From there to here and why

Learning Outcome 1 – Practical and critical skills – also – Learning Outcome 2 – Debate and evaluation

These two learning outcomes are quite tied together for me in this unit.

Where I was in April
At the beginning of this unit I was talking about having layered ‘moments’ from history that the viewer would experience all at once. They were going to be multi media, some would be computer based and projected. Some would be printed photographs and bits of paper. Some would be objects. So it was going to be gallery based. There was going to be a level of interactivity but i wasn’t really sure what. Basically, I wanted to make something that was similar to horror vacui art. A space full of stuff. I’m still interested in doing this, if I can find the right context.

Where I am in November
This space full of mess approach has disappeared and now I’m doing a questionnaire. It’s online and the home audience member is at an advantage over someone seeing it in a gallery as they’ll have more time. I still want it to be viewable in a gallery. It’s all quite streamlined, and might stay that way. The more streamlined I get it the more I like it. An important part of my unit three could be doing things and then not using them even though I like them.
So how and why has this happened? Why did I change my mind?

Why I changed direction

At the beginning of the unit i decided to start from scratch almost. I wanted to fill the space with mess but first off I needed to get lots of ideas about what exactly that mess would be. Between April and July I made quite a lot of experiments (nothing is nothing, pixelated motorway, milk, butter, ice . All of these have fed in to what I’m doing now in different ways. The pixelated motorway is there in the back image of each question in my questionnaire. The milk, butter and ice were an interesting process. I got quite obsessed by them, these processes of one thing becoming another and then having the potential to return to the same state. Units and masses. They’re both different ways of looking at all.
I also carried on thinking about interesting things (Mythology – The Prose Edda, the history of the Edda, Hugin and Munin, also from the Edda. Science – The history of the universe and the Big Bang. It’s all been a bit of a mind bender. I didn’t know anything about the theory of relativity, or the way mythology grew by passing from one bard to another before starting this course. I’d done a lot of thinking and felt that any work I made would take a lot of thinking from my viewer too. I needed to make that explicit. I also didn’t want to take any one of the many elements of the project out. If I do it will become weaker. I need to thread them all in to one simple, elegant whole. This is, naturally, ongoing.

August show at the House Gallery
In early August I used the House Gallery as a studio space for two weeks. I had planned on doing a show but decided I wanted to change it all as I was went along. I’d learn more that way. So I used it as a studio. The open nature of the show further encouraged my thinking about the benefits of getting people involved in the work at the point of production. The art is alive when you’re in the middle of making it.

Here are the most important blog posts I wrote about this show.
Show summary

In my proposal I said I was planning on doing a questionnaire. I put this questionnaire in the show. This questionnaire ended up being the most fun thing about the show. Quite a few people said they really enjoyed doing it. It was obvious that it had value in its own right. The process of thinking through the answers to the questions was a good way of getting people grappling with the things I wanted to present. From there, the die was cast. I was dong a questionnaire. I’d had a hunch this might be the case before the August show when I wrote this post. I’ll also note that this was a key point in realising that a questionnaire might be enjoyable in itself, largely because I enjoyed the process of writing the questions.

My dislike of private views was strangely important too
The other key moment in deciding to do a questionnaire was the end of year show in July. This was important because I didn’t and don’t want my project to be defined by that kind of space or event. If I work really hard to make something that exists for only one week I don’t want it to be just one thing stuck in a flood of other things seen by crowds of people drinking cheap nasty wine from small plastic cups. I find the whole private view thing really off putting. Gruesome, even. But more specifically, in an end of year show context, the whole experience of going from one piece to the next is so awful. I automatically find myself starting to go, ‘yeah, I like that one. I don’t like that one. That’s crap. Oh that one stands out. Look at it for five minutes. Move on. That one’s crap. Oh, that’s clever. Oh, it’s only superficially clever. Rubbish.’ Clearly, this is an utterly unfair view of the work. I’m writing a lot of people’s projects off before giving an appropriate level of thought. But in that environment, for something to work, it needs to have an immediate quality about it that grabs the attention and asks people to spend a bit more time with it. Otherwise you’re just wandering round a shooting gallery taking pot shots at clay pigeons. How depressing is that? In the end of year show, even if something stood out I just ended up admiring the fact that it stood out, I wasn’t really admiring it as art. That was my feeling at the private view anyway. My work has to have an existence outside of that environment, outside of the art establishment even. Would showing in a Shoreditch gallery be that different? I want it to have the potential to be shown in that setting but not be tied to it. This may look on the surface like a shirking exercise but it’s leaving me with a lot of really interesting questions about the nature of digital art and how to distribute my work. And how to sell it too. I’m enjoying these questions.

After the gallery show I spent ages doing my PGPD. I enjoyed doing my PGPD. I spent ages doing the reading, which did mean that I had less time to do actual project work. It really changed me, though. It changed my outlook on being an artist. But more about that later.

Feedback – The group show at the House Gallery. 4-18 December

I’m co-organising a group show at the House Gallery which will be called Feedback. Noel, Simon and Tim have all been very helpful with this. It has a page on the wiki which contains most of the emails I’ve written about it. It’s been a good learning process and will hopefully set us all in good stead for June and July. I might propose doing another one in April. Let’s wait and see how this one goes first.

Learning outcome 3 – Contextual implications

  1. Participation – In this post I talk about some of the reasons why I like participatory art and why I’m enjoying playing with it now.
  2. Changes in the internet and the world are going to change art. This post was reflective of my head being ready to melt after writing my PGPD. Most of the thoughts in this post are still a going concern in my head.
  3. I spoke about some key misgivings but also good things about digital art in this post about the Tony Oursler exhibition. This show seemed to me to sum up some of the problems we face as digital artists. It suggested some ways forward formally but got stuck on other issues. I’ve since realised I’d misunderstood Walter Benjamin’s writing about the aura. I have his collection of essays Illuminations and will read it soon.
  4. Here’s my PGPD. It’s about the history of participatory art in practice and theory with a view to applying these lessons to the internet. The process of following up the reading I did for this is massively ongoing. I read quite a few papers about interaction in museums for example. I’ll blog these in time. They feel to me like they’re related in part to unit 3 issues though. Final presentation stuff. Reading the essays on Lev Manovich’s website also set my head buzzing. I think that’s obvious in the ‘My Head Hurts’ post I link to above.
  5. I was inspired by the approach of Cornelia Parker and wrote about her work here. The way she ‘sparks the imagination of the viewer’ is definitely a goal I want to aim for.
  6. My Discussion paper is also about participation but concentrates more on computer based participation.

I’m very conscious of the effect that Web 2.0 could have on participation in art. it’s such a huge subject though that I’m only just getting started on it. I want to look at a few specific, quite daft examples at some point, just to try and join the dots between something like lolcats which is perfect (if stupid and usually slightly lame) Web 2.0 fodder and art. Could art ever co-opt those processes? I’m also thinking about new movements in folk traditions. Folk tales were passed on from bard to bard. Now we pass tales or equivalents on via and facebook.

I’ve covered Learning Outcome 4 in my prototype post. I’ve also been giving thought to presentation of the finished piece in this post.

Nothing’s gone wrong in this unit as such. The main thing is the development of the project from mess to clean questionnaire. I wish I could have spent more time on it all. On both the essays and the project. I am on schedule though, happily. I feel a bit weird wrapping this unit up because I’ve still got so much to do and it feels like this is bringing an end to this part of the MA. Unit 3 is new. My next post will be laying out some of the things I want to do next in unit 3. It’s good to wrap up unit 2. It’s good to take stock. It’s helping me get perspective. I’m enjoying the whole process of doing the course a great deal and am really looking forward to making things come together in unit 3.

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