I visited the Cumbria University staff show and was drawn to this work by the artistic partnership Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson. It captured a combination of the outdoors as art and art as research, showing a long-established mode of working combining the outdoors, art and research.
Feral Attraction was the work I saw and below that there is an introduction to Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson itself.
A project exploring what happens when domestic animals transgress the invisible and unspoken boundaries that separate landscapes of domestication and wildness? In October 2009, a small flock of feral sheep that had persisted for some decades in an inaccessible part of the Westfjords of Iceland was rounded up by a team of men and dogs from the neighbouring communities. Some nineteen sheep were caught, but five more perished as they ran off steep cliffs attempting to evade their captors. Despite (or perhaps because) the incident had caused so much public interest, all those caught were sent to the abattoir the following day. Prior to the round-up, observations were reported suggesting that some physiological adaptations in the sheep were evident. The opportunity to investigate a supposed increase in leg length was lost with the summary disposal of the carcasses. The incident serves to highlight several issues of contention regarding the ‘nature’ of landscapes; animal presences in these landscapes; and the preoccupations of humans with maintaining the boundaries between the wild and the domestic.
There is a tension between what we hold culturally as being right and proper and what we observe as a bid by another agent to disrupt that order. At the heart of this case is something that may be dismissed by many to be of no great consequence. For us, in ways resonant with ideas proposed by Jane Bennett (2010) in her seminal book Vibrant Matter, it serves as a vital pointer to expose how human systems suppress the inclinations and capabilities of ‘things’, acknowledging instead only those qualities and capacities we have assigned them.
Tálkni peninsula (shearing)
Human will become blind to the wills of those outside human systems whose actions do not correspond with, or seem at odds with, their own – who are simply not compliant in the human enterprise at hand. When the animal agent is one with which we technically coexist, (a domestic animal) the oversight seems particularly acute. A lack of porosity is evident – a resistance to ideas or indicators of change – a reactionary dismissal of knowledge concerning environment and the adaptability of denizens – the shaping of existence by environment – the capacity of discrete environments to model not only new biological permutations but to spawn new behavioural possibilities as a consequence of introductions or migration – a failure on the part of humans, still to acknowledge that a condition of ‘becoming’ is actually the norm – in nature, stability and material independence are illusory.
For the last twenty years, the collaborative artist team, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, has been practicing and producing in the field of contemporary art on an international stage with projects and exhibitions in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the USA. They have built a reputation, resonant in many fields – in contemporary art, animal studies, human geography, museology, the environmental sciences and more. In this respect, it has been their strategic intent to drive the idea that contemporary art is a significant voice, made possible by the application of unique blends of original methods and cross-disciplinary appropriation.
Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson’s artwork is multidisciplinary in nature, most usually taking the form of installation, involving anything from sculptural interventions, found objects and materials, video, audio, drawing, photography and texts. Notwithstanding their participation in International Biennales and major gallery shows, their adherence to the significance and advantage of site-specificity have often led them strategically to exhibit in some tiny and otherwise most obscure venues.
The production of their work is unashamedly driven and facilitated by intensive research and interdisciplinary associations, because as artists they consider art to be both the most promising platform and the most likely instrument by which the fusion and mutual complication or disturbance of traditionally discrete knowledge-fields will succeed in effecting significant and increasingly urgent cultural and behavioural change.
And change is the only show in town…
They ask what it means in the context of crisis, (e.g. mass extinction and the Anthropocene), to consider and practice art as a tool of disruption and mediation, how passivity might subversively be channelled as a weapon and how complex, cross-disciplinary relationships can effectively and otherwise, be productively managed. As a consequence of their approach, through many projects, the artists have invested and directed their energies towards alliances and conversations across multiple fields in exhibitions, associated seminars and international conferences. For them, every exhibition made, is a provocation of sorts and is used to create opportunities for extending discourse, often between people who would otherwise rarely, if ever, engage. Over this time and as a consequence, they have exhibited and otherwise continue to be involved with many other internationally significant artists and theorists across the world.
Now, in 2019, they continue to develop ongoing projects in Rhode Island (at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown) and in Alaska (at Anchorage Museum).
Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir (PhD) isProfessor and MA programme director at the Iceland Academy of the Arts
Mark Wilson (PhD) is Professor in Fine Art and Course leader in MA Contemporary Fine Art at the University of Cumbria, Institute of the Arts, UK
Snæbjörnsdóttir Wilsonare 2015-20 Polar Lab Artists-in-Residence with the Anchorage Museum, Alaska, USA, leading to the forthcoming solo exhibition
Snæbjörnsdóttir Wilsonare 2016-19 Artists-in-Residence at the David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, USA, leading to the forthcoming solo exhibition
N 54.56’06.005″ W 002.47’31.575′ was spot in a field I visted in 2015.
This is an image created as part of an art as research project I did to explore how we perceive online and offline spaces.
My old Sony phone gave me a fix through GPS to give me my longitude and latitude. Myself and the phone were in a field near Carlisle. The physical space and myself would have no idea of the long/lat coordinates. But my phone did know this information, not in any conscious way, but it had information about the locations of 12 GPS satellites and had fix from 7 of them. Each sent a signal the equivalent of a light bulb, picked up by a tiny sensor in my phone. The satellites, and thus the American Government who own them would not know where I was. But, in 2015, Google and Vodafone, my network provider would.
The image was posted on Instagram in 2020 as a spoof of online content that is required to be identified by the companies that were responsible for the image. In effect, it is sponsored by Sony, Navstar GPS and WGS84 the creators of the long/lat coordinates. This is another layer of place and space. Then it went on my website as a work of art, Then it will be seen by you on your device. All promulgated by binary code, on a server somewhere, transmitted by data send down cables over land and sea and by microwave though through the air moved via dishes on mast and buildings.
The object you see this on is an example of what Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge call code/space. In their book ‘CODE/SPACE : Software and Everyday Life’ they discuss the integration of online and offline concepts of space and place, suggesting that some places like airport terminals, offices and supermarket checkouts only function as offline spaces if they are connected to code in online spaces, to cyberspace.
As art as research, I have moved on from my original idea, which was really just to capture an image of where offline and online world meet. At first just out of my own curiosity. This led on to other ideas involving QR codes and barcodes embedded in outdoor places and photographed, which I will post on here, but again, I originally did as an experiment to see what would happen if I digitised analogue spaces. As I decided to put this online, I was interested in where Instagram or my website is, 5 years after `I took the photo in a field by the River Irthing near Brampton, my home. Art as research makes knowledge, the same as other forms of research. But in art as research what is found emerges from the process of looking so cannot be hypothesised and tested as in quantitative research. This makes it by quantitative standards, anecdotal, subjective, emergent and situational. But I think this makes art useful for personal research. I will return to this in other posts. As ever, this is work in progress. This is like a flash on a trail, that tells me where I have been, but not where I am going. The path emerges from the walking.
If you are interested in having a go at saying where this is, contact me or leave a comment or reply below. If you are interested in using art the research outdoor experiences, please get in touch.
So decided to do art as research to turn bird flight into visual art and my reflection into poetry.
A cup of coffee.
A pad, a pen and a blue pencil.
An hour timer.
A back garden with a comfy seat.
I sat and watched the birds in my back garden. I used the blue pencil to do a light outline of the tree and hedge in my garden as a guide. The blue pencil is an idea from illustration. Blue does not photocopy well, so you can sketch in pencil, then ink in, and when photocopied, the blue does not show but the ink does. This does not always work but I thought I would give it a try. I then recorded all bird flight in ink over this blue pencil image of my garden.
As I sat there I reflected on how chilled this was. Birds came in little bursts, like they moved about in bunches or family groups. Different birds moved in different ways. Sparrows were fast and direct. Starlings did a fast wobbling amble. Corvids were slow but assertive. Two seagulls rode a thermal.
It was clear that though we get used to seeing birds on the ground, their world was all air and trees. I was struck oddly by the idea that a bird knows the ground like a whale knows the sky. The bird and the whale must know about the sky and the ground, but for each, the sky and the ground don’t figure much in their lives.
The experience made me realise that the birds in my garden, which I found very familiar, actually lived a life that was very alien to me, in the way that a whale would not know anything about the sky or land beyond their aquatic life in the ocean. All in all it made me realise that diversity occurs very close to home as well as in the depths of the oceans on the other side of the world.
I wanted to share the image, just as I drew it. I also wanted to make the insight into birds and whales as a poem, not as a dry description.
The relationship between two variables may show correlation, they occur together, or show causation, one is caused by the other. Is being a middle-aged man simply correlation or causation in this sample?
France-based contemporary artist Salomé-Charlotte Camors questions our individual responsibility for environmental and social issues. Undertaking extensive research, she then utilises conceptual photography to go beyond an image – to crystallise the interactions constitutive of our identity and conception of reality.
“There is a sense in which this kind of photography involves taking something from people without giving them something in return. People reveal something to me, however subtle, which they would normally reserve for those much closer to them. My photographs then show this to others. But this is not so simple. Long after the moment of exposure, when the incident has been forgotten by the subject, I am confronted by it again and again—on the negative, on contact sheets, on proofs, and in prints. The images in this book have become my family. My feelings about them run too deep to be expressed objectively. The notes that follow may seem technical or detached, but they reflect my thoughts when I look at the images now. My feelings about the people then must be in the photographs themselves.”
This is a great use of photography as research. Of particular interest is the power of the snapshot, the image we take without thinking, rather than the ‘artistic’ image we make through a deliberate act with a clear aesthetic, political or personal intention. Posting, showing or sharing a snapshot, however, is deliberate and gives us insight into the photographer as much as the thing being photographed.
As art as research, the meaning ascribed is personal, situational, emergent and subjective. Through sharing, being published on Medium, it is exposed to scrutiny, not like quantitative research, for peer review, but that readers may gain insight into one person’s opinion and expression. The conclusion is also artistic. It uses symbolic or archetypal imagery to present a heuristic perspective. It lacks detail but presents its findings in a way we can universally relate to, in a personal, subjective way.
Why won’t the first lady show up for her job? Why? I became obsessed with this question and eventually looked to Melania’s Twitter history for answers. I noticed that in the three-year period between June 3, 2012 and June 11, 2015 she tweeted 470 photos which she appeared to have taken herself. I examined these photographs as though they were a body of work.
Everyone has an eye, whether or not we see ourselves as photographers. What we choose to photograph and how we frame subjects always reveals a little about how we perceive the world. For someone like Melania, media-trained, controlled and cloistered, her collection of Twitter photography provides an otherwise unavailable view into the reality of her existence. Nowhere else — certainly not in interviews or public appearances — is her guard so far down.
What is that reality? She is Rapunzel with no prince and no hair, locked in a tower of her own volition, and delighted with the predictability and repetition of her own captivity.
Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation.’ Creative viewing.
There’s a common misconception that the best way to encourage children’s creativity is simply to get out of the way and let them be creative. Although it’s certainly true that children are naturally curious and inquisitive, they need support to develop their creative capacities and reach their full creative potential.
Supporting children’s development is always a balancing act: how much structure, how much freedom; when to step in, when to step back; when to show, when to tell, when to ask, when to listen.
In putting together this list, I decided to combine tips for parents and teachers, because I think the core issues for cultivating creativity are the same, whether you’re in the home or in the classroom. The key challenge is not how to “teach creativity” to children, but rather how to create a fertile environment in which their creativity will take root, grow, and flourish.
The list is organized around the five components of what I call the Creative Learning Spiral, a process that encourages children to imaginewhat they want to do, create projects through playing with tools and materials, share ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences.
For each of the five components, I’ve suggested two tips. That’s a total of 10 tips. Of course, these tips are just a very small subset of all of the things you might ask and do to cultivate children’s creativity. View them as a representative sample, and come up with more of your own.
1) Show examples to spark ideas
A blank page, a blank canvas, and a blank screen can be intimidating. A collection of examples can help spark the imagination. When we run Scratch workshops, we always start by showing sample projects — to give a sense of what’s possible (inspirational projects) and to provide ideas on how to get started (starter projects). We show a diverse range of projects, in hopes of connecting with the interests and passions of workshop participants. Of course, there’s a risk that children will simply mimic or copy the examples that they see. That’s OK as a start, but only as a start. Encourage them to change or modify the examples. Suggest that they insert their own voice or add their own personal touch. What might they do differently? How can they add their own style, connect to their own interests? How can they make it their own?
2) Encourage messing around
Most people assume that imagination takes place in the head, but the hands are just as important. To help children generate ideas for projects, we often encourage them to start messing around with materials. As children play with LEGO bricks or tinker with craft materials, new ideas emerge. What started as an aimless activity becomes the beginning of an extended project. We’ll sometimes organize mini hands-on activities to get children started. For example, we’ll ask children to put a few LEGO bricks together, then pass the structure to a friend to add a few more, then continue back and forth. After a few iterations, children often have new ideas for things they want to build.
3) Provide a wide variety of materials
Children are deeply influenced by the toys, tools, and materials in the world around them. To engage children in creative activities, make sure they have access to a broad diversity of materials for drawing, building, and crafting. New technologies, like robotics kits and 3-D printers, can expand the range of what children create, but don’t overlook traditional materials. A Computer Clubhouse coordinator was embarrassed to admit to me that her members were making their own dolls with “nylons, newspapers, and bird seed,” without any advanced technology, but I thought their projects were great. Different materials are good for different things. LEGO bricks and popsicle sticks are good for making skeletons, felt and fabric are good for making skins, and Scratch is good for making things that move and interact. Pens and markers are good for drawing, and glue guns and duct tape are good for holding things together. The greater the diversity of materials, the greater the opportunity for creative projects.
4) Embrace all types of making
Different children are interested in different types of making. Some enjoy making houses and castles with LEGO bricks. Some enjoy making games and animations with Scratch. Others enjoy making jewelry or soapbox race cars or desserts — or miniature golf courses. Writing a poem or a short story is a type of making, too. Children can learn about the creative design process through all of these activities. Help children find the type of making that resonates for them. Even better: Encourage children to engage in multiple types of making. That way, they’ll get an even deeper understanding of the creative design process.
5) Emphasize process, not product
Throughout this book, I’ve emphasized the importance of making things. Indeed, many of the best learning experiences happen when people are actively engaged in making things. But that doesn’t mean we should put all our attention on the things that are made. Even more important is the process through which things are made. As children work on projects, highlight the process, not just the final product. Ask children about their strategies and their sources of inspiration. Encourage experimentation by honoring failed experiments as much as successful ones. Allocate times for children to share the intermediate stages of their projects and discuss what they plan to do next and why.
6) Extend time for projects
It takes time for children to work on creative projects, especially if they’re constantly tinkering, experimenting, and exploring new ideas (as we hope they will). Trying to squeeze projects into the constraints of a standard 50-minute school period — or even a few 50-minute periods over the course of a week — undermines the whole idea of working on projects. It discourages risk-taking and experimentation, and it puts a priority on efficiently getting to the “right” answer within the allotted time. For an incremental change, schedule double periods for projects. For a more dramatic change, set aside particular days or weeks (or even months) when students work on nothing but projects in school. In the meantime, support after-school programs and community centers where children have larger blocks of time to work on projects.
7) Play the role of matchmaker
Many children want to share ideas and collaborate on projects, but they’re not sure how. You can play the role of matchmaker, helping children find others to work with, whether in the physical world or the online world. At Computer Clubhouses, the staff and mentors spend a lot of their time connecting Clubhouse members with one another. Sometimes, they bring together members with similar interests — for example, a shared interest in Japanese manga or a shared interest in 3-D modeling. Other times, they bring together members with complementary interests — for example, connecting members with interests in art and robotics so that they can work together on interactive sculptures. In the Scratch online community, we have organized month-long Collab Camps to help Scratchers find others to work with — and also to learn strategies for collaborating effectively.
8) Get involved as a collaborator
Parents and mentors sometimes get too involved in children’s creative projects, telling children what to do or grabbing the keyboard to show them how to fix a problem. Other parents and mentors don’t get involved at all. There is a sweet spot in between, where adults and children form true collaborations on projects. When both sides are committed to working together, everyone has a lot to gain. A great example is Ricarose Roque’s Family Creative Learning initiative, in which parents and children work together on projects at local community centers over five sessions. By the end of the experience, parents and children have new respect for one another’s abilities, and relationships are strengthened.
9) Ask (authentic) questions
It’s great for children to immerse themselves in projects, but it’s also important for them to step back to reflect on what’s happening. You can encourage children to reflect by asking them questions about their projects. I often start by asking: “How did you come up with the idea for this project?” It’s an authentic question: I really want to know! The question prompts them to reflect on what motivated and inspired them. Another of my favorite questions: “What’s been most surprising to you?” This question pushes them away from just describing the project and toward reflecting on their experience. If something goes wrong with a project, I’ll often ask: “What did you want it to do?” In describing what they were trying to do, they often recognize where they went wrong, without any further input from me.
10) Share your own reflections
Most parents and teachers are reluctant to talk with children about their own thinking processes. Perhaps they don’t want to expose that they’re sometimes confused or unsure in their thinking. But talking with children about your own thinking process is the best gift you could give them. It’s important for children to know that thinking is hard work for everyone — for adults as well as children. And it’s useful for children to hear your strategies for working on projects and thinking through problems. By hearing your reflections, children will be more open to reflecting on their own thinking, and they’ll have a better model of how to do it. Imagine the children in your life as creative thinking apprentices; you’re helping them learn to become creative thinkers by demonstrating and discussing how you do it.LCL IntroductionMitch Resnick introduces the main ideas of Creative Learning, and how they are inspired by the way children learn in kindergarten.
Mitchel Resnick is Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab. His research group develops the Scratch programming software and online community, the world’s largest coding platform for kids. He has worked closely with the LEGO company on educational ideas and products, such as the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits, and he co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, an international network of after-school learning centers for youth from low-income communities. He is the author of “Lifelong Kindergarten,” from which this article is excerpted.