In week two we discussed the difference and relationship between art and craft. I argued that craft can be used as both a tool for suspending agency – for giving over to process – and that experimental practice can animate and extend the disciplinary and cultural limits that define a particular craft. We might also acknowledge that while art seems to require craft, craft doesn’t seem seem to require art.
Another way of positioning this fact of craft not needing art might be to suggest that an interesting media arts practice extends beyond craft, uses it mercilessly, but always in the service of moving things forward and differently – craft often serves art but rarely does the inverse apply.
Today we will hinge off this difference and relationship to explore what makes an interesting media arts practice and project.
Consider this passage from an interview with Jonas Mekas, poet/ filmmaker best known for his diaristic films that documented much of the New York Underground and his Anthology Archive. Here he is thinking about the relationship between a ‘personal’ form of filmmaking and the ‘professional’ cinema of Hollywood.
A good professional is a good craftsman who knows how to build a house exactly like his father used to build it; or make a wheel, or bake good bread, or make good wine, cheese or anything else. I admire crafts people, they are true professionals. But I hate experimenters who destroy our bread and our dwelling places and wine and yoghurt and everything they touch because they want to improve on what has been tested by hundred of generations. But, of course, what I say here about professionals has nothing to do with art. Artists are never professional craftsmen because gods have propelled them and possessed them in order to expand human possibilities, of what they now call human potential… And no past lessons, no professionalism will save them: they have to invent new technologies and new forms in order to record new sensibilities and now emerging content and help to form that content. The crafts people, the professionals, the more they remain faithful to the past, the more useful they are to humanity.
and also this related citation for the philosopher Alva Noë.
Art and philosophy are practices [that] share a common aim: self-transformation and the achievement of understanding (p. 137)
and speaking specifically about image-making (although this can be about other media):
Artists make stuff. They tinker, they stage, they build, model, shape, mold, sketch, and construct. And yet as everyone knows, they are more than manufacturers. They don’t make stuff merely in order to make better pictures, to be more entertaining […] Artists who make pictures are […] picture-making technologies to put pictures and the role that pictures play in our lives on display in order to call them into question. (p.140)
Lets discuss the following in small groups with those around you before bringing your response back to the larger group. While you are discussing this comments you are looking for the clues as to how we might frame our individual practices and projects.
What do you think of the distinction made by Mekas? Where do your interests and enthusiasms lie – with craft, art or somewhere between. What aspects of craft are you motivated by? If you are not motivated by craft note that. What questions of technology, if any, motivate you? If not (technology, then) note that. What questions of form motivate you? If questions of form or technology interest you then ask why? What do hope these forms or technology might expose or enable?
Do you resist the distinction Mekas’ makes and and why? Note your personal responses. Note the differences between your response and those of others? How does that difference make a difference to your practice/s?
Noë seems to add another element to the consideration of a difference and relation between media art and craft. Artists are concerned with more than making better pictures, [or] to be more entertaining – they are also concerned with the role media play in our lives and to call that role into question. How does this complicate Mekas’ description of the relationship. Is Tarantino an artist or a craftsmen – or rather how does he transcend this distinction?
As always be specific and note down your answers and your feelings about them. The more specific you are the more these answers will help frame you practice and the questions it asks over the coming weeks.
Given the discussion can you isolatea question or series of question that might frame your practice over the coming weeks.
How do these questions relate to your initial experiment if at all? How do might suggest strategies for experiments and research vectors?
Spend some time brainstorming and mindmapping these vectors and experiments and the concrete steps you can employ to pursue them. Discuss your plans and thoughts with those around you and help each other tease out the possible vectors, experiments and ideas for pursuing your questions.
Do other questions emerge in the process? Record them and extrapolate potential vectors and experiments for exploring them to?
So, what do you want to do?
Let’s consider a proposal beyond institutional requirement (i.e. not as an assignment). We need proposals to communicate with our collaborators, with producers/ curators who may be showing our works (artworks in exhibitions, films in screenings, products to be sold), with our potential audience, viewers and users, and maybe with funders.
More importantly, proposals can bring ideas, thoughts, methodologies together to speculate on projected outcomes. Your rationale, your reason for making (outlined above) should be the core.
Before you start, once again, I ask you to think about your aim/ motivation: what questions are you asking by making this work?
- personally, perhaps in relation to your practice
- culturally, in relation to existing works and practices
- socially, in relation to the broader social environment you are working within
Let’s look at some examples of proposals for different purposes. Below are four examples, we will have a quick look to get a sense of what is asked in a funded project proposal:
- Experimenta Commission: proposing ideas for new works to be commissioned for a touring exhibition.
- Asialink residency (partner organisation): proposal to spend time at an Asialink partner organisation in an Asian country, to research and/or make a new work, to develop a network etc.
- Australia Council (new work): proposal for funding to research a new project, create new work, or present existing work.
- Screen Australia
Our purpose here is not to get funding, but to arrive at a project plan. What is relevant from looking at these applications is their criteria – which will help you arrive at this plan. Writing a proposal can give you (and others) a clear idea of the project, your intention, your rationale, what it may look like and how you would get there.
- These questions/ criteria are supposed to guided you to visualise your project and plan the steps to get there.
- Your answers will also be helpful for funders/ backers/ supporters to understand your aim/ objective, and your rationale as well as see how they can help you get there.
- The questions are often shaped into what the organisation wants in the work – so read through any instructional materials carefully to find out what they are looking for.
What They/ We want:
A basic picture of your project:
- What it is? What is it about?
- Your rationale: Why do you want to do this? What questions are you asking?
- Often if it is a residency or a research and development project (with no specific outcome), the funder/ supporter wants to know: how will the proposed project contribute to your practice?
- Think about the proposed project as a step to build your practice – how does it do this?
Methodology: How are you going to achieve this?
- This is the calculated risk part.
- The fact is: the proposed project is not something you have done before (otherwise you wouldn’t be proposing it – I hope), so you may not have all the requisite skills or knowledge to complete the work, but this is what projects are supposed to be about: to gain the knowledge and skills in the processes of making and reflection.
- So, to answer this question confidently, you can address the ‘gap’ by referring to your past experience/ evidence/ track record and how you are going to build on these. E.g. I did this work previously which uses electronic sensors, video streams, and sculptural form. In this proposal I will extend on the experience gained to explore the use of biometrics in a feedback system etc.
- This is why applications often ask for support materials/ examples of past works.
More practical questions you need to address are:
- What will it look like? e.g. In an exhibition. Describe this, tell us a story.
- What form or medium/a will take etc? e.g. If it is a multi-screen work, will the content need to be synchronised?
- What equipment or space will you need?
- How will the audience engage with your work?
- What additional skills/ expertise would you need to complete the project?
Drafting and Presenting Project Proposals
Draft up a proposal for your project (individual or group), we are going to borrow the questions from the Experimental commission application as this is the most helpful in our context.
ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY OF PROJECT (75 words)
INITIAL CONCEPT (200 words)
What is your idea, and how do you see this project relating to your practice?
AESTHETIC/INSTALLATION (200 words)What will your project look like? What type of equipment and installation processes do you imagine this project would require? Would the work be able to be shown in a variety of spaces?
AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT (200 words)
How do you envisage people engaging with this artwork? What sort of experiences do you hope to inspire in your audiences?
LOGISTICAL NOTES (200 words)
How will you make the project happen? Would you need additional skills to help the idea happen? Would you need to find contractors/collaborators to assist you to realise this project idea?
The Live Art Auction on Thursday 24 August raised the total of $6050!!! Well done to everyone who participated!!!
We still have a way to go with fundraising for the event. I would like to meet with the Fundraising team to discuss organising a couple of fundraisers at iC.
I would also like to ask the Event team to meet and discuss possible prizes for Media Arts graduate.