Monday, 1 September 2008

Mind the Gap

I nearly began this entry by writing: 'you must forgive me for being absent for so long’. But of course this presupposes that there is a ‘you’ reading this. At this time I tell myself that I am writing this blog so that I can record what happens (happened) whilst I was upon my three-year fellowship. How did the ideas grow, how did the thinking manifest itself and mature into concepts that I could exchange with a real reader. But actually it would be more correct to write “I must forgive myself for being absent”, but then I don’t believe in blaming myself so that would be redundant.

What has been happening is that I have been ‘realising’ my six new pieces for an award that I received in October 2007 and I have made an agreement to complete these by the end of September 2007 - and it is now August 26th 2008. Since my last entry I have been absolutely flat out either arranging for the shooting of the new work or actually producing it - weekdays and weekends too.

The reason I can write this, that I have the time to write this is that I am in Turkey in 37-degree heat and I cannot possibly do anything to advance any of my productions. When I get back in 8 days time I hit the ground running and have to go to a post-production suite to finish some images at 4k resolution and prepare them for 2k display, then shoot another production, the Unfurling, then go direct to Venice to shoot Un Tempo, Una Volta over 6 days then return too stage 10 exhibitions until the end of September by when I will also have to lodge my interim report for the first 12 months of my Fellowship.

In amongst all of this I also have to formulate some ideas about what I’m doing - and why, and this of course goes to the heart of my fellowship itself. I have what is known as an Arts and Humanities Research Council Creative Research Fellowship in… I hesitate here because there are some issues to hold back to discuss. The first 4 words, the AHRC, is a government-backed council empowered to give away money for research. So far so good. But there’s the caveat buried in the next bit `Creative’. I am a Creative Fellow - in all senses. It’s taken me years to come out of the closet and admit to creativity publicly - but I can do that now so that’s not the issue. I’ve been flexing my creative muscles for as many years as I’ve been able to make a mark - I know how to do it, it’s up to the audience to judge how well.

The real issue is that my research has to take place within the idea of the creative, which is more Euclidian and less Aristotelian. Here I make reference to an old but influential text: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ where the author, one Robert Pirsig notes that creativity is in the eye of the beholder. His work is about the creative juices that have to be invoked over and above intellectual acuity when compiling, in his study, a set of instructions. One may be intellectually acute but that does not mean to say that anything valuable gets communicated. It was Pirsig’s contention that Aristotle created the split between the creative and the scientific. Aristotle created a world view where things had value if the were weighed and measured - all else was irrelevant - according to Pirsig. Euclid, through this writer’s a vague avoidance created a more whole worldview through his geometry.

So going back to the idea of creative research - what does that mean in terms of the Aristotelian imperative? Clearly one cannot weigh and measure the creative act, yet the money says you can - so somehow I must at least make an attempt here where I reside in a Euclidian universe. I’m using this epithet in a lax way - what I mean here is that unlike Heisenberg - who has been in my thoughts a lot lately - I believe I can know both my velocity and my position. That’s what artists do, they utilise what the Aristotelian thinker can never use - a Euclidian sense of worth. A real bastardisation is happening because I like the idea of geometry as propose by Lewis Carol in Alice through the Looking Glass - things are relative and valuable and measurable within the circumstances by those that would take up a tape measure to a brush stroke by Cezanne. The scientist can only know the length of Cezanne’s brush stroke, or its colour, or its tone in relation to other colours and brush strokes - practically everything else that is valuable in art is unknowable and unfathomable by the scientist.

But the ‘money’ says that you have to try to know something about what your intuition is telling you. And here I have to make a small commercial break because at least some wise soul in authority knows that there is something to be had here in the outer reaches of the investigation of creativity and has made provision for people like me to try to know it.

I assert that I am on the right track to find something out about what I’m doing. I can’t make reference to anything that can substantiate that statement. I just ‘know’ it. And what I’ve been doing as a process toward finding something out within the boundaries of the scientific method, i.e. make a hypothesis and test it, tells me that all the lights are on green and not amber or red - the conditional sense of the notion of a hypothesis has given a thumbs up to the contention that, in my specific case - making art with High Definition Technologies will bare reward. Even my tests on standard definition or the lower realms of High Definition are delivering an audience response that speaks of a transmission between artist and audience that bares the fruit of pleasure (at least) for the audience. Pleasure has limitations, often we want the audience crying or at least reaching for a handkerchief so that the audience is ‘moved’. If we move them then we as artists might feel satisfied. But like Brecht, I have a suspicion of emotionalism - my goal is higher that that.

The Hindus say that the emotions are a lower frequency response (note with me how I slip so easily into scientific language when describing the non-scientific), let me rephrase that then with a musical metaphor - the Hindu’s say that intuition is an octave higher than emotion - that the same quality as emotion at a higher octave is what we term intuition. That the still small interior voice is simply a clearer articulation form within, from the mechanism within, about what it finds in the world.

Brecht wanted to touch the audience but not make become emotional. Perhaps he just wanted to communicate a political idea, perhaps he wanted more, I don’t really know and I’d rather leave that to people who really know about Brecht. I want to give the audience something that allows them to be truly creative in their response. If I can make art that has sufficient space within it then they too will respond creatively and become engaged with the work and also generate performative acts for themselves that are an integral part of the work - in fact, ideally, the work should itself fall away and then what the audience does becomes the work itself.