Notes Towards a ‘Project Proposal’

The next major phase of the course is looming. From November through to end of February next year I need to consolidate and focus my individual practice. This will involve submitting a self-defined ‘project proposal‘ with a view to producing a ‘body of work‘.

The project can have one major outcome or a series of related smaller outcomes. 

Guidelines for proposals:

research – what cultural/social issues, theories, or types of practice will I investigate?

experimentation – what will I try out?

interests – why is this relevant to me and to an audience?

personal voice – how will my unique approach be expressed?

ambitious – how will this be challenging?

Goals will include:

knowing my research territory – the kind of practitioner I want to be, issues that interest me

selecting skills to explore the territory – the techniques I will use, or I still need to learn

establishing rigour – how I judge or edit my practice and test it on other people

resolving practice – finishing, achieving a final outcome

approaching professional standards – production values, quality of making


Pre-proposal reflections

I’m looking forward to this phase of learning and practice. But I’m trepidatious too. I think this could be a pivotal point in my process and could quite strongly effect what I do for the rest of the course and beyond.

I am not sure what it means to establish a ‘personal voice’.

It is interesting to consider what an ‘impersonal voice’ might be. How does an artist take his or her personality or identity out of the artwork? Can there be a de-centred art? How does anonymity square with the modern/postmodern trend of individualism? Can a visible artwork have an invisible author? What about invisible art or the ‘Art of the Invisible‘? Can we, or should we, surrender to ‘the death of the author‘ (and hence the birth of the viewer)?

But what might it mean to establish a personal voice? Ego-centricity aside, I think it means to clarify one’s preoccupying questions. To find a focus of central concern. To establish a sustained field of dialogue over a period of time. To discover one’s passion and driving force. To locate eros (in the broadest creative sense of the god/archetype). To find the project to which one can’t help but return to. To act from authenticity (over-used term, but meaning to come from a place of conviction and inner confidence).

It then means to find means and methods of bringing form to those questions, concerns, and preoccupations. To create a coherence and cohesiveness of idea and expression.

It also means finding the right relationship and understanding of one’s own individual conditions as an artist to the context(s) in which one finds oneself. (An area rich in philosophical debate and consideration is of course the relationship between individual and society; autonomy and collectivity; individuation and community). Our individual conditions perhaps include personal history, class, race, nationality, educational background, body, health, sexual orientation etc. And the broader (and indeed overlapping) contexts include political landscape, media influence, educational structures and agendas, economic forces (local, national, and global), cultural assumptions and clashes, urban planning, scientific advances, technological emergence, environmental/climate change, popularised theories of psychology, ethnology and sociology etc.

Given the scale of the implications of all this it is not surprising I feel somewhat daunted to crystallise my project proposal. The art of the artist has probably always come down to the necessity of critical selectivity. The point of a proposal is to establish some creative parameters as a protection against overwhelming possibilities. Infinity is not a creative space. So the creative process can be defined as the art of limitation. Paradoxically there is always more one can do in a limited space than in an unlimited space. The main caveat here being that we have to distinguish between ‘supportive limit’ and ‘oppressive restriction’. Perhaps there has to be a sense of porosity to the limited structures we propose for ourselves. There has to be a seepage of influence across the skin of our constraints. The limits we set in the artistic process have to be intelligent and are validated in the act of making, the process of the project, and the sense of liberative energy revealed along the way. A motto might be ‘freedom within limits’.

What is a generalist to do?

I’m eclectic (rhymes with dyslexic, which as a condition also has its upside and downside).

Which just comes back to a question – given broad interests, what might a body of work look like?

A quick brainstorm of words that motivate me:








And I’m still no nearer my proposal.

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