Self(ish)-fusion thinking and practice : a (mainly) visual investigation of poly-modal art-making
If it could be seen that a 'body of training' has a crucial impact on a creative practice, my own history of 'training' would be difficult to trace within any specific discipline or mode of self-expression. I have been 'trained' as a visual artist, actor, performance-artist, and to some extent, musician/sonic performer. This coexistence of modalities with associated meta-praxis, has in fact created a set of parallel dimensions embodied within a collective of theories as well as practices. On the one hand, this collective of practices has involved a view of myself (and what I make) as a form of 'research object'. But on another hand, the very intersection between these modes of practice has inevitably involved a form of experimentation and enquiry that has stretched far beyond the boundaries of 'self '. Not only have these diverse practices 'informed' each other, but the fusion of these modalities has created a set of research questions that interrogate the validity of self (and self-practice) as a form of research outcome. Consequently, at a key stage of my research, I decided to 'pull focus' on particular disciplinary modes and practices in order to best define my practice and its context within notions of defining a 'self. This is why the bulk of my practical submission has taken the form of a selected series of mainly large-scale works on paper. At an earlier stage, my visual work was equally disposed of representational (figurative) and non-representational outcomes. However, notions (and questions) of 'self are capable of presentation in the abstract domain of signs, symbols and 'signals', I chose to represent questions about intuition, emotion, spontaneity and improvisation via the submission of a series of entirely abstract work. In many if not all cases, the process of execution is as important as the outcome. To this end, where appropriate, I have also chosen to represent 'process' by means of:- • Reproductions (where appropriate) of sketches and preparatory notations in the form of image, text, video and other forms of documentation, from time to time; • Installed performance experiments of either a personal or collaborative nature (the latter normally being in the form of collaborations between myself and other visual artists or musicians) and represented by means of edited parts from video documentation; • Sonic experiments and collaborations between myself in the role of musician, and other musicians (CD submission). However, and most importantly, the arrangement and ordering of the completed works on paper is also intended to represent a documentation of a process where notions of 'completion', via a series, can be seen as evidence of the nature of a continuous and gradually unfolding process of experimentation and 'testing'. In other words, the entire body of completed works on paper should be seen as an holistic exercise in questioning the position of my own body (and practice) as illuminating the position of my mind and senses within an evolving set of works. The written thesis follows this same 'chain' format. It is constructed in the form of a textual continuum that both spans and links several theoretical and practical discourses. In each case (with the exception of the introduction and conclusion), I have sought to analyse, evaluate, document and criticise the sources, processes and outcomes of each work. I have also taken the view that the series of works beg questions of generic relationships. There is an obvious diversity of 'idea' but in the main, the paintings/drawings are represented by a relatively heterogeneous set of stylistic practices. These heterogeneous elements emerged as a result of a highly personalised journey of exploration. At no point have I taken the view that theoretical contexts (those derived more usually from an historical analysis of past and current trends), will be the determining core of either my practice or my research with and into that practice. The written thesis charts a progression of a body of work that has been practice-led. In so-doing, it also connects several modes of creative self-expression together; most notably, music, theatre and visual-performance. Consequently, and because I believe the process of working to be as significant (if not more so) as the outcomes. The written thesis is both a 'history' and a critique of that journey. All my practice is 'primed' by different approaches to research. The written thesis embodies the three stages that articulate the sequencing of my practice, namely; • Source-research-memory-theory-experience; • Practice-improvisation- visual experimentation; • Review and notions of progression/linkage between one state (and stage) of practice and another. The introduction is concerned with the contextualisation of my practice and descriptions of the 'ordering' and determinants for making work. The conclusion concerns itself with the analysis and debriefing that accrues from a body of completed work. But I have also concluded by drawing attention to a poly-modal approach to practice, one that encompasses a 'collective' of techniques and artistic languages, across and between one mode of self-expression and another.