Research based practice term 4
So Last autumn winter term I worked on these images. I constructed quick impromptu spaces to recreate/reenact images from postcards of women artist of the past.
Mimetics is a recurring theme in my artistic practice and in my teaching. In my proposal ‘Act like an Artist’, I was asking if we copy artistic behaviour, can we learn/teach anything about art or about being an artist? What are the ways in which an artist goes about her work? Can we learn, by re-enacting the physical activities of making artistic products or by striking a pose from an image, anything of the preoccupations, motivations, habits, influences, ideas, and materials beyond the mechanical use of tools and skills?
Re–enactment has a long history as social phenomena, as part of pageants, parades and religious events. The use of dressing up or more accurately ‘costumed interpretation’ (Heverin, 2015) is becoming increasingly prevalent in museums and galleries as Vanessa Agnew states,
…re-enactment is booming. History enthusiasts gather weekly to enact past events, television history programs are aired to good ratings, living museums hire costumed performers, civic governments sponsor local performances on historical themes, tourists “follow in the steps” of earlier travelers, and academics venture into public history.
(Agnew, 2004, p. 327)
Displaying the original image next to the image I created, invites a judgement of this stab at authenticity. The juxtaposition lends a satisfying story of enactment, there is a tangible delight in the closeness, or not (see Celeste Barber) of the reconstruction to the original, in noticing details, in a ‘spot the difference’ exercise. This delight reflects more than the aesthetic appeal of the finished matched photographs, but perhaps indicates an enjoyment of the aesthetics of the ‘attempt’, the fallible essentially ‘human context of their development’ (Dutton, 2004, p. 7). There is a great deal to be said for these amateur approximations (see (Dennis Severs House, 2000)) versus authentic real objects (traditional museum displays). The capturing of interpretive, and physical embodied experience seems to provide a rich resource, activating acute attention in both audience and maker.
This practice based research project seems to articulate the relation between the limited knowledge available in the experience of art as viewed from a considerable distance: looking at a post card – of an original photograph – of an artist appearing to perform an artistic act – in the past, and the actual bodily knowledge of making a work of art in the present. The latter appearing to shorten the former’s distance in the ‘lived experience’ of its construction. Claire Bishop talks about the apparent shortening of distance, between object and subject in participatory art’s audience experience. She describes Ranciere as ‘calling for spectators who are active as interpreters… putting to work the idea that we are all equally capable of inventing our own translations’ (Bishop, 2006, p. 16).
If one were just presented the pairs of images alone, the possibilities for learning are perhaps not clear, it is in the doing and the making. If, as Butler illustrates gender is an act of performance. We construct ourselves and all is constructed around us. Perhaps we can embrace this deferral of ‘definitional closure (Butler, 1990, p. 20)’ or ultimate authenticity, and allow ourselves insight into others, other ways of operating, other ways of being. It is these processes which will continue to hold my interest, the ‘batman effect’ the emancipatory nature of performing as other ‘a chance for… learning something different by enacting’ (Crang, 1996, p. 9)’.