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.
Entries in de-materialisation (1)
I’ve been having internal debates about the way in which I approach my work, and whether I am coming at it all from the wrong way: See, my main premise really from my phd transfer is, I am challenging the thinking of the 1960’s where the concept was more important that the final art object (hence dematerialisation). As a maker, I think that the art object is just as important as the concept. I like the idea of a finely crafted, aesthetically pleasing piece of art - I know it goes against the grain of what is considered Cool in contemporary practices, but perhaps I am a little more honest than Cool, and not afraid to push my techniques in making something aesthetically pleasing rather than trying to hide a lack of skill behind Cool - So, if something is going to go through a process of dematerialisation, would one expect a material object to be there in the first place to then be dematerialised wouldn’t they?
Then, I am taking this a little further, because in the 1990’s with digital really taking off in a big way, things really were dematerialised.. or were they? Actually, they immaterial to begin with… They were never material in the first place, to then become de-materalised. In my argument for my phd, I am saying that I am re-materialising and giving physical form to digital works, and using graphical tags (like qr-codes) as a bridge between the immaterial digital and a physical art object…. Does my thinking become totally unravelled if the digital was never material in the first place? I’m actually not re-materialising anything at all! I am only materialising it, not that that is such a problem in my art practice, or that it changes my stance critically, but it does make the notion of re-materialising the digital, slightly problematic…
And here is where it gets worse: if one were materialising, or even re-materialising, one would be starting with the digital and then creating the physical. Ie, in my practice, I’d have a whole lot of digital assets/ objects/ files which I want to give physical form to, through the making of an artwork. But in my current work, I have to almost tie myself to a computer to make digital anything (hence not so many blog posts of late), and I find a real joy being in the studio doing lots of making of physical artworks first. Then, I think of how I am going to augment them digitally, so in practice, I prefer to work the other way round, starting off with something physical and (oh no!) dematerialising it into something digital, going the opposite way to my central argument of re-materialising things…One saving thought that is probably keeping me vaguely sane in this philosophical jumble is that with my current body of work that I am working on, it did actually start with a few digital files: some audio recordings of my baby. Now, however, the amount of work creating physical artworks in the studio far outweighs the digital work. Can I start with a tiny bit of digital, and materialise it into a whole lot of material?? Since it is my art and my phd, I guess I am writing (or would it be discovering?) those "rules" as I go along, but somehow when I started I had the assumption that it would be evenly a 50:50 split. Still I do wonder if I have perhaps undermined my own premise (and I keep clinging to the thought that even a null result is worthwhile in research). I’m really not sure, but what I am surprised about is how this type of thinking and questioning would never come about, had I not been going through the process of actually making the works.
Doing an art-practice based phd, in the back of my mind there had previously been a doubt, a niggle, a need to justify why I am making artworks in the research process. Now it is clear and solid, this research and this thinking would never come about if this were an art criticism/ history phd on the same topic. I would have still been assuming that the digital would come first and that I would have equal amounts of digital and physical artworks. I would never have realised that in making the works, I need to think about digitality and materiality in tandem, and how there is a push and pull in the making of the two to come together in each complete piece of work.