September 4, 2014

8.30 am. I dealt with various website postings, ‘messaged’, and culled my inbox before digging in for the conclusion of the current Art/Sound lecture. Periodically, I installed various analogue effectors in Pedalboard 3’s external loop provision to discern their effectiveness, and began processing files for Matt. 20.16 in the background:

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By 11.00 am, the lecture was finished. Then it was straight on to the next one, dealing with Minimalism and Conceptualism in art and music. Over my lunch hour, I documented Pedalboard 3 and packed necessities for a trip to Sheffield tomorrow. This is the third rebuild of the pedalboard in a year:

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2.00 pm. I made a prompt response to an inquiry from a very able PhD Fine Art student who’s experiencing one of those rites of passage that I think all scholars should go through at least once in their career:

Research, whether through fine art or in art history, will “do ya ‘ead in”. Reckon upon that as being an axiom woven into the fabric of the universe. One of my undergraduate teachers was the conceptualist and photographer Keith Arnatt. I went up to him on one occasion and, in a barely concealed panic, said: ‘Keith, I have a crisis’. He looked at me — with an expression that recalled the face of a scolded bloodhound — and replied: ‘It’s when you don’t have a crisis … that’s when you should be worried’. Cold comfort at the time but, in my experience subsequently, absolutely true. You have a crisis. You’re sensing that either a decision needs to be made, or you’re at a crossroads, or suddenly the road ahead has vanished into the mist. And so with all the limited empathy that I can muster, I say to you: you’re in the best place that an artist can be. I really believe that. The crisis demonstrates that your mind is probing its own boundary, and realising that it needs to extend beyond it. 

Your self-diagnosis is very mature. (No. I’m not just saying that.) In essence, your asking one important question: Do I need to know what are my intentions and subject matter before I pursue a process of investigation?  In my opinion, no. Possibly, in relation to any other PhD discipline, that answer would be very wide of the mark. But in fine art, it’s valid. Research is a search. This implies that something in the domain of your interests and curiosity is either undiscovered or lost. Your job is to uncover and retrieve it. And you can do so only responsively — in and through the process of investigation. The subject plays hide and seek. The subject is not what you think. The subject is more nuanced and surprising, and it will find you. Your task, in the meantime, is to attend to the certainties and, thereafter, believe that what is unknown will become manifest in due course. Trust your (and this isn’t a word common to the discourse of art these days) imagination — in that full-orbed sense defined by nineteenth century Romantic painters and poets.

After lunch, I collected together images, videos, and sound files for the lecture, put away equipment, and generally made ready the studio for the next project. To clean the studio is to clear my mind:

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I accidently closed my PowerPoint program without saving the working file, and erased an afternoon’s work. At least it was images and not text that vanished. Oftentimes, repeating a task, out of either choice or necessity, changes the outcome for the better. And, sometimes, in retracing our steps other and greater mistakes, of which we were oblivious, are uncovered. Therefore, I’ve learned not to remonstrate against misfortunes such as this.

By the close of the afternoon session, I’d retrieved my losses and gained new ground. After an early evening dinner and further packing, I carried on with media file-sourcing for the lecture. By the close of the session, I’d processed, mixed down, and launched Matt. 20.16.

9.40 pm Practice session 2. In the ‘night watch’, I cleared departmental admin. and mixed down another track.

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