Still very much in the process of pinning down how I approach my practice, “Artist as theorist” from Graeme Sullivan confused me even more or rather pointed out how much reading and integration work is required to theorize my approach to visual art and film making.
One aspect is immediately clear though: “Whether undertaking research in art or about art, the artist-theorist becomes involved in a set of practices that must be defensible. The aim of research in visual arts, as in any other forms of exploratory enquiry, is to provoke, challenge, illuminate rather than confirm and consolidate.” Sullivan, G. (2010). Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts. SAGE.
By identifying how artists explore creative practices in making in systems, making in communities and making in cultures, Sullivan reinforces the “artist as a hybrid identity”.
The artist-theorist participates in a transdisciplinary practice involving participation in the fields of science and technology, engaging communities by making new connections, broadening perception by including broader histories and also critically examining and questioning knowledge within a cultural context.
I like the idea of defining the artist as experimentalist, using various methodologies and defining concepts as they go along in their practice depending on the project they are involved in at a specific moment in time.
Then as Celia https://thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/author/celiayixie/ questions in her blog entry “Can artist be theorist?” how can artists theorize a creative moment, the spark of creativity, be witness of the genius within but after creation by reflecting on the work rather than during the practice itself.
I understand “Artist as theorist” as a wonderful and complex attempt to define the changing roles and evolving practices of artists and “extend from a focus on the artist-as-theorist to encompass constituent practices more clearly identified with empiricist, interpretive, and critical traditions.”
The work of Yong Son Min, Defining Moments (1992) is reflective of how artists are now taking; transporting and broadening their practice cross culturally.
Min’s work bears similarities in its approach with Chen Zhen, the prominent contemporary Chinese artist “whose work is characteristic of those who move between and among.”
Chen’s legacy includes the notion of transexperience that characterizes “the complex life experiences of leaving one’s native place and going from one place to another in one’s life.”
As an artist, activist, humanist, multimedia artist, scholar and curator, Min has been a voice and visual stimulus behind the emergence of multiculturalist and decolonial art activism in the ‘80s”. In Defining moments (1992) she shows how history has defined her, she uses a critical approach to history and culture: how much are we defined by our social set up and travels? What impact does it have on our bodies, the visible part of our soul and mind?
Min’s work has informed my work at various levels. She has reminded me that artist as activists also work cross culturally and not only within communities since themes approached are usually universal: human/animal rights, political movements, environmental issues…
At an aesthetic level, the use of Min’s own body to reflect critically on the history of Korea and the US brings about how the creative process can be organically demonstrated and also discursive between mind and physicality.
This was illustrated by Joe’s intervention on one of the six-part photographic installation where Min wrote on her body various words in the shape of a spiral. Joe was wondering to which part of the body the words corresponded.
To me the meaning was very much into the spiral itself. In the Celtic tradition, It is believed to represent the travel from the inner life to the outer soul or higher spirit forms; the concept of growth, expansion, and cosmic energy, depending on the culture in which it is used. To the Maori, it signifies a new beginning of life and is also a symbol of hope.
Professor Graves worked for 50 years on the spiral of life used within Universe Spirit, it refers to human consciousness development: Professor Grave’s work has been popularized in the Book Spiral Dynamics. http://www.spiraldynamics.net/about-spiral-dynamics-integral.html. Each of these levels of human consciousness development produces a worldview and each worldview produces values and personal and cultural results.
Artists use transdisciplinary practices and cross-cultural references within their own practice with or without referring to it consciously.
Did Min mean to use the spiral of life by referring to its historical meaning? Did she use it instinctively without being aware of the discourse she was opening for some of us? Does it matter?
There is a point where the artist touches our soul and above or beyond theorization, when we experience immediate knowing of an intention or just a thought generated by the work of art.
Contextualizing and defining the work of Artists as theorist offers a legitimization of wide arrays of practices and approaches that has become their playground and changed how we define Artists as a society.