Archive for the ‘Questions for research’ category

Symposium video feedback

June 17, 2010

I’m falling behind with some of my posts – the list of drafts is getting longer. Therefore I need to start compromising on my spell and grammar checks.

Anyway so I didn’t get many comments on the video (https://qunud.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/symposium-presentation/), but admittedly it is bad timing as everyone is very busy completing their projects. I did however get some from both Rabhia and Susan (final yr online students). Oh and now Claire too (first yr part-timer).

Rabhia’s feedback was:

It’s wonderful to actually find out what the work is about, I must confess, even though I have looked at your website, the one with the images, I was a little confused with the intention of the work.

But the presentation does make your thought process clearer.

I do have a couple of questions however

1. Being of “diverse background” myself , being born and raised in sunny England.

I wonder-

Do you feel you should define your practice in terms of a connection with religion? , I.e. as a Islamic artist after why not say your just an artist?

2.It could be argued that You, Me and Hassen are all Islamic artists, but then the test would be would we chose to define ourselves as such?

And by doing so are we ineffectively pigeonholing ourselves?

For myself, I do not define my practice in terms of religion, my practice is conceptual art, and the medium depends on what suits the work.

Is possible to denote my ethnic origin of my work, I’m not sure it is, clearly my name isn’t English, without that cue, I doubt that it would be possible to guess my ethnic origin from it.

Clearly, a number of works are influenced by Islamic Art/Faith, especially the typography work, the Miniature painting, the paper sculptures and the IE interactive film, but to say one is an Islamic Artist, is to say that one’s practice sits outside contemporary art scene, after this is largely made up of middle class “white” people with posh accents, especially the ones that run all the art establishments (95%)

(A couple of percent either way) white, according to the Art Council itself.

There a paper on their website or is it the Artist newsletter, I can’t remember.

So it was mostly questions which might sound familiar to a reader of my posts. They are topics and issues I’ve raised in the past and have certainly discussed in my Unit1 essay as well as in previous posts. But it’s always good to reflect back on these things and see if the answers have changed at all. If Rabhia had asked me those questions early in Unit 1 the answers would have been quite different to what they would have been at the end of Unit1 and those have slightly altered now towards the end of Unit2. The focus is mostly on definitions and categories and those are subjects I would look into if continuing the research post MA.

This is how I responded to Rabhia’s feedback:

It’s interesting that you’ve raised much the same questions that I looked very closely at during Unit 1.

I am just an ‘artist’ as you say, but I’m also Muslim and it’s what leads a lot of my choices in the art so I’m not afraid to pigeonhole myself. (as an aside, pigeonholing would not be a problem in itself unless the motive of the artist was to appeal to only their audience and that being to aim for a wide audience, rather than satisfy their own practice. There can of course be a balance but which comes first?)

But at the same time my art is produced for two levels – the first an aesthetic level which serves as a piece for visual appreciation (requires no knowledge of background or context). The second as a communication of ideas which if the viewer chooses can be explored from many angles, not just the Islamic. But if they then found out I was a Muslim, it might lead them to realise certain things in the art which are there to be read. This is the part where they have the option to interpret it as they wish or with some conscious effort to see if something is implied.

I interviewed many artists in the previous academic year and found that they all had different motives which would determine their choice of categorisation. This is why I am really interested in continuing the research – I came across some very interesting commonalities amongst the artists who have been curated as ‘Islamic’ artists. Some are reluctant to use only this term, others produce work which is obviously Islamic (Arabic calligraphy) and so it is part and parcel with their practice. Once the ‘Islamic Art’ label is adopted then it’s almost as if that work has been separated from the rest of the contemporary art scene. This would be another very interesting aspect for further research.

And one more thing – ‘Islamic Art’ is a term widely used in the art scene but relates to the culture and region in which the religion is pre-dominant rather than a direct implication that the work is of a religious nature. This is why categorisation of art work is a bit of an issue when it comes to these types of work.

Susan’s comments were:

The 1st point I’d like to make is that i found your symposium excellent and it gave a clear outline to your project, addressing many areas of your project and drawing the thought processes together in a way that was clarifying for me.

It has made me appreciate a little better the difference in understandings and expectations surrounding Islamic art and made me think about the arising questions of possible dialogues building between different expressions of contemporary cultures.

In response to Susan’s feedback I’d say I am quite pleased she has gained something from the video. The intention was to inform the viewer of the wider context of Islamic Art and to indicate where my explorations through the project research has taken me. It’s really nice to hear that it came across clearly too 🙂

And here’s the feedback from Claire:

it was nice to watch and learn more about your project in a verbal way, having followed your blog since last year

it was nice that the video had so many images to look at, this meant that it was never slow or tedious to watch as some videos are in places

it was interesting to discover your intention for interaction, especially the fact that it is so simple but yet very effective since 3D pieces have qualities of light e.g. shadow and highlights, but to put them in the dark and shine light on them is an exciting way of utilising their 3 dimensional quality

there were some shots which looked like modern sculpture e.g. pattern fabric with kitchen utensils… they were nice but seemed an abrupt jump from the preceding traditional pattern images

however the later inclusion of Islamic paintings as opposed to patterns was quite a nice broad overview of different forms of art for the viewer

the images of cut metal are very strong, particularly those which have been folded into space as opposed to 2D

the commentary sounds in places like you are reading it, when ideally it would sound like you knew it by heart, but this also is a plus because it sounds clear and not confusing

the commentary ends strongly with statements about looking forward to the group show and future research

this backs up the way you have conducted your project, a mix of exploration and confidence about what you like, want and are trying to do

I did indeed write notes which I used to read from at points. My memory just isn’t good enough to remember everything that needs to be said. Plus all good movies have strong scripts right? lol

An offer has been made

June 15, 2010

Well, I emailed the person responsible. My letter hadn’t been sent to anyone. Only I had received someone else’s. Oh well. I managed to get an email version of my real one and so it is with happiness that I can say I have been offered a place to do my PhD as part of CCW (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon) Graduate School.Now I am putting that aside and not going to think about it till the MA is finished!

On another note: I was supposed to have received my aluminium today. At the back of my mind I’m worried I’ve been scammed. Just like being asked earlier today by a guy who was decently dressed and had a posh accent, if I could give him ’78p’ to buy a fare home as he’d left his oyster card behind. I thought hmm I’m going to take the chance and just be nice. Hopefully he won’t go and spend it on drugs. However, it would be a clever ruse on his part to ask for just 78p, most of the time ppl would just give him a full pound. And by dressing decent and using a posh accent ppl would be less likely to doubt his honesty (don’t ask me why but we all know it’s the truth). I then thought I should have just told him to go to a cash machine or bought the ticket for him lol then he’d be like errr… (at this point the truth would come out).

Why was that little story even relevant? Well because the guy I’ve been corresponding with for my Aluminium order has been very helpful and mentioned very specific technical aspects of the job which convinced me enough to pay for the work in advance of receiving it. We do this all the time with eBay and Amazon so it’s not such a foreign process. But when it involves a larger some of money – well then yeh it becomes a big deal. Now I’m even more paranoid! Oh noooo…

Research Proposal

May 15, 2010

Here is the main bulk of my research proposal for PhD study:

Title: An investigation of contemporary Islamic art practice in Britain and the role of the artist in shaping this art scene

Subject area

The purpose of this research is to highlight current activity in contemporary British Islamic Art and to look closely at the artists who enable its development.

As this particular type of art is not considered ‘mainstream’ it is categorised in a very different manner to other art scenes which affects both perceptions of the art and the choices made by the artists producing it.

There is a strong need to understand how definitions, categorisations and identification of this art is established and used for curatorial purposes as well as artistic development. In the past these issues have been researched and addressed through historical comparisons which do not accommodate the adoption of contemporary practices nor the influences and impacts of new technologies.

Aims

Explore the relationship between artists of Islamic art and artists of Islamic faith. What distinguishes one from the other?

Investigate the extent to which contemporary artistic practices are embraced within the Islamic art scene. Look at uses of new technology in contemporary Islamic Art practice.

Objectives

Clarify definitions of ‘Islamic art’ and more specifically those of ‘contemporary Islamic art’. This will involve understanding how the terms used in these definitions play a role in constructing the categories themselves.

Investigate the role of the artist and that of the curator in presenting the British public with what it terms ‘contemporary Islamic art’. Is this representative of British Islamic culture?

Explore the use of contemporary art practice within British Islamic art. Where do the boundaries merge in regards to traditional and contemporary practice?

Investigate and document the benefits and deterrents to adopting digital practices within contemporary Islamic art. Have digital and new media technologies been utilised in contemporary Islamic art to date?

Design and create an installation that fulfils the notion of contemporary Islamic art using digital practice. Determine the social and historical implications of this kind of work.

Historical and contemporary context

Contemporary Islamic art in Britain is still relatively new. This is largely due to the merging of many cultures which have combined to create the Muslim community in Britain since the influx of Eastern migrants in the early 20th century.

Recognition of this rising community which now forms a large proportion of the British population has also had lasting effects on the art produced from and for the Muslim community.

The nature of this ‘community’ involves cultures from across the globe. The faith of Islam being the common ground, and the faith’s encouragement of multi-culturalism means that the British Islamic Art scene could be making significant contributions to the global Islamic Art scene.

Theoretical context

Tracing developments of Islamic art in Britain from the early 20th century to the present (through reviews, articles and discussions by critics, artists and curators) will form the essence of the research material. This will lead to a better understanding of how British Islamic culture has been represented in Britain thus far.

By looking closely at British Islamic artists we can address questions of whether it is possible to be an Islamic ‘artist of faith’, whilst fulfilling the requirements that exist in both aspects of this title. In addition we can determine ways in which the British Islamic culture affects the output of a British Islamic artist and whether current forms of artistic practice provide a close reflection of the British Islamic culture at present.

Abstract writing and essay discussion

June 30, 2009

The deadline for handing in the Abstract for the essay was on Monday (22/06).

I have to say I haven’t procrastinated as much since needing to do revision for my final yr at uni. Choosing a title for the essay was very difficult so I decided to stick to something simple and to the point for now and then refine it later to make it more relevant to how my essay shapes out.

So the Title (for now) is Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art – can it be defined?

I have to admit I struggled to do this as I kept wanting to include so much information without as many words. I ended up with about 3 drafts and still was not very happy with what I had. Some of it didn’t even make sense:

Islamic art encompasses many artworks that were produced within Islamic dynasties of centuries old and stems right the way through these to today’s work produced by artists currently living and working across the globe. One may assume that the link that binds these works is the faith of Islam. Is this a correct assumption? The definition of Islamic Art has been disputed by many as it is believed by some to be broad and with significant historical background to take in to consideration.

It also takes into account the emigration of people from one land to another (sometimes to and other times away from Muslim lands). Have they been restricted by their own society? If they are not practising the religion of Islam, are they Muslims that can be relied on to paint a picture of the cultural scene at that moment?

The evolution of design and aesthetics, tastes, technology and materials are also an important aspect that shaped the current Middle Eastern and Islamic Art scene not to mention historical events such as September 11th. Are we trying to understand the East? Do we get a realistic picture?

A very recent exhibition held at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2009) ‘Unveiled: New art from the Middle East’ brings together such examples of varied artworks. Similar collections for public view have been gathered in New York’s Modern Art Museum and in the Louvre, France. By comparing the array of subject matters addressed in the artworks we can gauge that certain topics such as political divisions, social unrest, religious conflicts and freedom of speech are prominent and therefore of high importance.

These are, however, negative aspects that have been highlighted for almost a decade now as the media has increased the reporting on the various ‘wars on terror’. Is this a means of communicating and informing the West of Middle Eastern ideology? Is it succeeding? Which artworks are of a positive and more inclusive nature?

Following the rule that art is a representation of public sentiment, is it fair to say that the art work on show in current exhibitions of Contemporary Middle Eastern Art is within the correct context to be termed as Islamic or Middle Eastern? If it is not accepted within the boundaries of the social rules from which it derives, is it feasible to draw a true picture of the culture and themes they are said to represent?

I then sent an email to a friend/peer with the following to explain what I was trying to say in my abstract and I think it came out better than the actual thing:

In layman’s terms I guess I’m trying to say that people living outside of Islamic borders (physical or not) are producing the artwork that is termed ‘Islamic’ yet their only link to Islam is sometimes their origins. This could then be argued from various p.o.v’s – it’ just that I need it to be presented as more of a question than a statement so that I can argue the different views.

I also want to bring in the idea that their rebellion against their homelands restrictions is the reason they left those places and that those restrictions are what their work may sometimes centre on. This is certainly the impression given through the exhibitions that are around at the moment – negative stuff seems to pull in the crowds?

In some cases they may be going against the acceptable social behaviour/beliefs and perhaps can’t be termed as ‘Islamic or Middle Eastern’ because it’s not a majority view? As in not truly representing the cultures and lives of the Muslims but only a snapshot of certain aspects. Once again if I make this more of a question I can give different views.

The angle I was going to take was one of the West trying to understand the East. In the essay itself I’d like to mention very briefly the events since Sep 11th and how they’ve shaped the Islamic art and Middle East art movement to become more globalised but still centred on topics such as politics and war.

I knew I’d get some useful feedback from Andy and the other part-timers (Esmeralda, Rupert and Isaac) who were also discussing their essays. So even though I wasn’t happy with what they’d be reading (as in my hand-in) I knew it was a necessary step in order to make progress.

In regards to the title – this was said to be fine. I could make it more specific to the content I was writing by adding an additional line in the style of a slogan of some sort.

The first paragraph was ok too but could do with a definition of Islamic Art – perhaps as a quote.

Actual notes I took:

Look on wiki for tips on ‘how to write a research question’
—————————————–
Can the work be defined by curatorial agenda?

Near the start of the essay mention certain practitioners that are challenging or engaging with the assumption (mentioned in current draft). Some may say their work is more than ‘belief’ or other angles to their creative process – this is a key element and could prove to be very interesting. There is a distinction between reflecting the faith or the creative process (?)

——————————————-

Stay away from media as a subject area – e.g. much has already been said about Sep 11th and it could veer off into other directions so best to stay clear of it.

———————————–

Alhambra is a very good example of where Eastern and Western creative processes merged (various reasons) but techniques of both styles were adopted and embraced by both the locals and foreigners. Focus on the sparks between the East and West.

—————————–

Using the examples given in the 4th paragraph – specify artists/practitioners who are expressing these things

war and victimisation – is this just a current theme?

Maybe discuss the art scene in the context of culture being embedded in religion and that it cannot be separated.

Can still mention Saatchi’s intentions – knowing that the public is aware of what is going on in the Middle East, they will be more inclined to come to an exhibition that gives an insight to that culture.

So now I know to concentrate on a few particular artists who seem to be making a name for themselves in contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art. I guess I should look into what their motivations are and the subject matters they like to express the most and more importantly their choice of medium.

Once again my to-do list is piling up. I have a feeling I won’t get round to doing the bulk of my tasks till the summer break by which time I’ll probably start panicking about the 2nd year! The pressure will probably do me some good though and hopefully snap me out of the procrastinary stage I seem to be stuck in.

Back to basics – what is Islamic Art?

February 13, 2009

I’ve wanted to write a few posts that veer off from the topic of what people believe Islamic Art to be. But I realised that I haven’t actually done a very good job of defining or explaining what it means myself.

So let’s start with a few definitions from online sources:

Wikipedia says: Islamic art encompasses the arts produced from the 7th century onwards by people (not necessarily Muslim) who lived within the territory that was inhabited by culturally Islamic populations. It includes fields as varied as architecture, calligraphy, painting, and ceramics, among others.

World Images says: art that is produced in the cultural and religious tradition of those who subscribe to the tenets of Islam

The BBC web site says (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/art/art_1.shtml) : Islamic art isn’t restricted to religious work, but includes all the artistic traditions in Muslim culture. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends time and space, as well as differences in language and culture.

In response to the Wikipedia definition: this is quite true for the early examples of Islamic art. There were many non-Muslims residing within the Islamic territory and they paid a small tax in order to be protected by the Muslims. Many craftsmen from the new regions under Islamic rule used their existing knowledge and skills to produce work they were employed for – e.g. decorating new buildings or redecorating old ones. Their style from perhaps the Far East or far west would be combined with the resources available locally and to accommodate local requirements such as Masjids (mosques) and grand buildings for the Caliph’s residence (although this came at a later time where display of wealth became quite important to the new rulers).

In response to the World Images definition: This is more like what I would expect to read. But the inclusion of the word ‘cultural’ could throw a person off. Culture sometimes conflicts religion and sometimes becomes so entwined with it that it becomes hard to tell which is which.

And finally in response to the BBC definition: well they are telling it as it is – people include the cultural and the religious artefacts within the definition of Islamic art and that’s that.

So it seems pretty obvious from these definitions and others that the term ‘Islamic art’ is used to describe art produced by anyone in a location that has either some history of Islamic rule, someone who is a descendant of a Muslim, someone who may have been born into a Muslim family, and someone who is simply influenced by something ‘Islamic’ (and there are numerous other scenarios that could b included here). The work itself does not have to be Islamic. It could have the most remote connection to Islam, and possibly even no connection until the artist says so.

To be honest I find this annoying. Using this approach anyone living in England could say they were producing Christian artwork simply because they lived in a country that states itself to be a predominately Christian one. Does anyone ever do this? No I don’t think so – I certainly haven’t come across it  unless what we are seeing is truly work with some sort of Christian religious significance.

But then why is it widely accepted to use the approach in terms of labelling Islamic art?

Interestingly enough I found this article by Saudi Aramco: http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200901/a.global.guide.to.islamic.art.htm – written by Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair.

The article starts off in a similar vein to the point I’m trying to make – what is Islamic art? The following paragraph is highly relevant to my post:

“Even experts agree that the term ‘Islamic art’ is insufficient, misleading, or just plain bad –  until one considers the alternatives. While some types of Islamic art, such as Qur’an manuscripts, mosque lamps or carved wooden minbars (pulpits), are directly concerned with the faith and practice of Islam, the majority of objects considered to be “Islamic art” are called so simply because they were made in societies where Islam was the dominant religion. A few, like the Freer Gallery’s famous canteen decorated with scenes of the life of Christ and saints, were clearly made in a Muslim context (in that case, 13th-century Syria) for use by non-Muslims, while others, such as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, were probably made for Muslims by non-Muslims, because few craftsmen in Jerusalem had converted to Islam by the end of the seventh century, when it was built.”

So basically the gist of it is that there isn’t really any other term that could better describe the umbrella under which all the examples of art work (architecture, carpets, pottery, crafts, etc.) can be encompassed, as the only thing that ties them together is their link to Islam – be it directly or indirectly. The rest of the article goes on to explain the types of artefacts you would be likely to see in an Islamic art collection. Some collections now include a selection of contemporary work to show that the chronology of Islamic art still continues.

I have to say I really enjoyed reading this article – but there is one point that I do not necessarily agree on that they have mentioned but I cannot dispute it or debate and question its correctness/wrongness until i firstly do some research and secondly find the evidence to argue against it (I will, therefore, only mention it in a future post – if I remember 😐 )

In conclusion, I think two types of art works need to be identified within the general area of Islamic Art. Perhaps we could call one Religious Islamic art and the other Secular Islamic art? Ok that just sounds weird. But the point is that one would have some religious significance and the other would only have cultural/secular significance. The unavoidable problem will arise when we encounter work that has a combination of both. And then again one might ask ‘Who am I and indeed who is anyone to restrict another from creating something of their own? And labelling it as they wish?’

‘Contemporary Middle Eastern Art’ for example is quite self-explanatory. It also allows for the chance that the work include some that relate to Islam due to the fact that it is the pre-dominant religion of that region. But at least it doesn’t state it outright. I think more exhibitions and galleries are taking this approach.

Is it not the responsibility of the artist to label their work correctly and semantically even? And then others may critique their choices (as I am now doing about the subject in general).

I think I’ll leave that there. I am going to be looking at this topic closely from now on though – as I think it is an important aspect of my research. Not only do I need to know what is out there already in terms of Islamic art but also where I can place my own work amongst it all. If I don’t think any of them are ‘labelled’ correctly then how will I ensure that mine is ‘labelled’ correctly and therefore understood in the right context? This topic may also prove to be a good one for my essay (which is coming up some time in the future – i really should pay more attention to my deadlines).

Over and out 🙂

Non-stop yapping

January 25, 2009

I had my second tutorial on Wednesday (21st Jan). It was with the Online students’ tutor, Jonathan, who I have met only once before.

I usually find it had to give an overview of my project whilst conveying every aspect of my research and ideas for the outcome, and all the influences that come into play, and my background, and why I chose the subject in the first place. But Jonathan seemed to ask all the right questions and even though I felt like I was chattering on the whole time I also realised that he actually understood what I was saying and what I meant! It was great because it allowed me to answer some of my own questions that I had kinda left at the back of my mind to linger I guess.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember everything from the 45 mins tutorial so I wrote it out in my note book a few mins later – I treat that notebook as more of a journal because I can jot down ideas and thoughts as they come to me on public transport. There is also the knowledge that no one will see the silly things I write in there either – and believe me I come up with some crazy ideas sometimes which I know I could never do in a million yrs!

Anyway, here is the content of that entry word for word (minus the silly bits) and I warn you now it jumps about a bit and can be totally random at times:

“covered many things – was useful to discuss an overview of the project.
The questions asked by J enabled me to see the project from a high level view.

Interestingly J raised the question of Infinity after seeing on my blog that I head read up and seen documentaries by Marcus du Sautoy.

J asked how I would use the idea of Infinity in my work and if it had a place in Islamic Art. The answer was yes it does in a symbolic form – the idea of an ever-existent God can be said to be represented through the everlasting forms and shapes that can be created from geometric and symmetrical patterns. How I would use the concept of Infinity – well I’m not sure. It becomes quite philosophical and would certainly not be a clear and easy idea to convey to an audience. I guess I have not looked into it as much as I could and this is what J suggests I do – add some depth to the background of the subject area. Add that extra bit of meaning behind the work. I agree and will definitely look into it soon.

J also suggested I set myself short term goals and a timetable so that I have targets to work towards. He said my current level of work is fine but the use of the timetables could prove to be handy especially when things don’t work to plan and you can look back at how to organise and allocate time to certain things. I had actually thought about doing this before but wasn’t sure how to break down my time. Being part-time is like being in this other dimension sometimes (can’t imagine what it’s like for the online students!). I mentioned that with my attendance being only once a week and not having many deadlines meant that my project goals weren’t really concrete.

J says that doing a fort-nightly structure could work better for me and then even if things change I can change the week ahead’s targets because I can use the one day of attendance as a marker for seeing what progress is made before the next week commences.

I will be going away on holiday (God willing) in a few weeks for a few days in mid Feb (Muscat and Dubai 🙂 ) I want to have something significant done by then in terms of practical work.

J liked my project idea and the way in which I wrote my posts. The positive feedback is good motivation to keep going. The interest he showed in my prototype idea was another motivation to start practical work sooner rather than later. He mentioned active research and how useful this can be for artists.

We discussed the issue of time – using the two years of my course to my advantage by learning from failures and successes.

I ended up explaining the historical, religious and artistic relevance of my research and approach to this project. It felt a bit unusual going into this much detail about things which I usually am careful to address. I find that the average (non-religious?) person doesn’t understand why someone would be driven to certain extents by their religious beliefs. I have experienced this on many occasions and even with peers I feel I have to explain what my religious motivations are so that they have a better understanding of it – but it’s just not something they are familiar with. Ok it’s hard to explain what I mean.

It was refreshing that J was very open to what I was expressing and asked me questions that gave me the impression that he was very interested in hearing more and gaining a better understanding of where I was coming from. it also made it easier for me to discuss ideas and the things that influenced these ideas and then the way they would be implemented.

I will be creating a page on which will sit my mini timetables. They will be broken down by months and should ideally be updated every two weeks. It would be cool to have a dynamic calendar of some sort – similar to the one used on the MA Digital Arts wiki site. Should look in the current list of widgets and plug-ins available on WordPress to see if they have anything that will fit the bill.
————————-
Equipment needed for prototype:

– soldering iron?
– white super bright 5mm LEDs (100pcs) aprox. £7.50
– equipment wire at least 2m of each black and red
– two boards (mark grids out in pencil and allocate spaces beforehand)”

I hope the above conveys how useful that tutorial turned out to be. I hope I am able to fulfil my short term goals as a means to fulfilling the long term ones.

Justification

December 14, 2008

This is a bit of a difficult one to express.

I will make random statements here but they will be relevant to the main title in some form or another so bear with me.

In my first tutorial with Andy (Course Leader) I was encouraged to express and relate to my religious and cultural background within my project. At first I didn’t think I would do this and definately not in an obvious way. I wanted the subject of my work to be a subtle hint to the viewer or anyone reading up about my work. But then I thought ok let’s just see where this goes. I won’t try hard either way to make it obvious or unobvious.

Progression in life, as a person, is very important. You don’t want to look back at yourself 5 years down the line and realise you are the same person you were then. Not having learnt anything. Not bettered yourself. Not improved in some way. For some people it might be as simple as having a better job, be earning more money, being married, having a family. For me it’s to be a better person and to do something to help others. This has a religious significance.

I think I have progressed – at least I hope I have. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, researching and learning. Not just for this project but for myself. One of the tenants of a Muslim’s belief is to gain knowledge. It is only through this seeking and gaining that one can then say they believe in God, as they cannot know what God is until they learn who God is. Once they have gained this knowledge they are required to act upon that knowledge. Which leads me to my next point(s):

I believe in One God and I believe he sent us Messengers to guide us and I believe that Muhammad was the last of those messengers. I believe the Qur’an is the word of God (the holy book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad). The Qur’an (in God’s words) tells us that not only is it important to believe in one God and that He created everything but that we must worship Him and one form of worhip is to do good. For this we shall be rewarded.

To put it simply – One of my mottos is that ‘there is a reason for everything and everything has a reason’.

So basically I want to do good and encourage others to do good. Not just because I need to get to heaven but because I want to be a good person and also because I want it to be rewarding for everyone who is inspired by that goodness.

Why am I telling you all this?

I find that through all this my priorities have slightly changed. I now feel that if something isn’t helping me make progress in my life in a good way then there is no room for it. I need to do good so that others can be influenced by it. They might not even want to do ‘good’ but maybe I can subconsciously influence them.

Subliminal messages? I don’t think so. I prefer to make things more open and clear and fair. Not like some secretive hidden agenda.

I want to make it obvious now. I want my work to be striking and I want someone to know that it was a Muslim that created it. A Muslim who was inspired by the teachings of their peaceful religion (not the violent one it is portrayed as). That a Muslim created something that anyone of any religious or non-religious background can appreciate. It would just be an added bonus for me if it works. At least my intentions would be good.

So this is my justification. I needed to justify the purpose of my project. I needed to justify my MA. Not for anyone but myself I guess. To know that my intention is to do something good with this.

I can only hope it has the right effect. I can only ask for God’s help and leave it to him in a way, and try my best in the meantime.

But this doesn’t change the project’s theme or line of enquiry. It may have influenced the journey though.

We’ll see.

Don Relyea – Q&A

October 18, 2008


http://www.donrelyea.com/hilberts_2007/15_03.PNG

Well I emailed Don Relyea as I said I would (https://qunud.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/don-relyea-artist/) and very kindly he responded in detail with some very interesting answers and observations:

I really like your work involving the generation of geometric shapes with programming in interactive applets. What would you say triggered your desire to use these types of shapes in your designs?

Since most of my work is created in some kind of programming language, it is natural to describe shapes and forms with math and both 2d and 3d geometry. I have always enjoyed math. From about 1999-2003 I developed severe sleep apnea, this deprived my brain of oxygen and meaningful sleep. Over that time I began to lose the ability to do math, solve complex problems, and even routine programming exercises became extremely difficult.

I thought I was losing my mind. When I figured out what was wrong and started treatment, it was as though I had just emerged from a thick fog into daylight. I immersed myself in math and exploratory programming with a new found zeal. The recovery and subsequent rediscovery of my love for math was the catalyst for the burst of abstract geometric and space-filling curve works.

Considering how much emphasis has been placed on geometry in the past and the desire to create artwork based on exact measurements of shapes (e.g the use of golden ratio), where do you see geometry fitting in contemporary art?

Geometry will always have a place in the world of contemporary art. Successful artists are successful manipulators. Geometry is a great foil for manipulation. Why is it that people are drawn to compositions with certain proportions? When something is out of proportion, why is it so jarring?

I think that a lot of the answers to these questions lie in neuroscience and the way our brains are wired to recognize patterns and forms. There have been a lot of recent studies that show that we have at a minimum 2 brain functions going on at the same time, the executive mind and the habitual mind. The executive mind is what we engage when we encounter something new or need to solve a problem, the habitual mind is our autopilot. This is not a new concept, ancient Zen masters were aware of this. The habitual mind is programmed through repetition to detect patterns and shapes and it keys in on certain proportions like golden ratios, facial symmetry, etc. As an artist you can play with this feature in your viewers brains to evoke a response.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s current exhibit at LACDA titled “Beautiful Mutants” is great example this manipulative technique in action. http://www.lacda.com/exhibits/mothersbaugh.html
In “Bottom Heavy Pug” Mothersbaugh is challenging both the executive and habitual mind simultaneously, the picture looks enough like the original that your habitual mind immediately identifies it as a dog. Your executive mind also immediately recognizes that there is something proportionally awry with the picture. The internal conflict makes the picture memorable and engaging.

Bottom heavy pug by Mark Mothersbaugh

Along the same line of reasoning, works that are geometrically exact are equally engaging. Geometric perfection is actually quite rare in nature and we can recognize when a form is artificially perfect. In “Bottom Heavy Pug” the vertical symmetry is exact, we recognize that this is uncommon and take note.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Don Relyea for taking the time to answer these questions, and with such detail 🙂

There are loads more interesting projects he is working on, so once again I recommend a look at his site. In particular I’ve just noticed this project based on html layouts and table based html structures which actually form interesting imagery when viewed in a browser: the reductionizer.

Identifying a line of inquiry – which one?

October 11, 2008

On my way to uni on Wednesday I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to formulate my ideas and project aims and objectives as best I could. I started writing notes most of the journey and, as it had been about a week since I had fully concentrated on summing up my project in such a way, I think it helped to make it more structured in my head. I was able to sum up the links a bit better than before. This is what I came up with in relation to the two key words ‘Shapes’ and ‘Space’ being components of a possible working title:

The first two words are key as they sum up the elements that the areas of research I will be looking at are anchored by. In other words you can always relate the subject areas, I am interested in, back to one of these words if not both.

We usually think of shapes as pre-defined areas of outlined space that have specific names. We’ll grow up knowing that these named shapes have properties that allow the shapes to be classed within certain gropus of shapes too. So a square is made of of 4 right angles at each corner and 4 sides. A triangle with three sides and of various angles and combinations of these.

But can a shape alway be defined? And should it be defined? And how about those shapes which have properties or characteristics that are overlooked? And which characteristics should we look more closely at because they’ve been overlooked in the past?

The second key word is space. My use of the word implies many senses of space including the mathematical and the scientific (these I believe overlap in some sense), as well as the physical, perceptual and conceptual. I cannot restrict my meaning at this point. I have no reason to restrict until I have conducted more research and found a reason to do so.

What about white space? Is it real? Does it mean something to everyone? What is it’s role? Is it intentional? Should it be identified in more places?

An area of study that connects to this idea of space around shapes (and here I wonder – is this space not then a shape too?) is that of Geometry. These shapes are formed from vertices (easier to think of as dots in an invisible grid of any size). These vertices may then be connected with a line from one to another. these lines will be joint in such a way to form a shape. Various shapes are then placed together to form a larger formation. They could arguably be described as a system of shapes. This system could be called a pattern. these patterns can then become quite complex and due to their placement, repetition and possibly the ability to tesselate them – they can be endless and seem to go on for infinity.

One of my biggest aims in my project is to look into the history of Geometry – how it was developed and how it has been used over the centuries (more specifically in art work).

Then there is the branching off of Geometry in nature. I think this is a highly important and interesting subject to delve into. Not only because it entails many mysteries and brings into question the secrets of the Universe. But also because there is a tie with religion and sprirituality which is something that I can relate to on a personal level. Believing in God means that when I see the beauty of nature and proofs of perfection in nature (such as the way the body works and the structures and symmetry in plants and flowers to name a couple) I link it to Divine Creation. This is another aspect I would like to look into further. Especially as belief in this isn’t restricted to just one religion.

Geometry allows for the representation of space in 2d, 3d and even 4d and beyond:

Science.ca - Donald (H. S. M.) Coxeter, Pure and Applied Mathematics

4. Hypercube: If you pull a cube into the fourth dimension you get a hypercube. Eight cubes make a hypercube. The figure you see here cannot exist in the real world, which only has three-dimensional space. It is a projection of a four-dimensional object onto two dimensions, just as the cube before it is a projection from three-dimensional space to the two-dimensional flat surface of the paper.

5. Regular polytope: If you keep pulling the hypercube into higher and higher dimensions you get a polytope. Coxeter is famous for his work on regular polytopes. When they involve coordinates made of complex numbers they are called complex polytopes.

http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=5&pg=1

These main topics then branch off into other areas but are still anchored by the main theme of shapes, space and I guess now geometry too. By always having my main question along the lines of ‘ the place of geometry in the world around us’ I will have something to refer back to. Is that what I am looking at? Am I any closer to finding the answer? Am I looking into something that is relevant or have a veered off too far down a small cobbled street?

Outcomes for project: My background has been predominantly in expressing some form of communication and his has been mostly interactive. I would like to continue this by producing work that compels the user/viewer to become involved with it. I believe that the most interactively creative works are those that captivate the viewer and involve them within a process. This can be in many forms such as when using sensors to trigger some kind of behaviour or change in the work (lighting, sounds etc). This could be on an abstract level too where triggering thoughts and movements in people and influencing these is enough of a form of interaction. Only that this can be more difficult to measure.

However, my interpretation of an interactive work would be using multimedia as a possible option. My work has always been either viewable of a computer screen (short video clips), graphics, websites. Or viewable on some form of small physical and traditional media such as paper or canvas. I would really like to create some sort of installation to take my experience and work to the next level or beyond for this project. This installation would be my blank slate. Possibly like a box or container that allows a person to fully submerge themselves within it – literally or mentally. The key is for it to be thought provoking. I would want the person to question their surroundings, the purpose of the installation and investigate it too. Possibly manipulate their thoughts by pre-determining the factors the could influence their senses and perceptions related to the space around them.

And that is the end of my notes from my journey to Uni. Yes I am one of those people who can write loads of notes whilst travelling on the tube/bus/camel 🙂

We had a sort of informal feedback session after one of the Critical Framework lecture where we were required to write in one sentence what our project was about. I knew it would be a bit crazy to even attempt this so I decided to use the key words to form almost a sentence. I came up with ‘Shapes and space – the place of these and geometry in the world around us’ using my notes from the journey in. It could be the closest I’ve got to a working title yet so I just let that be discussed in the group.

After some discussion with Andy (course leader) and some feedback and questions from fellow students it would seem that perhaps I should narrow my field of research down a tad bit so that I can concentrate on finding the niche in which my project would excel. Something no one else is questioning, expressing or even addressing. Or maybe they will have but I’ll be doing it from a different angle? a unique p.o.v?

Only time will tell.

It’s not easy making a connection

October 6, 2008

I’ve been trying to anchor my thoughts – they really are flying everywhere. Ok so I said i was going to look into the different types of geometry but then I became sidetracked by one kind – Islamic geometry and it’s possible symbolism. I think there are some very important relationships that can be drawn from the accuracy and detail and near perfection of the patterns that are created in Islamic and even non islamic but similar geometry.

One such relationship is that of the divine creation and the indications of this that are found in nature. It can be argued that the artists of the early Islamic art movement were trying to portray the perfection of God’s creation through the use of geometry and without the use of imagery showing any living beings (reasons for doing this will be discussed in future – or you can nudge me to tell you sooner – any feedback or questions are appreciated). This is a plausible point as symmetry and geometry can be found in nature all around us including our very own bodies.

This then closely relates to the idea of the Golden mean. The ancient Greeks placed much importance on this and here is a quick explanation from wikipedia:

In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns realized that “there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth.”

The Greeks believed there to be three concomitants of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, Paideia and politics. They judged life by this mentality.”

Ok so now I’ve lost track of where I was going with this. I want to quickly mention the Golden ratio also known as Phi. As seen in the image below:

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

Ok so back to the point – I am going to concentrate on drawing a connection between the ideas presented in the theory of geometry and symmerty in nature, golden mean and ratio, the divine creation and symbolism that can be found in artistic interpretations of these ideas/theories. Am I taking on too much? well considering that I keep coming up with new topics to look into means that at least my thoughts are developing. Lets just hope they are sinking in and remain relevant to my project.