Ever changing upon matured ideas
Maturing ideas is one of the things I like to do most. To sleep over it. To muller over. To consider and then muster. To ponder over time and then fetch the fruit at its perfect ripeness. And you ask me, perfect? how do you know that it's perfectly ripe? It's really not like a literal fruit which you can see colour and judge how much the pulp allows for it to be poked. To me, intuition is key for knowing when the time is right. I believe in the intuition of the artist. I believe in gut feeling. Today I met an artist, who in an academic setting, proffered exactly this: that it is her intuition that guides her practice. Paula Roush is a practitioner in the field of photography with specialism in photobooks, but she runs the Found Photo Foundation which is an archive of all sorts of found photography which she has catalogued very loosely and used in her work. This is the reason why I went to the 'Order and Collapse: The lives of archives' event at Southbank University this evening, to understand how people use archives.
Using an archive is an idea that to my work has slowly but steadily started to become more and more present, visible during my research. I was always a little sceptical about using archives because of their 'too-close-for-comfort' with the idea of past, when I realised that even though my work's aim focuses on awareness in order to create a better future, it's based on past events that I am exposing the content of my body of work. So the archive started to become more relevant to me. At the same time, because I am interested in Colonialism and my father has a collection of pictures from 1970-74 (the years leading to the Portuguese colonies independence) from Angola during his military service at war, I am starting to think that it is relevant to my work to use these. First, because being my father, he shaped who I am. Secondly, because he shaped me in the opposite - at a socio-political level - of what he is. Thirdly, the uniqueness of these pictures (I don't have them in my possession, but I have seen them many times) are worthy of discussion. Of meaningful discussion.
This is something present at all times in my work. When I did the microscopy book, 'To enter', I couldn't just make a book about beautiful pictures. That's the thing, I was told many times: 'you have these beautiful pictures, just let the pictures speak for themselves'. I just can't do that. It's not in me. I had to formulate what did those pictures mean to me and I had to write an essay about it: I feel compelled to assign meaning. As I discussed in that essay, just because I am assigning meaning doesn't mean that the reader doesn't either. On the contrary. Reading is a process so unique that we will never be able to de-code it fully. The 'baggage' a person brings into the text is unknown - sometimes/most of the times - even to the person itself. So what books do, what I do, is to give you a rough diamond for you to sculpt, and the shape that is kept inside your brain, only you can see.
I feel not only relieved, but also as if I am starting to achieve coherency in my practice at some levels, because spontaneously, the current project I am working on does intertwine precisely all these characteristics that shape the way I work.
Interestingly enough, at this same event today, Niclas Östlind (Head of Research Education and the MFA program in Photography / Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg) there was some emphasis on the importance of writing about your practice, but not only writing as a reflection, as a documentation - as if an archive of you and your work - but indeed as theorisation. The initial lectures from the 1st term came flying back to me, but this time reinforced by the strength of a theoretical component. Niclas sees practice based research as a research that is fed from the practice of the artist. This practice is fed from theories of other artists, critics, historians, and art itself as a contextual component. But then, the artist is to theorise about their own practice based on his/her findings. What I think it was missing on the 1st term lectures - which I am not even sure if at my University they will account for - is this articulation of theorem. This was very enlightening. To understand the purpose of reflection in the academic context and the closure of a circle around productive and receptive skills was crucial to me. This is a further incentive to keep writing (as if I needed more).