Link to Artefacts

My Artistic Practices and a Field of Possibilities


Observing a process of meaningful interaction was key to this project. In this context, I use the word 'meaningful' to refer to a generative process, in which my very engagement with a practice (as a mediator of sense-making) conditions the requirement to begin a new and often simultaneous engagement with another practice. It is a process of mutual influence between myself, my practices and my emergent environment, through which, each practice interacts and influences every other practice. Through this process, all three agents (myself, my practices and my environment) become meaningful to each other. Throughout the text I may refer to each agent individually, but their realisation is only ever possible in the context of the others - all contributing equally.


To condition such meaningful interactions, I needed to create a method which would not restrict the possibilities of interaction, but rather open them up - I decided to create a field of possible artistic practices. These possible artistic practices were auditory diagramming, descriptive writing, composing, sound installation, performing and sketching. For the sake of efficiency, I only chose artistic practices of which I already had a certain knowledge and level of experience. I offered this list of possible practices to myself without pre-determining the exact order in which I would engage with them. By doing so, I wanted to enable an open process, which would highlight my reasoning for engaging with the particular practices and, in turn, highlight the way the tools and specificities of the practices allowed me to deal with certain aspects of the environment as it became necessary. As I will come to discuss later in this text, the specificities of each practice condition the researcher’s engagement with their environment in unique ways.

By the end I had taken four of the six available practices and built a meaningful field. A field within which each practice was significant not only to other individual practices but also to the process as a whole.  After the completion of this part, it became necessary to tweak my method slightly in order to nudge the process of interaction further. Having reached a point in Phase One at which I was no longer able to effectively further my understanding of my emergent environment within the context of this method, I decided to change the conditions in which practices were able to interact. The next phase was to develop a predetermined series of interactions between each possible pairing of practices. As mentioned, at the end of Phase One, I was left with a meaningful field of practices, artefacts and observations; it was a field that presented the process of sense-making I had undertaken. As such, it made sense to take the emergent understanding as part of this process and attempt to further it by coupling the practices with each other. This would become Phase Two. Looking back now, it seems almost incomprehensible that these phases could have worked in the opposite order, and perhaps provides me with the confidence that this was an effective and viable method for such an investigation.


                                 Inter-action: A Process of Influence


I would like to put this into context by outlining my understanding of a process of interaction. What am I talking about when I refer to an ‘interaction’? To inter-act, is to act with and on something. It is a process of influence where all actors act with and on each other. Let’s take the example of a conversation; when two people converse with one another they influence the way the other person acts, or re-acts. This, in turn, influences the way you re-act. Even subtle hand gestures and body movements inform us of how we should, in turn, move our body. We act on and with them and they act on and with us, we inter-act. I wanted to cultivate this kind of relationship of mutual influence within the context of my research.

However, if artistic practices are understood as mere sets of enabling tools, how can they be seen to influence one another? By raising this question, I would like to highlight the process of influence as one which always moves from and through the user of these practices; it is a question which addresses the idea of agency within a process of constitution as mediated by artistic practices. Within the context of this field of possible practices, it could be seen that an engagement between myself and any one of the practices from the list also indirectly affects the other practices, which lie present in their absence. As it was already pre-determined that more than one practice from the list would be engaged with (although without specifying exactly which one), I would consider a process of interaction to have already been initiated. Therefore, my engagement and interaction with the current practice influence the process in which I choose the practices to follow. The subsequent practice could be seen to be picked in order to help this process of understanding as begun by my engagement with the initial practice. Through this process, the two practices become influential and meaningful to one another.

The following pages contain excerpts from a reflective text written during the research project. It hopes to offer an opportunity to understand the process of sense-making as mediated by the interaction of artistic practices. It attempts to detail the steps involved in undertaking an artistic research project, the aim of which was to simultaneously understand, as well as expose the tools and specificities of these practices, as they conditioned the constitution of my environment.


It may be helpful to go back to the artefacts page at some points during reading. I would therefore suggest opening a new tab or window with the artefacts page for easy access.



                 Transitioning Between Aesthetic and Artistic Practices


To initiate contact with my surroundings, I engaged with the aesthetic practices of listening and hearing. By getting in touch with our surroundings through these acts, we become aware of our environment as an emergent presence - the world becomes meaningful to us in new and exciting ways. Alex Arteaga provides a comparison with the act of seeing, arguing that; “To see always means to see differentiated singularities - to see object. Most of the time we hear without needing to configure the hearing experience as an aural object…Hearing, therefore, spontaneously enables a dynamic, relational, non-objectual but operative presence of our environment that reveals its emerging nature. Consequently, the auditory presence of the environment—the presence of the environment as aural environment—provides a privileged condition for its reflection, and furthermore for its research/design, as emerging presence.”1 As Arteaga illuminates, the aural environment is a non-objectual one, a world which could be metaphorically considered as ephemeral; something which is there but difficult to grasp.


As I heard and listened, the emergent environment began to slowly form and became clearer. I was able to grasp certain tendencies and recognise certain basic emotions but was not able to truly outline or give detail to formed phenomena. The environment started to make sense to me, but in order to take this process of sense-making further, I chose to start expressing myself through the mediation of technology and the culturally formed tools of my artistic practices. My understanding was sitting there at the end of my fingertips, I could feel how the environment was for me, I could feel it, but the question at that stage was how could I express this feeling or understanding? I had a field of artistic practices at my disposal, ready to help bring me closer to my environment, not just to feel out the contours, but to make out the details and see it in the flesh. By expressing, I allow myself to re-frame my engagement and understanding in new ways, which allow me to learn further. 

I chose the practice of auditory diagramming, a practice that exists within the medium of written language. Auditory diagramming made sense at the time, as it conditioned an engagement with my environment, which forced me to specify myself but not in a rigid and forceful way. I had to formulate words to express myself but the organisation of these words was not inflexible, as might have been the case with descriptive writing, which forces the use of structured sentences. 
In auditory diagramming, single words are arranged on a surface into formed and meaningful constellations. The space between words is therefore a potential carrier of meaning, as each word is given meaning within its spatial relationship to others. The size of the word also indicates how present it is in relation to the other phenomena. At first, the diagram (and the environment) did not have any form, it appeared as a large group of words. As I continued to work with the diagram, I was forced to make connections between words by moving some closer and some further away from each other. My interaction with my environment in-formed the diagram and as this continued the dynamics of the environment started to appear. Simultaneously the diagram and my environment moved temporarily into a position of clarity. The aspects of the environment which I had perceived and made sense of during my aesthetic conduct were put into question by being thrust into the context of written language. I was forced to find appropriate words which best embodied or presented the way in which the environment appeared with me.

                            The Introduction of Descriptive Writing


In line with the generative approach of the initial phase of my research, I continued my engagement with diagramming until it was no longer able to bring me any closer to my environment. It was important that my engagement with the next practice arise fromthe interaction between myself, my current practice and my surroundings. After conducting several diagramming sessions from different vantage points, a stage in the process was reached where I could no longer see a way to continue. The specificities of diagramming had brought me to a certain understanding, which I was no longer able to further.

The transition from one practice to the next is also an ongoing process within itself. One practice does not start where the other stops, they overlap. As I started to bring in the practice of descriptive writing, I was still engaged with diagramming, always cross-examining the two practices in order to find an efficient way to approach them both. Over a couple of sessions, diagramming began to fade out and I was eventually left to focus on the practice of writing alone. The engagement with the next practice had already begun before realising I could go no further with the original practice. It became a slow transition controlled by the very practice I was engaging with and the available practices I have. It was also important for the research that I took a step back and observed this transition as one practice began to take over from the one which preceded it.