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Tag Archives: Inspiration

Research based practice term 4

DSC03753So 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?

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Reenactment 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)’.

 

 

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I have gone back to school and am very much enjoying it. This term we are working with the British Museum, looking at ‘digital engagement’. We have been asked to develop a family activity. We were assigned Room 65; Sudan Egypt and Nubia, it is the room next to the big hitters, next door to the powerful imagery of the Pharaohs.

This room attempts to explain a complex history. Movements of people and culture back and forth, up and down. A story of assimilation, appropriation, dominance,and subordination. Apparently this region has a huge amount of knowledge gathering focused on it. An archaeological long-term project I found hard to piece together.

It made me think of the complexity of history, of trying to find simple narrative time lines in amongst convoluted human behaviours. Shifting loyalties, personal and political allegiances. I wanted it explained, who did what and where? I am lucky to have a resident historian of Africa here, and he helped…

The cultural production of these peoples used familiar Egyptian iconography mixed with more recognisably ‘afro’ features and forms.  I made these images blending the images from the room and images of me.

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Me and the gift bearers.

We need empathy to understand others.  I wonder what future historians will make of our allegiances, our current complexities, inexplicable loyalties, and duplicities.

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Pineapple, early stage drawing on Paper.

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Pineapple, detail, colour pencil on paper.

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Pineapple,Drawing Detail

Who knew that a pineapple was so exciting, close up? I had no idea. Its twist and turns, multiple colours: greens and reds, oranges. Perfect subject. First drawing of 2014. Good to be back.

prickly pear

Barbary Fig Drawing with Aquarelles


I realised today I only had a couple of hours, so no long labour of love was possible. So it seemed a good moment to mess about. To scribble in colour and enjoy it. The Barbary Fig is a willing subject, large sections of it collapse to the ground regularly. So although I felt a little guilty depriving the bees, as I gingerly negotiated prickles to snap sections from the main, I know that this cactus is designed to fall apart, and start anew from the ground. (So don’t stand underneath a heavily laiden tree for too long!).
I enjoyed the spikes, the green and the bright yellow and red. Sumptuous, succulent and violent at once.
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Broken off the tree outside

 

But that's not there

“But that’s not there,” erasing pencil drawing.

The brain is always guessing, filling in gaps, short-cutting visual information to build a reality.
“This is an object,” it says. “A three dimensional  object. Although you can’t see it this object has a back a side. You can’t see it now but I know it is there, from the shadows it makes, from the change in colour here or there.”

And so my hand attempts to draw this knowledge, the bits you can’t see. Tries to fill in the gaps, to leap to conclusions.
But I don’t want it to. When ‘life’ drawing I want to record only what I can see, not what I know to be there. I need to record these signs, shadows and contours, not bypass them.
It’s a constant battle, a drawing is a lie, a flat pretending to be a form.  Rubbing at the paper, erasing my failing drawing,  I am often heard muttering. “But that’s not there….”

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Vertebra Drawing, Pencil on Paper

 

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Found vertebra, Drawing, Pencil on Paper.

Not sure this is finished but I will stop for now. I found this bone exciting, the holes especially thrilling, and hard to draw. One more bone I reckon and then I shall move on….

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Drawing Pencil on Paper

We came across some bones on our travels. I hope it doesn’t upset the ecosystem that I brought them home to draw. A small hip bone, perhaps from a civet or meerkat, and the upper jaw of a ruminant. They are very weathered and rather beautiful. I am spending about 3 hours per drawing. It is concentrating my mind and hand. And it feels good to really look. The better you look the better you draw. Next week I will do some clay work too…

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Shoe making; cutting tyres to size.

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Partoti getting instruction from Ndekayo

Ndekayo and Partoti make shoes from motorcycle tyres. Very clever use of found materials.

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Fixing the Straps with Nails

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Finished shoes

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Sketch Book Drawing

 

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Stage One of Drawing

 

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Stage Two of Drawing

 

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Stage Three of Drawing

 

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Stage Four of Drawing

 

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Stage Five Finished Drawing for today, with my stripey socks in shot!