Aims and Objectives

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].

Research Methodologies - Reflection - Temperature Check by Ally McGinn

I'm over a month into the blog, and this seems like a great moment to pause and reflect, a temperature check. 

I write a lot, I work a lot, I create a lot (if I can use that term, which many theorists would disagree with). This is a fact. I find it very hard to dial this level of interaction back. Whether I should or not is a question that occupies much of my anxious thinking.

If I'm honest I feel I've hit a bit of a wall with the research, like I'm going around and around, which I need to remind myself is the point. I need a break for a few days (because for over a month I've been working on context at least once a day, without fail) and regroup.

For now, I'm seeing the research as in the gathering stage. I am working on creating texts that contain factual information with my own thoughts. The subjects of research have come through extensive mind mapping, which covers my interests and inspirations. I've come to realise that these terms, artists and theories are not totally involved with the meaning in my work, while there is certainly an overlap (DRAW VENN DIAGRAM)

This is an important thing to remember in terms of confusion about whether I'm researching the ‘right’ things.

I have regularly paused to reflect on the things I'm researching and I'm noticing the research affecting the ways I think. My reflective journal, voice memos and my writing in the blog itself, all reflect this deepening in knowledge.

By far the most interesting factor for me are observations of the ways I am researching, and the similarities between my research practice and studio practice.

In the studio, I often create work to explore the ways I make work. In this way, the pieces are incidental to my true focus, an observation of activity. Through this module, I have begun to apply this methodology to my research practice.

A few specifics;

The blog has encouraged me to date and better record my thoughts and ideas. The practical implications of this is a fuller practice, with fewer lost thoughts. Contextually this has led to an interest in lost moments, incidental thoughts and the development of ideas.

Thoughts as art. I'm thinking more about individual thoughts, and having them written (which I didn't always do before this) has led to a deepening of those ideas. I can return to them later and develop them further, or be inspired by them.

Using voice memos. I have begun to use voice memo software on my phone to record my thoughts while driving. These are thoughts that would normally be lost. Incidental thoughts. I often don't remember the thought when I listen to it back, there is a chance I wouldn't be able to think them again without the voice memos.

One side effect of my level of focus on this module is that I've spent less time thinking about my work.

I quickly realised that swapping regularly between research ‘mode’ and studio ‘mode’ was tricky and it was hard to get deep enough into either. So I decided to take a week out of the studio to work on context. That's been a very good idea, and it's been extremely productive. I am now on the Friday evening of the context week, and it's hard to picture what effect this week will have on my studio work next week, but I predict I will be a bit more focused.

I have been opening the studio practice up, allowing myself the freedom to experiment (research). I now have a very solid contextual background and have been considering the context of artists whose work is aligned in some way to my own. This can only support the creation of my work in the studio. As Danto suggests, the artwork relies upon the ‘Artworld’ and I am now able to invoke more of the artworld.

I'm currently excited about two ideas for next week. The ways we read painting and the notion of balance, both of which have appeared often in the research.

Research Methodologies - Aims and Objectives update by Ally McGinn

We are about halfway through the research methodologies module, and as a temperature check, I’m going to do a quick update on my aims and objectives.

On 16th October I defined my objectives as;

  • Deconstruct canvas, physically and in concept. Comparing the reality of the object with its primary function.

  • Investigate traditional methods, process and materials, to identify areas of interest

    • Sub-question - Investigate the ‘space’ of art (i.e: the gallery or other curated settings) and it's function regarding the reading of art as art. (Because it's only through the gallery that nomination can serve as process)

  • Investigate the role of the viewer/onlooker in art.

    • Sub-question - Explore Derrida’s theory of the ‘parergon’ to better understand the concept and purpose of the frame in art and it's implications on the space and interpretation of art.

Regarding research, I have been making some progress with these, but this task has encouraged me to think about the ways the subjects I have been researching have (or have not) aligned with my objectives.

Figuring this out involved repeated mind-mapping and diagrams.

Updated Objectives

As the final image shows I have come to realise that my objectives can be grouped into an interest in the physical and metaphysical experience of art in relation to (1) creation and the artists process (2) curation and the viewers experience and (3) the space (or context) that underpins and intersects them both.

I plan to achieve these aims through an exploration of artistic theory and the work of artists based on these objectives. (Some of which are shown in the above diagrams and on my mind maps. An updated and comprehensive list is in progress)

I believe, and my research is showing, that the three subheadings are so interlinked that they cannot be accurately or truthfully separated. In fact, the act of art itself is a process of bringing the three together into an experience.

Through the research of these subjects and a more developed sense of the relationship between the three, I hope the enhance my studio practice and the effective communication of my message.

In a blog post on the 31st, i revisited my statement, which fits with this new assessment of my objectives. Statement - “I am an installation artist exploring the nomination of the incidental in art. Working with a subversion of organised activity my work asks questions of temporal perception. What tells us something is a piece of art? The process, the artist, the viewer, the experience or the collaboration of that and more? My practice explores these questions with a combination of found objects and manipulated semiotics.

Creating conversations through relational aesthetics the viewer is invited to step into the real space of the work to explore juxtapositions of incident and chance against an organised reliance on the interior and exterior of the ‘Artworld’.”



My aims have slightly developed, but I wouldn't say they have changed; more I have articulated them in a more focused way. This change was a natural development of a balance between research and reflection.

Going through this process has encouraged me to note what I have researched so far and what I plan to research. The most important factor of this process has been to reduce my planned research. I have been able to highlight a few areas of research that I thought I had to cover and have since realised that I do not need to include; I was being a bit too ambitious, and this reduction is a very positive step.

I believe that my objectives are clearer, and although the potential scope of this subject is very large I have been focussing my research more as time passes.

I will admit that the scope of this research is one of the areas that I am least comfortable with, in that I am unsure if I am correct that the scope is attainable, I believe it is, and that I have made good progress so far, but it is a very hard thing to check with any degree of certainty.

This research is vital to my practice because it is through this research that I am able to develop ideas. The process of my practice is one of concept, and those concepts and ideas often come from art theory, which I then attempt to subvert or challenge through objects and installations in the studio.

Research methodologies - Reflective Task - Aims and Objectives by Ally McGinn

The following document is part of one of the tasks given to us during this module. It marks an articulation of my aims and objectives.  As discovered through writing the previous few posts – I am an inductive, practice-led researcher and as such the method follows an un-prescribed step-by-step approach. 

I am most fascinated by the incidental nature of process (meaning process in the studio, process in research or even logistical process) which makes this task quite difficult. The best ideas in my work, and life, have come when I have released control (which I try enormously to hold on too) and I am loath to attempt to unpick things too much or go against a process that works.

Simply put – The thread of relevance and focus will be simple to follow retrospectively but is difficult to predict due to the organic nature of the process itself.

Having said that this is the most articulate this document has become at the moment. I may revisit this text in a later post, mid-research.
The objectives align to the diagrams in the previous post, but are not ruled by them.

My interest lies in the incidental process in art and the nomination and understanding of art and the space it occupies.

By investigating traditional ‘rules’, processes and materials I aim to identify elements that can be practically subverted or skewed to encourage new conversations between material, viewer and space.

I plan to adopt a methodical objectivist approach to literary research combined with practical investigations into the ontological reality of artistic practice, forming a inductive, bifurcated method. I am a practice-led researcher and practitioner. With a methodical deconstruction of ideas, I aim to explore our understanding, and perception of art.


  • Deconstruct canvas, physically and in concept. Comparing the reality of the object with it's primary function.
  • Investigate traditional methods, process and materials, to identify areas of interest
    • Sub-question - Investigate the ‘space’ of art (i.e: the gallery or other curated setting) and it's function regarding the reading of art as art. (Because it's only through the gallery that nomination can serve as process)
  • Investigate the role of the viewer/onlooker in art.
    • Sub-question - Explore Derrida’s theory of the ‘parergon’ to better understand the concept and purpose of the frame in art and it's implications on the space and interpretation of art.

Other possibilities/interests;

  • investigate theory surrounding the loss of control (and control in general)
  • Investigate the notion of nomination as process.

No bibliography for this post

Next post - Time to get down to some actual research, rather than just thinking about thinking! Next post is Derrida, and his theories about the frame. 

Research Methodologies - Mind Maps by Ally McGinn

Welcome to the most image heavy blog post I think im going to have.

My mind maps have come through in a few stages.

Through creating these maps, and attempting to identify my aims and objectives, I have realised what my methodology is, in its most practical terms.

To pin down my aims and objectives, i have to first look at my methodology as it has exsisted to date. I am an organised and slightly obsessive personality, i work using a practice-led method with often reactive explorations. This is true of both my studio practice and my research. For example, during my degree, I began research by mind-mapping keywords and known associated artists. This initial deconstruction led the research, which then focussed as the research progressed and a true interest arose.

This approach does not lend itself well to an initial question or much specificity, instead following an organic and intuitive focus to a defined end. I find myself unable to currently define exactly what I am going to bring together, but through doing (as in the studio, with writing, with looking at a thick book, or even getting out of bed in the morning…..) I find the only solution for me is to begin.

An interesting point that I have to note now. The penultimate paragraph in the last post was an exposition of my methodology in technical terms, with the help of a book and a very descriptive table. Whereas the paragraph above is the practical description, based on a discussion with my husband about the ways I work, and time spent staring at this document. Deductive vs inductive exploration of the same thing. It would be an interesting exercise to explore whether the two are actually saying the same things, and if not the differences could be fascinating.

So to begin.

I started with the broadest view of my studio practice, and its contextual links.

The images are very complicated and with far too many associations and links. I split them into primary and secondary (more to do with concerns with space as opposed to other considerations)

Primary research subjects/artists/texts

Primary research subjects/artists/texts

Secondary research subjects/artists/texts

Secondary research subjects/artists/texts

These images are complicated, and far too inclusive and undefined.

I next created a mind map based on the keywords highlighted in our initial weeks of the MA.

Keywords and terms

Keywords and terms

This deconstruction remains too undefined yet somehow restrictive.

I tried a few different ways of categorising the artists, subjects and texts. It's hard to say whether these are useful at the moment but they are a form of data collection.

Category explorations

Category explorations

Final Maps - Level 1

The final iteration of my mind maps, for now at least, removes the majority of the lines. I felt like those connections had become too numerous and convoluted. The images are too hard to read and decipher.
This mind map contains a few lines - where connections needed to be made explicit. The format of this map is based on the location of artists/texts/words to each other.

I feel that this map is far more indicative of my practice, and is something i can use as i continue forward as a foundation for where i am, where i might be soon and where i might find areas of interest.

2nd generation mind map exploring my practice and associated links

2nd generation mind map exploring my practice and associated links

An initial deconstruction of this map found three primary 'areas', although this is only an initial, and almost intuitive, deconstruction. I have tentatively titled these areas 'process', 'context' and 'material'. 


I then challenged myself to choose the most important elements. 


I began redacting this copy, before quite quickly realising that it was redundant. These things are all important in some way, however this drew me to an important realisation - some of these things have moved into the realm of inspiration as opposed to objective. 

Level 2
To further understand this development of research done over time i deconstructed the above information into a chronological catalogue of interests and context over the last three years, and potentially the next. 


This iteration has been the most useful for organising my thoughts and where i might want to begin researching this year. 
While some of the subjects have lasted through the years, the focus has certainly narrowed. 

With the combination of the two i believe i have a far more solid foundation of what i am interested in and where potential areas of research lay. 

While all of the information in level 1 is relevant in some way it is not where my objectives may lie. I found the distinction between what has become an influence (by dint of previous research) and my objectives to be an important one. 

Level 3

Taking the words most associated with my current practice (far right coloumn on the previous image) the next image attempts to locate those words in practical terms - where they intersect with my practice. 

The colours were then added to organise/simplify by 'subject'. The list in the top centre of the image shows the three words for each of the three 'subjects'.


This transitory document was extremely useful in trying to deconstruct what i consider to be the most important elements of my current artistic practice. 

Level 4

Re-presenting the above information led to this iteration, which is a redacted (more workable) version of level 1. The information is not really any different, but the perspective is. 


This final level, categorised for now into three sections, shows a true deconstruction of interests and aims. Ive highlighted a few areas of research interest (in yellow), one or more of these elements will make up the coming research posts. 

The image speaks for itself. The process of deconstruction has been difficult, confusing and generally overwhelming, but, as i think this final image shows, productive. I have a far clearer idea of where i am, and where i might want to be. 

Next post - a short document articulating my aims and objectives in the most definitive terms I can identify now. Far more confident thanks to these mind maps.


Please click here for a full list of texts referred to in mind maps. (PLEASE NOTE - not all of these texts have been referenced, but they are in the plan to be.)