Thursday, 8 June 2017

A short discussion with Dr Bailey to bounce ideas with ...

I had another productive meeting with Dr Bailey yesterday morning which moved me towards a renewed vigour to look for the works of Siebold and also to continue my reading of John Gray and the most recent book that I have acquired called Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. (2002).

I will explain a little more about my meeting with Dr Bailey, but my mind had already been positioned somewhat by my recent readings of Gray. A couple of paragraphs should help the reader to understand my mindset first.

Gray's book starts with a quotation from Jacques Monod, which goes "all religions, nearly all philosophies, and even part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its contingency" (Jacques Monod, Molecular Biologist, 1910-1976).

The thrust of Straw Dogs is to justly articulate the actual human position in the world, which could be paraphrased and summarised as follows.
Despite our assumed sovereignty over and above everything else on the planet, we are just another animal: we believe that as humans, we are on a forward path of progress. However Gray points out that this is a myth. Indeed, the myths of religion, and even politics (such as the communist experiment on one hand, and fascism on the other extreme), and now dominated by liberal humanism are also no more than idealism or pious hopes.

So this illusion of progress is particularly impressive from an artistic point of view, as Gray spends the first chapter debunking most of our human myths. My eyes were raised in curiosity in the section which describes how Science (always being challenged by the Church), is proud of its reputation that it is based on logic and reason alone. This is exclaimed by its most vociferous (yet possibly less academic) supporters. However, in reality, (as such), it is in fact rooted in "faith, magic and trickery." In my own experience, this actually makes a huge amount of sense! Most scientific theories have indeed started as a hunch, and in a belief which may have never had a rational or logical source. I have been witness to the emotional pleadings from scientists, and those that are successful seem to be the ones that are able to secure funding for research through emotional, rather than rational or logical arguments alone.

The reason for Gray's positioning makes further sense in the next section, where he states "science works to entrench anthropocentrism. It encourages us to believe that, unlike any other animal, we can understand the natural world, and thereby bend it to our will." However, it is becoming clear from the advances in science (and here, read physics, quantum physics, genetics, microbiology et cetera), that not only our world but our universe can perhaps never be fully understood.

At last, is this the taste of humility?

Anyway, back to my meeting with Dr Bailey. My actions from the previous conversation I had had with Rowan was to create some kind of storyboard to help commence the production of my research essay. As it had only been a couple of days since we last spoke. I didn't have much to show her, other than a quote from Werner Hertzog which I mischievously repeated with a strong German accent;
 "I do not use a storyboard, it is an instrument of the cowards!" (Werner Hertzog)
However, I assured Rowan that this was pure mischief on my part, and I had been reading Graeme Harper's essay "Creative Writing: Words As Practice Led Research" (2008). This together with a paper by Lisa A. Mazzei (2014) entitled "Beyond Any Easy Sense: A Diffractive Analysis", an essay discussing Karen Barad's concept of a "diffractive methodological approach" (2007). These articulate the ideas of finding multiple insights through the readings of a multitude of sources. The red suggests that connections are made in unpredictable ways and so through reflection encourages new questions to be formed, with the outcome of generating alternative routes to knowledge.

Dr Bailey agreed that diffractive reading is an excellent method articulate my various sources of research material and recommended that I looked at an interview with Karen Barad, called material realities, the interviewer was Iris van do to in.

I need to consider carefully how I am doing the literature review for my essay. The intermingling, twisting and overlapping research threads of my enquiries are interesting in their own rights and the ideas of Tim Ingold and his discourse on "lines" is of particular use here. For all of this to finally become concrete through the unexplainable confrontation that I have been presented with, that is with my own reflection found in Helen MacDonald's book "Falcon" (2006). It provides genuinely interesting and exciting artistic research. Through this I can explain why creative research can be speculative, and why situated knowledge (which includes the work of Donna Haraway) can be so valuable.

My conversation with Rowan gave me new enthusiasm to continue, as it almost always does, - I'm feeling incredibly privileged and grateful to be able to have these short conversations with such a patient mentor.


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