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

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Review, Rethinking Art by Steve Ships,Part 6

It's been a couple of weeks since I picked up this book and read a chapter, so here's a short precis of my observations...

In chapter 6 of the book by Steve Shipps "Rethinking Art", he repeats the point made earlier that our interpretation and perception of the world is almost always represented through some form of language. In the earlier chapters he explains that whilst pre-"Modern" era art is referring to linguistic connections, more lately, the actual perceptions of art itself lie outside of those linguistic systems and is much more fluid because art is not as rule-bound as language is.
 He also explains that the meanings of signs and symbols around us are not "found" as such, but it is what we "make" of them that is important. Therefore, by observing signs and symbols, and then manipulating them to coincide with our own preconceived perceptions we then make meaning from them.

Steve Shipps uses an example of the famous quote by Albert Einstein of E = MC squared, as a mathematical and physical formula which is easy to understand because we 'pre-know' what each of the elements in that formula means. - The language of physics provides that structure, i.e. to show that E equals energy, M equals mass and C equals the speed of light (squared).

Whilst this example of the formula is clearly able to be understood by most (with a rudimentary grasp of physics), when this is compared with an example of say, contemporary poetry, the poetry is actually incredibly difficult to understand as, (particularly in contemporary terms), the language and rules of the language are shall we say bent in order to create ambiguity in the reader, so that multiple interpretations might be the outcome of contemporary poetry. Likewise, what I think Steve Shipps is trying to do is to articulate how contemporary art also has multiple symbols; multiple signs; in order that multiple interpretations and 'perceptions' can be gained from a contemporary work of art (as well as contemporary poetry).

Shipps then goes on to describe how our creativity can be categorised in terms of creating something that has purpose and is purposive, (just as language is generally purposive), but in the case of art, when we create something in art there is no "so that" enquiry as to the object's meaning. What I mean by this, is when we create a product or design "so that" it meets a particular need or satisfies a particular purpose, then it is a creation, but not necessarily contemporary art. If however we create something and the "so that" test shows that the object has no purpose at all, (other than to stimulate discussion or other ideas), then it is appropriate that it is called "art".

Friday, 26 February 2016

Studio Practice - Reflections of two uninterrupted days production!

For the last two days, I have had the studio to myself! - Whilst I do enjoy the hubbub of the busy studio, the majority of my peers have been away for the last couple of days on a Gallery / London visit.  As I had a funeral to attend to on Thursday of a dear friend, I chose not to join them as I am planning additional gallery visits anyway.

Working on my Maquette of the fragment of gnome, I continued to use the papier-mache mixed together with the lint or felt type by-product from a tumble dryer. The material is particularly malleable whilst damp, and it was clear that the time it requires to dry is very much based on the solution ratio of water to wallpaper paste.

For the next larger object, I think I will be better creating a solution with the dry style wallpaper paste and mixing it completely with water together with the paper and lint in one action. The current method I have been using is to use pre-mixed wallpaper paste and I found that this is perhaps too thick and sticky to mix with the paper on its own.


By using the chicken wire with a fine mesh of 15 mm hexagon, my conclusion is that I will continue to use this as a substrate for the base of the larger model, and I will create a frame made from wooden batons in order to fix the larger wire "scaffolding" to the wood.

The first coat of papier-mache, needed to cover this initial "skeleton", needs to be applied with quite large pieces or strips of paper, measuring approximately 1" x 6".  This creates the initial surface onto which a finer grade of papier-mache (made from shredded confidential waste paper) can then be applied.

I'm happy with the process so far as I think that the method I'm using is quite robust and capable of being adapted to create a much larger work, some three or four times as big as my original maquette I have created here. When making the larger version and using the dried form of wallpaper paste I will ensure that the rear fixings to the sculpture are pre-attached to the wooden frame prior to continuing to fabricate the wire mesh on top.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Life Drawing, - Tonality & form, using Conte Crayon / Chalk

The start-up session today consisted again of creating four quick 2 minute poses, to create various sketches using Conte' Crayon / Chalk pastels.

Having chosen three tonal variations of light, cool grey and dark brown, to provide the light, mid and dark shades, we proceeded with a number of poses lasting from 10 minutes to 30 minutes.  The principle exercise was arm's length drawing, but with a minimum of the line, and a maximum of 'form', to assist in the trident of Composition, Medium and Materiality.

To view the outcomes of this session, please visit the 'protected' web (parental guidance) site here >> Life Drawing


As I am also currently reading Nicholas Barriaud's Relational Aesthetics essays, Prof. Swindells, (our Life Drawing Tutor), suggested looking at the works of Clare Bishop, and her book,  Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (2012), (Paperback, published by Verso Books, London & New York;

Further research of Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity (Jul 2002), MIT Press, Massachusetts. - Useful reference for later reading.

Precarious Constructions (Barriaud)?? Found Precarious Visualisations only.  (Further research required.)

[Later research found additional reference details; -
CLAIRE BISHOP is Associate Professor of the History of Art department at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York. She is the author of Installation Art: A Critical History and editor of Participation. In 2008, she co-curated the exhibition 'Double Agent' at the ICA. She is a regular contributor to Artforum, October, Tate Etc, IDEA, and other international art magazines (Source, Amazon.co.uk, retrieved 23/02/2016).

Miwon Kwon is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Reflections on conversation with Phil Shaw, Thursday, 18 February 2016

After Phil's interesting lecture, outlining his own practice and how he moved from his training at Huddersfield to become an international artist in his own right, I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Phil, discussing my own work.

The current state of work I was able to show him, was the realisation of a small maquette of the fragment of the garden gnome, which had been enlarged to create a scale some 70 or 80 times as large as the original fragment. I explained the importance of the original dialogue I had, with respect to "things left behind" and the notion that these were not necessarily found objects, in fact the enquiry is about lost objects, and the notion of loss and how it affects individuals in particular.

My current studio space and current state of practice
I am not sure if my explanation of my position was perhaps a little too didactic, as the complexity of the works, especially the whole of the body of works, is not necessarily rooted in metaphor, -something that I think Phil may have misunderstood. It is clear from Phil's own works that he does use metaphor significantly, and he pointed out that only tends to have one or two metaphors within the work at most.


  • What I'm trying to create with my own work is on many more levels, in order for the viewer to find their own meaning, and it is not for me to create it just through metaphors. - Perhaps the ideas of semiology and contemporary philosophy may not have been as matured whilst Phil was looking for thematic inspiration for his work, as they are today; I therefore need to treat any critique positively where I can, but also with caution, and develop my own conclusions within my own oeuvre.
  • Nevertheless, the conversation I found extremely encouraging, and Phil was kind enough to provide some reference sources for me, in the form of "the Wordsworth library" and the book "Fowlers English usage"; both of these I need to research for my own general understanding and engagement.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Theory for Contemporary Art Practice, lecture by Lee Corner and Dr Graham Lister.

This lecture was opened with a practical example of lateral thinking, by Lee corner, who described a story of a businessman returning home after many weeks away, and wishing to give his wife a small present of's four small links of gold chain.
The businessman's wife was very grateful for the receipt of these four small links of chain but decided to take them to a jeweller, in order for them to be made into one single length and hence one loop, of a necklace. The jeweller said that he would charge £10 for the job, plus an additional cost of £2.50 per each break and join of a link, so in order to make the four chains into one continuous length, he would charge £20 overall.

The woman (being the wife of a smart businessman, and a smart person in her own right), said that this should only cost her £17.50, and not the £20.00 he was asking, based on his own calculations!
The group was asked how this might be possible. I would challenge you the reader, to also think carefully how this could be achieved. The answer will be provided at the bottom of this blog.

The Experience Economy,

Dr Graham Lister then provided an overview of the second assignment within this module, and suggested that it may be possible to bring in an idea to demonstrate "The Experience Economy" through the assignment, and this would be a good exercise to include in your response.

The Experience Economy revolves around the idea that any service or product will increase its value when it is conjoined with an added or heightened experience. In other words, the customer or consumer is getting something more (in terms of value, from an experience) for their money.

My own explanation was also provided to the group with a sketch showing an intertwined double helix type of relationship between commoditization (of the product or service), coupled with a customization (based on cultural demand), which both advance as time progresses.

Example, Evolution of the coffee market...

(... From basic production of commoditized coffee beans through to (full circle), ethical coffee production and profits for the growers...)

Various other examples were provided by the students that outlined examples of how they had encountered the experience economy, in the form of advertising and marketing aids, and also themed shopping experiences, such as those witnessed at ice cream parlours, coffee shops, and at the other extreme car showrooms.

The Artist's Code;

The next portion of the lecture was provided by Lee Corner, concerning her work which started many years ago, to develop a uniform and countrywide understanding for both artists and commissioners known as a code of practice.

"The Code", was a booklet published originally by the Artists News Association, and was the culmination of various attempts to make a "Union" of artists. Within this booklet, (an example was passed around, which showed on one face, the rules and codes of practice for artists; and on the obverse face, the rules and codes of practice for commissioners. On closer examination of the booklet, both these sets of rules were exactly the same and intention, therefore, that a mutual understanding of the codes of practice was vital for it to work).

The National Artists Association was set up in the 1980s. A variety of points of contention and discussion were raised at the time for the artists, but there was little point in trying to get "others" to behave in a particular way. A reciprocal deal was what was needed. "The Code" was a booklet that could be given to the recipient, either that being an artist or a commissioner or buyer, where a mutually beneficial and professional engagement was the core intent.

"The Code" is now printed by the artists information company (a-n) group.

The underlying principle that helps best practice is identified as;
  • Contribute Confidently (be confident in what you offer)
  • Prepare Thoroughly
  • Aim High


The ethos of good business is reciprocity, combined with good reputation management by all parties.

So, have you thought how to solve the riddle of making the four chain lengths into one continuous chain loop by only splitting three links yet?

Well, by effectively destroying a 'sacrificial' length, you can split each of its own three links, then use them to join up the three remaining lengths into one continuous loop...

Friday, 19 February 2016

Guest Lecture, Peter O'Toole, Illustrator, University of Huddersfield, 18/02/2016

A lecture by visiting practising illustrator and artist based in Huddersfield, Peter O'Toole.

Peter was a student at the University of Huddersfield and graduated in 2006.  He originally created a number of magazines whilst at University and the successful publication of these online, helped him to broaden his experience and go on to get jobs. He explained the need for experience, in order to get future work; and yet there is a Catch-22 syndrome which applies where it is not possible to get a job, - without experience. The original magazines created at University were digital, and were further legitimised by others joining the editorial team that were based outside the University, and in fact throughout the rest of the world.

The background that Peter O'Toole articulated as his early beginnings, was hard as an illustrator. Working originally with music 'Rappers' from the United States he was able to get to interview them, and put both the interviews and also his own unique artwork into the magazines that he was creating. This provided excellent publicity for his artworks but also helped him to develop interview techniques too.

Following from University he launched, together with a fellow student and commercial partner, the company "Fresh Kids", also based in Huddersfield. The music events that he described, and subsequently publicised, started to get very popular. He later moved with his partner in business to the "Bates Mill" complex in Huddersfield which has provided a base in the nearby locality since 2010, but they decided to go it alone after the  move.

At this time he then became a freelance illustrator, -
Peter explained that he felt that the "all or nothing" approach to taking on work has been the best way for him to take on business and increase his market share in the particular field which he is interested in. He was keen to point out that sometimes, it may take three or four years of time to pass, from that when the original contacts that he made at one level, turn into positive fee paying leads, and come back to make a meaningful commercial engagement that he can take forward to create artwork and illustrations with.

Going back immediately to the launch of the business with his partner in "Fresh Kids", he described how they set up a glossy brochure, at quite a large expense, based on all the 'selected best parts' of the previous work that they had done whilst at University. This was printed at a very expensive rate, however once this hard-copy glossy was able to be seen by potential customers, the work started to pour in.

At this time also, he was conscious that the creation of flyers, helped to establish a foothold of his image as an artist and illustrator independently.

Peter explained that it is all about the effort that you put in to work, that is directly proportional to how you get work given to you later. In other words you only get the work depending on how much effort you put into it in the first place!

Peter seemed to target specific clients very well, rather than assume they would just come, or let clients approach him directly!

In the case of the brand Adidas, securing this account was a real milestone for him, but there are many others that are less known, like perhaps Addict Clothing for instance, or Computer Arts, and Microdot.

Much of the original network of contacts for these accounts he made originally at University, and some individuals have gone on to become top company illustrators working in the United States, et cetera. - Peter explained the importance to keep in touch with them as much as possible, by various contact channels such as simple ones, like sending a birthday card, or sending a Christmas card, et cetera.

By taking a chance, going for random jobs, etc, but also, even jobs that you may not think will go to press, these help to establish you as an individual.
An example of this might be Durex, who paid Peter £400 for two days work which never actually came off and not printed; but nevertheless, he was fully paid for it, and so this brand appears on his customer list!

Peter also has an agent that helped him to get work, especially useful in the United States. See the website www.Shannonassociates.com/portfolio/artist/Peter OToole.

By setting up a self initiated piece of work on Instagram, a painting of a bookshelf of illustrated training shoes, this was spotted by an Adidas rep. and as a result he now gets regular work from that brand. He was able to turn certain works out in response within a few days, which makes it particularly useful and interesting for large brand businesses.
- This is in contrast to perhaps the turnaround time of an "fine artist" who may take a couple of weeks or even months in order to turn the commission around and so the type of business that they work towards is very different.

Often, particularly with fashion brands, it may take a year or so the stuff to be published. So secrecy is absolutely vital when working with these accounts.
For example, when Adidas created a book based upon a particular collector of their shoes (based in Germany), the person called 'Quotes Collection', (who not only collected the Adidas branded shoes but also retained a huge amount of information about the trainers for the past few decades); Peter and Quotes worked on this collaborative venture together for over a year and as a subsequent result, Adidas published the book with both the collectors trainers and Peter's illustrations within it.

Another recent really successful piece of work, is the Clarks' Footwear brand, and their 'Desert Boot' poster which he illustrated for them for national release. Peter describes this as a great piece of work.

With regards to getting agencies, it is usual for the agency to approach you as an independent illustrator, rather than the other way around. So you have to keep producing drawings illustrations and paintings, and post only the quality items that you are particularly happy with, to your website.

In any event, if an agency does approach you, do not sign an exclusivity agreement under any circumstances; - Especially important, if you already have your own customers and an existing sales channel to them.

Peter underlined the importance of keeping an updated portfolio and web presence all of the time. This is vital.

Furthermore he reminded the group never to undersell yourselves, because it is the value of the artwork that is important to the customer, not necessarily your time that you have put into creating it. Therefore pricing should be based exclusively on value as to where the artwork will be used in a commercial sense.

Peter underlined again the importance of having self initiated projects which keep up your own passion for illustration, and also keep you illustrating different things that you come across in daily life. This also assists with diversity in your work, which is essential too.

Your ability to adapt styles and themes is just as important as your own inherent skills of recording and drawing.

Your own portfolio must demonstrate all the different styles and genres in order to be able to engage with any work from approach prospective client.

Your website is effectively your shop window. As such, you should put all of your work into some sort of portfolio of this nature. Never put junk on social media or your website. It is a fine line that needs to be trodden, but whatever you put into the public domain has to be professional and it must be current!. If you haven't uploaded anything for a few months then it is unlikely that you will get any hits from agency staff or prospective clients looking for illustrators. With regards to social media, try to keep people guessing a little bit and keep them at arm's length with regards to what you are planning to do. For example "something is about to happen at such and such a place" is far better than telling potential clients that something has already happened. It provides a hook and an alumina to keep people interested in going back to visit your site again and again.

If you do use social media put photographs up that inspire you and those that may inspire others. Choose what is relevant. If it is personal, then it has to be professional too. An example of Peter's flyer was provided which was a postcard sized perforated set of a series of 10 or so fold out contact illustrations.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Visiting Lecturer, Phil Shaw, (and Artist's review), University of Huddersfield, Thursday 18th Feb. 2016.

At our weekly briefing today, we were joined by a locally born contemporary artist and illustrator, Phil Shaw, (see http://www.philshawonline.com/) born in 1950 and educated at the Rawthorpe Secondary School, Huddersfield. He later went on to study art at the Huddersfield Art School and left there in 1969. In 1974, he attended Leeds Art College and was highly influenced by fellow student Geoff Teasdale.
In 1976, in his third year at Leeds Art College, he entered a competition in Manchester with the works, "let me out number one". This was an example which set the theme and style for his oeuvre for the next few years.
In 1977, he was lucky to be selected to attend the Royal College of Art, in London. At this phase in his life his whole 'ethos' was to get to London by whatever means, and eventually studied printmaking at the RCA, something that he had never done before, but because the course was available at the RCA he was able to engage in a completely new experience for him, through this learning exercise.

The principle of his work at this stage and continues to be what he describes as 'optical conundrums', - a second thought; investigating random things, random events, but with the twist that these random events happened twice.

He has based many series of paintings and sculptures on the ideas of optical conundrums, such as a painting of a window, with multiple panes of glass in an old-fashioned leaded pane style, where the glass of a couple of panes has been broken in exactly the same pattern as that next to it.

Phil was married to illustrator Chloe Cheese for many years, and also continued to play music in a band as a drummer.

"The Monkey Speaks his Mind" was a series of works that was based upon the "March of Progress", - this was a famous drawing which depicts the evolution of man that originally appeared in the U.S. published "Time" magazine,  in 1965 entitled "the march of progress".

 {Further research; The illustration was commissioned by Time-Life Books for the Early Man volume (1965) of its popular Life Nature Library. This book, authored by anthropologist F. Clark Howell (1925–2007) and the Time-Life editors, included a foldout section of text and images (pages 41–45) entitled "The Road to Homo Sapiens", prominently featuring the sequence of figures drawn by natural history painter and muralist Rudolph Zallinger (1919–1995), [Source, Wikipedia, //https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_of_Progress, accessed 19/02/2016]}.

He has also done other similar series such as "the Venus series"; "the Sphinx series".
He has also tried to explore the ideas of chance, such as in "the dice series".

Whilst lecturing at the Middlesex College of art he turned his attention to the extraction of colour from plants as dyes, known as "Phytochromatography" and as an extension to this he created a piece of works called "the Ink Garden" which was based on a set of CMYK inks as part of his Ph.D. studies that he went on to address. This was based on work from ancient times where plants had been used as various inks and dyes rather than pigments and used the following plants.

  • Blue -indigo
  • yellow -buckthorn.
  • Magenta -madder.
  • Black -a mixture between log bark and a small amount of iron.

He was able to recreate these dyes and apply them to a new screen printing process ink.

His ideas often play with words in miss-articulated circumstances, for example, "the Lust of the Mohicans", rather than the original book title "the last of the Mohicans".

"Fear Itself", (2011) Phil Shaw. 
Eight Colour Pigment Based Archival Print on Hahnemuhle Paper
51 x 117cms
edition of 45

What he is trying to achieve is what he terms as "a smile in the mind".
Other examples might include

  • As I laid drying.
  • The hatchback of Notre Dame.
  • Look black in anger.
  • The gland that time forgot.
  • Create expectations.
  • The Compleat Dangler  (one of my favourites!).

He calls all of these "friction/fiction" which are books or paintings of books arranged on bookshelves with similar daft titles.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Relational Aesthetics, - Thinking about the graduate show (approximately 12 weeks to go)!

Nicholas Bourriaud wrote in his book "Relational Aesthetics" (English translation 2002) published by Les Presses du Reel, Paris, he discusses how artistic activity "is a game whose forms, patterns and functions develop and evolve according to periods and social contexts; it is not an immutable essence." I have taken from this quotation the complete aspect that Prof Swindell's has regularly reminded us, in that nowadays, artistic practice, in itself is a performance.

Whilst Bourriaud's book explores the notion that art is no longer revolving around an aesthetic judgement, but has entered a modern political arena, which, like Walter Benjamin famously stated, (back in the 1940s in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction), suggests that Modern Art (as it was then), was looking to suggest not only politics but further modern rationalism;  However, in this new Millenium, it is now exploring, (just as politics still does), new models of social cultural and philosophical paradigms.

There is also the discussion that artworks now perform a function as a social interstice, and what is meant by that is the theory that human interactions, whilst located in our everyday existence and social transactions, instead of the former hypothesis that art provided a semiotic engagement unique with each individual viewer.


  • Relational Aesthetics (the book) needs to be explored and digested in much more detail and I will review Bourriaud's writings critically in plenty of time before my main exhibition.
  • I will, therefore, set time aside to study this over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Life Drawing, - General Practice, Charcoal & Marker Pen

My usual warm-up session today of creating four or five quick sketches was a bit hit and miss... So we did a mixed "round-robin" approach, where each student made a 3-minute sketch of the model, then moved to the next left adjacent easel to sketch the next pose....

I found it interesting that the composition of the sketches changed so much with this method, nevertheless, it provided a good result!

To view the outcomes of this session, please visit the protected site here >> Life Drawing

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Reflections upon a week engaged in making, - and Walter Benjamin.

Having already decided through a series of drawings of the fragment I have chosen, from the face of the garden gnome, I was lucky enough to have a tutorial again with Dr Dale Holmes.

I described how I was able to create a mesh foundation for my artefact, by using chicken wire, together with a hamster's plastic exercise ball, to provide a perfect half sphere shape in order to mould the cheeks and cheekbones of my garden gnome. Dr Holmes was able to suggest that I looked at the film "Guardians of the Galaxy", written by James Dunn & Nicole Perlman, (© Disney © Disney•Pixar © & ™ Lucasfilm LTD © Marvel, 2014), in which he was reminded of the central theme of part of the film in which the protagonists are effectively mining artefacts from the fragments of ancient beings.

Dr Holmes was also interested in the image as I was, in that its movement from a horizontal to vertical plane would change it from what can be seen as a democratic, (in the horizontal plane) to a totalitarian (in the vertical plane) form if it were to be transferred from its current state lying upon the table, to be hung on the wall. This is a direct reference from the works of Walter Benjamin and his book  "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936).

I decided that this would be a good source of information to review during my weekend, and so the following summaries and conclusions have been taken from this great reference document.
The document starts with a quotation "the conquest of ubiquity" by Paul Valery, which in essence, suggests our understanding and treatment of art must change as our cultures change at any point in time, as each is contemporaneous, and our practices and abilities at any point in time, together with the technology of is such changes with it.

Much of the discussion is immersed in the 1930s cultural arguments of Marxism, which I assume provides contrast to the emerging fascism of Germany, and the capitalism emerging in the West. Whilst for a history student, this provides an interesting hypothesis in its own right, this preface is really a kind of introduction to the rest of the paper, which is really concerned with how we appreciate art in the modern age, and by modern all the inferences of modernism can be understood through it.
The work also discusses how art has been ultimately about representation, and that representation follows a mimetic engagement. The various means of human endeavours to recreate the same image, whether this is through creating a sculpture in the mould, creating bronze or plaster representations, together with the use of wood blocks and engraving, then the emergence of copperplate etching and lithography turning into the, again mimetic ideals of photography, shows that this underlying need to copy and represent the things that surround us is not just a modern endeavour at all, but has been a fundamental drive in the various types of production of artworks over the last 2000 years.
Within this, the idea of copying and authenticity starts to emerge. Benjamin talks in terms of "even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be". By doing this, he highlights the important point that the original, whatever it is, is totally separate in existence as that of a copy. However, when a copy is made, it is as though something of value is taken away from the original.

The original has its own "aura", an interesting word in itself, particularly now, in our multiracial and cosmopolitan view of the world, because I am given to understand that in Arabic, the word "awrah" refers to our "private parts". When Muslim women, for instance, cover their faces with a veil, they are covering their awrah, the oft' misunderstanding by Westerners who do not appreciate the privacy of 'awrah' seems almost obvious.

This idea, that when something is gazed upon, (which 'holds' its own aura), can be extended to something I came across during some of my earlier world travels. - In some countries, it was very much frowned upon, especially by older women (as in the more remote parts of Greece, Turkey and even in Italy when I travelled there too), to take a photograph of them in any way.  They felt that something would be 'taken' from them.  Is this the same sense of 'part' of their aura being taken away, I wonder?  If there is a commonality here, it may explain a lot, and I now more fully respect and sympathise with the Muslim customs, and also with the other beliefs of privacy, as discussed.


And back to the point.
As our culture develops, Benjamin points out that our own perception is changed, "not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well".
- This in itself, when combined with the observation of the word aura and perhaps it's entomology and "awrah" can account for many things of misunderstandings between East and West...?

I wonder if anyone else may have considered this link between "aura" and the Arabic word "awrah" before?...  This seems an interesting point to explore, even if it may be a diversion or red-herring... It's still worth pursuing, even if it is only to eliminate it

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Guest Lecture - Chris Dobrawolksi - Contemporary Artist.

Chris Dobrowolski provided an interesting and stimulating seminar which articulated a number of his works in an amusing and engaging encounter.

He has exhibited at the Royal College of art and the Ferens Art Gallery in London, having been on a journey of contemporary art which combines both the kinetic and traditional forms, such as his exhibition piece of various seascapes painted on the inside of a chicken's egg.

I particularly liked his opening comments regarding the story of an anecdote, and Kandinsky's comment, when asked 'What is fine art?' ...
In fact Kandinsky was asked "What is the difference between a Kandinsky painting and a piece of wallpaper?"
To this enquiry Kandinsky replied "An inner need"...

Chris Dobrowolski effectively provides a presentation of his art through series of lectures such as this one. He talks about the now famous amateur photographer and filmmaker, Abraham Zapruder (1905 - 1970),And his film which he shot on a super eight camera which witnesses the assassination of JFK and Eddie in Dallas Texas, in November 1963. (Interestingly this film was not released until 1975!). The amateur reportage style, with a shaky camera and grainy picture, with crash editing between shots is now generally recognised as a new genre of film production and editing now known as "Zapruder-esque".

Chris Dobrowolski discussed his early experiences at the University of Hull, and his attempts as he puts it, to escape art college. His first plan was based as a result of him making a series of small sailboats, approximately 8 inches long and 12 to 18 inches high,-the type you might have once made as a child, and the filming of the launch of these toy sailboats, around eight in all, which together with a small label on each of them stating the details of the owner, were launched into the River Humber and filmed, together with his degree buddies.

Chris then went on to explain how the rest of his time at university was taken up building a much bigger boat in order to escape this school. His escapades and adventures as to what happens next, as he attempted to sail this home-made boat down the Humber makes particularly amusing dialogue. All the more he managed to record most of this onto the small tape recorder, which together with the super eight film recorder would provide potential future evidence of the launch, in a way that Chris described as a serial civil aviation authority "flight recorder".

His subsequent to negotiation of the shipping lanes of the River Humber estuary as it flows into the North Sea, together with the images recorded on the super 8 film, becomes a hilarious commentary, as a huge navigation boy comes into collision course, before finally hitting it, and then being rescued by a tugboat, and then the eventual reprimand through public humiliation in the Humber and Hull evening Post from what was then the commander of the river and port authorities.

In his next project to escape from art school, entitled "Escape Plan Number Two", he describes his attempts to make a go-kart, sometimes known as a bogey, or a trolley, which was pedal powered, and in which he travelled to spurn head at the end of the Humber estuary. He describes his art as "visual philosophy" which I found particularly accurate and this also helps to explain why contemporary art in his mind, and also in the mind of many many others, is such a "grey" area. He likes to continue on the face of it, the idea that art is a kind of farce, (which he believes of course it is!), And yet he takes his works, and the recording of them very seriously indeed.

Once he left art college, he was then able to embark on building other interesting juxtapositions of art and mechanical or kinetic things. For example he made an army tank, but with a little added twist of using second-hand paintings of mass produced versions of Constable's The Hay Wain ...
ArtistJohn Constable
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions130 cm × 185 cm (51.2 in × 72.8 in)
LocationNational Gallery, London
And finally he goes on to describe, in what I think is an amazing venture, the rebuilding of "The Flying Flea".

The book by Henri Mignet, "The Flying Flea; how to build your own aeroplane" (1932), was actually banned for sale in the United Kingdom, after some 13 people, either died or had serious injuries as a consequence of trying to follow this Frenchman's rather absurd idea, that any amateur model builder could create their own aircraft. Unfortunately Chris Dobrowolski was not made aware of this ban, when he found the book. He therefore started to follow its instructions to the letter and is a little twist of irony, decided to use the pages from the book in order to cover the wing sections of the aircraft in paper. The book of course being ready source of paper for that event.

Thankfully, what Chris did, was get in touch with the "Flying Flea Club", and it was at this point, after much of the building had already been completed, that he found out that the aircraft, as designed by the original aviator, had effectively been banned. By good fortune though, he was also able to find an aviation designer who had in fact redesigned various sections of the double wing combination, and his highly amusing, yet of course serious, engagement with both the flying flea club, one of whom happened to actually own their own aerodrome on which he was able to practice jumps and hops of the aircraft while testing it, provided a very entertaining angle of creativity in the form of contemporary fine art.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Life Drawing; - Development is good!

Thouroughly enjoying these session, but to conform with protocol, I need to censor these through a separate blog that can be found here...


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Linguistic Turn, (part 2), via the on-going Book Review of "Rethinking Art" (2008) by Steve Shipps Part 5b

Because our various languages throughout the globe have been with us for many years, the accumulated precedents have separated into their various linguistic classifications such as English, Spanish, French, Italian, (mostly from Latin) or Arabic (from Hebrew / Sanskrit & so on) and so on.

These are our formal languages, but there are many informal languages, still very much based on a mutually agreed and, therefore, understood, set of rules within a specific or particular community. In fact by analysing these small (or perhaps a better phrase might be eclectic) communities, special signs can be found that are unique to it, together with the rules in which those signs are used.

Shipps also points out that the difference between these formal and informal languages, which is manifest in the fact that the formal ones must have adherence to an agreed syntax and order of each sign in their relationships with one another, in order, to be understood. He also points out that it is possible for a language to describe itself, through the correct use of it, and the term he uses for this is "reflexive".

In contrast to this, Shipps outlines that the informal languages tend to use signs that we perceive as being "descriptive". He also explains that the rules of grammar and syntax in informal languages are much less important to be followed, as the descriptive inference of the signs provide a certain level of understanding of themselves.

He uses a classic example of "fashion" and the way that we dress ourselves to conform to a certain symbolic or'linguistically' accepted convention, or signs, which, in particular environments or communities, or just groups of people, can be understood by one another to show that the wearer of such clothes, has a particular status or identity within such an environment. For example, a bank manager tends to wear a suit and tie. It's likely that he will also drive a more expensive car or automobile, which in itself is a kind of fashion accessory and status symbol. This language or symbology can be exemplified if, as a potential bank customer was to be waiting for an important meeting to collect a loan, but the bank manager drives up to his place of work in a dustbin lorry wearing a T-shirt and Hawaiian pants, with flip-flops, unshaven and unclean. It's likely that the potential customer would be extremely confused and unlikely to proceed with any loan or perhaps even use the services of that bank again!

So fashion is in itself, a kind of language which has systems of various significations, which in a particular community there is an adherence to a certain conventionality.  It should be pointed out, though, that just as in a formal language, informal language must share itself within a group of people who mutually agree to the conventions of it. Likewise, when the signs of a informal language are isolated from others in which it usually resides (and here I can draw on my own experience in computing, where a series of specific words, sometimes known in programming 'languages' as classes), - if isolated in itself whilst it may describe something inherent to it, it does not necessarily make sense on its own.

Nevertheless, when the right informal linguistic signs are observed within the right context, or the environment, or what one could describe as 'culture', they do make sense. Take for instance an example of English football culture, where supporters might don themselves in particular scarves, tee-shirts and hats with a uniform combination of colours, to signify collectively, support for the football team that they wish to encourage; when these garments are worn on a Saturday afternoon in the United Kingdom, everybody knows pretty much what it means, and those signs are readily understood.

The swiss linguistics professor, Ferdinand Saussure recognised this in 1916 and went on to point out the infinitely complex linguistic systems that human beings are immersed within, as a culture.

Saussure went on to propose that everything that we do as humans is understood by us through a series of signs and "infinitely intertwined systems of linguistic relationships". Everything that we do, therefore, we think about in linguistic terms.
Steve Shipps makes the three propositions

  1. that language is something we used to describe our world;
  2. a language is a description of the world; 
  3. language, therefore, is our world.

How we as humans describe our world, provides us with our own unique sense of reality. For example, my reality of the world around me is limited to how I can describe it linguistically through English. However for an Eskimo (now more correctly called the Inuit), they can describe their world or reality, in a much richer and deeper perceptual explanation, particularly when it comes to the idea of "snow" because they have so many more words (or signifiers) for the various types of snow, than English does. An Inuit experience of snow, would, therefore, be different from my experience of it. Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf in the early 1930s recognised that our experience is therefore limited by our linguistic description of it. They came up in perhaps typical American way with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which suggests that if a language does not have a specific word to describe a particular thing, then the speakers of that language cannot experience it as such. Whilst this might be considered rather extreme, current day proponents of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis have modified it slightly by saying that "the way that we describe a thing determine how we experience it to a large degree".

As an example, which I have Anglicised from the American version by Steve Shipps, if one was to be handed a cricket ball, it might be possible to feel that the leather and the stitching of the palm-sized red sphere that has been presented, and one may be able to describe it as a cricket ball, but unless you have been immersed in a culture in which you experienced the whole game of cricket together with the associated memories of sitting on wooden benches on hot summer days, with the smell of beer and mown grass, together with an understanding of what a googly is. If you handed a cricket ball to an Amazonian Indian, he might recognise the red pigment and draw a similarity to the red pigment used in his face, but it is more likely that he would use the palm-sized sphere as a weapon to stun a peccary or knock an Amazonian grey parrot off its perch. My perception and his perception of the object would, therefore, have completely different potential experiences of it. Language, therefore, is our reality as we understand it.

However, Shipps also points out again, that our descriptions of our world, in essence, our reality, therefore, seem to conform to conventions, as expectations. If we detract from those expectations when describing something, or explaining something, the listener can quickly become confused and not understand an intended meaning.


To summarise, if we remind ourselves of the work by Ferdinand Saussure, that everything is a sign, but these signs only function as such when they are correctly used in a precedented order, which we know as a language. In isolation, a sign needs to have a signifier, and one without the other may be considered meaningless.

  • Signs, therefore, have to have a context in order to function.
  • Therefore, meaning is relative and lies within the context in which a sign is perceived.
  • Because we look, therefore, within an environment, culture, or context a sign helps us to establish meaning, through its conventionality and generally accepted precedents and usage.

Therefore in this case, Shipps points out that meaning is not something that we find in our reality or sense of the world, but draws upon this important distinction that "meaning is something that we make of our experience of that world" (page 92) and meaning is gained, we make sense of it through the correct arrangement and manipulation of the signs and hence our ideas, based on our experience having lived through all the complex witnessing of the various relationships of the signs that we perceive.

So to conclude, to find a meaning for art, as Steve Shipps has put it, is arguably misguided; and what in fact, we should be doing, rather than trying to find a meaning, is to make our own meaning, based on our own unique experiential perceptions of the signs and signifiers, of any piece of art.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Linguistic Turn... via an on-going Book Review - "Rethinking Art" (2008) by Steve Shipps - Part 5a

The dawn of the post-modern era started in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the realisation that art was "just an idea" was first considered. The domination of modernism over the past 60 to 70 years began to be replaced with an alternative view of an expressive form.
There was a kind of disorientation.
Traditional craftsmanship began to emerge again with photorealistic paintings and those categories of art considered as outsider art were beginning to gain ground amongst the high art elite establishment, but also, Street Art or Graffiti was also gaining a place.
Another area of art which was also gaining ground was the idea of appropriation, and this can be seen in the likes of paintings such as the Mona Lisa being copied and then adorned with graffiti-esque style moustaches and beards and so on.
It was as though there was a kind of anarchy and chaos being developed against traditional art on the one side, but also the establishment and the elite on the other.
Steve Shipps points out that post-modernism can be explained through three separate overarching elements of it. He describes this as an ethos.

  • The first of these is that all art is, particularly in post-modern terms, "it's all language" and linguistic. Virtually the whole of human experience is, of course, linguistic. 
  • The second point that Shipps makes is that any discussion about post-modern culture equally is linguistic and so, therefore, it becomes a commentary on what is actually happening within a culture, whilst at the same time being a culture in itself and related to everything around it linguistically. 
  • And then finally, the third point that Shipps makes is that any human product, whatever it may be, can be considered as "art". 

In other words, anything goes and anything that embodies an idea can be considered as "art". A critical point, though, that Shipps also makes is that it "can be" art, so whilst it's an obvious statement to make, in post-modernism object, any human created product, can be or could be art, but not everything is.... It's a question of validity, as mentioned already with the citing of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, - the ready-made urinal.

So with this background and the move to post-modernism, and the view that the world as a whole is considered in linguistic terms through signs and symbols, coupled with the fact that art now is just an idea, Ships asks the question what actually is that idea?.

Shipps in my opinion, correctly argues that many suggest that art is dead, but clearly it is not. It still goes on and people practice it as they always have, throughout our human existence. What he drives at, though, is that the unit word "art" is, arguably, somewhat meaningless, because to describe 'what is art' and 'what is not art' is highly subjective, I would argue, contemplative too.

It is here that Steve Shipps uses a linguistic device in chapter 5, by setting aside the discussion of what the word "Art" is, through his book so far, and turning to an alternative, "right-field" subject in order to compare the understanding of what "Art" means in modern terms.

Here's my interpretation based on Shipp's book...

A language is a communication system. Within it (a language), it uses a system of rules known as grammar together with punctuation, where the words, (i.e. the signs), are used in a specific order that is mutually understood by all those who use the same language, which is known as syntax. Shipps suggests that we should consider all words as signs because they are signifiers. The words have significance. Arguably these signs could be anything at all, but when arranged in a particular order (grammar and syntax) and punctuated with other certain signs to facilitate comprehension, anybody (or thing such as this computer that I'm dictating to), which also has mutually recorded the pre-understood corresponding sound waves, can understand, to some extent, the language being spoken (or read).

However, anybody outside that circle of the 'mutually connected, same language group', who does not know the signs nor significance, of that particular language, would not understand any dialogue or narrative taking place. This mutually defined agreement or convention resides within a community. If you use the signs or words in the wrong order, without the right grammar or syntax, or without the right punctuation marks, or pauses and inflexions of speech, it becomes very difficult to communicate.

It is also worth pointing out that Shipps makes the distinction that these words and signs are adapted slowly, through precedents and also by what he calls "accumulated precedent". (Cited from the book reference "After Babel; Aspects of Language and Translation" by George Steiner. Oxford University press 1998 (page 40)).

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Research - The Affective Turn...

In persuing my own studies of Affect, and my notion of how I may be able to create a sense of it through my practice, I came across an article written by a reviewer of the book "The Affective Turn" (2007), by Patricia Clough.

The review I feel is important toconsider and close to my own work that I have repeated it here!  All credit goes to Micheal H. Ducey, for the initial review... I have removed some of the more emotive and personal phrases though, and added both the original Author's and the reviewer's name to aid reading.

By Michael H. Ducey - Published on Amazon.com
In The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Patricia Clough

Clough's explanation of affect is "pre-individual bodily forces, linked to autonomic responses, which augment or diminish a body's capacity to act or engage with others." This definition in turn is part an intellectual trend that "seeks an engagement with information" and departs from "a privileging of the organic body to an exploration of non-organic life; and from the presumption of equilibrium-seeking closed systems to an engagement with the complexity of open systems under far-from-equilibrium conditions." And it takes the position that such a movement and departure "is necessary to theorizing the social."

Regarding "affect":
1) What is "pre-individual"? What does that mean? Does it mean pre-existing the actual individual psyche, with its individual ideas and dispositions? If that is so, then the body itself is "pre-individual". All human beings have the same general equipment, organs, limbs, cells, etc. So, the "organic body" itself is pre-individual, and to label "affect" as that does not do anything to take it out of the realm of the organic body. Furthermore, all the forces of social interaction that socialize the self are "pre-individual".

2) Clough explains that "affect" is composed of "bodily forces linked to autonomic processes". - Ducey heartily agree with this, but how is this not a privileging of the organic body? Rudimentary socialization theory teaches us that unless the collective dispositions of the social group are brought to reside in the organic body of a particular individual, the individual is not moved by them.

3). The term "non-organic life" is a confused projection. Just as there is no such thing as artificial intelligence (with its capacity for originality and creativity), but only extremely fast mechanical processes that mimic certain features of intelligence, so there is no such thing as non-organic life. [...]   The term "life" implies an autonomous self-generating capacity, a trait that no non-organic substance possesses.

4). Privileging the organic body does not presume "an equilibrium-seeking closed system". Rather it presumes an equilibrium-seeking open system, which is indeed engaged with the whole material world in a far-from-equilibrium situation. This dynamic tension between equilibrium-seeking and the openness of our material condition has been of the essence of human experience since the dawn of consciousness. [...]. The inorganic has always had the capacity to massively affect the organic body. [Spinoza]  ...

So "affect" is correctly understood as a completely individual set of predispositions to action and feeling, installed in the organic body by the familiar processes of social interaction.

So, it is [contentious] not to privilege the organic body. And this is a very specific form, [that Ducey refers to as "insanity".  I think that is rather archaic and an unhelpfully emotive]   Clinically it is called "dissociation".

Dissociation in Derrida;
Clough is a devoted disciple of Jacques Derrida. She made this clear in her twice-published The Ends of Ethnography.

Ducey says... "I have discussed Derrida's epistemology at length in my article "Dealing With Derrida", which you can find on the Radical Academy web site. [...]. Those who want to wade through the whole transition from Husserl to Derrida might find it helpful. But for our purposes here the crux of the matter can be stated briefly.

The cornerstone of Derrida's whole philosophical system is his claim that iterability (repetition) is an 'a priori' condition of knowing, and therefore it destroys the unity and purity of the primordial act of knowing. This claim anchors all of his early work. And if this is true, then his system holds. If it is not true, then his system falls apart completely.

So we must note that iterability is not an 'a priori' condition of knowing, it is in fact an 'a posteriori' result of knowing, and every embodied knower knows this. An original presence-to-being (insight) occurs in time. Consequently it is repeatable. So, iterability is not "inside" phenomenological presence, it is extrinsic to it. This mistake is made all the more easy since both relationships are necessary. Once you get this, then all of Derrida's objections to realist epistemology collapse, and his whole philosophical system is reduced to imaginary [...].

So, repetition and re-presentation are necessary attributes of the self-same simple act, due to the fact that it is performed in time by an embodied entity. Thus they are not "inside" presence; they are outside it. The only way they could possibly be construed to be "inside" presence is by looking at the idea of presence and the idea of repetition rather than re-enacting their actual occurrence. This is a classic map vs. territory error. The map is [...] lacking in the sensory details of the territory. The map does not show the underbrush, the pot holes, the heat and dust and wind on the journey.

In order to include the materiality of phenomenological presence when studying it, one has to be in one's body. One has to have intimate access to all one's sensory apparatus. And, if one does not have that access, then one is dissociated. One retreats into one's head, and mistakes the map for the territory.

Dissociation and the body.
Dissociation refers to the coordination of mind and body in consciousness. The clinical literature identifies three "states of arousal" of mind-body:

1. Being awake (the social engagement state)
2. Hyper-arousal (emergency response state)
3. Hypo-arousal (shut-down)

[See Trauma and the Body, by Pat Ogden et al. (W.W.Norton, 2006), pp. 26-40.)]

A common expression to indicate dissociation is the phrase, "out-of-body experience" or "leaving the body". Such phrases refer to leaving the social engagement state and going into either emergency response or shut-down.

Ogden cites this description of the social engagement state:
The social engagement system has a control component in the cortex (i.e., upper motor neurons) that regulates brainstem nuclei (i.e., lower motor neurons) to control eyelid opening (e.g., looking), facial muscles (e.g., emotional expression), middle ear muscles (e.g., extracting human voice from background noise), muscle of mastication (e.g., ingestion), laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles (e.g., prosody) and head tilting and turning muscles (e.g., social gesture and orientation). (Porges, 2003b, p. 35)
And then adds, "Collectively, these components of the social engagement system enable rapid engagement and disengagement with the environment and in social relationships by regulating heart rate without mobilizing the sympathetic nervous system." (p. 30)

Ducey makes clear in his review that this is the key point... Only in this state do we have access to all our tools. We go into hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal either voluntarily or involuntarily to process special stimuli, and one criterion of emotional health is how much control we have over our shifts of arousal state. Hyper-arousal is governed by the sympathetic nervous system and in terms of biology is referred to as "fight-flight", [...]. Hypo-arousal is a relative decrease in heart rate and respiration and a decrease in exterior sensory awareness. A daydreaming poet is 'out of her body', i.e., voluntarily in hypo-arousal, and a completely freaked-out survivor of an automobile accident can also be out of their body, involuntarily, in dangerously deep hypo-arousal.

The Problem with Out-of-body Thinking.
Ducey then goes on to say.... "The problem with out-of-body thinking is that it cannot engage the material world realistically. Ideas rule. Bodies do not matter. Out-of-body thinking invariably loses all material reference points, and proceeds to handle the real (i.e., material) world without regard for material implications or consequences. 
[....]  When it turns to analytical endeavors, it falls into somatic illiteracy: the ignorance of the mechanisms by which our bodies function as a vehicle of communication and a platform for emotions, and tends to become dreamspeak: metaphorical, mysterious, spooky.

A key example from The Affective Turn will illustrate this. In her introduction Clough notes that "Grace M. Cho's essay, "Voices from the Teum: Synesthetic Trauma and the Ghosts of Korean Diaspora" is a performed movement from a psychoanalytic understanding of trauma to Deleuze's notion of `machinic assemblage.' Cho's essay focuses on the traumatic history of Korean women from Japanese colonization to the U.S. diaspora. She treats the diasporic body as an effect of a transgenerational haunting and as a composed machinic assemblage. Diasporic bodies, she proposes, carry a vision, a machinic vision, of what they did not see and what an earlier generation saw but could not say they saw. Cho shows the diasporic body as it acts out being haunted, repetitively and melancholically, in a constant movement toward the traumatic experience of an earlier generation, her mother's."

In other words, now that the collective amnesia about the Korean War has been lifted, the diasporic body manifests all the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. This manifestation is a possible beginning of healing, but it is far from the completion of healing. That only happens when the self recovers its access to the social engagement state of arousal, and has control of hyper-arousal and hypo-arousal.

The implicit presumption that "saying" is the only method of intergenerational communication is an example of somatic illiteracy. The older generation cannot perhaps verbally express what they saw, but they can communicate the effects of what they saw by pervasive parent-child communications signals. If you have disprivileged the body, you do not notice this.

There is another view of trauma that distinctly privileges the organic body, and studies the somatic foundations of trauma transmission and healing. It is shared by several schools of clinical trauma treatment, such as Gendlin's Focusing, Levine's Somatic Experiencing and Kurtz and Ogden's Hakomi. One practitioner who is working with tsunami survivors in India, makes this observation: "It doesn't matter what the treatment is as long as people are paying attention to the body and working with the nervous system directly to help bring back self-regulation. And the most self-regulating of all systems are the lower brain structures that govern life in the body." [Raja Selvam, Santa Barbara Graduate Institute]

So, for the organic body privilegers, trauma is a biological event, namely, an overwhelm of certain information-processing channels in the organic body. This is true for intergenerational trauma as well as the other forms. These clinicians access trauma imprints by a sensory process called "inner body sensing". When healing occurs, the self-regulation of the social engagement state of consciousness is restored.

Compare this with Clough's identification of trauma as "ghosted bodily matter". This is "bodily matter" that is actually disconnected from all bodily matter.
(Ducey suggests that... "Out-of-body thinkers' frequent use of expressions such as "ghost" and "haunt" is simply a tribute to their somatic illiteracy", and argues that since they cannot detect the actual source of the symptoms they observe, they declare them to be a mystery).


Ducey... - "Upon reflection, the conclusion gains credibility. Think of the wars and turmoil throughout Europe from the sixteenth century on, culminating in the two world wars of the twentieth century and the Nazi regime and the holocaust. My three primary movers of traumatized philosophy - Deleuze, Derrida and Lacan - were all inheritors of that experience. As for the traumatized social theorists of the twentieth century in the USA - Clough's referents in The Ends of Ethnography - verification is certainly needed, but the quest for such verification is prompted by the observation: how can one lose one's body? The one sure method we know of is the dissociation caused by the somatic storage of trauma imprints".

Ducey concludes; His own, "realist" epistemology has its roots back in Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, which he learned through my exposure to the work of the Canadian Jesuit, Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Lonergan appears to have a scattered but durable following, and the University of Toronto currently makes all his works available. He also seems to find that in The Phenomenology of Perception, Maurice Merleau-Ponty agrees with Aquinas and Lonergan. Lastly, there is very little epistemology in contemporary social science, so this talk about traumatized social theorizing is bound to come as something of a surprise.

In Ducey's final words he says  "But, I respectfully suggest, there it is".

My own conclusions;

A great point of view, but it should perhaps be balanced with further argument, which therefore has encouraged me to buy Clough's book!!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Theory - Introduction to the Creative Industries, a lecture by Lee Corner.

In 1997, the Labour Party set up the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom.

They were the first political movement to recognise the importance of the Creative Industries and articulated that the Department would manage campaigns to enhance
"those industries that are based on individual creativity, skills and talent, with the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing intellectual property."

This concept of a specific government department responsible for culture and art, in particular, was taken up by and rolled out through much of the globe, with many initiatives being adopted by foreign governments that were also based on the UK models. For a good source of information see the website "creative industries UK" on the web.

The creative industries in the United Kingdom are worth an estimated £76.9 billion pounds per year. This equates to approximately £8.8 million per hour, which represents 5% of the UK economy. It has significant social, cultural and economic benefit.

All of this leads to regional benefits to that are way above the investments that are initially made into them. The confidence in the creative industry and its associated investment is entirely justified, therefore.

Understanding creativity.

We talk nowadays about the "experience" economy. Approximately five or so years ago the lecturer, Lee Corner, was involved in the Leonardo project, which was a pan-European programme designed to explore the benefit of the creative arts in their contribution towards Industry.
Examples of the experience economy can be seen every single day in all aspects of life.

- Indeed, one of the goals of this lecture was to encourage students to go out and seek examples of the experience economy. The intention is then to come back and present these examples at a future lecture.

The analysis of the experience economy is that in the Western world peoples' material needs are being met. This means that we are looking for more than something just simply to eat, or a place to sleep, or a place of safety, which brings into play the work of Abraham Maslow in 1943, and his paper, first published in Psychological review as "A Theory of Human Motivation".
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
However in contrast to Maslow's theory of hierarchical needs, in reality, the model is not a linear pyramid with hunger and safety residing on the bottom "basic" foundations, with the plateau of self-actualisation at the top of the pyramid and all the gradations in between, but and a non-linear model, perhaps, (and, as suggested by one student, a Jenga diagram), would be a better solution to illustrate the effect of Maslow's hierarchy of needs because each of these attributes can be satisfied independently from one another. For example, we do not buy candles any more for a requirement or physical need to have light, but we do this now, for an "experiential" need.

I would argue however, that this does fit in Maslow's hierarchy of needs because he talks about our spiritual needs which does not necessarily relate to any religious context. Nevertheless I believe that fire and spirituality are quite pagan and ancient in our yearning for it.
A detailed example of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Courtesy of Wikipedia, Abraham Maslow).

We consume material and objects through our experiential needs. These are based on our own inherent values, and what is important to us. This is a symbolic value. It is necessary to conjoin it with the linguistic idea of symbols and signs and it is here that we can touch upon the work of Saussure  and semiology. Therefore, in contemporary art, we should be searching for the question "what is the symbolic value that we are adding to our art in order for the viewer to take away some sense of something being given to them.

As an example of the revolution of these symbolic needs, it is possible again to draw parallels with the work of Abraham Maslow in the hierarchy of needs, and here, in particular, the level known as status and self-actualisation.

Work by Pyne and Gilmore, entitled "The Evolution of the Birthday Cake" shows that the birthday cake, during our earlier 20th century, used to be made by hand whilst we were still generally within a culture of the agrarian home-stead.

  • At that time birthday cakes were made simply with flour and eggs fresh from the nearest farm.
  • ... By the time we reached the 1950s, the mid-20th century, this had migrated to a simple cake mix that we bought from a supermarket.
  • As time moved on again the evolution of the birthday cake began to be consumed as a pre-bought fully baked and made and iced cake. 
  • In the early 1990s and the end of the 20th century, this then became much more of an experiential engagement and the simple birthday cake became a children's birthday party with a birthday cake probably shop bought. 
  • By the time we reached the beginning of the 21st century we no longer have just of the simple birthday cake but the ritual now is a status ritual where children invite their friends to go to restaurants to hold their party in the restaurant and at such parties are free cake may, or may not, be given.

Throughout this example, the experiential value has been consistently added to.

Another proponent of this in culinary circles may be the work of Heston Blumenthal. He has completely changed the experiential value of the eating experience. He plays with the psychology of the consumer economy.

An example more close to home in Huddersfield might be the work of a past student of Lee corner that of Maria Lau. See the website HTTP://www.MariaLau.co.uk/.

Maria is a jewellery maker. Her approach was to ask customers to bring their own "special" precious objects, and in that, the deep-seated memories associated with those objects; and she then turns them into unique pieces of jewellery. This is an excellent example of the experience economy marketing and manufacture.

Further interesting ideas, for example, might be "Sprout" pencils. When these "sprout" pencils are used up, it is possible to plant them in the soil in order to grow a new tree and thus create a new pencil. This is an excellent engagement with the status of 'ecology and green biodiversity stewardship'.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Critique group (Two). Presenting work in the Exhibition.

The purpose of these critique groups is to create a professional dialogue between the students as peers, and also as artists.

(Prof Swindell's opened the conversation with an announcement regarding the Woan Art Prize, where exhibits are requested from third-year degree students, eligible for a prize of the sum of £20,000 for contemporary art to be exhibited at the Baltic Gallery in Newcastle).

It was pointed out that it will be necessary to create a "meta-narrative" for the up-and-coming graduate exhibition to be held in May, and we should all be cognizant of this as we approach the final phase of our studies.

A useful research book worth perusing, would be "Relational Aesthetics" by Nicholas Bourriaud, which explores the dialogue between viewer and artist. Another good reference and source point would be the Document 10 catalogue which provides layouts of the exhibition that was held, entitled "Politics Poetics".     The most important question one should ask when curating, and indeed creating artworks, would be "how do you get a viewer to feel the way that they would about a piece of work, in the same way, that you as the creator may do".
This is related to the work I have recently been investigating concerning affect and how does one create affect.
"People think what they want to think" as a first impression, as they approach a new piece of work. As an artist, you need to think how do you control this?.

Works to explore would be, for example,
Samuel Palmer;
Mark/Martin Rutmyers.

Contemporary art and illustration - Reading Group, - conducted by Dr Alison Rowley.

The purpose of this session was a small plenary group to help to think of Art critique through reading, and particularly here for the forthcoming exhibition and graduate show.

Exhibitions, the changing scene of management;

The most important recent change in the last 50 years or so, is the historical context of artists themselves, becoming curators. Prior to this time, curatorship was a separate entity and profession which usually came from an academic background of studying the history of art.
(The book entitled "Thinking about Exhibitions" is a useful reference).

Historically, for the past 300 years, art was presented in galleries, intended for the view of the wealthy. Within these vastly open decorated spaces, paintings were hung with just the name of the artist and perhaps a date of when painted. However over the last 50 years, particularly with the advent of electronic technology, we are nowadays festooned with headphones and an accompanying super curated description of the artworks, and therefore, the experience of observation alone is mediated by these recordings.

In the 1950s, the second wave of modernism emerged in the United States, with artists such as Jackson Pollock, Clouse Oldenburg and others, they completely changed the experience of visiting art galleries. Artists, for the first time, were given authority to present artworks in their own way, for themselves to critique, review and most importantly, control.

The most dramatic of these new 'experiential artworks' was the work of Yves Klein entitled "Void". In this so-called works, which was really a performance, it appeared at the opening of the show, that the artist simply jumped out of the window, - into the void, to the astonishment of the viewers.

This opened a fashion for the next few years within this second wave of modernism, and the work which is often described as situational or "happenings" emerged; for example see the work of Claus Oldenburg, entitled "happenings/soft storeroom".

The emergence of "the Gallery as an Experience" then developed over the next 20 years, where works held within them were organised with a need to interrelate with each other. The concept of the gallery as an experience today continues. Artworks being displayed together have to play off one another. They, therefore, need to build up upon a single theme, which can be, for example, didactic or political, or educational, or conceptual, religious, et cetera

Another major influence on creating 'galleries as an experience' was the work was undertaken by Joseph Beuys, the German contemporary artist in the late 1950s, initiated to a large degree when he performed his own works entitled "I like America and America likes me".
He created a spectacle in all its glory, which in fact was created through a sense of manipulation of the audience. Within this works, on his arrival from Germany at the airport, he was transported in an ambulance directly to the gallery in New York; and ushered by the ambulance crew to a waiting glass cage or pen in which a wild coyote was waiting for him. All that Beuys had with him, was a walking stick and the sackcloth. He remained in the pen with the coyote for the next three days and had to share food with the dog.

My own interpretation of this work (whilst cruel to the coyote!), was symbolic in the sense that Beuys may have been suggesting that the spectacle and glory of his immediate disembarkation into the United States, being confronted with a wild animal, and then attempting to tame it in shamen and ritualistic style engagement with it, may be an analogy; not too un-similar to the Europeans first landing in the United States and attempting to tame what they believed the indigenous Indians as savages.
Perhaps this was the point that he may have been trying to make? However, I think that this was completely lost on most of the audience...

Whereas in a mixed the gallery exhibition, by controlling the whole show from end to end, the viewers and spectators will take away memories of their own specific works with their own unique interpretations of what they like and dislike.

[See the example by the artist Daniel Boren, where he painted stripes throughout the grand colonnades of some of the major Parisian landmarks for an exhibition. His intention being to create a new "aesthetic" experience].

Thinking further about the idea of curators as artists, Arnold Bode was perhaps the first; he was the founder of the Documenta exhibitions held in Kassel in Germany. The significance of this exhibition space was that the castle museum, known as the Fridericianum, was the oldest in Europe that opened in 1779. The importance of its use for the new Documenta exhibitions was because the Nazi regime had banned the showing of artworks within this space and had banned Bode (a native born in Kassel), from practicing Art. Indeed, the Fridericianum Museum was later bombed extensively by the British and allied forces during World War II.  So the poignancy of rebuilding it to become a centre for the Documenta exhibition, 10 years after the end of the war and then subsequently every five years thereafter, cemented its future through to the present day as a key exhibition site for contemporary fine art.  Arnold Bode, as Artist and Curator, set this new dynamic.

The next major change in the process of exhibiting art, happened when the curators took over a space that was no longer being used. The Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland, had remained empty since the war. Harald Seezman, born in Bern was the local curator, and he had the weight and power, both politically and socially, in seeking, and getting the initial approval to use this space, and then attracting key artists in order to turn it over to them for them to exhibit whatever they wished. He became the Director of the Kunsthalle, and radically, Seezman got massive publicity when he gave permission in 1968 to Christo and Jeanne-Claude to 'wrap' the Kunsthalle itself.  This completed the change in the use of art spaces for exhibitions, and then in 1969 when the exhibition entitled "Live in your Head: When Attitudes Become Form" was held at the Kunsthalle.    This act in 1969 effectively changed contemporary art exhibitions forever, but the furor caused Seezmen to have to resign his directorship as a result.  In the art world though, Seezman wasn't harmed by this and went on to curate Documenta 5, in 1972.