Research Methodologies - Temperature check, aims and objectives, blog reflection. by Ally McGinn

This is the final post for a few weeks, and I thought it appropriate to reiterate my aims (slightly changed) from the beginning of this blog, 11 weeks ago. We undertook these blogs for a purpose, to gain something and to show the process of that development. I definitely feel I have achieved, or at least made a firm dent in, that purpose.

The first five weeks were a process of near-constant researching and writing. Around week eight I had a breakthrough in the studio, followed quickly by something ‘clicking’ in the work in week ten.
These shifts in studio perception have led to the beginnings of a change in focus. At the moment that change seems subtle, and more of a development than a transfer. For now, this change affects my aims and objectives as follows.

Aims and Objectives

My aim is to explore the ways art is experienced and understood, through a combination of engaged theoretical research and perceptual process, to underpin a research-led practice that aims to question the ways we look at art and our underlying assumptions, specifically in regards to the effects of painterly language and spatial presentation of ‘Art’.

My objectives can be grouped into an interest in the physical and metaphysical experience of art in relation to (1) creation and the artist's process (2) curation and the viewer's experience and (3) the space (or context) that underpins and intersects them both. While this seems like a broad subject I've come to realise that there are specifics found in the studio practice.
I am interested in creation (1) for its influence on the subject matter and materials in my work. Curation (2) is of interest in terms of presentation and understanding experience, and space (3) is, in this case at least, defined as both context and material, which I attempt to combine in the studio.


  • Process (incident)

  • Nomination

  • Perception

  • Presence

  • Subversion

  • Potentiality

I'm not totally confident that this articulation is the best one at the moment, but the next part of this module is an essay exploring this articulation in further detail. So it’s best, to avoid plagiarising myself, to save that articulation for later.

This, final update, has encouraged me to begin re-writing my statement. The re-worked statement can be found in the ‘about’ section of my website and I feel it sits far better within the scope of my work, and the wider context.

Overview of research done in line with objectives

I had plans to list here, under a variety of headings, all of the research contained in this blog. As if this, in some small way, validates the decisions I have made in the subjects I have researched.
I have come to realise that this is a, somewhat, pointless exercise. The validation is not needed, and the list only serves to lower my anxiety.

Here is a simple diagram instead. This covers the research done in the last 11 weeks.


Other avenues of thought (such as the note/thought sections of this blog) and seemingly unrelated research has fed into a wealth of contextual knowledge that I have been workingwith in the studio. The practical application of this research is hard to verbally quantify but the works speak for themselves, that is, after all, what makes art distinct from philosophy.

I have written or at least written first drafts of, a few posts that I haven’t posted online. I plan to finish these while continuing with further research. These include; Deskilling, Dianna Molzan, Sandra Gamarra, Phillyda Barlow, Haim Steinbach, Bruce Nauman, De-aestheticisation, Performance art, and Anti-art.

Annotated Bibliography

We have had to write an annotated bibliography covering this blog, and the research done within it. Choosing elements to annotated was probably the most difficult part of this assignment. The purpose of the bibliography is to show the breadth of sources, engagement with them and the implications of them in our practices. 

This has been hard to quantify. How can we show the impact of research? How can we annotate whole books into a few sentences? and how can we communicate the subjective reality of the impact these sources have had, against an attempt at an objective perspective.

I have chosen my sources, annotated them to the best of my ability at this time, and I hope that it shows what I am researching and why. 

Reflection - Blog

As the assessed time of this module draws to a close, it’s a time for a deeper reflection. The next steps of this process is a written essay exploring my methodology and a presentation outlining future goals and aims. In aid of this ongoing exploration, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the act of keeping this blog.

This has been an entirely new experience. I have recently finished my BA, during which we had to create a context folder, containing evidence and articulation of research done during our practice. My natural inclination has been towards research, and it has been an integral part of my practice for the last four years. BUT this has always been a solo process, only existing as a final form towards the last term of the year as I worked to pull everything together. This, more refined, process has been interesting and has highlighted some of the assumptions about research that I had fallen into.

My referencing skills have improved since starting this module, and I've come to appreciate the value of referencing from the start of research. This is something I will definitely be taking forward, and a useful function of the blog.

Keeping the blog has encouraged a consistency of format throughout my posts, and has encouraged me not to linger too long on a single point. The academic level is higher than I have achieved (over a sustained period) previously and I can honestly say that I have thoroughly engaged in this process.
My skills in referencing, articulation and language have improved in the weeks since I have started this blog. I have resisted the urge to go back and edit too much, to correct for this improvement, as I feel it shows an honest view of research in practice. A constant process of development.

Writing with the knowledge that it is in the public realm has altered the way I write, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it has altered the way I see my writing.
Writing is a creative practice, and I’ve been thinking about writing as more of a tool for research rather than record (which I plan to discuss more in my essay so shall stop here for now) and the blog has been the primary reasons for that train of thought.

This module has been an eye-opening experience, one that has shown me a new perspective on the things I have researched, and in the way I research.

The layout of this blog, along with the annotated bibliography, essay and presentation, encourage a heightened level of self-reflection. It has been anxious, and tiring, process but an extremely useful one.

I debated, for quite a while, about whether to include a note to the length of this blog, and the frequency of posts. It is reasonable to say that I have been fully engaged in this process, my life has revolved around this research process, studio working and contextual discussions.

There is a lot here, but that does not imply efficiency in a negative sense (rushed, or done without depth) but an engagement with the process in line with the requirements of this module, and with the expectation that the process will change, and research will become deeper into more focused subjects in coming months.

The thing to note here, more for myself than anyone else, is that I have not worked with a sustainable practice this term. I have worked more than I should have, which accounts for how utterly exhausting I have found this process, which is something I plan to work on next year. For now I am content with the solid foundation of theory I have created here, that I know will be useful for years to come.

The first few weeks of this term were a process of taking in information and getting to terms with the terminology and perspective of the module.

The middle portion, the meat of the module, was taken up with an extreme engagement and was where the majority of blog posts were produced. I scheduled many, to allow for some space in the positioning of them, and for myself to come back to them before they were posted.
The result of this is that the final few weeks have a higher frequency of posts. This to do with the posts I had written in the preceding weeks and scheduled for later. A well-organised plan, however, I did not account for the fact that inspiration for context has not stopped because I had reached the point where I had ‘enough’ posts scheduled.
I have found that since that moment (which occurred about two weeks ago) there have been a vast array of things I've wanted to speak about and write about.
I don't want to stop the passion I have for the research, and the work and I am not sure I could stop myself if I wanted to. So instead I have continued to write and research, and  I have then been posting the most recent texts on the day I write them.

So, the final few weeks are a combination of the completion of posts begun earlier and inspired research of the time.
I have come to realise, through this, that I should have posted things as I finished them. Normalising the frequency of my research seems like something done to appear in a certain way.
This will change in future.

My general skills in researching have improved, separately from the blog. As I continue to practice researching, and gain more knowledge that aids in the understanding of the research being done. I’m beginning to realise knowledge has a slight exponential curve, the more you learn, the more you understand.

Small improvements can be seen in practical research skills, like skim reading as a form of scoping out research, being able to quickly evaluate the value of information in relation to my practice. A form of tangential research that comes in line with an understanding of my own place within the wider context of the artworld.

To end this reflection I want to return to Kipling’s “six honest working men “ (a quote from our first lecture) (McGinn, 2017)

What - Art; an exploration of art theory and practice that questions what art is in our society, what it can do for us, and ways of perceiving art and space. A practice that hopes, beyond all else, to raise questions and encourage an active participation, mentally or physically.

Where - University. This is a point worth noting. I am doing these things with the underlying knowledge that it will be judged, marked and assessed in line with institutional guidelines. While the course is definitely self-motivated, there are things we have to do. I would not be writing this blog if not for this course, and these words wouldn't exist. Clear evidence for the value of an MA in Fine Art.

When - 2017. A time of tense politics, strong opinions and a growing concern with the effects of capitalism on society and us as beings. (at least on my part)

How - Through a process of presence and perception. Physically making the work and mentally exploring the ideas of others. A strong reflective stance, with a growing ability to perceive objectively and a growing foundation of contextual knowledge. At the sake of repeating myself, this is one of the main questions in the upcoming essay and presentation, so, for now, this answer will suffice.

Why - This is the hardest of the honest men. Why do I do this? The honest answer, for an honest man, is that this is where my passion lies. I have a creative mind, and I enjoy challenging myself and others. I create art because I believe in it, and the transformative power it can hold, individually and on a wider scale.

Who - Me. An optimistic art student, with a passion for knowledge and a tendency to overdo most things. My biases could be argued to relate to my gender, cultural context, financial status, marital status, class definition, educational history, mental perspective, philosophical outlook, and arguably many more. Those things are too personal to define on a blog but show through the writings and reflections found within it.

Deconstruction of practice undertaken. 

For the purposes of clarity I want to take a moment to apply a deconstruction of my research practice during this module;

  • Voice memos - I use software on my phone to record thoughts made while driving. It’s a technological system, and so is subject to issues. It also requires time to type-up the thoughts (I am currently a few weeks behind, so this is a negative and I need to find a more sustainable solution)
    The thoughts are often insightful, possibly because of the nature of the process, my mind is occupied and i'm totally alone, and would normally be lost in the act of driving.

  • Reflective thoughts - This is the same format as the voice memos (recorded by date) done when not driving. I have a document saved on my phone, so that I can access it anywhere. This note was begun on that document, and most of the ‘Note/Thought’ posts are taken from this document.
    Having this document allows for notation of thoughts in a more inclusive way, which has shown the shear number of connections in thinking; in life, and in art.

  • Research posts - This is the most traditional form of research. Taken from books and other sources. I prefer to take in information (with annotation where possible, so I photocopy or buy books that I can highlight and note in) and then summarise it later with my own thoughts.

  • Research Methodology posts - These are places where I have explored the methodology itself, and it's terminology. Includes many reflections.

  • Notes/Thoughts - From reflective thoughts, voice memos and notebooks

  • Photography - Working with objects, in a perceptual practice, requires a form of documentation. In addition to written documentation I take photographs of my space and connections made in the studio. This is a vital part of my process and beginning to move into the work itself.

An interesting note the duality in my work. Things seem to come in pairs or threes, I think this an important realisation and observation of myself as an artist, and my process.

Whats next.

The frequency of posts is going to change, both as this module is assessed and as the nature of my practice changes in line with the MA and my attempt to balance work and life slightly better.

The research will be ongoing but, over the next few weeks at least, I plan to spend the time writing my essay, and doing any extra research needed for that. My provisional ongoing plan is to go deeper into a few areas uncovered in this, first, stage as well as following a few links I didn't have time to follow.

Reflecting on the blog, and presenting an output from research in this way has been very influential in itself, and I plan to continue, albeit with fewer posts per week (at this time I think I have averaged eight, which I will try to limit to two as I continue forward) as the year goes on.

Research is coming more directly into my work. Referencing the act of research itself is something I want to explore more. Research can be both a definition of art and a vital part of the practice of it. I would like to explore both more inherently in the work I create.

Evaluating the success of research, in artistic practice, is proving to be more difficult the further I get. These are the choices I have made, these are the things I have researched, and this is what I have done with it. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey so far.


McGinn, A. (2017) Research Methodologies - Intro lecture - Knowledge - Useful terms and ideas / October 4, 2017. [Blog Post] Avaliable from: [Accessed 09.12.17].

Research - 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.


Research - Authorship, creation, originality, appropriation, authenticity and ownership by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2016)  Kenneally.  Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

Ally McGinn (2016) Kenneally. Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

The idea of authorship is so interlinked with other ideas that it’s hard to isolate it without touching on a few other things. This post is a relatively brief exploration of the notion of authorship and associated concerns – originality, appropriation, ownership, authenticity, and creation.

A few of these ideas were discussed in my dissertation, and the following is a more in-depth view of these ideas.

Beginning with the beginning – Creation

Dissertation excerpt “The concept of ‘creating’ is highly contested.  Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin questioned authorship in the 20th century. (Barthes, 1977) Both discussed whether there is an author at all and how much has to be in place for authorship to happen. Barthes wrote about the death of the author, suggesting that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” (Barthes, 1977: 148) Michel Foucault agrees, arguing that the concept of the author allows for an almost tyrannical rule that restricts the free-thinking of the reader, and by extension the viewer. (Foucault, 1984: 121)

Exploring the work of people like Derrida and other philosophers, we can see how interconnected and dependent the internal and external are in any artwork. In any piece of art, how much of the creation is due to the artist and how much to the ‘Artworld’?

The question is not one that necessarily needs (or can be) to be answered, but its existence must be acknowledged to better understand the idea of authorship.

Can we claim authorship over anything? It wouldn’t be difficult to argue that if there is no creation, then there is no authorship, that everything made is re-contextualising or re-presenting.  However, that argument would change the perspective of ownership in the modern world and its history. It does beg the question, how can you claim ownership of an idea?


An artist creates. This is one of the fundamental principles of art, whether contested or not (and it is highly contested). (Marriner, 2015) At the heart of this creation is the idea of originality. Modern society and the human condition seems to continually imply and reject the notion that everything has already been invented.

There can be no entirely original inventions because even the smallest part of the whole has elements that have already been designed, made or explored.

Is it only in the combination of existing things that originality is found?

It is arguably true that total originality is a myth. As humans, we are combinations of genetic, historical and societal events and attributes that combine to form the person we become. Artworks, especially the good ones, are remarkably similar to people in this regard. Take any artwork, made anywhere in the world, and it is merely a matter of knowledge to be able to find the links to other artworks throughout history, as well as links to various different themes, issues, and ideas that exist in our world.

Maybe there is no original art, just varying degrees of transparency?


What is it that makes an artist the author of an artwork? If the ideas of creation and originality are questionable, then the question of authorship is even more muddied. It is generally agreed that art can be anything, or that anything can be art. This inclusion means that the question of the author becomes a complicated one. Is the manufacturer of paint an artist? The question then becomes one of language. What is the definition of an artist, and who gets to decide which people fit the bill? One crucial factor seems to be that the author has the ultimate responsibility to whatever objectives they choose to pursue through the work.

Marcel Duchamp is the foundational figure of these ideas in art. His readymades, which were selected through “visual indifference” (Tompkins, 2013) and with a sense of irony and humour, epitomise nomination as an art form.

If we take Duchamp's assertion that readymades can be art, which I most certainly do, then the tools that an artist uses are already art. If Michael Landy’s art bin (Bishop, 2005) is art, then so are the artworks artists deem non-art. Performance, environments, social change, and any other action or object that an artist chooses to nominate can be, and are, art…...but then who is the artist?


A word must be said on appropriation; a word that is synonymous (in the art world) with authorship. Appropriation can be said to not only be a modern idea. Defined as the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects, appropriation has been considered a legitimate tool for artists as long as there has been art.

Appropriation is defined as the art of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them, which can be one description applied to both my process and some of the pieces created recently.

In art terms to appropriate is to adapt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture (although it can be argued that appropriation from naturally occurring visuals is also appropriation).

Appropriation is accompanied by the re-contextualisation of the object or image.  Even if this is just the artist saying, “it is art.”

Appropriation can be explained as "the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art." (Tate, Undated) The Tate traces the practice back to Cubism and Dada through to Surrealism, pop art and Neo-geo artists in the 1980’s. (Tate, Undated)

What is considered the first piece of appropriation in art was done during the Cubist movement, although who did it first is still in question. (it was either Picasso or Braque) By adding a piece of oilcloth onto the canvas and later working with newspaper and other materials appropriation began through collage. The two then used appropriation to explore ideas of the significance of realism. Showing that appropriation, like creativity, can be considered a tool for the artist to examine broader questions.

The practice of adding appropriated imagery has been expanded to include entire works of other artists, claimed by someone else, in blatant and defended plagiarism, Richard Prince being the prime example. (Richard Prince, Undated) Who famously appropriated images from Marlboro cigarettes, re-photographing them and presenting them as art.

I've discussed the implications of Duchamps readymades in more than one other blog post, so I'll dispense with that here, other than to say that here again Duchamp intersects visual culture. The readymades were appropriated objects, as well as nominated ones. (Tompkins, 2013)

Appropriation was continued and developed by the Dadaists and collage artists like Kurt Schwitters. (Tate, Undated) Found objects had become a recognised material, and a tool artists began to think with.

A link to another post can be found in Schwitters’ “Merz”, which is a precursor of the development of installation art.

Surrealism took found objects and subverted our expectations of them to form new meaning.

Robert Rauschenberg made what he termed ‘combines,' literally combining readymade objects like tyres or beds, painting, silkscreens, collage, and photography. More on Rauschenberg in another post. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Later artists like Klaus Oldenberg (Evans, 2009) and Andy Warhol (Evans, 2009) appropriated commercial images and images from popular culture. To both artists pop culture is accessible to all, regardless of class, or education. No matter who you were, it meant the same thing.

In the 1960’s appropriation artist, Elaine Sturtevant created works that were copies of other artworks, with little interaction, nominating them as art. (Evans, 2009)  Created using the same techniques, occasionally with advice from the artist being copied, each work had a mistake in creation, to distinguish between the copy and original. This process, and the resulting ‘new’ work, openly acknowledges its status as a copy; challenging the concept of the author.

When Duchamp nominated his readymades, and Warhol appropriated popular culture they chose certain objects to become art. The work of Sturtevant, and mine eschews this level of decision, by allowing other artists to determine what is worthy to be treated as art.

One of the best-known artists, who work with appropriation as a subject as well as a tool, is Sherrie Levine. I recently saw some of her work at the David Zwirner gallery in London. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Levine is primarily a photographer, popular in the 1980’s for reproducing, through photography, recognisable works of art.

Through this change in medium, she questions the author of the artwork and the very nature of authorship.

Sherrie Levine (1996)  Fountain [Budda]  Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Sherrie Levine (1996) Fountain [Budda] Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Levine explored this idea in sculpture, recreating ‘fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp in bronze (The Broad Gallery, Undated) (which is arguably as ‘real’ as replicas seen in galleries today - see my post on the Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the RA for more context around this comment) among other works.

One of her most famous series were photographic reproductions of photographs by Walker Evans. Levine took photographs from the exhibition catalogue and presented (or maybe nominated) these as her work. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Artist Michael Mandiberg took this idea one step further in 2001. (Maniberg, 2001) He created an online archive of the images (taken from the same catalogue) which could be accessed and, with precise instructions, printed by anyone with access to the internet and a printer. Viewers can also print a certificate of authenticity (for a Mandiberg).

This work challenges the commodity that Levine's work became, and it would be interesting to find out what she thought of the website -

Artist Mike Bidlo painted reproductions (although he didn't call them that) of works by famous artists, notably Pollock, Warhol and Duchamp. (Evans, 2009)

Often, as can be seen with Levine, Mandiberg and Bidlo, the artists use the original ‘creator’s name in their own titles. Showing that the intention is not to steal, or otherwise claim any of the original skill of the works, indeed it could be said that their content becomes if not irrelevant than at least less important than the fact that they are appropriated.

This is probably most interesting in the case of remade readymades, recreations of Duchamp's works. Arguably the second artist is doing what Duchamp himself did, albeit looking in a different ‘everyday’ for their source material - the everyday of the artworld.

This is an extremely important point in my practice, and a term I often use when collecting materials from around my own, and others, working spaces.

Appropriation has sparked in numerous copyright lawsuits. One of the reasons appropriation is such a controversial subject is the existence of the ‘Artworld’, a term coined by Arthur Danto (explained further in other posts) that describes the foundational context that surrounds any artwork. (Danto, 1964) As the revelation suggests, anything can be art, and art often challenges our assumptions, in which appropriation is a useful tool.

The work of these artists is linked by an inclusion of large components of the work of other artists, from the start. Traditionally the artist is held responsible for all aspects of their creations. Gerhard Richter suggested that art is “ a series of yes or no questions with a yes at the end.” (Richter, 2000)

Even when chance is considered, the artist is still deciding to include or remove something. This is what makes art open to interpretation, in questioning why the artist did something we can interpret the artwork as art.

Total appropriation, or near enough, seems to eschew any responsibility for the details of the work. (Although there are enough artworks in existence, even famous ones, that the decision by these artists arguably comes in the choice of what to reproduce.) Instead, the works reflect the decisions taken by the artist subjects.

My recent works have a similar sense of authorship and responsibility, although certainly on a scale.

These artists are the authors of their work, this point is fact rather than opinion and is repeatedly evidenced. The fact that they are needs no arguing, but the reason is interesting and instead the subject of the work. They are art because they are nominated art, and the artists achieve the recognition of the work as such. That recognition is an important factor when considering the author of the work. Art is only Art with the existence of an artworld, and that artworld is built on a foundation of mutual recognition.

The work of these, and other, artists could be seen as evidence that the author is dead. However, they are closer to comments on the purpose of authorship, and originality, than rejecting it.

Appropriation artists are sometimes seen as undermining notions of artistic authorship and even skill, but the intention is usually far from negative, and in fact, serves as evidence that originality is not all it would appear, and that art has the potential to ask questions we might not typically ask.

The pressure to be original is felt by artists around the world, and yet our very understanding of the term is flawed, we are an amalgamation of influences and experiences, as are artworks. The inclusion of appropriated materials can be done for many reasons, and different artists will have different interpretations of the meaning of these items, as will the viewers, but the inclusion itself has a particular meaning.

One thing that these artists show is that originality is not a prerequisite for art.

I'll end the section on appropriation with three quotes from Michalis Pichler’s ‘Statements on Appropriation’ which contained 24 statements, 6 by the artist, about appropriation, pulled out of a hat. (Pichler, 2009)

“Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite.”

“Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it.”

“No poet, no artist, of any art has his complete meaning alone.”


Along with the idea of originality comes the notion of authenticity. Primarily associated with the art market, there is an implicit authenticity required for something to be considered ‘Art’. There are of course exceptions to every rule, but generally, we trust that the ‘Art’ that we are looking at is what the artist is presenting it as, even if that is a planned pretence.

There is also an element of trust implied within the art gallery, the level of which depends on the status of the institution. We expect works shown at the Royal Academy or the Tate to be ‘Art’ whether we like or understand it.

Beyond the financial or historical implications, authenticity is, as many of the other terms in this text, a tool in the artist's work. It is used by artists to express ideas and to explore our understanding. Using the notion of authenticity can invoke questions about what we perceive as art.


When an author claims a work as their own, they are claiming a form of temporary ownership.  That ownership is vital for the nomination of the work as Art.

As discussed above, contemporary art is filled with artists who have taken this conversation to its extreme, often resulting in lawsuits and lengthy debates over authenticity (another term intrinsically linked to this subject). If we accept that no work is original, then we are all plagiarists, and plagiarism is a fact of creation, rather than merely something to be avoided.

Ownership, when discussed in the art world, brings the art market into the conversation, bringing with it the truth of the commodity that all artworks are - no matter the intention.

The art market is a symbiotic partner to the art world, so interlinked that they are dependent upon one another. (The worlds most expensive painting, 2011)

Artworks are commodities, and the prices of the most expensive artworks are continuing to rise. Even artworks created to reject the art market, like environmental art, can be commercialised (in that case through documentation and reproduction)

Many of my pieces discus, or inspire, the artwork as a commodity (occasionally unintentionally) and whether that discussion is a rejection or a celebration is mostly a question for the viewer. From my perspective, I consider them both. I dislike the commercialism of the modern world and believe that it could be changed for the better but (in the art world at least) I understand the need for it and the purpose it has.

These works have no internal answer to the question of whether the artwork as a commodity is a positive or a negative, they merely embody the question.

A position I choose for many of my works. They are intentionally ambiguous on opinion. I think that is one of the reasons I always include chance elements and unwanted items, the removal of hierarchy and aesthetic preference negates the idea of opinion and adds to the questions invoked.

Conclusion - sort of

At its foundation, it is important to remember that these ideas are metaphysical conversations. Each is as open to interpretation as art itself, and have inspired thinkers for centuries.

The point, as convoluted as it seems, appears to be that nothing is as simple as it first looks. Authenticity, originality, authorship, and creation are all made complicated when applied to art. There is no substantial formula, nor any rules that cannot be broken. The critical factor in the examination of these issues is the artist. It is not in the creation of the work that these conversations exist but in defence and explanation of them.

Regarding my work, these ideas recur regularly. From the collection of unwanted materials, failed experiments and placed canvases, each of my pieces contains an element of shared authorship. That shared authorship, when combined with other contextual features, seeks to question the definition and reality of art.

IMPORTANT EDIT/REALISATION 10.12.17 - I've come to realise that writing and speaking (or language in general) is a form of appropriation. We rarely make up our own words. The personal element comes in our interpretation or understanding of the words, or gestures, of others.


Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text. St Ives: Fontana Press.

Bishop, C (2005) Installation Art. London: Tate Publishing.

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

Evans, D. (2009) Appropriation (Documents of Contemporary Art). London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.        

Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’, trans. Josué V. Harari, in Paul Rainbow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), pp. 101-120.

Kabakov, I. (2000) ‘Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933) on installations’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 1175-1180.

Mandiberg, M (2001) After Sherrie Levine. [Online] Avaliable from : [Accessed 05.11.17].

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

Pichler, M. (2009) Statements on Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from : [Accessed 01.12.17].

Reiss, J. (2001) From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art. London: MIT Press.

Richard Prince (Undated) Richard Prince. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 04.11.17].

Richter, G. (2000) ‘Notes 1964-65’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 757-760.

Robert Rauschenberg (2016) [Exhibition]. Tate Modern, London. 1 December 2016 - 2 April 2017.

Sherrie Levine : Pie Town (2017) [Exhibition]. David Zwirner Gallery, London. 4 October - 18 November 2017.

Tate (Undated) Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 03.11.17].

The Broad Gallery (Undated) Sherrie Levine, Fountain [Buddha]. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 05.11.17].

The worlds most expensive painting. (2011) [DVD] Russell England. UK: BBC1.

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


The author of many of my recent works is ambiguous due to the different signatures found on the surface and the previous owners (and creators) of the found objects. (although this is only when the context is known, on initial visual inspection the works are assumed to be authored by me)

The critical factor appears to be the moment when the other artist agrees that their action, object or artwork is not useful for them, and the moment I take ownership of them.

The actions captured are those that the artist disregards - without canvas on the floor, wall or table those actions and marks would be lost.

The objects are either finished containers, unwanted tools or 'broken' items.

And the artworks are all either donated or sourced from bins - all regarded by the original author as unwanted.

Once I take ownership of these objects (or objectifications in the case of placed canvases), they become the materials of my practice. Through this filter, they are in turn nominated and presented as Art.

Without that filter they remain what they once were because it is only through the nomination that they are put forward to be understood, questioned and interpreted as Art.

The fact that an object can be collected and presented, without interaction, as art shows that it is the nomination that counts.

(Although that begs the question of whether the nomination counts as an interaction if it does then the interaction is synonymous with the nomination.)

That the nomination is done by me could, arguably, be enough to count myself as the author.

However, I have to note that even when referring to the placed canvases in passing I refer to them as if they belonged to the artist whose actions are collected. This could be because the artist becomes an adjective rather than a noun. The descriptor of these works is the artist involved. This conflict of description only seems to occur when dealing with the placed canvases and unwanted works - materials, tools, and general rubbish seem free of author-dilemma.

The collaborative authorship of these pieces negates some of the automatic personal associations between author and work. Adding to the unintentional narrative of the pieces.

When thinking about the originality of these pieces, I believe they are often more original than the artworks created during their use. They are referencing and collecting process, and in themselves are completely honest, the occasional dishonesty comes through my interaction.

Their originality can be compared to other works about a similar subject of course, but I (as with most artists) can only hope that they are original enough.

Their authenticity is harder to pin down, by intention. They are what they are, they have a reality, as do all objects.

They are authentically what they are, and when questioned I, as the artist, always tell the truth about their origins and process. However if not challenged, or when seen and not investigated further, some of the works (primarily the found or placed canvases) are misleading, pretending to be something they are not. The viewer may assume that the marks are intentional, or created in an alternative way.

I discuss this because many people seem surprised when they hear how the works are made, and it has been suggested that my current interaction with the work is not enough to call it art.

I have found evidence of this when discussing the works with visiting tutors and other students or viewers. When informed of how they were made (especially the piece - Even babies lie) viewers are often surprised.

That the nomination, not the interaction, is enough for consideration as art is evidenced in historical canon. Further actions from me either solidify or negate the nomination.

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.


Note/Thought - Attention by Ally McGinn

When something isn't the way we expect it to be we pay more attention to it. This can be seen in many aspects of our lives.  So the things we expect to see become almost background noise.


It was a lamppost that inspired this thought. Normally we ignore them, but when one is bent it becomes obvious. Is this where the phrase “sticks out like a sore thumb” originates? The idea that something that looks different sticks out?


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].

Studio Research - Week 11 by Ally McGinn

This week we held our MA Open Studios event. So much of the week was taken with presentation tests and adjustments. 

A fairly logistical week, but with quite a few contextual developments. (Detailed on other posts)

Ally McGinn (2017)  Studio Mushroom.  [Working Title]. Studio detritus. Size varies, approximately 5 x 5 x 2 cm.   This piece is more about the perceptual association of a mushroom than a pre-conceived idea or inspiration from nature. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio Mushroom. [Working Title]. Studio detritus. Size varies, approximately 5 x 5 x 2 cm. 

This piece is more about the perceptual association of a mushroom than a pre-conceived idea or inspiration from nature. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  This is the final view of my set up for the Open Studios event. None of the working elements of the studio were removed, and it was interesting to see the engagement people had with that element of things.  The differences between studio and gallery can be seen in situ here. The difference is part of the work and it gives insight into the mind of the artist, and the working process of creating art. I think this is an interesting point for the work, as I am interested in the communication of perceptual questions. Seeing all the elements I have considered for inclusion in the work questions why those elements were chosen while inspiring a transitory state for these objects; the idea that it could change at any moment.  I would be interested to explore the idea of changing an element of the installation between each day of an exhibition. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

This is the final view of my set up for the Open Studios event. None of the working elements of the studio were removed, and it was interesting to see the engagement people had with that element of things. 
The differences between studio and gallery can be seen in situ here. The difference is part of the work and it gives insight into the mind of the artist, and the working process of creating art. I think this is an interesting point for the work, as I am interested in the communication of perceptual questions. Seeing all the elements I have considered for inclusion in the work questions why those elements were chosen while inspiring a transitory state for these objects; the idea that it could change at any moment. 
I would be interested to explore the idea of changing an element of the installation between each day of an exhibition. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.   A detail shot of the space behind the canvas wall, a space of storage and potential.   There is something brilliant about this. It is an organic, aesthetically unconsidered (for the most part) installation. Ordered chaos. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 

A detail shot of the space behind the canvas wall, a space of storage and potential. 

There is something brilliant about this. It is an organic, aesthetically unconsidered (for the most part) installation. Ordered chaos. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Reading a painting, process shot.   Binding this painting into a book is progressing well. The book is bound with a handmade linen hardback cover. The process is being documented in  'Reading a Painting'.   This book was easily the most conversational element of my installation, at least during the evening of the Open Studios.  It drew interaction and questions from viewers. Which is something I'm going to consider.  I have explored many of the reasons for making this book in the post ‘Reading a Painting’ but I enjoy the dichotomy of choice and focus that it brings to the viewer; they can choose which pages to linger on (and do) and yet they are focussing on individual elements more than they might at a distance.  It forces a physical interaction with painting.  I would like to replicate this process on a representational painting.  This exploration is ongoing.

Ally McGinn (2017) Reading a painting, process shot. 

Binding this painting into a book is progressing well. The book is bound with a handmade linen hardback cover. The process is being documented in 'Reading a Painting'.

This book was easily the most conversational element of my installation, at least during the evening of the Open Studios.

It drew interaction and questions from viewers. Which is something I'm going to consider.

I have explored many of the reasons for making this book in the post ‘Reading a Painting’ but I enjoy the dichotomy of choice and focus that it brings to the viewer; they can choose which pages to linger on (and do) and yet they are focussing on individual elements more than they might at a distance.

It forces a physical interaction with painting.

I would like to replicate this process on a representational painting.

This exploration is ongoing.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  Painting an addition onto the floor of ' Enframed'.   This piece began with the grey elements. As a form of equalising the materials while disguising their primary qualities.  The frame came into the work, partly, as a result of reading Heidegger. The golden frame is garish, and many people dislike it, but I enjoy the juxtaposition of Matt grey against the dusky shine of the golden frame.  The canvas behind the frame brings this piece firmly into the world of painting while highlighting its spatial qualities and materially enlarging the space of the work.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

Painting an addition onto the floor of 'Enframed'.

This piece began with the grey elements. As a form of equalising the materials while disguising their primary qualities.

The frame came into the work, partly, as a result of reading Heidegger. The golden frame is garish, and many people dislike it, but I enjoy the juxtaposition of Matt grey against the dusky shine of the golden frame.

The canvas behind the frame brings this piece firmly into the world of painting while highlighting its spatial qualities and materially enlarging the space of the work.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  One of the small interventions I placed around the studios.  The bottles are filled with studio dust, during the stages of turning it into paint, and a collection of screws. The photo is a water mark on the floor after stretching a canvas.  The combination of the material and the representational form a representation of the process in a studio.  They were placed on a conduit on the wall, at chest height (bearing in mind I'm 5ft 4). The arrow is pointing to a fire exit but is repurposed here to direct the gaze to the ‘Art’.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

One of the small interventions I placed around the studios.

The bottles are filled with studio dust, during the stages of turning it into paint, and a collection of screws. The photo is a water mark on the floor after stretching a canvas.

The combination of the material and the representational form a representation of the process in a studio.

They were placed on a conduit on the wall, at chest height (bearing in mind I'm 5ft 4). The arrow is pointing to a fire exit but is repurposed here to direct the gaze to the ‘Art’.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  One of the small interventions I placed around the studios.  Is this sculpture or fruit painted grey, repurposed into purposelessness. A definition of art.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

One of the small interventions I placed around the studios.

Is this sculpture or fruit painted grey, repurposed into purposelessness. A definition of art.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  One of the small interventions I placed around the studios. My daughters reaction to this piece will be the subject of one of my final posts.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

One of the small interventions I placed around the studios. My daughters reaction to this piece will be the subject of one of my final posts.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.  One of the small interventions I placed around the studios, this one remained on my desk.   Frame.

Ally McGinn (2017) Open studios view. 6.12.17.

One of the small interventions I placed around the studios, this one remained on my desk. 


Research - Strange Tools - A few notes from chapters 4-7 by Ally McGinn

I noted in a previous post that I have been listening to 'Strange Tools' as an audiobook while attempting to not take any notes. The purpose of this is to encourage me to stop and listen, without worrying about the record of information (which anyone reading this blog can see is something I often concern myself with), and to enjoy the process and accept the communication of information in this way. 

There have, however, been a few things I've noted in relation to my practice. Transcribed from voice memo's taken while driving the following are a few notes of importance. 

Due to the nature of driving and listening, they are unreferenced specifically. This serves as a note and if I use the information in future I plan to return to the book. 

* What I think Chapter 4 is talking about is art as an example of evolutionary adaptation, which even the author admits is a narrow view of art and doesn't explain the ‘artness’ of art. But it is an element of art, and a perspective on art, that should be considered.

* Noe chapter 4 - argues that pictures are a way to experiment and explore seeing. They tell us what an object should look like. Which I think is an interesting perspective.
Images are the objects of our contemplation, and a way those objects are contextualised (almost a direct quote)

* I need to remember the idea of something that doesn't inspire the thing it suggests. So like a poem that speaks about euphoria but doesn't achieve this feeling when reading it. I'm wondering what this would mean if you translated it into an artwork.

* In response to the monumental sculptures of Richard Serra, Noe suggests that it is not about seeing something you don't understand, but it's about being in a place and not knowing where you are or how to navigate it. They are so monumental that they fill your view, you can't step back from them, you can only step into them.

* Quite a fascinating note, that Noe brings up in chapter 7, is that seeing isn't just something we do with our heads, it's something we do with our bodies. We are constantly moving our bodies to bring things into focus and to better explore the world.
In terms of my work - It's not about standing still and viewing the work, it encourages you to get closer and explore it physically. This is an important idea in my work at the moment.
It asks the viewer to take different viewpoints.

* Noe suggests that one of the purposes of art is to catch ourselves in the moment of experiencing the world, which I think is quite a beautiful idea, and it's a lovely articulation of a thread I have been beginning to think, the reformation of an idea I had begun to feel.
If art can be anything, then art can be found in the world around us. What we are actually doing by nominating or creating art is making people pay attention to things, we are catching them in that moment. 

* Another thought from Noe is that performative work demands your attention, or tries to grab it in some way. Whereas I feel that the performative slant of my work requires some form of active participation on the part of the viewer. Which I don't think performance necessarily does. The idea of the artist performing for the viewer can be seen in the same way paintings are experienced, as a passive experience to be enjoyed.
What I am trying to achieve is more of an active involvement, which is happening in the small details, people don't stand back and look at the work, they move around it and get close to the small details. They are intrigued.
They get involved with it, moving into it and around it. I am very proud of that.
I could see it last night at the open studios. There were some who glanced around and moved on but there were others who moved around the work in a really engaged way. I remember Nigel bending around the canvas wall to look at the things explored in there. That was a brilliant moment.
The way people interact with my work is very important to be, it always has been, and I feel that I need to make that more inherent in the work.

* Noe argues that art is a philosophical practice, which implies that anything can be art, but also means that nothing is guaranteed to be art. It is a form of investigation and a mode of research, focussed on transformation and reorganisation.

* When people are described as artists in their field it is usually when they are challenging the criteria of their field. So in the book, Strange Tools, Noe uses the example of Ali’s rope-a-dope. He forced other people to question their definitions of boxing, and he was an artist in that sense.

*Reductive materialism - the idea that everything that exists is matter and can somehow be explained in this way.

* The idea of reductive materialism itself implies that everything can be explained. And I think that is true objectively but consciousness brings a subjective layer to it.
Our existence as beings and the fact that it is ‘beings’ who are trying to figure this stuff out adds another layer to the reality of reality.

* Noe classifies 1st level activities as organised activities, and 2nd level activities as re-organisational practices. An important distinction to note for the future.

* 1st order activity examples are talking, dancing and perceiving. So it’s not really the nature of objects or the creation of images even but the perception itself. The level 2 activity of that is making images, objects and ‘Art’.

* A Whitman poem - the puzzle of puzzles. About a fact of being.


Noe, A (2016) ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.’ Narrated by Tom Perkins. Available at: (Downloaded: 24/10/17).


Research - Marxism, Capitalism and the Frankfurt School. by Ally McGinn

Something I have only recently been exploring in research is the impact capitalism has on our society. It is something I have explored in other areas of my life, but have not associated those opinions with my work. As usual, in retrospect, this seems like an oversight. This post serves as a short note to my burgeoning interest in this complex subject, it in no way summarises it, but it dents the surface.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Untitled.  Digital prints, basket and elastic bands. Size varies [Prints are 6 x 4 and 5 x 5]. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Untitled. Digital prints, basket and elastic bands. Size varies [Prints are 6 x 4 and 5 x 5]. 

Marxism is a set of thoughts, to which many subscribe, that describe the class-based system of a capitalist (our) society. Marxism shows that the forces of production and class struggle influence the ideological structure of our society. We are demanding beings, and we create things or buy things, to fulfil those demands. The needs we have are largely determined by our class, and the information we take in that shapes our subconscious assumptions and biases. (Woodfin, 2014)

Marxism suggests that the dominant class, in this case, the bourgeoisie, are able to shift things in their own favour, keeping them in power and the repressed, the proletariat, in the same position. (Woodfin, 2014)

That the ‘rich get richer’, another wording for the above, has enabled the dominant class to subsume surplus in our society, in the form of profit. This surplus, which implies a level of affluence that most working people do not feel, is used by those in power to retain and support the current sociological structure.

The reality is; we live in an affluent society. There is enough for everyone. The waste we produced is more shockingly lopsided when seen against the vast cases of people who lack the ‘basic’ things we need.

This surplus is coming from somewhere, and it comes at the cost of the workers. People whose only choice is to sell their labour.

Marxism suggests that history has been a series of oppression followed by revolution, leading back to oppression, where the cycle repeats. Marx suggests that a workers revolution in the west is coming. He goes on to suggest that one of the ways of breaking this cycle of oppression is to change things in that moment of revolution, to be aware of the oppression and affluence. Years later we can say that the revolution never came. (Woodfin, 2014)

The Frankfurt school were concerned with addressing shortcomings and predictions of Marxist thinking, that had yet, and have yet, to come true. When Marx predicted a workers revolution in the west he did not take into account the nature of capitalism, and it’s ability to convince the people inside it that it is what they want. (West, 2017)

We are alienated beings, which in a way is by design, but it is not the design of a single being or even an overriding group of beings, but by the society, we live in, and the people who live in it. It is a self-perpetuating society. (West, 2017)

We live in what Adorno and Horkheimer would call a society of Culture Industries. Where the culture in our lives is formed with a foundation of mass culture, as a result of being at the heart of a capitalist society. (West, 2017)

Many people describe feeling a void in their lives. More, arguably, are familiar with the idea that we have to work in a job we don't like in order to afford to live the way we want to live.
We live in an affluent society, but that affluence is not equally distributed. Economic control remains in the hands of those who have economic mobility, generally the bourgeoisie. (One of the many points that could be taken further here is the emergence of technology and the ability of those with low economic mobility to change that status - which is far higher than it has been previously. But that's a discussion for another time.

We work in jobs we generally don't like and do many other things we don't enjoy doing, in order to be able to afford the things that shape the quality of the rest of our lives.
We fill the void of alienation we feel, because of the shape of our societies, with ‘things’ but those ‘things’ cannot, and do not, fill the void. So the cycle repeats.
It may be possible to suggest that the cycle Marx described is now happening on an individual level. We realise something is missing, look for something to fill it, find adverts and other suggestions that we can fill it with some consumable thing, we attain that thing (this part of the process can take years) and then comes the inevitable realisation that the void is still there. We like this new ‘thing’ we have but it has not done what we were lead to believe it would do.

We shape a version of the people we want to be with ‘things’ around us. We use them to help us define ourselves. But those definitions and those ‘things’ define us far more by their semiotic significance than any apparent surface values.

“personality scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odour and emotions. The triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them.”

Adorno and Horkheimer (West, 2017)

The culture industry shapes the way we see things, the way we see ourselves, and the way we live. Therefore it follows that they shape all forms of creative output. (West, 2017)

Culture Industries can have a negative impact on the understanding of ‘good’ art. Not all art has to be seen as good by the majority, in fact, the opposite is likely true. The better works are actually more likely to be those that don’t fit the ideas of the majority. The effect of culture on mass media on art is the normalisation of it. It is a requirement of mass media that it fit the values or taste of thousands, potentially millions.

This shapes the work that is made at all levels.
Whether we like to admit it or not we are part of a capitalist society and it is extremely difficult to remove ourselves from that society. We must earn money to live, and this impacts the way we do things.


What does all of this have to do with my work? The first impact relates to my general outlook and perspective. I can now describe myself confidently as a Marxist, I am against the capitalist society, and reject many forms of it in my home life. This is not a new thought inspired by research, but a development of a perspective born of a response to our society. What I have not explored before is the impact of that perspective on my work in the studio.

It is simple to see the most obvious link, the choice of materials and subject in the studio. I work with materials that have fulfilled, failed, or have yet to achieve, their purpose. I deal with accidental and incidental objects and observations, which reject the notion that we should focus on certain things and ignore others. We are a society of blinkered individuals, we look at the things we are supposed to look at and ignore those we don't.

My materials question purpose and function, which is then deepened by my process with the materials in the studio.

The other ways this perspective influences my work are numerous, and the more I explore the idea the more I find. This document has the potential to get much longer. I look forward to being able to use this perspective as a tool in the studio as well as a subconscious influence.

The power of research can be that it can highlight, articulate and solidify things we already think, and make us realise the connections inherent in being a thinking being.


West, S. (2017) ‘The Frankfurt School pt 3 - The Culture Industry’, Philosophize This!. [Podcast] Avaliable from : [Accessed - 05.12.17].

Jeffries, S. (2012) ‘Why Marxism is on the rise again’. The Guardian. [Online]. Avaliable from:  [Accessed 6.12.17].

Woodfin, R. (2014) Introducing Marxism: A Graphic Guide. [e-book] London: Icon Books Ltd. Avaliable from: [Accessed 26.10.12].

Research Methodologies - Walking Alone by Ally McGinn


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.


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.

Reflection - MA Open Studios by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017)  Rainbow Tube  [Working Title]. Cardboard, paint and masking tape. Size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Rainbow Tube [Working Title]. Cardboard, paint and masking tape. Size varies.

The best part of the Open Studios, for me, was my six-year-old daughter, Lottie’s, reaction to the new work I had made during the day, that I have to make note of here. The work is tentatively titled ‘Rainbow Tube’, a name chosen by Lottie. The tube has been created from masking tape that was used in another artist's process. The construction of the piece was quite prescriptive, Ollie sent me the masking tape on a large sheet of folded paper (about 4m long!), and it’s obvious he has been collecting it chronologically, as the colours form a narrative of his process.
To be true to the materials, and their purpose, I took two pieces of masking tape off each ‘side’ of the paper, choosing based on the length of the pieces in relation to their suitability and functional ability to fit around the tube without too much waste. When I reached the end of the tape collection I painted the remaining area of tube grey. (This happened to be about half the length of it).

I enjoy Lottie's perspective, she is the ultimate unknowing being, a purer being than we could be, not as biased by the cultural and value associations in art. Children are brilliant lenses through which to view art.
When I asked Lottie what she thought of the tube, her response was that she wanted to play with it, which I, of course, let her do. She proceeded to use it as a hobby horse, which I found brilliant. I took a few photos in the moment but didn't want to ruin the moment.
Now I feel like the way I display the piece needs to relate to her interpretation of it.
I loved it, and I now wish I could make all of my works into things that we can use or play with.

In researching, I use processes and tools, ways of seeing the work in different lights, and one of the most interesting is through the eyes of a six-year-old. So one of the forms of research is monitoring my six-year-olds responses to art when she finds it, draws it, explores it, and when she experiences it. And it is unfortunate that I have only just made this observation. I can retrospectively record and note her responses, but my future plans include the act of documenting, in the moment where possible, her perceptions and actions.
I think there is a really interesting body of data there, to help us understand why humans do, and love, and explore, ‘Art’.

I've had a new idea or direction for my work in response to my daughter's interpretations of it. Related to my wider practice, and not, I want to make pieces that I then show to her, or present to her. Based on her responses I will then give instructions for viewers to interact with the works in the ways she did. This may extend to asking her to title the works.
In the case of ' Rainbow Tube', which she wanted to use as a hobby horse. I think this work should be accompanied by an A4 laminated set of instructions for how to ‘use’ the artwork.

Make two more rainbow tubes that we can then have a sword fight with.

I'm beginning to realise how central the idea of children could be to part of a new body of work, informed by exploring the ways my daughter, and other children, interact with, interpret and understand art. Exploring the implications on the way we see art when we consider the viewer as a child. 
I think the contextualisation that sometimes overwhelms art isn't there with children, not in the way it is with adults, but the experience is still there, in an arguably purer sense. It would be interesting to have an exhibition where there is a requirement to bring a child to gain entry to the exhibition itself.

The way Lottie interacted with the Brutalist Playground was amazing, she got stuck in physically and didn't stop moving for the entire time we were there, which was as long as we were allowed to be there. At the Louise Bourgouise exhibition at Hauser and Wirth, she got stuck in mentally, encouraged in a different way and she drew amazing sketches of what she saw in, and of, the work. The differences between the works and her drawings of them are quite interesting.

This is all something I need to return to later, and could be the basis for an extended research project for the future.

Note/Thought - Presence by Ally McGinn

I can think of no better way to describe my practice than as a process of presence. I cannot predict the work, not in detail, I have to be present and interacting with the objects in the space.

Therefore, arguably, if I change the environment I would change the work. This could be an interesting idea for Walcott chapel in Feb. Being in a new environment would involve moving my collected materials (or some of them), so would be the perfect time to do a short, time-limited, experiment with new materials.

I will have to choose a subject and begin collecting materials at home. I look forward to the chance to explore a different subject and the inspiration it may bring into my practice.

Maybe I should work with objects from popular culture? A total antithesis to my work. A revolution of practice (for a week). (It's possible I've been listening to too much Marxist theory).

Back to the main point. Presence is an act in the practice and has become a feature/subject in the work. This dynamic embodies a narrative within the work, especially when seen in installation form. (With the studio element, which needs some refinement in idea and execution. This is what I plan to work on next term, although as already stated: with my practice it is next to impossible to articulate in advance with any degree of accuracy. I can only begin, which always happens with an idea or direction, and then react to what is there.

Research Methodologies - Methodological Exercise - MA Open Studios by Ally McGinn

We had the MA open studio’s last night and it was the first time we have all shown work together, and for many the first time, we had seen each other's work. There are some extremely talented people on the course, and it was a very interesting evening.

Inspired by the immersion of other practices I realised that it could be an interesting methodological exercise to view my practice through the lens of other artists, whose practice I know in some way.
This exercise could highlight elements of methodology as well as new perspectives for my own work.

Please Note - All interpretations of the work of other artists are subjective. My interpretations are based on conversations with these artists and encounters with their work, but they are all subject to my bias and misunderstanding.

These are not explorations of the work of these brilliant artists. Where possible I have linked to their websites, I would definitely encourage having a look.

This list of artists is primarily the full-time students (whose work I know to a certain extent) and a few others who I have been able to chat to about their work.

Shirley Sharp -

Shirley’s work, for the purpose of this exercise, would make me view my work through the speech act, or act itself. I would think about the figure of the artist, and the relationship between viewer and artist in a more representational way.
* Pile of canvases that are shaped on one side to form the shape of a person. The other side is left as the natural forms of the pile.


Matthew Dibble -

Dibble’s work is involved with the haptic experience of materials. If I were to use his perspective to explore my subject and interests I would certainly create sculptures. I would likely focus on the pure materials of painting formed in new ways.
* A horizontal plane, with a vertical upright in the centre. On one side (or space - created in the intersection between the two) would be chaos, on the other, order. Representing the space of the work.
* A frame cut into pieces and reassembled to create a new form, on which to display the work.


Deborah Westmancoat -

I have only seen Deborah’s work as an almost scientific process of exploring materials and their effects, and so, I feel, that through this perspective I would explore the qualities of paint and other mark-making materials with the aim to create an archival installation that presents this exploration to the viewer.

Note - The archive was something I explored in the second year of my BA and it is something that has since been an element of influence.


James Glover -

Through James’s perspective, I would likely think about the processes of artists and ways to mechanise them. Many of the processes of artists are menial, or monotonous in some way, and these could be explored in many ways. Most likely in the form of a painting machine or drawing machine, but there are other options. (This is interestingly something I considered a few years ago, but I got distracted by another idea.)

Through studying the reality of artistic practice, rather than the assumptions we make, it is clear that there are activities outside the realm of ‘Art’ that artists undertake more than the ‘Art’ itself.


Jana Jonhardsdottir -

The thing taken from Jana’s current work, in this exercise, is the deconstruction and reconstruction of layers within her work.
My interest in accidents and incidents would come to the fore here, and I feel I would like to make a piece that layers incidental elements on top of one another. If I were to stick to the parameters of being inspired by another practice then these layers would be trapped in perspex.
Layering, without perspex, involves something being hidden, which is something my work has dealt with in more detail. The moment we stretch a canvas we are hiding the wall and the stretcher. Those things upon which the painting relies.


Julian Green -

Julian's work would encourage me to create a detailed representation of an overlooked object. Which is a very interesting idea, as it's not something I've ever considered for myself. The interesting thing is the reason why; I have always considered the ‘real’ object more powerful than its representation, but this is a bias.

This has come to being in the studio in the creation of the piece ‘Reflection’ (2017) which was placed a few weeks ago. I am now forced to wonder if the subconscious influence of Julian's detailed representations encouraged this work. It certainly wasn't a conscious link, but it remains an interesting one.


Scott Sandford -

Scott’s close-up abstractions would encourage me to view the individual elements of my work, expanding them where possible. The obvious route would be to take close-up photographs of things like canvas, wood, and paint. (which I began when working with a microscope in 2015) However, I now think the more subtle perspective i could take from Scott’s work would be to explore the close-up detail in a more material way. For example, enlarging the canvas in a sculptural form, reducing details so that a single element becomes the focus.
In a way, this links to my placement test for threads of canvas.


James Thornton -

James’s work is presented in a similar form to mine, and as we share a studio space this is a very exciting development. What I would probably take from his work, if I attempted to use what I know of it to explore my own, would be a focus on representing a single form, or focus, in various ways. Showing the reality of multiple perspectives on the same subject/object.
This comes into my practice in the use of canvas in alternative ways.


What this exercise has shown me is that there are elements of practice that are already linked through us all. Thinking through and articulating this process has led to some new connections or more appropriately the realisation of existing connections.
I can't currently say if this will have an impact on my work in the studio but I believe it will have an impact on my interactions with my fellow artists.

Research - 'The Studio' and 'The Gallery' or 'The Factory' and 'The White Cube' by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

I have continually found the differences between the studio and gallery fascinating. At university, this difference can be seen in the same space, which is an unusual situation. I doubt I will see it much after university.

The combination of studio and gallery in a single location has been a catalyst for my interests, and this work could have only been created in a space housing that dichotomy.

The Studio - The Factory.

In the studio, the aesthetics of the space are set aside in favour of the process. Artists studios are a snapshot into their minds, and the variety of forms the studio can take are as varied as the artists themselves.

The studio can be defined as the space where an artist ‘works’, where paintings are created, sculptures are formed, and objects become Art, and potentially any site of activity.

An enigmatic geographical location that denies and defies its definition, the studio is as complicated a subject as many found in the artworld.

Developments in the last century include the discovery and embrace of concepts like installation art, relational aesthetics, performance and other site-specific activities, which by definition occur, at least in part, outside the studio. Leading to the suggestion that we are in the stage of the ‘post-studio condition.' (Hoffmann, 2012)

Once, and possibly still, considered a solitary space where an unknowable genius resides, the studio has changed with the modern world, becoming something so-far undefined, and perhaps as indefinable as artists themselves.

Every studio is different and has various demands placed on it. (make no mistake, artists are demanding people)

People continue to have a fascination with the artist's studio, and the activities that take place, undoubtedly in part due to the desire to understand art, and where better to start than understanding the studio. This fascination can be seen in television programs and videos ‘visiting’ the studio, which seem to hover between a recorded reverence and honesty of a documentary and a near romantic escapism.

A clear example of the romanticism of the studio can be seen in the preservation of Francis Bacon’s studio. (Cappock, Undated) Carefully undertaken by a team of professionals, the space has been meticulously collected and replicated in Dublin. The recreation even took the dust collected since Bacon’s death in 1992. What purpose can be found in this preservation of space and object? The studio has been turned into a museum, displaying itself.

Given the rise and expansion of painting, performance, and installation the studio is an artwork awaiting nomination.

The contemporary studio model can be traced back to the shifting focus of art during the Renaissance, as patrons began to fund artists where art had previously been governed by a central system, revolving around the church, and it's monastic institutions. (Klonk, 2009)

The relationship between artist and patron became necessary for both, as individual artists were commissioned to create works for an entire household.

The work would have been created in the ‘bottega’ - workroom - as opposed to the ‘studiolo’ which was more a space for contemplation and study. The etymological link here being the Latin 'studium', meaning to study. (Klonk, 2009)

The artist's development came through apprenticeship; a promising young artist would work for years at the instruction of a master before being considered to learn the art of the master.

This system is linked to the ‘Atelier,' a French word combining studio and workroom, where a single artist would be assisted by a team of apprentices. (Klonk, 2009)

Commissioned portraits would remain a central staple for the artist's livelihood for centuries, as developments in techniques and ideas continued.

The studio became an amalgamation of the workroom and study room, a space where both worked together to create and develop. The contemplation of the 'studiolo' worked into the process of the workroom. (Klonk, 2009)

The basic structure of the atelier and artists themselves remained mostly unchanged from the Middle Ages to the 1800’s. (Klonk, 2009) In 1816 the first academy was opened in Paris - the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts - which hosted its own exhibitions, the first salons, to critique, analyse and support the growing developments in the art world and our understanding of it.(Klonk, 2009)

Academy’s like this became the foundation of art in that century and were the catalysts that avant-guards artists would rebel against in the beginning of Modernism. (Klonk, 2009)

The beginnings of mass-production had a significant impact on art. Making paint, which was once a laborious process became something far different when it could be purchased in small, portable, tubes. (Klonk, 2009) Efficiency was the word of the time - and with efficiency comes introspection and an expansion of philosophy, and therefore, art.

The developments and the natural outlook and creativity of artists led to an entirely new way of painting - en plein air - literally meaning “in open air.” (Klonk, 2009) The studio became mobile.

Artists began to work on their own artwork, rather than a total reliance on commissioned works artworks sold more and more on the basis of their own merit —l'art pour l'art, or "art for art's sake." (Klonk, 2009)

In the 1960’s Andy Warhol subverted the notion of the studio, although his work questions whether it was a subversion or not. His studio became The Factory, a space that owes influence to Ford’s production methods.

Warhol worked extensively with ideas of repetition, replication, and reality, or at least the reality of modern life and the celebrity. The Factory was equally known for drug-fueled parties and a high production of artistic output. (Warhol, 2007) Combined with his persona and perspective Warhol brought us the idea of an artist as a brand. Which I see as a form of practice as artwork.

Jeff Koons, a definite artistic celebrity, employs hundreds of assistants in a studio that looks more like the headquarters of a successful modern company, which is probably because the artist's process is most like one, a cyclical return to the apprentice/master relationship. (Warhol, 2007)

When compared to Warhol’s factory the studios of some contemporary artists look like scientific labs, high-tech think tanks, or indeed any other model.

Like art itself, the artist's studio is always a reflection the spirit of the times, and like the definition of art, the artist's studio is varied, undefinable and delightfully mysterious, often even to the artists.

The Gallery - The white cube.

The gallery was traditionally perceived in the same way we perceive a museum; a place where things are not touched and are idolised in quasi-religious contemplation, and often worship.

From experience, I can say that galleries tend to be quiet places, large or small, where visitors are monitored for behaviour, although often unobtrusively.

While the physical appearance and expectations are one of good behaviour, the experiences of a museum and art galleries are designed to be a positive one.

Interestingly, when museums began to be opened to the public, in the eighteenth century, they were used by the public as other public spaces were, as places to spend downtime with friends and family. Charlotte Klonk writes in her book, Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000, that it was through room design and layout that the shift in museum etiquette began.

The creation of public galleries meant that arts audience widened dramatically, and therefore it's purpose altered. That goal is still vehemently argued but the shift to what we now know as art can be linked to the opening of these public spaces.

The white cube can be traced to MOMA in the 1930’s. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) The culmination of various roots, the white cube was the result of a desire to show the depth and colour of paintings produced at the time against the most contrasting background, a pure white wall. (Klonk, 2011) Klonk discusses another root in the desire for hygiene, a white wall shows dirt more easily and appears clean. In the 1920’s theories were emerging about the connotations between white and infinite space. Combined with the increasing desire for temporary spaces to exhibit the white cube emerged.

In full effect by the 1950’s anyone who has since been to an art gallery will have experienced the white cube. Designed to house, acknowledge and present art to the public, aka, the consumer.

It wouldn't be wrong to suggest that, the majority of artworks are experienced in galleries or other forms of curated settings.  A transformative process, curation takes the artwork from studio to gallery.  During the post-creation time, the process of art becomes one of curation. The works are placed carefully, the space aligned with other elements of the work to enhance themes, ideas, and conversations.

Galleries are a mix of publicly and privately funded institutions where art can be exhibited and experienced. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) Curators have increased in importance and amount as the development of art has grown. The vast majority of artists make work to be shown in galleries. These institutions have become almost religious in their status as the bastions of fine art.

Galleries are designed to be visited, and when the onlooker enters the gallery, they are trusting the institution. The larger the gallery, the more the public trusts that the work will be ‘good.' In turn, a gallery has a responsibility to its visitors to ensure that the trust is earned and validated.

Galleries are not without their biases, in fact, the reverse is closer to the truth. The experience of a gallery is carefully curated to achieve a specific result. It is a physical space utterly controlled by a theoretical ideal. This is no secret and artists often use the white cube to their advantage. The gallery becomes another blank canvas; the space is the surface. Galleries are a lens through which art can be seen.  

The exploration of this bias has led to a relatively new term, Installation art, discussed on another page in this blog.

Looking at a piece of art against a white background removes all associations, other than those with art. The idea is to show the single art in it's purest form.

Curation allows the experience of the entire space to work by invoking the experiences of the individual works into a narrative whole.

“We have to be able to forget that there are walls and have found no better way to do that, than with pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures.” (Bachelard, 1992)

The gallery is designed to be aseptic, to show as little human presence as possible. Toilets, desks, shops and other areas of purpose are kept away from the work where possible or otherwise as unobtrusive as possible. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011)  - experience??

The spaces exist for experience and contemplation alone. This expectation of behaviour and understanding can be uncomfortable for some, but the intention is all about the art.

The white cube remains a somewhat controversial subject and has become close enough to the factors that constitute an artwork that it can be argued to be an artwork in its own right.


Observations of gallery and studio have formed most of this text, experience. These observations have formed many works directly, and an indirect interest in this juxtaposition is part of the foundation of my interests.

This research has been an additional element of my growing collection. Knowing the traditional and origins of both studio and gallery has been a useful tool through my explorations.

It's interesting to note that both gallery and studio can be seen as artwork, in theory, if not in practice.


Klonk, C. (2009) Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000. Yale University Press.

Bachelard, G. (1992) The Poetics of Space. New York. Penguin Publishing.

Hoffmann, J. (2012) The Studio. MIT Press.

Cappock, M. (Undated) History of Studio Relocation. [Online] Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Maak, N. Klonk, C. and Demand, T (2011) ‘The White Cube and Beyond’. Tate. [Online] Available from: [Accessed  20.11.17].

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


Studio Research - Art is rubbish - Limitations and Imitations by Ally McGinn

The nature of my practice leads to some interesting challenges. One of which i faced this morning. 

This piece.....

Ally McGinn (2017)  Painting  [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust. size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Painting [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust. size varies. longer exists. It was swept up and thrown away by a currently unidentified person. 

The question here becomes....can I really be annoyed by this? Is the act a comment on the work? It is certainly an almot humerous observation to it. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  Painting  [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust. size varies.

Ally McGinn (2017) Painting [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust. size varies.

In response, replication and failure, this is the remainder. 

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.


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.)


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

Research - Arte Povera by Ally McGinn

An Italian art movement, prominent in the late 60’s and 70’s that reaffirmed that anything could and should be used as art. Characterised by the subversion of process and non-traditional everyday materials. Translated as ‘poor art,’ (Lumley, 2004) the term describes a step away from traditional materials into those considered ‘poor’ including soil, rubbish, and twigs. (Lumley, 2004) The use of materials considered traditionally non-art disrupts the commercial system of the art market found in the contemporary gallery.

Germano Celant, an Italian art critic, and curator coined the term in 1967. To him, the term doesn’t refer to cheap materials, but a break from tradition. He wrote a series of tests and curated exhibitions that established a collective identity that began in cities across Italy as it was seized in the grip of economic instability. (Lumley, 2004)

Works of Arte Povera vary in scale and media but were united in context. The use of ‘poor’ materials was a direct contrast to our increasing dependence on and habitual use of technology. (Lumley, 2004)

Jannis Kounellis (1968)  Untitled.  Wood and wool. 

Jannis Kounellis (1968) Untitled. Wood and wool. 

The primary period of production for Arte Povera was between 1967 and 1972. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) It has been called Italy’s contribution to conceptual art. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) The influence of Arte Povera has continued to current trends, I can certainly say I am following a similar thread.

In the late 60’s sculptors began emphasising the process of making and materials natural properties. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) Developing from the Modernists definition of the purity of media this can be seen as a natural progression in the collective exploration of the nature of art. The use of everyday materials continued, they were often malleable, volatile or elastic and the artists allow the materials to act as they would when certain circumstances are applied. (ie; gravity, electricity and magnetism) (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005)

In this way, Arte Povera artworks are marked by evidence of their own making.

Works that speak about materials in this way distort ideas about traditional value in art. Many changed appearance when shown in different galleries or would need to be remade each time. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) These works became interlinked with their immediate surroundings, drawing the viewers attention to the architecture of the gallery and the space of the work.

Changing physical states typify the work, (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) not trying to represent anything other than themselves and their transformations.

"What was interesting about Arte Povera was that there was an international network of artists immediately speaking to each other, who could understand that in the turmoil of the late 60s the ways in which art-making could be transformed was something that they shared and were united in questioning," said Matthew Gale, head of displays at the Tate about a long-term exhibition of Arte Povera at Tate Modern. (Walker, 2009)

The interrogation of what art is, through a challenge of its boundaries, is still ongoing in contemporary explorations. Questioning the nature of art can be seen as the foundation of all contemporary art.

In a Guardian article about the exhibition at Tate, the writer describes Arte Povera works as “appear[ing] just the sort of thing, if included in a modern Turner prize shortlist, to set off a fresh outbreak of "is this art?" consternation in the press.” (Walker, 2009)

Michelangelo Pistoletto (1967, 1974)  Venus of the Rags.  Marble and textiles.

Michelangelo Pistoletto (1967, 1974) Venus of the Rags. Marble and textiles.

A similar form can be seen in Lynda Benglis’s ‘Quartered Meteor’ from 1969. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005)

Linda Benglis ( 1969, cast 1975)  Quartered Meteor.  Lead and steel on steel base.

Linda Benglis ( 1969, cast 1975) Quartered Meteor. Lead and steel on steel base.


These artists continued to develop the use of the everyday, into a challenging form that questioned our assumptions and preconceptions about these materials. The use of ‘poor’ or unwanted materials the artworks questions, transforms and extends their purpose.


Christov-Bakargiev, C. ed. (2005) Arte Povera. London : Phaidon.

Lumley, R. (2004) Arte Povera. London : Tate Publishing.

Walker, P. (2009) ‘Rich vein of poor art - Tate Modern revisits influence of Arte Povera’, ‘The Guardian’, [Online] Avaialible from: [Accessed 03.12.17].


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.


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. 


Von Hantelmann, D (2014) ‘The Experiential Turn’. On Performativity [Online] Available from : [Accessed 02.12.17].