In attendance: Marsha Bradfield, Maria Christoforatou, Jeffrey Dennis, Bernice Donszelmann, Marina Kassianidou, Hayley Newman, Scott Schwager, Tansy Spinks, Jim Threapleton, Amanda Hopkins
Apologies from: Angela Hodgson, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Aaron McPeake
Fig 1. Marina Kassianidou, Maria Christoforatou, Hayley Newman, Jim Threapleton, Marsha Bradfield and Tansy Spinks
In this rich discussion, we explored 'the artwork's' reach, including documentation. Where are the edges? We also considered art making as a process of mark making, understood in an expanded sense.
Tansy began by reading a 'tongue-in-cheek' statement titled 'The Problem of Wearing Two Hats'. It explored the 'practitioner's' and 'critic's' alternative headgear by playfully straddling the (inevitable [?]) split between 'research' and 'practice' in practice-based PhDs. Tansy offered several suggestions:
- The two hats could be worn serially, 'perhaps on alternative weeks, acknowledging the head had changed shape slightly each time to accommodate each hat.'
- The hats could be worn successively, which would mean having an endless supply of each hat. They would then build up gradually to become a kind of 'Cat-in-the-Hat style stack.'
- Or we could consider occasional destruction; it can be terrifying but also rewarding. Destroy the hats!
- Perhaps the best strategy is to throw up both hats and see where they land.
Discussion then turned to documentation. Informing, reinforcing and reinventing 'the artwork' are just some of the ways that documentation comprises it 'after the fact'. Before screening two video works, Tansy asked:'In relation to my own preoccupation with live, site-specific performance and the role of the document, I pose the questions: How to audience expectations change from being there to receiving the experience second-hand via the document? Is a performance any less valid without an audience? Is an exhibition any less valid if not many people go to it? How are perceptions change by the edit of the document, which is another part of the creative process, which can substantially alter the reading of the work? And can there be such a thing as a completely objective document?'
We then screened documentation of a violin performance Tansy did on a World Word II fort located eight nautical miles out at sea. Here she experimented with playing both the architecture and her violin (she used the word 'activator' to describe her relationship within the artwork), while also responding to her collaborator's site-specific interventions. Tansy also described the demanding process of producing this short-lived event. This raised questions around why the challenge of getting to the site and marking the artwork wasn't included in the document? Also, what are the possibilities of revisiting documentation and/or performance sites after the fact? It was observed there is substantial research around 'being there' and not 'not being' there in performance studies. So perhaps there are ways of translating these alternative states of encounter, ways that acknowledge a document as Other to 'the original'. There is always loss when it comes to recording performance. So what does one do with this inevitability? Perhaps it's about enabling a different kind of experience--Other to not being there. We need to move beyond 'lack' in performance documentation. We might also thinking about the document as variously sited: in an online/offline portfolio as well as different presentation contexts.
Fig 2. Bernice Donszelmann, Amanda Hopkins, Marina Kassianidou
and Maria Christoforatou
Marina's painting-based research considers the interplay among mark, surface and material. The synthesised studio notes comprising her presentation explored the making and the viewing of her drawings, paintings and installations. Elaborating the process of making as research, these notes concerned destabilising binaries, including subject and object, visibility and invisibility, intentional and accidental and same and different. In contrast to modernist assumptions, where the mark enjoys privileged status over the surface (no pun intended), Marina marks in ways that complicate an artwork's figure-ground relations as well as their sitedness within a specific context. These marks are often 'lost' on the surface. As careful representations, they can be confused with 'naturally occurring' marks. Simulation provides one way of thinking about Marina's approach. Her marks often 'pass' for wear and tear, marks that are often 'undesirable'--stains, scratches bangs and other evidence of time and movement. There is something obsessive about recreating marks that may look accidental.'What is achieved in the artwork is a continuation between these two types of marks, leading to moments when they appear to conflate.'
As beautiful as they are beguiling, Marina's drawings, paintings and installations raise questions around what constitutes 'the artist's response'--in what ways does he or she add value to something? This research also ask us to consider where our attention (as 'viewers') should be focused...
- Tansy recommended we look at James Elkins's Why Art Cannot Be Taught
- Regarding wearing hats - see Adrian Piper's 1996 text On Wearing Three Hats
- Regarding adding value - see the work of Susan Collis
Questions to take forward:
- What's the difference between 'practice-led' and 'practice-based' PhDs?
- What would it mean to take seriously the idea of working in an ever-expanding context? What impact would this have the borders of the artwork?
- How can we not engage with 'the audience' when it comes to performance? Is this possible?
- Where is the 'value' in the artwork (as research)?