Fumbling Through the Cosmos

I gave a presentation this week at Bushwakker Pub and Brewhouse, along with my colleague Rob Truszkowski, as part of the 2014-2015 Science Pub Series run by the University of Regina Faculties of Science, Engineering and Applied Science, and Art, in partnership with the Dunlop Art Gallery.

My presentation was called Fumbling Through the Cosmos: Amateur Astronomy as a Critical Method of Art Making, and I spoke about wanting to provide some insight into art practice and the various methods that artists employ as a part of art practice, giving a nod to the Critical Making movements in art and technology.

It is sensible that so much attention is given to the most visible aspects of art: art itself. I want to make more visible the processes of making art; all the activities (not strictly technical) that artists engage, and to highlight these as methods in discussions of practice-based research or research-creation.

So, I basically shared my experiences working on the threshold of incompetence in relation to the huge learning curves the project entails (documented quite fully on this blog). Now thinking about this, so much of that incompetence has been technical (learning how to draw, how to understand planetary motions, how to make 3d models, how to use a telescope, how to chart a star map), and I have found it easy to write and speak about those experiences.

I’m working on finding better ways to articulate the more philosophical or existential in the project – where I began, with that sense of wonder and reminder of the incomprehensibly huge scale of the universe and our ability to make sense of it (or not). There’s a certain incompetence wrapped up in the quest for new knowledge (in academic lingo) – we must admit that we do not know about a thing.

I’m working right now on my presentation this coming Friday in Toronto at the UAAC conference (on the topic of the ‘unfinished artist’s project’, with Barbara Balfour, Annie Martin, and Jenn Law), and finding myself stuck in the literalness of the unfinished business of not knowing, and the acquisition of technical skill. Another coffee is needed.


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