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Figure 1. The MA Fine Art Assessment brief 1. UAL 20089
As a dedicated Masters student, I have set out to do precisely what the assessment brief specifies especially in terms of the learning outcomes. To fulfil these, I must first of all fully understand them. To this end, I will first of all decipher them then fulfil them one by one. These outcomes then, form the chapters of this paper thus:
LEARNING OUTCOMES/CHAPTERS Articulate a systematic knowledge and understanding of the contemporary and historical context for their practice and related research Critically reflect upon, refine and present the theoretical framework for their practice Analyze complex issues and communicate their conceptual understanding to specialist and non-specialist audience Formulate a clearly articulated research question or questions, propose hypotheses applicable to their research intentions, evaluate research methodologies and apply methods
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Learning Outcome 1 (with the important words in bold): • Articulate a systematic knowledge and understanding of the contemporary and historical context for their practice and related research
So, I must demonstrate a systematic, logical knowledge and understanding of where my practice and related research fits into the art world.
I must discuss what my artwork does, who has made similar work, and used similar devices, what my influences and inspirations are, and how these affect my art.
I will start with the tools I use in my work. They are process, repetition and subversion. I use these tools to create a continuous loop of discovery and experimentation. Each piece is an experiment where I discover things about the object or material I am using and end up back at the beginning. There are many terms for this kind of approach: recursion, self-reference, selfreflexivity, mise-en-abyme, circular narratives and fugues. And these terms are used across philosophy, language, art, maths and more. I understand my practice to be one of ʻrecursion (or any of the other similar terms above), a method of defining functions in which the function being defined is applied within its own definition.ʼ1 So, theoretically, something recursive (or any of the other terms above) carries on forever into infinity, defining itself over and over again, like two mirrors against each other, endlessly doubling. An example of recursion in Conceptual Art is Bruce Naumanʼs piece, Clown Torture: Dark and Stormy Night with Laughter, 1987. It is a story, which goes,
Wikipedia, entry on Recursion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recursion (accessed‐ 11/6/09). In this case the Wikipedia definition seemed most apt.
It was a dark and stormy night. Three men were sitting around a campfire. One of the men said, ʻTell us a story, Jackʼ and Jack said ʻIt was a dark and stormy night. Three men were sitting around a campfire. One of the men said, ʻTell us a story, Jackʼ and Jack said ʻIt was a dark and stormy night… (Kraynak, J., (2003) p.337)
It is impossible to pinpoint the origins of these devices. No one invented them but they occur in practices and studies devised by humans where thought can be applied. The earliest use of a recursive device that I can find is in the Liar Paradox. In the 4th Century BC Greek philosopher, Eubulides of Miletus, apparently asked-
“Does a man who says that he is now lying, speak truly?” (Goetz, Philip. W., (1989) p.587) If that man is lying, then in fact he is telling he truth, which contradicts his assertion. If that man is in fact telling the truth, then again he is lying. Either way, his assertion seems to negate itself or at least return to itself.
Aside from Eubulides mind game, the Mathematician Gödel has developed the theme of recursion along the lines of Gödelʼs Incompleteness Theory. 2
Other areas where the devices occur are in the writings of Italo Calvino in, for example, If on a Winterʼs Night a Traveller and the films of David Lynch. I would like to point out here, Lynchʼs film The Straight Story, his only film to date, which doesnʼt use a recursive device. The title of the film, as well as referring to the subject, a man called Alvin Straight who learning his estranged brother has had a stroke travels from Iowa to Wisconsin on a mower to be reunited with him, it also alludes to the fact that it is a very straightforward story; there is no plot within the plot. The viewer is lead to a happy ending and not to an undetermined closure as with his other work. This being his only film based along one line of action going forward, he titled it so. To me, it is an obvious example of the exception proving the rule.
2 This concept is explored in Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher and Bach, which is essentially an explanation of recursion and repetition in the arts and the everyday.
But, perhaps the basest form of recursion exists in plain thought, as demonstrated by Descartes when he stated, “I think, therefore I am”. Descartes took this thought as proof of his own existence, because even if he doubted it, doubting is thinking. Therefore his existence cannot be in doubt. The phrase forms the basis of recursion because it essentially indicates thinking about thinking. (Descartes, R., (1968) p.53-54)
Some examples which I will reference more thoroughly throughout the essay are as follows: the drawing of M.C. Escher and most closely related to myself, as we have conceptual art in common, the work of Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris, and their relationship to Robert Smithson. I will also reference the ideas of Douglas Hofstadter in his extensive writing on recursion.
Having stated at the outset that recursion is the basis of my practice, I will now flesh out my attempt to use the same devices in my essay. By using the title page to refer the viewer to the end to find the research question I am attempting to make the essay into a material loop. And by using the start of the Critical Research Paper process (Assessment Brief 1, Fig.1) as the start of my paper I am aiming for the result to be directly equivalent to it, for the finished paper to refer directly to the beginning. Throughout the essay I will keep referring to the learning outcomes to make sure I am communicating what is expected of me.
By attempting to structure this essay in the same way I structure my art I am aiming to make it directly comparable to my art. Thus, I am attempting to define the function of my art, within my art. Arguably, I am testing my practise via this writing; therefore my hypothesis is that if I can see this piece of writing holding up, then metaphorically, I can perceive the same for my practise.
I will now endeavour to explain how I use these recursive devices in my practice. I will do so with a piece of work, which, being a narrative comic is different to what I normally do (Figure 2). The comic is based on a dream I had at the beginning of the MA, about the end of the world. It depicts the Earthʼs destruction due to the human raceʼs desire to build better, more powerful technology. As the Earth spins out of orbit, people nonchalantly watch the terrifying event unfold, as if they were watching it at the cinema. As the Earth crashes into another planet and explodes, the comic starts to destruct too, burning in the corner. Both the dream and comic, victims of their own story. Given the belief that dreams are linked to our feelings and anxieties about our waking lives, and the fact it had such a profound effect on me, I wanted to do make this dream visual, so did so in a comic. It comes from both fascination and fear with the unknown, the undiscovered and the idea of the infinite and what lies beyond the boundaries of our planet and then the universe. Just as this dream (and comic) are victims of their own stories, alluding to their own destruction, I also have a fear that my own story, of my recursive art practice, will ultimately lead to my own destruction, ie, madness. I sometimes feel like a dog chasing its own tail when it comes to my art so end up thinking, where can it possibly end but madness? I see the dream and comic as a direct link to my fear of losing my grip on the world because of my practice, particularly as I had the dream at the start of my MA. Just as this dream set the scene for my MA, it helps me set the scene for my essay too. Seeing as I am not an astronaut, scientist or mathematician, am happy to keep my feet firmly on Earth, but am nevertheless drawn to ideas of the infinite and unknown, I explore them through what I do know, my art practice.
Figure 2. Doomsday, 2009; A4 collaged comic
Figure 3. Obsessing; 2009; digital montage
Another piece of my own which obviously uses a simple recursive device is Obsessing (Figure 3). Through the repetitive
construction of itself this photomontage shows the viewer exactly what it is and ends up piercing itself. The result is that the viewer double takes and doesnʼt see what they expected to see, but something infinite
instead. It works in a similar way to Escherʼs Drawing Hands, Figure 4. When looking at a drawing, one doesnʼt
usually feel the need to ask at what point of the image was the drawing started and at what point did it finish? With this drawing I find myself asking ʻWhich hand started drawing first?ʼ Even though each hand is at the same stage of drawing the other hand, one of them must have started first. And which one was it, which is the true hand? The shadow created by the pen and paper on the surface of which the drawing sits, and the signature in the corner suggests that the work is finished.
Figure 4. Drawing Hands; MC Escher; pencil on paper; 1948
That it is a finished drawing of an unfinished drawing adds to the confusion. Escher, like me, had an obsession with the infinite. He wanted to represent it in what he did know which was the contradictory world of the static image.
Hofstadter treats recursion like a mathematical equation, which is illustrated by the diagram in Figure 5, which he devised to understand Escherʼs Drawing Hands. Through his diagram, Hofstadter is saying that this is how to understand the picture without going round in circles. The viewer has to take a step back and see that Escher was drawing both hands, which allows them out of the loop.
Figure 5. Diagram devised by D. Hofstadter to understand Escher's Drawing Hands
Recursion also appeared in the Conceptual Art of the 1960s, such as in Robert Morrisʼ Box with the sound of its own making (Figure 6). It is recursive in the sense that as an artwork, its reason for being is to present something to the world and the thing it presents is its own process and creation. Its whole existence up to being a completed artwork is the finished artwork itself and the completed work refers the viewer back to itʼs beginning. This piece makes me think of the ancient dilemma ʻwhich came first, the chicken or the egg?ʼ Chickens hatch from eggs, but eggs are laid by chickens, so which one came first? We can compare this to Morrisʼs box because art hatches from process and method, and in this case, process and method is laid or presented by art, so which came first? Like the chicken and the egg dilemma it leaves the viewer swinging between the two. Through evoking questions about itʼs beginning and end, it points to questions about how life and the universe in general began, and leads one to the futility of identifying the first case of a circular cause.
I was directed to Morrisʼ piece after a recent project of my own which involved sending a
package through the post by recorded delivery (Figure 7). The package was sent from the Post Office nearest to Chelsea College of Art in Pimlico to my flat in Manor House. Contained in the package was my
dictaphone, which recorded the
Figure 6. Box with the sound of its own making; Robert Morris; 1961
assembling of and then the journey of the package. The
finished artwork is the package presented as it was posted, with the recorded delivery note stuck to it, and the dictaphone inside, playing back itʼs journey.3 Honesty and trust are integral to this piece as it is with all my work. But also integral is a pinch of deceit and illusion. Sending the dictaphone through the post is a deceitful thing to do. The people carrying the package donʼt know that they are being recorded, and if they find out, I might get in trouble. But the resulting piece of work is an honest representation of the package being a package.
3 For a clip of a 5 minute recording of the package go to: http://lisa‐brown‐ at.blogspot.com/2009/06/recorded‐delivery.html
Making this work, I finished artwork, to refer back beginning the to viewer itʼs and
process of creation. It also allows us to hear the unknown (to most of people) postal
delivery, the secret realm of the Royal
F i g u r wanted it to achieve the same, as Morrisʼ box, through presenting ethe 3 ; R e c o r d e d D e l i v e r y ; 2 0 0 Figure 7. Recorded Delivery, 2009; package, sent by Royal Mail Recorded Delivery, 9 containing a Dictaphone, which recorded its journey
Mail. It points to a similar futility, but unlike Morrisʼ box, it is not the presentation of itʼs own process which does this but the fact that it is a normal every day object, being used to try to uncover the unknown, through a very everyday, normal institution- The Royal Mail. Through my art I try to uncover what exists beyond ourselves and is continuously elusive, unattainable and is therefore futile. Both of these pieces have wholeness about them. When I had made Recorded Delivery and played it back, I was completely satisfied and when I heard about Morrisʼ box, I thought ʻHow perfectʼ. Both provide a feeling of completeness, but this is just initially. Given a few minutes I realise that both of these works are a lot more than that. They use their ʻwholenessʼ as foils to hide behind, to avoid being trapped by the rules and conventions of the art world, but in the process Morris and I do end up trapped in the artwork, we have shot ourselves in the feet, but this is the essence of the work as it comes back to futility. David Sylvester wrote about Morrisʼ box, ʻThe cube being a paragon of completeness, the object is symbolically as well as actually complete, yet it seems that the process of making it
goes on and on. The thought occurs that the maker is shut up in the box, endlessly sawing and hammering, trapped in his own artefact.ʼ (Compton, M., & Sylvester, D., (1971) p.10) I am well versed in using foils in my work, another being humour, in this sense I identify very much with the work of Bruce Nauman, who also uses humour, through his alter ego, the clown. A protective but also challenging disguise, it shows both his humorous and nasty side. ʻOn the one hand heʼs a compromising fool without privacy, used by society, and on the other, a resisterʼ (van Bruggen, C., (1988) p.9). Nauman and Morris were contemporaries in the 1960s. Van Bruggen wrote, ʻA lot of Naumanʼs work also shows off its own making, ʻThe roughness of Naumanʼs work from the 1960s is also part of his concern with process. The art shows itʼs own making.ʼ (1988, p.9). He found support for his method of reviewing the whole process of making an object (and if necessary of backing up a step) in Ludwig Wittgensteinʼs Philosophical Investigations, which he read during the early 1960s. The book made him appreciate that, ʻYou can have an argument and follow it until you find out that it makes sense or doesn't make sense, but it was still useful to me to find out that it did go to anywhere or it was wrongʼ (Kraynak, J., p.231). Wittgenstein ʻwould not throw away the failed argument, but would include it in his book.ʼ (van Bruggen, C., p.9). This is the philosophy I have engaged in writing this essay, I am following the idea of recursion until I can say either way, if it works here or not. I too will not throw away the failed argument. It will still form my essay. Nauman has also stated his preoccupation with finding the ʻTruthʼ as illustrated by his work The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, (Fig.9). This piece is in constant turmoil within its own boundaries. It jumps between the physical materials from which it is made and the message it speaks. The message itself jumps from the absurd to the mystical. The title of the work and the neon words formed in the piece communicate a poetic message about the role of the artist. The spiralling form suggests the message, continues forever, into
infinity. But then the neon lights from which the message is constructed pull the rug from under the work, as neon lights inhabit the capitalist world of advertising, which is not deemed ʻtrueʼ or ʻmysticalʼ at all.
Figure 8. The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, Bruce Nauman (1967)
Nauman is questioning both his own and societyʼs opinion of the role of the artist, and exposing the futility in searching for the ʻTruthʼ, what a big word it is yet how easy it is to say. This piece was made three years before Robert Smithsonʼs Spiral Jetty, which suggests there was something in the air. Spiral Jetty is both prehistoric and futuristic at the same time. If left untouched by humans it could outlive us. It could be, in the future, what Stone Henge or the Mayan ruins are to us now, a mysterious marker of the unknown past. This again brings the viewer back to the monumental questions about life on the Earth and the universe as a whole. Because Naumanʼs The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths was made three years before Spiral Jetty, it is not a comment on Smithsonʼs work, but I believe it is a comment on this kind of work. They both address the same fundamental human issues of our existence, but as with all of Naumanʼs work his monumental statement lies alongside a feeling of lampoonery. He, like me is drawn to the unknown and discovering the Truth, and like me embarks on this quest through what he does know, which is art, despite and also because of itʼs futility. Possibly itʼs the other way round and Smithsonʼs spiral was a comment on Naumanʼs. Maybe in the future, if my dream has come true and Earth and Venus have collided, humans have died out and the Earth is inhabited by another intelligent civilisation, Naumanʼs spiral will be long gone, but Smithsonʼs might still exist. Spiral Jetty is a message to those future civilisations. Both works address the same fundamental issues of art and existence but Spiral Jetty embraces the future whereas The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths satirises it.
Smithson wrote about his contemporaries in his essay, Entropy The New Monuments. ʻThe New Monumentsʼ he refers to include the work of artists Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol Le Witt and Dan Flavin amongst others. Although he doesnʼt refer directly to Nauman, he does refer to the materials Nauman uses and his Conceptual Art counterparts. ʻInstead of causing us to remember the past like old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future. Instead of being made of natural materials, such as marble, granite, or other kinds of rock, the new monuments made of artificial, plastic, chrome and electric light. They are not built for the ages but against the ages. They are involved in a systematic reduction of time down to fractions of seconds, rather than in representing the long spaces of centuries. Both past and future are placed into an objective present.ʼ
Figure 9. Visual comparison of Nauman's The True Artist Helps the Word by Revealing Mystic Truths and Smithson's Spiral Jetty
(Smithson, R., (1966) p.10)
He states that his contemporaries provided a visual comparison ʻthat in the ultimate future the whole universe will burn out and be transformed into an all-encompassing samenessʼ (1966, p.9). This allows the viewer to see an infinity in a second. With Smithsonʼs work, the infinite is also a concern, but is far less instant, instead drawn out over centuries.
It cannot have been a coincidence that space travel came to the fore at this time. Being a child of the eighties I take for granted that human beings landed on the moon in 1969 after not only decades of tests and research, but also thousands of years of people wondering, what is actually up there. To witness it happening on a television screen must have been mindblowing, just as my dream about the end of the world was for me, and that wasnʼt even real. The enormity of the moon landings, alongside all other world changing events of the period, must have forced artists to re-evaluate their place in society, on Earth and in the universe, resulting in the kind of work they produced.
Douglas Hofstadter writes about recursivity and the many specialist areas it appears in, such as language, maths, music and art, and also how it emerges in everyday life. I agree with Hofstadter where he suggests there is a fear of recursivity. I too have a relationship with recursion, which jumps between fear and fascination. He describes a trip with his parents to buy a video camera when he was young. He recalls asking the shop assistant if he could point one of the display cameras at the television to which it was connected, to which the assistantʼs reply was ʻNo!ʼ The shop assistant feared that making this loop would create some kind of feedback and break the technology. (Hofstadter, D., (2007) p.56-63)
The technology was quite new at the time and since then Hofstadter and many others have done experiments with cameras pointing at the screens to which they are connected. Thanks to their experiments we know now that completing this loop doesnʼt break the technology, but does create
interesting infinite patterns, much like when you look in two mirrors, which are parallel to each other. Hofstadter describes them as corridors, or video feedback, and you can see some examples in Figure 10.
At the time when Hofstadter made his request, neither him nor the shop assistant knew what would happen. It demonstrates Hofstadterʼs curiosity of the unknown, and the shop assistantʼs fear of it.
Figure 10. the results of Hofstadter's 'corridor' experiments, made by connecting a video camera to a television
Nauman has made a series of corridor works throughout his career, (Fig. 11) which he used to influence the physical and emotional responses of the audience.
Figure 11. Corridor with Mirror and White Lights (Corridor with Reflected Image); Bruce Nauman; 1971
The corridors are too narrow for the viewer to squeeze into so they are forced to peer to the end where they will see a dim, distant figure which turns out to be themselves, reflected in a mirror, as with this particular work, or in some other corridor works, staring back from a
television screen because they are secretly being filmed. Both methods have the same effect, which is to make the viewer feel uneasy and paranoid because it forces them to confront themselves in the work. They link to Hofstadter, not only because of how they both describe their respective work as corridors, but also how they both loop within themselves. Hofstadterʼs argument is that when a person is part of a recursive loop they are always led back to the same place, and that is themselves. (2007, p.186) We as thinking beings understand the world through thought, going back to Descartesʼ phrase, ʻI think, therefore I amʼ, I understand my existence, but only mine, through thinking. It is impossible to vouch for anyone else. I am not saying that it is possible that no one else exists but myself; I know thatʼs not true. But the only thing I can be truly certain of is that “I think, therefore I amʼ. Hofstadterʼs corridors, Naumanʼs corridors and all the other recursive devices I have talked about highlight this fact. By leading the audience on a merry dance back to the beginning and presenting it back, they are left confronted with themselves. In Hofstadterʼs diagram of Escherʼs Drawing Hands, he put Escher in the equation to help the viewer out of the loop. With all recursive art, there has to be a similar equation, which includes the artist, but the artist can be substituted by the viewer. The viewer has to put himself or herself in place of the artist, and visualise the process, to understand whatʼs happening.
The Wyre (Fig. 12) is a piece of my own, which still confuses me two months after making it.
Figure 12. The Wyre; 2009
Figure 13 is a simple diagram of the work:
Gives power to
Fig. 13, diagram of The Wyre
This helps to make sense of the work on itʼs own, but doesnʼt help in placing the viewer which is the most important part. To understand the work in the simple form of the above diagram would mean the viewer continues forever going round and round in circles, left to float in the workʼs own metaphysical space, at some point the viewer has to leave the loop, which of course they always manage to do. In Figure 14 by making the diagram similar to Hofstadterʼs diagram of Escherʼs Drawing Hands, and adding the viewer (or artist) looking at a particular point of the piece, helps to visualise their role in it. It also helps me to communicate my understanding of ʻI think, therefore I amʼ in relation to my practice. Everything comes back to the viewer/artist.
Gives power to
Fig. 14, diagram of The Wyre, including the viewer
But the work doesnʼt end here because it is recursive in a number of different ways and the viewer has to go on a journey through each to get to the next one. The most obvious is the visual device of the picture light, lighting up itʼs own life source which I illustrated above, then thereʼs the fact that it is a piece of art about art. The picture light is one, which can be found in many homes, lighting up the familyʼs favourite watercolour possibly from that holiday to Brittany back in 1992. The cable itself, on the outer edge, is set to similar dimensions and positioning as a landscape painting. As the cable follows and repeats itʼs own path going inwards, it forms a perspective which leans to painterly representations of a sunset over a
valley, the lines of cable creating the rays of sun, or architectural form such as in Anselm Kieferʼs paintings about space, like Innenraum (1981). Like the work of Nauman and Hofstadter discussed previously, The Wyre also forms a corridor and the light forces the viewer to look at it. It is self-reference within self-reference, just as I am trying to achieve with my writing. The diagram above fails in representing this work but I want to include it because its failure demonstrates that to truly represent it diagrammatically, I would have to put another recursive diagram within the first, and another one in that and so on. It would be a continuous fractal network of recursivity. By standing in front of it, the viewer becomes part of the corridor. When making this work I wanted to create a kind of vortex out of these household items. Something which, when standing in front of it, would trap the viewer, mesmerise them and draw them in. The viewer is again left to confront himself or herself and to get out of the trap. Most of the work described throughout this writing, can be described as art about art, Sally OʼReilly writes about this, in relation to ʻself-reflexiveʼ art in an article in Art Monthly, ʻAs metafiction is a text presented as if aware of its own textuality, so is self-reflexive art aware of its own status as artefact. It is a direct reflection on the relationship between artwork and audience, implying a self-knowledge and a knowledge that the audience is aware of its status as artefact. It is art about the act and essence of making and being art. In these terms, a self-reflexive work, therefore, must not only know that it is art, it must also know that it is self-reflexive and whether its self-knowledge is adequate to interrogate itself, and so on, in an infinite regression of self-awareness.ʼ(OʼReilly, S., (2005) p.10) All artwork needs a viewer to exist and function, but this fact is heightened in recursive work. Recursive work is essentially art about itself. When the viewer realises that they are looking at art which is about itself, they become aware of all the aspects of the artwork which make it
what it is. This inevitably leads the viewer to their own role in the art, thus realising they are embroiled in the whole thing too. They have been tricked into perceiving themselves through the artwork.
Learning Outcome 2: • Critically reflect upon, refine and present the theoretical framework for their practice
I must objectively present and link up the given set of ideas through which I view my practice. I interpret this Learning Outcome visually, see Figure 15 for a visualisation:
Figure 15. Visualisation of my Theoretical Framework
Central to my critical framework is recursion. Through researching and writing my essay and using this critical framework I am attempting to communicate what it achieves, whilst simultaneously demonstrating recursion within my writing.
The periphery of my framework is made up of my own practice, interests and research, with arrows indicating how they link to each other, which I have found out through my researching. The two titles, ʻperceptionʼ and ʻselfʼ are what I am investigating through recursion, via the peripheral framework.
Learning Outcome 3: • Analyze complex issues and communicate their conceptual understanding to specialist and non-specialist audiences
This Learning Outcome is quite self-explanatory so does not need a simplification. It is almost like a reminder. If I hadnʼt analyzed any complex issues by now in addressing the first two Learning Outcomes, then I should probably start again.
All I need write here is a brief summary of the issues I have been researching. I have been attempting to analyze complex issues of recursion and self-reference and where the audience is left after viewing a piece of recursive art.
I am discussing recursion and where it has cropped up over the centuries, from the Liars Paradox, to Descartes statement, to contemporary art.
Learning Outcome 4:
articulated to their
methodologies and apply methods
The requirements of this Learning Outcome lead me into the conclusion of this essay as it is based on evaluating what I have done. It also points me back to the beginning in asking me to formulate a clearly articulated research question. On the first page of my essay, I did not write the “clearly articulated research question”, but instead referred you to page 27, ie. this page. This does three things, it keeps to the structure I have been following throughout, based on the Learning Outcomes and in the order that they are written on Assessment Brief 1 (Fig.1). It references the typical format of an MA critical art paper and acknowledges that I know what I should have done, but have chosen not to, to keep in line with the order of the Learning Outcomes. It also completes the loop in a material sense as the first page refers the reader to the conclusion, and vice-versa.
Based on what I have set out to achieve in writing this essay my clearly articulated research question is thus:
How does using the recursive device that I use in my art practice translate into writing an academic art paper and by itʼs very nature of retreading the same paths within its own function does this device allow me to fulfill the learning outcomes, whilst also communicating what recursion achieves in the arts?
The other points of Learning Outcome 4 are listed below under bullet points:
My proposed hypothesis is the outcome which I expect/expected to come from the research question.
In evaluating my research methodologies I must discuss how I conducted and presented my research.
Discuss the methods I have applied throughout the essay
In answering the research question I am led to my proposed hypothesis, which in turn leads me to refer to a paragraph I wrote on page 4; that writing a recursive essay would allow me to fully communicate my recursive art practice to the reader and to demonstrate that if I achieved recursivity in my writing and could see my essay holding up, then I could perceive the same for my art practice.
If I did indeed achieve this hypothesis is what I must discuss now by referring to the research methodologies and methods I applied throughout the essay starting with my focus on the Learning Outcomes. The structure of the writing around the Learning Outcomes naturally created a recursive device, as it required me to continuously refer back to them. I have, I feel addressed each Learning Outcome as fully as I could, without repeating myself, as this would have resulted in a frustrating piece of writing for the reader, and would have taken me even more over the set word count. The first chapter on Learning Outcome 1 is very long and forms the bulk of this essay. Learning Outcomes 2 and 3 are very short in comparison, as the entire first three Learning Outcomes go hand in hand. It is impossible to fully address one, without addressing the others. This results in the second and third Outcomes seeming to be dismissed. To divide the writing up between the Learning Outcomes would have resulted in a
very disjointed and confusing piece of writing. Each of the points of those first three Learning Outcomes had to be addressed in one chapter. Learning Outcome 4 is longer again as I am dealing with something I have not dealt with before in this writing, which is a discussion of its own success or failure. When embarking on this essay, I was unknowledgeable about recursion. It was something I used in my art practice subconsciously and was so ingrained in my psyche that it had to be pointed out to me for me to realise my constant use of it. I have attempted to communicate the origins of my interest in recursion, stemming from a fascination with the unknown. Investigating the unknown is futile, it is after-all the ʻunknownʼ and true to its word will remain so. After my attempts to reach the unknown through my practice, looping and floating, trying to figure out the artwork, there is nothing else but for me (and the viewer) to be dumped back with ourselves, confronted with our own existence, resulting naturally in the recursion which appears in my practice. To quote the Apollo 8 astronauts, whose mission it was to orbit the moon and come home, they say the most amazing part of the whole journey was when the Earth first rose over the moonʼs horizon (Fig .16). They realised at this point that their mission to the moon was really revealing more about their own planet and what we have here, and to realise that, they had to travel 240,000 miles into space to see it, ʻso far that you could cover Earth with your thumb when you put it up to the window.ʼ (Apollo 8 crew (2009) One Small Step) Their physical journey into the unknown did for them what my metaphysical wanderings do, but on a much different scale. Just as Descartes statement offers the basest form of recursion, this must have offered the most awesome, sublime and terrifying form of recursion. In answer to my research question, this piece of writing compares to my artwork in a material and also conceptual sense of looping and requiring the viewer/reader to play along. It requires the reader to realise that they are as involved in this essay as much as the viewer is when viewing my artwork. This is what the test was, I have proven that I can achieve the same
within writing, so can therefore see this research paper and my art standing together. More importantly, through tackling what I feel is a complex subject which forms the basis of my art, and doing so through written language and not the visual which is what I usually do, I have formed a solid base for my practice, and can, as I questioned, see my practice holding up because of this.
Figure 16. Earth Rise; photograph taken from the first ever lunar orbit in Apollo 8; 1968
Bibliography Editor in Chief- Goetz, Philip W., (1989) entry on Eubilides (p.587) in The New Britannica Encyclopedia, Volume 4, 15th Edition. USA: University of Chicago Hofstadter, D., (2007) I Am a Strange Loop. USA: Basic Books Hofstadter, D., (1979) Gödel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Great Britain: The Harvester Press Limited OʼReilly, S., (Sept 2005) Self-reflexivity. Art Monthly; issue 289, p.7-10 Ketner II, J.D., (2006) Elusive Signs, Bruce Nauman Works with Light. Milwaukee : Milwaukee Art Museum ; Cambridge, Mass. ; London : MIT Press van Bruggen, C., (1988) Bruce Nauman. USA, New York: Rizzolli Kraynak, J., (2003) Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Naumanʼs Words. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Make me Think - Bruce Nauman (1997) Directed by Heinze Peter Schwerfel, Artcore Film Production duration [DVD] Compton, M., & Sylvester, D., (1971) Robert Morris London: The Tate Gallery Smithson, R., (1979) The Writings of Robert Smithson. New York: New York University Press Descartes, R., (1968) Discourse on Method and the Meditations, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Locher, J.L., (1971) World of M.C. Escher. USA: Harry N. Abrams Nasa: Triumph and Tragedy: 1. One Small Step, documentary (2009) Directed by John Dunton-Downer BBC Two, Wednesday 24th June 9:00pm , 60min
Further Reading Wittgenstein, L., (1997) Philosophical Investigations. Oxford : Blackwell OʼSullivan, S., (2006) Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
List of images Figure 1. University of the Arts London; (2009) MA Assessment Brief 1; critical art paper guidelines Figure 2. Lisa Brown; (2009) Doomsday; A4 collaged comic Figure 3. Lisa Brown (2009) Obsessing; digital photomontage Figure 4. M.C. Escher (1948) Drawing Hands; pencil on paper [online image]. Available from http://www.mcescher.com/ Figure 5. Abstract diagram devised by D. Hofstadter to understand Escher's Drawing Hands, image from Gödel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, p. 670 Figure 6. Robert Morris (1961) Box with the sound of its own making [online image]. Available from http://sculpture-center.org/content/event/morris-event-large.jpg Figure 7. Lisa Brown (2009) Recorded Delivery Figure 8. Bruce Nauman (1967) The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths [online image] Available from http://nga.gov.au/International/Catalogue/Images/MED/115577.jpg Figure 9. visual comparison of Nauman's the True Artist Helps the Word by Revealing Mystic Truths and Smithson's Spiral Jetty Figure 10. Hofstadter's 'corridor' experiments, made by connecting a video camera to a television, image from I Am a Strange Loop, central image plates Figure 11. Bruce Nauman (1971) Corridor with Mirror and White Lights (Corridor with Reflected Image) image from Elusive Signs, Bruce Nauman Works with Light (2006) Ketner II, J.D, page. 21 Figure 12. Lisa Brown (2009) The Wyre Figure 13. diagram of The Wyre Figure 14. diagram of The Wyre, including the viewer Figure 15. Visualisation of my Theoretical Framework Figure 16..Earth Rise (1968); photograph taken from the first ever lunar orbit in Apollo 8 [online image] Available from http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/upload/2009/04/earth_day_from_space/apollo08_ear thrise.jpg
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