Poised in space: between mark and maker, investigating the effects of unknowing on my artistic practice.
Birch, Caroline Clare.
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The focus of this research is to investigate the effects of unknowing on my artistic practice. This encompasses finding ways to access unknowing, and ways of remaining open to unknowing. Profound uncertainty, which disrupted my artmaking practice, was initially perceived as an artist’s block. When the approach to this uncertainty was changed to one of curious enquiry, the close relationship between instability, uncertainty and transformation was revealed. This investigation unexpectedly found that the solution to this prohibitive uncertainty was not provided by knowledge but by deliberately turning away from knowledge (Morgan 2014: 111). Discovering ways to repudiate understanding or knowledge as a goal, revealed the generative potency of unknowing. Unknowing appears to be a ubiquitous yet indefinable presence, whose influence was felt in this study as instability, uncertainty, or disorientation. Practice-led research (PLR) proved an invaluable means of embedding these experiences in artmaking methods. ‘In-the-dark’ artmaking methods were developed from PLR interweaving of artmaking practice and theory. This provided a means of moving away from understanding (Morgan 2014: 111) and of cultivating uncertainty and instability. From ‘in-the-dark’ methods a new understanding emerged that artist, materials and unfolding interaction (Carter in Barrett & Bolt 2007: 21) together constitute a single artmaking intelligence. Referred to as energy density, this concept is underpinned by extended mind theory (Clark & Chalmers 1998), material thinking (Barrett & Bolt 2007: 19-20,30), Hannula’s (2009: 4-5 of 20) “democracy of experience” and physics. Energy density embodies the spacious structure of atoms and all matter (Eddington 1948: 2; Niaz 1998: 534-537), indicating the lack of physical impediments hindering the transformative influence of ‘spacious unknowing’. Additionally, this research demonstrates that prior knowledge of an action was not required to be able to act or make art. Action embodies the transformative quantum of action (Bohr 1958: 17-18; Eddington 1948: 180,185; Hilgevoord & Uffink rev. 2016: 11-12 of 25) and enabled the implementation of destabilising ‘in-the-dark’ methods. Instability and transformation are closely allied in this study. ‘In-the-dark’ methods, applied using PLR and “postmodern emergence” methodologies, have triggered radical change at all levels of my artistic practice.