What is the definition of constellation? It could be many a thing, but in terms of academic study I believe it to be the idea that brings together a group or configuration of ideas, feelings, characteristics and objects, that are related in some way. I like to think of this area of study as being likened to the stars; an interconnectedness of all matter, sharing the same building blocks necessary for life as we know it.
When I was allocated ‘THE MESHWORK OF OBJECTS, I thought it prudent to familiarise myself the terminology of ‘meshwork’, and what it was I was expected to learn. Is it a network fabric or structure, a space or interstice between the strand of a net or sieve, a network, an interlacing structure, an engagement with others, harmony, or an entanglement of ideas? Simply put, it is all of these.
In the first week, Jacqui, my tutor, introduced me to a new way of thinking through subjects; the overall consensus of my constellation subject was to learn how to look. John Berger came highly recommended for specific academic research material. As a hugely influential art critic, novelist, painter and poet, his essay/book on art criticism, Ways of Seeing, represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural society, and criticizes Western cultural aesthetics, raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. Having read the book, I now consider my eyes and mind well and truly open to all the wondrous stimuli within my surrounding environment, and subsequently know this has made me aware of the importance of learning how to look. ‘An artist’s duty is rather to stay open-minded and in a state where he can receive information and inspiration. You always have to be ready for that little artistic Epiphany’ (Nick Cave, Musician)
For me, one of the most significant elements of Constellation was finding out how important it is, as a creative practitioner, to explore many academic disciplines or professional specializations in an approach to a topic or problem, which in turn analyses and harmonises links between disciplines into a coordinated/coherent whole. Previously, I did not always question how important it was to adopt a transdisiplinary approach to my own studies. This new understanding gave me the confidence to reach out, and make contact with another creative practitioner I had admired for months. Michelle Griffiths is the UK Shibori representative for UK and Ireland. My enthusiasm and dedication in wanting to learn new ideas and techniques won Michelle over, and I can proudly announce that I am now under her mentorship. Concurrently our collaboration is weaving a meshwork of new and exciting techniques within my own practice.
Why is it so important to think outside the box? Why is it imperative to cross-discipline with other designers/makers? Sharing knowledge, best practice, Networking, stepping out of your comfort zone, the birth of new ideas, a sense of community, remaining fresh as a designer, gaining new perspectives and skills, being exposed to new technological advances and breaking down societal and cultural barriers are just a few of the incredible reasons why it is so important to open your mind and practice. Always be reflective, critical and discerning. Provoke new kinds of concerns & questioning.
Armed with this new and powerful understanding, what was it that I was now supposed to document, process and organise what I found around me? What is the art of curating? What defines The Meshwork of an Object? How do I present and communicate the object? What does it mean? What is the overarching theme? What does it underpin? What are the relationships between each other? Are they real? Can they be observed? Or are they non-material/invisible? This skill would allow me to challenge ideas and create my own context within my won work; curating a meshwork of objects to initiate a new and exciting visual language for each and every one of us to interpret.
“We begin to confront the ‘thingness’ of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the windows get filthy, when their flow within circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition have been arrested, however momentarily”. (Brown, 2001). This quote resonated so strongly throughout my Constellation journey that it shaped my concept for my essay. The credit however cannot be solely taken by Bill Brown, but also by the concept/ideology behind Structural Materialist Films, and the academic short essay ‘The Ontology of the Accident’ (Malibou, 2012). The concept behind SMF does not want to document a narrative, but rather want you, as the viewer to think for yourself. The director (me) wants the viewer to acknowledge the installation/exhibit as a thing, an independent material that prioritises form over content. The onus is on the viewer to create their own narrative, de-programme, de-preconceive, and become an active part in which they are viewing. In layman terms, it encourages you, no….demands you to think.
Having had an abiding love, since childhood, for Nature, I have developed a parallel enthusiasm for the visual and plastic arts, especially Textile Design. The concept/idea outlined within my essay focused on my own personal struggles living with a chronic illness/disability, and the increasing problems I felt affecting myself, and the ecosystem we depend upon. The installation/concept that I curated examined the link between the respiratory issues associated with M.E, and the atmospheric pollution that increasingly affects our towns and cities. Malibou has described the process I have undertaken. She calls on readers to envisage their own possible accident, the transformation that can leave an individual numb, dumb, disorientated, and departed. Malibou expertly illustrates how “In the usual order of things, lives run their course like rivers. The changes and metamorphosis of a life due to vagaries and difficulties, or simply the natural unfolding of circumstance…In time, one eventually becomes who one is, one becomes only who one is”. Having experienced living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 10 years, I have significantly developed an ability to relish learning new and exciting knowledge, techniques, processes and ways of seeing. I use my ‘accident’ as a way to justify my existence. After all, most people live life never quite willing to accept the accident that can transform them too.
Brown, B. (2001). Thing Theory. Critical Inquiry, 28(1), pp.1-22.
Malibou, C. (2012) ‘Ontology of the Accident’, ‘An Essay on Destructive Plasticity’. Pg.10.
Cave, N. (Year Unknown) https://brainyquote.com/quotes/nick_cave_187032
Structural Materialist Film; an experimental film movement prominent in the United States in the 1960s and which developed into the Structural/Materialist films in the United Kingdom in the 1970s