MA3 — Week 8: Ethics, PPP and FIFCA

Visiting Lecture with Dr Michele Whiting FHEA

The biggest take away from Dr. Whiting’s lecture was a desire to reclaim physical space, through action, but also to reclaim a memory through material and transmit the experience to the viewer.

I could really feel the landscape through the work she showed us, and I really enjoyed the performative aspect of the slide show, through the addition of the writing. Through the paintings and drawings I felt i could feel not only the process of making the marks, but also a unity between those marks and the process of walking, physically moving though the space. The soft edges, colour palette and textures all lent themselves to the landscapes that I could feel even through I have never been to the UK.

 


Role of Artist and Ethics

I was a bit surprised this is the first time ethics has come up during the MA formally, but it is something I often think about. When I received my first research grant as an undergrad, I had to take an ethics workshop and comply with the Research Ethics Boards’ and receive approval from the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) standards for my work. The workshop was general, and I worked alongside mathematicians, scientist, social scientists and musicians during the training, but I think as a whole the guiding principles should apply to all:

  • respect for human dignity
  • respect for free and informed consent voluntarily given
  • respect for vulnerable persons
  • respect for privacy and confidentiality
  • respect for justice and inclusiveness
  • balancing harms and benefits
  • minimizing harm
  • maximizing benefits

In career climbing we must also be careful to be ethical in our lives. I think the rules for researching and working ethically can apply to all aspects of our being in the world. We must treat others with respect, and provide opportunities for informed consent and respect any times we work with vulnerable populations, being cautious of our privileges and advantages.

I think generally working with others in a respectful, collaborative way always results in more dynamic, engaging and considered work, and it is through sharing that we can grow as a culture. The divisiveness and competitiveness that often occurs in the art world can only lead to hurting the larger community in the long run, and limiting your own knowledge about when you may be treading on others, appropriating other’s work or being unprofessional in the end.

Because of this, I don’t think that work and the self, can be separate, and that to make ethical work, we must also be moral as an individual. Even if a work is ethical, if the maker has unethical qualities or seems to be doing questionable things with their privilege, that is tied to the work and a part of the work too.

Generally I don’t think art can be separate form the social world it is a part of, and it is important to the cognizant and sensitive to the diverse social issues which we are all a part of as artists. It is our responsibility, as independent makers and thinkers to act in ethical ways, and produce work that has been considered, because it is an amazing privilege to be able to make art, and we should acknowledge the responsibility wherewithin.


PPP

In the hopes of getting an early crack at the final submissions for this year, I decided to get a jump start and do a preliminary edit this past weekend. The most major edits were to the year ahead section and the 5 years, as I would like to keep the momentum from the MA going next year, and am trying to shoot for slightly bigger goals in the long run, in the hopes that some manifestation might help.

Rachel Thornton PPP Year 3 


Install at Atelier Imago Inc.

This week I set up a small exhibition at the Atelier Imago Inc, an artist run-print shop in Moncton, NB as a part of the Volet Arts médiatiques projects for FICFA (Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie). The exhibition opens 14 November and is on view until 15 December.

I really appreciated the opportunity to put up some fresh work, and that they translated my statement and bio:

Le film uranography propose un nouvel agencement des étoiles du ciel nocturne. Inspirée de l’histoire de l’astronomie, de la cartographie céleste et des représentations mythologiques d’Uranie, la vidéo allie une version réinventée du cosmos aux étoiles existantes pour créer un nouvel arrangement des étoiles. L’intouchable cosmos est manipulé par une voix narrative silencieuse et anonyme à l’aide de dessins, d’images imprimées et de séquences de films trouvées.

Rachel M Thornton est une artiste émergente et une commissaire, descendante des premiers colons. Elle vit présentement sur les terres non-cédées des nations Micmac et Wolastoqiyik (Sigenigteoag / Sackville, N.-B.). Elle explore sa fascination pour le cosmos par l’entremise de divers médiums, dont le dessin, la vidéo et le numérique.

Elle détient un Baccalauréat en arts visuels avec distinction de l’université Mount Allison à Sackville et est étudiante au programme de maïtrise en arts visuels au Open College of the Arts à Barnsley, au Royaume-Uni.

Final Video after some slight changes that are probably even too minor to notice:

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Installation view, better documentation to come

 

MA3 — Week 7: Contextual Study, Visiting Artists and in the Studio

Contextual Study 

This  year I hoped to get going early on the contextual study question, so was really glad when Kimberley promped us to get a move on. I was also pleasantly surprised with the word count increase, which I think will allow me to fully explore the topic.

Contextual Study Question:

Art and Cosmology: How personal epistomologies and embodied connections to celestial bodies relate to feminist was of knowing the cosmos.

Initial notes:


 

Diane Borsato Artist Talk

This week there were many artists visiting Sackville, but I was most excited for a talk with Diane Borsato, an artist I have looked to for inspiration the last few years.

Borsato’s work explores “pedagogical practices and experiential ways of knowing through performance, intervention, video, installation, and photography.” I am keenly interested in the way she works with others to execute large projects which involve many participants, (including beekeepers, mushroomers, astronomers, dancers and others) or are carried out over multiple years in collaboration with major institutions, art galleries, and local organizations.

In her talk, she mentioned that she just loves to learn, and her interest in so many different areas of research comes from her never ending curiosity about the world. “While there are ideas that I hope I’m proposing [in my work], it’s very much about the fact that I’m really curious about a subject and I’d like to learn about it. So I negotiate a scenario where we can all learn something in a surprising way.” I love how she tackles projects about the natural world, but from so many subjects and perspectives. This idea of teaching and learning together seems as important in her practice as the subject matter itself.

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Diane Borsato, Cloud Party, Performance/Walking Tour
2017

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Diane Borsato, Terrestrial / Celestial, Performance/Action, 2010

Though her projects often come about as ephemeral experiences, I am curious about how she documents these events, and creates ephemera that lives on from the event. Posters, pamphlets and artists books include a few of the ways she has extended the life of these projects and perhaps most beautifully the planing of an orchard.


 

Brendan Fernandes Artist Talk

Chicago based, Canadian artist Brendan Fernandes also came to little Sackville to give an artist talk a few days after Diane. His projects often address issues of race, queer culture, migration, protest, and other forms of collective movement, while working with dancers in installations he designs. His choreography/work often combines Ballet, queer dance hall, political protest and is rooted in collaboration and fostering solidarity.

Inspired by Nijinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring, the work he showed in Sackville was a  performance-activated installation called The Rite. This work explored the tension between stillness, seat, and power.

During its activations, two dancers engaged with a sculptural cage and chairs that rocked in all directions, making them unstable seats. The dancers are challenged to achieve stillness and a sense of balance while rocking back and forth in unison. To do so, they must constantly engage their core and balance muscles. In this situation, stillness is achieved through active resistance.

Through this gesture and the surrounding choreography, the idea of stillness as metaphor for political resistance is explored. As an ongoing exploration of the tension between technique and self-care, Fernandes’ choreography further challenges the dancers to find a new sense of freedom and new movement from within these physical and metaphoric objects of restraint. When the dancers are absent, the installation is activated by the recorded sound of the performers.

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Brendan Fernandes, The Master and Form
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Brendan Fernandes, The Living Mask

During his talk it was refreshing to hear how he worked with the dancers not as props, but as collaborators within the work. Much of his practice involves working with these dancers not only to convey his choreography, but to also allow them space for improvisation, and treating them as collaborators during the performances.

Brendan was also very adamant during his talk that he fights for the right for these dancers and artists to always be paid. This seemed a really important aspect of his work, and has built in conditions so that anytime his work is shown, everyone is paid fairly for their work.


Sean Young – Reconsidering Museum Collections and Community Engagement

Next stop on this week long marathon on talks was with Sean Young, The Collections Manager & Archaeologist at the Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay.

During Sean’s talk, he spoke to the ongoing issues of repatriation in Canada and internationally and also ways the museum has been Reconsidering Museum Collections and Community Engagement with a lens on indigenous practices.

From his talk it seemed clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of repatriating artworks and artifacts to indigenous communities in Canada, but that is sadly nothing new around here. However what did surprise me during Sean’s talk was the approach his museum takes towards borrowing works from other institutions and then working with the lenders to help them understand why the artifacts/artworks should come back to the community. By giving the objects proper context, the Haida Gwaii museum has been able to convince lenders to leave the works back where they belong, through increasing the awareness of the importance of the artifacts. Though it seems like a huge task, continuing to increase this knowledge has been working for them so far, and seems a really positive strategy.

I was excited to ask Sean what the reception to the online collection was like, as it seems such a useful tool for not only sharing their collection, but also providing an opportunity for their community to connect with the archives. It seemed like there has been great uptake in it as an online resource, and has also allowed for the opportunity for contemporary artists to explore and respond to the items in their collection, resulting in some wonderful sounding exhibitions which combine both works from the collections and new commissions.

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Haida Gwaii Museum

Studio Progress

In preparation for a small exhibition in Moncton, New Brunswick, uranography, I made these collages to accompany the video/animation work.

I can imagine making a few more and producing a small publication to document the exhibition.IMG_0519IMG_0517

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Own Work

 

 

 

 

MA3 — Week 6: Provocations Summary

Provocations Task

Thesis: Empirical evidence is required to find truth in memory, and preserve ‘facts’ related to definitions of identity. Collective memory, history and scientific theories, define the present self.

Presentation Transcript

Diane Chasseur, is an independent researcher of para-fictions and philosopher of science. Today she will be speaking about how we find truth, and how those truths define our identity and place within culture.

Introduction: 

Why should we care so much about finding ultimate truths, if we even can? As Jo explained our memories are fickle and unreliable narrators, and without hard empirical evidence, we should not believe everything that is told to us. Empirically acquired information is collected through observation, experience, and experiment and, ideally, serves as neutral arbiters between competing theories to define a reliable truth. What evidence of this kind do we really have to prove that man landed on the moon fifty years ago?

The way we define truth can also be done without empirical evidence, and can be full of biases, influence from social structures and conformity with others, which leads us to establish our beliefs, and our identity but ways of social trust. We currently live in a world of scientific realism, where through social trust of scientists, leaders and governments, we believe all current dominant scientific theories are true (or approximately true) but we can look to the not so recent history to see that that has not always been the case. Pessimistic meta-induction undermines this epistemic optimism in relation to anti-realism and is perhaps the way forward. Looking to today’s misinformation age, where technologies influence our memories and understanding of truth, what role does cynicism have to play in establishing truth in relation to conspiracy theories.

What value can we find in looking at outside the dominant theories in hopes of defining the truths which establish our identities.

Part 1: Social Trust

Human knowledge is deeply social. We learn from each other and use the information other shares to define our knowledge of the world, and this social trust defines our identity. Trusting things other people tell us is something we do all the time. This is how culture has always been established, through person to person relationships. We are, and always have been inclined to trust another, since this is how we learn and communicate.

But how do we decide who is trustworthy, especially in the current age of misinformation? We have each developed our own ways of doing this on the personal level, but ultimately we look to the people who are most like us, to find trustworthiness, and we are less trusting to people who are unlike ourselves. In the past all knowledge was transferred via a hierarchy, from those with authority, established by privilege and wealth to those without. But with the rise of the internet information age, more voices found their communities, and because of this, we have built communities around our like minded beliefs.

In science and history, this sharing has always come about as an individual sharing evidence, and then they draw their conclusions, which we are inclined to trust and then we make our own beliefs. But what about those who are less inclined to trust? This can extend to political groupings, religion and  “conspiracy theories”, (like that the moon landing was faked), or beliefs which we find different than our own. These have been prevalent in history but today they are labeled as fake news, and we just aren’t designed to handle fake news, as an inherently trusting species. But really conspiracy theorists are just another community who see the moon landing as real as a non-truth. These social groupings are often a large part of our identity and lead to mistrust of information.

This is an especially important distinction when it comes to events or experiences which are not necessarily universal. There are only a handful of first hand accounts of actually walking on the moon, and only a few hundred thousand that the mission happened. That leaves millions of people who are outside of this community, who did not have first hand experience of the truth in question.

So when someone reports an experience that we can’t experience directly, we want to learn from this, but since truth can be so easily manipulated, should we just blindly trust the information, or should we look for our own evidence to question it? Social factors, rather than individual psychology, are essential to understanding how truth and misinformation is spread.

Part 2: Pessimistic meta-induction and Anti-Realism 

Since, historically, we have been inclined to find truth in the information shared to us, and we cannot experience/investigate every theory firsthand, we established a world of scientific realism. In this world, we believe that scientific theories are true (or approximately true) because we have established and found authenticity in scientists via our social trust, groupings and hierarchies.

Pessimistic meta-induction undermines this epistemic optimism and is perhaps the way to move forward in developing our understanding of the world and ourselves, free from hierarchical baggage. The pessimistic meta-induction argument was first fully postulated by Larry Laudan in 1981. Using meta-inductive reasoning, rather than deductive reasoning, Larry Laudan argues that if past scientific theories which were successful were found to be false, we have no reason to believe the realist’s claim that our currently successful theories are true or approximately true.

We can look to the not so recent history to see that that has not always been the case, and scientific beliefs we once found to be true are completely erroneous. Ie. handwashing, the flat earth, hollow earth, pluto as a planet, the list could go on into thousands of examples. Overtime we have found new scientific concensouses, superseding these earlier theories, but what is notable about all our current theories on these topics, is that they started out in opposition to dominant beliefs, you might even call them ‘conspiracy theories’. If some of these past conspiracies have turned out to be truthful in the past, what prevents current theories from being proven truthful in the future. That we just cannot predict and maybe there was some foul play in the “moon landings’ which we have not fully found the reasoning for yet.

Philosopher Micheal Dummett proposes that “a statement about the past is rendered true or false only by evidence available to the speaker at the time of asserting it.” implying that the only evidence we can truly believe is in first hand knowledge based on empirical experience. “That individual takes the memory to their grave, then when the witness dies it ceases to be true that the event took place”. However, this is not how we have socially come to find truth in information, and while that statement might find truth in the evidence, when a community takes that evidence, they develop it to find meaning and usefulness with the evidence. This idea of finding truth from individual interpretation allows from any voices to become an authority on a subject. In political theory, or political philosophy, John Locke refuted the theory of the divine right of kings and argued that all persons are endowed with natural rights to life, liberty, and property and ultimately there can be authority found in many.

While Dummett ultimately argues against many aspects of Anti-realism, in theory we can conclude that the truth of a statement rests on its demonstrability through our internal logic mechanisms which are, ultimately, a part of our identities. So as we receive information socially from many authorities, in the search for truth it is ultimately up to us to individually question everything as we continue to move forward as a culture in search of truth.

Part 3: Machineries of Memory and role of artist 

Looking to today, technologies influence on our memories and understanding of truth as we receive our evidence not through physical first hand accounts, but socially through these technologies. Human memory and interpretation is fallibile as Bruce M Ross states ‘…a purely cognitive memory must belong either to a robot or to an inert database.’ Unlike machines, human memory is designed for information retrieval, not for information storage. So we must consider the authenticity of our evidence in relation to time and kind, to assess its usefulness.

George Steiner reflects in In Bluebeard’s Castle. Somes Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture, that “it is not the literal past that rules us…. It is images of the past” often as highly structured myths passed through human knowledge, or of late as data stored in machines. Walter Benjamin argues that each human sensory perspective is not completely biological or natural, it is also historical inn ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. We perceive change, and shifting truths alongside social changes, or changes in ‘humanity’s entire mode of existence’. In the reproduction of evidence, truthfulness is not the same, like a work of art looking it’s aura through reproduction. Because this is how we often receive our evidence for our beliefs, via inference from mechanical and technical reproductions, video and photographs. We can only experience a moon landing through the images, video and audio that prevails, but how trust worthy of sources are those really?

Today, the construction and operation of machine memory is fully understood, as it has been completely generated by us, as opposed to human systems, our brain, which we are continuing to learn about. This may make machine memory more trustworthy in some instances, but it also allows for manipulation of information, which we can see lead to catastrophic results, if we are not critical of it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, finding universal truths may seem a futile practice as we fight against our inefficient human memories, social bias and incomplete understanding of ourselves and the world around us. However, by questioning the status quo, we may be able to find new truths in old theories as we forge ahead with pessimistic induction, even epistemic optimism is a lot easier to go along with. Questioning who holds authority and who we trust can generate more truthful truths, and allow us to find community in cultures built on these truths. By finding truth in multiple communities, there is not just true and untrue, but rather many truths made from many perspectives which may transcend our knowledge of the truth. By analyzing and questioning the collective memory we call history and science, our personal narratives in relation to these histories can become a navigational tool in defining our identity.

Furthermore, As technology continues to challenge our understanding of truth and ways we interpret information, we must also adapt to become more critical of the evidence itself, and find value in truths we first find outside the dominant theories defining our own identities. As artists looking to represent truths related to our identities, we must challenge the accepted truths and dominant narratives within the cultures we are a part of.

 

Sources

Baxter, Brian H. “Art and Embodied Truth.” Mind, New Series, 92, no. 366 (1983): 189-203. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2253780.

BESSI, ALESSANDRO, and WALTER QUATTROCIOCCHI. “Disintermediation: Digital Wildfires in the Age of Misinformation.” AQ: Australian Quarterly 86, no. 4 (2015): 34-40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24877660.

Dorter, Kenneth. “Conceptual Truth and Aesthetic Truth.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48, no. 1 (1990): 37-51. doi:10.2307/431198.

Eyerman, Ron. “The Past in the Present: Culture and the Transmission of Memory.” Acta Sociologica 47, no. 2 (2004): 159-69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4195021.

Goodman, Steve, and Luciana Parisi. “Machines of Memory.” In Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, edited by RADSTONE SUSANNAH and SCHWARZ BILL, 343-60. NEW YORK: Fordham University, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1c999bq.27.

Jarrett, Greg. “Conspiracy Theories of Consciousness.” Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 96, no. 1 (1999): 45-58. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4320971.

Kelly, T. Mills. “Making: DIY History?” In Teaching History in the Digital Age, 102-25. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv65swp1.10.

Kelly, T. Mills. “True Facts or False Facts—Which Are More Authentic?” In Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology, edited by Kee Kevin, 309-28. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv65swr0.19.

Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K. and Gignac, G. E. (2013) ‘NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science’, Psychological Science, 24(5), pp. 622–633. doi: 1177/0956797612457686.

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.” Psychological Science 24, no. 5 (2013): 622-33. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23409410.

MOHAN, S ARUN. “Fog of Conspiracy Theories.” Economic and Political Weekly 46, no. 28 (2011): 72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23017823.

O’Connor, Cailin, and James Owen Weatherall. The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2019. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv8jp0hk.

RADSTONE, SUSANNAH, and BILL SCHWARZ, eds. Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. NEW YORK: Fordham University, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1c999bq.

“SCIENCE AND THE CITIZEN.” Scientific American 199, no. 6 (1958): 52-66. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24944849.

Solnit, Rebecca. “’Hope Is a​n Embrace of the Unknown​’: Rebecca Solnit on Living in Dark Times.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, July 15, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/15/rebecca-solnit-hope-in-the-dark-new-essay-embrace-unknown.

“The Reign of Gnomic Truths.” The reign of gnomic truths | esse arts opinions. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://esse.ca/en/article/68/the-reign-of-gnomic-truths.

 

 

 

 

 

MA3 — Week 5: Making Day, Misinformation and Pessimistic Meta-Induction

Making Day

Thinking about truth and images and use of diagrams/scientific aesthetics to convey some form of proof, I am planning to use these images/animations in conjunction with a lecture on the same topic.

I am curious about how Pessimistic meta-induction and Anti-Realism factor into how we decifer images as evidence of something, either evidence of a truth, experience, narrative or fiction.

 

 

Since, historically, we have been inclined to find truth in the information shared to us socially, and we cannot experience/investigate every theory firsthand, we established a world of scientific realism. In this world, we believe that scientific theories are true (or approximately true) because we have established and found authenticity in scientists via our social trust, groupings and hierarchies.

Pessimistic meta-induction undermines this epistemic optimism and is perhaps the way to move forward in developing our understanding of the world and ourselves, free from hierarchical baggage. The pessimistic meta-induction argument was first fully postulated by Larry Laudan in 1981. Using meta-inductive reasoning, rather than deductive reasoning, Larry Laudan argues that if past scientific theories which were successful were found to be false, we have no reason to believe the realist’s claim that our currently successful theories are true or approximately true.

We can look to the not so recent history to see that that has not always been the case, and scientific beliefs we once found to be true are completely erroneous, ie. hand washing, the flat earth, hollow earth, Pluto as a planet, the list could go on into thousands of examples. Overtime we have found new scientific consensuses, superseding these earlier theories, but what is notable about all our current theories on these topics, is that they started out in opposition to dominant beliefs, you might even call them ‘conspiracy theories’.

I think that artists often fall into a cultural category that works against the status quo, in aims of finding new truths, sharing new ideas and progressing social issues. But working against scientists to create para-fiction is also dangerous territory in an age of misinformation and fake news.

 

 


Studio Progress

A completed 7 min video for an exhibition in Moncton, NB as a part of Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie.

uranography, 2019

The video uranography proposes an alternative theory for the development of the observable cosmos. It animates a new proposition for the ordering of stars in the night sky. Drawing upon the history of astronomy, celestial cartography and mythological representations of Urania asssociated with cosmology, this video combines newly imagined and pre-existing stars to create a new arrangement of the cosmos. Using print, found footage and drawing, the untouchable cosmos becomes handheld by an anonymous, silent narrator.


Currently Reading: The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall

MA3 — Week 4: Playfulness, Para-fiction and Memory

Provocations Task

For the provocations task I am still grappling with separating opinion from the self in debate, but have been wondering about weather it might be possible to take on another persona as a way for getting around this challenge.

In my research I have been looking at the argument that empirical evidence is required to find truth in memory, and preserve ‘facts’ related to definitions of identity, which I will back up with the philosopher Dummett’s anti-realist theory that “a statement about the past is rendered true or false only by evidence available to the speaker at the time of asserting it”, and apply this to the example of moon landing deniers.

I aim to question how a search for an absolute conception of the world is unnecessary and maybe impossible, and that a conception of reality independent from our thought of reality allows multiple realities to be possible, including one in which the moon landing did not happen to some individuals.

Looking to an example of this thinking from an artist, I thought of the Museum of the Flat Earth and ongoing art installtion/museological project which was founded to “archive, preserve, and present objects and experiences pertaining to flat earth philosophies and parallel concepts associated with that lore and culture through its displays and programming.” Created by Kay Burns, she aims to grapple with parafiction, authority of the institution, skeptical inquiry, museological/archival practices, and critical thinking in relation to this example of pseudoscience.

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Museum of the Flat Earth, installation view

For this project, Kay takes on the role of Iris Taylor, http://www.itaylorresearch.com/, a an “independent researcher and ethnographer” who asks you to question everything, except for what she says. This direct questioning of authority, especially as it relates to history and science, truth and fiction, narrative and identity, playfully takes on the serious issue of finding truth in a post truth world.

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Iris Taylor

I think for the assignment, this has lead me to take on a similar role, where I can research hoaxes without prejudice and present views which are not my own, but still worthwhile to argue for.

 


 

Jon Sasaki Artist Talk

Wednesday I was able to attend an artist talk with the current artist in residence at the local artist run center – Jon Sasaki, a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist. He is a graduate of the same undergrad as me, but has gone on to develop a practice which brings “performance, video, object and installation into a framework where expectation and outcome never align, generating a simultaneous sense of pathos and levity.”

In the talk he started with early early work he made, mostly landscape painting, which he did as a student, and talk about how his research developed into conceptual art with  strong sensibility for humour.

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Jon Sasaki, A Rightsized Limo

During the talk, I got the feeling that much of Sasaki’s work has to do with trial and error, and developing questions to execute as the actual artwork, more than only working towards the intention of a final product. The process is always a large part of the final works.

From that process often comes humour and play, from what I think is a really genuine desire to just see if things can work. This curiosity often manifesting itself as hopefulness, where the audience and viewer also wants there to be a technical success, even if coming form the most unconventional means of making.

I really appreciate all that Sasaki had to say about making it as an artist, and how we strives to find a balance between the administrative work of being an artist with the actual making an doing. Definitely finding all that difficult at the moment.

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Jon Sasaki, Improvised Travel Adapters

 


 

Studio Progress

uranograhia video

Another test:

layering test from Rachel Thornton on Vimeo.

I am getting closer and closer to a deadline for this video work to be completed as it will be a part of an exhibition at Atelier Imago, as a part of Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie, happening 15 to 23 November in Moncton NB.

Currently all the layers are animated and edited, but the tracked movements need to be timed, and every now and then, there is a file that just does not want to cooperate, and I have to tackle them from another angle. It has been a please to work with video editing and animation more, and excited by the possibilities of these sort of moving collages.

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First 2 mins edited:

first 2 mins from Rachel Thornton on Vimeo.

 

Collage

Building up layers, looking to energy transference, bruises and the connections between scientific illustrations, life drawing and translating touch.

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own work
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own work

 


 

Currently Reading: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov because Patti Smith recommends it.

MA3 — Week 3: Provocations and Progress

Provocations Task

Reflecting on Julia Dhar’s talk on productive disagreement, I really appreciated the way she spoke about trying to change ideas, not the people themselves by finding a common ground, but how much of that opinion actually defines a person?

We are a week away from election day in Canada, and it has felt like an especially polarizing time, mostly do to the increased awareness of the People’s Party of Canada, whose founding members include extreme far-right, anti-immigrant supporters. At many public debates there has been a call for them to simply not participate, and I find myself agreeing. The PPC candidate in my riding has openly made terribly racist statements, and continually denied any open dialogue with the public. Rather they openly attack anyone trying to open a debate with them, and attack moral character, rather than separating the ideas from our identity.

In this election especially, the no one is allowing themselves to be wrong (though the Liberals have made many mistakes in the last 4 years, it is becoming too painful to hear them openly lie about it) and no one is allowing themselves to be intellectually humble, and are thus more defensive than ever. Like Dhar said, we are very prone to pre-commiting others to being wrong and that is something I would like to see myself as better than my politicians, going into the provocations task.

This means going into the provocations task, I am really going to try and have an open mind, and challenge myself to find validity in hoaxers. Multiple truths have always been of interested to me, and how power, class and gender lead to some truths being more reliable than others, but what of the furthest end of the spectrum, the truths outside of myth and fiction, but the truths that are so true to others, and not the rest of the population, that it defines them as outsiders.

Topic: Memory, Fiction, Reality and Identity — Does autobiographical memory and narrative equate with truth?

Jo’s Claim: Personal narrative is built from memories, even if fictional. ie. Personal narrative defines the self.

My Claim: Empirical evidence is required to find truth in memory, and preserve ‘facts’ related to definitions of identity. ie. Collective memory, History, defines the present self.

Subject: Idea that Moon Landing was not real, as evidenced through no empirical evidence, leads to the identity of hoaxers

Proof/initial collection of ideas:

  • machines of memory – internet, archives,
  • fallibility of human memory ‘…a purely cognitive memory must belong either to a robot or to an inert database.’
  • George Steiner’s reflection that “it is not the literal past that rules us…. It is images of the past”
  • “Life is a dream. ‘Tis waking that kills us,” Virginia Woolf
  • The idea of an unchanging “you” or “self” is inherently fraught with confusion and conflict, and if you consider the topic for too long it can begin to feel clammy, almost suspect. An apparent string running through all the previous versions of you — the one five minutes ago, a few hours ago, several years — the idea of “self” inevitably gets tangled up in things like the physical body and appearance, like memory. It’s clear that you cannot pin yourself down as any one particular “thing” but rather that you resemble a story line, an endless progression, variations on a theme, something that enables you to relate your present “self” to the past and future ones. — Ella Frances Saunders
  • Echoing the great neurologist Oliver Sacks’s recognition of narrative as the cognitive pillar of personhood, she adds:

    We do seem to make sense of ourselves and the world as a part of a narrative — we think in terms of main characters, those we speak and interact with, and where the beginnings, the middles, and the endings are.

  • “Memory produces hope in the same way that amnesia produces despair,” Walter Brueggemann
  • collective memory we call history, Memory of joy and liberation can become a navigational tool, an identity — Rebecca Solnit

Warrant: explanation of how ideas are ties to identity, using example of moon landing hoaxers

Potential Objections:

  • whiteness of memory / reliable narrators
  • what value is there in creating this ‘hoax’

Conclusion:

Humanity craves empirical evidence to find comfort in the murky waters of the unknown. Memory, leads to changes in narrative, when no physical ground truth is available.

Format: 8 min audio recording/live script with hand drawn slideshow, simple line drawings or collages. Written transcript included for discussion afterwards.


 

Studio Progress

Video

The major timing of the video have been laid out, and the animations need to be created and laid in to the empty shapes. The animations will be made of prints, which have varying textures from the printing process, which will  be inverted to white on black and looped to create a bubbling effect.

Here is a sample of a few of the prints:

five star test from Rachel Thornton on Vimeo.

Collages

The little body of work surrounding the myths of St. Catherine and Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges connection continue to develop. These may not go anywhere, but they have been a very productive studio exercise, allowing me to think through making. There feels like less pressure in these works, as if something goes awry, I can just cut it out and keep going.

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Currently Reading: Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith, to escape politics and social media.

MA3 — Week 2: Tutorial and Collage

Tutorial with Caroline

  • We discussed my continued thinking/attempts towards merging traditional physical materials with the potential of online works — how will the physical remain present digitally/how will the digital become a more embedded part of the physical work
  • new videos using green screening, and multiple layers may work as a way to bring stagnant collages to life
  • in terms of professional practice: consider formalizing zines’ roles within my practice. Consider commissioning texts, collaborating (scientists, artists, scholars, among others) and developing/following a “house style” to develop a series, with consistency
  • the collages I am working on as a sort of journal/sketches for these videos could be developed into part of the content for these.
  • We also discuss the role of truth as an artist, and the weight the idea of trying to describe truth as an artist carries. I am continuing to try and work out precisely the why of my work, in relation to critical discourse, and how trying to represent truth of untouchable, seemingly unknowable substances has relevance in a contemporary art/post-truth world. How do the propositions I put forward in the work transition to truth?

 

Studio Development

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As a way of working with some immediacy, I have started working in an expandable accordion book. This contains drawings, observations and collages relating to St. Catherine and Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges, the only person on record to have been struck by a meteorite.

I’m curious about the relationship between relics, in religion, and meteorites as a ground truth of the cosmos and the parallel between St. Catharina being stoned to death, and the physical impact of the Hodges meteorite. More to come on this.

I image this work will be broken up into a series of zines, which can be reproduced and shared inexpensively.

Video

After a bout of technical difficulties, a 5-minute video is starting to form.

The film uranography animates a new proposition for the ordering of stars in the night sky. Drawing upon the history of astronomy, celestial cartography and mythological representations of Urania, this video combines newly imagined and pre-existing stars to create a new arrangement of the cosmos. Using print, found footage and drawing, the untouchable cosmos becomes handheld by an anonymous, silent narrator.

I have been considering the addition of audio, but really like the silence of this video painting. I do think there is a strong possibility that stills could be used in a zine format and text could be included there, rather than an audio track.

Here are a few in progress stills: Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 5.04.12 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-08 at 5.04.26 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-08 at 5.05.04 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-08 at 5.05.23 PM


 

Currently Reading: Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen