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perfect maps and imperfect practice

examining artistic research and practice-led research in the academy through drawing Shaun Belcher
M.A. Fine Art by Registered Project N0359616

learning agreement objectives


Aim My aim was to explore notions of artistic research as defined by Sir Christopher Frayling (1993) in the Royal College Research Paper No.1. Specifically I interrogated the notion of research for art and design as part of the current debate surrounding the efficacy of studio-based artistic research and its validity within the university system. I did this through the writing of a journal article and a corresponding cartoon practice and illustrative practice.

Background detail from Plate No.3 Meeting Fraylings categories from Rakes Revisited sequence 2013

brief description from learning agreement proposal


This M.A. research project was a textual and drawn practice based investigation into artistic research that created both a high level journal article and drawn (cartoon, comic strip) analysis of the debate and contributed an original perspective on a much discussed area of current artistic research (i.e. research about artistic research) hopefully from a fresh perspective. I drew on contemporary debate in the field especially Elkins (2009, 2013), Mottram (2009) and Biggs (2008, 2003) which specifically related to fine art but I also drew on the wider art and design field.

Judith Mottram teaser illustration from Elkins Book Project / Background full Mottram illustration.

learning agreement / proposal - rationale


Knowledge and understanding My current fine art practice is informed by a body of cartoon practice begun in 2005. This practice has been exhibited widely, published online and has illustrated a wider body of my critical writing on the subject of contemporary fine art practice, politics and pedagogy.

It has been my intention to develop this body of work on this M.A. through a deep engagement with the debate over validity in artistic research which has been current since Fraylings definitions were first published in 1993.
This engagement has led to my direct involvement in research conference attendance, live drawing and presentation of both text and visual essays . This has placed my work firmly in the wider international art research environment at the forefront of the subject (see outcomes for development and realisation).

My approach is original and possibly unique in combining cartoon and written versions of arguments in linked documents. My understanding of techniques of artistic research has been greatly enhanced by a very close examination of the theoretical underpinning of the arguments for and against practice as research and ongoing one to one discussion of this with leading art historians and art researchers.

learning agreement / proposal - rationale


Skills, qualities and attributes

The uniqueness of my proposal has demonstrated a very high level of self -direction and high level problem solving.
Support has come from both inside and outside the University via online debate e.g. James Elkins, Mark Staff Brandl and Hilary Robinson.

I also value highly the specific supervisory help that has been given within the institution in terms of drawing (Deborah Harty).
The proposal being both written and drawn has shown a high level of effective communication across a variety of media: Drawn, written, web interactive and film animation (experimentation).

learning agreement / mapping outcomes


content
The core of my proposed practice has been the drawing of cartoon sequences analysing contemporary fine art and design art research theory alongside or in substitution for traditional academic papers.

learning agreement / research questions and provisional answers Q. How does contemporary artistic research view itself and debate problematic paradigms? A. See paper Grey Ravens: Beyond Fraylings Categories for analysis of fine art versus design school approaches to practice as research. Q. Can an art object that contains both figures and text convey research theory? Thus disproving Fraylings doubts over research FOR art and design A. Tested in sequence Rakes Revisited a visual paper delivered at DRN 2013 New York. Q. Can sequential art/ graphic novels be a carrier of art theory or are they simply illustrative vehicles for conventional art theory narrative? A. Tested in juxtaposition of drawn visual papers and conventional academic exegesis.

learning agreement / research questions and provisional answers


Q. How is meaning and reading of the work affected by altering: 1. The medium through which it is produced animation V drawn sequences, book publication? See experimental animation collaboration with Andrew Love and Loughborough book/ Elkins book 2. The textual content of the work can theory be explicated through cartoon? See three submitted sequences. 3. The context in which it is shown i.e. research conferences V art exhibition. DRN 2012/ TTD STEAM public drawing DRN 2013/Drawology Exhibition

Background image: Participants at STEAM Wimbledon College of Art conference 2012 in front of live drawings I created during conference published in ,Thinking Through Drawing 2012.

learning agreement / reflective practitioner


Graphic Research: A reflective journal detailing my progress through course and my critical reflection on process, practice and theory. http://www.shaunbelcher.com/research/
Background image: Reflective Journal Accessed 20/01/2014

Tentative conclusions based on qualitative and action research: Notes towards a paper?

Q. How does contemporary artistic research view itself and debate problematic paradigms? Surprisingly for a visual field the paradigms of presenting artistic research are firmly stuck in classic 19th Century notions of textual research and exegesis. Although the visual paper as a concept was tolerated this failed to translate into genuine publishable affordance when submitted to a variety of channels. Notions of rigor blight the field especially in relation to art objects as artistic research in own right. The only testing of conventions re. PhD recently in the U.K. appear to have happened at Reading University under Jonathan Dronsfield but even here the thesis has had to have academic conventions waived to pass.

Q. Can an art object that contains both figures and text convey research theory? Thus disproving Fraylings doubts over research FOR art and design. Of the work completed only the academic paper and live scribing i.e. drawing at a research event (not in itself considered artistic research as such ) has been published.

This suggests that even art research about art research conforms to the Cartesian rules about what admissible at no point were the drawn sequences treated as art research in their own right. For now writing about art research is all we have. Q. Can sequential art/ graphic novels be a carrier of art theory or are they simply illustrative vehicles for conventional art theory narrative?
At present it appears not they are mediums which not rigorous enough for the Academy however as they mature they well may be so in future. At present two PhDs have challenged this notion. Mark Staff Brandl has used comic forms as an integral part of his PhD from University of Zurich, Switzerland 2011 and Nick Sousanis, Teachers College Columbia NY has a complete PhD thesis presented as a comic book called Comics as a Way of Thinking.

Outcomes / Academic Papers:


Shaun D Belcher Can grey ravens fly?: Beyond Fraylings categories: Part of the Practice Makes Perfect forum on practice-based research Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 1474022213514548, first published on December 24, 2013 as doi:10.1177/1474022213514548 This paper analyses the effect of Christopher Fraylings categorisation of artistic research research into art and design, research through art and design and research for art and design on the debate surrounding the efficacy of studio-based artistic research as being valid within the university. James Elkins describes this as the the incommensurability of studio art production and university life. Through an exploration of the positive and negative responses to Frayling this paper explores the influence that these initial definitions have come to have on framing the scope of the debate. The paper presents a range of responses and analyses them; it focuses especially on the alternative frameworks that have been suggested and examines why they have so far not created a coherent and uncontested framework for practice-led research in the art and design field especially in relation to fine art.
First published in proceedings of Drawing Research Network Conference 2012 in unrevised format. Available at: http://www.drawing-research-network.org.uk/drn-2012-proceedings/

Available at http://www.uk.sagepub.com/journals/Journal201562/

Outcomes / Visual Papers: Moogee V Frayling cartoon sequence version of Frayling academic paper. Delivered as a visual paper only at Drawing Research Network Conference 2012. Cover image published in Times Higher Educational supplement. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/blurring-the-lines-between-artand-research/2002260.article

Image: First image of Moogee v Frayling sequence as appeared in THE

Background image illustration from Moogee V Frayling sequence

Outcomes / Visual Papers: Rakes Revisited: A visual paper redrawing of David Hockneys Rakes Progress to illustrate contemporary anxiety over the location of New Knowledge in the art object. Also playing on Duchamps urinal as a character in drawings. Presented without notes and delivered as a visual paper with commentary at Drawing Research Network Conference 2013 Teachers College Columbia University.

Images: Plate and 16 from Rakes Revisited sequence.

Background image: Presentation room New York Columbia Teachers University October 2013

Outcomes / Visual Papers: Rakes Revisited: Visual response to live presentation by Yoon Bahk (Royal College)

Image: Yoon Bahk 2013

Background image: Presentation room New York Columbia Teachers University October 2013

Outcomes / Illustration: 12 images drawn to accompany/commentate on James Elkins (ed.) 2nd Edition of Artists with Phds

Background image: First drawn analysis of James Elkins chapter On beyond research and new knowledge.

Outcomes / Illustration: 12 images drawn to accompany/commentate on James Elkins (ed.) 2nd Edition of Artists with Phds

Image: Studio shot of drawings in process.

Outcomes / Illustration: Mock Up.

Image: Judith Mottram Chapter illustration

Outcomes / Illustration

Image: Detail of Judith Mottram Chapter illustration.

Outcomes / Chapter in Book

Image: Drawing at Thinking Through Drawing 2012 published December 2013 by UAL/Loughborough/Teachers College Columbia.

Outcomes / Chapter in Book

Image: Drawing at Thinking Through Drawing 2012 published December 2013 by UAL/Loughborough/Teachers College Columbia.

Thankyou on behalf of Moogee the Art Dog

and Shaun Belcher


M.A. Fine Art by Registered Project N0359616

References
Belcher,S. 2014. Can grey ravens fly?: Beyond Fraylings categories. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 1474022213514548, first published on December 24, 2013 as doi:10.1177/1474022213514548. Available at:<http://www.uk.sagepub.com/journals/Journal201562/ > [Accessed 20 January 2014]. Brandl, M.S., 2011. Metaphor (M): Engaging a theory of central trope in art. PhD. University of Zurich. Available at: <http://www.markstaffbrandl.com/dissertation/Mark_Staff_Brandl_whole_dissertation_pdf.pdf> [Accessed 20.01.2014]. Brew, A. Fava,M. and Kantrowitz,A. 2013. Thinking through drawing 2012. Loughborough University. 123 Draw. Elkins, J. (Ed.), 2009. Artists with PhDs: On the new doctoral degree in studio art. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing. Sousanis,N. 2014. Unflattening: A Visual-Verbal Inquiry Into Learning in Many Dimensions. PhD. Teachers College Columbia University. (ongoing) Available at: <http://spinweaveandcut.blogspot.co.uk > [Accessed 20 January 2014]. Reisz,M. 2013. Blurring the lines between art and research. Times Higher Education, 7 March 2013.pp. 38-41. Available at: <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/blurring-the-lines-between-artand-research/2002260.article > [Accessed 20 January 2014].