Blogging as reflective practice
You are reading a blog that started off about art practice-based research charting
the journey of doing a phd. It explores alternative ways of using hand held devices
to create print-based interactive artworks using graphical tagging such as QR-codes.
Art, design, technology and craft were the main themes in writing. But life gets in the
way, and over this journey the story takes unexpected happy twists along the paths
of having a baby, going on a UK Digital Economy Sandpit, meeting fanstastic people,
and subsequent group success in funding for a large multidisciplinary research
project called TOTeM.
I’ve had an academic paper accepted for the IMPACT8 printmaking conference happening here in Dundee in August this year, so another thing to keep me busy! If you head over to the abstracts section of my website, you can see what I’ll be presenting about this time round in my paper A Medium in the Liminal Zone: Exploring New Territories for Printmaking. Last time the conference was in Melbourne and I mostly enjoyed it – save the war rationing approach to catering. I’m looking forward to seeing what this conference brings and especially seeing the artworks that will be exhibited about the town.
I’ve had my paper Seductive Technologies and Inadvertent Voyeurs accepted in the Without Sin: Special Edition of Leonardo Electronic Alamanac. The final paper was submitted over Christmas and they like it. I’ve a few corrections to do, but was chuffed with the reviewer’s comment: “A good, tight, well-researched article, which lays out its methodology clearly and succinctly” They also want more images, which I like because it gives me the opportunity to have my artworks nicely printed in a glossy publication!
Its actually really good having complete strangers review your work to see it from an alternative perspective, especially after I have had my supervisors going through my work I kind of know how they think, so new eyes on my work is really refreshing!
To give you an idea of the what the paper is about, you can look at my abstract for it in the abstracts section of this website under Seductive Technologies
Now that I’ve finished my PhD and the TOTeM project has also come to an end, I find that I am still as busy as I even was! Jon Rogers who I worked with on TOTeM is on research leave this semester, so I am taking over from him, just until May, as the Acting Course Director for the MSc Product Design. For the past 3 years I have been telling Jon that I’m not a product designer, but now I finally get it! I don't have to be a product designer to be of use to a product design department in an art school - the skills I have in interaction design, usability, creative visualisation and the way I approacj about my art are of valuable to a wide range of disciplines across digital media: Why did it take so long for the penny to drop?
I should have realised it last year when I was mentoring last year’s cohort of MSc Product Design students about their interactive plinths. I’ve really been enjoying working with the students so far. They’re a great group of people with some interesting ambitions. I had missed student interaction when fully on research, and at the moment this post is good because it is not that demanding, so I can balance research, art making and my responsibilities to my students.
Today I had my PhD viva and I have passed with minor corrections (fix up typos, add a word into my one of my research questions and add a couple of paragraphs in: Its very rare to pass with no corrections) Apparently I can call myself Dr now! so I am Dr S.P.O'C!
All the internal examiners/ staff said that the external examiner made it really hard because in the time when I was supposed to be answering questions, so I could defend my research, he kept telling me what he thought could be improved upon, rather than asking me questions.
There was one point during the viva when I just sat there thinking “Why the hell didn’t I do a science PhD? Art is so subjective, and personal – it would have been so much easier to point to some cold hard figures that had an irrefutable proof of something…. I was also foundmyself wishing that I had done my PhD in Australia where they don't have vivas! That said, everyone, even the tricky external examiner that I defended my work very well. *sigh of relief*
All the examiners also told me about how much they really liked my artworks, how they thought they were witty and magical, and although it was supposed to be under exam conditions, there was quite a bit of laughter, particularly when they recalled some of the works. It was really nice hearing that because all through this process I’ve not really had any feedback from my supervisors on my artworks as works of art in their own right, rather than ancilliaries to my research!
Just because I've submitted my PhD doesn't mean I've had time to rest of my laurels:
Lately I’ve been really busy with TOTeM, working like crazy on 2 exhibitions: One where I’ve been editing vides and audio for interactive plinths and mentoring MSc Product Design students in reinventing ideas surrounding the physicality of plinths in the gallery space. This is for a TOTeM exhibition I’m Seeing Things taking place in the 26th of October 2012. It’s part of a symposium we’re running on the internet of things, and to disseminate our research outcomes since TOTeM Is coming to an end. The worst of it is though, that it clashes with my PhD viva, so I won’t be able to attend : (. I get all the joy of organising and making, but none of the joy of experiencing the final outcome! *sigh* More info about the event is here.
The other exhibition I’ve been working on is From the Western Arctic to the Bay of Bengal for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther . For this exhibition, the Dundee team are exhibiting the work we’ve been doing in Trout Lake with the Canadian First Nation Community, as well in India, Portugal and Scotland.. All three communities are based on fishing so the exhibition explores stories around cultural objects, artworks and fishing. We’re looking at how remote communities are bourght together through mobile tagging technologies and online social networking tools. The exhibition is on until the 13th of February 2013, and more information can be found on the Scottish Fisheries website.
I’ve finally submitted my PhD!!! What a feeling of joy! It is just such a relief to get it out of my hair – I was planning on celebrating, but of course, being me, no such luck! I’ve come down with a terrible ear infection. I guess its all that adrenaline going out of my body and now I need a good long rest!
As I mentioned in my last blog post, for TOTeM we’re collecting some stories from some First Nation people in Canada. At Dundee, we’ve been collecting the first stories of objects, and mostly at the moment art objects. This has lead us to collaborate with another research group at who have been working at establishing a print studio in the North West Territories of Canada for the community to use. In this way there is a means of preserving traditions, capturing stories and enabling the community to create works for sale to provide an income stream that would further enable financial sustainability. And of course, printmaking is fun and brings people together.
I have been working through two great guys, Scott and Paul, who have been going out to Canada and setting up the Sambaa K'e print studio. The artworks coming out of the studio are really amazing and I’ve learnt so much about the Dene culture through the stories. Because we weren’t sure if the community would be interested in working with the TOTeM project, Scott did a workshop with the children of the community to tell the stories of the favourite thing or place. It went so well that now more people are becoming involved and we’re tagging artworks with stories. In October this year, they’ll be part of an exhibition at the Anstruther Scottish Fisheries Museum, and I'm quite excited about seeing it all come together. What I like about what we’re doing is that the community we’re working with is of an oral tradition, and with the use of audio, we are able to preserve that too. The lovely aspect of hearing someone tell a story, I hope will bring people closer together.
We’ll have an opportunity through tagging artworks, to let others know about a culture and traditions that may not otherwise have access to, and in doing so provide a platform for sustaining and preserving what is important to a community. What’s great about it all, is that through tagging and mobile technologies, the audience becomes wider and more global, raising awareness of cultures that may otherwise be lost. Interestingly another group in Chile is also going down the path of tagging to preserve indigenous culture with the project Coded Stories. Artist Guillermo Bert has been working with Maupache weavers in Chile to create QR code weavings that link to poetry and stories from writers, artisans, healers and village elders. The Maupache are Chile’s largest indigenous population, who have fought to protect their identity for over 300 years. Recently they have begun to reassert their cultural and political rights within the framework of modern Chilean society. But their way of life continues to be threatened, and their language and stories have started to disappear. Bert has worked with the community to try and reverse this, through the creation of woven, encoded textiles and a film, which will be shown at the Pasedena Museum of California Art, also in October:
“Los Angeles-based artist Guillermo Bert's exhibition Encoded Textiles is inspired by the latest generation of bar codes (QR codes), their capacity to hold 200 times more information than traditional bar codes, and the graphic similarities between the bar codes and the textiles of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. With the use of high-tech software and industrial processes, Bert transcribes the stories, poems, and narratives of six influential leaders of indigenous communities into QR codes, which are then re-created into tapestries by indigenous weavers. Bert's project, an exploration of technology, language, and cultural heritage, seeks to open a dialogue about the effects of globalization on the worlds indigenous population.”
The 2nd draft of my PhD is in, all 75,000 odd words of it! Its been in for a few weeks now, and I’m just waiting on feedback to do the final touches then submit. But there are more delays – one of my supervisors had to be changed at the 11th hour just before things were quite complete. Had I not been sick, the timing would have maybe worked and there wouldn't have been so much time with one supervisor… but we agreed it would be better to take a bit longer and get things right than try to rush things and then have to do a resit. But, oh how frustrating it is!
I was given the choice of having my new supervisor do speed read of my 2nd draft and then hope for the best to fit in with my original timeline, but we talked about it, and I didn’t really want to put that kind of pressure on him, when he needs time to get up to speed with where things are at. So that’s all taking a bit of time and things have been pushed back another month. Its like the sword of Damoccles hanging over my head – I’m ready to move on, and I can’t until this is all done, and done well!
Not to mention, things are getting busy with TOTeM again, so my head space in that area as well. I’m trying to carve out time to write papers, while being involved with organising 2 exhibitions that are taking place at the end of October, supervising some Product Design MSc students on reinventing the plinth, and co-ordinating the collection of stories from some really interesting First Nation people in Canada.