneself, How others see you, 
how you see others and how others see others.

Further examples for us all to reflect upon can be found in the BBC Radio 4 programme
"Thinking aloud"

Other headings can also be considered, such as image consciousness and taboos, together with the Taboo breaking (which seems to be quite an English, or even or British activity). Famous examples being; the Goon Show, and BBC television's Monty Python's Flying Circus. - These two programs were very much on the cutting edge of what was acceptable versus what is not acceptable.  They touched on the the Taboo...

The whole aspect of pushing the boundaries is a good place to explore;

In his book "one thousand faces",  Joseph Campbell discusses the 36 "standard narratives" of all stories...  - This is mentioned in the potential goal, for me to try and ascertain "where is the work in this investigation?"

I need to find it, right it,  make it, and paint it!

I need to create the narrative structures before I can execute this work.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Reflections from the Briefing; - Narratives; Culture, Taste & Class

I am excited that about my new project regarding Culture, Taste and Class and the narratives that we as artists are able to build upon, around those themes. I am also continuing to develop a process within my own practice which I am thinking of in terms of an easy mnemonic, this might or might not work, as it it not necessarily a serial process, but the stages quite often interlaced, running together, or in parallel.  Nevertheless, here it is....

R.E.C.O.R.D.E.D, standing for

  • Research / Collect / Rationalise
  • Evaluate
  • Clarify
  • Organise, ((includes Observing, organise, / prioritise),
  • Reflect
  • Decide
  • Execute
  • Deliver.

So, onto the brief and work at hand....
Class culture and standards of taste are often related to patterns of social status.  I am looking at exploring how I read the social, cultural, scientific, technological, and other aspects of everyday life. - This is not in order to translate something for myself, (that would be 'a hobby') but as a professional artist, this is on behalf of others, my viewers of my own art, if you like, to help them understand the narrative or description associated with my work.

Having spent the weekend thinking about a plan of action, as recorded in the mnemonic above, I need to work to pull forward all the strands together, to form a body of knowledge, in order to engage on my final piece.  With this in progress, I can then explore the modes and methodologies for making conceptual pieces later...

Research points to note;
Each of us have personal preferences, I appreciate that I need to be my own mindful on how that mixes with both national and global standards of taste.  Whilst Grayson Perry for example, packages the class distinctions in the United Kingdom, there are many others both here in the UK, and globally.  The hierarchy of standards of taste is usually based on what is called "the norm".  But 'the norm' is notional anyway, and certainly different in most countries.  I need to combine socio-cultural and class context carefully.

Stage I.
The research and rationalise phase or stage can be expressed by pulling apart the types of taxonomies, or groupings of culture.  For example, ideological, political, inherited, etiquette, manners and so on.  Within this are the themes of dominance, alternative, and all sub cultures that exist within entertainment, technology, careers, trades, and generally any socio-grouping.

Other contexts can be things like; things that get passed on, for instance traditions, customs, beliefs.

All of the above can be considered as a collective identity too, - in other words, "a culture".

BTW, - Culture requires a passive yet collective agreement of the whole group in order for it to exist. - Etiquette, for example, requires a kind of pre-agreed cultural transaction to occur.

Within an 'invisible membrane' of a social environment, a 'transgression' can be made from one cultural standard, or class, to another;
 - The media, i.e. television, advertising, newspapers and publishing, - the media in general, has an incredible richness in "how" culture is both transmitted, transgressed and crossed.  There are hierarchical challenges of cultural expression in so many forms; e.g. bling & kitsch, - vulgarity & wealth to name just two.

In consideration of all the above, I need to keep in mind that I make the work easily readable by other people.  Asking the question, "is there a universality to art?" - The answer is  a firm 'No', - it needs to be de-constructed through semiotics, without the real viewers not necessarily understanding what semiotics actually is!  (this is often where people who criticise Contemporary Art actually struggle with. They sometimes don't understand the inferred semiotic or symbolism, yet feel equipt to judge (which is of course their right to do so), without all the facts being articulated nor considered).

Therefore I need to constantly be mindful of how my expressive work, (which will tackle these themes), creates artefacts that can be codified and the codified into culture, taste, class, and art itself.

Stage II
Again with research in mind, I will need to choose objects or images, or sections of film etc for which I can make experimental groupings and sketches, perhaps through a collage grouping or other methods in order to find relationships, by pulling certain aspects of research and understanding into the visual domain.  I will be able to use the artistic elements of composition, colour, structure, form etc, in order to create the narrative.  This is the Clarify, Organise & Observe, Reflect stages of the brief as "RECORDED" elements.

Stage III
In thinking about some of the activities after the project briefing yesterday, by developing my understanding and regularly making blog references here I will be able to develop perhaps a single sentence or even a word on which I can focus upon in order to define a specific character, or characteristic of my own work, if you like, a signature of my own way of working.

I believe now that this seems to be the most important tenet, and ultimately, what the academic process is looking to generate, or find, within students...

In creating three sections or three stages the first stage is to broaden my research the second stage is to rationalise, and the third stage will be to select and execute a concept for a final delivery.  I have been able to draw this graphically in the diagram below.

Some references that I made a special note of today, are Peirre Bourdieu and his book regarding "Cultural Capital",  which explains "Embodied, Objective, & Subjective" and other classifications of cultural capital. Together with the works of Nicholas Merzoeff and the Visualisation of Culture,

Monday, 17 November 2014

Contemporary art practice in context. - The second wave of practice-based research

We've talked previously about the criticism of practised-based research in art but moreover especially in design, and the difficulties that Research "for" design in particular struggles with.

Over the past 10 years there has been an opposition to the criticism from the artistic body...  This criticism has been largely based on new manuals that re-brands the problem, but particularly for Art practitioners, rather than design practitioners.  Within this blog I will start to introduce a new perspective to how practice-based research "for" art, - in art, but not design, can work.

The new texts that have been emerging over the last 10 years; For example "Approaches to Creative Enquiry" and "Practice as Research in the Arts" etc., spring up as a result of the keynotes lecture that Chris Frayling, the rector of the Royal College of Arts, published at the beginning of the 21st-century.  Initially these books were written as an opposition to the criticism, tended to be written from the point of view of single authors, and hence, there was not a unified voice.  However, as at these opinions generally grew, there was a counter movement which eventually converged onto a common set of themes of study.

Graham Sullivan and his book "Art Practice as Research", was one of the first books to put forward the notion of the act of performing arts as research within itself.  This received much criticism from the design faction, almost as expected.  However, as other art researchers, for example, Barbara Bolt and Hank Bergoff, and with Robin Nelson in particular, created a voice collectively with their latest books, that strongly summarise the transformation from research into practice to combine epistemology with "tacit", rather than "explicit" knowledge.  For example this has been written extensively about in the "Journal for Artistic Knowledge" and the "Artistic Research Catalogue".

Institutional acceptance is now becoming more uniform, although introducing cultural change here, through persuasion, has been the result rather than a radical new argument.

After his landmark paper, Chris Frayling had started to comment, (after making the point about the problem of art at the Royal College), that the original concept of academic study, which was close to the standard historical learning approach, (that he calls research into art), compared with what Frayling terms "action" research; for example the diaristic commentary through the writing of contemporaneous notes during the performance or shortly afterwards, which he calls "research through" art practice, and finally, to fully re-cap, what he calls "research for" art and design.  This later description he originally discussed as being the most difficult one to quantify, because within such work, there are "undisclosed materials", and often classical quotations such as "the work is intended to speak for itself".

This last observation was considered as an "illegitimate" concept.  It is this last "illegitimate concept" that Frayling as the rector of the Royal Academy did not fully explore.  However, most importantly, it is aso the role of the artefact that artists in particular (like Picasso) were most interested in, and Frayling seemed to mention it almost in passing.

In order to destabilise Frayling's position, the books as described above,The author and researcher Michael Biggs in 2002 outlined that this point is actually of some considerable merit and needs much further investigation.

Michael Biggs observes that Frayling constructs his argument originally by citing stereotypes taken from Hollywood.  However Biggs also points out, and asks the question "what kind of research was Frayling conducting, himself".  So the question becomes can Frayling legitimately call his own research, "research", especially as Frayling is a scholar of film study.  In fact all the references that Frayling makes (except for Picasso), does seem to be based on Hollywood stereotypes, not real artists in the traditional sense of creativity through painting, sculpture, drawing, dance etc.  Biggs goes on to point out also that the method of research that Frayling conducted was in fact a kind of documentary, so in actual fact it is action research, what Frayling originally termed research through art and design, and not research "for" art and design.  So it seems that Frailing shot himself in the foot here, as what he was doing was just writing it down, just like "film theory".  So Christopher Frayling was in fact, by posing the critique in the way that he did, was kind of reaching for his own tale.

"Action research" is almost a traditional (by now in 2014) method, and is considered as an 'emphasis on participation in change situations'.  In other words it is like doing something that facilitates change.  Or action research, where 'the action itself stimulates change'.

Whereas Christopher Frayling was saying action research is "where a research diary tells a step-by-step way of carrying out a practical experiment in the studio, and then reporting the results to contextualise it", the problem is that both in the diary and the reports are there to communicate the result, and yet both together, misses the research objectives in the first place.  Michael Biggs, in his own book feels that this "action" research as defined by Chris Frayling is simply off target.

Meanwhile, whilst all this conjecture and corresponding theories and hypotheses has been written about, James Elkins, who was also an early voice in this debate, and who is able to commentate as a real practitioner of art, (who in fact is an artist first, then turned academic), makes the distinction between what he creates (as practice), but then comments, that his "research" is in fact, about the traditional and historic reviewing of old masters' works.  Elkins, was in a perfect position to combine these two points of Frayling's observations together, but in fact he chooses not to, - he sits on the fence and continues to do both practice, and traditional academical "study" work.

All that the authors cited above, are all really trying to do, is bring the theories together into one unified "comment" or statement.

As a particularly ironic example, Donald Norman (who was famous for his writings in design, such as "what a good door knob" is), when speaking at the Doctoral Education in Design conference (Ph.D. design - which is a forum for theorising design practice).  It can be seen on Norman's face and body language, the complete frustration, like that of emotion, confrontation and provocation, which seems to have been "performed" by Norman.  It is rather ironic and this now seems to artists, what is of interest.  (Ironically the image of the Hollywood artist just like Kirk Douglas and his role in Van Gogh).

To explain... Donald Norman at the conference in 2011 completely changed the purpose of the conference, (which would have been to present a 30 minute paper from each of the delegates), into what he specifically wanted which was for the group to do a "elevator pitch"... - This caused uproar at the conference!

  It is this "performative" part of practice-based research that would be compromised and lost, if it was written down textually because it would become a "text" based proposition only!  The example Norman puts forward, did indeed, speak for itself!!!  The performative element would be completely smothered by typed up academic words, potentially thought up outside of the actual performance.

The significance would simply not be felt.

The affect would be lost.

- This last line of attack was therefore given by Donald Norman from the design faction itself, and serves to close the argument completely in my opinion.

To finish off, Graham Sullivan, Barrett and Bolt, Hank Schlage and Henk Bergdorf, Robin Nelson together with Michael Biggs are all good references of research material into the comparative study of art and design in terms of Research Through Practice.  The book entitled "the Conflict of the Faculties" by Henk Borgdorff outlines the theorising within institutions.  He says that an "actor" maybe a human, a microbe, or even a complete University. He goes on to discuss in this book what research actually means.

From my own opinion, I think that there is a huge amount of talk, with very little action, and what I mean by that is that the art and design community are trying to reinvent something that has been successfully applied by the scientific community for many hundreds of years.

Why don't they just collectively look at how scientific research has been done before?

- That is, by defining in advance, a theory, then performing series of experiments, with small adjustments and iterations, measuring the results, documenting those results and then setting further anti-thesis, in order to synthesise new objectives.  Documentation DOES include film.  A DOCUMETARY can be a performance...

This scientific approach "is a tried and tested practice", and even this simple set sentence explains the scientific process, succinctly.   Try it and test it!!!

The practical analogy that is often quoted is "why try and reinvent the wheel when it is already invented?"

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Further research into culture taste and class narratives.

I spent some more time today looking at Grayson Perry's Channel 4 Television productions "Who Are You" (2014, Channel 4; London) and his own observations that started with the working class.  Having previously made a mind map based on much of the comments raised in this television series, programme 1, I need not make further reference to that class sector here, but I will go on to make some observations on the 'Middle Class' and 'Upper Class'.

Continuing to make some simple mind maps to try and encapsulate some of the themes that Perry highlights, together with some of my own observations that I have combined from academic research, particularly in sociology, such as Andrew Melzoff's theories around Child Development and his "like me" framework (Melzoff, A (2009) -US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health), together with some studies I made of Victor Turner in human rituals of bonding and tribal rites of passage during my first year studies of "The Liminal".  (Turner, Victor. (1974). "Liminal to Liminoid, in Play, Flow, and Ritual: An Essay in Comparative Symbology." vol. 60. no. 3, pp. 53-92. Rice University,

We choose our social 'tribe' based on our own constructed image, which is in fitting with our immersed surroundings as children.  In other words we are all shaped by the taste culture that we have grown up within.  The following mind map for the "Middle Class" has been generated through the references sourced above;

Moving on to the Upper Class, interestingly, I found this group of people are perhaps the most miss-understood, from the point of view of observers classified in the lower classes.  My own anecdotal evidence suggests that this [minority] 'upper class' are criticised for being "out of touch with reality"... A phrase that I think is a little unfair, because it all depends upon whose version of reality? In other words, they [the 'upper' class] must be living in an 'environment of their own' reality, so therefore may not necessarily understand (or need to understand) more generalist views of the [majority] lower classes, afterall, they are not affected by the day to day issues of the majority of society if they are [even artificially] one step removed from it...


These observations are only a bit of fun!!! - Based on some of the information from Grayson Perry's productions of "Who Are You" and "All in the best Possible Taste", Channel 4 Television, London (2014 and 2012 respectively).

Friday, 14 November 2014

Contemporary art practice in context - Technologies of the image; The visual culture of the 19th century.

There was an massive impact through new technology that lead to huge societal and cultural change during the 19th Century, after the years of enlightenment, (1750s), - approaching the early 1800s.

Traditionally the capture of image had developed slowly over the previous centuries, and by the 1800s, oil paintings had become a highly developed yet principle technology for recording events and people; as well as landscapes and other scenes, of both religious and imaginary nature.

A late example of the typical imigary and composition from the 18th century and to be considered below in the example, is the painting by George Stubbs in 1786 of “The Farmer's Wife and the Raven”.

George Stubbs was perhaps considered as one of the greatest artists of horses and equine scenes that has ever lived each took great care in the study of anatomy of horses which he carried out through dissection in his own laboratory. Is intention was to capture the beauty and musculature of horses whilst standing or in movement. However, the example above suggests that this scene of the farmer's wife about to be thrown from her horse who has stumbled perhaps at the site of the Raven is rather static and staged.

During the 18th century the emerging technology to copy paintings or scenes was continuing and have developed into in grave in both in silver plate and copper stop engravings can allow an artisan or printer as they became known to reproduce an image multiple times. For example William Hogarth in 1735 created a series of eight engravings which narrated a rakes progress here we look at plate eight the madhouse (which was retouched in 1763).
  The original work was taken from a painting...

You can see on the left that the Painting is the reverse image of the engraving... The mirror effect caused by the engraving transfer of course.

The next event in the reproduction of images on a mass scale, was the invention of lithography in 1796, by Alois Senefelder and based on the molecular repulsion of oil and water. (Ref; Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. p 146)

(The impact of Lithography on Art and culture has since been extensively written about by Walter Benjamin, in his seminal book the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction (see page 213 in Illuminations, London: Cape 1970)).

The march of technology continued into the 19th century at a much faster pace. With regards to projected images, magic lanterns were seen very much as a novelty, but with little or no other application. These were made from glass plates and a mechanism moved the plates in front of a light source, which in turn made the appearance of the subject (which had been hand-painted and very primitively copied onto the glass). By switching the plates, or slides from one to another, this gave a very basic suggestion of movement of the subject.

Last week we talked about the fascination in the 18th-century for the Gothic. This curiosity for the macabre and supernatural, naturally led to some smart inventor creating a photographic projection of a phantom or suchlike. In 1797 Etienne Gaspard Robertson produced a “Phantasmagoria” in a Paris cloister of a church. The audience were totally shocked and in awe of the exhibition. In 1801 a gentleman called Paul De Philipsthall presented the “phantasmagoria” in London, much to the excited 'horror', (or morbid curiosity) and surprise of the British audience. He was simply appealing to what the punters wanted and no doubt made a lot of money very quickly!

From these early experimental uses of light and translucent images the Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce (born Joseph Niépce March 7, 1765 – July 5, 1833), an inventor who is now generally credited with the invention of photography, created a "camera obscura" (From the latin, Dark Chamber) in 1830.
(Extracted from http://www.wikipedia, 13th Dec. 2014), Although the image on the right is on a paper background, the process of capture was through the use of light sensitive bitumen, and a complex type of lithographic acid etched engraving, and was very time dependant and rather unreliable and so wasn't a practical means of reproduction.

(At right; One of the three earliest known photographic artifacts, created by Nicéphore Niépce in 1825. It is an ink-on-paper print, but the printing plate used to make it was photographically created by Niépce's heliography process. It reproduces a 17th-century Flemish engraving.)

Luis Daguerre then found a way of capturing an image projected onto a glass plate (through much of the exploratory work done by Niepce), created through the invention of the camera obscura. Degurre then solved the way to permanently keep the image on glass plate by using silver oxide (again, credited now to Niepce) and other chemicals to “fix” an image. (Henry Fox Tolbert in 1839 also developed something similar to photography calling it the photogenic drawing).

The real progress in photography and its' link as an art-form, came as a result other very interesting yet curious man called Eadweard Muybridge. His “new art” using photography and the use of it, created a mechanism in order to capture multiple images of movement. He understood that a series of images through time, triggered in sequence, if then replayed to the viewer at the same rate would appear to show “real” movement. He went on to produce and develop the Zoepractoscope. This invention stunned the Victorian audience, keen to try out new thrills and experiences. The very first moving pictures were thus born. It has been said that Muybridge was the first person to “be photographing verbs not nouns”.

Meanwhile towards the latter half of the 19th century other figures were emerging who were equally interested in the concept of photography. Ettienne Jules Maray created a photographic “gun”, capable of taking a series of 12 images in one second, in 1882. With this he created some beautiful images. An example of a photograph on a single plate of a flying pelican is one of the more famous. It still remains a beautiful object even in today's world of advanced technology (see Iverson and 2012, Index, Design and Graphic taste – From the Tate archives).

Through all these developments of the 19th century together with the effects of the new availability of education to the masses, a massive change was also emerging through art and its future direction. Muybridge and his films of “artistic studies” of men and women, (- which were being measured against the grid in order to compare the human body, in various poses and shapes), was in his opinion, a very detailed scientific research. But too many sightings of scantily clad or even nude women and men, was too much for the sensibilities of Victorian taste.

Muybridge's Woman Descending a Staircase inspired Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, some 20+ years later
(Courtesy of philamuseum.tumblr.com )

This “value” of taste in the Victorian era was, however, changing culture too. The austere laboratory conditions of Muybridges works were genuinely a scientific study; they were analysis on the grid (the fundamental tool used by artists since the Greeks) after all. These new images of anatomically recorded movement, went on to influence later artists such as Duchamp, Francis Bacon and Sol Le Witt, who each of which, also had a huge influence in their own contemporary time, both in taste, and art.
(Later, these studies would also influence the representation and rendering of movement in animation too).
A further single development from the Luminaire Brothers, based on Muybridges (some say) genius, and their new “cinematographic” machine to crete "Moving Pictures" or Movies, further affected what was seen as traditional art by the introduction of film. (See Dziga Vertov etc for later compositional and artistic / creative developments...).
 To place this in context of the late 19th century the Impressionist movement of painters in France had already begun to explore the effects of light and mood in painting. For example, the works by Claude Monet in 1849 of Rouen Cathedral in France, where he studied the same subject through the substance of paint itself, together with light and colour.

Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight 1892
National Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C., USA

Rouen Cathedral,red, Sunlight 1892
National Museum of Serbia
Belgrade, Serbia

La Cathédrale de Rouen. Le portail et la tour Saint-Romain, plein soleil ; harmonie bleue et or
Musée d'Orsay
Paris, France

La Cathédrale de Rouen. Le portail, soleil matinal; harmonie bleue 1892-1893
Musée d'Orsay
Paris, France

(See the discussion by John Berger in his book 'Ways of Seeing' and his critique of art (page 18) (1972). He explains the development from the invention of the camera and how future art would be different, in terms of its affect altogether. In essence he said “Art was broken”.
At the end of the 1890s Paul Cézanne, who classically bridges the gap between Impressionism and Cubism, wanted to capture paintings with more “informed” views of the world around him. For example - His study in 1901, of “Pyramid of Skulls” Oil on Canvass.
These advances in art, and the concepts of “image” provided the stimulus for Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque to develop Cubism. Consider Picasso's painting “Girl with a Mandolin” (1910), Oil on canvas, - currently held at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.
Meanwhile, printing technology had also developed considerably through the 19th century. The introduction of half-tone printing for example, was used extensively in newspaper production.
Senefelder had experimented during the early 19th century with multicolour lithography; in his 1819 book, he predicted that the process would eventually be perfected and used to reproduce paintings. (Reference; Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. (1998) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 146).

 Lithographic printing with colours was introduced by a new process developed by Godefroy Engelmann (France) in 1837 known as chromolithography. (Reference; Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. (1998) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 146). In this process, a separate plate was used for each colour, and a printed sheet went through the press separately for each colour to be applied by each plate or stone. The main challenge was to keep the images aligned (in register). This method lent itself to images consisting of large areas of flat colour, and resulted in the characteristic poster designs of this period. The ongoing development of lithography, to now include colour, became the medium of choice used by Toulouse-Lautrec. It was used, not only for opera and theatre posters, but later, started to be used for propaganda posters for the First World War.

The 1903 Charles Marion Russell (1864 – 1926), painting below is a Lithography colour print. (In it, you can see that the early Lithographic process tended to fade or bleed colours at the edges of the paper. Originally, this was seen as a problem, but in many ways it has the effect of focussing the eye into the centre of the painting, where the colours are most vibrant).

The Custer Fight (lithograph, 1903). Depicts the Battle of the Little Bighorn from the point of view of the Native American combatants

Mass production of art ensued....
 According to John Berger's statements in his book Ways of Seeing, “arts had lost its bogus religiosity”. So original objects of art became overvalued, as their reproduction made the image more popular and more in demand. Berger says "what matters now is who uses an image and for what purpose". (John Berger, "Ways of Seeing", (1971) pages 21 and 23).