Research Methodology

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’.”

 

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Research Methodologies - 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'. 

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I then challenged myself to choose the most important elements. 

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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. 

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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'.

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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. 

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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.

Bibliography

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.)

Research Methodology - Questions - Where I am now, or where I think I am. by Ally McGinn

In the previous post I explored a few of the methods that might be used. This post discusses methodology in fuller terms.

A foundation, a marking of where I am, before the full research begins.

We have had a suggestion that the exploration of our tacit understanding is important at this point. Meaning that it is important to use information we already know and have explored, which is logistically harder to condense into a bibliography.

We’ll begin with this diagram again, which i need to be able to answer to get to my sources of research.

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Who we are as researchers forms methodology, but this is broken down into the reality we are looking at (ontology) the questions we ask (epistemology, and ontology) the lens we are looking through (theoretical perspective), the worldview (paradigm) and our tools (methods).  

The epistemological and ontological concerns will arise in direct response to the research being done and aren't necessarily questions to be answered now. However, understanding my theoretical perspective is something I can certainly begin to unpick.

One of the first questions I should cover relates to my aims and objectives. Which brings me to the distinction between inductive vs deductive research.

Inductive vs deductive

Research is the gaining of knowledge in some way, and there are many practical applications and areas of research, many that we don't acknowledge as such. Deductive research can be described as research where the question or theory is known and tested, whereas inductive can be described as generating new information from an exploration of subjects, materials or processes.
I see this as the division between knowing the question you are asking and trying to figure it out through process - which is a very big part of many artists studios, including mine.

In terms of placing myself, I would say that I am an inductive worker, although in research I lean more towards deductive at times.

Qualitative vs quantitative

The previous post deals with the definition of these terms, but a moment should be taken to explore them on a personal level.
I am, as are many artists, a qualitative researcher (tacit knowledge, with an emphasis on value) although at times I use quantitative methods (occasionally subconsciously) to help move my practice.

Research to date

In future, if I continue the blog as I expect to, I may come back to explore research i have done to date. If i hope to underpin my practice in its entirelty this seems to be something I will need to do. However, for the purposes of a module of the MA, that backgrounding is not going to be possible now. I know these things, they have shaped my practice to date and i have notebooks filled with information, annotated texts and diagrams, to solidify and support my practice. 

I may refer to this information in this blog, where I do I plan to reference the information as much as possible. The information has been assimilated, to a certain extent, and I may assume in places (I hope to control this).

The urge to quantify the research to date, is strong, but this blog is not a definition of my practice, but instead serves as a record and research tool in my ongoing research. 

Aims and Objectives

In the simplest terms, I aim to develop my contextual knowledge to enrich the work being done in the studio. In addition, I hope to gain an understanding of the balance of research within the practice itself. The haptic nature of explorations in the studio.

I have a broad range of interests, especially when we take into account the depth that can be found in a single material, for example. Any aspect of the practice, materials or context could, with a little research, become a vast exploration.

For now, we have been advised to look at the practice, and it's associations, in broader terms. A focused subject will be chosen quite soon but for now, my objectives centre around expanding the terms around my practice and mapping their connections.

I'm not going to go into this with more detail today. There will be a post in the next week detailing a better-defined series of aims and objectives.

Approach

One thing I can say about my methodology since starting this blog is that writing is at the heart of it. At the beginning of each post my knowledge is like the page, rather empty, but through the writing, I have to articulate, and that is impossible without understanding, which leads to research and often an hour writing a single paragraph.

Trying to explain these terms, and ideas helps to understand them, which explains the bulging context folders I was known for producing during my BA.

Through reflection on the practical practice of research, I've come to acknowledge that this is something I have always done when researching. A very practical approach.

As an artist, I have a practice-led perspective, where my interests are led by the work being done in the studio. I research something because it has potential impact or impetus, which is worth stating.

Paul Minot, a senior lecturer at Bath Spa, gave a wonderful lecture this week about the practical realities of a practice-led approach, and the way the outcome of the research might be formed, which is not always as simple as it appears.

“Research – means to search for something in a systematic way. “ Re-search.

The paradox of research is: 1/ if you know what you're looking for, whats the point of looking for it? How will you find anything ‘new’? 2/ If you don’t know what you're looking for how will you know when you’ve found it?

In other words – if a theory exists whats the point in re-stating it? And, how do you know if there is a theory at all?

‘re-search’ = ‘re-collection’

‘Anamnesis’ – a philosophical idea (from Plato) that suggests that we already ‘know’ everything but we just haven’t recalled it yet. Making recollection an approach to research, which can be interpreted to mean, that research is best driven by instinct.

What we should be taking from this is the importance of instinct. We should go with what we know. We are artists and that has an impact on the way we research as well as the subject.

Only later in the process does a ‘method’ emerge, once you become more aware of what's driving the instinct. In Paul’s experience, there are four methods, all determined by identifying patterns in the research. (we are looking for patterns)

  • Sometimes the theory becomes before the content (The instinct can be interest and curiosity.)
  • Sometimes the theory comes after the content.
  • Sometimes the theory is the content
  • Sometimes the content is the theory – there is no theory, just making. (Making something you don’t understand and then researching the thing you have made. Its important to remember that is a form of research. There is a methodology in the process itself. Theory can come afterwards, written by someone else.)

The important thing to remember at this point, and taken from the lecture, is that the form the research takes and the outcome occupies are not as obvious as it would first appear.

Paradigm

Trying to pin down a single paradigm that defines or exemplifies my stance seems an enormous task, and I could well be confusing the issue.

I found this quote really useful “A scientific paradigm, in the most basic sense of the word, is a framework containing all of the commonly accepted views about a subject, a structure of what direction research should take and how it should be performed.”

Reading it made me realise I missed my paradigm by being too involved in it, to me the paradigm is obvious.

My paradigm is the context of art history. I am researching from the perspective of an artist, and my research to date has been in this field. I have a keen interest in the definition of art, and it's potential to impact the appreciation of art outside the gallery. Much of my research to date has revolved around this issue. (Explored in greater depth in the next post - ‘Mind maps’)

However, I still felt that I was being clouded on the issue of what a paradigm is. Thankfully one of the research books has been returned to the library and i have discovered the following table (page 20 in a brilliant book called ‘Visualising Research’ detailed listed at the bottom of the page)

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During research it is singularly important to question our assumptions. With an interesting similarity to the development of the art world, the methodology of science remained mostly unchanged for 300 years, following the positivist paradigm, which can be defined as a distance approach, with an emphasis on fact, empirical evidence and a removal of value associations. Following that came the post-positivist paradigm, which challenged traditional notions and expanded the field.

The above table articulates, in a way that i currently cannot, the definition and examples of what a paradigm is, and how we might understand it to better understand our research.

Theoretical perspective (where do I stand as a researcher?)

Defining my theoretical perspective involves discussing my approach, which is firmly in the practice-led column. Through writing this post i have better come to understand what those words mean, in practical terms, and have built my perspective without realising it.


Conclusion

This is something I'm going to be coming back to in the coming months, as the methodology is put into practice.

So to my methodology - how I am going to do this - I'm going to continue using haptic, objectivist and semiotic methods of research to explore the headings that come from the mind mapping. I plan to write short blog posts about each subject (be it a person, artwork, or idea)

I am coming from the perspective of an practice-led artist, meaning i am most likely to use a mixed method approach, as this is remarkably similar to my studio practice - no single medium, theory or visual subject defines the work definitively, there are always overlaps.

This can be described as a ‘bricoleur’ - or a pieced together approach, that combines a “close-knit set of practices that provide solutions to a problem in a concrete situation.” Brewer and Hunter (1989)

The thing i have found most interesting about this term (covered on page 74 of ‘Visualising Research’) is that the form the research takes when presented is often a bricoleur, the method becomes the work.

Based on the table shown above i can extrapolate that i have a ‘relativist’ ontology (i cannot deny that my study and writing to date have had a definitive interpretive slant), a ‘modified-objectivist’ epistemology (given that distance is required to a certain degree when researching art history but the combination with practical, ontological, research in the studio emphasises the relationship between the two) and a ‘hermeneutic, dialectic’ or possibly ‘modified experimental/manipulative’ methodology (given that my methodology is still something i'm studying it might be simpler to say a mixed-method or bifurcated methodology)

Although labels are not always a positive it would appear that the specifics i have identified would have my methodology most closely aligned with the constructivist or post-positivist paradigm (although i fully expect this to change as i come to know the subject of research more)

Next post - mind maps…..


Bibliography

Brewer, J. and Hunter, A. (1989) Multimethod research: A synthesis of styles. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Gray, G. and Malins, J. (2004) Visualising research. Oxon: Routledge.

Martyn Shuttleworth (2008) What is a paradigm [Online] Explorable. Available from: https://explorable.com/what-is-a-paradigm [Accessed - 10th October 2017]

Minot, P. (2017) Research methodologies week 3. Research Methodologies module, MA program 2017/18. Bath Spa. 10th October 2017.

Whiting, M. (2017) Research methodologies week 3. Research Methodologies module, MA program 2017/18. Bath Spa. 10th October 2017.

Research Methodologies - Exploring methods by Ally McGinn

I have a few books on research on hold in the library, the MA cohort at Bath Spa is keen and the wait might be a few weeks. In the interim I've found a few great sources of information online and I'm going to attempt to use some of the methods introduced on Tuesday to explore a few ideas.

Research Methodologies - methods

Before getting into the meat of what I’m going to research, I thought it might be a good idea to have a firmer grasp of the how.

'-ology' means there has been a debate or study. So in Methodology there has been a discussion and study about the methods themselves. Decisions made. Arguments defended. (How you completed the study.) These decisions add up to your approach – the outcome of your methodology or your methodological considerations.

A research methodology is the combination of methods, perspectives, and understandings around the way we research (the study of the methods/research itself). Understanding the variety of methods that form a methodology can help to formulate questions and direct research into new directions. (The other elements of my methodology, including the theoretical perspective, will be explored in the next post)

Different approaches can form different results, especially when the methodology isn’t understood. There are things that can affect the results of research we are doing that are assumed to be true or false. Those assumptions can refute the data/information if not explored and accounted for.  Exploring the methodology can allow an understanding of those assumptions and an incorporation of them into the research.

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A research method is a tool or structure used to explore the research. They are usually explainable (to an extent) and I struggled to find an exhaustive list of them, as their inclusion can be as subjective as their processes. Roughly put; it is the way the research happens.

Data gathering, and the forms it takes.

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Three methods have struck me as being interesting for my own research at this stage (although I may end up using others later) and I have arguably been using these in some form in my research to date, albeit unknowingly and in an incomplete sense.

  • Haptic (primarily involving touch, and the physical interaction with the subject) in hindsight I can say that this is a common research method in the studio, which is a place for the haptic.
  • Objectivism (Seeing the reality of the object in its component parts, and understanding the object to take it further) this logical approach seems like something I would enjoy and echoes the Derridian theory of deconstruction, which I use as a source of inspiration when none is readily available.
  • and, Semiotic (concerning the relationship between image and meaning. Communication through recognised signs and symbols) which I've always found as interesting as language - both are agreed upon constructs that we use in daily life, often without being consciously aware of it.

As an exercise I’m going to use these three methods to understand how we might explore different elements of research.

In this case;

  • a well known artwork (Duchamp’s Fountain),
  • a piece of my own work,
  • a theory (Derrida’s parergon),

There are far more topics, subjects and ‘things’ that could be explored like this, but this is a short exercise to help me understand the terms and the, potential, practical uses of them.

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Before continuing to the exploration, I’m going to solidify my understanding of a few words and terms. Ones that might come up again.

Epistemological vs ontological

Not methods in themselves these words are more concerned with the theoretical perspective and understanding the type of questions being asked.

Epistemology is the way we know things, about the understanding of knowledge and the methods of finding it, primarily useful to understand the biases and perspectives when researching. The –ology of knowledge.

Ontology is about the reality of the thing being studied, relating to the question “what is it?” and personally most often in my life this is a practical research method.

Note – Epistemology comes from the Greek for ‘knowledge’ and ontology from the Greek for ‘being’ or ‘to be’.

Plato saw a difference between ‘episteme’ (knowledge worth knowing) and ‘doxa’ (everyday knowledge).  Interestingly when thinking about the entemology of these words I found myself interested in the balance between the two. If we take the everyday knowledge as implicit knowledge, or knowledge that goes without saying, then an argument can be made that my studio practice is an exploration of the doxa of artistic practice. If those assumptions can be taken as true then it is arguable that once we focus on doxa it becomes episteme. Many artists take this approach in a practical sense, using the everyday to explore deeper ideas.

Qualitative vs quantitative

These terms are associated with the nature of the research being done. In the most simplistic terms the distinction is set upon the balance between tacit (qualitative) and explicit (quantitative) data.

The two overlap in many ways and we can make them overlap in more by directing primary research. The suitability of each is related to the aims and objectives of the research, as well as the availability of data.

Semiotics

A dense subject, and one I cannot profess at this stage to completely understand, but for the purpose of this exploration, semiotics, as used here, can be described in the following way.

Semiotics gained popularity towards the late 1960’s and two key figures are Roland Barthes (particularly his collected essays Mythologies, which I am planning to discuss in a separate post) and Ferdinand de Saussure (generally considered a pioneer of linguistics and semiotics itself). A study of tacit and explicit signs experienced in daily life with other humans. These signs can be the obvious functional signs found in our lives, but are more commonly the subconscious and more subjective interpretation of information found around us. The location of these signs is seemingly only limited to where a researcher might look.

“semiology aims to take in any system of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all of these, which form the content of ritual, convention or public entertainment: these constitute, if not languages, at least systems of signification” Barthes (1967) pg. 9

The sign can be dissected into two parts, as defined by Saussure, the ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified’.  The signifier is the form of the sign (often the physical form of it), and the signified is the concept we understand it to represent.

The sign is the combination, and relationship between the two. A single signifier can have different meanings, when seen in different locations, which is a simple example of how this complicated subject becomes much more so in practice. By definition semiotics is subjective, an interpretive method.

Umberto Eco has taken it to it’s most basic “semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign” which could arguably be anything.

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The Exploration

The following exploration is short in places, and longer in others. It is far from complete but instead served as a chance for me to attempt to unpick these ideas and see what they might look like. These are subjective interpretations, based on my knowledge, perspective and research.

I found that the objectivist method, involving treating the subject objectively, listing its details and understanding its parts to know it further, most accurately described the subject, so those are listed first to understand the reality of what we are looking at.

Ally McGinn (2016)  Even babies lie.  Acrylic, oil and ink on canvas, 144 x 99 x 3 cm

Ally McGinn (2016) Even babies lie. Acrylic, oil and ink on canvas, 144 x 99 x 3 cm

A piece of my work - Even Babies Lie (2017)

Objectivist - This piece is part of a larger series of works called the ‘Working Surfaces’ series. Canvases are placed in functional studio or workshop spaces and left to record the evidence of making and process. The resulting paintings are then stretched, functional canvas, nominated as art.  This piece spent nearly three months covering the worktop in the paint workshop at Sion Hill. Other than myself and the paint technician the purpose and eventual use of this canvas as art was unknown.

They are intentionally misleading, pretending to be something they are not, but in the act of pretending they become it anyway; Art.

They can be said to simultaneously reject and celebrate the artists’ ego, and therefore the artist themselves. The division of labor and deskilling question the value of these as artworks.

The titles of these works are taken from an element on the surface on them, a further dissociation from the artist.

They objectify time. A record of a period in an artist’s studio, containing a variety of signatures, they are naturally narrative and unintentionally expressive objects.

As an object this piece is 144 x 99 x 3cm’s in size, the canvas is not totally taught on the stretcher (a result of stretching something used functionally is sometimes a loosening of the weave) and is made of canvas, pen, acrylic and oil paint, primers and other substances used in the creation or experimentation of art.

Haptic - in the first sense the haptic experience of this work is rooted in the texture of the surface. With no change from functional worktop to stretched canvas the surface is covered in dust, paint, glue and pen marks. The piece looks rough and real.

Semiotic - there are a few obvious symbols on the surface of the piece. Including the titular graffiti, a sketch of a design and other numbers and words. The graffiti is obvious as such due to the time taken to write it (which we can see evidence in the depth and width of the pen marks). Fainter notes indicate working through an idea, a rough note taken quickly to visually understand it. Including the diagrams these are marks of explanation, a communication of an idea that is paused for a moment in this surface.
Other visual signs are condensed in the bottom right corner of the piece, paint and other substances that show the edges of other works created on top of them. The marks, the right angles and jagged brushstrokes, are a sign that we can interpret to show where work once sat, because these marks are incidental they are all signs of other activity, and can be read semiotically.

In this case the methods show very different elements of the work.

Marcel Duchamp (1917, replica 1964)  Fountain.  Porcelain. 36 x 48 x 61 cm.

Marcel Duchamp (1917, replica 1964) Fountain. Porcelain. 36 x 48 x 61 cm.

A well known artwork - Marcel Duchamp, Fountain (1917)

Objectivist - looking at this piece objectively is relatively easy. The purpose of this work is to encourage these questions.

Created 100 years ago the piece was Duchamp’s first readymade - A series of everyday objects, transformed into art through nomination, readymades are defined not by their aesthetic qualities but their conceptual ideology. Characterised by their lack of interaction from the artist these objects inspired challenge.  The challenge was implicit, although not necessarily totally intentional.  

This piece was a shop bought urinal, with a single interaction from the artist, the name ‘R Mutt’ and the year roughly drawn on the side.

Objectively the object is mostly, unchanged, but through the nomination of it as art, and the subsequent change in perspective, the perceptions and purpose was forever altered.  

Haptic - I saw this piece at the Tate Modern earlier this year. The haptic experience in this case has similar observations to the objectivist method. When looking at the work I was struck by the reality of it. The curves of the porcelain and the weight of it cannot be conveyed through an image. (although the weight was obviously based on a visual examination and intuitive feeling) Given that the object is arguably the point of Duchamp's readymades this piece shows the importance of the haptic method of examination.

Semiotic - The biggest sign of this piece is the fact that it is a urinal. We read the shape, material and cultural understanding of the object and read it as something we would normally find in a men’s bathroom. Again I find that this method perfectly describes the ideology of the work. It is in reading the ordinary object as art that we understand the work.

The semiotic meaning of the writing is far more debatable. Duchamp was known for misleading information, but is quoted as saying himself that it was a humorous allude to the makers of the urinal, a newspaper cartoon and a play on the idea of poverty.

Each of the approaches in this case yield similar results, possibly due to the simplicity of the object and idea. Each however shows a different element of the whole.

A theory - Derrida’s Parergon

Objectivist - Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher best known for his theories on deconstruction. In his 1978 text, The Truth in Painting he discussed the frame, coining 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 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.

Haptic - this is the main reason I wanted to undertake this exploration. To understand, or at least articulate, how we might explore a theoretical concept, haptically.  Upon reflection, and quite a few deleted paragraphs I can only conclude that the exploration of this concept haptically is what I am exploring in my studio practice. Haptic research as practice.

Semiotic - The semiotic reading of this theory seems to relate to our understanding of the purpose of a frame. We have a way of reading something in a frame, and there are artists who have taken this often subconscious reading to their advantage.
A frame can be seen as an instruction to look through the lens of art.

Exploring a theory certainly seems to be simplest when done with a quantitative method, like the objectivist interpretation here, at least verbally.

This section has taken the longest to write, while being quite short, but has had the most impact on me. My contextual research to date, including my dissertation from last year, has been similar to this, a deductive objective exploration of theories and artists, which has then been combined with an intuitive haptic method of research in my studio practice.

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At the end of this post I've solidified my understanding of the purpose and potential uses of three methods, and I can see the benefit of looking through different methods, to get a more solid grounding about the chosen subject. For future research I plan to use the three used here to research in a similar way, or at least to ask myself “How would I describe or explore this objectively, haptically, and semiotically?” noting the different answers from the different methods.

In the next post - I'm planning to attempt to unpick my theoretical perspective, understand the paradigm and answer a few questions about my own research methodology at the beginning of this exploration.

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Selected Bibliography

Barthes, Roland (1957) Mythologies

Barthes, Roland ([1964] 1967). Elements of Semiology (trans. Annette Lavers & Colin Smith). London: Jonathan Cape

Camfield, W A. (1987) ‘Marcel Duchamp's Fountain: Its History and Aesthetics in the Context of 1917.’ Dada/Surrealism (16): 64-94.

Chandler, Daniel (2004) Semiotics: The Basics. London: Routledge

David James (2015) David James: How to get clear about method, methodology, epistemology and ontology, once and for all [online video] Avaliable from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b83ZfBoQ_Kw&t=999s [Accessed 6th October 2017]

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

Whiting, M (2017) Research Methodologies. MA program. Bath. 3rd October 2017

Saussure, Ferdinand de ([1916] 1983): Course in General Linguistics (trans. Roy Harris). London: Duckworth. Page 67

Tate (January, 2017) Fountain, Marcel Duchamp [Exhibition visit] London: Tate Britain.

Tate (undated) Marcel Duchamp: Fountain, 1917 [Online] Tate. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-fountain-t07573 [Accessed 07.10.17].

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