Claire MacDonald


Claire MacDonald has had a thirty-year long career in the arts, beginning as a performance maker and subsequently moving into writing, teaching, cultural leadership and art making. She holds a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing; has been a Judith Wilson Fellow at Cambridge University; Head of Theatre at Dartington College of Arts; Director of InterArts at George Mason University in Virginia USA, and Director of the International Centre for Fine Art Research at University of Arts London. She is currently Professor II at the Norwegian Theatre Academy in Frederikstad, Norway, working with the Leadership Team to develop postgraduate research in performance. She publishes widely across the spectrum of her interests in art, writing and performance, and on practice based research in the arts. She is a founding editor of the journal Performance Research, a Contributing Editor to Performing Arts Journal, and a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.


Exposition: A Place, Constructed (01/01/2011) by Laura F. Gibellini
Claire MacDonald 21/11/2011 at 15:16

This submission is of artistic and intellectual interest – it addresses, through visual and textual means, the ideas and ideals of place as a term, as a concept, and as a ‘topic’ which is realized culturally in multiple ways. The artist/writer gives us a series of visual fragments – which are intriguing - and combines photographic evidence of ‘something that has happened’ or indeed, is about to happen, together with, and in one case overlaid with, line drawings and decorative drawings of various kinds. These are deliberately ‘in the style of’: drawing by numbers, topographies, 2 dimensional representations of 3 dimensional territories etc. In addition, she presents a text which does not discuss or analyse her work, but which tries to give an impression of its starting point and context, and which, I suspect, is formally as ‘artfully’ constructed as her drawing – in other words, she is placing her ‘essay’ (her attempt, her proposal) within a textual form that is in itself contingent, reflective and allusive. This is interesting and thoughtful. What is much more difficult here is to place this in relation to the form of artistic research.


The two parts of the work as a whole form an oscillating motion in relation to one another – they exemplify the contingency – which is why I say the drawings are ‘intriguing’. Intrigue, and the way in which intrigue might lead a reader/viewer into the work, is part of her subject. Gibellini's approach is thoroughly within the terms of an approach to art making which is consistent with allowing art practice to ‘think’ it’s way onto the page (which is a place of course). I think it addresses the idea of ‘how art thinks’ and as such it is a very interesting and suggestive piece. The exposition relates to art making, to cultural geography and phenomenology, to design to cultural thought, philosophy, history, to ideas about what writing is. It’s also just an essay. In terms of impact – I think I would prefer to say it has relevance than impact. Gibellini's essay is written towards a subversion of easy targets – it is a reflective essay whose visual practice creates an internal dialogue – and that is a very interesting research method.


This exposition is in visual/textual terms enabling the reader to navigate fully the ideas as they are realized in practice. It has good notes – it uses the formal apparatus of textual and scholarly production properly – and it also works on the page to extend the way it is read – and this idea of place and extension is something she discusses. She knows the relationship between a topos, a space, and a contingent place! I think this is an intriguing and well thought out submission. It is also internally consistent – and, while I am sure all things can be edited or improved through dialogue, this is a piece which is clearly ‘of a piece’. It is a textual/visual proposal that in its form and content addresses place – and as such it is extremely thoughtful. In this context assessing its weaknesses becomes harder. If it has any it is that the content itself is well known – the writer rehearses the history of the terms she is using – but this is ‘relieved’ and extended in her art work – which is an essential corollary, an integral part of the work. It also points towards modes of writing and reflection – it is about place in discourse, and I think her writing approach is an interesting one. It is also, interestingly, and almost covertly, about ‘translation’ in an almost mathematical sense.


It stimulated me to think – even reading it across my small screen – and I read and reread it several times. I would love to see this piece extended and enlivened by being curated into JAR alongside other works that do similar things – it makes me think of Anne Carson’s work, for instance.


It is an exposition I could imagine using in postgraduate teaching – in addition to other things – as a exemplar of ways artists are thinking through the relationship of textual and visual production. I think it is thoughtfully conceived for an online context – and is of publishable standard.

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