Seminar 1: Research Methods in Art & Design for Masters.
21st September 2018
Dr Jon Pengelly
Seminar Reflective Summary.
Seminar Tutor – Dr Jon Pengelly. Location – SA26.
Seminar Title: Research Methods in Art & Design for Masters
Masters Context: Introduction to Semi-formal Research Process & Methods
There are four themes that the lectures will aim to address, these aim to be aligned to student's specialist areas of study.
Sustainable Studio Cultures,
Socially Engaged, Participatory Art & Design Practices.
and Curatorial Practices.
Critically underpin the course and to challenge students from a diverse range of practices, experiences and expectations. However, no hard edges, lecturers will map across multiple of the themes.
Students role is to take part in these. The format will be semi-formal delivery with some discussion. Some will be more interactive and discursive. Aim to challenge our starting position as practitioners. Expectation that students will challenge the content.
After the 12 semi-formal lectures/workshops/seminars, will produce a relatively short (2000-3000 words) reflective essay upon the content, selecting one or two of them that I have strong views for or against the content, and develop and share my perspective, argument and communicate my own critical position in relation to the lecture. Alongside this there will be a portfolio of supporting materials. This will involve my notetaking from the sessions themselves, the reading list with one or two texts, to look at, reflect on and bring some perspective to the lectures based upon my understanding of these key texts. The portfolio will also include any texts that I have read from my own research which may relate to the topics being discussed.
Although the course is fully aligned to practice based learning, however everyone at a MA level must be fully aware of the contextually underpinning of their work and to be able to reflect, communicate and contextualise their projects. The aim is not to become researchers, rather to develop studio practice, however if I wanted to pursue a research-based approach it is acceptable. *Jon Blackwood Research Lead, if I am interested? Would be worth discussing with him if I was interested in that approach.
Aim of the session is:
An Introduction to Research Methods for the Masters, within Art and Design. The methods should be relevant to developing my own practice moving forward.
To discuss the relationship between the theoretical underpinnings and my practice. The need to be able to support developing critical framework and an individually designed methodology that supports that work.
Activity / Discussion: Will reflect on the research methods I use. Can be through the act of practice and engaging with the public.
An Overview of Research Methods & Methodologies: Some Definitions Some Approaches / Methods: what other artists and designers have done.
Examples of Practice Based & Contextually Located Methods
Further Reading and Key Texts
Research methods should complement my practice. It should be a vessel to move myself forward, rather than a stumbling block to throw me off track. Metaphor of a critical platform. Should allow me to be more ‘objectively reflective’, and show allow me to be able to convey the theoretical and practical underpinning to my work.
Book: Visualizing research: a guide to the research process in art and design, by Carole Gray and Julian Malins (both ex lecturers from Grays’s), a reasonable introduction to the topic.
What is Research for?
Identifying something that interests you, that you are drawn to: that Informs & Defines (personal) research/practice.
Have to be passionate about something, and if you are passionate about it, you have to be able to communicate or share with other people and the art sector. Understanding your practice within the wider context, it’s value and contribution. Shifting away from the bubble mentality viewing myself in isolation, that I am an artist working for only myself, produce work for me, with little to no outside influence or interest. This is an out of date approach/view, need to be able to locate myself, or my practice within those who are relevant to me.
How? There is no fixed methodology, rather it is unique to each individual and their practice. However, there are common principles, in how to objectify, analyse, evaluate and interpret for an audience of someone other than myself, is the goal for using research methods within the Masters course.
Key discussion or dialogue with Jon’s PHD, was how someone could analyse or formally research based on an area of creative practice that was completely self-referenced or self-determined. This was a notion of how you could come to a common understanding of what creativity is, being an underlying theme of the time. Theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is key for ideas of how creative practice can be seen against cultures of being a painter, etc.
Skill now less centrally located in practice as a key driver, there are now other significant factors that make up our understanding of peoples practice.
Intention is to support and give an understanding of research methods and activities to move my own practice forward and to be able to communicate it to the academics that will be marking my work.
Not talking about fixed types of research or fixed points, rather a process of wrestling with methods to take ownership over them and take control of them. How do we adopt or adapt methods into a personal critical framework/methodology?
*“The aim of the methodology is to help us understand, in broadest possible terms, not the products of inquiry, but the process itself” (Gray and Malins 2004 p 17).
When marking our work, the staff are cognisant of the whole journey, and how that informs the piece or pieces of work that are displayed. Not a literal embodiment of the whole practice, rather an indicator of the way of working?
*How does my practice establish the parameters on where I am working?
*How do we establish a balance between the more formal modes of enquiry, and being a practitioner?
Chris Frayling, Principal at the Royal College or Art (at the time) was seminal in establishing clear rules of engagement for researching within Art and Design. This was at a point in which the establishment or other disciplines said, “Research in Art and Design is meaningless, and there aren't any mechanisms to support that, do what you do, it's more experiential”.
Frayling disputed this: “Implicit…. is a criticism of yet another stereotype - that of 'the practitioner'. As if action which follows reflection, or reflection which follows action, can be put in a box exclusively marked 'practice'. “
•Research is a practice,
•Writing is a practice,
•Doing science is a practice,
•Doing design is a practice,
•Making art is a practice.
Paper is still very relevant: Research Papers, "Research in Art and Design", Royal College of Art, Vol. 1 no. 1, pp. 1-5. http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/384/3/frayling_research_in_art_and_design_1993.pdf
*Act of practicing in a mindful, reflective way equates to research itself – Smith & Dean.
Notion that artistic practices do not stand on their own, they are always embedded and situated within culture and history as well as within the discourse on art. (Borgdorff, 2007) - Worth following up on these links.
Embedded and situatedness, relate back to the assertion that we can't create art or design that are not influenced and related to culture and society, and as an artist we cannot isolate ourselves.
Communication on how I work is key for progressing within the MA course. Aim to clearly communicate and map this going forward.
How other artists and designers have worked.
Concept Mapping/Mind Mapping. To be able to use a visual metaphor as a map, is an essential skill for Artistic Research. Visualising using trajectory that go backwards and forwards, working in layers.
Visual Diary / Reflective Notebook – Dieter Roth Diaries, *remind me of Saul Leiter sketchbooks.
Creative Writing / Critical Writing – Can be used wholly for oneself or can be used to share and as a collaborative approach. Writing Pad, and Tactile Academia, that show live examples of artists who have used creative writing to unpack ideas that aren’t as clear as the work itself.
Expositions and Peer Review – As part of the MA will be asked to present the work in a series of semi-formal ways. These will involve a more discursive approach, more focused upon communicating the journey, a more diagnostic approach that is not about the finished article.
Collaboration / Participation / Feedback – Engaging with our surroundings or connecting with the public in some form. Although this may happen organically, as part of the MA, need to be cognisant of the why, or what seeking to achieve when engaging with the public. The experiential approach, or trying to respond a situation, a place or a circumstance.
Interviews and Focus Groups – An informed discussion or dialogue. Instigation as an artist, to create an interesting dialogue with observations that I can transcribe into my findings and have an influence or impact on my project.
Layr / Layer? Platform that can upload visual or video work that can be geotagged to locations to share these to people walking in the areas.
*At the MA level it is not good enough to produce a piece of work because I liked it, need to be prepared to speak about my work, to share and unpack really what the underlying concepts going on in the work. It is being able to have the objectivity and criticality to analyse what was going on when creating the work and to share this, as well as having the confidence to stand up and talk about the work.
Personal Reflection -
I feel that this was a really timely seminar to have. Although I had some ideas of what I wanted my project to be, I was lacking the research to back up my initial ideas, and despite the techniques that I have developed from the undergraduate courses that I have undertaken, I was unsure of the expectation for research in the Masters.
Upon reflecting on my research methods, I have come up with two main areas of interest. Firstly, that the research approach that I have been taught within the undergraduate courses is in my opinion too compartmentalised. I feel that the projects that I have undertaken in the past, are split into Research, Development and Production. Each section is seen as a separate entity with some overlap. This overlap or blurring of the lines has increased with the progression of years of my study. However, research is still seen as an exercise of looking at previous work or methods of work, prior to commencing my own development, with some further research being undertaken if previous development have been unsuccessful, or for separate parts of projects, for instance deciding upon a display method, after selection of the final images. I feel that this is a habit that I need to move away from. The project, due to the length, and potential complexity will need to involve elements of researching throughout the process, and this will help to centre the project and my practice within the wider context of the art world and society.
The second area of interest I reached from my reflections, is a contradiction, and it involves the range of the research methods that I use. I feel that there is a lack of diversity within the research methods I consciously use. With the majority of my research being featured around secondary sources, predominantly in books; academically written reflections upon the world of art and photography, art or photobooks of select photographers work, studying the methods and the resulting imagery that they are producing. I also utilise secondary sources on the internet; with academic articles and journals, online galleries of photographers and artists work, and video work of demonstrations or talks on relevant subjects.
Despite this, there is a wealth of research methods that I undertake, which I do not acknowledge as research. The visiting of exhibitions, which often will not make it in to my workbooks, other than in the format of a flyer or some photographs I have taken at the event, but that I often write up as a review. Talks and discussions with peers and artists, which although being fundamental in the shaping of my practice, I see it often as a result of the work, and a stage of development, as opposed to research. I also undertake a predominantly practice lead approach, in where my personal work, the processes I am attempting, the experimentations, results and further experimentation largely influence my work moving forward. I feel that this is a remnant of the college approach to the creative process, in where steps are named and laid out, with work fitting into only one, to be headed as such in a sketchbook. This allows clear and easy to follow sketchbook projects which I suspect are based upon SQA marking guidelines rather than being a true reflection of creative process and practice.
Moving forward from these realisations, is the question, what will I change? I feel that there is less of a change required in the approach that I have undertaken in some regards, in that the research I am conducting, I feel is relevant to the project and the and concepts I am looking to pursue, however, I feel it is the conscious nature of my understanding of research and subsequently how I produce my sketchbooks that I need to alter. I feel that I will look to produce sketchbooks in a way that details the journey I am taking, perhaps this may be best suited to a journal approach, be it through an online blog, or video or sketchbooks, to reflect upon what I am reading, exhibitions I attend, work that I view, as well as peer discussion, my methods prior to, during and post photographing, how I produce prints of my work, both in terms of the practical approach as well as the theory that underpins my choices during the process, and then how I evaluate the produced prints, and changes to the process moving forward. I feel that this is a cyclical process, and is the key to my projects, rather than necessarily the ‘final’ work, as this should reflect wholly my development as an artist, rather than being project specific.