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Chris Smith
Critical Objects: the practice of research through making

Internet Publication

Working Papers in Art & Design
Vol. 3
ISSN: 14664917

November 1, 2004

This paper was presented at the Research into Practice conference, University of Hertfordshire, 2004.

Research into Practice 2004 website

The paper was concerned with two themes related to issues of research and making in crafts and fine art. These were:

1) The iconophobia that has affected recent debate about the artefact, particularly the artwork. This is to be found in the strand of postmodernism that have set foundations for debate and critical discourse on what has been the "linguistic turn". In contrast to this there will be an advocacy of the debate surrounding what WJT Mitchell recently called the "Pictorial Turn".

2) The development of the idea that in research through practice, new artefacts stand not only linguistically in relation to other artefacts but in a critical and comparative stance to other artefacts through their materiality. In particular, this reveals itself through the body of an artist’s work.

This did not claim a silence for makers and artists but rather looked at the complex negotiation between research as writing and wrighting (making). It proposed theorising in practice as equal to descriptions and propositional theorising of practice. It addressed the broader issues of the debate of text image relationship in art and design research.

It arose from the debates and collaboration with colleagues in the department and from issues raised at What work does the Artwork do? symposium, London Metropolitan University, 2003, related to issues of conversation between visual and text materials; essay like qualities of work; the working out of work through work, thereby treating practice and its objects as research activity.

It drew from the sense of "event" from that occasion and modelled the following combined exhibitions and symposia that followed; Imagine / Image, 2004; Now they Are Surrounded / What work does the artwork do? II, 2005; Imagine / Image, Barachello Foundation, 2005; Systems Art / Now they Are Surrounded: reconfigured, 2007.

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