Saturday, 3 June 2017

Notes on a one-to-one meeting with Dr Rowan Bailey, Friday 2nd June 2017

I provided a weekly update sheet to Dr Bailey with my latest thoughts and visualisations. This presented a summary of the research readings and various visual experiments that I've been carrying out during the last week or so. A combination of drawing photography, experimentation writing, digitised images, trying to look for edges as perceptions. The idea of these drawn borders comes from Helen Macdonald's ideas in H is for Hawk (2014). The idea is that Hawks can see two-dimensional images as line drawings and makes sense from sketches and pictures.

What I have done this to take an original picture, the scene of a cliff face made in North Jersey, and tried various experiments with hand drawing as outlines of edges that might be important to a Peregrine, and defining those critical edges with thicker markings, and providing minor detail with thinner line thicknesses. This is just to make something different and minimal, which is the point which is I'm trying to get to, this minimisation. But I am also attempting to shortcut it through digitised images, by using Adobe Illustrator and provides a variety of possible outcomes through various post-production manipulations.

These to me seemed to come out as images that are interesting, but arguably wrong. The digitisation finds the edge of cliff faces, but a stray sunray is also treated as a digitised edge.
So there are no shortcuts. I've played about with a few images and photographs that I took of the Easter period. I'm not sure if these are right for my exploration because they are a little bit too muddled and jumbled and more not minimal enough. My hand drawing something, and making a judgement call as to what is important, and what edges are less significant the outcomes are more anthropocentric.

When comparing the hand drawn version against the digitised version while the hand-drawn image makes immediate sense to a human being, the digitised version might indeed be sufficiently "different, and otherworldly" to provide some more value in exploring this method. In Dr Bailey's opinion, these digitised versions reminded her of some of the kinds of images from the film "Terminator", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The cyborgian type of digitised image. Dr Bailey reminded me that by seeing something from the perspective of a peregrine falcon I need to be experimenting as an artist in ways that I am demanding an audience a particular perspective to see too. In other words, the artist demands the viewer to see a new and alternative perspective, that is clearly not anthropocentric.

I need to remove the view (such as the hand drawn version), that this has been a humanly created rendering, and instead when looking at the strange digital perspective image one can imagine that this is kind of how a Peregrine might see. Nobody truly knows, even with all the science, but in terms of the signs (such as Helen Macdonald's discovery that Falcons can recognise two-dimensional drawings), the sharply defined lines are what the Peregrine sees and can actually see pictures of prey and identify with things like that.
As a Peregrine is travelling through a landscape how does it see? One may be able to imagine that this is how it sees (the digitised version) and draw a new conclusion? Whereas, considering the hand drawn version if one was to suggest that the Peregrine sees in the same way (a more anthropocentric version), it becomes a human interpretation again and not absorbing as a different way of looking and seeing. So, Dr Bailey confirmed that the digital versions become interesting experiments in their own right because as forms of didn't digital manipulation they might also be telling a story about Peregrines and my journey.

If the existing literature says, from a scientific point of view, or from other points of view, that birds of prey and their eyes are optically able to spot things that are tiny over enormous distances, what is that perceptual experience?
This is what I have to communicate in my work if that is my purpose, to see how the Peregrine see. And then it is all bound up in that beautiful symbolic narrative in which I become the prey or the preyed upon, and vice versa in this journey. The hunted and the hunting and the hunter and the hunted.
But at what point does this become reflected upon me, as the hunter or the hunted? My journey as a hunter and researcher but also as an individual being hunted by the Peregrine, as the object of investigation. And what has been hunted down... is my former self?
All these threads that begin to connect but also like a line that is lost and found?
I was very interested in Dr Bailey's opinions as I'm trying to get as many people's views as possible. How each individual encounters my project and the outputs both as a narrative and as a visual form are extremely pertinent. Everybody has their own particular view and response, and I'm keen to capture these in their own right.

To try and get away from the human-centric, the anthropocentric and anthropomorphic feeling of representing other animals perceptions and phenomenology.

I also informed Dr Bailey of my acquisition of Prof Tim Ingold's book "Lines: a brief history" (2007), who was clearly excited and pleased to look at the contents. The initial discussion that Prof Ingold makes about musical notation may not be directly linked to my project, but the future chapters about traces and links and connections are very much of use.

Another book that I've also acquired is the Whitechapel publication "Documents of Contemporary Art: Animals" (2016) edited by Filipa Ramos. There are a variety of essays within the tower particularly relevant such as John Berger's essay "Why Look at Animals?" (1977), and more recent articles such as "Becoming Something Else" (2014) by Marcus Coates. Many other lectures and essays are recorded in this book including work by Walter Benjamin, Giles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Simon Critchley, Brian Massumi and Donna Haraway all of which are of great use. This was recommended to me by Richard Mulhearn and is an excellent find which I am very grateful for.

Whilst I believe that some of Marcus Coates's approaches are somewhat wacky and unusual, what they actually do provide is an alternative view of ideas generally. It provides another dimension "to becoming something else", and I am finding this of interest in itself.

Dr Bailey felt that all of these sources will certainly help in building the context, and in my ambitions to not only improve my theoretical outputs. I realise that I need to incorporate all of the suggestions that Dr Bailey, Dr Macdonald and Richard Mulhearn are making. Equally, in reflection, all their feedback has been positive, and I should not be fixated on the 'the numbers' or marks from previous module assessments (as Dr Bailey pointed out).

But instead, what is crucial is (whilst I am very systematic and thorough), what I need to try to do, at this stage of the project, (because it is so big), is to revisit the project question. The statement.  I have gone some way to doing this already, but this still needs to be tightened up.

At the moment the 'problem statement' is too much and convoluted, and in some senses 'tricky'.

So thinking and reflecting on Dr Bailey's suggestions to take this forward, I need to go back to the original problem statement and rework it so that speculative realism becomes the "thread" and is a subtle undertone, not domination.  The danger of so much emphasis on Speculative Realism is this becomes a mode of thinking that actually stops other things from being seen, or experienced, or reviewed.

JA Baker and the Peregrine(1967) is at the core of this project, but my "modes of seeing" must be carried through the discourse of my essay, and equally tied with the discussions of the research literature that I have been exploring.

One way in which I can tighten this up is by developing a framework of artistic research that works correctly for me. Creative research needs to be carefully managed by revisiting "history, theory and practice". These are the three "prongs" of the triangle or circles of a Venn diagram.

I need to create an open-ended approach as a speculative enquiry, that is non-linear, but the anchor should be 'artistic research' through different ways of seeing...
Such as:
the Peregrines way,
as me as a researcher,
as an explorer,
and me as a subject confronted with myself in my own journey.

So what story is it that I want to tell? ...And how?

There is something about the writing of Siebold, and similar writers who take you on a story, on a journey, and I need to think about what is it that I want to do.

I need to think about my outcomes, which could be an online platform, as a curated, edited thing?
Or as a blog writer?

Some of those elements can come out and start to plot a story is an online curatorial platform, where the story is told. Some of this might appear later, as a beautiful, simple, little artists book with some of my drawings to accompany them?   This is something that I was thinking of creating as an artefact, as a kind of book, after my own writing and submission in July which will be the bulk of the writing. The visual book would come as a summary, that is, in a graphical and imagistic form for the final submission in Late August.

Because I am focusing on a written submission for July 18th's deadline, I need to think about styles of storytelling NOW through a kind of curatorial strategy.  Perhaps by mimicking all of the influences that I have been working with or navigating through?

It was decided that in preparation for the next meeting with Dr Bailey, I will develop a storyboard to put a framework together of the component parts of the project, but also the threads that I need to weave through them. So that way, there will be a sense of how these different voices and perspectives play a role, how do I theoretically and historically situate them together with my practice, which when mapped onto this provides a curatorial framework to structure this.

A curatorial strategy is what is required!

 There is an awful lot to explore, but it is about refinement too of the curatorial approach.

Once I can clarify that all of the research is in place (and anything that follows), I will be able to work this forward (to a common purpose), and it will naturally fall into place, with a coherent and cohesive output and outcomes.

In addition to carrying out my own artistic research, what I also need to do is to articulate what all of this means to me as an individual and as an artist. This will help you to define the story that I want to tell and how I can curate it.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Notes on a lecture by Claire Booth, a PhD student, Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Claire is undertaking a PhD study in connection with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the subject of Happiness and Well-Being.

Claire is a graduate in anthropology at degree level (undergraduate), and completed a Master's degree in Art and Design. She is particularly interested in how human centred design can connect. Claire's research is tying these social relations with interactive artworks to get meaningful experiences for participants.

A number of suggestions for helping to plan a research project were provided by Claire.

When considering a new artistic research project, the first stage is to try to conceptualise the project as a whole and some kind of framework needs to be constructed. In her case, she has used a number of sources that have come about since the early 80s, for example the "Happiness Turn" recognised in psychology, and the subsequent "World Happiness Report" that has been annually issued over the past few years. Indeed there is now method for General Practitioners in medicine to prescribe certain social activities that can improve happiness, known as "Social Prescribing", for their patients, such as for example to visit places like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Another interesting source might be "The Museum of the Mind", and the Happy Museum. Also of use is "The Promise of Happiness" a book by Sara Ahmed.

The research aims:

  • To study the emotional impact of visits at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  • Is happiness and well-being constructed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park?
  • To provide qualitative research project.

The research design:

  • defines components and elements
  • the site
  • the stakeholders
  • the focus
  • the players, and resources

Within the research there will be various levels, layers and registers of experience. Claire likes to call this the multiplicities of experience.

Research methods:
moving beyond observation, you need to get more interventionist participation to measure experiences and not just behaviour. As an observing participant, but also a participant observer, Claire is performing different roles as a researcher and often feels that there is an "in between" space that she is existing in.

Much of her work is about getting people to talk more about their experiences on an individual level. The theory that she has been focusing on our for example:

  • The Spell of the Sensations by David Abraham (1996) a detailed discussion on the work of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
  • The Perception of Environment by Tim Ingold (2000) and Making (2013)
  • A Single Day's Walk by John Wiley.

With regards to Claire's question of how she is carrying out research, she has looked towards the theory of "Action Research". This is a method of democratising the research process. See the book "Participation Action Research" by Cahill (2007). This provides the action research cycle, similar to the one mentioned by Alysia Grassi at the previous week' s lecture.

In considering collaborative methods, these are traditional and qualitative. For example
participatory diagramming through face-to-face interviews.
Mapping through questionnaires (hardcopy, paper version)
storytelling through online questionnaires
making activities through participant observations
journalling through activities such as workshops and walking.

The "validity" of research in all cases is based on rigourousness, reasonableness, triangulation, case analysis, referential adequacy, credibility, transfer ability, dependability, conformability (see the book by Stringer, 2010)

  • Consider also the context during planning.
  • Environment
  • Creative research/design problem
  • Define clearly who are the stakeholders.
  • How can you understand their experience?
  • And finally what is your own position with regard to all of the above?


Again a very useful lecture by a practising artist and anthropologist, with distinct connections to some of the work that I have been exploring. The above framework of suggested sections and titles of the research process are valuable for my own essay. I need to consider these carefully and how they interrelate with my own work, aims and objectives.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Observation in Research, lecture by Alysia Grassi, University of Huddersfield, Wednesday 24th of May.

This will particularly useful lecture aimed at discussing alternative ideas in observation and using 'observation in research' practice.

The objective of all academic research in the creative arts is either qualitative or quantitative. Questions that are asked in this domain are:
  • what is the observation?
  • What type of observations is being performed?
Observation is concerned with what people do and how they interact. Consider it as systematic viewing, which should be done as an iterative process, and never in isolation.

When considering observation for either qualitative or quantitative research, one must be able to describe 'what it is' that is being carried out. The documentation and recording should be targeted together with the analysis, in relation to the research question, - which equally has to be adaptable.

The general difference between participant observation and that of structured observation is that participant observation is qualitative, whereas structured observation is generally quantitative.
Concerning 'participant observation', it is possible to use the Internet to mediate and record. Whereas with structured observation videography may be employed. These kinds of observational methods can be considered as both primary and secondary research, particularly for example when a video can be post-analysed.

The ethnographic technique has been used in anthropology studies for many years. It takes place with the informants responding and being observed, within their own natural habitats. In sociology, it is not only about watching human behaviour, but also through 'talking' to the informants to discover their own interpretations, through the use of direct one-to-one interviews, social media and other activities.

Key elements of observation in research include:
  • living within the context that you are studying, for a long time (and in the case of sociology this can mean an immersion for greater than 18 months)
  • as an observer, one needs to have participation in daily routines with the observed
  • by using everyday conversation is a technique to record responses from those being observed.
  • Recording observations contemporaneously, such as through audio-video recording and field notes.
  • Using the tacit and explicit information in the analysis and the writing. (See DeWalt and DeWalt, 2001, and further discussion on tacit and explicit knowledge, see Michael Polyani).
When planning for observation in research, decide the position that you wish to take as an observer. This could be one of four combinations and can be best articulated through a quadrant diagram as follows;

Other things to consider are:
  • observation is time-consuming!
  • Manage and plan time carefully therefore
  • capture and analysis of data takes patience
  • spending lots of time with the subjects is also critical
  • vary the times of observations, with variants through the day, through different weekdays, weekends, months and seasons.
Reasons for observational research:
  • different types of data can be collected.
  • There is less risk of those being observed "acting."
  • it should be a two-way process, and consideration should be given continually to responses, as it helps a researcher form questions.
  • It provides a wider understanding.
  • Sometimes observational research is the only way.
The method of observation can, however, be subjective. The behaviour of the observer may affect what is being observed.

Proper preparation is essential. 
  • It is essential to document the purpose, the role of the observer, any ethical questions and their appropriateness.
  • Make sure that the recording technology is fully working, with plenty of battery time available and even backup methods to ensure a focused and fruitful period of recording.
  • Make sure that any permissions that are required are properly sought and documented from any stakeholders and gatekeepers.
Try a pilot phase of recording first. The final method can then be adapted.
Once in the field, try to think about the big picture/but small detail.
Consider Spradley's nine dimensional of "How to Observe".
The general routine should be;
observe-think and reflect-observe-think and reflect-observe-think and reflect, and so on.
Consider responses concerning goals, feelings, space, actors, activities, objects, acts, events and time.

Furthermore, consider potential errors and biases. Generally speaking, errors occur through:
  •  lack of understanding [usually through not enough time being devoted to the observation].
  • Overfamiliarity [often occurs through having too much time].
  • Drift. [This is a danger when researchers get bored or change points of view].
Biases occur, again quite often, through a lack of time.
  • Preconceptions are incorrectly drawn upon. 
  • There may be subjective results or even influenced.
All in all, make sure one takes detailed notes about the environment.
  • The size and feel of the location, the room or environment in general. 
  • What objects already reside within it? 
  • What are the potential distractions for both the Observer and the observed? 
  • What is the temperature in which the observations are being carried out? 
  • Are there any unusual or intermittent smells or noises or other ambient disruptions?
And finally, when writing up your responses, there are some interesting lessons to be learned from 20th-century creative writers such as John Debbion and Hunter Thompson amongst others, and sources of reference can include books such as "the Rum Diaries", "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", "The Hells Angels" et cetera.

Basically, all of these observational texts are written in the first person.


I found the lecture particularly engaging, but a little bit disappointed that the timing of this talk was rather late on during the schedule of the overall course, as much of its content may have been useful during our own research in previous modules of the MA study. However, I do appreciate that the lecturer may simply have not been available to provide this input at an earlier opportunity, and so I am grateful that we have been able to gain;

  •  a very solid insight into some practical and field-tested methodology. 
  • Much of Alissia's work and presentation showed me different ways of thinking and conducting physical / "in-vivo" research.
  • It is vital to begin to analyse and measure responses, public opinion and hence value. 
  •  It is essential for me to carry out such research as part of my major project.