Over the past three years Constellation has been a huge aid to my subject area, encouraging me to ask myself more critical questions surrounding my practice e.g. what does it mean to say I make something? Martyn Woodward’s ‘New Materialisms’ study group in the first year was a catalyst in igniting my interest in the material I work with (clay) and making me consider the theoretical discourse surrounding materials which led to the topic of my dissertation. In my second year I found that I could begin to see the value of ideas from Constellation feeding into my subject modules, drawing closer ties between my research and practice. This year however, my dissertation topic has somewhat overtaken my subject work in the sense that there seems to be a bigger gulf than ever between the ceramics I make and the theories I have been writing about at the start of level six. I expect this is because most of my writing was done over the Christmas holidays when I wasn’t making. I don’t see this as a negative though, in fact, my dissertation research into how the different temporalities of materials, humans, objects and the environment impact our sense of time has provided me with many new routes of approach to my practice and I look forward to making new work based on these ideas for my exhibition module. Writing about the ‘live ceramics’ of Keith Harrison has made me think about the power time-based objects have over us through creating temporal anxiety and tension. From past Constellation reading I’ve made work which is intended to arrest the viewer’s attention, slowing down the interaction with artworks through elements of surprise, familiarity or disruption in the field of vision. Writing about time recently has made me think about the different times embodied in different ceramic processes such as throwing and hand-building and how I can juxtapose these for effect.
In preparation for my dissertation I began to identify topics of interest, pinpointing the themes of memory, time, speed, mindfulness and slowness. Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and Arden Reed’s Slow Art were also important books in developing my ideas. However, I struggled with writing my literature review on how slow art can subvert the hierarchy of space since I realised the entire concept of slow art was so subjective I couldn’t define it. Unsure how to progress, I was encouraged by my dissertation tutor to write about my own perspective of time from my experiences of making and firing ceramics. This exercise helped me identify the three modes of time which were to make up my dissertation. In order to broaden my investigation into the relationship between ceramics and time I used the keywords I identified in Metsearch to find some short articles on the topics to begin with. I was introduced to some of the key philosophers that are concerned with our experience of time, namely Henri Bergson, E.H. Gombrich, the film analysis of Giles Deleuze and the phenomenological approaches of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger. Moving on to larger texts, I found Heidegger’s Being and Time the most difficult and had to focus on bite sized sections related to temporality, with the help of study guides to make sense of the ideas. As a result of being unable to find many texts that discussed ceramics from the point of view of time, I instead looked into time and art in a broader context and learnt that the 60s was a period of important experimentation in this area. In Pamela Lee’s Chronophobia I found theories that equally applied to ceramics. The main difference with my argument is the emphasis on material agency and the different temporality clay possesses.
Reading Writing at University: a guide for students came the understanding that there are many different ways to write an essay and that I identify very much as a “diver writer” (Creme and Lea, 2008, p. 73) since I have to do a lot of writing, even if none of it is relevant, before I can even begin to think of putting a plan together. It’s valuable to recognise the writing approach I take so that I know I must start well in advance to start getting ideas down on paper. I also find I’m a “patchwork writer” (p. 74), using a collage approach of cutting and pasting paragraphs to alter the structure as I go along. I encountered a few technical difficulties along the way using Microsoft word, mainly with inserted images disarranging the format and difficulty indenting quotes, but managed to sort these with help from friends and the internet. I will consider using google docs next time I write an essay so I have backup copies saved automatically.
In regard to the writing itself, I was aware that the tone of my dissertation draft submission was fairly casual and descriptive so I made an effort to make the final draft more academic and analytical. Reading Tim Ingold’s Making, David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous and Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space I’ve learned that I respect academic writing which is able to ground theory in vivid and beautiful descriptions of everyday experience. I find I easily get carried away with such descriptions e.g. of wood-fired pots or the throwing process unless I reign myself in. How to connect together chapters to enable the essay to flow was a challenge but I found getting a balance between working on individual sections and reading over chapters and the entire body as a whole was a help here. One weakness I feel needs to be addressed with my dissertation process was that, while I could think through my ideas fairly clearly on paper, I felt a lack of confidence explaining them verbally. This meant that I had difficulty talking through my ideas in group tutorials and bringing them up with friends and colleagues. In any future academic writing I have decided I will be more verbal about my research topic because hearing the opinions of others can be extremely valuable.
Creme, P., & Lea, M. (2008). Writing At University : A Guide For Students. Buckingham: McGraw-Hill Education.