Reflection - Duality and opposing terms / by Ally McGinn



I enjoy duality, i believe in balance and i make use of oppositions.

In my practice i believe duality can create complex connections, often very specific ones, that can contextually engage the viewer.

I've noted in another reflection that you often find the definition for one idea by finding the definition of its opposite. The relationship between opposing things is one that is distinctly tied together. Derrida would be a note of importance for the context here, particularly his works on deconstruction.

When reflecting on individual works i plan to make note of the duality found within.

The important note to duality is the relationship and differences between each.

The space between informs what is on the edges.

Here i wanted to explore a few of the contextual ideas that are found in to exist in duality.


Known : Unknown

The dichotomy between the known and the unknown is one that constantly shifts.

Memory and situation invoke knowledge through the experience of everyday life.

Once known can something become unknown?

Can the distance reopen after it has been closed?

In practice I enjoy presenting objects that are re-known. Known in a new way, with new conversations.

Not necessarily removing old associations but reforming and building off of what is already known.

The known is not always reliable. We trust in it, but it is notorious in its unreliability.


Passive : Active

Primarily in my practice the use of these words is related to modes of seeing.

Through the exploration of the book Strange Tools by Alva Noe we begin to see that seeing is not as simple as other bodily functions.

We see, in the scientific sense, through our eyes and our brains. Collecting and interpreting visual information from light waves.

We also see, in the conceptual sense, meaning and form in objects and signs.

The important distinction is that we actively perceive the information we collect. We choose what to look at, and we interpret it based on the filter it is seen through (including the filter of who we are). It is an active process, that requires active engagement.

I would argue that while all art should be explored actively, it isn't always.



Seeing : Being

Exploring philosophy brings up many contradictions and oppositions.

In my practice these terms relate to the engagement or embodiment of the viewer.

The difference between looking at the work and being immersed within it.

While this is not a primary focus in the subject of the work, it remains an interest.

In many ways this link comes through definition as installation art.


Unfinished : Overworked

Relating closely to the idea of failure and purpose, these words are inspirational in my practice.

Many of the base materials I work with are from the fringes of artistic practice and potential. Working with them forces me to question these ideas. These words are a focus for the creation of specific objects, ones not already used but created by me.

I think the practice itself can be seen as both unfinished and overworked.

The practice as an artwork, or which the artworks made are objectifications of the larger work.

Leaving an artwork unfinished, or defining it as such, somehow halts and expands its potentiality.


Representation : Re-presentation

These words have been explored in another post, but are mentioned here for their relationship to one another.

The suffix ‘re’ implies a process, doing something again, and yet differently.

Highlight the suffix in the existing word emphasises that something is being presented again. Put forward for consideration, re-consideration.


Subject : Object

This is another duo that forms part of another group. Included for the overriding, or maybe underlying, influence of the subject : object relationship in our society.

In language, in perception, in art, in psychology, in philosophy, this is another list that can continue.

In practice I would like to explore this idea more. To bring this as a more obvious influence into the works themselves, even if only in the titles.



The idea of duality, comparison and relationship is one that recurs through my practice. It can be related to installation, relational aesthetics (at least in the way I use it) and juxtaposition.

It is another word that describes the connections between objects and ideas, it is an important part of my practice, but duality isn't the right word.

Sadly neither is relational aesthetics.

I may find the right word through the rest of this process.


Upon proofreading - ‘Subject : Object’ might be the right words.