27th February 2019 – PhD seminar

Today’s PhD seminar was about methodological ancestors. Methods are one of the aspects that defines a discipline – but the discipline of arts is a broad one with often fuzzy boarders (as we have discussed before) so we need to think of a ‘constellation of methods’. In positioning ourselves within this constellation, today we were asked to talk about our methodological ancestors – an artist, writer, curator, researcher etc. who’s approach we think resonates with our own. We began the discussion about how we picked our methods and why – this is a vital part of arts research as our methods can be varied and seemingly serendipitous, so our reasoning MUST be argued – our methodological approaches reflect our practice and our line of enquiry and not all of these can be expressed in writing.
As the conversation was over two hours long and had 7 participants, I am not going to write about everything discussed but I will briefly note points I felt may have some relevance to my research (I also made a recording of the session).
One aspect that was discussed was the idea of ‘salvaging failure’ – that examining our failures can often be valuable, both as a learning experience and as a generator of new works and enquiries. In relation to this, we also discussed the notion of serendipity – what you have control over and what you do not, and how this might affect your work and research direction.
I found these two ideas related to my own choice of ‘methodological ancestor – unlike others who had selected an individual person, object, exhibition or text, I am reaching a position that my approach is an entire making culture – hacking and making. It seems to me that the amorphous, global hacker and maker movement is synonymous with the approach to my practice – which makes sense as I’ve been involved with the ‘movement’ for many years – but it also seems to be emerging as my primary approach to my research. I drew this diagram during our discussion:

What I realised over the course of our discussion is that I apply this same method to the study of the objects and the production of my work (whether ‘tech’ or not). Here the notion of ‘debugging’ has expanded to include material tests (and failures) I have been making and the examination of objects through drawing – I am ‘debugging’ handmade processes and hacking a material archive through acts of remaking.
I am hugely excited by this idea! I thought it was only one aspect of my approach but through our discussion it seems to be emerging as my primary method, and I THINK it might be a unique one – I’ve not seen an analysis of hacker/maker approaches applied to an arts practice (non-tech) or as a research method – I will need to read further – I think I would like to write a paper about it…
Another aspect of the hacker approach is one of sharing knowledge, skills, information and mistakes – this, I am realising, is a highly political acts and one that echos approaches to craftsmanship and the nature of developing skills.
Some of the other ideas discussed which I found interesting were notions of zooming in and out of objects and time/duration to gain insights into their structure and histories – this expanding and collapsing directly by translation from material to digital and back again – I am completely entranced by D’s approach to her research!
There was also a concept of ‘anamnesis’ (recollection, especially of a supposed previous existence) which could be an interesting way of thinking about the histories of my objects, and the concept of ‘refraction’ – not a reflection of a reenactment but a shift in a point of view – which could be interesting for thinking about HOW I am approaching the objects and techniques and the decisions I make about HOW I am translating them into new forms.

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