The Art of Pathography

The artists’ creation of a ‘true self-portrait’ is bound up in meanings of self-hood and individuation; by means of his/her practice becoming a method of developing the artists’ need for self-discovery. Through this self-exploration, the artefact becomes an attempt to reveal something of the artist, a therapeutic tool perhaps, by which the photograph is used as a form of depth psychology. A mixed methodology of autoethnography and thematic analysis is undertaken of the language of response – language generated from the viewing of purely visual data – to examine and record patterns or themes within this information that is relevant to the research question. Through this form of removed analysis - the interpretation of the photograph and not the artist - can a new internal world of the artist be revealed? Is there a particular reading that could be universalised or is this unique to me? Or is the analysis a series of projections, a more of an understanding of the readers? The concerns of this thesis are with the ways in which the production of these photographs and their reception can be incorporated into an art practice and a new self-portrait is revealed.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Self-appraisal of presentation made at the AMD/ASD PhD Student Conference 14th June 2012.

14th June 2012.

I was nervous, feeling I was trying to deliver too much information. The more successful presentations, in my view, were more simple and tried to keep focus on the research question and methodology. Generally I felt that I was having a difficulty defending my presentation. This was due to the fact that I am still unsure of my question and how it will add to future knowledge. Quite a drawback!

However, having talked to Stuart Evens and Nick after the presentation, I was led to believe that this was not so unusual and they seemed quite positive, Stuart explaining that the presentation was interesting, having lots of ‘bits’ that needed simplifying and that I just need to find the ‘glue’ and Nick suggesting that the outcome could be of value to other therapists working in the area of photo-therapy.

These where the questions posed in my presentation:
Research Question           
Can the documentation of image production through the use of the camera as a therapeutic tool, deepen our understanding of human functioning? By paralleling the therapeutic engagement in the consulting room, can it create a new narrative, its process documented through continued assessment and adaptation?

Research Method
Mixed. The reason for combining both quantitative and qualitative data, is to better understand this research problem by converging both quantitative images (broad theoretical trends) and qualitative data (detailed views), as with the language emerging from the images.
(John Creswell, Design research, 2009 p.135)
The intent of this concurrent mixed method study is to document the production of self-portraits alongside their interpretation by the author and other trained psychotherapists. Throughout this study, a third party collaborator (psychoanalytic reader) will be asked to measure the relationship between the analysts subjective comments and the artists self-portraits, over time.

To achieve a higher level of abstraction, where patterns, themes and clusters of knowledge can be seen and documented. Psychoanalytic theory is used as a lens, through which to observe this data of both image and text. New images create interpretations which in turn creates a new narrative.

Aims and Outcomes
Through production of these photographs, I will give external form to inner states. My concern as an artist are with the ways in which the production of these photographs, their reception, analysis and relation to analytical theory, can be incorporated into an on-going art practice.
I offer this project as a way of introducing the reader to the concept of pre-verbal communication and its importance in both aesthetic production and art appreciation, how this is translated into language and documented.

My Assessment
To work towards the “making of an original and significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in the relevant field of study as judged by independent experts applying accepted contemporary international standards”.
And it is not:
"The degree is not awarded as an expression of the aesthetic value, social worth or cultural significance of particular achievements, i.e. for high professional competence and peer recognition alone." (Biggs, 2000).
And one of the statements made about it in the University of Queensland Doctor of Philosophy Handbook (page 1) reads:
“The doctoral thesis provides evidence of a contribution to knowledge with a level of originality consistent with 3-4 years of full-time study and supervised research training”.

A Few Key Questions
I would like to clarify the actual research question and whether its practice based or practice led. Why my methodology and not another, justify my methods? The contribution to knowledge, who takes this research on? What sorts of contribution are typically made in dissertations?
It can be seen as:
A re-contextualization of an existing technique, providing language, to gain awareness from content (images), as opposed to providing language and knowledge from a therapeutic engagement. Language that can be established as offering insight and new knowledge. The image offers affective meaning and affective communication from the artist.
Implementation of theoretical principle: showing how it can be applied in practice; making a physical representation of established psychoanalytical theories.
Empirically based (or language based) characterisation of a phenomenon of interest (therapeutic value of photographic production)
Well-founded critique of existing theory or evidence (e.g. correlating the results of a number of existing studies to show patterns, omissions or etc.)

'Art-practice-led' or 'Art-practice-based'
If a creative artifact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is practice-based. If the research leads primarily to new understandings about practice, it is practice-led.
"Research which is initiated in practice, where questions, problems, challenges are identified and formed by the needs of practice and practitioners; and, secondly,
‘That the research strategy is carried out through practice, using predominantly methodologies and specific methods familiar to us as practitioners in the visual arts and design." (CRIAD, 2000).
My Art-practice involve the making of artwork (Practice based), and is a major part of the research process. Information is derived from the images (Practice led). This process is documented, however, in context of a narrative produced (the image informs the next) this part can be seen as a Practice-led project.
Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. It includes artefacts in the form of photographic images, whilst the significance and context of the claims are described in words. A full understanding can only be obtained with direct reference to those outcomes. These outcomes from the research process will be included in the submission for examination and the claim for an original contribution to the field are held to be demonstrated through the original creative work.
The outcomes and primary focus of the research is not to advance knowledge about practice, or to advance knowledge within practice. So I conclude this is not a practice –led thesis.

Is everything practice led? May involve practice. The project will be enhanced and modified. The camera is used as a research tool. Practice based ... Theory led project. Practice informed…. Informed by knowledge of practice. Modify, practice based to theory led Practice feeds work Meaning comes from theory.

Conclusion (suggested in the form of an 'elevator pitch')
My research is a combination of my interest in the self-portrait photography and psychotherapy. How a lens-based artist might exhibit their internal world externally through the combination of photographic self-portraits and their interpretation, how this can be documented over time, thus paralleling the process in psychoanalysis.
Through collaboration with The Guild, I produce self-portraits that area interpreted as sessions, by two analysts, once monthly over two years. With these interpretations the images become represented as language. The documentation of this process (1)as individual encounters and 2) a narrative over time) is described through the lens of psychoanalytical theory.

Spencer Rowell 2012

1 comment:

  1. This is a good way of coming to terms with what you described as a slightly bruising experience: look forwards and work on the areas that you felt insecure about at the time. You've already come up with some good responses to the feedback.