Reflection - The changing effect of perception. / by Ally McGinn

I'm expecting this to be a long and convoluted text, and it comes from a discussion with my husband, who is interested in conceptual music and sound.

The moment an artwork is seen or experienced it is changed by that interaction.
This happens in two ways, firstly on the individual level - the individual artwork changes once it is seen, the viewer's interpretation, critical reception, contextual relation and curated exhibition affect the work and the interpretation of it. The second level is slightly more complex, and yet also individual, the level of continued practice for the individual experiencing the process of art (the artist).

Another way of saying this is that our practices change when people view them (or listen to them in my husband's case). This change can even occur when there is the potential for the artwork to be seen. (Although I would argue that much of this factor is reliant on an inhibition)

Whether that change is positive or negative is likely a subjective fact, it will differ in different cases, but it's worth noting that the change exists.

Artists, and by extension musicians and other creators, often describe trying to get ‘in the flow’ or ‘in the zone’. Which is linked to Heidegger's theories about the optimum state for art, which is in the area between the poetic and the enframed. In Heidegger's writings, the artist aims to exist in this state when creating art.

Through the contextualisation of my practice, my overabundant research and my own self-pressured methodology I have been enframing my practice, to the extent that I'm unable to reach the poetic.

Personal note - I need to stop reading, stop writing and start working for a few days at least.

This ideal state of working is not something to be achieved once and then ticked off, it is a state of the moment and often comes and goes (between the enframed and the poetic). Thinking about it in this way I can almost see which works I've made in the studio that have been linked more to enframing and poiesis, and the ‘good’ works are definitely those created in moments of poiesis.

The ‘moment’ relates once more to Heidegger, and his term ‘throwness’ which is about the moment of existence, constantly happening and happened.

Another perspective for the change that occurs upon viewing the work is through the human activities of art and music (and by extension others). In the book ‘Strange Tools,’ the author supposes two levels of human activity. The first is the primal, basic level, it is the things we as ‘beings’ do. This level includes dancing, communicating, creating sound, making art/images, running, and numerous other things. The second level is the organised activity of that act, including, choreography, writing, music, art, sports etc.

When thinking about the creation of art and the change that perception brings it would seem to lead that the level 2 activity of making ‘Art’ impacts the level 1 practice of making art. It's possible that we have achieved a level of ‘Artworld’ that means that the level 1 activity doesn't really exist anymore, but it feels more like, as Heidegger seems to suggest, that artists are tapping into the level 1 activity when they get ‘in-the-flow’.

Artists (and the extension applies once more) work with the level 1 experience, and then process it through a level 2 organisation to stimulate a level 1 experience in another person.

The other implication to the realisation that perception changes the ‘Art’, in both ways, is the link to the observer effect in quantum physics, in which the ‘observer affects the observed reality’. It seems obvious to state that I am not a quantum physicist, and so I won’t attempt to go into more detail here but the link is an interesting one that I would like to come back to.


This line of thought has two influences. One is the contextual knowledge I have gained from writing this blog, I have directly quoted two texts and the understanding of others has led to this exploration. (Please see other blog posts for more details about this)

The other is a frustration at the issues I'm facing with an overabundance of context at the moment, a reflection on my research practice.

I’ve come to realise that I need to step back slightly and attempt to get back into the level 1 activities suggested here. Focussing on a practice of poiesis.

However, this realisation has led to an idea for a piece of work, which is a fact about my practice that I adore. It often inspires itself.

I'm intrigued to bring in ideas of hiding the work of art. If the experiential perception of an artwork changes when seen then we can mitigate that effect by implying the artwork without seeing it.

This is an idea I began to work with last year, by recording and presenting the artist's actions in the studio I invoked this idea of the unseen artwork. It’s also something I've been working back towards this year, however, this articulation of these ideas has led to me wanting to be more literal in the hiding of the artwork.
The context of these plans would be that - It is not in the artwork that we find the ‘Art’ but in the experience of making it, and the experience of viewing it. (both of which are arguably level 1 activities, at least in the moment) The later of which happens regardless, it is the experience of making it that I would like to extend to the viewer, the practice of process.

I believe hidden artworks, or hidden elements of them, would invoke that context. The artwork is implied, just as normally the act of making art is implied.

An additional thought to come back to later - ‘Art’ is a performative thing because it is the practice and process of art. The art object belongs to context?? (Way too assumptive, but maybe an interesting initial thought)