A pearl of wisdom from class today:
Narcissus’s tragedy is that he was unable to see himself gazing at himself. Displaying a lack of reflexivity that in his case proved fatal.
Take a step back – look at what/how/why you’re doing.
Escape the binary of you and your reflection/object/other.
*image: Narcissus by Caravaggio
I think what really upsets people about Practice as Research and perhaps art more broadly is that it it doesn’t have to be useful, or rather that its value is not bound up in its usefulness…
What we learn through practice is not restricted by having to be applied or broadly relevant. In fact, often it is totally unique to a particular practitioner and can only be replicated by the very few if by anyone at all.
Every week the students who are doing postgraduate degrees with the Centre for Cultural Partnerships at VCA are invited to meet for a semistructured catch up/tutorial. This week, we were invited to spend the first 15min of the session writing down some reflections about the week gone by. This is an edited version of what I wrote:
I am a systems thinker and I constantly find myself drawn to thinking about how seemingly disconnected or unrelated things are in actual fact interconnected as part of a bigger picture. Since this time last week, which has flown past in the blink of an eye, I have had a bit of a breakthrough in piecing together the different streams of consciousness, thoughts, ideas and research that I have been conducting. For a while now I have been in the space of total not knowing (as described in my previous post) and as part of this experience I’ve been following a range of tangents that seemed disconnected but which were all interesting to me. A long time ago now I made a conscious habit of paying attention to whatever catches my interest, my former mentor used to describe these as my “Ooooh Shiny” moments, but these shiny distractions always seem to eventually come together and form a more cohesive shape.
Practically, I have focussed my energy on reading a lot and on writing, adding thoughts to my blog and making a few connections here and there with artists and craftspeople involved in socially engaged art projects. I go to gallery openings, artist talks and lectures weekly. I’ve got three new books coming in the mail: The Invention of Craft and Thinking though Craft both by Glenn Adamson as well as the Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey. Yet all this focus on theory has meant that although I have been dreaming up artworks and jotting ideas down I am yet to plug in my brand new super fancy sewing machine and I’m feeling pretty guilty about that.
I guess that I have also been looking for ways to put down some roots in my new community here in Melbourne. I’ve been looking at getting involved with the VCA student union and I’ve applied for a 1-day-a-week role as a social media coordinator for a small non-profit organisation called “Igniting change”. Excitingly they’ve shortlisted me alongside 1 other person for the role! If I get it I will be able to have lots of really interesting conversations with people involved in all the interesting grassroots projects that Igniting Change support. I’m also in discussion with the Golden Plains Art Ink about running a visioning workshop with them which would be a nice way to connect with a regional group of Victorian artists and explore what is going on in their community. Oh yea – and I delivered a two day resilience leadership project for volunteering Qld in Taree, NSW over the weekend which was very well received. So, even though it might not feel like it I guess I’ve managed to do a little more than just read…
Although my PhD is still far from being a clearly demarcated project with a focussed research question, a clear methodology and an informative theoretical framework it is slowly taking shape and emerging out of the darkness if you will. Encouragingly the shape that is taking form is much more interesting and complex than the one in my original vision and importantly it holds within it the seed of not knowing. So although I am still sitting in darkness, perhaps I have found that the flicker of light I have been searching for – although I am not ready to name it yet…