Artist as Theorist

Chapter five, “Artist as Theorist” delves into the process and influences artists deal with. What I found most interesting about this chapter was the term “transexperience.” The term refers to the artist Chen Zhen’s concept for art practice. He felt that one should leave his or her birth place and travel from place to place in order to gain life experience. What struck me about this concept was how the majority of people on the Art and Media Practice course are international, myself included. Thinking about this chapter and my own experience with “transexperience” with my master’s project led me to question how international exposure to other countries and cultures has affected my course mates research and art since Chen considered “the departure from convention… [to lie] in the way that…considered transexperience as a creative catalyst” (Sulivan, p. 150). Several of my course mates have stated they are basing their works off of the experiences of being in England from their home country and the culture shock that initiated, and others have based projects off of religious and cultural influences from their own countries. So does this mean that in order to be creative one must travel?

I believe the answer to the above question to be no. The English students on this course are taking pieces of culture and experiences from the international students, just as we are from them. While I do believe that the ease of international travel has helped to move the art world forward in areas such as contemporary art, I do not feel that one must get on a plane and travel to experience other cultures. This is where this chapter’s look at art theorists really is compelling. With the internet providing never ending sources both in art and theory (e.g. the website Deviant Art and networked books), when can almost gain first hand experience with other cultures and artists. According to Sullivan, “What is apparent is the reemergence of artist-theorists as important sources of vision and voice within the cultural politics of these times, and the approaches they use that require different ways of thinking about artistic inquiry” (Sullivan, p. 150).

It is almost impossible to not be exposed to other cultures or beliefs when living in the western world, and I feel that this chapter makes strong points concerning international experience and its influence on both art and theory. While this chapter did discuss other matters, it was these points that I felt resonated the strongest to me. Not only am I an international artist by being an American in London studying for a master’s in art and media practice, but there are thousands of other international students around the world doing similar things to what I am doing, but none of them have lived my life and have my experiences to share with others and to influence both mine and others research methods and theory outlook. What I believe I am trying to get at is, that no two places are a like, and in order to well round yourself as both an artist and theorist, one must experience other cultures and people, whether that be online or through travel.

Thank you.
Jessica Dahn

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