Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 introduces a Field Study study

Medium Density Fibreboard Field Study Study
Turnaround, Wood St Indoor Market E17
April 2012.
This Field Study study is my contribution to Turnaround 9 in Waltham Forest Arts Club's current exhibition programme at Wood St Indoor Market (Walthamstow, London, E17, UK).
The display consists of a selection of books, journals, mail art objects and research ephemera dating back to about 1987. Included in the display is a selection of Field Study Reports, the most recent being that for 2010. David Dellafiora is currently assembling and collating the 2011 field report - a post about which is here

Retail Cargo Cult Sticker Design - David Dellafiora/Field Study


Field Study's Man in E17 - Library of Journals of the Vague Years.
Research towards a retail cargo cult emanation.
David has been exploring ideas about cargo cults and I have started thinking about how I might take on board this theme and develop some ideas and emanations and contribute to a Field Study 'Retail Cargo Cult' manifestation for the 2012 Field Report. How can various interpretations of cargo cults apply to Wood St? My installation for Turnaround 9 could be akin to a research station or a fanciful outpost of ephemeral thinking on the subject of cargo cults.   

Collection of articulated folding circular booklet designs 2010

In one of the books in the installation there is a series of observations or studies of people waiting in shopping malls, stations and waiting rooms. Waiting, it seems, is an act implicit in the rituals of cargo cults. When being interviewed for a place on a postgraduate arts course, one of my interviewers commented on the studies as a being bogus or pseudo anthropology. At the time I felt uneasy about the words 'bogus' and 'pseudo' and I had not considered my activities as anthropological. It occurs to me now I might have faired better in the interview (i.e. been offered a place) had I asked why the studies had to be authentically anthropological - or why there was a failure in something being 'pseudo' or pretentious as I think I understand 'pseudo'. I could have agreed wholeheartedly the studies were indeed bogus, pseudo-, fake, pretentious, fictional, imagined, made up - even dishonest. I was applying for a place on arts course not a science course. There is a term, 'cargo cult science'. The wikipedia page about 'cargo cult science' is based on physicist, Richard Feynman's critique of various fields of research e.g. parapsychology and psychoanalysis. Of the latter, Jacques Lacan is identified (by Raymond Tallis) as being an example of a cargo cult scientist because Lacan, purportedly, just mimicked medicine and science. If the installation featured here consists of a representative selection from nearly 25 years of artistic research to what extent is it a body of mimickry and/or cargo cult art?  

Visitors to the installation are welcome to handle the artefacts and interact with them cognitively and perhaps question what sorts of research they embody. Some art educationalists consider a sketchbook as a tool to develop research skills and that significant steps in understandings of scientific and mathematical research processes can be applied to the artistic process. The steps can be set out as, preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.* If 'incubation' is 'consciously getting away from the problem and waiting' - then the Library of Journals of the Vague Years may be over incubated and lack much in the way of 'illumination' and 'verification'. What is required to achieve illumination and verification by them?  

It may be that citing Poincare's analysis of the stages of mathematical and scientific research is precisely the sort of mimickry scorned by those who are self assured, even superior, to the extent they have coined a term, 'cargo cult science'. The superiority is assumed by technological rationalism over a notion of primitivism. As someone who is participating in a project aimed at regenerating a market as a commercial enterprise I am wondering about the interaction of the magical, rational, primitive and sophisticated in this process while waiting for visitors.   

* Addison, N. and Burgess, L. (eds) (2000) Attitudes to Making, Sketchbooks and Artists' Books (James Hall), London: Routledge Falmer.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful work Julian, would love to see the show in person.
    best wishes