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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.

Looking over my childrens’ books, seeking inspiration for my Reception Class, I realise that I LOVE these children’s books. Love them more than any adult book. The collection we have amassed through gifts and regular trips to book havens: the Owl Bookshop in Kentish town and Daunt Books in Belsize Park, is a wonder to behold. Shelves of charm from Ed Vere to the intricate details of Satoshi Kitamura. Of course they are all tied up with parenthood and nurture. Each has a memory: a birthday gift, a reward for achievements. These glorious books have carried us through from burbling baby to essay writing eleven year old. Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is just exquisite, & Naughty Nina from Anna-Laura Cantone is perfectly bonkers! I have completely fallen for these illustrated books.

So it took me a while to settle on which book to work with in the Reception Class, I plumped for a combination of old favourites John Burningham and Eric Carle and relative new comer to us Catherine Rayner, whose beautiful ‘Augustus and his Smile’ will form the basis of our exploration into illustration.

Last weekend in preparation I made these mark making tools from scraps I found in our field. Tools to scratch and scape, to push and trail, to splash and flick. I think they enjoyed using them. I certainly did.

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We went for a walk in the woods this weekend and I (unknowing) stood astride a boomslang. My husband shouted ‘move’ with sufficient emphasis that I knew I was clearly in trouble, but gave me no indication as to what the trouble was. Consequently I did a little panicky jig over the snake before deciding to run, as did my youngest. The boomslang was unruffled by the dance above and slid off up the tree, to eye us from a safe distance.
I watched and cursed the fact I did not have my camera, this snake was an emerald beauty.

On returning home after this adventure I resolved to clear everything out of the studio. The class this week had been crowded and a little chaotic. My nice demo-jug had got broken. I realised I had been putting off making decisions, or rather not acknowledging how much space and time the students needed. I needed to rejig and rethink the studio, as a shared space. Not my haven alone.
We went out and bought a new table and some checkered PVC to cover the big black one. And I stopped dancing about and got on with it…..

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Clean Empty Studio

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Albert Lends a Hand

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Decorative Slips

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Students work drying in the sun

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Covering Large Table in Check PVC

Sorry been off radar for so long! I heard a radio programme recently (BBC world service), the lady (very clever business women) told me never to start with an apology. But there you go, I am regretful as much for myself as for you!

So my studio ladies are back. Today’s lesson; Jugs. And finishing techniques slips and glazes. Next week we shall attach handles and paint these with slip. I managed to find some ball clay here and can get going on a few slip recipes tomorrow.

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Jugs for the ladies, and my new tools.

In other news I have a lovely bunch of bananas which I wanted to draw whilst green. Too late already!

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My Lovely Bunch of Bananas. Already turning from green to yellow

And lastly I am volunteering at school, with year 8. Cubism. So much fun. Trying to pack it all in…..the machine age, Freud, Einstein’s theory of relativity (I struggle with), painters and their motivation. They set up this still life to draw. Next week we get all cubist.

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Still Life in Blue and Red. Yr8 Hillcrest