Research - Andy Warhol by Ally McGinn

Considered one of the most glamorous figures in contemporary art. Warhol was an eccentric figure, he became infamous for his eccentric way of seeing and experiencing the world. As I find is often the case, Duchamp said it best - “What's interesting is not that somebody would want to paint twenty-seven soup cans.  What’s interesting is the mind that would conceive of painting twenty-seven soup cans.” (Tompkins, 2013)

Fascinated with commerce and celebrity Warhol bridged the gap between the art world and the art market. (Warhol, 2007)

One of the basic tenants of commercialism is the wanting of something more. The purpose of advertising and other marketing strategies are to convince the viewer that they want something they don’t have, and that they must work hard to get it. This constant desire for more lies at the heart of our materialistic society.

For Warhol, this idea was something utterly fascinating. Working both against and with the idea of commercialism, Warhol worked with everyday materials as a way of showing that the things around us are worthy of as much respect, admiration and time as those we are taught to desire more. (Warhol, 2007) The things we already have can be as interesting as the things we don’t have, and therefore want.

The most famous example would be the soup can series. (Warhol, 2007) Highlighting the simple form, elegant design, and purposeful existence.

Andy Warhol (1964)  'Campbell's Soup Can' . Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Campbell's Soup Can'. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

In 1964 Warhol produced ‘Brillo Box (soap pads).' (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) An accurate reproduction of a commercially available product, the boxes show his interest in the everyday commercialist world we live in.

What I find most interesting about the work is that it is the container for the commercial object that has been reproduced. The ‘viewer,' or buyer, in this case, see the cardboard ancestor of this artwork not when they are buying or using it, but when it is being shipped to the shop for them to purchase.

Acknowledging mass production, both in the making of the box and the meaning of it, the work was criticised for “capitulating to consumerism, ” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but that certainly wasn’t the prevailing opinion.  

Arthur Danto, an influential art critic, found Warhol’s Brillo boxes intriguing and wrote about them in an essay ‘Beyond the Brillo Box.' (Danto, 1998) In it, he surmised that it was Warhol, as the artist, that made these boxes anything more than what they were. Calling them “pretty good pieces of carpentry” (Danto, 1998) Danto speaks about them being indistinguishable from commercial brillo boxes, the only difference in them is the declaration from Warhol that they are art.

Warhol himself was a believer that anything an artist did was art, once they had become an artist. (Warhol, 2007)

It was this examination of the Brillo Boxes that led Danto to conclude; that it is the intervention of the artist and the invocation of artistic context that defines an artwork. This invocation of artistic context is what he termed, ‘The Artworld,' without which the artwork could not exist. (Danto, 1998)

Works like the box reproductions (Brillo pads were not the only source of influence in the 100 strong series that Warhol worked on) (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) blur the lines on authorship, primarily because of the way Warhol ran his practice.

Andy Warhol (1964) ' Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'.  Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Working with a team, Warhol often delegated tasks, creating a near conveyer belt for artists and technicians, all working as part of a collaborative authorship.

In the first retrospective of his work in 1968 the entrance of the gallery was filled with 500 Brillo boxes, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but which boxes did Warhol work on himself, or even touch? And does that even matter? The art now exists and has become an autonomous entity in its own right, with inbuilt, ever-evolving meaning and message.

Warhol often gave plans of work to be made to the manufacturer's (in this case meaning individuals) who would work away from the originator of the idea. This reproduction, authorised as it was, can be considered a controversial topic.

In answer to the above questions – aside from the point made – is that in this case none of the boxes were made by Warhol, and none of them we even made of wood. In 2007 it was revealed, by someone linked to the exhibition, that there were no wooden boxes in the show.  Short on time and money someone (an unknown entity) purchased 500 cardboard boxes, directly from the factory in New York, which were shipped to Stockholm and displayed. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

I have to note here that Warhol would probably love the fact that his work has been increasing in value at a higher inflation rate than gold, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) considered the most glamorous and valuable of commodities. In 1994 they sold for £3,700 each, by 2000 one sold for £50,000, in 2006 one reached £120,000. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

There has since been an air of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the boxes. It is the authentication board of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which has the final say on what is and isn’t authentic. Any work authenticated by the board achieves artistic fame, and a catalogue number, those that don’t make it through the process are crudely stamped with the word ‘denied’ in red ink, defining and marking it as unwanted and useless.

The controversy over the Brillo Boxes in the 1968 exhibition has since been explained. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) A rather entrepreneurial curator Pontus Hulten, twisted in the controversy throughout, had claimed to make the boxes at Warhol's request before the retrospective. It has since come to light that the fabrication of the boxes was done in 1990, three years after Warhol died.  His reasons for this have been argued and defended. A staunch critic of the consumerist art market Hulten did not need the money involved in a fraud like this. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) I hesitate to use the term fraud. As an art student, I feel a sense of freedom to speak about this controversy regarding what it means for art.

Regardless of the financial or moral implications of a ‘fraud’ like this, it brings up more questions about authenticity, providence and the falsity of the art market.

In fact, this ‘fraud’ could more accurately be considered a piece of performance art itself.

As Thomas Anderberg, a Swedish art critic, said: “I believe Hulten decided to show up the entire Warhol industry.” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

The fact that the authenticity of Warhol's works is so complicated questions the validity of the entire process. In 2003 a print was denied by the foundation, even though its provenance was solid and it even had Warhols signature on the work. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) The defence for this rejection was that Warhol didn’t make the work, he only signed it. A disappointing response considering the way Warhol worked.

Who is the artist? What is the art? Does the artist have to touch the art? If the works are a series of reproductions why does it matter which one Warhol touched? The notion of artistic genius is at the forefront of the argument once more. The authentication board has defended itself by stating that its purpose is to clarify the distinctions between what he did make and what he didn’t make. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) Personally, I think the more important consideration is why there is a difference in value between the two.

Sadly the integrity of the Warhol authenticity board has been called into question, and it faces an extended period of uncertainty. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

It doesn’t, however, negate the totality of Warhol's work; it only questions some of it.


Warhol was someone who believed that the world could work in a better way and that the way to do that was through the clever manipulation of the truth and our understanding of the way we see the world. (Warhol, 2007)

Rather than have a studio he called his space a factory. A contradicting conversation between art and production, Warhol argued that the two are inextricably linked. (Warhol, 2007) The lesson he saw in the factory is that we can produce things, things called art, in a different way than history would suggest. Traditionally, and in general terms, art is something that is created by an individual and enjoyed by an individual. The creation of 'Art' happens on massive scales, but the commercial side of the art world means that the final position for each piece is most often eventually either disposed of or owned by a single individual.

For Warhol a way around this was reproduction.  Which explains his interest in soup cans, screen printing, and Brillo boxes.

After reading that Picasso had made 4000 masterpieces in his lifetime, Warhol decided that he would create 4000 in one day. A goal he quickly failed, he did make 500 in a month, a feat Picasso probably didn’t achieve. (Warhol, 2007) (Although that does beg the question – what is a masterpiece?)

Warhol wanted to apply the notions of commercialism and mass-production to the ‘good’ things in life. (Warhol, 2007) Things he saw as necessary to the continued development (as opposed to the current stagnation) of the human race. The issue that is in evidence through his attempted record-breaking printmaking goals, as well as other aspects of his life, is that art remains partitioned from mass production. (Warhol, 2007) That the art market exists and is the foundation for the continued existence of art is common knowledge, although still argued tremendously, it is a very different creature from mass-market commercialism, which Warhol arguably edged towards.

Warhol was interested in large-scale impact. He could be argued to be one of the most prolific artists when it came to trying different things. He tried drawing, painting, printing, audio recording, photography, sculpture, magazine editing, clothing manufacturing, advertising, band management, directing, he even planned a chat show. (Warhol, 2007)

Warhol’s legacy challenges future artists to change the world, in a mass populist way, through the medium (or message) of art.  


The implications of Warhol's work, and perspective are far-reaching, including into my own practice.

I am a maker at heart, and it is through that production that I can question our assumptions about art and process, and hopefully inspire those questions in the viewer.

Warhol did this, extremely successfully, in his own, unique way, I can only hope to do it in mine.


Danto, A C. (1998) Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective. California: The university of California press.

Levy, A. and Scott-Clark, C. (2010) ‘Warhol’s box of tricks.’ The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed - 20.11.17].

Tompkins, C. (2013) Marcel Duchamp: The afternoon interviews. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited.

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.


Note/Thought - Thought Dump by Ally McGinn

I keep three repositories of thoughts and notes, physical sketchbooks (which are used/turned into an edited sketchbook) voice memo’s (which are typed up and amalgamated into relevant writings - statements, presentations, reflections, research etc) and an online document that I can edit anywhere.

The following notes/statements are taken from the online document. Titled ‘Reflective Thoughts’ I usually make some form of note once a day. These thoughts are important to the practice, and in understanding the effects research is having on my thinking.

I could separate these into separate blog posts, and for the purposes of accurately recording the dates of theory, I plan to in future. For now, a selected grouping of recent interesting thoughts, with links to research and reflective thinking.


10th November

Objects in time.

The object is a constant where time is motion. The object pauses the moment?


12th November

Revealing thought through process.


16th November

The limits of knowledge.

We know something by first defining its edges, its limits.


17th November

Writing what I know.

I write things down, and then I know them.


My practice shows that art is a way of looking in that the practice is a form of perception, that is subverted to form new conversations.
This perceptual practice becomes a lot closer to the way a viewer interacts with the work. I see something and ask how it is art, or how I can define it as such.
An example of this is an idea i had to include a ‘For Sale’ sign in my space (an idea I’m not sure ill act upon). The inspiration for this came from driving home, I saw a for sale sign that had fallen over in the road and I wondered what it would mean to bring that into my work. That inspiration was incidental to my functional drive.
This is another example of the ways we notice things that are abnormal. And in this case an object whose function has been altered, it's purpose undone.

Reflection - often when I find I'm stuck in the studio, a natural part of the daily rhythm, I drive home and think about the work and the world and I find new things I want to explore, new questions I want to ask.



20th November

Bit of a bad night again, I'm exhausted and ill. It's not a good mix.

If I aim for progress too much I'll jump right over the point.


Idea - the title and description are shown on the wall, with the images of the artworks (with no other information) reproduced in a catalogue.


A Kierkegaard quote that I need to look into more is that people tend to be “subjective with themselves and objective with others” where we should be striving for the opposite. That is the state of despair that Kierkegaard suggests that we all live in. One of the main types of despair that people fall into, according to Kierkegaard, is one where you tie your sense of yourself, of the value of yourself, into something external that we have no true control over. Which is really interesting.


Analysis Paralysis - fantastic title name.


21st November

Expansion and contraction seem to be key terms in the practice, that recur in theory. The balance of the two is key to a sustainable practice.


22nd November

Descriptions, opinions and interpretations.


An idea - ‘Art in the 22nd century’ - then there is nothing on the wall. The inevitable future of art?


23rd November

The threads on the wall. Because there are 14 it becomes about the screws, and their location in relation to one another, more than about the canvas string.

The inclusion of frames is because it is about framing and the way we frame art in different ways.

Maybe these are two works of art.


28th November

The act of occupying space


The act of organisation makes things smaller, makes them fit. (Glove fitting into pocket)


29th November

Installation implies a single whole but I think my work can be compartmentalised into individual pieces.


Potentiality is by definition, transitory. It is forever in the future, and can never be guaranteed.


Communicative transactions.

Artist and viewer cooperate in a mutually beneficial transaction.


What do they think I'm doing? Where do they think I'm coming from? To try to figure that out I need to try to see things from their shoes, to take a step back from the work and understand where they think I'm coming from. With my kind of work, that is a big consideration. People trying to understand what I'm thinking.


Maybe my method is reflection and perception.


30th November

Art cannot be contained within words.

Art shows us ways to see everything as images, decipherable and beautiful for their complexity.


If we can go as far as we can see, and understand as far as we can see, then what really matters in the case of movement and development, is a change in perspective.


2nd December

We should not think of the past as fact that cannot be changed. It is changed, everything we continue to do builds upon and alters the context of, what has come before. So the past can be changed by actions, and perceptions of the present.


3rd December

Life in Context: Context in Life.

Everything can be described as knowledge. Context is knowledge (specified). Everything has context.

Context is even at the heart of the nature: nurture debate. The two cannot be undone or separated because they are together. Both exist in a single person, who we are, and cannot be distanced.

Context is at the heart of what it means to be human. It can be said that to be human is to contextualise. We cannot ‘be’ without something to ‘be’ in. The thing we are ‘beings’ in, is our context and is therefore indiscriminate from ‘being’ itself.


The Experiential Turn.

Shows that one of the purposes of art can be a grounding into the experiential moment, for the distanced person that is the modern human.

Everyday life distances is from the things we really want to be doing and the people that we really are.


6th December

Art is always relational and contextual, we cannot get away from those things


Artists refuse to take anything for granted.


Bringing something into focus so that you can then go on to talk about it - as a description of art?


7th December

Relational sentences.

Further impetus for the idea of sentence structure as maths - Once you put two things together they speak to each other.


Philosophy and art are intrinsically related and yet vastly different.


“Often wrong but never in doubt” an old, anecdotal, military saying. It means that once you have decided on the best logical decision you shouldn’t doubt yourself and should continue with purpose.


They are philosophical works, I haven't really noted that enough. That is part of what they do - a philosophical exploration.


They create opportunities to explore.


Research - Heidegger by Ally McGinn

Martin Heidegger is considered one of the leading philosophers of the 20th century. Heidegger was a prolific writer, influential in many fields of study, whose main field of interest was ontology and the nature of being. (Bolt, 2011) This post offers a brief introduction to his work, theories and a few key points in relation to my practice.

This text began as a short overview but has gotten more complex as I've engaged with Heidegger's writings more.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Enframed . found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

Ally McGinn (2017) Enframed. found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

Daniel Parker sums up Heidegger's preoccupation as “from beginning to end, Heidegger’s thinking revolved around this one basic question of the meaning of being...When Heidegger investigates art he does not do so to determine its characteristics as a specific and isolated region of human experience, but as a possible clue to decipher the meaning of being” (Palmer, 1998)


In ‘Being and Time’ Heidegger referred to subjects and objects as ‘beings’. Heidegger defines many types of beings in our world, where humans are the only ones who care about the nature of their own being.

Heidegger saw this self-referential thinking as something that marked human beings as separate from the other beings, and as an attempted stand against the flow of time.

This text highlights the important factor of ‘being-in-the-world’ and ‘being-with-others’ (Bolt, 2011) which are both ways of describing an important fact of our being; that we exist in relationship with our surroundings and are formed and informed by those relationships.

This directly challenges the notion of ‘distance’ from theory, as the theory is so inexorably linked to the physical that it cannot be undone. Heidegger views this perspective as an unattainable objective, which would seem to fit with the poststructuralist perspective.

In trying to find an objective distance we are ignoring our ‘thrownness’ which Heidegger explains as a term describing our ‘real’ lives and the experience of living in the world. (Bolt, 2011)

Heidegger uses the term ‘Dasein’ translated as ‘there being’ (Bolt, 2011) and meaning both human beings and the state of being, which he saw as indistinguishable from one another.

Daseins are individual and yet interrelate with one another.

Dasein has a ‘throwness’, in which we are thrown into a world that is mostly uncontrollable, wholey so at first, and we are left to find our way. Our circumstances, especially in early life, but also later, can be described as chance, and the combination of these factors are what Heidegger termed, our ‘facticity’. (Bolt, 2011)

‘Throwness’ is a term that is related to experience with others, and being in these constant relating experiences with others can overtake our own sense of self until ‘I’ becomes ‘they’. (Bolt, 2011)

This sense of ‘they’ is important in understanding human nature and the societies we live in, which are based on assumptions and perspectives of ‘they’.

In art, we often respond to our ‘thrownness’ and we are certainly formed by the ‘facticity’ of our lives. When seen in this way the relationship of this deconstructed, interrelated, narrative to Derrida and Danto’s theories about the nature of the interiority and exteriority of art (that the artwork doesn't exist in separation from its context) seems obvious.

Daesin is an interesting term because of its tendency towards self-fulfilment. A term Heidegger refers to as ‘projection’ (Bolt, 2011) which I've taken as; the ways ‘beings’ (who are in daesin at all times) explore and react to the world around them through a process of ‘being’. Our ‘facticity’ ‘projects’ a daesin’s ‘being’ through in a process of continual ‘thrownness’.

Note - I could be wrong here, Heidegger is dense and subjective, but that's my interpretation of it.

Further note - ‘throwness’ can never be in the future, it is the nature of our present. (Bolt, 2011)

Heidegger saw a distinction between everyday daesin and daesin, which can be seen as the difference between being, and questioning that being. (Bolt, 2011) The act of being in everyday terms obstructs the ontological examination of being. Heidegger sees this as a form of inauthenticity, an objective term that is a fact of life as a being. An authentic experience of daesin is one of contemplation of self.


Heidegger and other philosophers have noted a distinction between human ‘beings’ and other ‘beings’ but many agree that objects have a ‘being’. This reminder serves to note that when Heidegger is speaking about ‘being’ and the reliance upon ‘being-in-the-world', those theories can be applied to other types of ‘being’ (with varying degrees of success) including artworks.

In ‘Being and Time’, Heidegger posits the relationship between caring and being. “I care, therefore I am” (Steiner, 1978: 101). Without a form of caring we wouldn't exist, if we experienced an encompassing apathy we would stop moving, interacting, being.

Descartes posited ‘I think therefore I am’ beginning a philosophical stance that pronounces the thought as the only truly ‘knowable’ fact.

Heidegger highlights the impossibility of this statement, we cannot detach ourselves from reality enough to make this distinction. We are in the world and therefore our experience of it, and thoughts about it, are inextricably linked to it, as are all other ‘beings’, artworks included. (Bolt, 2011) This is a stance that resonates deeply with me, and a perspective I have long had without necessarily being able to articulate it.

In ‘The Essence of Truth’ he proposed the idea of caring as a catalyst for truth. (Stanford, 2015) (the word caring, as above, is seen as an interest of some kind) To Heidegger, you must care about something before you can know the truth about it, another resonating thought. Our being exists in the universe, with numerous external influences happening constantly, our interest is drawn, which leads to the uncovering of truth.

Truth is rarely something easily seen and is more often read or interpreted. In this way caring can also be described as an effort, I think, in that we must first engage with something to comprehend the truth of it, which takes an effort of some kind.

The overwhelming amount of ‘things’ to care about, even in daily life, leads Heidegger to compare being alive “to be[ing] surrounded by the hidden.” (Stanford, 2015)

I like this perspective on truth, as it acknowledges an element of autonomy in truth, that it can objectively exist, to some extent, external to the human perceiving it, and it therefore re can be discovered in some way.

Heidegger wrote extensively on the notion of the hidden, and in relation to art - which he saw as a process of revealing the hidden. (Stanford, 2015)

In his essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ published in 1950, Heidegger rejected earlier views of aesthetics, and art, as imitation or reflection, aligning it instead with ideas of truth and beauty. This essay shows once more Heidegger's view art objects can be seen as objectifications of truth, a way to reveal “that which is”. (Heidegger, 2008)

Heidegger describes the relationship between artist and artwork as a dynamic, which can be compared to Derrida’s description of the frame. "The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other." (Heidegger, 2008)

Art is separate from the two again, Heidegger saw art as the source for both artwork and artist. In this way, art becomes both the origin of and the goal for the artist and artwork, a cyclical dynamic relationship. A view I find particularly interesting, and something that has inspired a great deal of thinking.

This separation of artwork(object), artist(subject) and art(process) has been discussed further by the modern understanding of visual culture, and the semiotic interpretation of it. That meaning is external to the work as well as internal (or both as Derrida argued) is widely accepted, Heidegger seems to advocate the necessity of understanding the separation and the reliance of each upon the others.

Viewing art as both origin and goal leads to a confusing cyclical thought process about which came first, and how the relationship works exactly. Trying to find the essence of artwork and artist would seem to be a route to finding the essence of art. Heidegger chooses to try for the artwork first, as it is seemingly more concrete than their human counterparts. (Stanford, 2015)

According to Heidegger, and others, artworks can be defined through a set of traits but must be a ‘thing’ in themselves. The definition of a ‘thing’ seems to vary massively. (Stanford, 2015)

This appears to relate to Wittgenstein's ‘family resemblance’ theory.


Being an artist i am primarily interested in Heidegger's theories of aesthetics. Heidegger saw art as something with an inherent value, as an activity, in addition to the value found in the experience of art. He argued that art has a purpose in terms of history, and a form of marking ‘being’ and truth in culture. (Stanford, 2015)

In simple terms he saw the value of art as more than an appreciation of aesthetics, and that by reducing art to a form of sensory entertainment we are missing much of its true value, and purpose in the development of consciousness and understanding of beings.

Artworks are more than simple memesis, they are steps in the meaning of what it is to exist.

It could be described as; Art is the science of the senses. The -ology of the senses, using the senses.

“modern aesthetics is born of the aspiration to be “in the field of sensuousness what logic is in the domain of thinking” (Stanford, 2015)


Heidegger related art and philosophy to ‘movement’, as both a need to be aware of habitual behaviours and a deeper exploration of the ways beings create and interact with art and philosophy. (Bolt, 2011)

This is a thought I plan to return to as it is an exploration of these behaviours where I find my process sits.


In “The Age of the World Picture,” (1938) Heidegger postulates the possible implications of relegating art solely to aesthetic concerns. When “art gets pushed into the horizon of aesthetics,” he suggests that it pushes the artwork into an objectification of experience, which counts as an expression of human life. (Stanford, 2015)

I would argue that it also gives art a finite purpose, in the experience of the moment and for the gain of the subject, which, while often true is not always the case.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Plinth painting . Paintings. 40 x 40 x 60 cm.

Ally McGinn (2017) Plinth painting. Paintings. 40 x 40 x 60 cm.

One of the most critical terms I have come across while researching Heidegger is ‘poiesis’ which can be defined as the work existing in a place of balance between the poetic and the enframed.

The enframed comes from the word ‘Gestell’ meaning framing. (Bolt, 2011) Which, much like Derrida's ‘Parergon’, is a literal or metaphysical construct that shapes the way we view or experience something, in this case, an artwork. Bolt compares the ‘gestell’ to a window frame or skeleton, so as something that supports and underpins the ‘subject’ but remains distinct from it, or hidden in light of the true ‘subject’.

Many artists would consider this contextualising, however, it also includes elements of practice, emotion, location etc.

The poetic state of practice is the fluid and flowing creative status an artist reaches, while working, which allows the revealing of hidden truths in the work, or in its process, that potentially lead to the ‘final’ ‘artwork’.

To Heidegger, this state is what an artist is aiming for, and can be described as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. (Bolt, 2011)

The important factor is that art sits in the Venn space between the two and that the artists practice winds on a route between the two.

This is something that I've been edging around recently, it has come up in lectures, tutorials and studio practice, as the idea of what practice is.

This is a very important point for my practice and an articulate description of the way I work in the studio.


Without getting too bogged down by other concerns it's something to note that there is a great deal of controversy over his Nazi affiliations. Last year new evidence came to light that leaves no doubt that Heidegger was not only a sympathiser but a true believer. (Rothman, 2014) (Zielinski, 2016)

The debate about the impact of his anti-semitism on the validity of his philosophical works seems to be ongoing, and not something I'm going to discuss here, however, it is certainly something to bear in mind, especially given how affirming I have found reading his works to be. Personally, I like to think that the work someone does can exist, to an extent, in separation from the person they were/are.

The idea, and whether it resonates, is more important than the speaker.


Interesting term - ‘Praxial’

Comes from the word ‘praxis’ which is defined by Aristotle as process/practice distinguished from and yet intertwined with, theory.

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “ the process of using a theory or something that you have learned in a practical way”.

An important term in art. Art, certainly in my practice, is an act of praxis.



Researching Heidegger has shown an interesting perspective on the production and interpretation of art. I began this research after hearing about the idea of the space between the enframed and poetic. However, the research has led to something more.

Heidegger not only explored ‘being’ but embraced the reality of it. His theories around ‘being’ rely and impress on us that we are already ‘being’. Practice and theory combined.

The main thing that this research, and the writing of this text, has shown me is that there is a lot more research to be done. Heidegger, and reading through the rest of ‘Heidegger Reframed’ forms part of my ongoing research plans.


Bolt, B (2011) Heidegger reframed. London: I.B. Tauris.

Heidegger, M; trans. David Farrell Krell (2008). "The Origin of the Work of Art". Martin Heidegger: The Basic Writings. New York: HarperCollins.

Palmer, D. (1998) ‘Heidegger and the ontological significance of the work of art’, British Journal of Aesthetics, vol. 38 no.4, pp. 394-412.

Rothman, J. (2014) Is Heidegger contaminated by nazism? [Online] The New Yorker. Available from: [Accessed - 21.11.17].

Stanford (2015) Heidegger’s Aesthetics. [Online] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from : [Accessed - 02.11.17].

Steiner, G (1978) Martin Heidegger. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stulberg, R (1973) Heidegger and the Origin of the Work of Art: An Explication, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol 32 no.2, pp, 257-265.

Zielinski, L (2016) In His Own Words [Online] The Paris Review. Avaliable from: [Accessed - 21.11.17].

Research- Exhibition Trip - Spike Island by Ally McGinn

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition]. Spike Island, Bristol. 30 September - 17 December 2017.

Visit: 26th November 2017

This exhibition was recommended to me by fellow students on the MA as they began to get to know my work. I went with my daughter, the perspective of a 6-year-old is extremely interesting, and it quickly overtook Jasper Johns as my favourite exhibition experience this year.

From the exhibition catalogue

Kim Yong-Ik is a Korean artist born in 1947 in Seoul. This is his first solo show in Europe and was preceded by an exhibition in Korea. He is known for his questioning nature and playful execution of works. Kim has remained firmly detached from any set art movement, a distance that allows him to subvert and challenge the practices of art institutions. This description fits the underlying nature of the works in this show.

A major turning point for Kim was the repression in his country in the 1980’s. At a time when he was writing a thesis about Duchamp, he was invited to take part in a show, the ‘Young Artists Biennial’. His works, which were paintings, were boxed, shipped and shown in the exhibition, still in their boxes. The boxes were stacked as a sculpture in the exhibition. This work serves as a response to the political upheaval and Modernist painting.

Kim is known for his uncertainty in his place in the art world, and the ‘role art should play in society’. His continuing practice pushed painting into sculpture, often working with the space of display within the work.  

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

A key piece in the exhibition, for me, was made in this time. Near an access door to the gallery at Spike Island, a fantastic placement for this work, is a pile of unwanted works, and packaging materials. The pile is left haphazardly and the viewer is left unsure whether the works are simply waiting to be cleared away. Due to the nature of the gallery, without titles on the walls, the only clue that this an artwork is found in the accompanying catalogue and exhibition guide.

This ambiguous work is utterly brilliant, it immediately forces the viewer to ask a question.
Kim said about the work that “it is also a metaphor for many of my parent’s generation who crossed the line of life and death based on their decision to be left wing or right wing.” A deeply personal and political message that the artist has found expression with through the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim's works interact with the space around them without becoming totally site-specific. They fit the space, without being reliant on it. Something I am attempting to achieve in my works. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The title of the exhibition comes from writing on one of the works in the show. Writing is a key element of Kim’s practice. The stack of boxed paintings has a new addition for this exhibition. He has written ‘Spike Island’ and the date one each crate.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The single most exciting feature of this exhibition, seen here as a whole, is the writing on the walls Kim has made to explain things about the work. These small additions are a site specific interaction with the presentation of an existing artwork. They are small, and light, and could easily be missed. Many require the viewer to sit on the floor to see them.
I took photos of a few, and they are brilliant additions to the work, and show the performative aspect of practice.

Kim returns to many artworks, seeing the process as ongoing, and enjoys allowing time and chance to affect the works.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The final section of the exhibition, depending on how you move around the space, features recent works. These sit between painting and sculpture, paintings within sculptures. Kim has encased paintings inside coffin-like cases. Known as the ‘Coffin’ series these works are inscribed with various writings. An accompanying paper translates these for the viewer.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Many of the texts describe or somehow comment on the work, sometimes directly but often romantically or poetically. Some are simply documentary. The inclusion of these elements of text contextualises the work, within the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This exhibition has been extremely influential, and I imagine it will only become more influential as I continue to review it, and hopefully visit once more before it closes.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 


This exhibition has quickly become one of the most influential I have seen this year. The works are a combination of Kim's personal subject matter (including circles) and a questioning of art that is conceptually engaging. 
The works are carefully arranged, and full of surprises. His works and the context behind them have made me question, in the best possible way, my own practice and influences. 
It is really through this exhibition, and a subsequent reading of the accompanying material, that I have realised the links of my work to capitalism. A link later reiterated with the text The Experiential Turn. 

I havent written as much as I normally might about this exhibition, the experience shows more in the shift in practice that has come from the combination of this exhibition, studio research and contextual research in the past few weeks. 
I need to go back to the exhibition before it closes. I need another look and more time to think about these intricate implications.

Research - A Note on Post-structuralism by Ally McGinn

Post-structuralism is a term I've come across in the last few years of research, yet it is one that's eluded my attempts to retain it. In an attempt to assimilate this knowledge I wanted to write a short post about this term.

Associated, but not inextricably linked, to postmodernism, post-structuralism is hard to define, another similarity to postmodernism.

At heart, post-structuralism is the focus shift from creator to audience and external meaning.

It's basic tenets are;

  • That the notion of the individual is, at heart, false. The reader is an amalgamation of external sources and influences that form an interpretation of ‘reality’ based on their perspective.

  • That the author, or artist's, the intention is irrelevant in comparison to the interpretation of the reader, the viewer.

  • And therefore, due to the perspective reliant nature of interpretation. The use of a variety of sources is vital to the ‘truth’ of a subject

Many of the theorists I have been researching are post-structuralists, including Derrida, Barthes and Foucault. I can now say I am working from a post-structuralist ideology.

This brief note covers a wider range of subjects and theorists, and should, in fact, be on my mind maps.

Research - Brief - Chance and Incident in Art by Ally McGinn

My current theoretical research is mainly focussed on philosophy around what art is, but it would be remiss of me to ignore totally one of the fundamental influences and sources of my work.

Researching about what art is, enables me to explore ways to subvert our understanding of art in practical terms. Using chance and incidental elements in the studio is an act of subversion in itself. Unwanted and discarded elements invoke notions of potentiality, purpose and the everyday.

Many of the materials I use are obtained through or are objects of, chance. However, their use is not due to an interest in chance as a subject, but rather through their disassociation from choice or intention and the resulting dissociation in the artwork.

I am well known in shared studios for collecting unwanted materials, rubbish and works. Using these in my work is an important part of my process. Working with objects, traces or unnoticed elements encourages me to look at things differently. Focussing on things that normally remain unnoticed feeds not only the material of my practice but often ideas within it.

Using materials that are considered incidental extends their potentiality past the purpose they have fulfilled. My practice often juxtaposes these extended materials with those that have had their potential halted, never achieving what they could be, instead being subverted into an artwork (which admittedly then becomes their purpose).

In this way, chance is deeply associated with purpose and function within my work.

I've been looking at artists who use chance and incident in their work and to illustrate the importance of this idea in my practice I plan to explore two of those here.

John Cage

John cage is an artist and composer, known for his work with chance. Cage worked at a time when Abstract Expressionism was a major focus in contemporary art, he had a close friendship with other artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. (Brown, 2001)

In his work 4’33” (1952) he used the ambient noise of a recital hall to create the music. (Inversen, 2010) The performer came onstage, and sat in front of a grand piano. Hands poised he played nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, after which he left without saying anything. The audience did not know what to expect during the first performance and it only highlighted the purpose of the piece. (Inversen, 2010) What he composed was nothing but silence, the composition heard at each performance was made by the audience, by their shuffling, sighing or other noises.  He created a situation rather than a piece of music.  In the same ways, many artists try to create an experience.

This piece highlights the chance nature of artistic materials (in this case sounds) in the world around us and argues the case for the potential inclusion of any chance occurrence in art.

I could easily write a few thousand words on Cage and the implications of his practical research into chance and the unconsidered in the everyday, however, it will do to note here that he created exhibitions, artworks, compositions and ‘happenings’ that embraced the ideas of chance and what those ideas mean.

I’ll end this short note on a brilliant man with my favourite quote about music theory - "Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?" (Cage, 1961)


Natasha Kidd

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Kidd is an artist who we are lucky enough to have as a lecturer at Bath Spa University. Her work has been an inspiration and she is the person responsible for the biggest compliment I have ever received about my work - that it made her consider the space we are in differently.

Her work is primarily concerned with painting machines, and working with painting in new ways. The main piece I want to discuss here is ‘Overfill’ which is a series of machines that pump white paint into the space behind a canvas. (Kidd, 2017) This space fills and the paint overspills through small holes at the top of the canvas, before returning to a reservoir underneath each painting.

The painting machines are displayed working, and the results become almost iconic remnants of these industrial explorations of paint. These explorations deny any expressionist or emotional influence. They speak about paint in its purest form and allow the paint to speak for itself. The machines and the resulting canvases are paintings but at the same time they are sculptural forms, and they speak about paint far more than a traditional (or many contemporary paintings) can.

I have been lucky enough to see this work a few times over the last few years. The machines, now dried, are in a few offices around the campus. One of them is currently running in the paint workshop at the university. The small hardened drips that form over months on the canvas had been chipped off, so the machine has been set up once more to reform these chance elements.

In an exhibition in 2000 called ‘Microswitch’ the machines were hydraulic and dipped an entire canvas into white paint and then pulled it up again to allow the excess to drip back into the vat of white. Again and again, the canvas is dipped by the hydraulics, adding layers of paint, covering the old remnants with the new. The show ran for 6 weeks, with the dipping running throughout. (Healy, Undated)

As the layers dry the paint forms inconsistencies and unique forms that cannot be replicated or anticipated because they are true forms of chance.  Each time this work is shown the result is different, the differences might be minute but they are there. Using white paint further highlights these small yet extremely important differences.  Because these differences are only affected by the machine and the paint itself the resulting effects are aesthetically organic.

The viewers are experiencing the creation process, live. In this way, the pieces are performative, with the machine as the performer.  The canvas then serves as a record of the performance.

Natasha Kidd, as the creator of the machine, has control in certain elements, the colour of paint, the timing of the dips etc but the resulting paintings have very little of her personal influence on them. The machine is the artist and the visual form is incidental.


I could easily continue this post, I have conducted a great deal of research into ‘chance’, and there are numerous books and artists who have done the same.

This does not serve as a full view of this subject but instead uses two artists to serve as a note to the importance chance and the incidental in my practice.


Brown, K. (2001) John Cage Visual Art : To Sober and Quiet the Mind. San Francisco : Cambridge University Press.

Cage, J. (1961) Silence : Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press.

Healy, J. (Undated) ‘Natasha Kidd: Microswitch’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 28.11.17].

Iversen, M. (2010) Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art). MIT Press.

Kidd, N (2017) Natasha Kidd, Artists Talk. Bath Spa University. 21.11.17.

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)

Research - Additional note on George Dickie by Ally McGinn

George Dickie saw art as both evaluative and classificatory. I've been continuing to read Janaway's book 'Reading Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art' which states that Dickie saw the procedural side of art as more important than the functional. The end result isn't what matters when defining something as art, but instead it is the artists nomination and its relation to the 'artworld'.

This seems to be the stance of many theorists and artists, and the idea has been articulated in many forms. It is a stance I follow, and one that is important in the understanding of what my work is and where it sits in wider context.


Janaway, C. (2006) Reading Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Selected texts with interactive commentary. Pondicherry: Blackwell Publishing.

found elements on desk (2017) digital photograph

found elements on desk (2017) digital photograph

Note/Thought - Meaning and intention by Ally McGinn

It's important for me to remember that the things I am interested in can be very distinct from the meaning in the pieces I create.  The things I am interested in can lead to the pieces because the process of making art is also a form of research.

This would be an argument inline with ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ in which the artists meaning becomes irrelevant when the viewer is introduced to the work, because that introduction brings a new set of paradigms and perspectives are introduced, so the meaning becomes something else anyway.

In practical terms, and very relevant to the moment, this shows the importance of being in the studio, working, and not getting too obsessed with what it all means.

Meaning (as imposed by the viewer) and context (as imposed by me) can be two very distinct things.

Research - Danto - Short Note by Ally McGinn

Danto is an extremely influential figure, I've read a few of his books. What I would normally be tempted to do here is write a few thousand words on him, his works and the implications of those works to my field. However, my list of potential blog posts is growing. So for now, as a place setting for a potentially longer text later.

Philosopher and critic Arthur Danto suggested a thinking test that is very useful in understanding the importance of context and concept in the understanding of art.

Imagine there are four seemingly identical paintings on the wall, all painted in the same, flat, red. Each is done by a different artist, but there are no real discernable visual differences between the work. However, the origins and context of each are vastly different; (1) one is a close-up painting of a red tablecloth, (2) one is a painting representing the Red Sea after the Israelites had crossed, (3) one is a pun on the communist flag, and (4) the final one is an unfinished painting that was included for it's similarities to the others, but had crucially never had the moment of nomination as art.

Each has art historical precedent, and in ’Transfiguration of the Commonplace’, where this analogy can be found, Danto describes some of the links that might be at play here. However, the links and reasons each artist chose to create their red painting are not as important as the comparison between them. (Danto, 1981)

These paintings now become vastly different simply because we understand more about them. This thought experiment serves to highlight the ontological reality of art.


I've discussed Danto in my post about Andy Warhol, but I will add one point here; Danto is also responsible for a term I have used liberally throughout this blog, and that my grammar checker hates, the ‘Artworld’ the title of an essay by Danto after he visited the Andy Warhol exhibition of ‘Brillo Boxes’. To Danto, these boxes represented ‘the end of art’ which, rather than being a sign that art was dead, was the mark of the moment when art became anything. The important factor, to Danto, was the ‘Artworld’, the theories surrounding art and it's history, that allowed anything to be considered as art. It's historical perspective. (Danto, 1964)

''Given two things that resemble one another to any chosen degree, but one of them a work of art and the other an ordinary object, what accounts for this difference in status?'' (Danto, 1981) It is the artworld that allows two seemingly indiscernible objects to have such disparate meaning and value.

This term has been incredibly useful for me, and part of my lexicon, but I tend to forget that it's meaning isn't common knowledge, although interestingly the meaning can be understood without knowing about Danto and his epiphany.


Danto is a prominent art critic, writing about numerous artists and exhibitions. In a text about Jasper Johns flag paintings, which I recently saw at the Royal Academy, Danto described them as ‘reverse readymades’, a term coined by Duchamp, which describes works of art that become the everyday. (Danto, 2001)


Danto, A C. (1998) Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective. California: The University of California press.

Danto, A C. (1964) ‘The Artworld’. The Journal of Philosophy, Volume (61): Pages 571-584.

Danto, A C. (2001) The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World. London: University of California Press.

Danto, A C. (1981) Transfiguration of the Commonplace. London: Harvard University Press.

Note/Thought - Meaning and Influence by Ally McGinn

Something i've only recently come to be able to articulate is the distance, although still connected, between the research i do (which informs and influences my work) and the meaning found in the work i create. The two are inextricably linked, but remain distinct from one another.

This is an important factor, as in previous years i have struggled to attempt to contain the research done in the context of the work, which can be detrimental to the creation of the work itself. To put it simply - there is a reason the two are different, and that reason separates the context of both, and it should be separate.

Research - Taste - Kant, Hume, Bell and aesthetics by Ally McGinn

A term I've been considering a great deal lately is the idea of taste, and the ways we are drawn to things. Many of the works I'm drawn to conceptually, attempt to deny factors of taste, by definition. While the draw towards some form of aesthetic ‘rightness,' at least in my studio practice, continues, both consciously and subconsciously. This is a point in my studio practice that I am attempting to work through.

Taste is generally considered to be subjective; everyone likes different things. However, there is also a tendency towards a particular aesthetic quality in some works. Put in a room full of artworks many people will like similar things, and some artworks feel ‘right’ to some majority. Entirely anecdotal these two statements have been considered valid enough to debate, for centuries.

The philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant both explored the notion of taste and this disparity between the perceived truth that no taste is superior and the more visceral sense that there is some aesthetic hierarchy that is yet undefined. (Janaway, 2006)

To Hume, it could be broken down to an issue of education and experience. Taste is a skill that can be taught, leading to an eventual consensus and a universal ‘standard of taste.'

Hume believed that we are creatures more defined by our feelings than any rationality. That we are mostly guided by our feelings, to which rationality is often later used to back up the initial feeling. We reason from, rather than to our convictions. (Janaway, 2006)

Hume believed that our feelings, or passions, could be developed, taste is one of them.

I find myself very drawn to this idea, or more accurately, to the lens Hume views human beings through.

In a classic example, Hume described a taste test. Two people taste the same cask of wine; one notes a metallic note, and the other a leathery one. Both are ridiculed for their assessments until a key on a leather thong is found at the bottom of the barrel. This case highlights an important distinction, the difference between ‘bodily taste’ and ‘mental taste.' Bodily taste can be described as the objective features that we observe and use to justify our judgment of taste; the metallic or leathery notes found in the barrel are located in the wine and are not, as the people ridiculing the tasters assumed, due to the refinement of their palette or their perception of taste. (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

The critical factor, for Hume it seems, is the removal of personal preference and prejudice in the judgment of taste. The difference between ‘Is this good?’ and ‘Do I like it?’.

This is a way of understanding our ‘faculty of taste’. We must attempt to operate this faculty from an unbiased perspective, with a knowledge of sorts, and with a considered argument justifying the judgment of taste.

Hume saw the faculty of taste as defined by five key criteria;

  • Good sense
  • Delicacy/refinement of sentiment
  • Practice
  • No prejudice
  • Comparison

Hume did not assume that all viewers of artwork should be ideal critics, but more highlighted the philosophical conundrum surrounding the issue of taste. Objectivism is critical, but only when we understand our subjectivity. (Intersubjective??)

Tangential thought/link - The only accurate judgment is one, using Hume’s view, that can stand the test of time, and can be expanded into the test of culture. Moving the artwork through time and location should not change the judgment of the ideal critic, which could suggest that the ideal critic does not exist? (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

To Kant, it was more an issue of beauty. He argued that the judgment of taste is grounded in the artwork, not our perception of it. This is a complicated argument because the ingredients of beauty cannot be explained entirely, there are some things considered beautiful to most, a sunset, roses.

There are thousands of ‘beautiful’ paintings. (It is worth noting that there are certain ‘rules’ of beauty - including theories about symmetry, etc., but that is a tangent I won't follow here)

The point remains that Kant saw beauty (vital for taste) as intrinsic to specific objects and images. Beauty, to Kant, requires ‘purposiveness without purpose.' (Kant, 2007) For an object to be purposive, it needs to have that ‘rightness’ that some objects have.

Kant argues that we see an object as beautiful because it promotes a feeling of harmony in the viewer. The generation of feeling comes from the object, not the viewer. Therefore it is intrinsic to the beautiful object.

Kant influenced a great many critics, artists, and thinkers.  His work on art was not limited to ideas of beauty, and he certainly didn't believe that all art should be beautiful. Kant believed that for a real experience of beauty the viewer must remain distanced from the object, an uncontaminated experience (independent from purpose). (Kant, 2007)

Aesthetic judgments have a normative aspect, explained basically - we either agree or disagree with them. Kant believed that we all share a type of ‘common sense’ in which we are all constructed in the same fundamental cognitive way - if one person likes something, it should hold that another can and does as well. This is an important idea, given the prevalence of art in human culture, taste is a part of the artworld, and our shared ability to experience artworks allow these conversations to take place. (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

Edward Bullough continued Kant's aesthetic theories to say that a viewer needs a degree of ‘psychical distance’ to view an artwork. A degree of open-mindedness. He argued that the inclusion of political or sexual issues would only take away from the aesthetic experience and understanding. (Janaway, 2006)

When seen like this I would argue that both Hume and Kant can be correct. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is some element of beauty is intrinsic to the work, and aesthetic beauty can be almost universally acknowledged but the appreciation of that beauty. Moreover, the beauty found in a conceptual idea, a social statement or a witty commentary is a skill that can be honed, or expanded merely with knowledge and experience.

When thinking about taste, the physical form of the artwork is fundamental; it is the way the work is experienced. Clive Bell, an art critic, coined the term ‘significant form’ in 1914. He was talking about the combination of certain qualities that together form something that people respond to on an aesthetic level or the idea that some artworks are liked due to some underlying, and undefinable, aesthetic ‘rightness’ – Beauty - a word fraught with conflicting associations in the art world. Seen as a positive by many it is often considered unfavorable for an artist, certainly for current art students. For something to exist without needing the foundation of a well thought out context or concept, it needs to be able to rely on something else. Beauty is often the alternative. These works are art, as defined by their artistic creator, so in many ways, art can stand without context or content, but there needs to be an alternative foundation. It would be difficult to conceive of an artwork without any of it. It is worth noting here that Bell acknowledged that a critic could inform a viewer's knowledge of significant form. (Freeland, 2002)

Bell, Hume, and Kant (and others) seem to agree that to appreciate beauty the work must separate itself from other concerns. Maybe the closest we can get to that separation involves an appropriate perspective.


Regarding my practice, this research has helped highlight the importance of recognising my personal preferences in a work of art. While I've been working on my faculty of taste over the years of study, it has been more externally focused. The application of this faculty in my practice is a fundamental skill I can improve, with firmer knowledge of it I hope to be able to apply a more precise perspective to the visual ‘editing.' One free of my personal preferences - which I can already say includes a sometimes overwhelming visual aesthetic, and a tendency to lean towards an aesthetic ‘rightness,' which can be detrimental to the work.


Freeland, C. (2002) But is it Art?. New York: Oxford University Press.

Janaway, C. (2006) Reading Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Selected texts with interactive commentary. Pondicherry: Blackwell Publishing.

Kant, I. (2007) Critique of Judgement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philosophy Bites (2017) ‘Elisabeth Schellekens Dammann on Disagreement About Taste’, Aesthetics Bites. [Podcast] Available from: [Accessed 01.11.17].


The image I've used to illustrate this post can be accessed here -

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 - Book review - Fiction - 'The Humans' by Ally McGinn

The novel ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig can be seen as a fictional version of De Duve’s alien anthropologist from ‘Kant After Duchamp’. In ‘The Humans’ an alien from an advanced species is sent to earth with only a biological and analytical impression of humanity - he takes the form of a human and takes a few of that human's memories (the ones they thought would be useful) and yet he finds himself in a world he doesn't understand. His journey through life as a human, including the plot involving a mathematician and knowledge humans aren't ready to know, is a beautiful perspective on humans and our view of the universe around us. The authors articulation of the human condition, and it's frankly insane assumptions is simply brilliant.

The Humans’ can also be described as a modern novelisation of Ambrose Biers ‘Devils Dictionary’ (also witty and insightful). I cannot recommend this book enough, it is poignant, well written, clever and, most impressively, it’s funny.

It is an entertaining and eye-opening read, and while fictional it is a brilliant example of the theories I have been exploring in a novel.

Read it and I dare you not to laugh and think.


Haig, M (2013) The Humans. UK: Canongate Books.

Research - Derrida and the frame. by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2016-17)  Painting Installation.  Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2016-17) Painting Installation. Mixed media. Size varies.

This blog has been primarily involved with the theory of research and defining my place in the wider context.

Now we get some actual content.

Choosing an order automatically adds a hierarchy, so I will disclose now - this subject was chosen to discuss first because we were given a lecture today by the amazing Robin Marriner, who features heavily in the bibliography for this post, about visual culture and the way we read images.
Robin's work in the realm of visual culture has been extremely influential to me over the last three years, and it was through him that I discovered the theories of Derrida, and their relation to the way we see artwork.

With no further ado, a brief overview of Derrida’s ‘parergon’ and it's implications for the reading and understanding of art, and how that information might be explored in the studio.


Jacques Derrida was a philosopher commonly known for coining and developing our current understanding of the word ‘deconstruction’. An extremely prolific theorist Derrida wrote about many topics; however, the focus here is on a term coined by Derrida to explore the frame in art.

Drawing from Immanuel Kant’s theories Derrida wrote ‘The Truth in Painting’, in which he coined the term ‘parergon’, to explain why when looking at the work the frame is part of the wall, and yet when looking at the wall it is part of the work. Refused by each to be considered as part of themselves the frame exists between the two, as a separate entity.

Derrida said about the parergon, “Neither work (ergon) nor outside the work (hors d’oeuvre), neither inside nor outside, neither above nor below, it disconcerts any opposition but does not remain indeterminate and it gives rise to the work.”

The function of the parergon, then, is to create a framework that contextualises (and re-contextualises) what is being framed.

The parergon is both a literal framing or placement and a metaphysical concept that denotes context, both of which can be understood and used by the artist and the viewer.

Our metaphysical understanding of the frame can be taken as our understanding (or exploration) of meaning. We all interpret visual culture (any aspect of our culture perceived visually), based on our own knowledge or understanding. In Derridian theory, the meaning of the work is not intrinsic to the work, at least not completely.  

There are certain signs that exist in any work of art. However those signs are subjective, they can be interpreted.

Interpretation is a word that Derrida never used because it implies that there is a pure, or real, meaning to be found in each artwork.  There is no right answer in art, and there can be no single ‘real’ meaning, only varying readings, what we see and say to be there doesn’t exist without what we bring to it – a framework. That framework comes from things that are both external and internal to the work, and more importantly, the links between the two.

External to the work, in terms of the wider context, we find any other information that is not contained within the edges of the artwork. Because the existence of the artwork is so dependent on this information it follows that what we believe or define as external is, in fact, an integral part of the artwork.  Following this, we can see that no art can ever be autonomous.  The internal involves the invocation of the external and the external involves the reading of the internal.  Both exist, and it is only without either that true autonomous art could exist.

The moment you take something as ‘Art’ it is contained within the metaphysical frame of art context, connecting it to things outside of itself. The interior meaning (placed by the artist, object or material) and the exterior meaning (eg; wider context, the nature of art and the viewers perspective) are vital to the reading of artworks as ‘Art’. To see ‘Art’ we need the theory and the knowledge. It is only in the acknowledgement of the exterior that an artwork can be seen as more than a physical object, but as ‘Art’.


From this overview of the ‘parergon’ we can see some of the initial implications of this theory, and how it might impact the studio work.

Firstly, the exteriority of meaning is part of the foundation for the nomination of found objects as art. It is only through the frame of ‘Art’ can anything be ‘Art’.

Physically the frame is something involved heavily in painting, especially if the stretcher is considered a sort of proto-frame. In sculpture, the plinth can be seen as the primary frame, although only for certain sized works. With digital artworks, the edge of the screen visibly replicates the frame of the painting……..In all forms of art a frame is seen, even if (for example, with installation art) the frame is the gallery itself.

Conceptually this theory shows the importance of the viewer and their subjective view of the work. Once the artwork has been nominated and experienced the artist's intentions become balanced with the viewer's subjective understanding of it (where the argument of the most important is hotly contested - further reading - ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ Wimsatt and Beardsley)

Simply put - All artworks are surrounded by frames, both physical and conceptual, and those frames direct the meaning and understanding of the work.

Next post - more research! 



De Duve, T. (1998) Kant after Duchamp. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Derrida, J. (1978) The truth in painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heywood, I and Sandywell, B. eds. (2012) The handbook of visual culture. London: Berg.

Kant, I. (2007) Critique of Judgement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marriner, R. (2002) ‘Derrida and the Parergon’. In: Smith, P and Wilde, C. eds. A companion to art theory. Blackwell: 349-359.

Marriner, R. (2015) Making and the Contemporary. Bath Spa University. October-December 2015.

Marriner, R (2017) Meanings in Visual Culture. Research Methodologies module. Bath Spa University. 17th October 2017.

Wimsatt, W K and Beardsley M C. (1946) ‘The Intentional Fallacy’. The Sewanee Review, Volume, (54): Page 468-488. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.09.2016].

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.)