Monday, 20 June 2011

Experiments in Situated Knowledge

"Catching Fire" (after Richard Serra), ©Jim Hamlyn 2011

Earlier this year I was selected for an Artist's Residency at Sydney College of Arts in Australia. At the same time there's a conference at the Institute of Experimental Arts in Sydney on the subject of Art and Experimentation. Lesley and I submitted the following abstract and received confirmation a few days ago that we've been selected. Now all we have to do is put the whole thing together!

Experiments in Situated Knowledge

"We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched." -Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Part academic presentation, part performance, part discursive documentary, this presentation takes an alternative approach to the format of conference presentation in order to argue, by constructive example, that art arrives at its own unique forms of knowledge and knowledge generation through speculative experimentation with concrete reality, form and process.

The profound success of certain forms of epistemic enquiry - principally scientific research and academic thought - has resulted in a relative marginalization of creative and improvisatory forms of critical and analytical investigation and to a parallel adoption, within the arts especially, of aspects of the terminology of science in order to legitimate the processes and practices of art production and consumption. For example, the use of the term ‘experiment’ is itself predicated upon an implicit association with empirical science as opposed to the more abstract trials and even ‘play’ that are fundamental to art production.

Drawing upon the experiments of Swiss artist Roman Signer (who’s work literally fuses the improvisatory and experiential with the more exacting necessities and laws of physics, often to explosive effect) and the research of the eight artists and cultural theorists involved in the newly formed “Co-creativity of Hand and Mind” research group based at Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK (whose work investigates the interchange between Experience, Experiment and Expertise - etymologically rooted in the term experiri: ‘to try’), this presentation seeks to propose that the language and significance of alternative forms of communication (situated knowledge, contemplation, humor, sex, reverie, narrative etc.) offer valuable ways to understand the indispensable contribution of experimental creativity (art) to our understanding of the world and our place within it.


Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested to read this month's journal (although i suspect you already have)
Congratulations on the conference selection!
Craig B

J. Hamlyn said...

Thanks Craig, actually I was working my way through the recent e-flux but hadn't read the editorial. It's really interesting and relevant, as is the link it gives to a previous edition specifically on the subject of art education.
Thanks a million.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Jim!

Bronwyn said...

Hi jim,

Enjoy your time in Australia - would love to read your paper if possible - I am struggling with this very subject in writing up my PhD methodology...

What is interesting is how to 'evidence' how art makes knowledge or contributes to knowledge... so am particularly wising I could be at the conference.


J. Hamlyn said...

Hey Bronwyn, great to hear from you.

Probably the most provocative and interesting thought to grapple with in relation to our thinking on this subject has been to contrast the idea of a knowledgeable person compared with an experienced one. Perhaps it makes no sense to talk of 'authenticity' here but the comparison does seem to draw out something really interesting about the importance of embodied temporal experience as a integrated collection of narratives and applied understandings as opposed to a potentially inert compendium of facts and data relationships. Of course, these aren't in any way mutually exclusive but to characterise them thus seems to highlight the problem more clearly.

I can see your struggle and it's certainly a difficult one because we either have to expand what we mean by 'knowledge' or else we have to accept that knowledge only forms a fragment of what art embodies and neither of these strategies seems in any way satisfactory. The currently popular emphasis upon 'new knowledge' and 'contributions to knowledge' smacks of a very particular kind of instrumental vision more suited to science. it's a kind of tyranny of knowledge as if this were the only valuable product of human agency. That's not to say that art doesn't produce knowledge but rather that this isn't its primary goal and therefore whenever we scrutinise the contribution of art on this checker board art comes out looking very meagre. If we were to ask a different question, one that sought the contribution to meaning or experience then I think we'd find it infinitely easier to encapsulate what we do and science and its associated world of facts figures would suffer a very similar struggle as we currently face.

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