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

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

To seek permission is to seek denial… Well not on this occasion!

It's been just over a full week since my last blog, but recalling some of the words of an old chief executive officer of mine, whom I worked for around 10 years ago, he used to say "to seek permission is to seek denial". Basically, what he meant was just get on with things, do what you think is right, but above all just do it!

Well, that's kind of what I've done here, but in this case, I have in fact asked permission of my senior lecturer to restart my blogs, even though we are still within the marking period of my degree. I wrote a quick email to him explaining that I was getting withdrawal symptoms from making these regular reflections, and his response seemed that he was only too pleased to allow me to continue.
So my time over the past week and a half, since finishing off my exhibition piece quod ultimam partem (that final bit, or that final part), has been spent making one or two little devices that hold a special meaning for me.

The first of these devices is a set of three-way callipers...

These callipers or dividers are based on the Greek pentagram mechanism that I think Archimedes may have used. They are a set of dividers with a difference, though. Instead of just having two legs, or arms, or pointers, there are in fact three. The outer two operate in the usual manner as simple calipers; approximately one third down the arms length, though, on both sides, is a link on one, and on the other a full-length leg which itself is divided into two parts, the centre of which links to the opposite divided third of the full arm. This effectively gives a third leg linked to both the primary and secondary arms of the callipers. The key to this intriguing little device, however, lies in its measurements and ratios, of which have been specifically calculated to ensure that the third leg, which sits in between the primary and secondary arms of the calliper, remain fixed at an exact ratio based on Fibonacci's observations of the golden ratio;

This being approximately 1:1.68.  

I have been intrigued by the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence for most of my studies in contemporary art. I still find this sequence of numbers in nature in so many things, from the curve of a snail's shell, to the petals of a chrysanthemum, to the curvature of beautiful landscapes. But also in human-made architectural themes as well as other everyday objects.

So this is how I did it…
The following photographs show the construction of the callipers. I trust that you will find this interesting and I have included the dimensions within the drawing that can be easily copied.

 Using three pieces of beechwood, (I used the redundant parts of some drawer runners), choose two lengths for the normal outer arms, plus one thinner length to form the link and third centre arm.
 By measuring the lengths according to the diagram below, cut the pieces to suit each component.

Then accurately drill the pieces as shown. Accuracy  in length is vital in order to allow the callipers to both maintain the golden ratio throughout their extension(s), but also, so that they close flush.

In my case, the linkage arm would not allow the third leg to sufficiently close next to the secondary arm, so I made a very small elongation of the upper linkage arm hole. (Approx 1mm).  This allowed the arms to all fully close, however, this also means that the accuracy of the 1.68 ratios is slightly compromised, albeit, it is un-noticeable for my purposes, so I can live with that slight margin of error.
Once all the holes are drilled, the wood is shaped and sanded etc, I applied a final coat or three of good beeswax, and polished the set, before fixing together with some spare cupboard connection tubes; these provided a perfect substitute for brass rivets, the preferred option.  The top apex of the callipers I secured together with an M6 bolt and wing-nut.

So now I am merely going around measuring the Golden Ratio on anything I see... Credit cards, bank statements, chocolate wrappers, Calculators, books... You name it, those that appear as a golden ratio are just naturally far more aesthetically pleasing to most people!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Well, that's it then... Reflections on the last week of my BA (Hons) Degree

It's been a funny week, this week. It opened up on the Monday with a lot of anxiety coming from many of the students who were clearly concerned that the timescales were short and deadlines were looming. What has actually happened throughout the week, has been nothing short of wonderful. The same regular crew of students, together with myself, have been busily finishing the last touches to their pieces ready to submit for final assessment.

The collaboration and esprit de corps have been second to none, and I'm really going to miss this sense of almost family, as we disperse and move into our professional practice.

My own piece of work is finished, as described in my blog from a couple of days ago. I'm delighted with the piece, as it truly reflects my own enquiry into both the contemporary arts, but also contemporary philosophy, with its first positioning into the 20th century by my old favourite Nietzsche.

Conclusions, and final lessons learned;

  • The journey over the last three years has actually taught me a great deal about life. To take time out to observe properly what is going on around me; to reinterpret it and make meaning of it in new ways that I could not 'non-linguistically see' before.
  • The importance of a plan; Despite getting lots of resistance to using a plan as working tool, when I initially started my degree almost 3 years ago, it is evident that it is necessary to operate in a structured way, albeit with flexible boundaries, in order to meet a deadline and target timescales.
  • The underlying philosophy of the strive to make meaning, which is arguably different to "understanding".
  • I started my degree with one focus and objective, and that was "to help me to think in a different way". I feel that I have completely achieved this! My own evidence to myself, of proof of a different way of thinking, is that the 'making meaning' of contemporary art is in itself akin to an art form.
  • I have also realised that the necessity to learn, is really a necessity built-in to myself to just keep making things. By making, then one is learning. By making, one is almost 'playing'. By making, one is researching. The combined ideas of research through practice and practice through research make complete sense to me now.
  • And finally, I realise now that this whole degree has been a lesson about thinking for myself. To make my own meaning towards things that I see and encounter, during the 'everyday' transition from dawn to dusk; from awakening to returning to sleep.
  • I'm determined to do much more...  Watch this space!

In accordance with University requirements to properly assess student's blogs, I will go on temporary radio shut down for about one month from this evening.  I will, however, re-start blogging after the 21st June, when assessment and adjudication are complete.

Watch this space!... Back in a month!...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Felling happy, but also a touch of sadness that work is nearly finished!

Well, it's been an interesting day, in fact, the last two days have been quite a challenge in many ways. The challenge since my last blog has been to devise a method of suspending my artefact in such a way that I will be allowed to swivel the object and move its azimuth in a variety of angles.

Much of Monday was spent playing around with ideas in the workshop for an armature to be made out of 2 x 2 pine wood batons.

I wanted an elegant and simple a frame to hold my object, but with sufficient strength to be able to support up to what I calculate to be around 15 kg away from the wall and also at an unusual angle, in such a way that it would give the viewer the appearance of the object floating off the wall and away from it. This was a decision that I had made early on, indeed a few months ago after my original maquette had been hung on the studio wall, after various discussions with my tutors.

I'm pleased to say that the artefact is now up on the wall in its final position ready for assessment, and I'm delighted with the position that the piece occupies, in the gallery space.

The innovative wall fixings, where I have used 8 mm threaded steel bolt, cut to size, but then pushed through a keyhole slot in the galleries boarded walls.

In order to achieve this, I needed to drill out some very neat crucifix shaped slots out of the wooden panel, to enable the 8 mm bolt together with a large washer and wing nut to be slipped through so that the armature can be fitted to the bolt which is then capped off with a 8 mm lock nut. With this combination, I am therefore able to put a very large strain on the wooden panel without it giving way.

This simple yet elegant design of a keyhole fixing is particularly useful for walls that are made of plasterboard or compressed sawdust board (MDF). As it turned out, my fear of the wall being constructed from wood fibre was misplaced, because this particular board, being an outside edge to one of the studio spaces, turned out to be made from plywood. The inherent strength of plywood is much greater than fibreboard or MDF. So whilst I may have overengineered the fixing to the wall, the method of deployment is good enough to work on any type of substrate, should it be required to be moved and re-situated elsewhere.

After some careful deliberation, and making a variety of twists to the artefact on the adjustable A-frame, I have settled for an appropriately aesthetically pleasing angle to the perpendicular, but also I have added in an additional skew towards the front entrance of the gallery space, making a combined twist effectively. I'm really pleased with the appearance of the work now as it genuinely does seem to be floating off the wall as per my original intent.


  • Whilst I am very pleased with the final result of my fragment of a garden gnome, there is a touch of sadness to this work in that I have now finished it! The sadness is there because I have enjoyed making it so much.
  • The lesson to be learned from this, without a doubt, is that one must choose for themselves topics, objects, themes, ideas that deeply connect with you as an individual, and also as you as an artist.
  • I keep coming back to the influence of Anselm Kiefer, and the way that he has manifested so many meanings into every part of his work, and my own artistic exploration is beginning to find its own true signature at last.
  • The artistic signature that I have developed, very much lies in the principal of multiple meanings being buried deep within the object both before the making of it commences but also, and this is crucial, in the special making of the artefact; whether this might be a painting or a sculpture or digital video piece is not important. 
  • What is important is to continue to play throughout the making and tie this with the research through appropriate sources to inspire new ways of thinking.
  • As recognised some time ago, our world is confined in linguistic experience. This is why that introduction to semiotics during my first year was so important. By creating things which can be reinterpreted that do not fit on the linguistic plane, is extremely satisfying. 
  • The intentional drive for unconventional artefacts, which are a non-purposive outcome, together with play, forms the backbone to research through practice. This struggle to detach ourselves from a linguistic interpretation of the world, and put us into a realm that some describe as pre-linguistic (Shipps, S. 2008 pp115), which is hard to explain, until one thinks about the state of mind one might find themselves in, perhaps whilst driving, or playing a sport, or indeed here in this case, making "something special"as a piece of art. This is about being "in the zone" and play does this to you.
  • There is an inbuilt need to "make" all the time.  I need to make, to make meaning, and also to make things, images, sculpture, objects, digital etc.  It is the making that is critical. 
  • Make, Make, Make,  Art, Art, Art; Kunst, Kunst, Kunst!

References in this post;

  • Shipps, S. (2008) (Re-)Thinking Art, a Guide for Beginners; Malden, Massachusetts. Blackwell publishing.  
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Haus der Kunst, Munich.
    http://www.hausderkunst.de/en/agenda/detail/a-history-contemporary-art-from-the-centre-pompidou/ Retrieved 18/05/2016.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The final leg towards "Quod Ultimam Partem"

For some months now, since an almost throw away comment by Dr Lister, (but I'm sure it wasn't), I have been wrestling with the idea of how to exhibit the major project final piece so that in Dr Lister's words, "it seems to float off the wall".

In thinking about how to present my final piece, which as explained in a previous blog, I have named in Latin as "that final piece" which roughly is "Quod Ultimum Partem" or Quod Ultimum Fragmen...
[Photograph, Courtesy of
 I have chosen to do this not only for the slight mischief is a reference to an everyday object broken up like a jigsaw puzzle and that last fragment required in order for completion. In this case, (the fragment of the garden gnome), but also to draw on the idea of the temporal and old use of language.

Latin being an ancient language, it seems to fit with my piece quite well, as the memory of the Roman Italian "La Bocca della Verità" (The Mouth of Truth) comes into my imagination as I look at this.  (Interestingly,  I have visited this ancient site with my wife, and having eventually found it, the Boca di Veritas sits in a rather scruffy part of Rome on the side of a highway, and to all immediate views, one might think it is part of a sheltered bus stop).

Hadfield, G. (2016), Final Piece.
[Paper, Wood & domestic detritus composite]

The solution for the fixing of this quite large piece lies in what I believe to be an innovative fixing method using a series of A-frames. By creating a mounting which is adjustable, I believe that I have a very good opportunity to make sure that the aesthetic presentation of my work comes to a very high, if not exceptional standard, and I want to make sure that this final piece can be examined during the graduate show, so that viewers will get some insight into how I manufactured the piece. I'm particularly keen to enable the construction and the "special making"of the work come through. Therefore, there needs to be some visible access to the rear of the object and I hope that the innovative use of these A-frames will help me to demonstrate that.


  • Timing is everything!... I need to provide some surprise factor in presenting the work and the frame needs to be manufactured this week.
  •  As I have chosen a wooden structure supported by steel coach bolts and hinges, I think that this is easily completed in less than a day.


https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bocca_della_Verit%C3%A0 ; Retrieved 15/05/2015 from Wikipedia.it.

Friday, 13 May 2016

'Wow! we've got a Gallery Space', and other reflections on the week.

It has been an amazing week as we approach the final hand-in and assessment day, in just one week's time.

There are a select group of regular students who have been working really hard and collaborating together in order to make the original studio space at the University into a fit for purpose, in fact, purpose-built, exhibition gallery space. In my own small way, I have been attending the premises every day and assisting with some of the carpentry and conversion. Once the conversions have physically been completed, the team of students have then come into each studio and totally repainted the area from top to bottom in a white emulsion, leaving a tabula rasa for each course student to use as their own presentation space.

With a whole week to go, everyone is well placed to use the whole five days to position each of their works in the most effective aesthetic and meaningful manner; myself also included of course.

As I have mentioned already in previous blogs, my own final piece which I have now entitled "Quad Ultemam Partem", which loosely translates from Latin as "That Final Piece".  I chose to translate this into latin to give a further ambiguity of sense, by suggesting the idea of the relic (i.e. the fragment), but also to "make special" in a monumental link too, to the ancient / temporal / non-time bound object.

Hadfield, G. (2016), "Quod Ultimam Partem", [Photograph, - Mixed media sculpture, Wood, Galvanized chicken-wire,
and news-print as substrate: covered with a papier mache composite of cross-cut shredded confidential waste,
shredded credit cards x2, domestic detritus, lint & human hair]. Approx. 2000mm * 1200mm.

The work is virtually ready to be positioned, well in time for the assessments and gallery exhibition to take place. Before I do this, however, I wanted to take this whole last week to just think carefully as to how I will best achieve this. As a result of that open question to myself, I sought some confirmation of my own thoughts from my tutor today...  (This is the first time over the last two weeks that I have approached them to elicit opinion, as I have tried to make sure I have thoroughly questioned myself and generally independently tested myself, before seeking supervisory advice...).
.... I'm delighted to say that his reaction on seeing my sculpture in its completed state for the first time, was a very genuine exclamation of "wow!" Together with a broad smile, which indicated to me that I had in fact succeeded in creating something with great aura and presence, (which of course were as per my intentions).


  • A really useful confirmatory conversation took place today and I was highly encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest that might tutor genuinely showed in my work.
  • As a small reward to myself, and by way of thanking my dear patient wife, we both then visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, just outside Wakefield, some 10 to 15 miles away from the University.
  • For completeness, I truly believe that many of the sculptures within this open exhibition space all had strong referential contemporary links to each other, but moreover, I felt that my own work fitted in perfectly with regards to the context of those professionally produced works as well.
  • I have therefore come away from the Sculpture Park with renewed enthusiasm, ready to provide an innovative demonstration, not only my portfolio of works for the past academic year, but also to present my whole body of work in such a way that an extremely strong narrative can be seen throughout the journey of my practice development.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

More thoughs about the presentation styles of my final piece.

Having pretty much completed all the major work on my final piece (which I shall submit as my major project for assessment in a couple of weeks time), I am exactly on target to my original plan. The intention of this week, week commencing eighth of May 2016, on my schedule, was to finalise the sculpture in such a sufficient way that I could then make various adjustments to the presentation style of the object.

My intention is to place the fragment at up to 45° clockwise from the centre point. I shall also attempt to make a suitable A-frame, or indeed to A-frame devices which will allow me to adjust the angle at which the object sits against a wall and the corresponding floor in the gallery. Because I have two presentation angles to consider, against the fixed angle of 90° weather wall and floor meets, it is probably the more precise use of English to explain that these A-frame's will be used to adjust the pitch and the yaw.

Having already made detailed blueprints or schematics as they are more commonly known in the contemporary manufacture, I am well placed to make a computer simulated, three-dimensional model of the sculpture to such an extent that I can develop measurements for the A-frame from those original schematics.

For the moment, though, the finished artefact has been rested against a wall of the workshop studio. In this position, raised approximately 3 feet above the ground at workshop bench level height, I am probably going to leave it in this position for the next few days at least, in order to just absorb the overall aura and presence of the peace.

Whilst it seems that there are other students who are also near completion of their works, for the past couple of weeks we have all been collaborating extremely well in order to make the studio space completely clear of all furniture, and of course, work, and fully repaint those spaces to convert the complex of studio spaces within the University contemporary art building into excellent gallery and exhibition space. As a mature student, I must say that the professional attitude, thoroughness and positive work ethic has been fantastic, together with an esprit de corps among the group that is so infectious that I truly want everyone to succeed who have contributed.


  • I am very pleased with the results of the work that I have given towards this final piece over the last few weeks. Now that it appears to be completely dry, there are possibly just one or two small adjustments, such as the potential removal of the small piece of canvas to the lower centre portion of the gnome's beard, for example.
  • I have purposefully left a thorough rendering of application of the composite material completely off a number of parts of the face, and in particular some larger areas of the gnome's beard. Whilst I do have the opportunity to add more composite, I think my decision has been well tested by leaving these areas vacant. Now that a few days has passed over this last weekend, since completion last Friday, it has allowed me to consider, reconsider and reflect on the sculpture as I had promised myself to do so.
  • There are a few more days of this week to continue with the preparation of the gallery space, and I intend to use my experience of general carpentry to assist many of the other students in completing their particular requirements to stage and present their work in the most effective manner. This is a good thing for me to, because it allows me to step away from just purely focusing and concentrating on reflective self-doubts, and instead use my time positively to allow for latent learning, and hence reflection on the final outcomes as positively as possible, which are less inclined to be just purely emotional responses, but are more likely to be a better balance of both emotion and logic, mixed with a good amount of rhetoric and critical feedback that I can solicit from my compatriots.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Reflections on the study of Georges Bataille - Part #3

Having acquired a copy of Georges Bataille's book, visions of access, selected Writings 1927 to 1939, it is formed as a series of essays that Bataille wrote, starting with the first very short essay entitled "Dream", which is ostensibly about an incident that he had whilst as a child living in Reims, France. He talks about the terrors of childhood, and I'm not sure if he is recounting real events, or is more likely a confabulation various fragments of memories, a deep-seated emotional trauma that seems to have affected him for the rest of his life. (I have briefly discussed that issue in some of the previous blogs related to this author).

In the next essay entitled "The Solar Anus", he makes a comment about the perception of the world being a parody of itself. He talks within this essay about the continuous movement of life, the routine of getting up in the morning and falling asleep again; and this is all because our world revolves around the Sun. The reproduction and fecundity of life, with its inevitable endings and rebirths, is united. The importance of the sea, and its relationship with the cycle of tides, rising and falling, in rotation with the moon and the earth, all bound intrinsically with the Sun, coupled with what Bataille describes in his essay in very graphic and phallic terms, also plays a highly charged part in his thinking. Ultimately this essay seems to be about Bataille's guilt, perhaps during an event whilst he was exploring some of the most extreme and debauched parts of his research into hedonism and excess.

In the essay "The Language of Flowers", there seems to be a deeper analysis and in his words "the role given to symbols in psychoanalytic interpretations" (Bataille, page 11), suggests a much more quantified thought about appearance and phenomena, and the value of appearance in itself. Again though he rapidly associates symbology found in the construction, or indeed deconstruction of flowers, with the ideas of beauty juxtaposed with repugnance.

I'm glad to have found a copy of this book of very unusual essays which reflect the thoughts of Georges Bataille, and whilst it seems that each one had been written at the time with considerably deep thought and attention, much of what he says, can be reinterpreted and applied to contemporary culture. It must also be considered in context at the time of great turmoil in Europe, both politically and culturally.

Other essays in the book are for example "The Big Toe", which he argues is the most human part of the human body, underlying its importance in order to keep us standing upright. In "the Lugubrious Game", he refers to the painting of the same name, by Salvador Dali. It appears from further reading that Bataille had a certain inferiority complex with regard to Salvador Dali, and whilst both were exploring areas of culture which had hitherto been off-limits, there is an observation of emasculation in Dali's paintings, which Bataille seems to be drawing out with provocation.


Further essays deal with the interpretation of language and its translations of meanings from one to another, in which it necessarily follows that confusion or indeed errors may result. One particular essay of interest to me at the moment is the essay entitled "The Old Mole and the prefix 'Sur' in the words surhomme [Superman] and surrealist". It is in this essay that he brings in some of the thoughts of Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche, together with materialism, free spirit, and nihilism. This particular essay requires much more research, suffice it to say, that it will provide a great reference source for some of my future works no doubt.


Richardson, M. (1994), Georges Bataille. London: Routledge
Stoekl, A. (1985), Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess, (Selected Writings, 1927-1939), Edited and Translated by Allan Stoekl, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 14, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Positive Feedback from Theory Presentation and Good progress this week.

Reflecting on the presentation that I completed yesterday to Dr Holmes and Dr Lister, I'm pleased that I spent some considerable time over a previous couple of weeks putting together a succinct and hopefully well-targeted set of images as slides for this presentation. Whilst I appreciate that the actual event might only account for a small portion of the overall marks in my theory module, I really wanted to make sure that I could articulate all the salient and relevant points clearly.

I used the triad of studio practice, research and pedagogy in a kind of Venn diagram, in order to illustrate how my methodology seems to be working. This was based on an idea that Dr Holmes had discussed with me back in February, and I have slowly been absorbing and fully understanding that this way of thinking should virtually be adopted as a permanent praxis or method in my future commercial practice.
Hadfield, G. (2016). Final Piece  (Photo).; Sculpture of Chicken-Wire on wooden batten frame,
 with Newsprint Papier-mache surface

Hadfield, G. (2016), Photo 1 of dry materials & disinfectant
Likewise, I've been pleased with the progress of work on my graduation final piece. It is really coming together and taking shape following the application of the surface composite material created from cross cut shredded confidential waste paper, domestic detritus from a vacuum cleaner, human hair, lint from a tumble dryer and some chopped up out of date credit cards.

Hadfield, G. (2016), Photo 2 of treated materials & disinfectant
Clearly the above mixture or composite would be rather unhealthy to use in its raw state. I, therefore, submerged the mixture in a highly effective and super concentrated disinfectant that is often used in the farming industry to completely sanitise any areas of disease.

Hadfield, G. (2016), Photo 3 of disinfectant-treated materials
I left the composite mixture soaking in this solution of detergent, antibacterial and anti-viral liquor for about five days, before fully draining the fluid liquor element away and generally rinsing the composite material through with fresh water three times.

This allowed for a small trace of the disinfectant to remain, and so remove any noxious odours, yet at the same time removed sufficient soap in the mixture to allow the addition of wallpaper paste for adhesion. I realised that as wallpaper paste is usually made from a derivative of potato starch, soap would break down the adhesive qualities very quickly.

The building up of the final layer now seems to be working well and my intermediate results are looking promising...
Hadfield, G. (2016). Final Piece; (Photo). Sculpture of Chicken-Wire on wooden batten frame,
 with Newsprint Papier-mache substrate and the final surface of the composite material.


  • The composite material works very well.  
  • This is slightly improved from the version used on the maquette, and I have placed a small test strip of primed canvas just below the Gnome's beard, to the lower centre of the above shot.  I'm not sure if this late addition is useful but at the time, I was thinking of the abandonment of painting and hence canvas to be incorporated in the piece.  Whilst I am not entirely sure if little white canvas works, I will leave the strip in situ for the next week, or so, just to let me have time to ponder, reflect, solicit feedback and opinions of others etc.  I can always remove it anyway by soaking the area slightly and peeling it off.  For the moment, though, I want to just wait and absorb thoughts.
  • The decision to clean the composite mixture was a sound one.  This reduces any inherent risk of disease in the material.
  • Production must continue at a resilient and relentless pace in order to place me well in front of the time required to set up for the final assessment on 20th May.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Studio practice, good progress is being maintained!

Having spent the weekend in some considerable contemplation I have been quite pleased over the past couple of days with the making of my final piece, progressing towards final assessment in a couple of weeks time.

Trying to make meaning in the philosophical sense, whilst actually making art in a physical sense is very intellectually demanding. The idea that visual philosophy underpins contemporary art is a crucial one to me.

What is so often missed by the undereducated critic of contemporary art is that we are simply not thinking just about aesthetics (that is we are not just thinking about beauty in visual images). Our enquiry is much more about how we analyse objects and images built upon our perception together with the metaphors and symbols (semiotics) of what we see. Our understanding of the world around us essentially grows with each fragment of what we believe or think we are actually seeing. It is through this perception also that feelings can be not only transmitted but physically realised.

Ideas that contemporary artists inculcate within their work must, therefore, help to synthesise new or different ideas and of course feelings through viewers perception.

The making of the folds apparent in the fragment of the gnome's face have been likened to terrestrial valleys and hills when observed at close quarter. These ups and downs and dead-end valleys can be likened to the thoughts that I have had throughout this week.

My mind has been somewhat occupied in the development of a presentation of my studio practice which links it to the theoretical research that I have been conducting through Nietzsche and Heidegger, together with the practices of the new European painters movement (Anselm Kiefer, Luc Tuymans and Gerhardt Richter amongst others). The idea that Dr Holmes explained to me a few months ago about the triad of studio practice, theory and research, and the third element being pedagogy, definitely does seem to provide a very positive praxis of my own way of doing, making and essentially behaving as a way of thinking.

I'm still very confident and comfortable that my choice of object and its own unique emergence as a truly valuable piece of contemporary art (and in the word valuable, I mean rich in metaphors, concepts and layers of meaning which a viewer may choose or choose not to pursue, in their attempt to understand this work).

Progress continues in my practice in a steady but determined way. Whilst there have been some challenges in trying to keep a balance of studio practice, production and output; and at the same time maintaining positive momentum in the repainting and tidying up of the whole of the studio complex, in preparation for final graduation assessment and then the graduate show, the work has been quite intense.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Reflections of study of George Bataille #2.

Having read quite a few chapters of Michael Richardson's book entitled "Georges Bataille", (1994) by Routledge press, New York, the book is indeed providing a great introduction to Bataille's' work.

It is always important to read such books in the right context, particularly in a historical sense during the early 1920s. It seems that whilst he had originally planned quite a deep and religious vocation as either a priest or a monk, and with this train of thought had in fact joined the seminary of Saint-Fleur, which she continued through his novice religious yearnings for the next three years, he perhaps was too young to make such a devout commitment. Around this time while staying in the UK, in the Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight, it seems there may have been a possible tryst with a woman which caused him to question his Catholicism to such an extent that he felt that he had lost his faith and hence his vocation. (Richardson, 1994, p19).

On his return to France and continuing to write and research mediaeval texts, he created his thesis on "the order of chivalry, told in verse from the 13th century" in early 1922.   With this doubt of his faith in the back of his mind, he then embarked on extensive travels in southern Spain. It was here that he witnessed the terrible death of a bull-fighter, already mentioned in the previous blog about Georges Bataille, and it is possible that this one single event led him on to his life of contemplation as a philosopher.(Richardson, 1994, p19)

The relationship that he had with the world that he lived in, particularly after reading the works of Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche, was very much influenced by Nietzsche's interpretations written some 30+ years earlier. Likewise, therefore, the relationship that he had with Nietzsche, was somewhat akin to him writing responses, thesis and theories almost in conversation to that earlier great German thinker. (Richardson, 1994, p33)

With this background, the idea of "the social" and his view of it being a communal being, becomes the most important part of his philosophical enquiry. At the foundation, Bataille had a view that the unity and continuance of society were held together by the notion of the sacred. He believed that without the sacred, no society could exist. At the opposite end of the spectrum, (here, we have to take into account the idea of Durkheim), which is that the opposite of sacred is the profane. Likewise, it is earlier philosophers such as Spinoza building on yet earlier thoughts of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) and Tomas Aquinas who introduced the concept of those extremes as the ethics of good and evil. However, the difference between good and evil, in that they reflected each other as elements of morality, - to Durkheim, the profane and the sacred could never be mixed together. Something can be judged only as profane or only as sacred, and there is no grey intermediate state between the two. (Richardson, 1994, p35-36).

So as Michael Richardson goes on to say, Bataille's understanding of Durkheim fitted quite well with his earlier religious schooling and study. He goes on to say that;
 'the sacred is the forbidden element of society that exists at the margin where different realities meet. Without it society could not exist, for if it was lacking then Bataille asserts that "the totality of the plenitude of being escapes man, [and] he would henceforth be only an incomplete man"'.
 It is here, therefore, that Bataille makes the distinction that the sacred is not just some part of a revealed religion, but it is like the glue as an essential ingredient to hold society together in solidarity. However, this idea of the sacred only becomes important through communication, and most important is that the communication of it must be meaningful for society, in order for it to be held together. (Richardson, 1994, p36)

What this means is that an individual who chases after his own selfish benefit is considered to be socially unacceptable. Arguably this idea is one of the basic precepts of contemporary philosophy but also has its roots in the ancient philosophy of Socrates and the idea of the parable of Crito. In that story, Socrates said, and this is paraphrased somewhat that if an individual selfishly does some harm to others, and considers it acceptable, then why should the rest of society not think the same way? If that was the case then society and its laws together with the state would completely break down. (Craig, E. 2002)

(This idea of social acceptability, and in essence making a contract with society, is manifest quite clearly in the United Kingdom for repeated transgressions against society, which may not fall within the direct auspices of criminal law. In order to counter such bad behaviour, the idea of Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which are essentially a civil contract between an individual who continually transgresses towards the profane (in any form), were introduced in the late 1990s by the UK government. As such, the contract is a civil commitment by the individual not to transgress particular repeat demeanours, within 'their' society (i.e. local community).  In order to enforce the same, the breaking of that civil promise carries a criminal penalty).

The idea that Bataille uses this fundamental concept to help define a society's structure helps to explain sociologically how society can maintain its own cohesion. He uses the words homogeneity and heterogeneity to explain some of the unique research which he expresses as an organised society which is built upon a cohesion with inflexible laws as a modern state as Homogeneity; and alternatively, Heterogeneity he explains is built upon social forms of cooperation ritual expression and customs. Bataille goes on to explain that critique of capitalist society. In such a society homogeneity is welcomed as a totalitarian control. This is at odds with the heterogeneous society where true communication and collaboration towards a common view of harmonious society, (in other words a revered and sacred view), is the goal; that being akin to Marxism in its idealistic sense.


  • Coming back to the context that I have already mentioned of society in the 1920s, which was very much going through a massive change in terms of modernism, industrialisation and in particular automation through mechanical and technological advances: with highly controlled exploitation of society, it makes sense too, on the backdrop of job losses and labour disruption leading to the great depression that the deepest thinkers within society would find such resonance with the ideas of Nietzsche and thus the prophetic concepts of nihilism (Stoekl, A. 1986)
  • In Michael Richardson's words, it is likely that the thinkers of this era and in particular Georges Bataille thought that homogeneity was the path to social disintegration, therefore.


  • Craig, E. (2002). Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Richardson, M. (1994). Georges Bataille. London: Routledge.
  • Stoekl, A. (1986). Visions of Excess: (Selected Writings, 1927-1939 of Georges Bataille), (1986 Second Edition), Edited and Translated by Allan Stoekl. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.