‘carefully, look over your shoulder’- the silversun pickups

Is there a blueprint to create the ineffable? (Originally asked on 4 August 2007)

I really should have started this entry before Chelsea bombed out of the Champions League to Jose, I mean it’s bad enough to lose but we sacked the guy.  Christ.

The original intention of this blog back when I started it 2.5 years ago, was to function as a reflexive method, an informal way to gather my thoughts on the research and it’s been great.  For the most part I blog when I need to and it provides me with an easy, attainable goal within which to complete work.  Now as I focus on the light at the end of the tunnel I need to find a way to look at the data that I have amassed and process it somehow.  The most cohesive way about going about this was to create a physical archive, print out the pages and read through, thus letting the good bits float to the top and pushing aside the crap.  It’s interesting because I have done this a couple of times but not with any focus, but today it kind of started to click back into focus how useful this has been.

On 4 August 2007 I wrote a fairly long entry where I asked both the question above and this:

‘I know I am doing this because of the PhD, but it might be worth checking back in a few years to see how this particular element of the research has affected my practice.  Will it make it better, or by taking off the cover and showing the bones will it make it worse?  Is some part of making art supposed to be inaccessible to not just the viewer but the artist as well’? (Spaulding 2007)

It’s hard to mentally contextualize yourself back and say with definition I can recall exactly what I meant, but I have a very strong reaction to this particular statement.  As an artist, it has been my belief that the creation of work is both the completed set of tasks but also an act of magic.  There has to be an element of wonder and the will to create it as such present in the making.  You don’t get the colour green without the colours blue and yellow; it’s not a question rather a statement of truth.  I was concerned by the role of this blog and the role of research in relation to my practice because I felt that lifting the lid and showing the mechanics of the tricks would devalue the outcome of the work.  I still believe that, but an enhanced exploration of the methods used to make the magic is not out of bounds.

I think that I got lucky because I subverted the blog to do what I needed to do, I allowed it to be a place for reflection at certain times and an actual functional tool at other.  As an example the live blogging my dice compositions, this task allowed me to focus on the creation of new work without being bogged down by the very real issue of making it ‘special’ or ineffable.  Having that as your conceptual umbrella is not easy, often it makes the conceptualization of new work next to impossible because your constantly demanding that every one thing BE SOMETHING to someone or everyone in some way, all of the time.  That’s more restrictive than the actual PhD itself and it creates a bottleneck mentally.  Often ideas are chucked out before they even make it to a sketch because they are deemed stupid or unworthy.  What the blog has allowed me to do was shake free of the preciousness of it all a bit.

The dice blogs remains a germane example, after the first album I was like a kid  looking through the window of the proverbial candy story.  Excited by my own ability but hampered by my serve criticality, I was turning down ideas faster than I was coming up with them because the ineffable seemed so unattainable.  It seemingly requires that I create at every stage an act of perfection.  This is both counterintuitive to both being an artist and conducting research.  The research begs you to ask questions and find answers; the work need not always be perfect.  It is this unhealthy obsession with perfection that led me to the dice blogs.  (Click here if you want to read the dice blog before continuing) Link will appear in a new window, neato!

Before this exercise my compositions had been created intuitively but that often meant that I only made work, when I felt like it or rather when I felt it was ready to be made.  Whilst being a viable method is also kind of tough because sometimes-new work and compositions are shy.  If you have read the Dice Man you will understand where this experiment comes from.  Essentially I read a book called the Dice Man where the protagonist makes every decision based on the roll of the dice.  So with that in mind I set forth the rules, utilizing two dice I assigned a task to each number up to 12. Then I rolled the dice, over and over within this experiment I also took it further from my usual style of working by live blogging the results.  By taking out the ‘gut’ instinct and leaving things up to chance I produced a raft of things I hated but I also produced a large amount of useable material. This new method also demanded that every aspect was down to a random roll of the dice.  Sometimes I rolled 7 four or five times in a row and you had to abide by task the given to the number 7 no matter how much I agreed or disagreed with the decision.  I would also experiment sometimes just rolling one die instead of the pair, this allowed for more varied results.  The thing of it is I wouldn’t have even tried to do this without the blog as a vehicle for change and experimentation.  There was no reason before to question my methods in such a way (Actually that’s a lie, there has always been a reason to change things up a bit, but I was never brave enough to do so).  But this way of working had nothing to do with bravery or fear.  It was measured and methodical.  It had real time results and I was afforded the ability to see the outcome of change immediately.  Live blogging was so successful that I utilized it as method through the composition of the second album, but not in the conceptualizing of the visuals that went along with it.  Since I have 6 more albums to produce I feel that it is something I will be visiting again because work begets work and the need to create a momentum tide is upon me like no other.

Now back to the start, and the other line I highlighted: Is there a blueprint to create the ineffable?

I don’t think there is a blueprint, per say.  I was never going to be able to sit down and create a set of rules that applies to a majority of practionairs within which to generate an ineffable experience.  The creation of such an experience is largely subjective (beating that dead horse again) for both the artist and the viewer.  I can tell you what I have done and what aspects were successful and what were unsuccessful but that doesn’t mean that a new artist utilizing my methods within their own interpretation of the ineffable is going to be successful.  Rather I can provide a map of my experiences, which can be studied and I can begin to stake claim to the validity of certain methods, but I don’t know if it’s transferable across the board.

As an example my art boys Turrell and Irwin and myself.  I could copy a Turrell down to the very last exacting measure but it might not work. I can utilize the same colour lamps that they use in their installations within my own and while a particular blue works for them it might not for me simply because it creates an unwanted friction with my other assembled methods and tricks.  You can learn, take and borrow as much as you want but the generation of an ineffable experience is dependant upon the sum of the parts not the parts as singular entities.

To reproduce Irwin’s and Turrell as if they were created by the artist’s themselves is not something I have attempted because it asks more questions about appropriated art than it answers about the ineffable, so I stole their most successful bits, the use of light within space and melded it with my own methods of this emotionally suggestive spaces which relied as much on the ocular as they did on the aural, but my inclusion of such materials was because I didn’t think I could do it simply by copying Turrell and Irwin.  Plus this is about the acquisition of new knowledge and what they have done both historically and within the context of their own careers is not underdeveloped.  Conducting a quick mental survey of the successful methods over the last fives years, it was about borrowing in the nicest way from my heroes and stripping back the wrappers to allow these singular successful elements to become malleable and free of their previous context.  Utilizing fluro bulbs for example doesn’t mean I am waxing Dan Flavin hard, but I am acknowledging that he was on to something in a big way.

It’s worth continually unpicking, as this is the crux of the whole new knowledge issue and what my contribution to that actually is.


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