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Title: A word in your ear : the undoing of an object as a strategy for learning in Fine Art practice
Author: Kidd, Natasha
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 3893
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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The complexities of an art practice - often incorporating latent methods, questions and influences - can be hard to make sense of, even by the maker. The purpose and validity of messy, iterative, searching enquiries can often only be understood once they have become folded into the artwork. Learning occurs within, and through, practice. A word in your ear: The undoing of an object as a strategy for learning in Fine Art practice aims to develop an approach which captures how an artist learns, seeking to expose the very particular type of learning that occurs through the process of making an artwork. Taking the form of an instruction manual, this project positions the reader precisely in the active space in which an artwork is constructed: a methodology which is intended to liberate the language of making from the need for academic explanation. The use of instruction, and the consequent removal of 'I', enables a close and persistent scrutiny of each making task; the form of the project proposes that this knowledge is, in turn, shared with others. As the construction of one artwork is recalled and retold, the manual is generated; the learning that is so intrinsic to the artwork's creation and form is folded into the object that the manual becomes. Told in reverse, the instructions serve to map the artistic process backwards - from the final point of de-installing the artwork in an exhibition to the very beginning of its construction. This undoing of the process encourages the evocation of sensations of discovery and disorientation in the reader. By retelling the making of the work in this seemingly counter-intuitive order, familiar iterations of the sequence of actions are subverted; knowledge and learning are unfolded both gradually and purposefully. This project sets out to exemplify the active learning necessitated by the process of making an artwork - through the demonstration of the act itself. The manual employs a number of systems in order to reveal the complex process of making an artwork. These devices combine to stage the complexity of an art practice: one probes, reacts, talks, listens, argues, debates and oscillates between holding one's nerve and feeling apprehension. Each of the constituent elements performs a different role and purpose in the overall function of the manual. Alongside the written and diagrammatic instructions are tangential interruptions: A Word in My Ear and Cautions. These function to give form to the thinking that circulates, penetrates, informs and interrupts the making process, making explicit the unruly and stabilising thinking spaces of art practice that get swallowed up or else occupy a mostly suppressed context or form of knowledge or learning. A Word in My Ear shares the private voice of thinking in making. Running adjacent to the instructional text, it recalls thoughts, conversations, and things read or seen throughout the process. The Cautions function as interruptions throughout the instructional information, drawing attention to particular issues or questions which emerge. This method of interruption aims to enable the reader to access the problems that readily stop the making process in its tracks. Practical, theoretical and contextual issues are treated equally, proposing a flattened hierarchy of information and subsequent learning. The manual uses a tab system in order to help the reader move though its sections. Along with the sections that detail the practical stages of the construction of the artwork, there are eight coloured, tabbed sections. These coloured sections refer to eight significant words that appear frequently throughout the instructional text. As the reader navigates the instructional text, the significant words crop up and are highlighted in the particular colour that denotes their tab. This invites the reader to move out of this text to a parallel relevant section in the manual. By initiating a process of twisting and looping, which is reliant on the inclination of the reader to break from the assembly of instructional parts, a more knotted relationship with the object is suddenly possible - one that is akin to the complexity of making an artwork itself. A particular word is identified as being significant when it holds durational curiosity or endures over time. This criterion for selection is not arbitrary but, rather, belligerently privileges a subjective methodology, pushing for and defending its significance in art practice research. The coloured tab sections include texts, artworks and objects that think through the significant word. No explicit analysis of this material is offered; rather, it is positioned as a form of analysis in its own right, directly acknowledging the significance of other voices in the processes of the research. The inclusion of these encounters is an important function of the manual. Such encounters reveal how a different direction for the work, another preoccupation, a wrong turn or a new way of seeing - a new perspective - is triggered in practice, thereby inviting the reader to make new connections of their own as they navigate the manual's content. The manual can be activated to produce different types of learning encounters. In its simplest terms, the manual can act as a resource: a medium through which one may think through the key themes that are unveiled or highlighted by the making of the artwork. The instructions can be enacted and realised in order to make the work, thus offering the reader the potential for a direct physical relationship with material in order to generate a haptic, experiential, pedagogic event. However, the primary function of the manual is to take the reader beyond the territory of its own production - and that of the artwork it makes - by contributing more than its content. Pertinently, it should be understood to be the product of an absurdly rational attempt to provide order to the necessarily complex endeavour of making of an artwork. This project sets out to offer a strategy to capture the very particular type of learning that occurs in, and through, art practice. In the form of an instruction manual, this work offers a new form of vital evidence for how artists learn through making. Such evidence affords insights to educators and learners from within the discipline - as well as to those skeptical of the value of this activity. Proposed as a pedagogical tool, the behaviors and thinking that are revealed by the manual are liberated as unique sites of knowledge production and shared as crucial material in making as research.
Supervisor: Carter, Claire Makhlouf ; Catling, Brian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art Practice