Footnotes on Digital Selves

In a special edition of Footnotes on KCL Radio broadcast live on the 27 July 9-10am, hosts Fran and Char invited PhD researchers to take on the theme of The Still Point‘s first blog symposium: Digital Selves in Research.

From online facsimiles of manuscripts to social media profiles, PhD students from across King’s College London explore how they work with, analyse and are shaped by the digital. Thank you to Colleen Curran, palaeographer and historian; Anna Khlusova from Cultural and Creative Industries; and Rachael Kent, whose PhD spans the Digital Humanities and CCI as a member of the Ego-Media project.

The Still Point Journal‘s blog editor, James Fisher, also joined the panel to discuss all things ‘real’ vs ‘virtual’.

Links:
Colleen Curran https://twitter.com/cmcurran21
Anna Khlusova https://twitter.com/annakhlus
Rachael Kent https://twitter.com/RachaelCKent
European Research Council Ego-Media project https://www.ego-media.org

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Untitled: A Collaboration Between James Fisher and Mircea Teleaga

The following was written in collaboration by James Fisher and Mircea Teleagă after a couple of meetings and many emails. James is a PhD student in the Department of History at King’s College London. Mircea is an MA student in Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art. You can find Mircea’s work here: http://mirceateleaga.com/en 

I am playing a game of response. I have always been playing it but I was not always aware. Each response is always concrete and particular. Each one is a deliberate provocation. So I respond again.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

It’s a game of chess with myself where I try to catch myself out. I try to think ahead of myself; I try to think against myself. But perhaps if I don’t think at all I might surprise myself and make something. The trick is to completely trust myself. I leave the room and leave myself to act in my place. I trust that when I come back I will be pleased with what I see. I trust that I will have new eyes to see it.

Or I train my limbs to know their way in the dark. I only need to be brave enough to turn the lights off, or wait for the night. I do something first, then discover what I have done when the light returns. It is then that I realise how similar the darkness and the details are. In this game the blind man is king.

The details are essential. They say this thing is not the same as that thing. They induce complexity and sensitise us to difference. They build the steep slope of Sisyphus upon a smooth well-lit highway. They mock all my own categories. They humiliate my attempts to theorise. They say it is an insult to claim the mind needs categories to understand. They are anarchic. They infest and destroy categories like bacteria eating away at a large mammal. They remind us that when the mind grasps anything through a category, it kills it. Like nailing butterflies to wood. Labels are anathema. Panta rhei (everything flows).

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

So I aim to be an organ of digestion, where these details multiply and mutate. I become a filter that is always being filtered, perpetually undergoing change according to what does or does not come in. Everything I have ever done, seen, heard, felt, or tasted. Every experience, direct or vicarious. All of it enters and is transformed. Even if it is completely rejected, the act of rejection alters me. These are all my footnotes.

I do not make things. I simply leave deposits, a by-product of my own cultivation. These deposits mirror me. They build upon themselves like weather, developing from within and every part shifting with every other. They spiral like a wild rock formation, growing without erasure; becoming a monument to itself.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

I do not ask why. This simply happens because it is embedded within me. I see the deposits as an extension of my self. I am not interested in the reason they exist, any more than the reason my self exists. I am only interested in the effect they have. Purpose over reason.

I am not playing this game alone. My game is part of a larger set of games. I filter the deposits of others and they filter mine. We are all sculpting the same bit of clay.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

I do not ask how it started. I just respond again.

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found on the blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

What We Talk About When We Talk About Death

Sarah Boulton Correspondence with JM

Correspondence between Sarah Boulton and James Morland

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found onthe blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

I am the supposed translator of conversations spanning centuries,
Witnessing poets combatting poets:

A first century exclamation responded to from an eighteenth-century graveyard:

[…] death to us, and deaths anxiety,
Is less than nothing, is a less could be.
For then our Atoms, which in order lay,
Are scatter’d from their heap, and puff’d away,
And never can return into their place,
When once the pause of Life has left an empty space. [Lucretius]

………………

If death were nothing, and nought after death,
If when men died, at once they ceas’d to be,
Returning to the barren womb of nothing,
Whence first they sprung!  Then might the debauchee
Untrembling mouth the Heavens; then might the drunkard
Reel over his full bowl, and when ‘tis drain’d
Fill up another to the brim, and laugh
At the poor bugbear Death [Blair]

I decode this ‘death-talk’:
This is a language game congregating around nothing,
Writing on the timeless and unresolvable.

In attempts to make something, I separate my clauses with the trusty colon:
Conning myself into thinking I have some sort of order:

DEATH-TALK: PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSIONS

THE DARKNESS OF THE GRAVE: NIGHT AND THE SENSES IN THE GRAVEYARD

SHUDDERING ON THE BRINK: THE EXTREMES OF NOTHING

But thinking of this nothing, it is me, not the poet, who shudders on the brink:

Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene. [Young]

The poets mock my academic practice,
Instead of leading to a solution, they taunt me, as together:

We sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplored;
Lamenting, or Lamented all our Lot! [Young]

all the magnanimity of Thought
Resolves; and re-resolves; then dies the same [Young]

This is my death song:
To write of death is the thief of life,
Hours spent writing nothing about ‘nothing’.

My writing is about the poetry and emulates its futile ambitions;
The poets’ straining to see around the corner to their own death mimics my academic composition,
Our words are like the first century atoms that caused this whole project to arise:
An endless cycle of regeneration, a stream of chance encounters where some hit and many miss.

In writing on a nocturne darkness where men ‘see not all clear’ [Vaughan],
I instead quote the camera obscura, as a ‘darkened room’,
Referring to the stanza, as a ‘capacious dwelling, a receptacle’.
Returning to semantics to interpret a physical something from their poetic nothingness.

In thinking of death, then, we must relate it to something. It becomes images and myth:

The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm;
These are the bugbears of a winter’s eve,
The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination’s fool, and error’s wretch,
Man makes a death, which nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one. [Young]

So in talking about death, I must document this cycle of centuries:
death has become something from a sublime sense of nothing through the fool and error of an imagination. It should instead be seen as nothing by the dissolution of something:

Therefore death is nothing to us, it matters not one jot, since the nature of the mind is understood to be mortal.  [Lucretius]

When I talk about death I resolve, and re-resolve about the vast concerns of something and nothing.

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‘Spiderboy’ videowork by Sarah Boulton installed at FAT RELIC, photo by Giulia Legora

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James reading his piece at the Creative Exchange, photo by Giulia Legora

James Morland is a first year PhD student in the English department at KCL, researching the changing interactions with Lucretius and Epicurean philosophy in eighteenth-century poetry. After spending a year in art school, James has spent the past few years studying English literature, though constantly tries to find ways to tie together the academic and visually creative sides of his thinking. Follow him @jameswmorland

Sarah Boulton is a student at the Slade. She is currently working with [including]: diamond doves, relationships, verbs, internal parts, live editing, light videos, friends and words (talking). http://saraboulton.tumblr.com/

Change and Embodiment

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found on the blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

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‘Different Kinds of Sameness’, by Dala Nasser

The defiance in Dala’s work, of conventional conceptions of painting, is clear. The inherently altering nature of her work is perhaps not so. Working with liquid latex, resin and pigments, her materials interact both with each other and with the external environment, namely oxygen, to change form and appearance over time. Her work therefore offers the viewer temporally distinct experiences. The experience her work elicits has an added dimension as it is not only the viewer’s subjective temporality that contributes to her aesthetic experience, here the painting itself has a lifespan, a contingent yet fluid development.

My work involves the attempt to add an emotional dimension to theoretical reasoning, a defiance against the false dichotomy between reason and emotion, against most concepts of ‘pure reason’. Science is often thought as a paradigm case of theoretical reasoning. Scientific inquiry is as temporally dependent as Dala’s art works. Changing conceptual paradigms alter how we observe the objects of our inquiry. Time allows the evolution of a completely distinct artwork within the same spatial boundaries. In science, temporal distinction underpins different experiences of the same natural world.

Human sciences, as opposed to experimental sciences, are meant to be characterized by reflexivity, here meaning that the object of study is also the subject conducting the study itself. I am sceptical of how helpful the notion of reflexivity can be in distinguishing human from empirical sciences. Once the nature of our inquiry is accepted as inherently embodied, socially and biologically, room for the powerful role of emotions in abstract thinking, begins to be made.

The products of Dala’s process are pieces that possess intricate physicality. We long to explore her work tactually. This desire is triggered by our emotional responses to the work as emotions are the seat of motivation and preparation for action. The embodied nature of the subject is therefore crucial to the aesthetic experience elicited by the artwork. I take a similar experience to be involved in instances where scientists undergo aesthetic experiences regarding scientific theories or theorems. This experience is inherently emotional, embodied and physical. Detached appreciation is therefore a possibly gendered anachronism or false dogma.

We need to take seriously the question of what role such aesthetic experiences can play in scientific inquiry. This aesthetic, emotional experience motivates the generation of both action and beliefs. Allowing beliefs based on emotions to prove relevant in abstract thinking, as opposed to being vestigial epiphenomena. There is a rationality to emotions that cannot be detached from our nature as embodied, biological beings. Emotions are a way of perceiving, that is crucial to both art and science.

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Photo by Giulia Legora http://giulialegora.com/@Giulyfeels

Laura Silva is in the first year of her PhD at UCL, her research explores the philosophy of emotion. Dala Nasser is currently undergoing her undergraduate studies at UCL’s Slade School of Fine Arts.

The texts from our Creative Exchange will continue to be published on the blog over the coming months. 

The Still Point at Fat Relic: Creative Exchange between artists and researchers

Fat Relic EVent

The Still Point presents an evening of creative exchange between artists and researchers at Fat Relic. Join us on Monday the 27th April for an exhibition of visual work and live readings over drinks.

Over the course of a month artists from the Slade School of Art and Central Saint Martins, and PhD Researchers from UCL, King’s College London and the Bartlett, have been working collaboratively in a series of partnerships. The aim of the creative exchange has been to encourage PhD students to engage with their research in creative and experimental ways, whilst also giving the artists a chance to develop their practice reciprocally by investigating new ideas and alternative ways of seeing.

The event on the 27th April will showcase the results of these collaborations. The event hopes to tease out the similarities between the kinds of rich thinking and exploration we do as researchers and as visual artists, and to interrogate the very notions of ‘art writing’ and of ‘academic style,’ by blurring the boundaries and bending the rules.

Work and readings from Mircea Teleaga and James Fisher, Maud Craigie and Polly Mitchell, Maxima Smith and Penny Newell, Sarah Boulton and James Morland, Dala Nasser and Laura Silva.

For more details see our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/921737127878443/permalink/921749897877166/

Or view the listing on Art Rabbit: https://www.artrabbit.com/events/the-still-point-journal-creative-exchange