Speculative and literary practices in contemporary painting
A research in new narratives, bedrooms, and games.

Subject area, aims and objectives

An investigation in the creation of narratives and the construction of various characters; a role playing game focused on enquiry and the nature of subjectivity in a social context of a painting exhibition in an art institutional setting (gallery, museum) in contrast with a bedroom to investigate the dynamic between the private and public.

This investigation in narratives, participatory improvisation in a role-playing game during a painting exhibition (in an art gallery or museum to investigate the possibilities of those locations as modern non-religious centres for community) asks questions about subjectivity, and aims to develop better strategies for connecting self expression and art with personal narratives to the social world, giving voice to personal experience for the purpose of extending sociological understanding and raises questions of the ‘practice’ led approach to PhDs.

As art practice-led researchers (e.g. Graeme Sullivan) before me have learned, there continues to be significant issues in the legitimacy granted to practice-led research in academia (Haseman and Mafe in Smith and Dean, 2009). Gergen argues that “…knowledge is worth having, no matter where it originates, and the more diverse a person’s knowledge, the more likely they will be able to identify and implement creative solutions to problems.” (Gergen and Gergen 2012: 15 cited in Kara, 2015, p. 21)

This new role-playing game (Mackay, 2001) will be based on the narrative of a new novel about a woman with a multiple personality disorder (Nathan, 2012). Role-playing games are cooperative and because of that it raises questions about competition and exclusion in society (Levitas, 2005). It also enquires about the power of art exhibitions as social gatherings where people from all religions and atheists could become part of the same community (Nussbaum, 2012). It explores the connections between witnessing and participating. As a participant and witness, I will observe the reactions of the audience in an attempt to understand something wider; the nature of subjectivity (Meissner, 1999), speculation and the power of imagination.
“Improvisation is a fascinating activity in itself, leading people to come out with ideas and connections quite outside their normal thinking patterns.” (Jane Goodall in Smith and Dean, 2009, p. 203)

Inspired by Luke Reinhardt’s The Dice Man, my practice will involve to dress up as a fortune teller from another planet (a character from Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan) during one of my painting exhibitions, make my own cards, ask members of the public to draw a random card and then give them an equally random explanation about it. In exploring a model of the skeptic, where a public belief in fortune tellers remains curiously equal to art, myth and a history of false prophesies – this research is underpinned by an assessment of uncritical explanations presently existing on contemporary paintings (Sontag and Sontag, 2001). In returning art processes to the importance of todays creativity and imagination, Donald Winnicott, the British paediatrician and psychoanalist, who wrote about child development from 1931 till 1971, said that through the creative act of playing, people are capable of being their true selves and being your true self is the only way to happiness and mental health.

As an experienced published novelist (Medea en ik, 2014, and De Kunstwereld en ik, 2015, both published by Houtekiet, Antwerp, Belgium), I will be focusing on narratives: fiction, intertextuality, reflexivity and autoethnography. As a represented artist (Light Cube Gallery, Belgium and Fine Art Consult Brussels), I already have exhibition spaces to start this project. I will use different locations, starting this summer during my Artist’s Residency at Eastside International Los Angeles.

Writing a new novel, while exploring the possibilities of narration in painting, in parallel with the creation of a role-playing game in a painting exhibition as a setting is at the core of this research. “The work of Mumford et al (2010) suggests that taking a creative approach can help to make your research more ethical.” (Kara, 2015, p. 35)
Like Ettorre (2005) I will be using a diary and visual art to collect data (as well as literary and philosophical texts to support this research) which proposes to make an original contribution.

The project’s sub-plot will be dedicated to the idea of non-competitive games such as, amongst others, Tetris. It has been proven that playing Tetris helps people with post-traumatic stress syndrome (Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, Deeprose, 2009). Tetris is like modern life: a lot keeps coming at you and you have to give it all a place even though if it feels like there is not enough time. Then the bricks accumulate and holes appear in between the rows. If it works well, a few rows disappear and that feels great, it evokes a feeling of release and relaxation. All creative processes can feel like this. The artist is constantly trying to make the pieces fit together to build a cohesive whole.
Research Questions:
•How do people create narratives around contemporary paintings?
•How can these methods strengthen the sense of community within art institutions today?
• How do research cultures support these communities?
•In what way have models and methods fostered new forms of clarity since the rise of ‘practice’ led PhDs in art? ?•How do artistic discourses critically evolve in relation to an increasingly automated art speak of generalised feedback??•How does giving an autoethnographic voice to personal experience connect sociological understanding within the reception of today’s limits of contemporary art?

Historical context

Throughout history, philosophers such as Descartes, composers like Rossini, and writers such as Capote all worked in bed. Tracey Emin, Robert Rauschenberg and Frida Kahlo even painted in bed presenting a complex public commitment to privacy. I read, write and draw between the sheets and find avoiding having to lean over a desk, looking downwards, positivizes whatever creative endeavor I am embarking on. For this reason, I have chosen bedrooms as one of the settings for investigation.
This will include developing a novel informed by the works of William Faulkner, as an investigation in unreliable narration. In the setting of a bedroom, I will host a different art event in order to question how individuals in this context communicate with accelerated forms of care and engagement.

Contemporary context

Artists that relate to this research: Sophie Calle, Karin Rieder Hansen and Gail Pickering.

A/r/tography (Springgay et al) which has its base in a Deleuzian rhizomatic philosophy, and fictocriticism (Gibbs and The University of Western Sydney, 2005).
“A/r/tographical research may culminate in an artistic form (e.g., art installation, poem, or dramatic monologue), however, it doesn’t need to. While many arts-based methodologies focus on the end result, a/r/tography is concerned with inquiry - the mode of searching, questing, and probing - insisting that these elements be informed by and through the arts. A/r/tography interfaces art and scholarly writing not as descriptions of each other, but as an exposure of meaning, pointing towards possibilities that are yet unnamed.” (Springgay, 2008, p. 37)

“We need to ask questions of creative practice, research and higher education because research practice is still a fairly new phenomenon within the art field and there is some confusion about values, models and methods.” (Smith and Dean, 2009, p. 229)

Bibliography

Textbooks:

Dawkins, R. (2008) The god delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kara, H. (2015) Creative research methods in the social sciences: A practical guide. United Kingdom: Policy Press.

Levitas, R. (2005) The inclusive society? Social exclusion and new labour. 2nd edn. BASINGSTOKE: Palgravae Macmillan.

Mackay, D. (2001) The Fantasy Role-Playing Game A New Performing Art. 1st edn. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company.

Nathan, D. (2012) Sybil exposed: The extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case. New York: Free Press. United States.

Nussbaum, M.C. (2012) Not for profit: Why democracy needs the humanities (new in paper) (the public square). United States: Princeton University Press.

Sontag, S. and Sontag (2001) Against interpretation, and other essays. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Smith, H. and Dean, R.T. (eds.) (2009) Practice-led research, research-led practice in the creative arts. Edinburgh: EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS, United Kingdom.

Springgay, S. (2007) Being with a/r/tography. Edited by S Springgay, R L Irwin, C Leggo, and [Editor] S Springgay. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Springgay, S. (2008) Body knowledge and curriculum: Pedagogies of touch in youth and visual culture. New York: Lang, Peter Publishing.

Springgay, S. and Freedman, D. (eds.) (2007) Curriculum and the cultural body. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Springgay, S. and Freedman, D. (eds.) (2012) Mothering a bodied curriculum: Emplacement, desire, affect. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Journals:

Ettorre, E. (2005). Gender, older female bodies and autoethnography: Finding my feminist voice by telling my illness story. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28, 535-546.

Ewert-Krocker, L. (2014) “Personal Expression,” AMI Journal, Theme Issue: The Montessori Foundations For Creative Personality (1877-539X), p. P. 73–77

Gibbs, A. and The University of Western Sydney (2005) “Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering Differences,” Jstor, Vol 9.

Goodman, Dena. “Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical Approaches to the Old Regime.” History and Theory, vol. 31, no. 1, 1992, pp. 1–20., www.jstor.org/stable/2505605.

Holmes EA, James EL, Coode-Bate T, Deeprose C (2009) Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science. PLOS ONE 4(1): e4153. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004153

Meissner, W. W. The self-as-subject in psychoanalysis: I. The nature of subjectivity. Psychoanalysis & Contemporary Thought, Vol 22(2), 1999, 155-201.