I’m slowly starting become more confident in my new academic role, but as the weeks progress, I’m finding it incrementally more confusing. The more I read, the wider my research question becomes, and given that I’m looking at theoretical and practical modes of enquiry, the list of related interests is increasing exponentially.
A major element within the scope of my thesis is exploring the agency of an object within ritual, in other words, what does the ‘work of art’ do? So far, this has led to me researching medieval manuscripts, the history of science, calligraphy and masks, to name but a few topics.
2nd supervision meeting
So began the theme of my 2nd supervision meeting, where, although I’d been working almost constantly, and collected lots of relevant information, I had very little practical work to show for it. Thankfully my supervisors were still happy with my progress and we agreed that I should shift my focus towards making for a while.
I still think juggling all these separate but related tasks is going to be the trickiest part of the process. Although, as I filled in my monthly report on the PDR, I have to admit I felt a perverse satisfaction at being able to complete the part where it asks if there was anything I’d struggled with this month. I’m not sure what that says about me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of art and how people interpret and understand objects. This came out of reading about how artists in the past used images from encyclopedias of allegory to represent ideas within their work, which clearly expressed to the audience how they should read the painting.
As such practice is now no longer commonplace, we rely on dialogic, or intertextuality to deduce implied meanings with artworks. This allows for greater freedom of expression on the part of the artist and audience, but also frustration, due to the meaning never being fully articulated in concrete terms. I had considered reading more about ontologies of art, but after some cursory searches realised that this might take me further away from my research proposal.
No sooner had I decided that, than I was invited to a colour communication lecture by a friend and colleague studying a Practice-led PhD in the School of Design. The lecture was actually pitched at textile design students so was a lot more technical in relation to colour swatches and the like, but I enjoyed it anyway, and learned some interesting things about colour and language.
For example, it seems there is a pattern to the way that developing languages name colour. According to Berlin and Kay’s 1969 study of 20 languages, the first colours to be named in any language are black and white, followed by red, then yellow, green, and so on. Although the methodology was somewhat flawed, it paved the way for further study on universal patterns of colour naming, and is of interest to me in the way that humans create visual understanding.
In the studio
None of this helps me, however, with my initial dilemma of spending more time making work, and in fact the more reading I do, the more difficult I’m finding it to create without seeing the problematics within the work. So I decided to switch off my analytical brain for a bit and try to make things without worrying too much about ‘getting it wrong’. Thankfully, one of my regular visits to Brain Pickings yielded support for this hypothesis with Wired founder, Kevin Kelly’s ideas about ‘failing forward’