As a process-based artist, I generate potentially unbounded sequences and iterations to form conceptual / visual propositions. Thinking with and through complexity, I encourage encounters through diagrammatic drawings, film montage, sculptural installations, and acts of modelling and remodelling, to create disjunctions that dissolve internal and external logical systems.
Creative play may challenge predetermined outcomes and boundaries, but I am not trying to solve problems. Akin to the artist and researcher Hito Steyerl, I draw attention to the problem, to intensify it as a thing in itself. In short, I curate and present decentred, constellations of signs, which actively converse but remain inconclusive.
In the context of artistic research, artworks are the generators of that which we do not yet know. They thereby invite us to think. Artistic research is the articulation of this unfinished thinking.
Borgdorff, H. ‘Art Works as Epistemic Things’ in Schwab, M. (ed.) Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, Leuven University Press, 2013, p117
To be discombobulated is to find yourself baffled, befuddled, muddled or perplexed, in a state of confusion, feeling disconcerted. A colloquial term, which was referred to a lot in my family household, based on the east coast of the wild, Yorkshire landscape. A perfect word to describe growing up with a lot of noise that bounced around the walls of my crowded, large family unit.
The word ‘bobulate’ is said to have no etymological origin and, thus, has a nonsense quality that supports its meaning. And the round, bouncy sound of the word reflects its ability to absorb and resist stress, unlike the term fracture, which sounds like its meaning, sharp and sudden, which breaks or snaps in the face of stress.
I have found myself using the word discombobulate a lot over the last 10 years or so, which I feel, is in part, related to the half-life spent funding my practice, when I work with a myriad of computer systems and data sets, and the remaining half-life, where I turnover the notion of feeling discombobulated, through my practice, where I generate processes in the attempt to recombobulate, if only momentarily. I find myself using the word discombobulate a lot of late, as I imagine the current state of the world a perpetual snowstorm, accompanied by the white noise of the TV transmission, when it used to end.
Reflecting back to 2017, I developed a prototype, that I published during my postgraduate study, titled ‘The Promise of a Scattered Methodology’. Led by a non-hierarchical and unbounded methodology, and informed by the interconnections of rhizomes (Deleuze and Guattari), I adopted hypertexts as a framework for spatially dispersing my practice-based research, to decentre the knowing subject (Lacan) and to create shifts in thinking, through action. The nature of this scattered methodology was to disrupt the foundations of knowledge and to consider how knowledge could be created in a different way.
Since 2017, I have begun establishing a body of work that works with and alongside digital tools; live-streaming, networks, spreadsheets, databases and algorithms, reflecting upon hybrid human-data processes as a spatial form of language, that speaks, not through words, but forms of movement. Producing a new body of work that practices propositional, spatial compositions, as an artistic researcher I am investigating the hypothetical nature of planning, that considers the ‘paralogical’ (Lyotard) as a form of reasoning, which does not conform to the rules of logic or preset goals, but as a method used to discombobulate established knowledge formations. Thus, my artist research considers knowledge as a generative process, that, when flexed, may lead to points of emergence for knowledge making.
Artistic research is experimental and proves difficult to render instrumental, making it difficult to measure and demonstrate the outputs and impact that contribute to the structural systems of academic research that are in place. As a member of the Society of Artistic Research (SAR), my artistic research follows the ethos of SAR, to explore ways of negotiating the autonomy of artistic research, through artistic actions that are considered an alternative mode of knowledge. Turning to the philosopher Boris Groys, who states that the value of art is found through playing with conflict, the theorist Henk Borgdorff, who considers artworks as ‘generators of that which we do not yet know’, that ‘invite us to think’, reflecting on artistic research as ‘the articulation of this unfinished thinking’, and the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who finds value in the work of art or science through that which has ‘remained unsaid…but…demands to be unfolded and worked out’, I value the act of creative play, to open-up what is systematically pervasive and find an entry point where societal impact may be found.
If a work, be it a work of art or science or scholarship has some value, then it will contain this philosophical element. It is something which has remained unsaid within the work but which demands to be unfolded and worked out.
Agamben, G. ‘What is a Paradigm?’ in European Graduate School Video Lectures (2002) [transcript]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9Wxn1L9Er0
I propose that the conventional process of defining and articulating a research question prior to the development of the art practice is one fundamentally at odds with artistic research. I do not aim to answer research questions as such, but to create the conditions for questions. If a question does exist at this point, it is simply this, how do I create these new conditions for new questions? And, do these new questions feedback into the creation of further new conditions (a looped system)? If the question proceeds the methodology in terms of artistic practice then the methodology is closed. For me, artistic research is as much about the creative exploration of knowledge.
What am I working on right now?
To fund my practice and research, for the last two decades I have worked within the data industry, and there is no doubt that thinking with data has impacted upon and fed my thinking. Currently I am a Data Fellow sponsored by the South West Creative Technology Network (SWCTN). Working with a cohort of fellows, with a range of skills and interests from creative, academic and industry backgrounds, I am approaching this fellowship as an artistic researcher, to explore the human-data realm as a supranatural force of life in the world.
Methodologies I am exploring, include;
- how to get inside the machine to summon the supranatural force,
- listening for a new form of human-data voice and what form(s) of (mis)communication may evolve,
- mediating encounters between human-data (dis)connections,
- forming a literacy beyond words, spoken through patterns and associations,
- becoming algorithm; a slow system of computation that overrides the notion of a closed system.
- my process began with a simple data set to explore matters of the heart and mind;
- outside of the machine, a series of hand-drawn diagrams, diagrammatically reason with Sternberg’s triarchic theorem for love;
- the highlighter, a substitute for the digital luminance of the screen;
- a slow sequence of iterative data sets begin to mirror the dimensionless space of the digital world;
- drawing data as a visual instrument, am I becoming algorithm?
- patterns and associations are forming a literacy that is starting to speak to me beyond words.
In the chapter ‘Smashing Screens’, from ‘What comes after Farce’, Hal Foster draws on the condition ‘apophenia’; which is the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful patterns between unrelated or random things, such as perceiving patterns in meaningless data. Writing about the artist Hito Steyerl and her use of the term ‘The algorithmic nonconscious’, Foster refers to the practice of Steyerl as one which attempts to identify with technology as a thing, in which the digital is against our interests and without our agency.
Similarly, in the book ‘Reality Hunger, David Shields presents a collage of unreferenced quotations that destabilizes genres and time, in which he accumulates associations, creating a rhythm that is both playful and perplexing.