Can artist be theorist? (Week 4- Artist as Theorist)

To the best of my understanding, to claim “artist as theorist” is to try to discover how artist theorize their art works both for the notion and the working process.

I think Sullivan’s work Artist as Theorist gives us a clear direction to analyze artists’ work as well as how could an artist become a theorist.

As it’s shown in the graph above, theoretical artists mainly meet the features of Transformation, Reflection, Relational and Site-based. Meanwhile, they are in a essential position among Communities, Systems and Cultures, which influence the art work by Ideas & Agency, Forms & Structures or Situations & Action.

Sullivan’s interpretation gives me a clear way to theories my own work. To be “Making in system”, artists need to “move beyond discipline boundaries”. In my project of the flash-mob, I reply on the form of performance art to carry on my concept by body language. In order to pass the information to mass audiences, I also need to turn to video sphere. To call in participants and work with them to put a conceptual idea in to reality is obvious a process for “Making in Community”. As for “Making in Culture”, I’d love to say the whole theme based on the Chinese “Family Planning Policy” (which is mostly known as “One-child Policy”) is a connection of the Western and Eastern culture. These are just example of how I can theories my art work, and I believe the other sections mentioned in the graph can be referred to.

However, I still doubt that can all artists be theorists? I mean, if all the art works or art working procedure can be theorized in a scientific way? For some of the artist, the art work comes from their brain storm which may be just a spark when they are in a daze. As Brian said in seminar, “…after watching tons and tons of films, someone may come up with a good idea and make a great film but fail to express it in words by article or theory”. In my opinion, to theorize, to a certain extent, indicates to make things logical and rational. If it’s a crazy, innovative, occasional idea, how can artists theorize it? So maybe the analytical system is something to be used afterward when we have to put the art work into an understandable or academic environment.

Do I understand it properly? What’s others’ opinion?


About celiayixie

I'm a girl who are looking for a place to be home~
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3 Responses to Can artist be theorist? (Week 4- Artist as Theorist)

  1. Dave Itzy says:

    Celia, I like how you use Sullivan’s framework of visual arts practice for artists to theorise, also in relation to your own work. It is very true that ‘making for community’ and ‘making for culture’ are important aspects in applying your work into a cultural theory, for beneficial or understanding purposes.

    In regards to coming up with ideas or inspiration out of nothing, or art theory being applied after the idea has been born – I think subconsciously we theorise as we create our work and it is actually our own perceptions of cultural and practical ideas that channel the ideas into our production work.

    Personal experience within a certain theme is always going to increase our sensitivity or strength in that area, so by using appropriate cultural theories applied to ourselves we can then inform our work to others in a well-constructed and meaningful way! Even if we [as artists] come up with ideas for art/media projects without any theoretical approach then we can always adapt theory to fit 😉

  2. I would support the conversation by stating that all us theorise our work during the process of formation but it is difficult to describe it in textual form.However for an artist to be theorist one needs to be able to describe his or her work for better understanding to himself or others. I would suggest my point by arguing that we may research for a lot of material during the process but after production of an artwork we may not remember every step of process,as we can forget or fail to remember.For all these we need to theorise our work for better understanding and expressing one’s work.

  3. Celia, I agree that we might not theorize our work whilst making a piece but I do think that we do theorize our practice as a whole whether we are aware of it or not simply because we belong to a community and live within a social context that defines our work.
    Our practice has to be share to have meaning and part of the process is to define, put words to what we do.
    You describing your project as flash-mob to describe a Chinese social issue puts you directly within the real of transexperience and as you mentioned making in culture and community.

    I was looking at the work of Marni Kotak who is a performance artist. The Birth of Baby X is her latest performance where she gave birth at the Microscope gallery in Brooklyn in public. Check her out, she takes performance art to the extreme.
    “As an artist, I am most concerned with the question of how one can have and convey a real experience. I believe that our most intriguing performances occur when we are not aware that we are performing,” she says.
    Even if her work is by essence immediate: giving birth, she knew she was giving birth in a pool and had prepared the room for the child in the gallery, called the press but she didn’t know how it would happen which is what she defines as performance art. Her art had already been contextualized and theorized.
    In our individualistic societies, giving birth is widely a private experience surrounded by doctors in hospitals. She made it an event open to the community, people she didn’t know came to see and help. I find it fascinating.

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