Presence

Research Methodologies - Walking Alone by Ally McGinn

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In the reflection of my research on ‘The Sublime’, I described one of the ways I research. After a lecture by PhD student Lydia Harcrow I have realised the importance of articulating this method in itself.

My work revolves around the importance of presence. As subject, medium and practice. The driving force for my work is my presence in the studio. The driving force for my research, as I have discovered, is presence in the metaphysical. In other words; just getting on with it, and working through it. (This is shown and defined by a realisation that writing is a tool for thinking, not simply as a record, a notion repeated throughout this blog) My subject is dependent on and explores the presence of the viewer, and the object, within the work.

Another element of presence in the research is a method I rarely speak about. Every evening, without fail, I go for a walk in the dark around the fields near my home. During this time I either listen to research (through audiobooks and podcasts) or read research I have preloaded on my phone. This is the place where I write most of my thinking and process the research. I spend at least one hour outside and have been known to be out for up to six hours when writing.

This is a time of being present, of embodying a thinking process where the majority of visual stimulus is reduced, external inputs are minimised, and the contextualisation of theories can be the sole focus.

Presence, in artistic practice, can be seen as synonymous with embodiment. This embodiment comes from the objects we see in art, and the experience we have with them, but also from the artist's presence within the work.

The studio practice is reliant on the embodiment of myself, and later the viewer, and this articulation is to show the importance of embodiment in the contextualisation of my practice. My evening walks, which happen even in freezing weather or rain, are a meditative process, that brings in an element of distance, from visual stimuli and other inputs. Time to reflect.

Reflection

This is a post about the notion presence in a part of my practice I had not associated with it.

While not necessarily a research post, it serves as a note for myself about the recurring theme so far this year, and certainly throughout this module; presence.

Through the writing of this post, and the lecture today, I have come to a new title for my work for this year. (I’ve discussed before that I like to title the year as a whole, as a work)

The title is ‘Through presence and process’.

I believe what a title does is contextualises and places the work, as a whole. Titling in this way (as an extended experience) can be compared to the title of an exhibition, and resonates with my interests in an ongoing practice as art.

These are important elements in my practice. This title has led to the reduction of my practice to two single keywords. I’m not entirely sure if this is positive, or entirely accurate, but it is certainly accurate to my best feelings at the moment.

Bibliography - All of the words in this post are my own, but the desire to articulate this thought was inspired by the following lecture.

Whiting, M. Southall, A. Harcrow, L. (2017) Research Methodology Lecture Series. Bath Spa University. 5th December 2017.

Ally McGinn (2017) Documentary photograph of walk. Portholland, Cornwall. 01.12.17.

Ally McGinn (2017) Documentary photograph of walk. Portholland, Cornwall. 01.12.17.

Research Methodologies - Lectures by Ally McGinn

As part of the Research Methodology module, we have been part of a lecture series. I have made extensive notes from each lecture, which have not, for the most part, formed pages on this blog. However that they have been influential is impossible to deny.

The most influential session was today's, and as a nod to the series as a whole, and this individual session, I'm going to summaries some of the most important points here.

Please note - the following writing comes from notes made in the lecture and my own summation and reflection post-lecture.

Andrew Southall

One of the staff at Bath Spa University, head of the MA in visual culture. Works with a primarily photographic practice, and is interested in the nature of representation in photography. (Southall, 2017)

Andrew Southall (2016)  Turned Timber.  Bromide Print. 50.17 x 58.42 cm.

Andrew Southall (2016) Turned Timber. Bromide Print. 50.17 x 58.42 cm.

Andrew described his practice through a series of works that have explored the making and creation of pieces of Shaker furniture. The exploration of these works is through a dynamic process of representation and presentation. He describes being driven by a sense of the thing itself and the fleeting nature of that representation.
(Southall, 2017) He enjoys the associations that come through the work, including the dynamic between truth and fiction, aesthetics and commercialism, function and purpose.

Andrew works with a knowledge of traditional conventions, to better understand ways those traditions shape the assumptions that come through adherence to those traditions. (Southall, 2017)

I think that Andrews talk, and particularly his interest in the play of truth and fiction for aesthetic purposes, seem to imply that aesthetics are for consumption. Given my growing interest in the impact of capitalism this is a question that I find very interesting.

Andrew describes his practice in terms of an interest in ‘calibration’. Calibrating our experience through imagery. He began to make works that explored the idea of calibration, and different forms of measuring things in life - often things that don’t need measuring.
(Southall, 2017)

This includes a wonderful piece that measures the weight of a stone (and arbitrary stone, that relates to the English unit of measurement) and defines the weight of that stone as ‘1’. This piece is visually and contextually arresting and reminds me of the subversive language of Amikam Toren.

Andrew finds the history of measurements quite fascinating, and admittedly, he has passed that interest onto me.

Other works have begun to explore the idea of representation in the present, creating artworks that I want to see in person. These works contain small ‘calibrated’ moments, often employing film and traditional photographic methods, with a unique twist.

An interesting point raised through the lecture was the nature of drawing. Andrew presented drawing as a representation of an initial idea (which it often is in the process of artists and makers). Which then shifts drawing as a representation of an original into an interesting dynamic. (Southall, 2017) In Andrew’s case, this is seen in the drawings that he uses as guides to make the pieces of furniture, but this notion has relevance for other uses of drawing. Especially considering my growing inclusion of drawing in my studio practice.

From this process, of recreating a piece of furniture from a drawing, Andrew has noted the prevalence of time, as a factor of the research, but also in the process itself. (Southall, 2017) This can be seen as another link, or response, to capitalism, in which we arguably take very little time in the making of things, and far more in the act of choosing them.

(Note added later - It's worth noting, and interrupting the flow to say, that I listened to the capitalism podcast in the morning and wrote a post on Marxism and capitalism throughout the day, so it's likely that I saw that link above others due to that thought occupying my mind. There are many other readings of this observation. For example, the link to the idea of the art object as unique due to the time taken, by a skilled individual, to make it. OR time as a reference to presence in the studio, which is a far more relevant association to my work.)

Once Andrew had finished building the wooden settee he took it to a forest, and photographed it in the landscape, which included the types of trees the wood in the chair came from. Represented in this way, in a picturesque landscape, shows the work in a new perspective. We are more used to thinking about the means of representation as the ‘thing’ that is contemplated, not the landscape itself. (Southall, 2017) This idea relates profoundly to my investigations of the studio and gallery, and the space of display.

This piece, and the relating series are planned as a form of ‘chain reaction’. Andrew has wonderful plans to take the pieces of furniture into various places, conducting interviews with various people. Documents of those interviews, and subjects of future interviews will form the backbone of the work. Andrew won't plan interviews beyond the first few, allowing suggestions for other interviewees coming from the interview themselves. (Southall, 2017)

With a focus on the lived experience Andrews process relies on a process of reproduction and representation, challenging normalised assumptions. We tell ourselves that something is real, and interact with it in ‘real’ ways, however the study of it, and the ‘truth’ of that reality is something far different.

Lydia Halcrow

Lydia is currently studying her PhD at Bath Spa. She came to speak to us about her practice, which is extremely interesting and i would highly recommend looking into.
Her PhD work is ‘An investigation of abandoned places through contemporary painting and mark making’. With more of a focus on mark making as things have progressed.
(Halcrow, 2017)

Lydia Halcrow (Unknown)  The Black Ground IV.  Ink, Graphite and Gesso on OS Map 139. Size unspecified.

Lydia Halcrow (Unknown) The Black Ground IV. Ink, Graphite and Gesso on OS Map 139. Size unspecified.

Lydia’s practice is based on the process of walking, through specific landscapes, and recording and responding to that landscape. During the walks she uses various processes to record marks, and map the walks. In the research she is exploring the history of the landscapes,academically and through personal experience, of herself and her grandmother. (Halcrow, 2017)

Dealing with the fleeting nature of memory and the materiality of place, Lydia’s work is creative and conceptually representational.

Lydia describes walking as a method of unpicking the reality of an unreliable, changeable, source. Investigating what's under the surface, in place and in memory.

Using painterly and drawing methods of mapping her work returns to the notion of the grid, in various ways. She makes small ‘things’ (metal scraped against her shoes and the floor, clay pressed against the hull of an abandoned ship) which form larger grids, growing as the work progresses. She also takes maps (of the location) on the walks. She creates rubbings, paintings, and drawings on top of these papers to create paintings that explore the reality of the landscape, and the act of walking, in different ways.(Halcrow, 2017)

She explores the experience of being in the location in line with an exploration of the context of the place. Lydia sometimes includes written records and observations of the walks she takes in layers of the work. Something she mentions wanting to explore in more detail as her PhD continues.
(Halcrow, 2017)

For me this re-iterates an idea i have had recently. To add reflections, and potentially some of these blog posts, into the work itself. Probably in pencil.

Lydia quotes the grids of John Virtue as a source of inspiration. These are amalgamations of small drawings and paintings that give a snapshot of an ongoing narrative.
While walking our attention is in a state of constant shift, this method of presentation works with those ideas. The viewer's eye is drawn around the space in varying ways, and for varying reasons. Like the experience of being in the place, each experience would be slightly different.

She also noted that when you repeat a walk you are then influenced by the previous walk. This is another important idea, the influence of repeated activity, that i would like to come back to in the future. (Halcrow, 2017)

Mapping is an important part of her practice, including notions of scale. Lydia notes that maps are seen as an accurate representation of information, but that information is tailored, and far from total. (Halcrow, 2017) It is also worth noting that the fact that maps are generally created by humans, or by machines made by humans, adds a layer of fallibility to them.

The ‘maps’ made by Lydia are no less important for the difference in information exchanged. Which maps are more accurate? An aerial view, or a more in depth exploration, as we see in her works. Why do we map certain things and not others. Why not map things 1:1.

Lydia mentioned a hidden layer in painting, the ghost layer. Which is something i must look into in more detail (Halcrow, 2017).

Lydia’s work deals with layers, scale, erasure and multiple viewpoints. Echoes of decay and entropy are evident in the output. She renders clear something that was unnavigable.

Her process developed through a walking methodology. Capturing visual motifs that are distinct to that place. It is a phenomenological practice. Exploring image and material. She spoke of the importance materiality is to the practice, the textures she is walking over and observing directly. Letting that point the direction the work takes. (Examples being the use of clay taken from the estuary and salt in Porlock) (Halcrow, 2017)

These are her own series of maps. Time spent in the place develops a familiarity with it. From that familiarity there comes an unfamiliarity, because you look again. In a similar way to the effect of a familiar word over and over again, changing the perceptions of it.

Working In the coast brings the issue of tidal changes, which washes away the immediate history. Bringing a sense of urgency to her practice. (Halcrow, 2017)

Lydia brought up an interesting point and one that fits with my current passions - presence. The more you are present the more you see.

She is certainly a processed led artist. Once you answer one question you find many more. Through presence and process, you find more and more, into a nearly endless process.

She describes not being fixated on the final object or output but instead allowing the process and materials to shape the nature of the work.

Reflection

The reason I have included this lecture over others was the combination of two lectures describing practices that seemed to fit with the methodology of my own experimentation.

While the subject matter is vastly different, and these are not the only lecture we have had, there are the lectures about practice-led-research that have come after my recent shift in the studio and research. Therefore I believe I have found these two speakers particularly inspiring both because they are brilliantly questioning practices, and because I feel more confident in where I am and what I am doing, and so ready to see those practices more in-line with my own rather than something in the far distance that I hope to aspire to. (For my own sake I must clarify - this is not to say that I believe I have reached a similar ‘level’ if such a thing exists, but that I can see the potential for what I'm doing now. Which has altered the way I perceive these practices.)

Bibliography

Whiting, M. Southall, A. Halcrow, L. (2017) Research Methodology Lecture Series. Bath Spa University. 5th December 2017.

Research - The Experiential Turn by Ally McGinn

This text examines contemporary art with the aim to understand the shift from object to experience. The author discusses the term performative in art, arguing that the term is a complicated one because the act of performance is implicit in the work of art itself. The two cannot be distinguished, and a label of performative on an artwork is often misunderstood.

“There is no performative artwork because there is no nonperformative artwork.” (2014: 1)

The language through which we describe a performative work can become a performance in itself, we only need to think of the pronouncements of marriage as the act of marriage to realise the power words can have.

The author argues that performance is not a medium for artworks but a perspective of artworks. As all artworks have a performative aspect, it is a way to look at all artworks, not only those described as performative. This is an extremely important realisation, for me, that has had a profound impact on the work. It is a realisation that has grown organically in the studio and was then found through this text.

These arguments, and the truths they are based on, show the reasons for the move from art object to art experience. A shifting from representation to actualisation. All artworks form an experience of some kind, they are things that are experienced, the author shows here that from the 1960’s there has been an active shift in the intention of artworks to create experiences.

The author outlines her argument through a historical perspective, linking to minimalism and contemporary artists, and through a brief examination of the modern condition, that this shift in experience is a result, and examination, of “economic and cultural transformations of Western bourgeois-industrial societies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.” (2014: 2)

Von Hantelmann roots the shift to experience in works like Robert Morris's, who was looking to create 'situations' rather than artworks. (2014: 4) Exploring the horizontality of Carl Andre's firebricks as a conversation about the vertical, monumental, nature of sculpture. (2014: 4) This brings the works into the space of the viewer, and initiates a spatial conversation in the viewers reality. 

She explores this shift as a move from the self-referential objects of art history into a more open communication between viewer, artwork and space. The final message I've taken from this text, which is one I am still working through, is that there are “artworks that produce an experience (which basically any artwork does) and artworks that shape experiences. “ (2014: 14)

James Coleman (1977)  Box.  Projected 16mm black and white film. 

James Coleman (1977) Box. Projected 16mm black and white film. 

The two artworks explored in detail exemplify the experience in form and context. Minimalist artworks with aesthetic experience. James Colemans 'Box' is a representational experience and Tino Sehgal's 'This objective of that object', is a communicative experience. All three are different, and have different aims, but share an underlying focus on experience. A focus that can be linked to changes in the socioeconomic order of the modern world since the industrial revolution. Things are still changing, to assume they aren't is an absolute error.

Reflection

This text is pertinent to my practice, which has been shifting into experience for the past 12 months. It was suggested by Robert Luzar for a semiar with the MA's. The idea of experience, and presense, is integral to my practice, primarily through the presentation of objects (which is arguably the medium of my practice). 

The shift to an experiential emphasis in artistic practice includes the viewer into the creation of the work, their presense is anonoymous but it exists. The artwork is made with attention to the experience of the anonoymous, potential, viewer.

Interaction with my work is a key element. We don't look at the work from afar, we move ourselves around the space to bring different elements into focus. The same way we experience the world. This interaction, on the part of the viewer, is something I am continuing to explore in the studio, and something I am keen to continue developing. Texts like this one, which covers far more than I have summarised here, progress that development. 

This is a text I plan to return to in the coming months, as my experiences in the studio come more into focus. 

Bibliography

Von Hantelmann, D (2014) ‘The Experiential Turn’. On Performativity [Online] Available from : http://walkerart.org/collections/publications/performativity/experiential-turn/ [Accessed 02.12.17].

Studio Research - Week 8 by Ally McGinn

This is going to be an image heavy post. A truly seminal week in the studio this week, that will require a great deal of reflection. It appears that my plan to take time off to focus on context so that i could return focussed on studio was a success. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio view.  Empty frames with a balanced aesthetic.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio view.

Empty frames with a balanced aesthetic.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Balanced Unbalanced  [Placement test]. Materials and size vary.  The idea of balance has come up throughout the last few months, or at least I have become aware of it.  It is found in many areas of life and I wouldn't be surprised if I one day believe that it is one of the foundations of reality.  I have been exploring the idea in the studio, which has brought a subtle vulnerability to the work.  It falls over, a lot. Occasionally onto me, or other works. There was one Rube Goldberg-esque moment in the studio of a chain reaction that I wish I had filmed. I'm unsure whether recreating it would be inauthentic. I'm unsure about inauthenticity.

Ally McGinn (2017) Balanced Unbalanced [Placement test]. Materials and size vary.

The idea of balance has come up throughout the last few months, or at least I have become aware of it.

It is found in many areas of life and I wouldn't be surprised if I one day believe that it is one of the foundations of reality.

I have been exploring the idea in the studio, which has brought a subtle vulnerability to the work.

It falls over, a lot. Occasionally onto me, or other works. There was one Rube Goldberg-esque moment in the studio of a chain reaction that I wish I had filmed. I'm unsure whether recreating it would be inauthentic. I'm unsure about inauthenticity.

Ally McGinn (2017) Presence Absence [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Presence Absence [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Presentation test [Studio view].  There are individual pieces in my practice, but the second part of their existence involves the exploration of them in relation to other works. This photo is a test of a conversation between the works. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Presentation test [Studio view].

There are individual pieces in my practice, but the second part of their existence involves the exploration of them in relation to other works. This photo is a test of a conversation between the works. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  Potential Process.  Canvas, frame and acorn. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Potential Process. Canvas, frame and acorn. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017)  pAINTing.  Canvas, wooden frame and paint. 25 x 25 cm.

Ally McGinn (2017) pAINTing. Canvas, wooden frame and paint. 25 x 25 cm.

Ally McGinn (2017) A test of balance [Studio view].  Another conversation test. 

Ally McGinn (2017) A test of balance [Studio view].

Another conversation test. 

Ally McGinn (2017) The equalising qualities of grey painting [Studio view].  Objects of various values, purposes and associations, equalised through process and a reduction of their primary qualities. 

Ally McGinn (2017) The equalising qualities of grey painting [Studio view].

Objects of various values, purposes and associations, equalised through process and a reduction of their primary qualities. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  PAINTING . Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) PAINTING. Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017)  PAINTING.  Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) PAINTING. Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Deconstructed PAINTING . Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Deconstructed PAINTING. Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Deconstructed painting continued  [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Deconstructed painting continued  [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Detail shot of ' Deconstructed painting continued'

Ally McGinn (2017) Detail shot of 'Deconstructed painting continued'

Ally McGinn (2017) Threads on screws - this was an exploration of unifying the screws left in the wall by myself and other students. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Threads on screws - this was an exploration of unifying the screws left in the wall by myself and other students. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio View. 17.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio View. 17.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017)  Reflection.  Paint, tube and photo. Approximately 20 x 20 cm. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Reflection. Paint, tube and photo. Approximately 20 x 20 cm. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Leaning tests [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Leaning tests [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017)  Guyon.  Oil on canvas and masking tape, with frame. 120 x 50 cm.

Ally McGinn (2017) Guyon. Oil on canvas and masking tape, with frame. 120 x 50 cm.

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

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

Ally McGinn (2017) Conversation test [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Conversation test [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017)  Stacked Balance.  Paintings on plinth. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Stacked Balance. Paintings on plinth. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio view].  Something interesting is happening here, I can't quite define it yet but there is certainly an unintentional conversation that could use some perceptual contextualisation. 

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio view].

Something interesting is happening here, I can't quite define it yet but there is certainly an unintentional conversation that could use some perceptual contextualisation. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  Commodity  test  [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) Commodity test  [Studio view].

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio view].  There is an interesting divide between 'studio' and 'gallery' in the space on Friday.

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio view].

There is an interesting divide between 'studio' and 'gallery' in the space on Friday.