Dissertation Research Proposal Reflection

In constellation for the second year, I have been studying post anthropocentric practices. Before this, I had no understanding of what post anthropomorphism was. It has taught me how to look at the world beyond a human perspective and take into consideration how the rest of the world would view a thing, an object or a situation. To then take this idea and apply it to my practice as a fine artist has been very useful for me. It has opened my eyes to existing factors that affect the way I work and the final outcome of the work I produce.

I have used all three constellation groups that I have studied over the past two years, for inspiration within my dissertation.

The first study group I attended was ‘Archaeologies of the unseen’, which began my interest in looking at what affects an artists work such as the tools they use, what material they have available to them, how the weather such as wind or rain affect a piece and even how social values have an influence. Pallasmaa (2009) believes that ‘tools reflect social values placed on work.’ This particularly got me interested in the influence and significance of tools within fine art as well as the whole of society.

The second group I was a part of was ‘Visual thinking’, which although didn’t directly influence my work or practice is did encourage me to look at images in more depth, concentrating more on symbolism within a singular object.

The final study group, which was the main inspiration for my dissertation was ‘Post anthropocentric practices’ which looked at the world from human and non-human perspectives. It also questioned the anthropology of language, with particular detail in the words ‘object’ and ‘thing’. The most significant part of this, for me, was highlighting how we are constantly viewing the world solely from a human perspective and that it is impossible for us to completely know the world objectively. This is related back to the practice of fine art in Pallasmaa’s book ‘The Thinking Hand’ where he points out that when we paint a tree, we are not solely painting a tree, but a tree-being-looked-at. I found this particularly interesting as a fine artist as it got me thinking about how limited I am when creating paintings. This influenced a series of paintings that I made within my subject work, where I painted impressionistic landscapes, not taken from a real place, where each of the viewers saw something different. This highlights how we, as humans, view things based on our own experiences and not objectively, suggesting that we can never fully understand the world, just our own anthropocentric view of it.

This constellation project introduced to me to the idea of different umwelts, which is spoken about in Jakob von Uexküll’s book called ‘A stroll through the worlds of animals and men.’ I found this very interesting as it made me think about the world in a way most people don’t think about, considering the view point of animals yet also objects and things. It allowed to me think outside of the usual method of thinking, attempting to view how an insect would see a blob of paint as a large liquid trap rather than a blob of paint, leading to me writing a short story about how the insect would think.

It also got me looking at other aspects that can affect my work such as tools, in more depth, which again influenced my practice. I began experimenting with how tools effect art work, creating a series of images of apples using different instruments such as a pallet knife, a pencil and a paintbrush and analysed how much of an impact the tool had on the overall image, this became the basis of my dissertation proposal. This again influenced by subject work as it encouraged me to think about what tools I use and how I use them. It also raised the question what a tool is and can the body be used as a tool. To experiment with how the body can be used as a tool first hand, I created a series of portraits using my feet as a tool rather than a paintbrush or a pallet knife, originally inspired by the artist Richard Long who used his hand to create art work rather than a conventional device.

Looking into Post anthropomorphism within this Constellation module has broadened my outlook of what effects an artist’s work beyond humans and the tools used but also the world including objects, things and other worldly phenomenon’s. It was highlighted to me that human actions are based from our own experiences within life, which, of course is unavoidably anthropocentric due to the society we live in. Eduardo Kohn (2015), who wrote ‘How forests think’ said that because of this ‘application to an anthropology beyond the human is limited’

I began looking at the difference between humans and non-humans and why we place ourselves above other species when it comes to importance or significance within in the world. We destroy nature and entire species to suit our own needs and benefits, whether that’s by destroying a forest for buildings or for using the wood as a resource, or hunting animals for either food, material or just for fun. This is supported by Tonkinwise who states ‘It is not just a solitary tree that gets destroyed to become a table, but a home to birds and mammals, to insects and fungi and other plant species.’(Tonkinwise, cited in Design and future making, 2014 p. 201)

This topic has also made me aware of the type of language we use as humans, clearly specifying us as separate from the rest of the world. This is particularly evident when we call air ‘empty space’, which, according to Hippocrates, ‘There is nothing empty of air’ and that ‘The greatest need for a body is wind’. (Hippocrates, 1923). I began researching into why this is, and came across the German Philosopher, Schopenhauer, who believes that we’re not above animals, but in fact below, as we have a ‘defect’ that allows us to question life and worry. This hasn’t had a direct impact on my art work, but has impacted the way I think about life in general, which clearly has a butterfly effect on the work I produce. It also got me thinking about how we specify tools, viewing ourselves as separate entities, rather than believing that the tool becomes a part of us as Pallasmaa (2009) believes.

This has made me look at other factors influencing my work and how I can reduce the anthropomorphic influence on my work, however, the more research I do into post anthropology, the more I begin to question whether or not it is possible to create a piece of work that is completely beyond human despite Edurado Kohns theory that the entire world is one large phenomenon and that we are the world, therefore all the work we produce has to be post anthropocentric. After all these thoughts and theories, I have chosen to write my dissertation based on the question, ‘What control do artists have in art from a post anthropocentric viewpoint?’


Author: alannah3012l5

I am a landscape painter who enjoys spending free time exploring and wandering through natural landscapes, understanding that the space I occupy in this world is tiny and temporary. The aim of my paintings is to evoke the same sense of wonder in the viewer that I experience while on my travels and to ignite the realisation that compared to our surroundings, we are miniscule and blend in, we are not above, nor do we have any higher importance than any other being or thing on this planet. My large oil paintings are designed to be displayed outdoors after being inspired by Katherine Grosse in the Venice Biennale, making them appear small in their surroundings, much like the people in them and the people viewing them. However, my zines and watercolours require more attention, showing that even smaller details contain whole worlds and landscapes of their own. Depending on our own experiences we see the prints differently. The text along with the images encourage the viewer to see the same landscape I see.

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