Research Observations: an anti-proposal


Observations and reflections from a recent meeting:

  • Have faith in your intuition: trust and listen to your instincts – if ‘something’ persists and seems to demand further thought or investigation, oblige it. If it seems relevant then it probably is.

    – If its relevance does not become immediately clear at the time, the chances are it could become integral later.

    – Henry Moore wrote down and meticulously documented every idea he ever had. He may not have used them at the time but he drew upon them later.


    Pataphysics spiral

    Bright ideas seldom come at the right time.

    Creativity is no simple thing. It is impossible to accurately chart its trajectory. However, it is not linear, its a spiral – we constantly re-visit and re-imagine themes and intricacies.

    The most enduring symbol of pataphysics (pataphysics: the art of contradictions) is the spiral. Drawing the spiral creates two sprials: the one which has been drawn, and the one that is described by what is drawn.

  • Read around a particular field or subject: On describing his approach to song writing, David Bowie said, I stand on the wall, in-front of the wall, and behind the wall.- To fully understand something we need to study it from all sides.
  • Writing is linear – contradictory, as the practice behind it rarely is.
  • Object vs Process:
    Art as object – a residue. Is it co-equal? Process  – the engine. Is the outcome purely incidental?

    – Icon art / Relics: authenticates what is no longer present.

    – Process – Generative

    – Nature of  the PhD is such that there has to be a physical outcome / object / record.
    In the context of process, record / object are inherently problematic.

    Record: bringing permanence to the inherently transient. Same material but divorced from its natural environment.
    i.e: Improvisation and recording – Alan Danielou; “All that a recording can offer are certain identifiable features. Features which, are useful only for purposes of identification.”

    Or to draw on an old Jazz cliche: “You had to be there man”

  • Machine as collaborator: robot / autonomous being as process
    Creating a preformative machine that responds / mimics / works from me.
    Works from pulse, heartbeat, actions, movement etc

    – Squares distinctions between art and life (John Cage and indeterminate processes: reflection of the nature of life – Life is inherently indeterminate.

  • What is the opposite to improvisation: is determinacy the opposite of both indeterminacy and improvisation?
    > Linguistics play a major role – the connotations and limitations of language

    – Chance: a different form of determinacy? – not as ‘determined’.

    – Providence: the external intervention of god

    – Coincidence: does it exist? Einstein would have argued not – fate


    Coincidence or fate? over-printed script

  • When working with intangible concepts, especially ones where subjectivity is inherently present, (eg. improvisation). All one can do is demonstrate what the problems are. Demonstrate an awareness of. To provide general definitions would be fought with danger and almost destined to failure.

    – Provide definitions within your working context: Devise working definitions and distinctions within the parameters in which you are working. Run with them as far as you can. Then amend if and when necessary.

  • Determine the origins of improvisation: etymology and context. Meanings and definitions change over time.
  • Improvisation = fast determinacy: decisions off the hoof?
    – are undetermined element inherent too? – subconscious
    – improvisation built around skill and experience, a deep intuition of ones activity.
  • Theory led practice: Practice as experiment. Theory is the trailblazing force and practice acting as experiment – testing theories.
    > reminiscent of Duchamp and his use of art as an instrument of scientific theory.
  • PhD: training to be an academic. Different mindsets are required throughout.
    – Some times will require an intense focus on a particular area, others, a casting of the net, requiring huge scope – throwing ideas out following your intuition.
    – Some times rely on pure individual intuition and instinct, others, on scientific proof / evidence.

    – Requiring the accuracy of a Sniper and the scatter-ball approach of a blunderbuss.

  • Follow intuition: give into what is tugging at your sleeve and have faith of its relevance in the long-run. Okay to have a myriad of seemingly unconnected theories and lines of enquiry floating around at once. As an artist, one naturally observes and reflects – thus, identifying the golden thread and constant throughout.

Action Plan:

  1. Write a PhD anti-proposal: Outline all the things I don’t know, cant understand, fail to achieve, don’t want to do, and find irksome and dull. This is likely to be of more help in determining the way forward than some pie-in-the sky, idealistic, and over ambitious manifesto.
  2. Determine the origins of the word improvisation: consider the etymology and its original contexts.
  3. Consider linguistics: especially in relation to the terms; improvisation, chance, determinacy, indeterminacy, intention, non-intention etc.
  4. Consider the principles of; ‘object vs process’: solutions, compromises etc.

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