Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
Boys were also the theme of the adventure lunch last week in the refurbished Chrystal MacMillan Building - the new home of the School of Social and Political Science. The idea of the adventure lunch is to spotlight a contribution from each of the different disciplines on selected themes, in this case boys. It was fascinating to hear these different perspectives on a subject close to my heart. Every artist who works with children and young people as part of their practice has at least one story to tell about 'problem' boys and 'art' experiences which reveal them in a completely different light.
It was particularly interesting to hear from Lesley McAra and Susan McVie of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime
The Edinburgh Study findings also show that nurturing advocacy at the point of transition (age 12 - 13) is the most effective intervention, but that agencies are not good at identifying vulnerable boys. Since serious offending is very common among boys aged 15 (50% according to some figures) it begs the question that maybe all boys should have access to nurturing advocacy. Perhaps argued for along the same lines as for universal school meals.
The Edinburgh Study demonstrates to me the power of quantitative research to back up personal experience, although what was also evident was the passion and commitment of Lesley and Susan to use their figures to argue for different ways of seeing and responding. Chrystal MacMillan would have applauded.
Friday, 7 November 2008
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
The give and take of it all at the moment is that on the giving side I am open to collaborative possibilities as they arise and I will continue the drawing sessions and start new lunchtime art sessions in the autumn term.
On the taking side I am having the opportunity to reflect on my practice. A reading of Art Encounters Deleuze and Guttari, Thought Beyond Representation, by Simon O'Sullivan, is useful for this:
'We might say then, that art practice names the careful process by which within a striated space (organised, regimented and representational) a smooth space is opened up....It is here that the 'in-between' nature of art practice again becomes important. Art is always situated between the actual and the virtual, in fact we might say operates itself as a kind of 'actualising machine' p34
This resonates with where Caroline and I are in our conceptualising of what we are doing in our collaboration. What started as a consideration of how best to 'present' or 'represent' her Phd findings has shifted or evolved. We are now thinking that the 'process' and the 'production' are inclusively about 'creating (creative) spaces for exploratory and critical dialogue'. This then resonates with Sarah Morton's evolving sense of generating 'impact' with research. She is considering the potential for each stage of the research process to generate 'impact' and for that 'impact' to be cumulative.
Another quote from Art Encounters delineating art practice could equally apply to this way of thinking research:
'..An art practice is a fluid, dynamic system always in connection with a number of different regimes and registers and always in contact with an outside, however that is theorised....in this sense, art is less the name for an object or a discipline as such but again a name for a function of 'deterritorialisation' - an affective 'moving away from the habitual'.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
I've been invited to do a two minute wonder presentation at next week's Threshold Networking Lunch hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Secretary of Edinburgh Research Innovation (phew!). I have two minutes and one slide to introduce myself and my area of work. Above is the slide I'm going to use. It features a A1 poster/chart I've made for Alice as an aid for family interviews she is conducting for the research project on work/life balance over time, entitled 'Work and Family Lives: The Changing Experiences of Young Families'. We are hoping that the personalised chart looks contemporary and feels a bit like a board game, where individually and as a group the family can chart their lives for the last six months.
For the Threshold Networking Lunch tomorrow, I've superimposed an image of William Taggart's 'Spring' (1864). I love this image of childhood.
In The Politics of Aesthetics, Jacques Ranciere writes ' The nineteenth century was haunted by the Platonic paradigm of the democratic dissolution of the social body, by the fanciful correlation between democracy/individualism/Protestantism/revolution/the disintegration of the social bond. This can be expressed in more or less poetic or scientific terms...in more or less reactionary or progressive terms.' He goes on to say thay sociology was born from this concern with the lost social bond - as a problem.
Appreciative enquiry then, with it's focus on what works, relational processes, multiple knowledges and expertise is a radical departure. However it resonates well with a socially engaged arts practice both in terms of collaboration with researchers and in terms of engaging with participants in creative and/or research projects.
This is an o.k. place to be.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
In Scotland , we are very fortunate to have Imaginate, which presents the annual children's theatre festival and promotes and develops performing arts for children and young people throughout the year. Of the numerous children's theatre production companies based in Scotland, Star Catchers which emerged out of North Edinburgh Arts Centre is dedicated to producing work for the very young.
I am very lucky to be associated with this bunch of people. There is no equivalent movement in the Visual Arts. Maybe this is because theatre people tend to be more outgoing and extrovert by nature. Also, in the main, the work is more collaborative and group based, whereas visual artists often work alone. In general I sometimes wonder why there are theatre productions, books, films, television, computer games for children, but very little visual art dedicated to children. Infact most exhibitions that might appeal to children have to be covered in signs saying 'do not touch', 'children must be under control of parents at all times' and the like.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
I'm not sure what I expected, but have been delighted with the sessions - to have the time just to concentrate on drawing and to find that I can actually produce something halfway respectable.
One thing I've noticed is that focusing on drawing also helps me to focus on research work when needed. The discipline and space needed for both are quite similar, I think.
I liked drawing the model best. I thought it would be difficult, but I really
Similarities between research and drawing:
I think there are similarities between the drawing process and analysis in
research. A couple of things - you need to put in the graft to get good
results; and when you make a 'mistake' you can change it and get a better
result, and it's ok to do that. In the research analysis it strikes me
that it also involves a preciseness and a creativeness, whereby if you work with the form and shape of your data as well as the precise content you can develop a really worthwhile, in-depth analysis.
I guess research tends to focus on words more, but it's useful to think about how words can be a creative form as well.CRFR Gallery http://picasaweb.google.com/rosiemgibson02/Drawings
Thursday, 7 August 2008
When I was at Art School as a mature student studying sculpture, I found myself looking for common characteristics of people in my class. I came to the conclusion that they were a group of young people fascinated by the material world in all it's manifestations (from wood to bronze, to people, to film, to food). Art School was about developing craft in manipulating materials to create meaning.
Can the two practices resource one another? Any other suggestions for reading material?
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
All of the works raise questions of performance and authorship, and in particular the issues that arise when the artist is no longer the central agent in his or her own work, but operates through a range of individuals, communities and surrogates.http://www.balticmill.com/whatsOn/present/ExhibitionDetail.php?exhibID=104.
As well as it's relevance to the residency and collaboration, it was also interesting for it's interactivity. There's an observation by writers and curators of contemporary art that currently a visit to a gallery has become 'an experience'. This is in contrast to a time when a gallery was more of a site of contemplation.
It was all useful research for Caroline and I as we contemplate the possibilities for collaboration, exhibition and dissemination. The installation The African Twin Towers - Stairlift to Heaven by Christoph Schlingensief consists of a video projection of a film of a megalomaniac theatre director relocating the 9-11 story to Africa with his regular troupe of non-professional performers. Directly in front of the projection a white stairway rises across the screen. The viewer is invited to occupy the chair stair lift and rise up diagonally across the screen to a small viewing peephole where an intimate thumb sucking scene is being played out on film by two of the troupe! The chair lifted viewer becomes part of the work.
The other inspiring exhibition is Communication Suite in the Wolf son Medical School at Glasgow University curated by artist Christine Borland.
The exhibition explores the role of communication in art and medicine and is displayed in the actual rooms at the University of Glasgow's Medical School where students are taught how to communicate with patients through role-play with actors. The artist developed the concept of the exhibition after observing students practice their communications skills in these simulated consultations.
http://www.amh.ac.uk/images/-Communication%20Suite%20exhibition%20pdf.pdf, and www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/whatson/art-of-communication-exhibition.php
The exhibition is inspiring as work that can emerge out of an artist's residency in a university department, as an exhibition that works very well in a site specific space outwith a gallery, and that brings together a range of works by different artists round the theme of communication.
Friday, 27 June 2008
I find this useful. In my last residency at North Edinburgh Arts Centre, I set up and ran the early years Children's Art Studio making work with and for young children and about childhood. While at one level, it was a great success, I began to think of it as pathetic also. Pathetic in the sense of arousing emotions about the lack of truly child 'minded' spaces in our environment. The existence of the Children's Art Studio makes visible the lack, and our incapacity to get it right.
In The Politics of Aesthetics Ranciere explores this contradiction in the context of Americam films from the 70s and 80s on Vietnam.
...like Cimino's The Deer Hunter, where the war scenes are essentially scenes of Russian Roulette. It can be said that the message is the derisory nature of war. It can just as well be said that the message is the derisory nature of the struggle against war
This is not to become melancholy about making work, just to be aware that contradiction is embedded in it.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
I've been reading Children's Geographies, vol 6, May 2008, and finding lots of similar ideas and references to those which inform my work. I'm looking forward to exploring these further. In True geography  quickly forgotten, giving way to an adult-imagined universe'. Approaching the otherness of childhood, Owain Jones gives an insight into a collaborative space for artists and social science researchers.
"...the developing linkages between geographical and artistic interests and methods are going on apace in the pursuit of methodologies sensitive to affect. Artists...are often commenting upon, witnessing, 'analysing' the world and their and/or other people's place in it, but through affective/creative narratives rather than the rational/representational registers."
Maybe we should reframe the scope of the residency to Visual Methodologies and Methodologies sensitive to affect.
Monday, 16 June 2008
Anyone for philosophy? The director of North Edinburgh Arts Centre said of my installation 'Playing Field', "it sits there quite quiet and unassuming. Then children come in and they animate the work and it animates them! My starting point for the installation had been what I had observed as the fluidity of very young children. The corrugated card sculptures offer (soft) structure for the children to flow all over. This piece is a prototype for a collaboration with theatre artist Andy Manley. We are developing a show for toddlers called 'The Floor!'. We wondered what scope a raised floor would give us - access to under the floor or under the ground. We were able to observe toddlers and how they reacted to the structure. They liked walking round it, climbing up, walking round on top, exploring the trap door, going inside, climbing out, climbing down. Moving. Flowing. Professor Colin Trevarthen has likened this fluidity of children to the Dionysian principle in philosophy. Do the structures respond in Apollonian mode? Is it the two together which make the work? This is new territory for me. It would be good to have a guide for a bit of the way. Calling all those with a philosophical leaning to their practice.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Caroline and I watched it together at the French Institute. This time people are talking about their own experiences rather than the narratives being delivered by actors.
However the static camera, attention to detail in the selecting and framing of the shots and the lighting create a conducive listening and looking space for the viewer and (I deduce)a conducive narrative space for the participants.
I am reminded of the static camera of film makers Jane Campion (Piano 1993) and Chantal Ackerman in the 70's.
Caroline also notes that there has been a lot of crafting of the fragments of what people are saying to build a 'pork and milk narrative'. This is essentially the editing process she is talking about and she compares it to the analysis and presentation stages of the research process.
She references Arthur Frank and says:
"I had read a paper of his prior to him running a seminar in Edinburgh in July. He spoke about a picture: Rene Magritte's La Condition Humaine . He discusses that the longer you look at the picture, you see that it is layers and layers of painting which go as he puts it 'all the way back'. He equates this to qualitative interviewing whereby there can be an assumption that you turn on a recorder and the person being interviewed will tell their story.
But,it's not like that. I found this notion intriguing and thought
provoking in relation to my own work ...."
She talks about the cultural gaps in knowledge and understanding the health visitors have vis a vis the mums. We come up with a spatial idea of nested knowledge.
We resumed our discussion exploring the opportunities to make visual/sound work from Caroline's research findings.
We briefly considered other forms of presentation - for example an installation or large scale projection...
We have a brief discussion about the film/video making process, budgets etc.
We touch on the consideration that the form of the visual/audio work could reference Caroline's own research practice.
It's all a bit tentative but feels quite exciting at the same time!
I was taking photos of a neglected looking paddling pool in the Glen in Dunfermline when my cousin said she had video of her children's nursery trip to the paddling pool twelve years ago.
I was able to edit a couple of minutes from the footage which capture the fun that everyone is having splashing about on a sunny afternoon.
This contrasts with the melancholy air of the large scale photographs of the pool now in it's sorry state of disrepair.
On a technical point, the large scale poster/photos were beautifully and economically produced by the university's information services at Kings Buildings.
Monday, 21 April 2008
Then I thought about the films of Valerie Mrejen. She is a French Artist and Writer who makes video films of every day conversations, encounters and narratives which memorably illuminate the fraughtness of 'communication' that we are so skilled at glossing over.
Steven Rogers interviews Valerie Mrejen:
Filmmaker, photographer, plastician and author, Valerie Mrejen is an authentic jack-of-all-trades. Whether directing short films, penning novels or shooting documentaries, she consistently paints from the same palette, mixing memories, childhood and anecdotes with language, incommunicability and non-relationships.
The artist says this about her work: “I wouldn’t know whether I subscribe my work to a particular tradition, but I am interested in doing work about banality. I think it’s an ambiguous term which has taken on a negative connotation. It can be interpreted as something to do with squalor or something boring, but I find that, in what people call the everyday or banality, there are hundreds of details which make everything and nothing. It’s precisely these minute details which reveal everything that can be behind them.”
Caroline's had a look at some of the films and finds them really interesting. I am pleased to find some one who is a fellow fan of the work.
We've been analysing the films. Valerie Mrejen uses actors to portray episodes based on autobiographical experiences. The delivery is quite deadpan - banal, althought the content is often quite harrowing. We ponder two things. First that the deadpan delivery of excrutiating or uncomfortable material can have a bigger impact on the viewer than an intense delivery. Second that using actors gives the artist flexibility in exactly how she wants them to perform.
We looked at the way the films are shot - very simple, static camera, often just head and shoulders. We talked about the importance of sound quality and lighting on simple set ups.
We've discovered that the French Institute in Edinburgh has a dvd of 'Pork and Milk' a fairly recent documentary by the artist which hopefully we will get to see together.
Caroline is considering the possibility of using video as a way of disseminating some of her findings. We are considering doing a joint presentation to CRFR on our conversations and explorations so far.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/qualiti/VisualMethodsSeminar/VisMethodsSeminar.html - papers will be posted soon.
Very good presentations from a range of researchers discussing the processes, outcomes and issues arising from using photography and video to research children's cultures.
Most of the projects engaged the children and young people in using the technologies themselves to gather data/make work which illustrated and/or reflected on aspects of their lives and/or identities.
Coming from a particapatory arts background I found myself considering the projects in terms of the participants experience - what the children and young people got out of being involved, how much control they had over the processes, at what level?
How much ownership they had of the outcome?
Issues of 'informed consent' to show the visual outcomes arise in research as they arise in arts projects. One of the presentations successfully discussed photos without actually showing them.
The seminar was great for helping me to unravel and clarify possibilities with the residency here.
First of all i think it's useful to be really clear about how visual methods interact with the different stages in the research process. I understand these as:
formulation of research questions
design of process
data analysing and processing
formulation of findings and answers to research questions
knowledge dissemination and transfer
In considering this 'visual methods' have to be unpacked too. I think we could have a useful discussion exploring differences between visual methods as tools and visual methods as processes.
The second observation (related to the last point) is the use of off- the-shelf technologies of photography and video as visual methods. In contemporary art practice, a common strategy is to use ( and evolve) technologies and materials which are most appropriate to the endeavour, rather than start with the technology.
Applying the same strategy to visual methods in research practice could take us into interesting territory!
The residency creates a space for us to explore some of these possibilites together.
Friday, 11 April 2008
There was a fascinating feature on last Friday's "Landward" (BBC1) about a nursery project in Fife called The Secret Garden - a nursery where the children spend all their time outside - come rain, hail, snow, sunshine. Inspired by Norwegian practice.
I'm looking forward to gleaning more from Emma, and hopefully sharing ideas.
I am interested in the aesthetics of children's spaces among other things. (More about aesthetics in another blog.)
I think adults often see children and young people's communal spaces as untidy, messy, unsavoury and chaotic. Then they use this uncontested view to modify the space to the extent that it no longer functions for children or young people.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Reminded me of Glasgow School of Art Environmental Art Course, with the strapline - the context is half the work.
Led us to a brief conversation about socially engaged art practice and socially engaged research practice.
I think Sarah was right yesterday when she said there might be mileage in some of us looking at the similarities and differences between the two practices.
We also talked about Bruce Nauman, Rachel Whitread and the contested practice of life drawing the female nude.
The drawing sessions are beginning to take on a context as well as being about learning a skill. I didn't expect this! We are beginning to explore a shared space between social science research and fine art. Quite organically.