Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with London-based French installation artist Romain Meunier. His work deals with human/public responses to unusual sensory interaction – his work is very playful, free, open-ended and encourages people to participate and respond in their own way.
There is lots to like about his work; the experience of the ‘unusual’, in the sense that the actions themselves are uncommon in our day to day lives, such as suddenly hearing a guitar string plucked high above us, or how our shadows might affect a sound. I was drawn to how immediate the reactions were and how quickly the participants dropped adult/cultural standards of behaviour to continue to play. This really links in with some of my themes and concepts.
There is an opportunity to work collaboratively with Romain and my peers, which I am very enthusiastic about. Although such a project is not designed to be integral to my own project per se, the nature of Romain’s work is very much in the same theoretical vein as my own lines of enquiry. It would therefore be very beneficial for me to participate, make and observe the affects and effects as a maker and as an ‘end-user’, as well as giving me a case-study environment to draw parallels to my own personal practice.
So far I’m imagining injecting elements of unexpected fun into a serious environment… For example, imagine an office where the tapping of keyboards is replaced by random, xylophonic noises. How would that affect our feelings about the workplace, and the act of working? At first it sounds irritation, but why is work work, and why play is play? Is there the possibility for work to also be play, in the most banal of environments?
So suddenly I’m in week 2 of 10 for this term and I feel like I haven’t started to do anything! I’ve written so many pages of notes, been thinking and talking about my proposal a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really gotten anywhere. Should I have written something meaningful or read 2-3 books by now?
What I have done is gained some kind of confidence to trust my initial lines of enquiry; as mentioned previously Proposal 1.0 had one clear thread, whereas I now have up to 5 strands to the whole proposal. Yet it still feels woolly, messy… undefined. I’d like to really easily be able to say ‘My project is about…’.
So far I’m interested in looking at:
- How and why our minds try to ‘force’ us to identify familiarity when faced with randomness, and what happens when our minds aren’t able to rationalise abstract and non-figurative forms. This is intended to be multi-sensory, with a leaning on the tactile, rather than the visual, however it may be important to understand the ‘hierarchy’ of our senses. I must also consider the differences between the responses of the maker in contrast to the response of a holder/user.
- The notion of play: which I often feel is an irrational response (as a ‘culturally-programmed’ adult). This is quite a complex soup of theories and thoughts. Firstly to address there is the concept of defining ‘play’ (and it’s antithesis ‘work’), of which I am keen to explore the notion of play from an adult perspective. Is it the same behaviour as when children play? My gut response says this isn’t the case (due to cultural conditioning, ‘maturity’, knowledge of the world, etc.) however this is just a theory. Is adult play more complex, appreciative of the poetry of aspects, such as engineering or aesthetics?
- The ethical debate surrounding the art of making. This is again complex, and also taps into emotional or irrational responses to the act of crafting, but not necessarily in reference to mass-production or consumer culture. My angle is more concerned with the states of matter, ephemerality and permanence in my own practice. The ceramic work I produce (finished or experimental) will exist forever, and is hard to break down again. Much of what I create is experimental and once I have found out what it is I wanted to know – what happens to these ‘scraps’? There are forgotten and/or discarded. I experience some ethical conflict in this activity, however there lies the opportunity to look at the material and try to reconcile this feeling, perhaps through breaking the pieces down, and reusing the material in some way.
Comparing these strands, it seems there is an overlap with the theme of irrationality and interactivity, looking at the relationship between the object and the mind, but also the subconscious or even animalistic (uncultured) behaviours. Threads 2 and 3 certainly lend themselves to concepts of construction and modularity.
Gradually these themes are being distilled, honed and I get the feeling I am not far off being able to form a coherent proposal, albeit in a looser sense. The more I think and talk about these factors, I can feel them taking gold or some kind of gravity forming which holds the pieces together.
Below is a rough summary of my initial project proposal for the MA programme; this was written in January and has since gone through much digestion and mental deconstruction, reconstruction and reimagining; of which I will share more later…
the physical and allegorical values of amorphous objects
To investigate irrational thoughts, reactions and associations we have when presented with unfamiliar and abstract objects.
The basis of this proposal centres on concepts of justifying and valuing objects and things based against societal norms of function and material worth. Moreover, it aims to open discussion as to what happens when the rational mind (socially programmed mind) is unable to process the emotional or subconscious response we may have to objects that do not fit into the category of functional or familiar object.
There are two main threads to this concept. Firstly, the response of the holder, who has no prior expectations of what these objects may be. Secondly, the response of the maker, during and after the production process of said amorphous objects – decisions of design are made throughout the stages of creation, and therefore may not be as subconscious or abstract as initially thought.
Recently I have been reading about some contexts which I think are quite interesting to apply to this project; 2 notions of psychological habits. Apothenia and Pareidolia are occurrences where the mind tries to ‘force’ sense and pattern out of random information, such as seeing a face in the craters on the surface of the moon, or seeing Jesus on a piece of burnt toast. These conditions can also be extended to the Rorschach inkblot test. An understanding of these pending further investigation will help me to understand why the mind makes these erroneous judgements, and may help me to control or trigger this through my practical work.
Some of my previous practical work has already begun to explore these themes, although findings have yet to be formalised.
7th September 2016
Welcome to my blog – the page is designed primarily as a diary for my on-going MA project over the next 2 years. There will be lots of personal insights and ramblings, pictures and possibly videos of my practical work. If anything is of interest then please feel free to get in touch, interact or whatever you feel like
A little about me, I am 33 and live in London, UK. I am currently studying my MA in Visual Arts (Designer Maker) at UAL Camberwell, alongside teaching Fine Art, 3D Design and Architecture at a sixth form college, also in London. My background is not that of a formally trained artist; I am a bit of a dabbler, in that I have tried and briefly flirted with a rage of creative disciplines, but something always pulls me back to 3D making.
The kind of work I love tends to be very playful and honest (and sometimes primitive), rather than finely crafted, serious, high-end works. I will share the works of others quite readily, and love finding out about new artists and makers who hide away in their studios creating amazing and strange things.
If you’d like to see more of my previous work (I’m concentrating on current developments on this blog) then please do check me out on Instagram @cafedelmartin