Tutorial 7: 18 March 2020, Jonathan Kearney

The tutorial took place as we were in self-imposed isolation just before the government declared lockdown. We discussed the effect of the virus on the possibilities for societal change and the contrasting forces for change and the status quo.

As we talked, I had an overwhelming sense that the discussion was in the light, or shadow, of an impending and necessary lockdown and that the Camberwell show would in all likelihood become impossible.

We also discussed the way in which isolation and difficult circumstances can be a catalyst for creativity, art and changes of paradigm. An example of this in the past came to mind with the recent discovery of a copy of Newton’s Principia Matematica in a Corsican library. Newton wrote this great work while in self-imposed isolation during the plague.

We talked about what might lie ahead and the show as though it were going ahead: planning, logistics, and installation. I went through the process, risks, challenges and solutions. Could the show take place some other time in the future? We talked about the online show and how work could be configured for such a presentation: installed elsewhere and documented on video or in still images. This also could be a good thing for the future as a way of showing and promoting work. Particularly as my work very much depends on a physical presence and being sited in a specific location makes the space where it is seen particularly important.

The kiln situation is critical because the large kiln has not been connected and it may be possible that a lockdown will make that impossible for the foreseeable future: I need to look at an alternative to showing the work, perhaps using the work as a catalyst for thoughts and ideas.

I explained that I have not done much posting recently because I had been working on rebuilding the blog site. I described how I was using an export file and how I was relearning about HTML in the process. Everything including tags and categories is contained within the code except for the media. I estimated that I should finish by the end of March.

Jonathan asked me how I was working with the pipe clamps. I described the dimensions and rough construction of the pieces, particularly Logos, and also Enshrinement, and What is the Difference. I also described a time-lapse piece projection-mapped onto a surface inside a cubicle. Narrative of erosion and time with another object beneath being uncovered as it is eroded away. I also have other pieces, but much depends on logistic, space available. The show is flexible, from small-scale to large.

Jonathan asked me about what space I had in mind at Camberwell. I described the area where Lyu Wen had been last year. The long piece is long and the subwoofers overlook it like guardians which react as someone approaches making a feature of them as sentinels. I arrived at this out of lighting considerations. Spots in a darkened environment are not a feasible option under the circumstances.

Jonathan remarked about the video where I am recording the inside of a form. This conversation has encouraged me to explore this aspect of sound-making using the sculpture in the future. I wonder how recorded and live sound would be altered by the acoustic qualities of the sculpture. The interaction between the object and the sound. In addition, do I go for abstract sound or spoken word? This is a heuristic exploration.

I talked about the paper on the difference in career paths between experimental and conceptual artists. In experimental practices, the work arises out of the doing of the. Conceptual artists, on the other hand, are ideas and thesis led and the work is done that best illustrates or delivers the function of what is proposed. It is suggested that conceptual artists have success earlier on in their careers whereas experimental ones take longer to do so. In the case of the latter, what matters is fitting the brief or fulfilling the initial aim.

What I am doing is pretty all experimental. I tend to reflect and post-rationalise during or after the making in order to retrace the steps to explain what I am doing. Conceptual practice does this a priori so that the artist does not even have to carry out the work, or they can give it to someone else to do. As an experimental artist, more works tend to be left unfinished as each work is a step to the next as was the case with me.

Jonathan talked about the rarity of synthetic thinking citing the difficulty business owners have recruiting personnel capable of innovative perspectives which are to the point and are not the product of formulaic education. Such thinking tends to come to us with time and maturity. This is the case particularly in art, which is a life long endeavour whether one is successful early or not. Is early success desirable as an artist?

Also the education system today mitigates against developing skill and in-depth knowledge at an early age when learning and muscle memory are most effectively acquired. A school-based education mitigates against such specialisations which can create specific difficulties later on. I would say that schools provide training for the job market rather than educate for life long learning.

We moved on to talking about ritual and repetition to create habits. Confucian philosophy is very much based on pragmatic ritual as a way of reinforcing relationships and good work and life practices. This reminds me of the saying, practice makes perfect. I always think back to the classical music training of my son and would always correct this to, practice makes permanent, so make sure you practice the right thing well.

We finished the tutorial with a discussion about words, text and the synthesis of narratives in the context of my work with creation myths: how to incorporate them into my work. We also concluded that continuing web contact as a group over the Easter break would be a constructive thing to do.