At the beginning of yesterday I was wondering what the protocol that Val was bringing to the studio actually was. As I thought it was the plan: a systematic preparation and way of working to ensure that everything that needs to be recorded is. Detailing timings, how often measurements might be taken or questions about pain and discomfort asked. It combines the subjective (verbal protocol analysis – a description of what the user is doing in their own words) and objective (measurements of angles, temperature, noise).

We tested the protocol: I sat re-enacting Finger Collars and Val observed, took photographs, notes and asked questions. Actions were named: picking up, cutting, threading, knotting – each of which has a different posture and a different risk. Areas of the body were observed: neck, shoulders / wrists / fingers (mainly right side), upper back and upper arm in the later stages of the artwork as the movements become more unusual. The lower back didn’t really move throughout. Val thought nothing seemed to be excessive, and it doesn’t feel excessive as it’s not a task I would be repeating all day or even each week. Very different from some of the tasks that Val has studied in the past, where repetition has been a key feature found in jobs such as intensive data processing.

It was very difficult to measure angles during the task, the baseline finger goniometer we had ordered was heavy and hard to use. The finger collars also got in the way. Taking measurements from the video footage is a possibility and also staging some postures, removing the finger collars so accurate measurements can be taken. That said, Val’s experience is such that she can estimate angles of flexion and extension, radial deviation and ulnar deviation. Val took lots of notes over the course of the day, and together we worked on a large mind map / ideas map to record the things we were talking about. Val will be reviewing and amending the protocol ready for January when we will next meet up.

Our wider conversation over the course of the day was interesting and wide ranging: sharing information about particular artist’s work, ergonomic studies, other professions and job titles which we could investigate and connect to our study. Next week I have time in the studio to start developing some initial visuals, and to investigate some new processes.


Second visit from Val is coming up today, the Fingers Collars have been located and are ready for action. So I can learn about ergonomics Val will carry out an analysis on me and one of my existing pieces of work – Finger Collars. I made the work while I was studying for my Masters and was investigating labour, dexterity, hand and digital skills and manufacturing: terms of reference and topics that I continue to focus on and expand. Finger Collars is a 14 minute video which was made to explore the question Does being a hand maker inhibit practice? At the time it was made in 2003, digital technologies were new to my practice. Working with moving image allowed me to frame and reframe ideas and activities, documenting process and exploring the role of hand labour in art practice. What was the point of doing anything by hand, I asked myself, when digital processes were so exciting and innovative? However exciting and innovative that they were / are, I wanted to take into consideration and value the enjoyment of hand labour. Finger Collars explores the increasing inhibiting / disablement of movement while carrying out a regular task of threading a needle and tying an end knot. By progressively adding Finger Collars my movements become difficult, uncomfortable, exasperating.

When I re-enact this work today with Val looking on, I will be measured, documented and asked to describe how the activity feels. Val says she is bringing a protocol planned out that we can work with, alter, adapt; and to be honest despite talking about it last week I’m not absolutely sure what the protocol is. I think it’s the order of things; a plan, a checklist, to make sure all the information is recorded so a holistic picture can be collated ready for analysis.


Great visit from Val yesterday based in the studio. Conversation was varied and ideas are developing. Val had sent me a PowerPoint ahead of her visit, and from the notes I recorded had extracted “ Efficiency and Productivity” and “Overall System Performance”; both aims / benefits of ergonomic analysis.

I was wondering about efficiency in relation to art practice – it’s a term creative practitioners may not often think about. It sounds like a corporate ambition but actually as an artist I still need to get things done, get work made, get work ready and out for exhibition. Productivity, again, reminds me of the language of GDP and corporate targets: I had an ambition to be prolific with my work about Posture but what are the nuances between productivity and being prolific?Productivity implies a completed cycle – work developed, created and onto its destination or end user. Prolific, on the other hand, means just generating in quality. I’m probably digressing but I’m interested in the terms used in other professions and how they can be applied across to art practice.

As for overall system performance – I wondered if a system can apply to one person – the self employed artist? The system can be a combination of elements: method, technique, network, arrangement, regimen and how they work together to form the whole. The components of the system explored in ergonomic terms includes a review of task, equipment, environment, location, person / user and work organisation using a holistic approach of task analysis, observation, interviews, verbal protocols, questionnaire surveys, user participation and application of existing data. I’m already completely hooked; this is a new world, I am left wondering how this process will inform the work I go on to make.

So that I can develop a working knowledge of Ergonomic practice we are using an existing piece of work of mine, a video from 2003 to re-enact for analysis. Usually an ergonomist will focus on a regular / repeated / typical task for analysis. The artwork I have selected to work with – which I will discuss in more detail in another post – is not a typical work; there is repetition of sorts but not to the extent that I would have repeated the task or movements over a number of days, weeks or months.

Mine is a multidisciplinary practice: drawing, photography, moving image, installation, conversation, residency, research. The typical or regular feature is my conceptual approach; the subjects and to a certain extent the aesthetics change. The video I have chosen is a seminal work, and relates to a time when I first started to think about Postures of Making. It’s a piece of work I am very keen to learn more about, and understand from an ergonomics perspective.


The body in movement intrigues me greatly: the ways in which dexterity, knowledge and understanding come together particularly in art making, art practice, craft, performance; but also in wider contexts of manufacturing, domestic and work environments and even robotics. Observing the body engaged in a range of work, leisure and communication postures has been a focus of my work over the last 18 months or so. Postures of Making is giving me the opportunity to extend my work through a collaboration with Dr Valerie Woods, ergonomics scientist. Exploring what is happening inside the body from a musculoskeletal perspective will help me to go beyond aesthetics, feeding into a new body of work. Learning from Val about ergonomics and ergonomic analysis; using goniometers, task analysis and other scientific methods of measurement and enquiry will build upon and extend experience I have of working with professionals from other backgrounds including architecture and engineering. Two goniometers have arrived in the post, and although visually I can see how they might be used, it will be when Val and I work together that I will understand the data they will reveal.

This project has been buzzing around in the background for over 10 years: an idea, a notion, thought about, picked up and put down. Now it’s taken form and gained support I have been reading around the subject more fully, but feel a long way from understanding. Each discipline has its own language, and this is something I strive to understand; trying to identify common ground and approaches. As I write this I reflect on my own posture, how I sit on my ergonomically designed computer chair with one leg tucked underneath me and my shoulders aching. This project is going to take my practice and understanding of the body somewhere I cannot at this stage imagine.