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Artistic production and place making

Aspects of my methodological position are informed by ideas within the discourse which arises in the conjunction of art and research. There is currently much theorisation relating to art making, thinking processes, affect, and how artists work with concepts and create positions in intuitive, non-linear, and rigorous ways. I am particularly influenced by concepts associated with the making of artistic work as contextually bound material, thinking, and affecting process.

There are two concepts I am interested in lingering over for a moment. The first is material-thinking, proposed by Paul Carter (2004), and the second is makeshifting, proposed by David Andrew (2011). Both these concepts present an interpretation of artistic activity as thoughtful undertaking which emerges in the handling of materials at the nexus of concepts, the contextual, and lived experiences. I wish to make a note of these two concepts in relation to that of artistic praxis, and the production of affect.

Paul Carter (2004) holds that art-making is a form of material thinking in which wisdom is created through a mythopoetic process, rather than a scientific one. This form of thinking expresses through a coupling of what is known with an other option, and entails a complication of meaning through an invention that is metaphoric, poetic, analogic, equivocal, and so forth. This process of equivocation is contextually bound, and results in a form of place making through provisional encounters between bodies as multiple stories, and grounded in multiple stories. Laurence Vaugan (2007), reflecting on Carter proposes that place entails how people connect to a location, know a location, and how people are within that location. In Vaugan’s (2007) understanding of people and place-making, the process of invention occurs through an experience of the local, and is an articulation of place based on a lived experience in its relation to other experiences. The other options entailed in the equivocations of place are based in the lived experience of place, and entails movement, as momentary encounters and provisional arrangements in the production of place, and are localised acts of making. Opportunities for critical reflection on perceived realities relating to the social, spiritual and physical world are offered through the ambiguity in the expressive forms that are created though material thinking.

David Andrew (2011) proposes that the concept makeshift can provide a structure through which to understand the non-linear ways that people learn and conduct research through the arts. The concept retains the general meaning of the word makeshift, as that which acts as a provisional measure, but also involves a composite of the activities to make and through the making, to shift. For Andrew arts-based learning and teaching is a emergent undertaking of making and shifting based in a rigorous material-conceptual-contextual activity that moves beyond traditional forms of research undertaking. In a discussion on this concept, Andrew writes:

I imagine this makeshiftness existing on a number of levels: on a physical material level (material and medium); an intellectual level (evidence of complex reasoning); on a conceptual level (ability to marshal information in ways which suggest increasing mental agility) and related to this, a metaphoric level from which abstract thought emerges (2011, 112).

Both Carter (2004) and Andrew’s (2011) concepts make sense to me in a broader discourse where artistic praxis is approached in terms relating to material, contextual, thinking and affecting processes. Andrew’s conception of makeshifting, for instance, I find sensitive to what I understand as artistic praxis in its proposal that art making is a nexus of physical, intellectual, conceptual, and metaphoric levels. Similarly, I find Paul Carter’s proposal of material-thinking sensitive to what I understand as an artistic praxis, because of its emphasis on invention through a mediation with a material as a provisional activity which is contextually bound. Furthermore, I think that the conceptions of materialthinking and makeshifting can be related to what I understand as being an artistic praxis in a Deleuze-Guattarian linkage of the notion of artistic research to praxis as a material, contextual, thinking and affecting process. Art making, as research praxis, is a becoming as part of an assemblage. It is a mutation of materials, contexts, concepts and lived experiences into forms that speak to a researching process, but also produces opportunity for new encounters through affect (Williams, 2014). A conception of affect, it seems to me, as the capacity to invoke or undertake a change in a body, a transition from one condition into another, and always implicating another body (Masny and Cole, 2009), is an important concept to understand assemblages in which art making occurs. It can help show that while a work of art such as a painting perhaps does not make knowledge, that painting/print/sculpture is made and encountered in an assemblage which produces aspects of the world, and the painting/print/sculpture has influence on the human body through its materiality, and its association with a place.

An art-making process is part of an assemblage which includes concepts, contextually bound knowledges, lived experiences, and the physical handling of materials. It is clear to me that this type of undertaking produces a position in the world, but that this position is not always based in language, and can be filled with the ambiguous. Rather than being a weakness of artistic forms of thinking, the ambiguous offers advantageous opportunities to alter perception, and to invent, or re-invent aspects of the world.

Andrew, D. (2011). The Artist’s Sensibility and Multimodality – Classrooms as Works of Art. [online] pp.111-112. Ph.D. University of the Witwatersrand.

Carter, P. (2004). Material thinking. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2017].

Masny, D. and Cole, D. (2009). Multiple literacies theory. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Vaugan, L. (2007). Material Thinking as Place Making. Studies in Material Thinking, [online] 1(1), pp.1-2. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2017].

Williams, Q. (2014). Some Combinations: Praxis, Multimodal Art Research and Complex Environments. [online] MAFA. University of the Witwatersrand. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2017].

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