29th April 2020: PhD Seminar – Exhibition as Research

Today’s discussion emerged from D’s presentation about how she uses her exhibition practice as a mode of research. She highlighted different points in the process of making exhibitions – creating work, preparing exhibitions, and the sharing of arts practice through artists talks, debates etc – as offering different ways to generate research, noting in particular the value of insights offered by others through dialogue and sharing. D also described the making of smaller, experimental works, rearranging these into new assemblages to see relationships, and that the process of making and exhibiting work is way of finding out knowledge for yourself and sharing that knowledge through a visual language (see Berg & Sirowy-Estkowska: The materiality of art in knowledge production (2012), Fortnum: What is visual intelligence and how do artists use it?)

During D’s presentation, a few things occurred to me about my own research. Firstly, it occurred to me that historical Blackwork was not created as ‘artwork’ but as decorative embellishment for functional textiles – this led me to think, while D talked about how paintings are static but can be viewed all at once or as layers, that Blackwork was often not designed to be static but to be viewed as it moved. This idea of movement keeps coming up – I’m thinking of embroidery as a movement of making (paths) but also the idea that it would be seen in glimpses, layered with other fabrics that obscure and reveal the embroidery. I’m also thinking about how these different types of movement relate to the ideas of time I’m thinking about – the slow process of making, the quick glimpse of viewing and the gradual process of decay – and how each of these movements are framed as a way of viewing – visibly becoming in making, layered viewing and hidden/forgotten decay.

During the seminar the group discussed the dialogue between old and new and the idea of ‘absence’ in the digital – the body (audience) in the same space as the object, the haptic ‘feel’ of something when it is present, but that the notion of absence and presence is not a binary, simply a different mode of encounter. This also got me thinking about how conceptualising absence/presence as a spectrum allows for ruins, ghosts and potentials (imaginaries and not yet realised)

In terms of exhibiting work, it was interesting to consider the constraints of the gallery space extending to all the constraints involved in making something. We also discussed how the work is contextualised by its relationship to its placement within a specific space and to other objects. This makes me think again about interweaving lines, resonances, points of intersection, ripples and refraction – how experience is related to its context.

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