Fluctuating Thinking (Christine Hansen) - its relevance to my work Hansen's abstract: "This exposition provides an example of how art can offer an alternative way of understanding the past through my work “50 Billion Micrograms”. The project explored a forgotten media event from 1979, in which a gigantic meteorite supposedly landed in a remote lake on the west coast of Norway. The exposition attempts to demonstrate how ambiguity was a fuel the project. In the process what I call "fluctuating thinking" was an important method. This meant that I let seemingly irrelevant and speculative elements be part of the process. In this process, the different conceptual and aesthetic elements had to be studied carefully to consider whether random ideas and speculative elements were relevant for the work. However, such an open-ended approach is often fundamental to artistic research, I argue. I had no hope of finding the answer about the meteorite or explaining this natural phenomenon. My interest was to dwell on the uncertainty and keep the wondering alive. What became increasingly important was to explore the search itself through images and sound. The exposition also ask what is an event, what keeps an event alive? Were does fact and fiction interlace?" Link to Hansen's work Hansen interest in 'dwell(ling) on the uncertainty and keeping the wondering alive', echoes my method of working with Langermann's Black Boxes in the 2020 DAG exhibition which is the focus of my investigation. The way in which poetry, drawings and sculpture arise in my mind when I'm engaged with her work, pose the possibility that this type of deep engagement might be a way to use an exhibition in a more creative manner.
Hansen calls this type of thinking - fluctuating thinking - which describes the fluidity of creative thought in an engaging manner. I have already noticed that this flow is especially effective if a cross-disciplinary approach is taken. In Perturbation#01, I worked in a way such that a variety of tools were constantly to hand. Paper; many pencils, pens, crayons; PVA glue; plastic; clay; a shelf full of chemicals; cell phone for recording; photographing; videoing; This then provided an easy cross-disciplinary flow.
HOWEVER, in the physical gallery situation, these are not available immediately and another question arises. How can this 'transition' between thinking and making be facilitated? Perturbation#02 will explore this with an invited group of practicing artists. A later perturbation might be to workshop this with younger - non-practicing - art students.(N.B. watch out for ethical implications?)
Visitors to exhibitions often write 'Inspiring work!' in the gallery's Visitor's Book, but I often wonder whether anything happens from this 'inspiration'. Hansen warns that there is often no hope of finding an definite answer to a question like this and - in this sense - PLR seems to differ from traditional qualitative research which supposes a conclusion.
Here, I can only hope to arrive at a single deeper interpretation that is embodied in my personal experience in the Gallery.
Material Thinking - its relevance to my work
Carter's abstract: "This intimate account of how ideas get turned into artwork—including dance performance, film, sound installation, sculpture, and painting—looks at how the material thinking that art embodies produces new understandings about individuals, their histories, and the cultures they inhabit. Discussing the philosophy of signs (images, text, and their interaction), the psychology of visual perception, and the overarching notion of mythopoeic place-making, this intellectually wide-ranging and anecdotally narrated primer provides a fresh perspective to the concept of inventing. All active practitioners in the fields of performance, media, film, museum, painting, sculpture, and cultural studies will benefit from this look at how artists participate in the conceptual invention of their world." LINK to Researchgate LINK to Material Thinking website
My material thinking
Cameron Tonkinwise - in an essay on Carter's Material Thinking - hones in what is important to me. He says … “Makers know. They know, or feel like they know, when they are making something new, something that others will consider significant, others who share their making practices,but also others who are only an audience to the made. They know that they know, or feel that what they are feeling is type of knowing because there is a surety, a certainty, that is crucial to the process of making, of making decisions, of deciding what is to be made out of all the possibilities and unknowns at play when making. Only a kind of knowing, feeling like one knows, lets making happen; without the confidence of a knowing, without being able to trust that one knows what one is doing, making would be lost or paralyzed, merely mucking about, amassing options without any criteria for selection.”
Certainly thought-provoking. Is this a contradiction to my prevailing feeling that I work from a position of not-knowing? That I am working from a place of uncertainty, a place of potential and from a position of openness to letting the work develop its own life and direction?
Further reflection on Tonkinwise’s words …’Makers know’, makes me realize that this kind of tacit knowledge that he refers to, is what I have always called ‘skills-based’. In the field of education it is often separated from knowledge in that the curriculum refers to Skills; Knowledge; Attitude; Values - the SKAVs - involved in any project. When the body taps into the skills that have accumulated over a life-time, then it does so without any conscious awareness and this makes this type of ‘knowing-whilst-making’ hard to verbally articulate. When working from this state, materials become less recalcitrant, tools become an extension of the body and the making seems to flow.
This type of 'tacit knowledge' embedded in the body's skill set is - as Polanyi argues - not a set condition but is usually the primary mode of its emergence. It is a silent knowledge but can be made explicit quite simply through the process of teaching it to another. This is extraordinarily difficult because - as Tonkinwise points out - this expertise only becomes activated once it has stopped being verbal and has become embodied. It has become 'dis-articulated'. Most teachers can attest to the dangers of the 'demonstration'. Because the teacher is talking, the teacher's hands become clumsy and tools no longer an extension of the body. Mistakes happen!
Betty Edwards, in her work Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,explained this as art being a right brain function and words being a left brain function, but the theory behind this has been proved incorrect by MRIs. (Healthline) It does however remain a popular method for teaching drawing to children.
One of the most interesting articulations of what happens while making is Donald Schön's. He says "One form of judgment in which I'm particularly interested is the kind that I call backtalk, where you discover something totally unexpected-"Wow, what was that?" or "I don't understand this," or "This is different from what I thought it would be-but how interesting!" Backtalk can happen when the designer is interacting with the design medium. In this kind of conversation, we see judgments like, "This is clunky; that is not," or "That does not look right to me," or just "This doesn't work." The designer's response may be "This is really puzzling," or "This outcome isn't what I expected-maybe there is something interesting going on here." This type of verbalization Tonkinwise sees as 'poetic' in that the maker is projecting themselves empathetically into the material object. This kind of dialogue - of a maker talking to herself, or having materials or tools 'talk' to the maker - is inherently social in nature and seems a common practice in makers and certainly in mine.