Research Methodologies - Temperature check, aims and objectives, blog reflection. / by Ally McGinn

This is the final post for a few weeks, and I thought it appropriate to reiterate my aims (slightly changed) from the beginning of this blog, 11 weeks ago. We undertook these blogs for a purpose, to gain something and to show the process of that development. I definitely feel I have achieved, or at least made a firm dent in, that purpose.

The first five weeks were a process of near-constant researching and writing. Around week eight I had a breakthrough in the studio, followed quickly by something ‘clicking’ in the work in week ten.
These shifts in studio perception have led to the beginnings of a change in focus. At the moment that change seems subtle, and more of a development than a transfer. For now, this change affects my aims and objectives as follows.

Aims and Objectives

My aim is to explore the ways art is experienced and understood, through a combination of engaged theoretical research and perceptual process, to underpin a research-led practice that aims to question the ways we look at art and our underlying assumptions, specifically in regards to the effects of painterly language and spatial presentation of ‘Art’.

My objectives can be grouped into an interest in the physical and metaphysical experience of art in relation to (1) creation and the artist's process (2) curation and the viewer's experience and (3) the space (or context) that underpins and intersects them both. While this seems like a broad subject I've come to realise that there are specifics found in the studio practice.
I am interested in creation (1) for its influence on the subject matter and materials in my work. Curation (2) is of interest in terms of presentation and understanding experience, and space (3) is, in this case at least, defined as both context and material, which I attempt to combine in the studio.


  • Process (incident)

  • Nomination

  • Perception

  • Presence

  • Subversion

  • Potentiality

I'm not totally confident that this articulation is the best one at the moment, but the next part of this module is an essay exploring this articulation in further detail. So it’s best, to avoid plagiarising myself, to save that articulation for later.

This, final update, has encouraged me to begin re-writing my statement. The re-worked statement can be found in the ‘about’ section of my website and I feel it sits far better within the scope of my work, and the wider context.

Overview of research done in line with objectives

I had plans to list here, under a variety of headings, all of the research contained in this blog. As if this, in some small way, validates the decisions I have made in the subjects I have researched.
I have come to realise that this is a, somewhat, pointless exercise. The validation is not needed, and the list only serves to lower my anxiety.

Here is a simple diagram instead. This covers the research done in the last 11 weeks.


Other avenues of thought (such as the note/thought sections of this blog) and seemingly unrelated research has fed into a wealth of contextual knowledge that I have been workingwith in the studio. The practical application of this research is hard to verbally quantify but the works speak for themselves, that is, after all, what makes art distinct from philosophy.

I have written or at least written first drafts of, a few posts that I haven’t posted online. I plan to finish these while continuing with further research. These include; Deskilling, Dianna Molzan, Sandra Gamarra, Phillyda Barlow, Haim Steinbach, Bruce Nauman, De-aestheticisation, Performance art, and Anti-art.

Annotated Bibliography

We have had to write an annotated bibliography covering this blog, and the research done within it. Choosing elements to annotated was probably the most difficult part of this assignment. The purpose of the bibliography is to show the breadth of sources, engagement with them and the implications of them in our practices. 

This has been hard to quantify. How can we show the impact of research? How can we annotate whole books into a few sentences? and how can we communicate the subjective reality of the impact these sources have had, against an attempt at an objective perspective.

I have chosen my sources, annotated them to the best of my ability at this time, and I hope that it shows what I am researching and why. 

Reflection - Blog

As the assessed time of this module draws to a close, it’s a time for a deeper reflection. The next steps of this process is a written essay exploring my methodology and a presentation outlining future goals and aims. In aid of this ongoing exploration, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the act of keeping this blog.

This has been an entirely new experience. I have recently finished my BA, during which we had to create a context folder, containing evidence and articulation of research done during our practice. My natural inclination has been towards research, and it has been an integral part of my practice for the last four years. BUT this has always been a solo process, only existing as a final form towards the last term of the year as I worked to pull everything together. This, more refined, process has been interesting and has highlighted some of the assumptions about research that I had fallen into.

My referencing skills have improved since starting this module, and I've come to appreciate the value of referencing from the start of research. This is something I will definitely be taking forward, and a useful function of the blog.

Keeping the blog has encouraged a consistency of format throughout my posts, and has encouraged me not to linger too long on a single point. The academic level is higher than I have achieved (over a sustained period) previously and I can honestly say that I have thoroughly engaged in this process.
My skills in referencing, articulation and language have improved in the weeks since I have started this blog. I have resisted the urge to go back and edit too much, to correct for this improvement, as I feel it shows an honest view of research in practice. A constant process of development.

Writing with the knowledge that it is in the public realm has altered the way I write, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it has altered the way I see my writing.
Writing is a creative practice, and I’ve been thinking about writing as more of a tool for research rather than record (which I plan to discuss more in my essay so shall stop here for now) and the blog has been the primary reasons for that train of thought.

This module has been an eye-opening experience, one that has shown me a new perspective on the things I have researched, and in the way I research.

The layout of this blog, along with the annotated bibliography, essay and presentation, encourage a heightened level of self-reflection. It has been anxious, and tiring, process but an extremely useful one.

I debated, for quite a while, about whether to include a note to the length of this blog, and the frequency of posts. It is reasonable to say that I have been fully engaged in this process, my life has revolved around this research process, studio working and contextual discussions.

There is a lot here, but that does not imply efficiency in a negative sense (rushed, or done without depth) but an engagement with the process in line with the requirements of this module, and with the expectation that the process will change, and research will become deeper into more focused subjects in coming months.

The thing to note here, more for myself than anyone else, is that I have not worked with a sustainable practice this term. I have worked more than I should have, which accounts for how utterly exhausting I have found this process, which is something I plan to work on next year. For now I am content with the solid foundation of theory I have created here, that I know will be useful for years to come.

The first few weeks of this term were a process of taking in information and getting to terms with the terminology and perspective of the module.

The middle portion, the meat of the module, was taken up with an extreme engagement and was where the majority of blog posts were produced. I scheduled many, to allow for some space in the positioning of them, and for myself to come back to them before they were posted.
The result of this is that the final few weeks have a higher frequency of posts. This to do with the posts I had written in the preceding weeks and scheduled for later. A well-organised plan, however, I did not account for the fact that inspiration for context has not stopped because I had reached the point where I had ‘enough’ posts scheduled.
I have found that since that moment (which occurred about two weeks ago) there have been a vast array of things I've wanted to speak about and write about.
I don't want to stop the passion I have for the research, and the work and I am not sure I could stop myself if I wanted to. So instead I have continued to write and research, and  I have then been posting the most recent texts on the day I write them.

So, the final few weeks are a combination of the completion of posts begun earlier and inspired research of the time.
I have come to realise, through this, that I should have posted things as I finished them. Normalising the frequency of my research seems like something done to appear in a certain way.
This will change in future.

My general skills in researching have improved, separately from the blog. As I continue to practice researching, and gain more knowledge that aids in the understanding of the research being done. I’m beginning to realise knowledge has a slight exponential curve, the more you learn, the more you understand.

Small improvements can be seen in practical research skills, like skim reading as a form of scoping out research, being able to quickly evaluate the value of information in relation to my practice. A form of tangential research that comes in line with an understanding of my own place within the wider context of the artworld.

To end this reflection I want to return to Kipling’s “six honest working men “ (a quote from our first lecture) (McGinn, 2017)

What - Art; an exploration of art theory and practice that questions what art is in our society, what it can do for us, and ways of perceiving art and space. A practice that hopes, beyond all else, to raise questions and encourage an active participation, mentally or physically.

Where - University. This is a point worth noting. I am doing these things with the underlying knowledge that it will be judged, marked and assessed in line with institutional guidelines. While the course is definitely self-motivated, there are things we have to do. I would not be writing this blog if not for this course, and these words wouldn't exist. Clear evidence for the value of an MA in Fine Art.

When - 2017. A time of tense politics, strong opinions and a growing concern with the effects of capitalism on society and us as beings. (at least on my part)

How - Through a process of presence and perception. Physically making the work and mentally exploring the ideas of others. A strong reflective stance, with a growing ability to perceive objectively and a growing foundation of contextual knowledge. At the sake of repeating myself, this is one of the main questions in the upcoming essay and presentation, so, for now, this answer will suffice.

Why - This is the hardest of the honest men. Why do I do this? The honest answer, for an honest man, is that this is where my passion lies. I have a creative mind, and I enjoy challenging myself and others. I create art because I believe in it, and the transformative power it can hold, individually and on a wider scale.

Who - Me. An optimistic art student, with a passion for knowledge and a tendency to overdo most things. My biases could be argued to relate to my gender, cultural context, financial status, marital status, class definition, educational history, mental perspective, philosophical outlook, and arguably many more. Those things are too personal to define on a blog but show through the writings and reflections found within it.

Deconstruction of practice undertaken. 

For the purposes of clarity I want to take a moment to apply a deconstruction of my research practice during this module;

  • Voice memos - I use software on my phone to record thoughts made while driving. It’s a technological system, and so is subject to issues. It also requires time to type-up the thoughts (I am currently a few weeks behind, so this is a negative and I need to find a more sustainable solution)
    The thoughts are often insightful, possibly because of the nature of the process, my mind is occupied and i'm totally alone, and would normally be lost in the act of driving.

  • Reflective thoughts - This is the same format as the voice memos (recorded by date) done when not driving. I have a document saved on my phone, so that I can access it anywhere. This note was begun on that document, and most of the ‘Note/Thought’ posts are taken from this document.
    Having this document allows for notation of thoughts in a more inclusive way, which has shown the shear number of connections in thinking; in life, and in art.

  • Research posts - This is the most traditional form of research. Taken from books and other sources. I prefer to take in information (with annotation where possible, so I photocopy or buy books that I can highlight and note in) and then summarise it later with my own thoughts.

  • Research Methodology posts - These are places where I have explored the methodology itself, and it's terminology. Includes many reflections.

  • Notes/Thoughts - From reflective thoughts, voice memos and notebooks

  • Photography - Working with objects, in a perceptual practice, requires a form of documentation. In addition to written documentation I take photographs of my space and connections made in the studio. This is a vital part of my process and beginning to move into the work itself.

An interesting note the duality in my work. Things seem to come in pairs or threes, I think this an important realisation and observation of myself as an artist, and my process.

Whats next.

The frequency of posts is going to change, both as this module is assessed and as the nature of my practice changes in line with the MA and my attempt to balance work and life slightly better.

The research will be ongoing but, over the next few weeks at least, I plan to spend the time writing my essay, and doing any extra research needed for that. My provisional ongoing plan is to go deeper into a few areas uncovered in this, first, stage as well as following a few links I didn't have time to follow.

Reflecting on the blog, and presenting an output from research in this way has been very influential in itself, and I plan to continue, albeit with fewer posts per week (at this time I think I have averaged eight, which I will try to limit to two as I continue forward) as the year goes on.

Research is coming more directly into my work. Referencing the act of research itself is something I want to explore more. Research can be both a definition of art and a vital part of the practice of it. I would like to explore both more inherently in the work I create.

Evaluating the success of research, in artistic practice, is proving to be more difficult the further I get. These are the choices I have made, these are the things I have researched, and this is what I have done with it. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey so far.


McGinn, A. (2017) Research Methodologies - Intro lecture - Knowledge - Useful terms and ideas / October 4, 2017. [Blog Post] Avaliable from: [Accessed 09.12.17].