Category Archives: Research paper

Research Paper

Summary

This research paper is directed towards understanding how artistic media and technology can most effectively be employed in contemporary practice, particulary in intermedial installation art.  I develop an approach to intermediality that draws from Giorgio Agamben’s gestural theory and introduce the concept of the intermedial gesture as a means of understanding the ways in which a variety of artists use intermediality critically within their practice. This is then illustrated in the work of six artists; William Kentridge, Marcel Broodthaers, Paul Sietsema, Vera Lutter, David Claerbout and Susan Morris.   The intermedial gesture seems to be a productive approach to understanding how media can be articulated within contemporary art and also points to a possible application within a transdisciplinary artistic research activity.

Andrew Farley MA Fine Art Camberwell Research paper FINAL 2017_10_24

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Research paper and project proposal

The research paper has on reflection and without any kind of conscious intention, provided a theoretical context for the original project proposal. It has enabled me to better understand the complicated discourse around intermediality and how that can be interpreted via Agamben’s gestural theory. It has opened up a way of thinking about my practice that integrates ideas around improvisation and embodiment in a way that was originally lacking. The original proposal’s focus on the model is actually quite compatible with this theory but can be seen as one aspect of it, part of the whole.

I am now going to reformulate the project proposal in such a way that it reflects the opportunities and broader picture opened up by the research paper. The research paper can thus act as a kind of media-philosophical framework for my studio practice.

Review of year 1

Review of Year 1- from project proposal to research paper

 

In my original project proposal I proposed to explore the use of the model in contemporary art practice with particular focus on the following aspects;

  • An exploration of the role of the medium as a mode always ‘inbetween’. The use of processes of recording and reproduction as an integral aspect of the generative system. Cast and mould, negative and positive.
  • The relationship between the digital and the analog, the role of the digital in facilitating new processes of transposition, mapping and transformation.
  • The phenomenology of space and the relationship between the space of projection, the installation and the model. Limits and margins, surface and depth, near and far.
  • The potential of the model as an open, generative system.

The initial phase of the project was focused on an intensive phase of reading which has generated a range of ideas and interests which to some extent have been (or possibly will be) picked up at later stages of the course.

As a result of this reading I produced a mind map of the project which significantly broadened it’s scope – at least in principle. The new features included an interest in diagrams and drawing, the concept of the trace (as a form of indexical diagram a la Marey, and also the idea of atmosphere which was a constellation of ideas borrowed from architectural writing.

I identified the overlap between the trace and atmosphere as ‘the spectral’. Consequently I rewrote the project proposal completely around this idea with the concept of the model forming a part. In retrospect this development was overly driven by theory rather than practice but it did open up a range of reading around concepts of the trace as well as the wide literature on spectrality. This project proposal is now on the shelf as version 2, partly forgotten or absorbed into later work.

Studio work really began in the second term during the low residency week when I had the opportunity to make classic photograms in the darkroom. This initiated a research phase where I developed a technique which I called the digital photogram in which the photographic paper is replaced by a flat sheet of translucent white styrene, which is then photographed by a DSLR.   The digitisation of the photogram opened up a new space for experimentation because the DSLR provides direct feedback via the computer, while the digital negative also allowing scope for manipulation in Photoshop. I also became aware of the attraction of the negative which is a fundamental feature of the photogram, and reading also allowed me to link the negative with the mould and casting.

By the time I reached the mid-point review, the background reading and studio work had returned me to considerations of the nature of intermediality which was always closely associated with the concept of the model. I presented my work on the photogram alongside a discussion of Rosalind Krauss’ essay – A Voyage on the North Sea and Marcel Broodthaers film of the same name. This really allowed me to focus on the issues raised by Krauss; the concept of the medium, the role of contraints and improvisation, the need for each artist to invent their own medium.

The photogram work led on to further experimentation in the studio, where the common theme was a kind of ‘flatbed’ approach, where imagery is generated from a flat surface in an improvised manner. One example was a thin water tank in which interfence pigments where added alongside other dust materials.

The flatbed concept has now established itself as a working approach in the studio, as a kind of notebook that can generate a range of still and possibly video imagery through a process of improvisation and intermedial processes.

By the time of the third term we were asked to start to define the subject of the research paper. I was faced with a number of possible routes back through some of the reading I had mapped out in the second term. There were two main thematics; the concept of the trace which I had developed out of the reading on spectrality, and the issues around the medium which focused on Krauss’ writings.

I decided to go down the medium route but in the end it turned out that both readings closely inter related for reasons that were not clear at the time.

The interim show at the end of term 3 was an interesting learning experience, 50% of which came from the parallel exposure to the second years final show which they setup in parallel. This was an opportunity to help and discuss their views about the course in the 2nd year. Overall I felt relatively unprepared to present work in the interim show, especially with the constraints of the space available. This was partly due to the fact that the studio work to date had been mentally filed under experimental and I hadn’t spent time articulating what work to be presented might look like, and how that might be done under varying constraints (space, lighting sound etc). Consequently I went through several iterations including a few failed concepts based on transmission and transistor radios. The final result was a development of the video photogram work, but interestingly (in retrospect) contained a kind of gestural lanaguage absent from the early work. There was also a sound track which drew on previous work.   Overall I was happy with the work as far as it went but not so impressed by the actual installation – it would have worked better in a large darker space.

I drew a number of lessons from this experience; (i) the need for a range of work that is established and thought through in its final form to some extent (ii) the idea of the installation as a set of components that can be reconfigured (improvised) according to the needs of each space, their inter-relations changing (iii) the need to distinguish between experimental notebook-like activity and work directed towards an endpoint (iv) there is not a lot of time in year two to prepare for the final show – think about it from now onwards!

The research paper was launched in parallel with the lead up to the interim show. I found myself having to do a lot of work organising the material I had and trying to narrow the scope of the paper down to a manageable level compatible with the 4000 word limit. As a result there was a paper that was written and several others that weren’t, or were only written in my mind. Also writing in practice is quite different from writing in theory, so I need to do something with the unwritten material.

By the end of July – early August I had worked through several rough drafts, way ahead of schedule but I knew August and early September were going to be occupied with holiday and work commitments.   The paper had nucleated initially around a discussion of intermediality and media from the point of view of Krauss’ writings. In response to this I had developed an approach to intermediality based on Agamben’s Notes on Gesture and its application in film theory by a number of academics- this originally arose from my readings in trace, amongst other things.   As a result of the generality of Agamben’s position, I found myself redrafting to place more emphasis on the broader picture around medium, placing Krauss in context but with a certain pride of place in the discussion.

The discussion of Agamben was challenging, due to the philosophical framework and the need to take these abstract ideas and apply them to concrete works of art. The paper only really came together when I had worked through the artist case studies – 6 of them – and realised that they actually made sense and in fact interlocked together in a meaningful way.

Voyage on the North Sea 4 – Intermedia

In Voyage on the North Sea intermedia is positioned as a kind of (negative) unstructured area in which much contemporary art (installation, video art) has drifted (Krauss writing in the mid 90’s).

Intermedia is something I am interested in but trying to understand how I can deploy it and what it might mean for my practice.

In 4-the-politics-of-intermediality  (2010) Jens Schroeter outlines some of the historical context for this debate, including the historical opposition between Greenbergian medium purity and the explosion of intermedial experimentation in the 60’s.

This kind of oppositional discussion may miss the complexity of media themselves, not to mention the infinite variations by which they can interact.   The different commentators within the Intermedia debate, for example cinema, theatre and literature also have their own perspectives and these often differ considerably.

My approach takes as a cue a paper by Jill Bennett, the first part of which

1-aesthetics-of-intermediality-bennett

puts forward the idea of the intermedial gesture following Agamben’s Notes on Gesture. The intermedial gesture is a kind of ‘making means apparent’ which for Agamben is an ethical act. Bennett positions this more as an aesthetic gesture on the other hand so the extent to which Agamben can be called upon is up for debate.   I probably need to understand more about gesture in Agamben and this reading is currently in process. It links to contemporary biopolitics and may have a range of interesting links.

For the moment what seems clear is that the intermedial gesture is integral to Broodthaers’ Voyage on the North Sea although Krauss herself does not employ that term directly.   The film is structured as a book with page numbers and consists of a series of static shots of both photographs and paintings.  At one point a closeup shot reveals the weave of the canvas of the painting.  It seems to want to distance itself from the idea of being a film – hence the gesture of the book format – and directs its attention to paintings and photographs.  The promise of a voyage on the sea is delivered at some level but not directly and only via another medium.  The pitching and rolling of the camera on board ship is traded in for static shots made in the studio.

Some of the strategies of Voyage on the North Sea are employed by Paul Sietsema who extends the approach to the filming or photographing of models in the studio.

To be continued..

Voyage on the North Sea -2

Voyage on the North Sea (Rosalind Krauss) is an inspiration and base for thinking about media and the medium but poses some problems as a framework for practice, especially in relation to technology and media in 2017. For example

Technology – by valuing obsolescence it seems the artist can stand back from a wave of technological developments which can be difficult to evaluate or develop a relationship with. On the other hand it appears to point way from an active engagement with current technology. It is also possibly contradictory ie stucturalist film of the 60s and 70s employed 16mm film but this was cheaply available and commercially widely used. Only now is 16mm actually obsolescent.

How do we engage with technology as an artist in a way which permits a kind of deeper engagement and space for improvisation within constraints?

In a later post on media archaelogy I will propose some approaches that may address this

Intermedia – as a kind of discursive chaos, intermedia is condemned as lacking or not permitting the kind of engagement from the viewer/artist Krauss is looking for.

In a following post I will look at questions around intermedia and possible ways of addressing some of these issues.