Friday, 13 May 2011

Final Talk (Artist as Broadcaster)

This was my final presentation today about my practice in relation to theorists and contemporary art practice, my audience were made up of Edwin JanssenRachel Jones and Calum Colvin.

The original plan for this presentation was similarly to the past two was that it was to be given via my blog. However, I was given a degree show space with no internet connection! But to top that off I wanted to have my talk published before I gave it this afternoon but of course blogger wasn't working till about 23mins ago (informed thanks to Fiona via the wonder that is facebook)!

However, instead I put together a little table together with a few knick-knacks, the visual element of my Notebook Project, some posters and hand-outs. Thought it nice to give my audience a seat!

Since dissertation hand-in I have become interested in the observations, exposé and difference artist's can make within their possible role as socio-political broadcasters. Artist as Broadcaster was a section of my dissertation and what I believe to be the most interesting conclusion of my research, writing and ultimately in my own practice.

In my dissertation I drew a line between what the artist could reveal in terms of societal injustices, arguing that this was only possible through distinguishing between significance and sentimentality. In that a sentimental approach could not universally communicate to the strength of significance.

I coined the term Duplicate Reality Abstraction (DRA) which I believed to be something which artists were achieving through a sense of reality about an under-exposed stratagem of existence through duplicating reality then abstracting it in the gallery white space. Artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn represent DRA, presenting ideas on war, the media and the public choose to block out. Achieved through significance of image, material, theme and concept without an ounce of sentimentality.

However, since this time I have become more intrigued by the platform artist's can have through media and the ways in which an artist can contribute to changing or bettering an individual, a group or a community’s being through the therapeutic, discursive and inclusive qualities of the visual arts this can happen through both realising the significance of a time, place, meeting, memory whilst also having a sentimental approach. This merging of the significant and the sentimental creates the best way to communicate a reality about a section of society, as commonality can be found in both the representation of the broadness of the significant and the specificity of sentimentality.

A project which highlights this perfectly is noted in Grant Kester’s book Conversation Pieces. West meets East was a project in East London in 1992 working with teenage Bangladeshi girls to bring to light the difficulties of their situation living between two cultures in the form of posters. This project without the apparent personality of the girls and the vibrancy of their specific culture would cause this project to be less stimulating. It is through discursive process and a variety of engagement with visuals which opens the project up to the public through the significance of revealing how these girls live and the difficulties they face whilst also fully intriguing the public through the humanity resembled in sentimentality about personal narrative. 

Kester: “…conversation becomes an integral part of the work itself. It is re-framed as an active, generative process that can help us speak and imagine beyond the limits of fixed identities, official discourse, and the perceived inevitability of partisan political conflict.”

The visual arts are vital for positive change and reform to occur, the arts cannot solely create reformation, however, when aiding other "non-art" environments they can motion change. For instance, EH16 was a project in Edinburgh in 1994 that my mum worked on, it just so happens in the area that I work in. 

This project used community and art education with the medium of film to bring participants from the community together after a period of unemployment riots. This community felt they were censored, that their postcode erased them in terms of being unable to get a loan, services, grants and even jobs. Projects such as EH16 can de-mystify the negativity facing certain areas of society and instigate the bettering of that community, since this time there has been slow change but change nonetheless. I believe this happens through a cascading process aided by the arts;

1.) Inspiring people structuring and engaging with the public

2.) Holding the workshop process in a firm base i.e. the local high-school that included a creche

3.) Introducing the participants to contemporary art i.e. Liquid Crystal Futures at The Fruitmarket - an exhibit presenting themes of community disintegration.

4.) Giving the participants the confidence to have free reign over the development and production of their project.

5.) Funded by local authority, The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh Video Access Centre

6.) Shown at the Filmhouse

7.) Shown at the Gallery Education Conference, University of Edinburgh

8.) A film demonstrating the effects of urban diaspora, used by University of Edinburgh Geography department as a resource.

9.) All these new connections with Universities, other institutions and the wider public opened this project and the communities issues up, whilst also reaffirming belief in the participants through acknowledgement.   

10.) It allows for long term projects to be created and such places as Craigmillar Community Arts, such projects bring an energy and boost the economy and eventually major tangible regeneration take place.

These 90’s projects West Meets East and EH16 used the power of digital mediums namely photography, effects and film to generate interest through the technological advancements available further bringing interest as these appealed to not only the mass-public but also the art or film viewer and were easily mass-produced. We live in a time of great digital advancement, a time when it is ignorant not to take advantage of the networks and accessibility the internet provides with relation to technology. However, this brings me onto an observation of art college practice, it is a backlash, a backlash against promotion, seeming too passionate, too interested in one’s own practice.

It is further cementing the insularity of art practice within institutions not presenting a reality of society, allowing the artists to remain too individual. When what needs to occur is that artists need to acknowledge and envision changes which need to take place in opening up unorthodox means in achieving social betterment. The artist has an opportunity like few other people, in that they have a platform through new found C21st status within popular media to make a difference.

In my time at art college, this interest in the socially obliged artist and the differences that can be made through the arts has come at a late stage. In the workshop project Collection(s) Part II we looked at how to set up an environment which brought together students from various departments and to some extent gave them freedom in process and creation to look at the different ways art practice can be approached. 

Collection(s) Part II

It brought up interesting questions about the art college institution. The art institution like the contemporary gallery space is often insular and unwelcoming to those not familiar with visual arts culture. The invitation to the viewer and generating participation is key in breaking down these narrowing features of contemporary institutions. My work has played with the themes of the hidden, the private, the public, the confidential and the divulged over the past two years and in Motions of Care installation I have tried to achieve some element of participation and acknowledgement of the relationship between the work and the viewer through video and readily available interpretation via the internet. 

ONE DAY IN AMERICA multi-video display is part of the Motions of Care installation. I created an online data bank of appropriated videos, videos from popular culture and the "youtube moment" which has become so prevalent in recent years. This data bank can be viewed on my blog under the title ONE DAY IN AMERICA, what this work is hoping to achieve is an offering to the viewer or internet user to do as they wish with the altered video. They may wish to appropriate it; they may wish to view it from the comfort of their home, disassociating it from its new status as "video art". It is an entirely publicly owned artwork preserved through the internet. Peter Krapp in his text Déjà vu discusses technologies power to undermine the notions of privacy and possession, he states;

‘…the recurring structures of the cover-up or the secret punctuate all technologies, then the secret effect of the secret punctuate all technologies, then the secret effect of the secret, the dynamics of spilling or keeping it must ground our investigation in the intransparency of social intercourse...'

It of course begs the question whether practice like mine is ethical, a question which as yet I do not have a solid answer for.

There is a tension that lies between the use of the internet in the arts, in that the internet is both a powerfully positive tool and a damaging one. The art group Superflex see this as a "self-cultivating" age in that digital technologies are almost a means to block out the injustices in society; they act as the perfect tool of distraction for up-keeping ignorance. However, Superflex like me instead of creating a diversion from the internet, they embrace it, realising that it is a necessary means for attracting attention and for projects to come to fruition.

Superflex, Bio-gas Lamp

Biogas, (East Asia, 2002)

(Arken, Museum of Modern Art, Ishoj, Denmark)

SuperlexThe ubiquitous nature of the digital universe, with its interwoven strata of communication, work and leisure seems to be pointing to a society of instant access, which will in turn place greater emphasis on human interaction and less on the production of masterpieces that convey an exalted but ultimately distanced exchange.’

This brings me onto Nietzche, he said in On the Utility and Liability of history in life in Fashionable Observations that the artistic spirit learns ‘…with an eye to life - from history and of translating what they have learned into a higher form of praxis.' Superflex achieve this by taking theory with lessons and skills and the application of engaging with the public or those in need to better society. In other words their practice extends to a form of active, visible “social services”. I believe that my practice could also develop into such areas. Already, I have taken my working environment experiences with the mentally and physically handi-capped and manifested it into both a broader commentary on social, moral and ethical failings/ignorance within society discussed through the presentation of the personal, clinical, bespoke, everyday item. Then there is the more specific personal work of ONE DAY IN AMERICA, which uses various imagery and sound to duplicate one day in my life, overshadowed by media event but also referring to the significance of the individual or collective being referred to as a digital entity, inhumanely known.

Marshall McLuhan in his text At the Moment of Sputnik the Planet became a Global Theatre in which there are no Spectators but only Actors discusses the role of the human in relation to the ‘discontinuous’ visual ‘mosaic’ of existence. He says it is made up of '…unrelated items' and that '...there is a resonance that bespeaks universality, even… triviality.' I believe that this fragmentary nature of existence is a metaphor for the process of my practice and the culmination of my notebook project, without this fragmentation of process and practice I think my work would lose its energy. We have become accustomed to a fragmented existence of recognition and cognition, with segments of knowledge and information teasing us from every angle, found in tv/film, internet, advertising and the visual arts. Contemporary art practice like my own uses this ‘triviality’ by embracing the kitsch rather than revolting from it. I have created ultimately still a conventional installation in that it lacks the discursive, inclusive edge which I have come to find so interesting and worthwhile in others work. However, through the intimacy of the visual element of my Notebook Project my Motions of Care Manifesto Index box acts as a partly private, personal, intimate project whilst also through the texts and artists I have been looking at it has allowed me to contextualise my interests and hopes for the future which have been publicised via my blog.

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