Constellation Reflection

First year Constellation was insightful. My practical work, particularly Field, addressed many of the ideas discussed in the study sessions. To make progress I continued to recall and consider influential moments, integrating them into my practice.

This year I attended ‘Cognitive Futures’, which expanded upon ideas from one of my previous study groups ‘Creative and Cognitive Development’. Within ‘Cognitive Futures’ we considered alternative ways of thinking, focusing on critical design. We used critical theory to unpick how our eyes and minds analyze the world, specifically considering design and sustainability.

Week one, entitled ‘The senses mistrusted’, stood out most for me. I was particularly interested in perception and reasoning and the quote from Rudolf Arnheim’s ‘Visual Thinking’ in which he states, ‘A stick dipped into water looks broken’ (p.5). This is a simple idea, something that we encounter constantly, but at that time I hadn’t really considered how my mind processes my senses. Without an understanding of water and the solidness of a stick, we are incapable of coming to a reasonable conclusion. With the use of reasoning, we are able to establish truth. This first week brought about a new way of thinking, helping me approach later theories with a more open mind. I did sometimes find it difficult to interpret our discussions, in relation to fine art, but it was interesting to hear about creativity from a design point of view. I do not usually engage with design, and the knowledge I have gained has reminded me of the broad variations of creativity and its relation to the world.

Perception and Reasoning became the topic for my formative essay. I expanded the information I gained in the study session to discover how perception and reasoning interact with each other, our minds, bodies and surroundings. Although I do not feel this particular essay was the most eloquent, I did enjoy integrating studies that practically explored perception and reasoning, interpreting experiments to determine the most relevant and insightful elements. Upon reflection, perception and reasoning will undoubtedly play a part in my ongoing research, but not as the primary topic.

My first term Field option was ‘Did somebody call the doctor?’. We were introduced to the world of PhDs both theoretically and from actual experiences. We heard from different PhD students and staff members, who each presented their alternative PhD studies the routes they had taken. We were tasked to develop a research question we felt had the potential to be the building blocks of a thesis, which was then presented to the group. In developing my question, I chose to look back at my previous constellation essays, and determine common features and ideas, and then build upon them. My research question became ‘Should/could all ‘art’ be named based on the same classification system?’ i.e. ‘A Taxonomy of Art’.

My second term Field option was ‘Athletes of the Heart’. This was a more practical based project in which we collaborated to produce an abstract animation in response to an extract of a musical composition provided by Dan Soley, a student at the RWCMD. The composition is titled ‘Socialite’. It seemed like a daunting task, but through collaboration we could focus on just thirty seconds of the composition in each of our groups, making it more manageable. The abstract/experimental approach gave us great freedom to express how we personally visualized the music. However, limitations kept us from straying just enough so that the possibilities were not quite endless. I am not usually a highly collaborative person, but this year collaboration, within both Field and Constellation, has definitely helped expand my knowledge of areas I previously knew very little about. Within Field it was my animation and video editing skills which were increased. In Constellation working with designers, who approached tasks in a different way, caused me to analyze my own behaviour, which was evidence that what we are taught and the way we think directly corresponds with our actions. I found that Product Design students had a far more practical approach to certain tasks, whereas I was more theoretical, and wanted to discuss why something was a particular way.

Within Subject my interests lay in the repetition and process of creating sequences. Taking much inspiration from Minimalist/Abstract artists such as Frank Stella, Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse, I have been creating non-representational objects of pattern. I have primarily been working with textiles, finding a mix between the two-dimensional and the sculptural. Constellation has significantly improved my ability to research, which has consequently enhanced my contextualization.

The Keynotes this year have been highly informative, outlining the parameters of the dissertation, as well as providing a breakdown of how to go about writing a dissertation. The understanding I have gained has informed the writing of my dissertation proposal, and has prepared me for the third year.

When it came to developing a research question for my dissertation proposal, I was keen to pursue the question I had constructed for ‘Did somebody call the doctor?’, and consequently I already had a plan for the breakdown of this question, which was useful. However, as I began to more rigorously engage with the question, I realised that very little had been academically pursued concerning digital art databases. Therefore, I chose to explore related areas which would directly influence the building of an art database, in an effort to establish relevant avenues of study. I did not want to refine my question too much at this stage, because in researching a wider area I was able to ascertain which parts interested me most, and could be adapted next year.

Since finishing my dissertation proposal, my views on a potential art database have indeed changed. Originally, I was very positive about the concept of a Taxonomy of Art, however the more research I have done the more I have realised that, no matter how much was done to make a database work seamlessly the within the artworld, there would undoubtedly be restrictions and problems likely to negatively affect the inclusive nature of art. Subsequently, I have realised that I am far more intrigued by the secondary question within my proposal; ‘Could art have a common name and an ‘artistic’ name?’ I am interested in pursuing this idea further.

I enjoy finding links between Subject, Constellation and Field. Last year Constellation dominated the development of my practical work. This year it was more Field which established ideas for Constellation, and determined changes within Subject.

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Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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