Research A1: responses (and more thoughts) on the first preliminary questions

the coursework asks for a set of initial questions to be answered and sent to the tutor before proceeding to the Research proposal proper.

I received the responses a while ago, then completed A1 for BoW (which covered a fairly similar ground) and am now returning to the research proposal.

Rachel responded to the post here in a generous and helpful manner (I am leaving out a few procedural discussions from our exchange):

I think I can understand some of your frustration with linearity and literalness, and hope that you can hold onto your anxiety of being a good student as the linearity of research, practice, and study rarely happen as they are presented. For myself, this is part of my own practice research interest in the Deleuze and Guatarri’s rhizomatic interconnectedness, and also the entangled cut together-apart of new materialism. 

Trust that there will be moments of overlap as well as moments of separateness between the body of work and the research, and that though they will often develop as a hybrid, they will also be separated for clarity of explanation and academic format. 

The photographs of the mind maps and concept maps are great to demonstrate your thinking visually, though they are a little hard to read in places, (I imagine they are too large to scan?) 

I also wonder if the concept maps perhaps seem to relate more to your practice than the research concerns? I imagine if this is the case it is because, as you have identified, at this early stage things seem so closely interwoven? Mapping the theorists and writers as well as their concerns in amongst your own concepts as you start to plan the areas of interest for your written work will help you to keep tightening your approach and focus.

In your post, course instructions/literalness you write: 

the Research/ dissertation then underpins some of this a research form that can explore conceptual forms, moves and potentiality; I hope that it will concern ideas of production of space/ site; utopian forms of hybridity and how this relates to institutional critique’.

I think it will help you to write more about what you understand by these terms, and how you are intending on using some them to clarify your intentions for the research. Also try to use the writers/theorists you have included to help situate your research in more detail. It will also help to start to identify the specific texts you are interested in from the writers you identify in your list of resources. 

As you move into the next section before assignment 1 you will be able to spend some time honing your research question and what it will entail. This will help you to think about the focused direction of the research and how it will sit in relation to your body of work.

My response was as follows:

Hi Rachel — many thanks for sending this and for providing such thoughtful response. This is really helpful, also in how to differentiate out Research and BoW at this stage. Yes: you are right, the concept maps are largely about the BoW focus (and I assume the Research will then peel off and focus in on one area where theoretical/conceptual support for the BoW is required). Yes, I completely agree re the poor readability of the maps themselves: they are done in graphite on grey paper, are fairly large (60x100cm or so), and I will see if I want to transfer them for a different format.Thank you for picking out that one sentence — and I will spend some time unpacking this (part of it comes down to my geography shorthand; another part also possibly that I am finding a good way to deal with my previous academic work, without it letting drown out the artistic practice). 
I will spend the time between now and submission of A1 with clarifying/ focussing on some of the writing aspects and what line through the theory/argument I consider as fruitful (while attending to what I may want to keep as options); I am quite good at keeping on to my anxiety and will make a point to get round to Deleuze/Guatarri — my own work was a critical materialism (the left-section of the Frankfurt School, Alfred Schmidt, Horkheimer; then Foucault and Lefebvre), which never valued non-linearity all that much but had a good grasp of overall messiness and how internal relations of dialectics can help us engage with that societal mess. 

To take at this point:

  • the productiveness of anxiety: holding on to it to stay engage; not so much that it blocks you but it propels you on and forward
  • I value that she is doing a PhD and while I haven’t looked at Deleuze/Guattari, they have always been on my list and it will be good to become more involved.
  • the circularity and iteration of the process will be productive (I know how to do that and have employed that as strategy for some time)
  • there is a real sense of being able to bring in my previous academic work and feed it through the artistic processes without overwhelming them. this is really exciting and something I had hoped to achieve over the past few years (when I re-established an honorary affiliation with my old department in order to pursue precisely this).

R1: first responses for tutor

I have now written up and compiled a series of posts relating to the first questions of Research to be send to my tutor for a first feedback before proceeding to write the project proposal. This has taken longer than planned, part of the reasons for this lie I have written about in this post, here about literalness.

In this post, I compile links to the various posts (not in chronological but logical order as per coursebook) that contain responses to the questions about

1. Initial ideas (identification, review, strengths/weaknesses, concept mapping, further identification of interest)

2. Getting started (getting organised, time plan, habits, process):

3. Identifying resources (reading list, skim read, gatekeepers):

Alongside these posts I have a number of further handwritten notes, some of these scanned in here (they include a number of SWOT charts for individual projects, which aren’t written up further yet but I want to do that, as it was a comment during the progression discussion).

There are also a number of sketchbook entries that process these documents and notes further:

R1.1 Initial ideas (part 2)

I had started to post some of the concept maps which are part of this extensive part of first questions around ideas, review, mapping of existing work, theme, potential, weaknesses in an earlier post here, and now want to conclude this question with a reworked outline of my initial ideas. For this I referred to the statement of intent that formed the basis for the transition discussion in autumn (keeping its review and context and writing through ideas as they have emerged since then):

Initial Ideas and orientation

I would like to continue at the point where my recent module, Drawing 2 concluded (and am for this statement drawing on my earlier self-assessment with some reworking and expanding for what may lie ahead). The final projects (m(e)use|use me; the Hornet Tree, the Critical Review on an expanded field of drawing) as well as the realisation to the Parallel Project, Parallel Praxis, all begun to articulate a notion and practice of drawing in an expanded, interdisciplinary field. Here, drawing emerges as a set of enquiries, methods and processes in which performance, photography, writing, installation and more traditional drawing processes interact and mutually inform each other.

The parallel project indeed relates and looks back to the previous module itself, it reorganises the materials and lets them become something else still. The video is not merely a narration, an instruction; I begun to include the key clips – visual, and also found sound recordings – in the work to author it and let it unfold. In this sense, it draws on a number of senses and sensations, and indeed revolves around an exploration of a body (mine) as drawing tool, investigating the reaches of what constitutes an extended field of drawing. It speaks out of the screen to ask the viewer to engage directly with some other materials. With this, it resonates with both Joan Jonas’s and Katrina Palmers’s work: they engage, performatively, and in doing so make visible and audible that engagement between artist and audience, viewer, reader, interlocutor. Will it work? Does it fail? What happens instead? In this parallel project, there is a literal voice – mine – and in its clarity it also helps to articulate all those other voices that are involved in my art-making, an art-making  that is visual, textual, increasingly dares to be performative; it takes in things I learned before: critical social theory; dialectics; a body/dreamwork coaching and counselling training; a dissatisfaction with academic publishing; a keenness on finding those other spaces and places that are never entirely utopian but offer a hunch, a first step from here to there.

Besides the actual projects that constitute the body of work of Drawing 2, there is something also in the tools that I used and which for the assessment submission refigured as a portfolio without large sheets of paper but instead a series of folders and pouches that relate and point towards some of the digital parts (FB albums, e.g.). This process of working with materials that are common, and in some ways mimic office work processes was important and I feel it may also structure some of my future enquiries. It also deepened my engagement with a movement between digital and analogue (continuing from DI&C). It also continues with questions over what constitutes site, audience, work > explored in different ways and always with an exploration of this movement digital/analogue (initially: gap, agency, control (generative systems, drawing machines); then: what constitutes drawing; the kind of tools: office tools).

In this, and as a first step into Body of Work I have begun to explore the notion of hybridity (is that interdisciplinarity?) within an expanded drawing practice. For this purpose, I have started a series of investigations that take the questions and processes of these initial steps in Assignment 1 and explore their scope for an artistic practice: created and transposing concept maps; guide books etc. Also: having submitted and accepted a conference talk at that Society of Artistic Research conference in late March in Zurich around the work of the Gap and its wider relevance, I have begun to (a) explore further routes around this work (a void, a gap between two filing cabinets as a starting point towards investigating relationship, distance, agency and control as well as notions of a gap between analogue and digital processes within an institutional setting) and (b) the notion of a conference talk as performance, instruction, screening and thus to enquire into this particular format and modality, which I hope will be instructive for the further development of both BoW and Research.

The issues with regards to voice/ themes and practice that clarified during this final Level 2 module were:

  • humour and how I instigate processes that allow me to arrive at resolved pieces
  • the relationship to conceptual and intellectual concerns (institutional critique, production of space)
  • working across a range of media/approaches and finding ways to integrate them with each other and use that integration in innovative ways (photography, writing, performance, drawing)

It is then on the basis of these emerging working practices, conceptual concerns and emerging clarity and articulation of voice that I would like to approach Level 3. I find these first respective assignment pointers for Research and BoW useful in relation to review and investigate existing work to date (and have kept a good part of such review as context for articulating my first moves within Research). I also find some of the overlap but fairly little actual integration confusing, and it took me a while to make sense of the individual exercises and questions and how they do/ not relate between the two modules. As both first assignments are strongly focussed on planning ahead and specifying approaches, means, literatures I find myself hesitating: while I have a clear sense of direction I am at this moment wary of specifying this too far in advance as I generally review and refine on the basis of some work already done and articulate e.g. theory/concept post-practice (to feed into a new cycle). With this in mind, I have spend considerable time with some of the questions, have also reviewed some of the Level 2 pieces in some detail; but crucially, started to do a series of new investigations and enquiries to allow me to test some thoughts, refine these build in these. 

The theme and interest is refined to some extent as for the Research to be an investigation into 

The site of Interdisciplinarity in Drawing Practice, 

and for the Body of Work a Theme of Significance being

Drawing/ Contact (Modality, Practice, Site)

With these two related themes, I would like to pursue and clarify the approach towards an embodied, sensorial and expanded field of drawing as artistic practice. There are a number of technical skills and approaches I am interested in: moving image/ video (possibly even 16mm film); darkroom techniques; screenprinting; performance; but none of these are fixed and I trust that the suitability of any of these will emerge in relation to the actual projects. Similarly, I am very interested in pursuing further my investigations into sites (interior/exterior) as well as movement between these. It may make sense to prepare and arrange for an actual site to serve as a field site for the Body of Work (and thus move it out of ongoing work arrangements).

Following the Concept Mapping (Q1.3), the most promising and salient themes that animate my interest are geographical and environmental following my investigations into the institutional corridor and an artistic practice that engages it: they concern site, direction, orientation, movement, exit; gaps, possibilities for other spaces that sit aside, elsewhere; and as such follow on from the Gap, Green and Parallel Praxis. Related to the production of space, these touch on questions of performance, the sensorial, institutional critique and the sensorial.

There is a continuous theme running throughout which concerns questions over copy, reproduction, repetition and difference, and, as it becomes clear in the later part of the module, this concerns both the surface, the background of the actual artwork as well as that it stretches beyond and outwards from it: what kind of space do we perceive, live, practice?

R1.2: getting started

The second of the initial questions concerns how to get organised, timelines, writing/ creating habits etc. I focus on my workflow and present an initial timeline for both Research and BoW, with the view to complete both by the end of 2019.

Workflow and process

I generally work with a mix of Papers as referencing database and more recently Books for epub. Besides this, a number of books exist on my bookshelves or in the University of Glasgow library to which I have access.
For the past six months I have started to use Evernote as research and planning tool and will continue to do so:

  • A large notebook is simply titled [untitled album] L3 work, which contains clipping and thoughts
  • A more general album [day thoughts] contains wider, course unspecific information
  • I set up more specific notebooks and move across when it becomes relevant
  • I tend to draft my blog posts in Evernote, move relevant photos from Photos in here too, which also means photograph handwritten notes and add to digital ones
  • I test much of my writing and thinking in limited Facebook publics, that has worked over the past 2 years well and is a good way to gauge how particular concepts, thoughts and writing notes function.
  • Once these are relevant, concluded I write a blog post
  • I also started to treat a section of the blog as a sketchbook — this comes out of the circumstance that much of my sketching happens digital and I want to recorded (I would like see if I can have these in a side column, separate strand within the blog)

My general manuscript writing interface has been Word, for all the academic texts I have written as well as the Geography PhD. I have now started to explore Scrivener as a tool to help me write longer text and use InDesign for layout work. With Scrivener I am interested in the flexibility that it offers and want to try to use it for a couple of texts that I am working on and I think the dissertation if it becomes a written document may function within that (with Papers, Books, Evernote as research surfaces as well as handwritten notes; InDesign for typesetting). My thought re format however is that I may end up producing a hybrid moving image work which will contain different format, such as a lecture style recording, some slide show with commentary plus perhaps original moving image works and stills. — I will revisit this thought in Assignment 2.

Proposed time line for Research and Body of Work

Spend considerable time in Spring and Summer to work on BoW, in that time refine the focus for Research, write the bulk of Research towards the end of the Summer (if it is a standard written work) – i.e. A4

Can the actual research be in the form of a series of performances/ experiments — largely auto-ethnographic but also testing forms of dialogue, relational encounters that arise from and relate back to the BoW i.e., there is actual empirical research here that sits at a hybrid form and links directly to the questions in the BoW? 

[the summary diagram on p. 8 of the course handbook seems to assume that there is original research taking place, which in part can be secondary literature but that seems only one of several angles and approaches]
If this is so, I envisage to conduct this also over the summer (depending on site, audience/ participation, this may need to be timed more carefully)

Timeline for Research:

  • A1: end of March
  • A2: end of June
  • A3: mid-August
  • A4: end of October
  • A5: end of November

How does this relate to BoW in terms of schedule?

  • A1: end of February
  • A2: end of April
  • A3: end of July
  • A4: early October
  • A5: end of December

R1.3: Identifying resources

For the Research module, the first step is to send the responses to three sets of questions to my tutor, to get a response and on the basis of this to write a 1000 word research proposal which narrows down and refines the first 3 questions.

This is my first list of resources (Question 3), a brief note on how they relate and how to negotiate access (which may not be relevant to how the Research/dissertation will unfold).

For the actual submission of A1, a further refinement happens on the back of some initial feedback.

Exercise 3: Identify resources 


Relevant artistic work

  • Joan Jonas
  • Drawing Ambiguity
  • Sophie Calle
  • Aperture / Performance
  • Amelia Jones et al (eds) 

Written work:

  • Juliana Spahr thisconnections, The Transformation
  • Bhanu Kapil
  • Chris Kraus
  • Katrina Palmer

Interdisciplinarity/ mutability and technology of form/process (possibly simply: methodology)

  • Hilevaara/Orley eds
  • Stephanie Springgay
  • Donna Haraway 
  • Kristin Ross/ Bini Adamczak
  • Friedrich Kittler

>> some of this also concerns: The body/ the sensorial: agency/ control and the post-human

Space, site (utopian, phenomenological)

  • Ursula LeGuin
  • Gordon Matta Clark
  • Noemie Goudal
  • Henri Lefebvre
  • Site as method: Lucy Lippard
  • Sarah Ahmed on orientation

     << many of these overlap and filter into other of these rough headings.

Skim read

Reading Springgay and co-authors and following up Cultural studies <-> Critical methodologies; I wonder if I can work through this material with an interest in methodology as artistic practice that operates interdisciplinarily. I.e., to take the doing of the BoW to enquire into the how and use this to open a space across the different media forms and possibly also explore how this space is utopian/ relates to the institution?
The gap as the opening, entry point for this. Hilevaara/Orley’s introduction and practice of folding as question and first marker.

Gatekeepers and other access

These seems to concern primary research for the dissertation more so than what I anticipate this piece of work to currently be: an academic discussion of existing literature and research that relates to my Body of Work. Yet: I can also see that it may make sense to identify either practitioners or researchers to contact; to possibly conduct some interviews, a focus group or similar. I will spend more time on these considerations when they arise.  Otherwise: access to library materials through UCA and UofG; to galleries and archives as they are publicly accessible or bookable by appointment.

course instructions/ literalness

Returning to my notes that I started to work through a series of initial exercises for Research, I see that I have done a lot of it already: mapping, tracing, evaluating, prospecting existing projects; what animates them and what they could turn into; how they speak to each other, to the disciplines they situate within and transcend; and how they speak about myself and my practice.

I map, I draw, I photograph; I go back to the gap and explore it further in extension, in negation, in translation; I seek and touch other spaces that sit off and aside the functional ones. I also begin to use the developmental course tools as site/ enquiry into artistic form.

I felt always really constrained by observation: I have no experience nor vision to draw and conceive of stuff that I can’t access experientially; I never attempted a graphic novel, e.g.. But over the past year I have found means to experientially move with the stuff that isn’t quite there. That is a huge revelation, it moves some of my facilitation/ coaching experience much closer to my practical artistic practice. It seems conceivable now.

In all this, I get flustered. I check the instructions in two coursebooks; they relate – kind of – to each other and yet they are different. I haven’t figured out their difference yet. I thought I had it when I started to produce new work: work that sits as hybrid between instruction, tool and art object. The maps thus move from instrumental form to potentiality – in a similar way as the Photocopier Manual did; as Parallel Praxis did as m(e)use | use me did. It seems expandable, workable as practice; and I begin to conceive of far more other forms – academic presentations – to become hybrid objects. (I of course know of the format of a performative lecture, yet: until now its experiential modality seemed alien to me; it seemed more of a naming convention than something inbetween).

What I get flustered with is the linearity of instruction which yet does not resolve. I realise at various points, and yet forget always again, that I am too literal. I try to follow the steps outlined and yet they don’t resolve for me. I want to be a good student and submit to the process but the process stands in my way. I am too literal. It is the literalness that I understand as culturally different–the reason why we are assumed to have no sense of humour. I remember the teasing that people who are close to me start to dare at one point or another once they hit upon that literalness, that naivety. I always recognise the emotional marker when I am being teased with it, it rarely registers otherwise: I still follow the instructions.

Yesterday morning I dare to write out which part of the instructions make no sense to me. I feel better. And yet: the Research and BoW themes don’t gel yet, I feel any differentiation between them is artificial and premature.

I go back to an early note about the theme of significance:

Three ideas (are maybe only one):
Body in movement (my body as drawing tool) >> starting theme for D2
Interdisciplinarity in Drawing practice >> the wider theme for the Critical Review (if the Jonas’ essay would have been 3500 words longer than what it was)
Production of space, the idea of reaching, touching a utopian spacetime aside the corridor (or, the latter intruding)

At night, I think about a project about touch, about contact

I think about the touch drawings, the pencils on long sticks that produce a nervous line while registering every stutter and stammer along the transmission from hand to paper surface.

It can include movement, the walking back and forth
It can include distance via digital circulation
It can include one to one performances

It is about private, about public,
Tenderness and violence 
Love and withholding.

— and I am certain it can also accommodate some institutional critique and a wide-open grassy field should I desire either.

From this, I propose:

the Body of Work: drawing / contact (modality, practice, site)

the Research: The site of interdisciplinarity in drawing practice

With these two related themes; BoW can explore all that is in the concept maps around Body as movement, Touch, Contact and Spatial Praxis: it will do so phenomenologically; I have the sense that theme can cover most of the quote above, while the Research/ dissertation then underpins some of this a research form that can explore conceptual forms, moves and potentiality; I hope that it will concern ideas of production of space/ site; utopian forms of hybridity and how this relates to institutional critique.

Both will likely become more narrow and yet it is a field, play ground laid out to start within, that picks up and relates all important things from before.

R1.1 concept maps: initial ideas (part 1)

This is the first set of exercises (from Research, but overlapping with Body of Work) to revisit significant projects, identify a theme of significance, and to begin mapping out a research proposal and workplan. I have done a number of these exercises before arriving at these concept maps, I will see which of them I will add to the blog in what form).

These are a mix between concept and mind map. each takes about an hour and i develop these over a few days. i map my previous projects into these. contact and touch overlap in small sections the issue of communication and technology is new to arise and good to see where it fits (Kittler but also of course the spacetimes of Le Guin).
there is an issue of wanting to move between concept and methodology: to create a hybrid form similar to what i started with parallel praxis, but this seems daring, uncharted, difficult as it again sits right to the edge of subject matter, discipline, definition

to add:

  • touch poems
  • Abramovic (and perhaps other things from my Techniques lecture)
  • intimacy
  • Juliana Spahr’s this connection of everyone with lungs


Drawing as contact zone as overall theme for body of work?

>> do some more maps; including spacetime but also perhaps to get a bit more concrete? i.e.: the three themes from earlier:

Body in movement (my body as drawing tool) >> which was starting theme for D2

  • done 29/12: it becomes a model more like and some movement is part of the mapping:
  • audience sits separate
  • body as tool becomes fool as body
  • this is more limited to the ones before but also more generative: it is open enough to make connections and point forward:
    • a moving body of work
    • mainly missing: site >> I added this to concept map: Spatial praxis
    • there are a series of modalities of works beginning to appear:
      • impro
      • instruction
    • when is the tool the drawing?
    • what role does the shadow play?
  • to add:
    • writing as contact?
    • flirt as contact // erotic charge

Interdisciplinarity in Drawing practice >> the wider theme for the CR >> map the CR onto a sheet of paper

  • what else has been added/ remained/ left in terms of interest?
  • does the focus on interdisciplinarity still hold interest to pursue further? the extended field? what touches and is in contact with whom and what else?
  • what would be a lack/ absence of contact? a gap?

Production of space, the idea of reaching, touching a utopian spacetime aside the corridor
i am mapping the corridor and all else. strangely, i can locate an exact spot where i fantasise about it simply opening out to one of Le Guin’s worlds. i will need to test it.this is the fourth map (after touch, contact, and body as movement) — i want to do two more, then i think i can write what it will bei also realise in which types of constructions the photographers i care about cluster; the writers (of sci-fi, new narrative and steamy surrealism); and then the performance/installation work. i hadn’t thought of Office at Night having an open and House (Stories) having a closed door, but it is a very fitting image, and so is the line which is in fact two, one more rigid, the other one increasingly porous; the gap and the greens sit on different planes: the former folds up and allows us to crawl into the dark space between the cabinets, the greens are a quick release lever being pulled and we rattle (unharmed) to ground level

Also: what about the confessional/ obsession… do you want to explore it a bit further at this time?