Practice in my PhD

27 September 2008 | , , , ,

I have returned from Nottingham Trent University, where I delivered a presentation around the role of practice(s) in my PhD. The audience and the other presenter, were particularly fantastic, but the event left me ever so slightly slapped. Some members of the audience gave me a bit of a hard time over the photographs. True, they were photographers, so they were working to very particular standards. Two thoughts, however, came into my mind as they were speaking against my images and my eyelets (and I was trying to remain calm)

1. There seemed to be a consensus around the seductiveness of the text and no questions around this were asked. The criteria, however, seemed to change in relation to the images. ‘These don’t seduce me’, was the argument. Why is it that we demand so much more of the image than of any text? What’s wrong with mutilating an image with eyelets? Since when are car crashes not seductive?

2. Most of the day addressed the notions of Art, Practice and Research, especially in relation to a PhD. The ex-centric quality required to undertake one was noted, but still the argument circled around speciousness and good/bad art. Who establishes these? Why would they have a bearing on a PhD? Why were my images judged so harshly on pictures of a gallery which contained my pictures? What has become of the encounter with the work of art?

I do agree that certain elements related to my performative text (that went down well) and my images (not so well, but a nice chap seemed to be absolutely thrilled when I told him my plan for a book of blurs) and seduction will need to be thought through. How do they inform each other? Do they work together? Is the text enough (I think not, but will need argument)? If I show seduction, will I have to forfeit process in the final submission? Then, what about the objects that did not work, that did not seduce but were so useful for my research? I told my students once that what you leave out of a PhD is as important as what you chose to put in. I am feeling it now.

The best bit of the day was, without a doubt, though, my supervisors’ support and the beer I had with them afterwards. What would I do without them, or beer…

Photo of the week:

Robert Mapplethorpe. Louise Bourgeois holding her Fillete, 1982

3 thoughts on “Practice in my PhD

  1. You were asking: “Why is it that we demand so much more of the image than of any text?”
    I don’t believe we demand more from images. Couldn’t it simply be the other way round? That it is much easier to criticise an image then a text? To an image we can respond immediately. We immediately can decide whether it moves us or if it does not. A text is more explicit and abstract. Time goes by, we have to listen, think and reflect. Then we have to construct an argument whether we are seduced or not. The text likely is less emotional then rational; (I haven’t witnessed your ‘performative text’ though.) While the photograph touches us in an instance.

    What also comes to my mind is that seduction is a result of individual preference. While some may be seduced by car crashes others again are not. I guess if you would interview random people about seductive moments or situations you would end up with a very diverse sample. Just because YOU tick in a particular way doesn’t mean others do so as well. Their buttons are pressed in different ways. And thats IMO what makes it so interesting.

  2. I agree with you, Michael. An image tends to be criticized more and that is why we ask it to perform more. We say “give it to me, image” in a way that we don’t of text (that’s what I meant by demand). The text may know more than us sometimes, the image doesn’t. We always know more and that is the reason some people go around contemporary art galleries sneering. There’s very little listening of the image and the immediate response or decision you allude to is sometimes a tyranny. “the photograph touches us in an instance” you said, but what if it doesn’t? Then, we ask it to touch us, we demand it. And that is what happened to me at Nottingham. It was very interesting, though, and gave much more material for my research than I initially thought.

    I also agree that seduction is individual. And were I to interview a sample, the answers would be different but surely they would have something in common, a trace, a glimpse of something, a recollection of a similar object. My mention of car crashes referred to JG Ballard and also to the fact that, if there is one, everybody stops to see it and not always to help. I saw a man fall on the street and that was the case. They just stood there, mesmerised. Me too, until I clicked. Funny that. Their buttons were pressed at Nottingham, THAT is what was so interesting!

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