The art of writing
is the art of discovering
what you believe.
– Gustave Flaubert –
Following the success of the #letstalktools activity in getting us thinking about objects that are essential to our research, CFPR Research Associate Sofie Boons set the team a second challenge – to compose or produce a ‘quote’ that captures our individual research or work.
Sofie said: the action of writing invokes reflection. To write is to explore, map and realise. The idea behind the second activity is to engage the team in the action of writing a short sentence that can be used as a quote to represent their work or impact at the Centre. When ideas, convictions and approaches are phrased, they can be shared, multiplied, interpreted, framed and re-framed. These quotes offer a window into the mindset, practice and context of the individual and as a collection an insight into the centre as a place of reflection, discussion and innovation.
The team were asked to present their quotes as images. Click on each quote image below to enlarge.
We’d like to invite others to join in with the activity – please share your quotes with us by tagging us on Instagram (@CFPR_research) or Twitter (@CFPRresearch) and #cfprquotes
Laura Beth Cowley
The thing I most enjoy about animation is the same thing that I think makes it a unique art form, is the way in which it utilises every other way of making and adapts. Problem-solving is a key and consistent aspect of animation creation, tiny innovations happen at every stage of the process. Similarly, 3D printing often requires numerous problem solving and iterative designs to make it function to its fullest as well as tiny functionality issues in the machines themselves. For me a key aspect fo my research was dealing with the idea of repeatability of my research as most of the working won’t be relevant to every production, however, these smaller innovations and ways of working open up the conversation and possibilities of 3D printing demystifing both its problems and strengths so that hopefully more independent, short form and student filmmakers can use 3D printing in there work.
Initially my quote was longer but it didn’t feel quite right, too wordy, so I sat and thought a bit to try and think what I was really trying to say. Hopefully this shortened version works. I realised that essentially a lot of my research has been about getting my head around some really big topics which I have found hard to understand and that I want the outcomes of my research to help pass on the information I’ve learned to others, in order to push the boundaries of digital textile printing. Hence
“Understanding precedes potential”
The longer quote is ”Numerous variables makes controlling colour in digital textile printing complex. Developing methodologies for designers to support their understanding of these processes, aids colour management and creative potential.”
The writing/quote is presented as a technical drawing. I came up with lots of other quotes and found the activity quite hard (but enjoyable). I’m still not that happy with it, so it’s a work in progress. The quote reflects how I approached the activity so that is why I went for this one in the end.
Hand-set type, printed letterpress at ABPress, Bristol.
The quote was from Amos Paul Kennedy Junior. I spent a month working alongside Amos in the summer of 2017 and found him inspirational in all aspects of his practice and his life. His work is mostly printed letterpress and confronts often uncomfortable questions about race and artistic pretensions. I chose this particular quote because I read it as a very holistic view about research and practice. Its attitude helps break with formal and institutional traditions of the past: particularly in reference to letterpress printing being bound up with issues around craft. In physically making the words myself (through setting type and printing) this allowed me to spend time with them and reflect on how they can be read. I started off type-setting with poster type. As the idea shifted the point size got smaller and smaller. I ended up with 14pt Gill sans printed double-sided on a card. The words are like an important reminder, something to be kept close, so I wanted to make them in an accessible form, to fit inside a pocket or a bag.
If you can sense it but can’t see it
search for its consequences not its presence
My quote is inspired by a chapter titled Dark Matter from Robert MacFarlane’s book Underland (2019). This chapter discusses scientist elusive search for dark matter through working in underground mines.
Dark matter cannot be seen in itself but its existence can be witnessed when it collides with atoms. In this collision the atoms move faster and are scattered as a consequence.
As an artist I recognise the search for something that feels ambiguous and intangible, still in the early stages of my research project I feel I am fumbling in the dark waiting for my eyes to adjust in order to see what I sense is there.
Just as scientists “seek the traces of dark matter in the perceptible world” I am seeking traces from history, science, geography and art to build a network of information that will lead me from uncertain evidence to new knowledge.
For me, research is a devotion to pursue the understanding of the traces we find, to trust our intuition while we manoeuvre through the dark, building experience, knowledge and networks that connect us with unforeseen people and places. Through mapping my practice in this way, I find myself lingering in the interstices between disciplines, expertise and experience, finding an expansive space that allows me to reconsider the connections and gaps between what I know and what I think I know.
Ok, ‘Never give up, never surrender’ is not from me, but from Galaxy Quest. It describes my research through my whole scientific life. I made a drypoint of the photograph by Frank Hurley : Cheering the James Craid as it sets off for South Georgia. Sir Ernest Shackleton is my hero. In absolute disastrous circumstances he did not lose a single soul. Frank Hurley was his photographer and is another of my heroes. One day, I will go to Antarctica, if not in this life then in the next.
I tried to build an inspirational quote from a neural network and… it failed! But the results are quite funny.
I took the top 50 inspirational quotes from Good Reads and fed them into a really primitive neural network that attempts to ‘learn’ the way they are constructed. Each ||| separates a new attempt that improves based on what is learned and you can see it move from gibberish to something that resembles words to pulling together small sentences (usually small snippets of the original quotes).
These are not sequential though, the final sentence is attempt number 650,000. I stopped there because it produced something mildly profound that wasn’t just a snippet of another quote – ‘Live of[f] the chaos’.
Thinking through doing
I wrote thinking through doing on my left shoulder with fountain pen, in mirror writing, then took a photo of my shoulder in the mirror.
The phrase thinking through doing is about the active and practical nature of the research that I am pursuing at the moment. Information comes in and challenges previous experience and knowledge: and might end up even changing who I am.
I am interested in exploring tactile, embodied knowledge. As I am a beginner in the research field, my writing is small and unfamiliar and reversed: I hope it will become larger and clearer as I start to find out what I’m learning. It’s an unstructured, subjective handwriting, because it’s an unstructured, subjective point of view, so far…
Finally, I’m wearing active gear to make a comment on mental gymnastics, and that this whole experience is a bit of an endurance activity!
What is ‘real’ and ‘natural’ and what is ‘fake’ and ‘synthetic’ when it comes to materials? Is gold that has been sourced from the earth, processed and shaped into a sheet still ‘natural’? Are diamonds grown in the lab, cut, faceted and incorporated into a piece of jewellery really ‘synthetic’? These are the questions I ask myself and viewers of my work. Are these definitions linked to their context, and if so: will the ‘fake’ of today, be the ‘real’ of tomorrow? Or will the ‘real’ of today, be the ‘fake’ of tomorrow?
I have often used influential books as inspiration for tiles for research projects or papers, but subverted the title to make it fit my own work.
For my research quote I have taken inspiration from Daniel Bell’s book: The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, A Venture in Social Forecasting (1973). In this seminal book Bell predicts the demise of industrial manufacturing as the key driver for innovation and economic development. Instead Bell forecasts (correctly) the rise of the service and knowledge sectors as the dominant economic sectors – resulting in a post-industrial society.
In my research I am interested in developing new ways of makings, so in some ways the completely opposite trajectory than Bell’s presents in his book. I passionately believe that the act of making physical artefact remains a very important societal element, not only economically but also culturally. Digital technologies present us with new tools to carry out production in ways that is more sustainable and economically viable than previous industrial models. So, with this in mind, I have altered Bell title to fit with a statement for a kind manifesto for my research – like this: The Coming of Post-Industrial Production, A Research Venture in Digital Fabrication.
I have also taken inspiration from the cover of Bell’s Book to create my own version with a Grasshopper scrip for 3D printed extrusion dies as the cover art.
I wanted my quote to work as a statement, ‘NOTHING + PRINT = SOMETHING, and also a call to action with the words PRINT and SOMETHING accentuated using a pattern as a fill.
Thinking about this task, the quote occurred to me as a mantra and of central significance to my PhD research project. My project is nothing without the print but something with it.
I chose the font, Helvetica and mathematical formula as a replacement for the words, making it clear and legible from a distance, like a poster or sign. I approached the process of constructing the typography parallel to my current practice with digital Illustrator methodologies such as paths, fills and clipping mask as a replacement for analogue engraving. Before lockdown I was involved in a placement to support my research investigation in the archive at the Museum of Royal Worcester. The haptic research methodology has enabled me to respond through practice to the exquisite paper archive material of design drawings and pattern books, interpreting some of them for tissue transfer printing. My research aim is to develop a new ceramic transfer print process for artists and designers based on the historic knowledge of the process under threat of becoming lost. It occurred to me for this task to fill in the words PRINT and SOMETHING with a blue willow pattern, referencing one of the earliest examples of underglaze transfer printing on ceramic from the collection at Worcester.
During lockdown I think I should act on my quote and print something!