Julie Harboe


research expositions

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research expositions (collaborated)


Exposition: 10 Diary Entries [2010-12] (01/01/2013) by Simon Granell
Julie Harboe 18/06/2013 at 17:59

The contribution seems to address issues connected to the author’s practice of painting and delivers insight into the use of footnotes/references.


Referencing is part of the academic system and there is a need to reflect the characteristics and qualities of writing footnotes as part of the authoritative framing of knowledge production. In a first year art history course on scientific writing many decades ago we were told that there should be a minimum of 4 footnotes pro page in an article. Then the researcher could be sure that he/she would have a sound basis. Such nonsensical formalism is quite powerful and scientific texts without the footnotes to help establishing credibility are rare. References are handled different in the various disciplines, however as art and cultural historians dominate art theory in the art schools this form of referencing also seems to be adapted in artistic research and this invariably reflects on the context. Granell’s contribution clearly refers to the humanities’ footnote tradition.


Granell’s contribution is interesting because it makes something else happen between the texts (diary quotations) and related set of references. The latter may look like references, but they are not in the conventional sense. The connection between word or quotation and the references is not used in the same way as in the academic interaction. On the 10 pages we have a short text where each word and sign has been ascribed a “twin” in a book. The 10 text fragments (on each their page) have been connected to a number of books – the same number of books as the number of words, commas and punctuation marks. The longer the quotation, the more references. In the academic context the reference should secure and clarify the usage/choice of a given argument or information. Here, though the structure looks somewhat the same, it has both been swapped around (the footnotes are now “headnotes”) and all the little numbers next to the words “buzz” around disturbing the concentration of the relatively short text fragments. So something else happens, a new image and relation between quote and references is established.


In the layout each individual word reaches out to a reference, which – like the quotations – is also being read as part of an entity. The references function like choir of voices answering back to the quote. This represents a slight shift in the usual structure and it only makes real sense in this context, when constructed by a person who is serious about a statement, but not entangled or inhibited by the need to fulfill a certain convention or deliver credibility to a specific argument. The contribution functions as an independent interrogation into the system. On the other hand the material itself – the quotes and the references – are somewhat quiet or mainstream, this weakens expression.


The “issue” of footnotes and reference systems and paratextuality is relevant to all academic disciplines, as we are all trying to find a foothold in the data tsunami. Particularly in the arts and artistic research we are faced with the danger of too readily being swept along by academic conventions in order to satisfy external demands for standards rather than focus on the (more raw?) interaction of contents. Footnotes come in handy for a hookup, but they may actually also stand in the way of developing new modes of argumentation. This contribution is (implicitly?) an analysis that lets us see the construction from at a slightly different angle. The strength of this work is creating an aesthetic, structured but aleatoric (the titles are gathered according to the position of the books on the artists’ bookshelves) interaction between words/text and references (though it is interesting to see that some “difficult” words need their specific books).


Reflection on the “outsourcing” of the painting process has led Granell to this composition. The quotes from his diaries and the choice of books from his shelves are however slightly generic. It may be that any other “content” would have hidden the idea and have distracted us too much, but this may also be a question of temper.


The contribution is a form of art research, as it reaches beyond an art practice. It does not give the impression of being the result of a huge task. It may come closer to a statement in the context of research, part of a daily routine, than the actual research as a journey of (fierce) invention.


Reading Simon Granell’s 10 Diary entries initially made me feel like being invited to a seminar on Painting at Bletchley Park (the place for code breaking) led by Nicolson Baker (the author of The Mezzanine, a novel which also extends the usage of the footnote). Clicking and scrolling through contribution also made me impatient because the references were somehow too easy for me to associate with. I know of or have read too many of the books in the footnotes. Looking for meaning one is whisked back and forth between works of fiction by European (mainly male) authors and references to eastern and some western philosophy and a series of interesting books and reflections on art, performance and materiality.


The lack of real surprises made me search for some underlying current or element, which would contradict this straightforward profile. Still, I also realized how eager I was to play the game of going back and forth between the entries and the references looking for resonances between the authors, differentiations between the entries. Checking which books have gotten references to the full stops, which words would be difficult to find in books – and all the time wondering why I was doing this. Did I do it because of a sense of duty, or because it was interesting to play along? Was the high number of books of fiction and poetry decisive in attracting my attention to the game?


What would these references mean to students, who had not read Hughes and Platt, who are not familiar with “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” as a 70ies phenomenon? And how engaged is Granell in these references when they are just placed according to chance?


Manipulating the use of referencing is interesting and necessary. Footnotes are usually there to “distribute” responsibility and credibility into the academic peer-reviewed system. Like the buttresses of the gothic cathedral they take the pressure of the walls we are building, but they may also limit the construction. As this response implies Granell has set up an interesting mirror with his transparent design.


As a response to the practice of painting the contribution may be less efficient. Whereas the references can only imply a wild ocean of words behind a bulwark of titles one must assume that the end result of a painting process – as Granell shows in the appendix – still functions more directly at least in the analogue version.


It remains to be discussed if the contribution needed the online context. In order to review I took screenshots and printed them out (!). However, it seems clear that JAR is the right place for the work. It is a pleasant surprise to see how the contribution has improved decisively with reworking and that JAR’s framing facilitates such statements.