Audiovisual Cultures episode 57 – Onto-epistemology and Art with Katrina Sheena Smyth automated transcript

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greetings and salutations this is audio-visual cultures the podcast that explores the arts and cultural production I’m Paula Blair and I’m really pleased to be joined this time by artist researcher Katrina Sheena Smith I caught up with Katrina in the doctor’ll hub and Balthus campus of Ulster University the building many of us know as the Art College where Katrina is undertaking her PhD before we hear about Katrina’s work a massive thank you to our members on forward slash a V cultures for your continued support if you also feel you can help I’ll be back with more details at the end tonight do you enjoy my chat with Katrina it was so lovely to catch up with her a researcher artist based in Belfast okay sir net we’ve known each other for a while no yeah I think I was parties who’d be beyond but I think you had reached out to me because of some research interests of mine and I am reaching out to you talk to me by ears it’s quite funny because even before you got in touch about the podcast series some of the things that we’re done looking at language and documentation and life you know live art that’s been resonating and I’ve been thinking about it you know it’s coming when I’m working three things a Maiko you know so it’s quite nice that you did getting touched because it’s maybe something that makes you to even talk about it yeah it’s things that I’ve been thinking about around maybe we could talk percent about your PhD research in them because that’s your current thing and maybe then from there will spread into all the other areas mm-hmm yeah it’s kind of like my life with the man in HD which is great it’s nine third year so I’ve just really begun the third year of the project third and final year I guess at this point you’re like okay what’s the fifty words that you can summarize your thesis and the elevator pitch and I was kind of thinking about that while after you contacted me I was like okay maybe I should have a pitch that I can describe what I’m doing in 50 words but it’s actually you know it’s still in process and I don’t know if that would work it’s an ongoing kind of collaborative pace that’s unfolding as you know and it will do and that’s the point in the work so I don’t know if that will do justice by reducing it into 50 words the thesis itself was in response to a topic that I by my two supervisors Dan ship sides and dr. Ashton Burton they’re both researcher artists really amazing supervisory team so the topic itself is called unorthodox methods of spacial inquiry within contemporary art so my way into that was especially with the unorthodox thinking about what that is I went into that with through personal and private curiosities or interests into meditation so things that I have been practicing you know meditation and yoga since I was about 17 and this kind of way of experiencing directly yourself and your breath and the world around as something different and how that maybe can be part of a methodology or a way of learning and engaging with the world with space and so there are some artists that work directly with meditation or with those sort of techniques another thing then was you know this being a fully written thesis and it’s something that I maybe up until that point had not really you know I’d always used art I’d always worked with art methods and created as a way of developing some sort of understanding and the language always came second and so this was a big challenge and there with this thesis especially being dyslexic and always having an issue with language growing up and that challenge at the start has actually you know I don’t see it so much as a challenge anymore and it’s not like this thesis is a new way i buy dyslexia or anything like that but it’s definitely about language and how we articulate experience how we can generate these words these word bodies is drawing on Deleuze and Guattari and thinking about language differently and so this is part of the methodology that I’m looking at so the fact that I’m doing a fully written thesis and it’s not practice based in a sense you know within the category of the university it’s a fully written thesis it still has definitely got for me a feeling of being practice based and working with different methodologies and working with language and this more collaborative way of working with others and space and practice you know because I still do have my meditation practice and that’s for me part of that we’re developing the things that I’m thinking about and working with and discussing with others so unorthodox methods of special inquiry the logistics of the thesis itself I’ve already said it’s collaborative and by that I mean I’m working directly with three art practitioners be quite luckily you know situated locally and ones based in Dublin I know there is based in Belfast and the third is based between Belfast and Scotland and then I’m working with one Zen practitioner who’s based between Belfast and Dublin but as part of an organization that’s just across the road from the University it’s a quite established I think it’s been established from Rwanda South late 70s this collaboration it’s a really big part of the thesis and it’s an ongoing collaboration so it’s not just the one meeting with these artists and practitioner there’s a few and it’s where we meet up every few months or we’re sending e-mails back and forth or sending videos or something to look at or something to discuss and open in this sense it’s I guess thinking about not only why artists are engaging with Spears and you know these artistic processes and agency within that but also hi I’m positioning myself within this kind of academic institution as a researcher and hi I’m engaging with you know this kind of data or kiya study or material and not having not having this kind of position as hierarchy or binary but actually shift in math and hopefully creating a lot more space for things to emerge rather than me kind of just dictating the way things should go so in that sense that thesis is quite open especially at the start I’m thinking where is this gonna go you know I’ve got some sort of framework and there’s parameters but at the same time it’s worth artists are gonna take it as well and the practitioner where what discussions are gonna arise what things are gonna happen and that’s part of it and seeing where that goes so yeah at the minute that’s why I’m finding it you know there’s some key things that have emerged and erupted and it’s really fascinating and it’s quite thrilling to be to see that happening I’m at the same time there’s this uncertainty and this unease of not really knowing where it’s going and if things are starting to make sense yeah so at the minute I find it hard to restrict exactly what’s happening but there is key things that are starting to happen we can maybe talk about yeah great it sounds very reflective then of performance art practice anyway because about contingency you don’t quite know what’s gonna kick off or when or what you might do yourself when you’re performing or you know there’s a performance going today it sounds like it’s more like a theoretical version of them.the no way it’s just really fascinating yeah I think the process and methodology has is the main part of this thesis it’s thinking about creative methods creative processes with an art practice and also within research practice and high these kind of crossover and overlap and what we can learn whenever things start to merge I’m looking at things like process philosophy Alfred North Whitehead and ideas of becoming and rhizomatic kind of eruptions like Deleuze and Guattari you know the things are starting in the middle rather than having this linear beginning and end and also thinking about differences and maybe we’ll talk about that a bit more and this idea of difference not as something that’s sitting on a binary but something that’s you know just a different kind of way of working or thinking or and not that one’s better than the other or comparing one to another but just thinking and difference which is drawing on Donna Haraway and Conrad I respond attorney there was sort of new materialist thinkers whose humanist things have really moved on it ties but there’s Adele and Loreen is in my yeah yeah yeah I think because when I first started the thesis actually I was talking about Atkins Adan and I was thinking you know well this is my idea and I’m thinking about material and I think I’d mentioned the double slit experiment I definitely had mentioned the double slit experiment because he was like oh you must know Caron Brad then and I was like wow it’s like new materialism I was like um no I’ll need to look that up so I went home and I looked it up and I was just like oh my god I was just a me is that all of this research Orion is happening and I you know I’m kind of making work or thinking about these theories and not realizing that there’s this whole school of thought that’s happening at the minute I guess from me it was thinking about Deleuze but then also thinking about the double slit experiment and agency material any agency so yeah it has and this idea of watching and measuring I think that’s always been a big a big thing because it is performance art we were working in and this idea of somebody you know watching you and especially with within the university you know your your lecturers are watching you either mark and you either critiquing you and so how does that affect the performance even the camera being there yeah whenever you’re getting a photograph taken off your performance you know you you know it’s there you’re gonna change your body you’re gonna some people might make images for the camera so that’s change in that whole performance and what happens then and so these are kind of ideas in terms of the art and in our context similar to ideas that are maybe you know with Brad specifically looking at the Copenhagen miles Bohr’s Copenhagen experiment where you’re looking at tied matter changes when it’s observed high material high atoms which were all made off you know high atoms are changing whether or not we observe it or not why that then makes different patterns all of that was happening during the masters but just I wasn’t aware I don’t think at the time yeah you weren’t tapping into theory side effects but you were experimenting in a fatherly way with those ideas whether you need or not yeah experience in it yes yes yeah living it began performing it and I think a big thing with us the collaboration that we done you know where we were we were both performing in a sense and I was maybe engaging with the space and the building and you were kind of responding with language and flow language and words and just seeing where that will go and this kind of idea of documenting and recording you know this whole thesis that I’m writing is language and it’s going to exist as a as a kind of bind bow or on the internet it’s talking about process it’s talking about method and experiencial kind of direct experience so how do you begin to work with language in a way that doesn’t limit that or reduce it that’s when I was starting to think about what you were doing and these more creative ways of working with language and especially with critique and how we compare people or compare ways of working and you know that’s almost positioning one against another buggy in this binary whatever that’s kind of entrenched within art to be been I’m within art with an institution or art and university context no mark Critz yeah and I was fussing I mean I think what we end up doing it felt like it was taking language out for a walk in a way and letting it go free off the leash and you were pushing boundaries in other ways and I was I suppose working within boundaries but not in a conventional way maybe I’m not I don’t know we need that Jackie Wiley as we saw from the insights and yeah it’s just fussing they hear you talk about your PhD and you can see the roots back to what you were experimenting with back then as well in 2014 and before it’s even funny because I was I was thinking about this and I was in my be in like second Jarrod’s we’re gonna a triple so I’m sticking up hotter and we use and then I’m just kind of landed on this you know at the minute I’m looking at diffractive methodologies we’re looking at Donna Haraway uses the metaphor of the way of you know whenever we’re thinking about waves of difference rather than the particles like this is kind of straight the linear wave or thing and working with differences and it’s kind of using this metaphor as weave and I’m like oh yeah and I’m interested in I guess is probably a completely different thing that I was interested in at the time although it was I was still interested in San or Buddhism I think at that time so there is these little you know you just sit and think in and it pops into your head oh yeah maybe I was it’s funny how it all comes together mm-hmm it’s not like it’s end and now it’s just gonna keep going oh yeah it doesn’t man she just stops man I’m actually very very lucky I think to be studying this locally is fascinating and the only one thing that I’m kind of concerned with at the minute is you know I feel like all of this work that I’m doing you know I don’t want to become so enclosed in it you know it’s important that I’m looking at methodologies that are about ethics and you know socially just pedagogy’s and I find that I’m I’m working at my desk so much since like well why am I being part of this but then you kind of think about this kind of macro impact does it have to be a macro and packaging do you need to be out at the picket line and it’s hard to know how you’re making a difference or high things or how you’re working with some of these concepts and methods and where it sets in the outside world where it sets outside of academia outside the ivory tower but at the same time it has only been two years and I guess it’s important that I’m reading and learning and discussing and you know and then who knows what happens after the PhD it’s important not to get overwhelmed because there’s nothing like doing a PhD to show you how much II don’t know mm you know even when you come to the end of it you’ll find a whole other strand of thoughts that you haven’t heard of yet that would you might have been relevant and never saw happening down the rabbit hole yeah and it is it’s only is in a way you do you have to set this parameter since interesting to think about orthodoxy and space when you say those words all I can think about is you climbing out the window and the old orifice building and the security guard running over and shutting dying what was happening during one of our performances and that that’s the image I keep going back to because within the institution what is worser Docs but then in the real world is there a different way of measuring what’s Orthodox are permitted or alloyed to happen and so your own PhD has questioned these things but it’s also has to be corralled by them and part of it yeah it’s an interesting tension to have those things coexisting but not quite comfortably yeah and I think that’s parked you know there’s part of this thesis I am looking at NRK and Emma Goldman is one person that I’m thinking about how you can exist within this institution I’m within as part of that but I don’t think it’s ah it’s this is where I have existential crisis you start to break things down so much that you like what is the point in anything you know but that hasn’t happened that much thankfully like three or four times I think it’s like art for me that’s where art comes in and as a way of erupting or creating cracks you know in this kind of authority or Orthodox where this is the way things are done and this only way things are done and especially within institutions or within organizations that have that authority or have that par and so then art can become a way of navigating or creating cracks you know creating a space to question and reevaluate or revisit these ways of working that or maybe you could be working differently so that’s where I’m at and a big part of this then is measurement and for me working with these artists and these practitioners especially with the thing that I’m interested in with zan and with art process how do we articulate what we’re doing when we’re creating work it’s actually like not even performance the process based work and does it need to be articulated is there ways of articulating it that maybe create more space for other interpretations or other considerations and then also with zan the thing that I’m setting with at the minute is language for zan is a practice you know there’s the Kulin there’s wrens I practice that work with language in cones and this kind of language then becomes a form and how we set with that form or meditate with that form and not that it’s so literal so it’s kind of questioning the structures of language and thinking about that differently in terms of experience in terms of sitting and just being with something and then also another skill which is so to San which is this girl that I’m collaborating with you know that’s completely about just setting there’s no it’s not about language even though there’s historical you know texts and it’s a very rich body of language that supports this practice this skill would consider language as not really as another form and it’s not about it’s about letting go of form and just setting with breath when yes and with body and so it’s a conundrum and it’s potentially what the person that I’m working with the Zen practitioner had said you know your thesis signs like a colon and itself you know it’s hi and have a kid and work with language in a way that is open and that is that’s something that has been I think working with the methodologies and then practice high language then comes into play like there’s a whole chapter on language on how they collaborate maybe with language high other theorists or artists are engaging with language in their practice definitely uncreated Lee and Otto ethnographical kind of ways or approaches or thinking from me thinking of language as a material thinking of you know this this is this book as an object as part of that but not as their end product not as something that set in stone even and it’s quite nice you know the Deleuze what is philosophy I think it’s in a word you’re talking about the book as a clog as part you know that you might get something from the book and you might not that it’s not something that should be read literally and it can open up spaces for other things so that’s the way I’m kind of thinking about the thesis as well that it’s even though we’re told to have this direct authority of way of speaking about our work because we’re the specialists um we should know exactly what we’re talking about and you know we’ll I’m seeing this more as a collaboration and you know the person that’s gonna be reading it is also collaborating and that research in a sense because they’re taking what they interpret or they’re bringing their own experiences with them to the reading of the book and to the reading of the pages so it’s not as black and white it sounds like facilitation that you’re doing as much as all thir ship in a way because you’re bringing the elements together to bring it about porn addict happen let’s see this it’s just just to reminded me quite a bit of Alistair McClellan’s practice I’ve just been collaborating on a book about him so it’s been mired in this for a lot of the year when he’s doing performance it’s really he’s bringing together elements and putting them in positions where they can start to do their own thing within what he’s doing so it signs in a way about like that you’re bringing all together these people five days and letting them Germany in a way I suppose controlling it to an extent but not controlling it so much that you’re controlling the I come of the word but you’re just saying what happens organically but again within reason by nudging it besides the Candido need it to be something yeah and even in a sense of control in the outcome are you actually in control of that are coming directly or is it just our perception of that and so it’s yeah definitely thinking about perception and Alistair McClellan’s definitely a big inspiration or you know there’s been chats with that I’ve had with Alistair as well that are you know resonant completely with the approaches and the methods that I’m working with so this idea of setting parameters of creating this space or setting up the space and then being part of that and not being the person in complete control but being open to things happening and seeing and being a tentative and being aware may be of little synchronicities or chance or where things will go I think the difficulty for us and having to knit together into something that can become a doctorates from the in situations point of view in a way because there’s a specific idea of what a party mother days PhD should be and it’s quite interesting to tease up actually to push that boundary as well so it’s another space that perhaps you’re being quite unorthodox in as well as just pushing of what should that be what cannot be hardly approached one of the things that have has emerged from this research and from attending different conferences like new materialists conference it’s an international conference and also qualitative inquiry so the european congress of qualitative inquiry and the international conference of qualitative inquiry just speaking with others and what emerged then is this concept of slow scholarship and life slow philosophy so ontology you know it resonates so much with zen we then approaches and practice and meditation just sitting with things and being a tentative being open then also you know it’s just even listening and then also the artistic processes and just having it’s a collaborative way of working with the material and the material intelligence and seeing what happens and that’s something that’s happening throughout the artist II the practitioners that I’m working with you know that’s happening differently within their own practice I think that’s a massive partner off the thesis and I kind of addresses I guess this contentious area of what a thesis is and how we discuss how we write about artistic processes but also then the position of myself as a researcher and what is asked from me what sort of hopes I need to jump and what’s happening in this environment that I’m part of outside if not exactly outside of the thesis but just as another part of the thesis but not so theory based it’s more my experience of working within the institution and seeing things change and things becoming you know marked wised so that’s I think addressing and starting to bring at the start I was looking at new materialism and it’s still definitely part of that in terms of diffractive methodology but then there’s this whole other thing that’s happening with slow scholarship and I think that’s where things are starting to tease and become part of and the fact that I’m able to span the two or three years and with these art practitioners and just develop a relationship and discussions on their practice and their approaches to making and not just have this one-off meeting and I’m like okay thank you got what I wanted you know that it is a bit more open and seeing where things go and there’s something’s quite lovely in that that I am able to spend time you can build a human relationship as well the Arizer they can coexist they don’t have to be separate entities and they can flow into each other mm-hmm I don’t know if we want to talk a bit more about swim scholarship or if it’s sometime if you’re happy – yeah this was something was really coming to prominence when I was really on my way out of academia it had really exploded and about 2016 mmm-hmm popularity their interests and that certainly had really come a fight so you’re probably a lot more knowledgeable about this and I would be nice when I first started when I went to the first conference on new materialism and I’d got the what the next conference is going to be a bite and it was bit it’s based on higher education that’s taking place in Cape Town in December one of the strains of research Oslo scholarship I guess it’s looking at the new liberal kind of university model and why this model is detrimental hi this corporate kind of university and corporate model is I guess I’m still trying to figure the site with this thesis there was an interest in Marx Marxist theory and this idea of the modification of material or not even of material of human of you know bodies and Hannah art right and the human condition and thinking about then okay not just thinking about all bodies so human animal plant or ecosystems materials matter and hi we create this see to be honest this is something that I’m writing at the minute so I’m writing about slow scholarship as a pepper and I’m starting to bring in the things that have been discussed with the artists some of the artists are discussing this actually because each of the art practitioners that I’m working with are also involved with have been involved or still are with pedagogy practice and so it’s a big part of their work and it’s going to come in its gonna filter into their work in some way so there’s one artist in particular he’s considering hi hi this kind of more neoliberal way of working and this kind of urgency to produce and to take targets and to measure measurement again is the big thing and I think that’s where it’s starting to link or make connections with the research that I’m doing this idea of measurement and hide if we’re working with art based methods that are maybe going to emerge differently if there’s not such a tight productive urgent way of working you know this kind of kind of commodity of art commodity of research and of producing and what happens then if we are able to slow and you know I think not slow as in stop making you know or take longer to make something but just slow and dying in terms of listening yeah in terms of just sitting with the research or sitting with the material or with people and a line that’s pious for moments of chance or a synchronicity or things to happen I think it’s important and art as well you know how do you measure why somebody is working what what’s when we do measure what I don’t just talk in riddles like well I don’t know what I’m talking about like how do you measure what success means for example how do you qualify what’s good and what’s not good those are very basic questions so it’s a question of value and that sense but also the time to think it’s so undervalued and I think there for what I get from so scholarship is it’s trying to reclaim that it’s trying to reclaim the value of time to think about things and to just let things be and become as you say that was certainly something I was getting frustrated about when I was still in academia was so much of my working day was me sitting with my hands propping up my chin going hmm you know wondering about things thinking things through and that’s not considered like because you don’t look like you’re hammering the stuff out on a keyboard that looks like work even though it’s probably less productive because you’re not really doing anything that will end up being something of value you’re just looking like you’re doing something so I think there’s that and I think from what we’ve been talking about this whole conversation there’s been such a long gestation of your ideas and that’s really this illness of that process and it’s soon esas negative this is actually really positive thing work you have needed that time reading for those ideas to come into language for you at the same site hmm because she were involving and performing them making gesture Java yeah I know you’re at a point where you’re reading around and you’re putting things into words mm-hmm totally there’s so much pressure for scholars to be internally different Amex everything’s wrong job yeah and it feels a bit like you know it all then you over the reality TV shows but it has to be the biggest the best the strongest the hardest the most phenomenal thing ever when I ask topics out every year it just feels like that all the time but that kind of echoes with the arts you know this idea of the spectacle enough things happen to be this big extravagant kind of thing that happens and waterboy these little kind of subtle movements and engaged collaborations that are maybe intangible or that are maybe not as showbiz it’s all knowledge generation it’s all knowledge gathering generation of dissemination but it’s just how much as any other recognized and academia how much of a legitimate question of it being gentlement being permissible you know so it’s really just good to shake that up a bit yeah and also I think another thing is you know the ethics and being accountable or being that we’re not just creating this work that exists in an institution and even people maybe outside of this institution are able to access the work that’s being discussed because a lot of the time it’s Athens for instance you know that you have to be part of the system yeah to read and to learn and so that’s another thing that I’m quite aware of and quite worried off is you know we’ll who’s this research for and is it making any sort of difference or is it and I know that this doesn’t just exist in the university because you I’m engaging with artists and there’s things happening outside of it but it’s still I can see how very easy it would be to just get entangled in that whole enclosed what you do and I I mean you have come up before because when I talk to Jacqueline Wiley he came up a bit then and it’s been really nice to catch up because there is a project I was saying earlier this year where I went back and read about our between frames project because it just felt like I was picking up threads from that because I’ve gone and away the opposite way to you where I’ve said laughs lucky me behind and I’m exploring with my creative possibilities and things and trying to write in a different way in a free array but still trying to be to find meaning I guess just not academic eyes it to death and that project and what we did together and that I don’t know if there was just something about it that I feel like I will want to circle back show you because I feel like there’s unfinished business fair that’s lovely I think that’s you know part of it that it’s not just something that existed in that time yeah yeah it’s something that is entangled with us know you know that it’s not something that just exists in this linear path of back there and it’s done and but actually it’s part of us smell it resonates how we remember that or revisit that yeah in different ways with different experience and because you know made yeah I mean we can look across the roads and see really is that that project happened then it’s interesting to try at all grind and I came to think about space and ideas around the Jedi masse and things there’s something in there that maybe I feel like in another maybe five years we can come back for sure it’s funny because even though this is a three years is a three year PhD it’s kind of like there’s so much more you know there’s so much more like it could easily be a five year of course yeah you know I mean that’s the thing it’s they arbitrariness of the three year funding mhmmm periods I’m not a PhD should be three years or so I mean actually it probably would be better if it was closer to five I know certainly I did mine in three years but then there was another two years to do the book projects and really even that it’s not finished because that was just the stopping point when I sent it to the publisher because especially when you’re doing something very contemporary and on in the moment which is what you’re doing this is constant changing growing what you’re working with it doesn’t and you just have to stop but the archive favor there’s so many fascinating things going on there and it is idea what do we owe each other you know but pushing each other to work so hard and produce so much we’re just overwhelming each other and then great either so it feels like a nice hopefully a nice message but you can do something really valid and it doesn’t have to be massive it doesn’t have to be world-changing but it’s very important it’s something that can be picked up on as well you know after yeah um by anyone yeah they who’s inquisitive enough to carry it on you know it doesn’t have to do anything end with the life of a person and I definitely be passed on that’s a whole other questions ownership and that collaborative nature of how you’re working it’s really interesting that’s not new to you’ve been collaborating I think throughout your practice anyway thanks so much more happens whenever we’re working with others but not just others I think it’s the perspective for me and what happens whenever we’re working together and see what and not just together with each other as humans but with the building or with the architecture or the ecosystems or the seasons planetary happening so it’s this idea that we’re not just an internal person yeah everything else is outside of us but actually what happens whenever we get down to subtler kind of exchanges or experience in a way this sets us up nicely too this isn’t ready over I think maybe day another one is another time maybe just before the vibe

and then you can say you don’t even need to turn up to your Katrina thank you so much for taking the time because I says a busy period for you so I really appreciate it it’s my pleasure yeah lovely yeah and it’s been really helpful actually I mean there’s so much to talk to you write about your own practice as well I think that’s a gate X face to maybe talk again another time yeah hundred percent great well thank you you’ve been listening to audio-visual cultures with special guest katrina Sheena’s mess this episode was hosted recorded edited and produced by paula blair the music is common ground by air tone licensed under a creative commons non-commercial license and is available for download from CC mixer org episodes release every other wednesday if you like what i do and can help fund production and distribution please make regular donations via libera PACOM /pe a Blair or one-off payments to pay pal Tommy /pe a Blair be part of the conversation with AV cultures pod on Instagram and AV cultures on Facebook and Twitter thanks so much for listening catch you next time you


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