Studio vs Lab
During a recent examination of Henk Borgdoff’s ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’ I discovered some interesting points that related to my practice as research, and some I really couldn’t get my head around. I found the Borgdoff text to revisit points repetitively and unnecessarily, but could relate to a point made about working inside out. He states (p.47)
Is the researcher trying to reveal something of the secrets of the creative process, or artistic practice, or is the methodological deployment of the artistic creative process best suited because it takes an unmediated route to investigate from inside what is at work in art?
It will conclude, however, by saying that artistic research seeks not so much to make explicit the knowledge that art is said to produce, but rather to provide a specific articulation of the pre-reflective, non-conceptual content of art. It thereby invites ‘unfinished thinking.’ Hence, it is not the formal knowledge that is the subject matter of artistic research, but thinking in, through and with art.
I related this directly back to my artist statement, in particular the point that discusses product and process of photographic practice.
I search fruitlessly for extra meaning when I study these traces from a past time. Bringing these interpretations together in collages is my way of retaining them. Taking them out of the time they were created and moving them forward in time. Almost an act of multiple reclaiming, or appropriation takes place in order for my to meet my own desired aesthetic, and I seem to manage this much more easily when using existing imagery rather than constructing photographic images myself for them to only fall flat as an ‘outcome’. Collages are entirely process based, and in essence have made me realise that photography doesn’t have to be solely about the finished outcome, but rather about revisiting and re-examining work until truly satisfied.
It is here that I make the point of stating my practice as research has changed the order in which I do things. Previous to conducting research, I had no initial questions to answer, and therefore no set methodology in which to go about my exploration. It is through the MA that I have now obtained a set of key research questions that I intend to explore, and from that has come a particular way of working- backwards. Using the existing imagery that is already available to me, I work with collage and photography to explore themes before producing any original works. The production of knowledge from the existing knowledge perhaps? ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ comes to mind. An expert in his or her field often conducts research, and having studied photographic practice for over 7 years, I now feel comfortable in changing the methodology of how I work, as I am already equipped with the foundations and skill base to form these new ideas upon.
Borgdoff states (p.52): ‘An artistic experiment in a studio or atelier cannot simply be equated with a controlled experiment in a laboratory’
After approaching this statement, I began to question my own use of the studio and/or lab. I began to look at the way I work, and they way I feel within certain environments. Working with traditional photographic practices is perhaps more scientific than other arts practices, with most of the ‘production’ happening in a closed lab-like darkroom with a set of essential processes and methods. Here, I use chemicals and tongs, wear an apron and goggles (sometimes) and cause reactions with specific timings in order to produce a scientific outcome. In contrast, when placed within a studio setting, I feel pressure to produce brilliant artworks, work constantly without distraction and come out at the end of it covered in oil paint.
I feel like my research is controlled and is an experiment, as I cannot guarantee the outcome very time. It is very trial and error, but the methods stay the same- develop, stop, fix, dry. Develop, stop, fix, wash, dry. Whether or not the photographs are of a presentable quality is I guess, down to the shooter. But this isn’t always me, as I develop a lot of found negatives. Does this then give me full experimental control?
I feel this is key to my research as a whole- can I control the research through the stage on which it is produced?
Borgdorff, H. (2011). The production of knowledge in artistic research. The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. Oxon: Routledge.