Eilidh Wilson is in her final year studying Art, Philosophy, Contemporary Practices at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee.
a-n Art Student: Are the choices you make in your visual practice the same sort of choices you made in your dissertation research?
Eilidh Wilson: Research in art practice and philosophy are surprisingly similar and when studying the two in unison I found they merged into one. As you develop an understanding of a philosopher’s writing it becomes a reflection upon your art. But the problem with research is there is too much available, you end up getting lost in the reading and forget your original intentions. This is my favourite part: the choices I make come from reading almost too much and the outcomes of my writing and visual practice, they are the result of a long slog of learning a lot but finding little to do with it.
a-n: It seems you create problems and confusion in your work, not to be solved or remedied but to actually deal with the nature of them – almost as a medium. But there must be solutions involved too?
EW: There is no doubt about the pain of the confusion I create for myself. But I always find the process is rewarding and, eventually, my ideas at the start can be incorporated into newfound knowledge. A useful habit I have adopted from writing my dissertation is reading a piece of text repeatedly over a period of time, the more I read it, the more my level of understanding grows.
a-n: What connections can you make between what your dissertation was and what your practice now is?
EW: When writing my dissertation I learned that, as long as you are interested in a topic, you can be as concise as you please — but your ideas will never be concrete. Thoughts always progress to new ideas that reach new conclusions and my practice now has the ability to grow and take on new forms with me. I inform the creation of my work along with new knowledge and, as long as it has a basis of a philosophical concept, the work will grow in its own capacity to learn something new.
a-n: You have talked a lot about research and writing, but how does this actually manifest in your studio practice? How do you deal with an idea that potentially never completes itself?
EW: My dissertation incorporated politics of humanitarian rights and strategies behind Grassroots movements. The decision to welcome politics into my work was justified through reading newspapers, evaluating and expanding upon what they represent. My research was an extension of how I have become an activist within society. I wanted to make art that aimed to visualise the core of this tension and how it has formed into international campaigns. From this my work became a metaphor for the problems we face in society. My studio practice has become a reaction to these problems and uses the idea of resistance as a way of dealing with them.
I am currently working on a vast series of prints of images of protests throughout Scotland, and have the vision of globalising this idea by using different countries over the coming years as new sources of imagery. Movements are part of a progression of time and I see my work as a part of this progression too. I do not have a problem with an idea never completing itself. As Gilles Deleuze would say, “we live in a world of constant change.”
a-n: So, writing clearly has a place in your studio practice, but its is also key for seeing through the task of completing a dissertation. Let’s talk a little more about ‘problems’, how do you use writing to get around them in your work?
EW: I think problems in your work come from problems within your own perspective. For example I was having several issues with organising an event that would demonstrate media bias, the main difficulty being my naïve attitude towards the potential of the event. Problems are inherent in yourself; it’s more about how you learn to deal with them by stepping back, taking time to reflect. Writing is my method of processing this, allowing myself time to visualise ideas.
a-n: I think we have created some interesting discussion here Eilidh. You’ve woven a good introduction to how you use research in your studio practice; it clearly plays an important role. Lastly, what do you have planned for your degree show? I’m sure it will be a rewarding progression in your work, to create an instance where your research is outwardly facing, with an audience in mind…
EW: It will present a visual guide of the nature of resistance for the viewer to discover. I will keep the works black and white, to create a historical atmosphere, but reality is brought forward in them too as they are prints of recent images. As a collection they will document events and conversations, creating points of tension that will be turned into something positive. As an activist and artist I want to reach into the minds of those who think that their opinion will never be heard. I want the prints, which are of people voicing their opinion, to give the viewer the confidence to do the same.
Connect with Eilidh and read more about her practice here.