Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Image-Text-Object: Practices of Research

An exhibition of doctoral research projects from 
Winchester School of Art
Level 4 Gallery, Hartley Library, University of Southampton.
10th February - 16th March 2014

This exhibition presents a series of images, texts and objects, which lead us to think about different ways of seeing, thinking, writing and making. The works on display derive from a range of research projects at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. The School is dedicated to the exploration of diverse practices and creative research methods. Studio-based researchers in art and design work alongside those engaged in humanities and social science research, covering areas of art history, critical theory and curatorial practice, as well as the management and marketing of design, media, fashion, and textiles. All researchers at the School are engaged in the critical making of new knowledge: each moving in and out of complex and disciplined modes of activity. Whether it is reading, writing, looking, making, coding, speaking, recording, and much else besides, each are forms of imaginative and critical engagement, developed and extended within the context of a collaborative and inter-disciplinary research community.

Works shown by:
Richard Acquaye, Bedour Aldakhil, Hazel Atashroo & Oliver Peterson Gilbert, Najla Binhalail, Jane Birkin, Rima Chahrour, Ian Dawson, Kate Hawkins, Ben Jenkins, Sunil Manghani, Kay May, Nina Pancheva-Kirkova, Nicky Athina Polymeri, Walter van Rijn, Elham Soleimani, Lisa Temple-Cox, and Simiao Wang.

Practice [ˈpraktɪs] trans. To test experimentally, to put to the test; n. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it; v. to perform an activity or exercise a skill repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency. ORIGIN late Middle English to mean ‘a way of doing something, method; practice, custom, usage’; also ‘an applied science’ (late 14th Century); similarly from the Old French of practique to mean ‘practice, usage’ (13th Century) and directly from the Medieval Latin practica, meaning ‘practice, practical knowledge’; with the underlying root from the Greek praktike to mean ‘practical’ as opposed to ‘theoretical’. Yet, equally, practice encompasses understanding, relating, for example, to the knowledge of the practical aspect of something, or practical experience, which arguably underpins all forms of enquiry, research and the creation of new knowledge.

“In everyday language we refer to practice as the application or use of an idea, belief or method. For example, we can speak of the principles and practice of teaching. It also means exercising a profession. The lawyer practices law, the doctor practices medicine. We’re familiar with the idea of business practices, which may differ across sectors of an economy and alter over time. Practice can also refer to the premises of a business, such as the doctor or solicitor’s practice. Perhaps most frequently, however, we refer to practice as the repeated exercise of an activity or skill so as to acquire proficiency in it; a child practices a musical instrument and if they complain we gently remind them: ‘Practice makes perfect!’ Practice, then, can mean a customary, habitual, or expected way of doing of something: a technique or set of techniques that end in a particular result (as Aristotle claims for praxis). In the university setting, the practice of a subject, such as law, medicine, art or music, refers not simply to attaining of a certain degree of proficiency, but to becoming situated and expert within a field of study. Furthermore, practice in this sense can refer to speculative endeavours, which allow unexpected outcomes and help challenge established ways of thinking, thus making it both repetition and variations based on and in response to repetition required to hone a skill. The artist’s studio, for example, is a site of sustained practice in making and re-making images and objects of culture. The writer, as a practitioner of words, works and re-works texts in pursuit of new thoughts, images and meaning; while the ethnographer, as participant observer, reports on the knowledge and the system of meanings in the lives of a cultural group, which otherwise remain unarticulated.

As a set of interacting centrifugal and centripetal forces, research practices – simultaneously and paradoxically – take us toward and away from disciplined ways of understanding and fashioning the world we inhabit. We look, ponder, write and make; always prompting practical forms, engagements, and processes. To decouple the misconstrued, yet persistent divide of practice/theory, we might usefully pair the Greek praktike not with a single term for theory, but two philosophical terms: theoria (contemplation) and theoros (participation), the latter emphasizing an act of witness and participation in an event or activity. Together these terms help us consider a more fluid notion of theory and practice, whereby the two become inextricably intertwined and one impossible without the other. In experiencing an artwork, for example, theoria helps conceptualise the interface between art and its viewer. The artwork does not possess an intrinsic ‘truth’ claim, but does have a claim upon us – at its simplest, the artwork demands it be considered an artwork, to which the viewer must respond, even if the response is to deny it such status. The artwork, then, places us immediately into both a practice of thinking and a thinking of practice.”
Sunil Manghani 2014

Private View 13th February 5pm – 7.30pm

As I have only recently begun this programme of practice-based research, I will be showing an installation combined of elements created during and after my MA, provisionally titled 'An Order of Things: False Membranes'.

"There is a symbolic order within the conceptual architecture of a space that exists, in potentia, in both clinic and altar. What is the relationship between these systems? Both have relevance to our exploration of self, during which we invariably encounter something primal, unconscious, alongside the scientific – here represented by the supposedly objective medical gaze. We use art in our search for self, and art uses media that not only signify the body – flesh, blood, faeces -­ but invoke a sense of the abject: a separation of subject from object, a rejection of death. The aesthetic of the medical museum and its exhibits may have similar psychological effects on its visitors, containing specimens that simultaneously attract and repulse. In the casting of the face the eyes of necessity remain closed, thus blurring the distinction between life mask and death mask, in much the same way that the preserving fluid and curve of the glass jar further distorts the teratological specimen.
Our relationship with our bodies and selves is reflected in the mirror of the operating theatre. The theatre of medicine becomes the stage: the speculum becomes spectacle, the looking-glass of self turned outward. The work shown is a visual exploration not only of the way in which the museum specimen can seem to reflect, in some measure, residues of the human, but return the gaze of the spectator to create a deeper reflection of self: from object to abject, self to other, and back. Here, the artist becomes both subject and object. The eyeless faces, made diseased and necrotic by the rough textures of the materials, serve to connect the contemporary concerns of anatomy with an unconscious atavism – a simultaneity of the pure and the profane. There is a realm of sympathetic magic in the territory between form and misform: somewhere in these anachronistic juxtapositions of scientific paraphernalia and animistic object, the clinic and alter may be revealed to be synonymous." 


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