Artist as Theorist from week 3

In the chapter Artist as theorist in Graeme Sullivan’s book “Art Practice as Research” from 2005 Sullivan describes a “re-emergence of artist-theorists” (Sullivan, p. 150)

According to Sullivan the artist role is changing within the development of modern digital-technology. Sullivan describes how the old type of artist, the “artist-teacher” (Sullivan, p. 151) today is inadequate. The new type of contemporary artist work with both theory and practice and cross between traditional disciplines and explore ideas which are both personal and relevant to the public. Sullivan describes this type of artist as an artist who: “see structures that define traditional discipline areas not as boundaries or barriers, but as potential pathways that can link ideas and actions in new braided ways.” (Sullivan, p. 150)

In the chapter Sullivan lays out three areas which he describes as “Making in Systems, Making in Communities and Making in Cultures” (Sullivan p 150)

For the artists who are working in Cultures, Sullivan sees them as artists who take advantage of cross-cultural experiences and networks and move between places globally. Artists who work with Communities try to challenge the way that (for example within ethnography and anthropology) different phenomenons are understood and interpreted and then interact to “dislodge restrictive meanings” (Sullivan, p. 153)

Within the area “Making in Systems” Sullivan portrays artists working in combination with science and exploring the new digital-medias.

These artists “ work in and across many of the domains that originally fell neatly within categories of the life science, the physical science, the humanities, the fine arts, and institutional teaching, and this is opening up existing possibilities for the field” (Sullivan, p. 158-59)

According to Sullivan are these kinds of artists interested in exploring the relationship between the artist (artist-creator) and the audience (viewer-participant). They take into account that the relationship between audience and artist has changed. These artists give up control of parts of the artwork to the audience and appreciate the type of interaction this creates with the audience: “The artist gives up total control in favour of a new kind of viewer communication and experience, one which offers a less passive position for the viewer, one which also celebrates the inherent creative capacities of all individuals” (Sullivan, p. 156)

Sullivan draws on the work of Steven Wilson (2002) when he explains that both artists and scientists gain from this type of collaboration. The artists gain knowledge within critical theory and cultural studies which is important since it is “debates about society, visual culture, and technology that raise important issues” (Sullivan, p. 157) The scientists on the other hand needs the knowledge possessed by cultural theorists and artists because “ the established parameters and methods of inquiry are proving inadequate in dealing conceptually and imaginatively with the possibilities opening up with the new technologies” (Sullivan, p. 157)

Thomas D.D

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