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RAE 2008

Rearch Assessment Exercise 2008

Paul Harper

My research interests include:
Epistemology and research methods for craft; the documentation and analysis of practice; theories of language and meaning with regard to art and craft; the purpose and meaning of craft in contemporary culture; the reflective practitioner.

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Research Outcomes

Outcome 1 - Practice and Reflection
I initiated, organized and introduced this symposium, convened in response to a perceived sense of alienation from critical discourse amongst practitioners. The intention was to create an opportunity for makers to engage with current debate in the crafts and to explore ways in which theory could be challenged or authenticated by the experience of practitioners. There was also an intention to encourage a confident, critical community of practitioners, who were not associated with the academic community, who would contribute to the growing critical discourse about craft.
The event tested the appetite amongst makers for a critical forum and it’s success has led to an on-going series of symposia. The seventh symposium will take place in March 08 and will look at the role of artist as curator.


Outcome 2 - Articulating Craft: the Role of Digital Media in Analysing Practice
This paper, presented at The Documentation of Fine Art Practices and Processes symposium, argues that critical writing has the potential to shape practice into something that is more easily written or talked about within it’s own conventions.
The primary critical and theoretical focus in the crafts has become the craft object as site of meaning and main area of significance. This essentially literary approach regards the object as something to be "read". I assert that this focus neglects those things that define craft as intrinsically connected to the material world, to experience, to practice, to actions, and to things.
I argue the need to develop research tools that make evident inadequately theorised aspects of practice, contributing to an expanded and enriched discourse about craft.


Outcome 3 - Process Works
For this catalogue essay, to accompany an exhibition of the same name, I conducted interviews with the exhibiting jewellers in their studios. The interviews revealed very different approaches to making, but a consistent sense of process as something that is, in a sense, endless and continuous with other aspects of the makers life. I speculate as to how this notion of process can be seen as forming part of the content of the work.
The essay also reflected on the role of the exhibition and the value of makers curating their own work and that of their peers. This has become an established part of practice for fine artists and has done much to create a greater understanding between artists and galleries/professional curators, and to give artists a clearer sense of their audience.


Outcome 4 - The Poetics of Making
In this paper, presented to the New Craft - Future Voices conference, I assert that at a time when we are seeing a new wave of writing on the crafts, many makers express a sense of alienation from critical discourse and of dissatisfaction with the language of discourse. For some, far from illuminating or feeding their practice, it is disempowering. I argue that in the conventions of critical discourse craft is elusive because it is so rooted in a world of experience, of materials and processes, of things and the life of things.
I argue that it is important for makers to contribute to discourse and for that contribution to be properly valued. Furthermore, that if makers are to engage confidently, usefully, meaningfully with critical debate, then we need to develop a confident voice and a language that we not only feel comfortable with but which is actually up to the job.


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