Dissertation Proposal

I have no completed my Dissertation Proposal form. However I have some doubts that it may not be quite right. I know that the ideas and structure of the essay is bound to change and that that is acceptable, but Im not quite sure myself yet exactly it is that I want to write about and make. I am hoping that this dissertation proposal will act more as proof that I have been reading  on and researching my areas craftsmanship and digital artistic production, and as a demonstration of my core ideas which wont change. I am a bit nervous as to where this will go. I think that the area I want to talk  and make an artefact about is perhaps too wide and could leave me with a weak piece of work. In one of my dissertation preparation tutorials with my tutor Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos we discussed this issue of setting oneself to wide an area to talk on. His point was to start broad and then really focus in on something to explore in depth and write about. I think at present I have failed to do that to a large degree and need to start to do so if I want to give myself enough good time to write and make.

My plan of action now that my dissertation form is complete is to continue reading and assimilating information and ideas. One area I need to look at extensively (that I have not so far spent much time on) is artists practising in the realms of what I am talking about. I also need to adopt a different approach to my research, currently I have a notebook which is quickly becoming a bit dense and unreadable. I keep alot of ideas in my head and inevitably these become lost, half remembered or distorted. I think I should perhaps instead set myself areas or topics to research that have fairly closed parameters with a focus and then write short essays on that focus to really condense, quantify and make sense of that new information. These short essays could lead to bigger picture essay’s which could become building blocks for my dissertation. This is just one idea that occurred to me as I write this. Im sure my feedback on my proposal in a couple of weeks will be illuminating and suggest ways in which to focus my area into a more do-able format.


Dissertation – Pre-Proposal, Tutor and Reading Material

I handed in my dissertation pre-proposal form to Jon Clarkson a couple weeks ago. We spent about ten minutes discussing my subject area of interest. I went in with lots of ideas and topics and no questions in the ‘possible questions’ box and left with quite a vague question after the 10 minutes. It was something along the lines of ‘What is the current/emerging role of technology in art and design today?’. To be honest I’m not really that happy with the question, what does it actually mean? Im interested in the relationship between science, technology, art, craft and design but what am I going to actually going to write about? At the same time I am really interested in materials and I am sure I would love to write on a subject concerning materials or materiality! The problem is I don’t know what it is exactly I would like to talk about. One thing that springs to mind whilst typing this is investigating bronze as a subject. This would come from my evolving relationship with bronze, since working at an artist foundry for 3 weeks last August and doing quite a lot of reading on bronze history and working techniques ever since.

The chat consisted of Mr Clarkson and I brainstorming a few artists to use as starting points, the idea is to see where these take me (along with other reading that I want to do) and to investigate the questions that this research throws up and see where I then stand.

  • Richard Semett – The Craftsman – Book
  • Raphael Lozano-Hemmer
  • Olarfur Eliason
  • Bourriand – Relational Aesthetics

Since my pre-proposal hand in I have now been allocated my dissertation tutor – the tutor who’s subject area is most suited to allowing them to lend help and advice to the student. My dissertation tutor is Prof’ Clive Cazeaux. I have only been taught by Prof’ Cazeaux for one or two lectures in constellation during first year so I don’t really know him at all or what to expect. I look forward to meeting him and seeing what he is like.

I shall follow up this post soon with a look at my research and reading up to date.

The Literature Review

Your literature review holds together your dissertation and its credibility.

Who has written on your subject what they say?
Background reading books journals.
The way in which ideas are contextualised in relation to other peoples ideas
The literature you read should inform your angle and context of your dissertation.

It is how your ideas are formed and found. It is a review of the theme, its evidence of reading the literature in the area in which you are writing.

It should outline various theoretical perspectives.

Spend the next few months reading as much as you can this will make the writing process a lot easier later.

What to include in the literary review:

Who has written what? Academic papers, books, journals, articles.

Angle and thinking about the subject
See the book by Bhatt 2003.

What keywords and terms have you used to explore your subject and angle?

Once your subject and subject area are identified gather materials together.
For library books I should begin with a summons search engine search then asked staff if I need help.

The literary review should be split into sections starting broad and narrowing down as your search narrows down and your subject is clarified.
Something I need to consider is whether my literature review will stand alone as one chapter or be split up to each relevant chapter that talks about those particular texts.

A literature review can be used to start your dissertation; it is the background from which it comes. So presenting it first sets the scene for the rest of the dissertation

You should blog about your ideas and continue to do so as the dissertation develops, work changes over time but the kernel of the idea should remain intact.

Dissertation Starts Now!

Today saw the first of term two constellation lectures. The subject: Dissertation.

We are to begin thinking of dissertation ideas and to start roughing out some possible questions that we want to ask ourselves. We have about a week in which to come up with a good set of ideas that we think will lead to a doable dissertation on something we are interested and passionate about.  In about a weeks time we then have a 15 minute tutorial with a tutor (for myself Jon Clarkson) in which we will talk through the ideas and themes I have come up with. This session is to home in on what it is exactly I am to start with – my question, theme or idea. This is then used to fill out a dissertation pre proposal form (handed in electronically and hard copy a week later) which is used to allocate me an appropriate tutor who is best suited for helping me with my proposed dissertation subject.

So to be absolutely clear and have no wrong ideas about what I am doing here, what exactly is a dissertation? A dissertation is a body of work that you have researched, using the work of others – based on your own idea. It should demonstrate a process of thinking and working out of ideas through sections or chapters. It is a chance to explore your passion and write well about it. This year (2nd) is about exploring the work of others research and ideas and how those relate to your ideas.

Initially, before the lecture I felt a bit apprehensive about the dissertation – being not entirely sure what was to be expected having little idea of how it worked. Although I read a lot I am not particularly confident at academic writing, whilst I have enjoyed it sometimes, I mostly find it a little stressful mainly due to lack of organisation and poor self motivation. However over the last year at university my self motivation problems have been brought to the foreground and I have worked on them quite a bit. After the lecture I felt a lot better about the whole thing – a little excited even, suddenly eager to get on with it now that it had been demystified and layout clear.

So the next week I shall try to spend at least an hour or two a day researching ideas that I want to talk about and what form I would like my dissertation to take.

Socially Engaged Art

Today’s constellation lecture discussed socially engaged art and its artists. We began by exploring what socially engaged art is, how it manifests itself and whether it is effective as art or not.

Socially engaged art “depends upon the relationships that develop between artists, communities, community organisers and the organisations who deliver services within communities.The creative collaborations that result are socially engaged because they deliver locally specific and community led outcomes for and with communities. Socially engaged art is situated within the wider arena of Public Art and is defined by Miwon Kwon in, One Place After Another: Site Specificity and Locational Identity, as art- in-the-public-interest, as it foregrounds social issues, political activism and community collaborations. – creativityworks.org.uk

Some further research from the creativityworks.org.uk website provided a better break down of what socially engaged art could be. Suzanne Lucy describes the new genre of public art work to be:

  • Engaging with Culture
  • To be seeking a relationship with its audience
  • Aiming to influence social strategy

I looked into what sort of questions socially engaged art (SEG) rises and fond a guardian article discussing just this.

“Does art get in the way of social change? Is an artist’s role in working with disenfranchised communities to make art or to fix problems? Is an outreach project with excluded individuals legitimate art or a worthy cause? Who is the author of a collaborative, participatory artwork? These are just a few of the many questions raised in a panel debate last week as part of Chelsea Theatre‘s Sacred season which is focusing on participatory practices and features a range of artists, such as Lois Weaver, Leibniz, and Curious, who are collaborating with disempowered communities and “non-artists” through socially engaged projects.” – The ethics of socially engaged art.  http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2008/may/08/theethicsofsociallyengaged

One extract from this article I found particularly interesting is pasted below, while I feel Jordan’s view is pessimistic and disagree with art getting in the way with social change, I feel he has a point. That making works of ‘art’ that are geared towards collaboration and social change can never quite be taken seriously enough or implement any real change but instead just bring to light a problem or point.

On his good days John Jordan sees himself as a militant optimist who believes radical practices can change the world. But the Sacred debate came on a bad day. John expressed his feeling that artists are merely sticking plasters and that art gets in the way of social change precisely because it’s called art. John has chosen to operate outside of the constraints of the art world which he believes has lost its belief in the utopian vision and radical transformation. He believes rebellion is the spark and if we find different ways to open up creativity rather than playing it safe, the sparks will lead to more change than an art project ever could.

Some further reading and links later I found the SSRU or Social Sculpture Research Unit.

“The SSRU encourages and explores transdisciplinary creativity and vision towards the shaping of a humane and ecologically viable society. It engages with Beuys thinking and work, as well as those before and after him – making available some of the insights, inquiries and explorations in this multidimensional field.”

“Our work as agents of change includes a focus on connective practices, which explore the role of imagination and other modes of thought in transformative process. Informed by an expanded conception of art, we are active both within and beyond the sphere of art.”

This find after my internet forage neatly linked my own research back to the lecture with Beuys, were the lecture started. It was at this point I also realised how this topic links back to my own practise. The lighting brief I received from SEDNA lighting company for one of my Seed projects for Subject requires that I make a socio/political work of art that uses their product. One of the ideas I had concerned growing food in disused buildings and public spaces hydroponicly with LED lights, in low energy, chemical free, low cost methods. This idea transformed into public sculpture with a function – sculptures, or installations that grow food which is free to the public. The concept behind these sculptures would be to address food consumption, food wastage, land destruction and transformation, food miles, food growth energy consumption and pollution and the emergence of agri-tech. This lecture has made me realise that perhaps my idea is to make a socially engaged artwork? Maybe it is maybe it isn’t, time will tell. This has given me a boost of motivation for the project and some artists and collaborations to look at for inspiration, such as Vetch Veg – the urban utopia growing revolution, a community veg garden by artist Owen Griffiths and the movement for turning suburban garden lawns into useful veg growing space. I’ve been given a lot of projects, artists and ideas to explore in relation to my work.

This is the first time I have really tied my constellation studies back to my discipline. It is exciting me quite a bit as I feel that my work may perhaps take on a more academical tone which will not only help me progress with it quicker (I hope), but is something that has been slightly lacking in my work until now. I think…

I feel happy to be feeling more of a connection between my constellation studies and my practise.

Also this gives me a topic to write my 500 words on for this term and also ties into some of my ideas for a dissertation theme that I am considering.

Getting back to the lecture, after looking at the work of Joseph Beuys we considered Activity and Passivity in art, which asks us to examine how we interact with art. Are we mearly a passive outside obsever, standing in the gallery, thinking and questioning, experiencing the work passively. Or are we integral to the work? Do our actions as part of a group of people actively involved in a works creation or exhibition some how give us a better or just different perception of a work?

Another one of the artists and works I liked from the lecture was Ayse Erman and her work Plan B , 2011. Plan B consisted of a water purification plant as an installation. Its brightly coloured pipes pumped canal water of Venice ,where it was displayed at the Biennial, though a purification system creating clean drinking water and pumps it straight out again in to the…canal. I think this is trying to get us to consider our relationship to water and some of the problems we can find when we look hard at the present and future state of issues surrounding water pollution and security. Another way to look at it is that its a complete waste of energy, effort and time and serves little purpose to anyone even as an artwork. This is a little extreme perhaps, but it does highlight the question of should a socially engaged art work have any more to it substance to it other than being something to look at or be contemplated? Should it actuate some real world outcome with a goal to instigate change, striving to connect people, communicate ideas and create a positive real world thing.

Ayse Erman’s work Plan B also connects to some of my work. Another brief of mine is to make a medal with a theme open to the artist. I decided I would like to investigate water sustainability and its problems, a topic that has interested me since A-Level Geography. Ayse Erman’s work shall appear in my research to come of artists that inspire my project.

PDP and Constellation Reflection

Term One of constellation involved a series of lectures and study skills sessions designed to broaden and encourage my interests in and around my subject. The aim was also to gain a perspective of where  we sit in the grand scope of all things art and design, how my subject relates to others and to encourage me to develop a deeper academic understanding of art an design. I enjoyed most of the lectures and a few I did not enjoy so much. I enjoyed learning about William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, it gave me a better idea of contemporary craft and its relation to art and design. This along with the lecture on Sonic Art has led to an interest in the differences between science and art and whether they should be thought of as polar opposites. This is an ongoing interest and I hope to base some work on it in the future with the skills I am currently building in my creative practises and also 3D modelling, electronics and micro-controllers. Most lectures I attended were good and thought provoking and perhaps influenced my subject work in some ways. A few lectures were not so good unfortunately, some I found difficult to be inspired by, some lectures perhaps would speak in convoluted ways and quietly. But mostly I have enjoyed them, perhaps more than I thought I would initially as I am a very practical hands on person more concerned with making than academia, but I understand that the academic and and art history can and does inform the work of an artist or maker and so I can see that it is important and worthwhile. 

Constellation also inspired me to read around my subject and also to read some classic texts like 1984 by George Orwell. I have also been reading on Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal, Dynamic Anatomy by Hogarth and Makers by Chris Anderson. All these could help to inspire, form and shape ideas in the future.

Study skills was very useful, although my attendance to most was perhaps a little lacking. Of particular help was the Image Analysis session by Cath Davies, I thoroughly enjoyed this session and found her to be a fantastic teacher as she was clear and engaging. From this session I learnt a much better critical approach (that I had never used before) to looking at an image and have tried to utilise this skill since. Other study skills including the presentation building and presenting one were also extremely useful.

I attended most lectures but my attendance could have been better, this is something that I must try and keep in mind for the future so that I can get the most out of constellation.

In Term Two I chose my option constellation lecture series. I chose Energy, Ecology and Modernity. I have a deep interest in sustainable living and art and design as well as in science. This is why I chose to study this option. The option was different than how I expected it to be, also the texts we started reading where quite heavy going and difficult to get to grips with. However I enjoyed the option choice and found it to be extremely interesting. I soon acclimatised to the type of reading that was required. I was particularly interested in the ideas of energy, entropy and chaos which I read around a fair amount. For my essay I decided to write about movement in modern art starting with Rodin. Movement was being used as an interpretation of energy. The notion of energy and movement is also coming across to my subject work as I am creating interactive forms and will be investigating how they move and react to movement.

Areas in which I could improve on to benefit my learning and make more of my constellation experience includes better time management, better note taking, blogging – I need to get into the habit of blogging straight after lectures. I generally need better discipline towards my work and in ensuring I attend every lecture.

Overall I have enjoyed constellation It has taught me much and has encouraged me to read more around my subject the benefits of which I am enjoying. Constellation has given me a deeper and broader understanding of the world of art and design. I have a greater understanding and knowledge of modernity and where I fit with my subject in contemporary art and design.