Assignment submission Research 2: a theoretical framework

This post presents my assignment submission for Research 2: a theoretical framework.

It consists of this PDF: Research Assignment 2 (with various links to earlier posts), outlining current status of creative work, a justification for theory and methodology as well as format, a literature review.

I wrote some reflections on this submission in an earlier post.

I am including the middle part: theory and methodology, and format in this post (and will likely fold forward the summary of creative process into another post).

Justification of theory, methodology, and format

My Level 3 work on the Creative Arts pathway comprises a series of processes and enquiries relating to drawing/contact. It is interested in modality, site and practice of an expanded field of drawing that sets out with the body as initial drawing tool. In so doing, it situates itself in a relational practice that begins with a situated, embodied self and as such follows feminist concerns, taking both contemporary writers and earlier performance artists as inspiration.

Interested in contact implies a curiosity about the fabric that contributes to our articulations of corporeal selfhood (as author, subject and audience). At once immediate, sensorial, tactile it also asks wider questions concerning relationship and presence. These concerns around agency, voice, autonomy are at once informed by older materialisms (notably: a critical materialism of social praxis) and are curious about new materialisms and the constitution of the human body (also in its potential hybridity, one cyborg form or another).

This section outlines reason and argument for theory and methodology as well as the form for the dissertation that follows the former.

Theory and methodology

Exploring contact and relationality in small, intimate, near, spaces positions this project foremost within contemporary and near-contemporary feminist concerns: over a body politic, the personal, care and relationality. The means in which these have been investigated in performance and video work of the 1960s onwards also investigate the materialities of such lived experiences and thus more recently lead towards concerns of a new materialism, post-humanism. In this, I am intent to keep the focus on bodily practices and gestures as starting point, and thus to maintain an interest in the signals and processes that constitute phenomenology (references: many, one that usefully articulates past and contemporary practices around relational aesthetics is Reckitt 2013).

At the same time, the subject matter is concerned with moving and shifting: of the unfolding of an event, a gesture, a relationship: what chain of actions take place to co-create drawing, contact and thus space in these small-scale encounters? It is possibly here that some of the contemporary theoretical articulations, originating with Deleuze/Guattari and being further articulated by Rosi Braidotti’s (2011) nomadism and others that concern the transversal, the translation. While not within the scope of this undergraduate dissertation, I nonetheless hope that this focus can point towards a form of practice which speaks to some of Friedrich Kittler’s (1999) media historical arguments concerning the shifts of possibilities and closure with each new media technology precipitated our understanding of not only ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ or the ‘the visual’ but also constituted ourselves as subjects, bodily and haptically. Practically, this enquiry thus follows a series of movements and shifts across forms, sites and encounters (analogue and digitally) and seeks to examine closely the material processes at play in these movements.

An important aspect, already discernible in this and the earlier document for the module, concerns a question over there being a practical way (and a methodological/theoretical interest) in dealing with questions over divergence, excess and a porous and open practice (I have currently the sense that this relates also to the issues of smallness, fleetingness and absence, above). The form of a glossary (see below) explores a way of investigating this for the Research module (BoW has other forms and processes to pursue this concern, such as inventories in different forms, redundancy and iteration).

The methodology is primarily articulated and explored through the BoW: the concepts of near space and moving-with in a series of artistic propositions around drawing/contact. Here, A2 and A3 of BoW have so far been a considerable research laboratory to explore what these concepts can be within an expanded field of drawing. There is data collection as to the experiments and processes to test and explore to understand my concepts and what they do. – I intend to submit BoW 3 during November before investigating the material more fully for Research 3.

Format of dissertation

I seek to represent (and present) the above in a dissertation that sits between three of the identified forms: creative writing, auto-ethnographic and traditional.

This choice follows from both subject matter and theory/methodology to find a form that allows to mirror concerns over fragmentation, relationality, transversalism/nomadism; of the body/ the sensorial as significant means for sense-making; and thus to employ theory/auto-fiction as element.

The format of the essay will be a narrative framework which takes the text as an artistic proposition itself (as one means of enquiry), and in doing so possesses characteristics of a creative writing proposition. It does so within a context of auto-/self-writing (which is somewhat covered in the coursebook as reflective practice) as much as theory fiction (i.e., also touching on elements of what the coursebook calls traditional/research essay).

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walnut gravity support (drawing/contact performance)

Reflection on Research (2: Theoretical framework)

This post accompanies my submission for Research 2: Theoretical framework.

It’s been about five, almost six months since my previous and first assignment submission for Research. This current one contains an articulation of theory, methodology and form of essay, along with notes on the status of the practical work as well as a literature and resources review.

During those past months I was at times close of walking away from this degree and that is largely due to the nature of the Research module: I find it entirely repetitive, generating lots of material and yet not offering anything in a way of editing the material. Furthermore, it proposes processes of dissertation research which are almost entirely suited for a social science project and only barely make reference to artistic research. I see how it genuinely tries to be helpful in supporting students at this stage, yet the ways it does this: lots of activities, lots of angles, only poorly cohering (what is the relationship between the various bits of writing at ‘exercises’ and the final submission for each of the assignments??) — in this it appears prescriptive and thus entirely limiting: there is throughout a sense that planning takes the place of a creative practice, that constant articulation is the way to evidence one’s academic readiness and thus to pre-empt investigative and creative processes (I understand that part of this is again the limits of a distance-learning degree, another part is due to the wide range of practices coming together in Creative Arts, but the third part: to assume a step-by-step planning process ensures progression is counter-productive for at least half of the students, and a somewhat lazy administrative process currently so in favour in UK HE0.

The advice by my BoW tutor to disregard the coursebook(s) was given early (and in some way how I worked with earlier, similarly limiting coursebooks, notably: Drawing 1 and TAOP). Yet, at this stage this seems not helpful and in the absence of what else, it drops me into a void. — There are afaik five students on this pathway plus myself, three further along, two in earlier parts. Also, by doing two modules concurrently, the contact with each tutor seems distant and hardly present (both tutor and peer interactions were entirely different in Level 2, and these were both, along with two very good coursebooks, the reasons for me to continue).

— This means it takes considerable effort to articulate a way ahead with the dissertation module. I would like to make each stage useful to me and it took me several attempts to do that with the current submission.

At this stage, almost half-way through the current two modules I can see that BoW and the practice investigations drive and animate my work. That my work is theoretically informed and methodologically curious does not distract from the former. In the BoW tutorial in late July we discuss to use BoW 3 as experimentation and research stage: to investigate my key concepts and processes. I did this and this current Research submission is my first point of assembling and stopping to reflect on the content and process of the Creative Work and reflect it back to the initial Research Proposal. For this, the process to get this current submission ready involved the following:

[x]assemble the materials you have so far: create an inventory
[x]write-up of BoW and research within it
        (then check what you had written before)
        (this will form the overview for the ‘findings’ material for later on.)
[x]glossary as focus (Williams, Prouvost, Vourloumis, also: Wu Tsang)
[ ]key literature: expand and focus in from Res 1
So, effectively, much time was spent on assembling a review of the materials of BoW and to reflect back on what I had said a few months ago about the direction and content of this. I enjoyed this process, it was good to do and to reflect on what is possible to experiment with and notably, what remains difficult and fleeting. I also drew out three current investigations to explore the idea of near-space in performance/drawing and feel quite content with having found processes and materials to employ in this process.
My resistance to the Research course material arrives from the fact that I am well used to writing academic materials at an advanced level (for peer-reviewed journals, academic theses etc) — and for a 5k text I need about six weeks not the duration of the course. — I knew this before I started, and having just recently supervised 10k long social science dissertations has brought the difference of instruction to mind. In all this, I want the module and the dissertation to be useful to myself: there is stuff I want to learn in this field, in my writing and in my artistic practice. So, how can I realistically do that in the confines of the course?
The proposed format (creative writing + reflective + traditional, in the words of the coursebook; in my own words: auto-ethnography meets theory fiction meets methodology) is one way to hone and develop my articulation in this field; the investigation of an artistic research process around the themes identified another.
I have mainly resisted at this point to provide a literature review besides the one already included: I am currently working with notes and diagrams and images and reading and feel this is productive; I can write these through for the Draft of Research 4, but don’t want to get embroiled in a discussion over individual sentences in my materials.
Preparing this submission I discover the extent to which I am actually conducting research: the material I generate is of that nature and I am excited by this: it is at once a known process but also new as it concerns a different field, different form of enquiry and I am looking forward to the next stage of Research, the data collection.
I have included a number of links to the BoW material and remembered how useful I found the tutorial of Research 1 on the line, the resulting reading and the understanding of my research process and artistic practice.
The above is a comment on the course direction, it is not one on the tutorial process at all. I know that I can be quite literal with instructions and get frustrated by poor ones before stepping to the side and making them useful for myself. I hope that my submission will facilitate such process and I look forward to the tutorial.
My suggestion is to conduct both BoW 3 (almost ready) and 4 before submitting Research 3 (data) and Research 4 (draft) after that.
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Shop front cover and reflection, Karlkrona, September 2019

critical reflection: modality of BoW

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Detail of updated concept map for BoW (July 2019): modality/methodology

As material for the dissertation:

The process of shifting back and forth as the process of the Body of Work and how produces itself and links to the dissertation.
  • the gap pointed to it: what is opened up
  • the photocopier manual, (m)use me, and the parallel project present its practice
  • the line as practice to deal with the social subject matter (and so does: office at night; the corridor work and other green: contact, secrets, gossip)
Katrina Palmer’s Loss Adjuster is good for process and shift
Juliana Spahr’s Army of Lovers, Everyone connected, The transformation as container and focus on new materialism and relationality within
Bhanu Kapil as for fragmentation and moving between different materials.
Joan Jonas and Rosemarie Trockel for holding these togethers (perhaps some like Doris Salcedo too?)
Friedrich Kittler opened the door to this and should be at the heart as conceptual/ methodological question
The smallness and the unimportance as guiding question to judge vis-a-vis artistic canon.

How to trace this through the BoW:

Reworking the concept map from February made some of these processes clearer: what is the how and the what: I had discussed as key outcome/ process a series of performance formats (solo; 1:1; and group) but wonder if that is the process really and if the process is not a tracing, following, pursuing of material shifts and registers; and that performance (through the inclusion of others, and a focus on the body) is merely a format that facilitates that.
In June I collated a few thoughts as to material contact:
clay experiments (following the Bleakeley performance)
darkroom and contact printing
screenprinting again
then: in the sketchbook:
  • the transferral of marks to the next page,
  • the pick up of graphite on previous pages
  • see through/ fold
  • (it is again processes that have intrigued me for a long time; possibly it is the link to indexicality again here that also concerns the interest in the ‘contact’ concern for the wider project)
  • most actual drawings in the sketchbook are 10-15mins pieces while on the bus: layering fleeting views on top of each other, repeating and reworking. I did 12-15 of these over four journeys. They are not about indexicality. Yet, in some sense I feel they are relevant in terms of the drawing marks and in terms of what is connected through the moving through?
I also think the drawing on top of templates/copies is part of this too, and so is much around photocopying; and indeed the work with the typewriter in late March.
As in D2 I find a hesitancy towards material processes, as if they sidetrack me too much. I don’t think that I don’t experiment enough (which was one of the discussions over the material processes in D2), but I think I struggle to explicate or name what I am experimenting with.
As plan for Part 3 I want to focus on the processes themselves and pursue a range of them to explore what kind of register shifts are occurring (and, so my thought: are constitutive of the near space, the contact).

near space as concept (tracings)

near space as concept:

the gap as source – copying – remaking the gap – mapping/reinstalling (not) – talking about it – writing endings – performing it. letting it be.

the corridor – walking it – recording it – sitting next to – intervening in it – re-orientating it – working in it. leaving it.

other space – the gap as opening – utopian space in the office – world-making – tracing the corridor. dreaming the spot that opens up and out.

the island.

the line to the car park.

update/catch-up

— I have been busy. I also have been recording things that I have done and will move more of them here to the sketchbook and write up as relevant parts to coursework.

A couple of days ago was the already postponed submission date for the BoW 2/ Gather and manifest. I let it pass: I had thought of pulling things together but also felt that the more dialogical/public/relational aspects of it still needed further pushing about.

What I have been busy with was a series of writing/publishing projects. And in that process, I also considered Research further and how to proceed with it. I will rejig it and step further away from the coursework. I wrote (as I know I do) about 5k on the line for the conference publication within a few weeks. The piecemeal leading towards the dissertation doesn’t work for me, I find I am picking arguments with it (and that is only productive in a certain extent). So, I think I will set a series of writing tasks/ projects as equivalent to the module stages and take it from there.

I am also thinking about the idea of defining down and focusing in as discussed in the last tutorial (the report of which will go up after this post, I had it for several weeks — it is here). I think I am really not interested in defining things down — it goes back to the interesting discussion Rachel and I had about ambiguity. So much of what my writing and focus has been over the past few years is an opening out, a holding in tension, and linking to — and I don’t mean with that a ‘more, more’ or just any old stuff, but a rather careful and measured approach towards what elsewhere is considered emergence, or even some of the nomadic theory of Braidotti will hold a hand towards this approach. So, the idea of a glossary for the dissertation is a really good one, but what if it works more like Raymond Williams’s Keywords: a link, emergence, a holding in tension, not an undue tightening down?

I think I will explore this further and am reminded of the pieces of writing that I recently got sent (let me post and link these two.).