In this first week of the session, we will gain an overview of MEDA302: what is this subject about? What are our objectives? How will we get there? What should you aim to get out of this subject?
In the workshop class, we will spend some time analysing MEDA301 Media Arts Projects. We want to examine the process of creating a Media Art work and the types of thinking that involves. Specifically, what does this process look like? How are ideas explored and materialised? What parts does material experimentation/thinking play in the process? And importantly, what have we learnt about the collaboration? We will also discuss the Graduate Exhibition that will occur in November 2017.
Our aim here is much the same as 301 – to produce a media arts project. By now we hope you understand that a project isn’t born of an idea we have in week one and finally realise in week twelve. It is instead one artefact or a collection of artefacts produced of what is hopefully an ongoing process of material research and discovery. That is what we are doing this term – engaging in that process of material thinking and creative research week in and week out. Lets start this week.
Today we will be thinking through the relation between Art, Craft and Research as a means of discussing about what we do in media arts, as media/art practitioners, and developing some strategies for taking our MEDA301 work/lessons forward into 302.
We will do so with an eye on two other terms ‘Technology’ and ‘Politics’ – the latter will be there anyway because everything is political (especially the desire to eschew politics) and so we have a responsibility to think through the politics (perhaps thought as the ethics or responsibility) of making, art, media and technology. These latter two terms will help frame what we do this term under a theme, motif, or seed: Futures.
The process of developing your major work will at least begin from this ‘seed’ – and yes – you might depart from it but I hope that will happen organically as a function of your material and academic research process.
By suggesting ‘Futures’ I’m engaging in some academic trickery. By dropping ‘The’ and adding an ‘s’ to future to encourage you to grapple with the future as multiple – conceptually multiple (meaning different understandings of future or futurity as well as the future as actually and virtually multiple – if we allow that conceptually).
Under this theme- Futures –We might think through economics –trading off a pending futures, or the way the rhetoric of futures shapes the present (science fictions, big data), or ‘ technics as the very possibility of a future’ (-the relation between technology and the future – Stiegler), or environmental futures, or perhaps the fact that the future as just a present modulated by an involuntarily and elicited past (Massumi).
At a wider frame we hope this theme/seed might get you to think/feel the relation between your media/art practice and the futures it might produce. We want to ask how we might engage art/media practice in production of vital futures.
Your Immediate Futures (Outlines, Assessments, Course Structure and Etc.):
GRAD SHOW 2017
Fundraiser events for the exhibition
This is the biggest fundraiser event for the Grad Show each year.
Each student needs to to submit 3 pieces of works, preferably framed. These works will be selected, curated and exhibited in the TAEM gallery in building 25.
Install dates: 16 August – 18 August 2017
Silent auction opens : 19 August 2017, UOW Open Day
Auction date: Thursday 24 August 2017 12.30 start
Everyone must join one committee and nominate two leaders/contacts:
Make sure you are carefully documenting this set of exercises. Take photos of the diagrams and lists you make. Record and develop the strategies you produce.
Lets begin by thinking through the relation of these three terms – Art, Craft, Research – and use that thinking as a means to review the work you did last term.
Some provisional definitions:
Richard Sennet is an interesting researcher and writer on Craft and its relation to art. (His book The Craftsman is available to you on ebook via the library and is recommended). Some quick notes:
Craft for Sennet is defined as;
‘A basic human impulse: the desire to do a job well for its own sake’
Think this definition through in terms of both its;
stance regarding the future (what is the trajectory and momentum of a craft’s development – say the craft of cinema for example?)
and with regard to technology (how does crafts momentum and trajectory provide impetus to the development of technology?)
Look also at how this definition of craft tends to remove the subject and the subjective. How many famous craftsmen can you name?
We tend to pursue a craft for the sake of the craft itself, or to become a master of the craft. We tend to operate within a craft rather than pretending to speak through it. Think about crafts trajectory of development and the way we’d train to be a craftsperson. Craft seems not so much about individual expression. Craft is like a vehicle or a defined path which the individual boards or follows to an end determined by the vehicle itself.
Where (in which space) is craft made? How is it different to the space in which art is made?
If this were a craft course how would its tone and manner of delivery differ from its focus on art? How would it effect our relation to each other? To research and theory? How would we proceed for instance if this class were about the craft of stained glass?
Would these difference matter? Would they improve diminish the course and how?
Chuck Close and Phillip Glass.
One aspect of Sennet’s theory is that by reevaluating the dichotomies that divide craft and art – thinker and maker … etc etc.. work might be better, and the work we do might be stronger. Today we want to grab hold of aspects and strategies of each and work out how we might employ them to work better.
Chuck Close is interesting here (explain)…and Phillip Glass Differently.. (this whole film is worth watching). Chuck’s work has an interesting relation to craft – which in this video is clearly connected to by Phillip Glass to the idea of process. Note that craft as a method of entering process achieves something for Art making – we depart from he idea of expression or representation.
Note Chuck’s joy and surprise as to the emergence of a ‘reality’ effect in his portraits and the way a regard for art as process shifts the relation between art-making and the future.
Note Glasses’ comments about how an emphasis on structure and process in the composition of music shifts the emphasis to listening (rather than speaking or expressing).
Is technology and technique (craft is essentially about technique) placed differently here to the way it was for craft? how?
One of Sennet’s arguments is that Art allows for the reentry of individual agency as the vehicle of creative expression. The most interesting aspect of this argument (in my opinion) is that this individual agency allows a hybridisation between crafts to occur and that this is a source of innovation.
Does this ring true?? Think of the way we ‘disrupt’ the craft of cinema by introducing it to the gallery space, or the way Close disrupts painting by employing print making methods to portraiture.
Deleuze and Guattari and Contemporaries on Art as Event.
In their final work together arguably the most influential of late twentieth century philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari wrote about three modes of human thought in definition and exploration of what they did.
What is Philosophy? (Deleuze and Guattari 1994) argues that Philosophy is concerned with the invention of Concepts, Science with functions, and Art with the composition of percepts and affects (sensations).
They note a shift in the development of art in the twentieth century toward a realisation that art was never actually about representation, nor the communication of impression, or subjective expression – it was about always first and foremost a process by which we realised and enshrined compositions of sensation.
‘The artist creates blocs of percepts and affects, but the only law of creation is that the compound must stand up on its own. The artist’s great difficulty is to make it stand up on its own’
Deleuze & Guattarri What is Philosophy 1994. (p.164)
For D&G this is what representationalist art at its best did – not simply represent but to compose sensation in such a way as to produce and event of sensation.
They note a shift in modernity toward an understanding of the nature of art-making as a process of realising an an event of sensation in the act of making before we even think about the artefact of that process – before we get to ‘the act by which the compound of created sensations is preserved in itself’ (p,165).
Go back to the way Close and Glass discuss process. Watch it again. Can you see the way Art-making in these cases involves a giving over to process in the service realising an event of sensation?
Does this help define a difference between craft and art at all? Do art and craft have a different relationship to the future? How does that relationship shift the position or use of technology/technique?
Discourse is material.You’ve already heard me wax lyrical on theory as being no different an act of making to more (obviously) material modes.
Words have their own materiality…those who’ve done CACS know that language is a system of signs – sounds that means only by being different to one another – that is pretty material. But note – its just another material. Not a privileged one… What are the implications? What does this mean? What does it matter?
Paul Carter wrote a book called Material Thinking that, Like Richard Sennet, he explores the latin term poiesis. It means something like to create (to find something where before there was nothing), but it also gives us the word for poetry. (Carter,2004 p.9)
Carter argues that at some point in history (at the invention of the humanities) writing about creativity rather than ‘of’ it became a project of disciplining (or rationalising) invention; ‘discourse about invention finally became separated from the inventive process, it ceased to be poetic’ (it became at once parasitic on art and generative of its own industry). Note here the assumption of discourse as a privileged form … what is lost in assumption of this privileged status?
Carter notes something you will all be familiar with;
‘This is a typical error of artists and plastic-makers generally: called upon to talk about what they do, they rationalise its internal logic instead of gauging its social effect. Rather than account for the work as a structure for reinventing human relations, they explain the idea behind the work. As a result they de-materialise the process that produced it, creating a two-dimensional text, so easy to interpret’ (p 10.)
For Sennet, writing about the difference between art and craft, the power of poetics is the power of connection – it is his ‘gene-splicing technology’ that allowed individual agency to propel a hybrid of crafts as art in Cellini’s Salt Cellar which he saw as the hybrid of painting and sculpture – (neither a painting of a sculpture or a sculpture of a painting):
Similarly for Carter this means – we must be careful to write of art and not about it. To do that we should make sure our writing/research is locally engaged. He makes this interesting note:
‘As inventions of creative research [which he is connecting to material thinking – art making] are local, its unlikely that an overarching discourse ‘of’ rather that ‘about’ it is with possible or desirable.. The discourse of creative research – of material thinking – is likely to be occasional, generically disrespectful, and promiscuous, and localised’ . Recalling that the word discourse carries a physical sense of running hither and thither, its first aim will be to materialise discourse itself.’
(Carter 2004 p.9)
It is interesting to think through the difference with regards to time that a shift between research ‘of’ rather than ‘about’ art. If discourse is a technology (and it is) – and is not a privileged technology…then how does this alter the way we employ it…. What does it mean to write of art rather than about it? What strategies of research might this encourage?
Self select into groups of about 5. Keep to a maximum of two former collaborators per group if possible – in order to mix the groups up a little while retaining the potential to confer with each other.
Its an open question how and if they are related and how they might be positioned with regard to our Futures and to that fourth term Technology.
There are no right or wrong answers. We are really looking for strategies that agitate an animate thinking/feeling – exploring the way each of these categories of making inflect each and help define each other …. These categories might operate in counterpoint, in resonance, in opposition – and they will operate differently and have different relations for different practitioners.
I think the process of trying to diagram and think through these relationships is useful even if we don’t arrive at any conclusive answers. Divide into groups, talk through and make a Venn Diagram of this relation.
Some examples of Venn diagrams…
Be ready to discuss your thinking-feeling through of this diagram.Place and discuss your work from last term in the context of this diagram:
Be ready to discuss your thinking-feeling through of this diagram.
Placing your Work.
Discuss where each of your projects sat within this diagram and how these categories of practice animated its progression over time?
Did your project’s development lack any of these categories and did it matter?
How could you have reintegrated any of these modes (art/craft/research) – what strategies might have been deployed to do so?
Be explicit in describing and detailing these strategies :
more research? of what kind? and of what aspect?
more attention to which aspect of your craft and how would you pursue that?
Did the work fall into or out of any of these categories or places in your diagram – if your diagram defines art/craft/research did your work fall into (or out of) one category and why?
Make sure you have your diagrams, lists and strategies documented/photographed and take a break.
Let’s form into different combinations of groups. If two of you are representing a project then feel free to stay together as you form a new group – once again 5 people in a group seems comfortable.
Media arts is uniquely placed in relation to technology – technology is sometimes our medium, sometimes our subject, and at other times its simply a tool/instrument/or means to an end. That said it tends to define and unite our different practices and bundles us together as curious interdisciplinary group.
Its worth thinking-feeling how technology is positioned within our different practices and why it attracts us (if it still does). Paint is a medium and a technology – so what distinguishes our work in media-arts from someone who paints – and why is painting not a media-art? Can it be? How?
Lets begin by thinking discussing where technology is placed on or how it inflects your venn art/craft/research diagram. Do we use technology differently when pursuing craft as opposed to art? Does technology relate to them differently and how? As media arts and digital communications people – what is our interest in technology? How so these modes of enquiry divulge aspects of technology differently?
Technology in your Work.
Given the above discussion lets work out the relationship between technology and your 301 work. Was it a work about/of/made of media technics – and in what balance?
How was technology used?
As a means of transmission/communication, as a tool or instrument, expression, immersion, affectation, discovery, experimentation, connection, play?
What forms of each of these did it allow for and how might have you employed technology to these ends?
Were there elements of your practice/process that suggested different means of employing technics (and how)?
Would these alternative paths made for a different work and how?
Was it important to refine a craft… a technique….what is the relationship between technique and technology?
Make sure you have your diagrams, lists and strategies documented/photographed and take a break.
Futures and the Political.
Shake up the groups again and lets head back to the Venn diagram. At the beginning of the lecture I mentioned politics as our fourth term and futures as the seed/theme for our work this term. I’m guessing that once we start to think through futures/the future/futurity things – we will find ourselves immersed in the political.
Media Art has unique position with regard to the future. What is that position? How does that position relate to three terms with which we began and to technology. Even if the answers seen obvious lets enunciate them – speak them – clarify them – discuss them.
Bernard Stiegler begins his master work by telling us that it is about ‘technics as the very possibility of a future’ … he tells us us technics is the horizon of possibility. What could he mean?
Another theorist Brian Massumi tells us that ‘the body doesn’t coincide with its present – the body coincides with its potential’ and that ‘we are the sum of our potential becomings’.
How might these ideas change the position of technology with respect to the future – and both in relation to art/craft/research?
Media Art tends to be art of new media? Do you agree?
If so – why is new media such an unpopular and dated term?
Does it help define what we do as media artists?
Does the this concern for the new and by implication means the media arts has a different relation to futures/the future/futurity than those of other modes and media?
Does this complicate our Venn diagram at all – does it help us shift the balance in terms of our three original categories?
While we are here thinking about futures lets also think about the key ingredients of futurity; That is a past folded in modulation of the present. How are the three original modes of enquiry placed with respect to the past? How does/is technology change/ing our relation to the past? How does this change the dynamic of our becoming – how does it alter the way the body coincides with its potential? how does it alter the very possibility of a future?
Your work and the future?
How was your work in MEDA301 positioned with regard to time, the past and the future. Did it assume a particular tense? Was it about the future, past, or the contemporary moment? Was it infused with potential? Was its message determined and projected?
Moving Forward / Moving On.
For next week or as time might permit:
In your groups or something like them chart/diagram the development of your work over time. Remember the critical stages of its development and key turning points or junctures. Map the Virtualities that were suggested in these junctures.
What other works were suggested or potentialised/marginalised in these junctures or turning points?
Describe at least three other forms this work taken or what alternative paths may have it developed along?
What was successful or interesting about your work – or the ideas it suggested or evoked in its virtual forms?
Make a list of 5 questions that your work posed? They may be technical or conceptual?
Do you feel motivated/compelled to continue some aspect of this work or process?
Do you have another project or interest in mind?
For this weeks blog develop a series of strategies and immediate plans to begin experimenting and research your process of material thinking/research creation/art making this term. While you are doing this think through the four terms we’ve kept returning to and the way we have placed them (or purposed them) in relation to each other. Do these four terms give and their relation to the future provide you with some clues as to how to move forward?
For Next Week:
You must bring one piece of media or writing that might act as a seed for thinking about ‘futures’. It must be short – no more than a paragraph or a couple of minutes and it must provide the genesis for discussion. It must be accessible and available to exchange, pass around, and hand in.
Write about your own example expanding on why you chose it and why you think its interesting.