Research Methodologies - Narrowing Down by Ally McGinn

So I'm 10 posts into the blog and have been finding my keywords shifting and changing with the ongoing research.

As a place marker i wanted to revisit those keywords and see how they have shifted.

From my perspective, I feel that the keywords have shifted into a more defined realm. Which in itself is extremely useful to my practice.

Through the creation and writing of this blog, I have found the activity itself (including the consideration of research methodologies) to be the most valuable, over the research subjects (which have undoubtedly been interesting).

Anyone reading this blog from the beginning will quickly realise that I have struggled with articulating this immense subject. My initial narrowing down was somewhat forced, I felt pressured to define a focus but the development of the words has become more organic over the space of a few weeks.

We have been encouraged to limit our keywords to 6.

·             Incident (impermanence/temporality)

·             Nomination (Found Objects)

·             Perception (Semiotics)

·             Human Activity (Artist/Audience)

·             Process

·             Subversion (Perception)

The words in brackets are indicators for myself of the area of the keyword that i might be most interesting.

These words can all be related to the ways we explore and experience art.


In order to connect my practice and research, I've spent some time using the keywords developed through practice into a rough artists statement that describes what I am doing in the studio.

This statement will help form questions around these interests and could lead to a further narrowing down of my keywords.

While rough, this statement will serve as a foundation going forward.

As it is based on viewing my studio practice through my keywords it is quite different in focus to previous statements. Which in itself is an interesting point to note. An answer may be found in a combination of the two, or an acknowledgement of their differences.


"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’."

Previous statement

"I am a conceptual painter and installation artist interested in the nomination of the incidental and unwanted as ‘Art’ using a subversion of traditional media and found objects to form new conversations and relationships between materials, viewer and space.
Representing the process of making, and re-presenting that process to the viewer."

Previous Keywords - Art, accident, subversion, found objects, viewer, space, process, authorship, experience, nomination, perspective.


No bibliography this time.

Next post - not sure yet, I've got quite a few on the go at the moment.


Research Methodologies - Intro lecture - Knowledge - Useful terms and ideas by Ally McGinn

Research Methodologies - a term encompassing the way we research, as well as what we research. The first written project of the MA is an explorative research module that encourages us to direct and expand that usually solitary activity.

This blog will record elements of my research beginning this year. 

This initial post will cover a brief introduction to the methods I might be following in the coming months, notes from an initial lecture yesterday, by Dr Michele Whiting at Bath Spa University.


Knowledge is more than just facts, it combines background assumption, arguments in the field, theories and informing ideas. Knowledge is information, or a set of understandings, organised into a meaningful whole.  Learning new information puts you at the edge of your knowledge which can be an uncomfortable place.

Everything we do in life is rooted in theory, whether we consciously explore it or not. Interestingly this idea relates strongly with my dissertation last year, and the experience and interpretation of art itself.

Understanding this complex web of context is a matter of asking questions, and understanding viewpoints. 

"The more connections and interconnections we ascertain, the more we know the object in question" - John Dewey 

When we ask questions of something we can begin to know its limitations and benefits. As researchers, understanding how we ask those questions (the position we take as researcher) is important. 

There are two types of knowledge; that which is tacit, which can be described as being difficult to put into words, knowledge that is intrinsically felt or embedded. Its mirror is explicit knowledge, that which is formal and codified, for example academic texts, specifications, instructions. Explicit knowledge can be readily transmitted to others. 

Some useful terminology

Epistemology - A theory of knowledge. Can be described as knowledge accrued by professionals.  Value, worth, literature.  From the Oxford dictionary - "The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion."

Ontology - Can be described as the nature of being of the 'thing' in question. The real world questions of it. From the Oxford dictionary - " The branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being."

Theoretical perspective - This is the position of the person asking the questions. The stance or lens that informs the methodology.

Methodology - The study itself, what strategies, plans, processes or design inform the research. 

Haptic - a method of primary research involving touch and our physical experience. Relies upon a physical manifestation. 

Proprioception - the awareness of something in relation to your body. 

Heuristic - a method of research enabling someone to discover or learn something for themselves. Hands-on or interactive approach to learning. 

Phenomenology - Consciousness and the objects of direct experience. The study of things and the nature of being. Using object as a starting point, but then using the art practice to aesthetically express it beyond its basic expression. Our experience. Immersion. 

Semiotic - Communication through visual signs and symbols. Tacit and explicit. Making subconscious understanding explicit. The relationship between image and meaning. The interpretation of the image and meaning applied. The manipulation of the audience through semiotics. 

Objectivism - removing emotion from the situation. Everything becomes an object. Term coined by William Williams – emphasis placed on viewing the thing in a different way. Analysed in terms of its mechanical features, how it was constructed. A way of clarifying something we have trouble defining or is nebulous, so we can break it down to its core components, which can then be taken further. 

Quantitative - relating to, measuring, or measured by the quantity of something rather than its quality. Quantitive data.

Qualitative - relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity. Thinking outside the box, the quality of the object rather than meaning.

Paradigm - The world view of what we are looking at. Can help tell us what lens we are looking through. The paradigm isn't the lens but knowing it can help understand what end it is. 


And a rather lovely quote by Rudyard Kipling "I have six honest serving men, they taught me all they knew, I call them what and where and when and how and why and who.” 


And so, to end this initial post with a beginning......

Keywords - Art, accident, subversion, found objects, viewer, space, process, authorship, experience, nomination, perspective.

Statement - I am a conceptual painter and installation artist interested in the nomination of the incidental and unwanted as ‘Art’ using a subversion of traditional media and found objects to form new conversations and relationships between materials, viewer and space. 
Representing the process of making, and re-presenting that process to the viewer.


The next post(s) will be a few mind maps and initial explorations into the themes of my practice and an unpinning of some of the theories and artists at the centre of its context.

Ally McGinn (2017)  A Question in Painting  [Installation detail]. Mixed media. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) A Question in Painting [Installation detail]. Mixed media. Size varies.