Thursday, February 25, 2016


RDC1 Research prospectus, March 2016
Title of project:

Transgenerational Interactions and Memory: A Reflexive Social Sculpture Practice Exploration

Project aims:

·      To use my practice to explore, reflect upon and articulate issues relating to transgenerational issues, memories, emotions and their reciprocal influence on my practice.

·      To develop a body of work of social sculpture experiences where the viewer participates in a controlled vs. uncontrolled playful situation to create a space in which all participants experience or contribute to the creation of the artwork.

·      To be able to develop my own reflective practice procedure and use it to document social sculpture in written and video formats.

·      To explore non-traditional venues (local senior centers and public or community spaces) in order to focus on a variety of different generational communities and find ways to interact with their plural and complex subjectivities.  

·      To observe their interventions and surrender myself over to them during the actions in an exchange of experiences.

·      To develop a more specific lexicon to use to and articulate my practice. (At present I am using the term of social sculpture because it is the closest to my practice.)

Research questions:

1. How can my material-based studio practice and my social sculpture practice explore and integrate memory and emotions from different groups of transgenerational subjects?

2. What is the relationship between transgenerational issues, memories, emotions and experimental gesture making in my creative practice?

3. How can I best present and disseminate my findings and my practice to the communities which I feel my work may be of relevance to?

Background to Research:

“Unless one likes complexity, one cannot feel at home in the twenty-first century. Transformations, metamorphoses, mutations, processes of change amidst dissonant power relations have become familiar patterns in the lives of most contemporary subjects.” [1]

My areas of inquiry are transgenerational interactions, emotions and memory. I use the term ‘transgeneration’ for my research to describe the collision between transformation and generation in order to convey the complexity and plurality of subjectivities and their transformations during the interactions in my social sculpture making.  I explore this through my practice by composing social sculpture pieces with participants from different local communities in Miami. I use language as an aesthetic element and as material together with other more conventional materials. My social sculpture[2] works are constructed through using language, my own body, sound collections of the participants talking and other possible props or materials (for example, fabric, cotton, clay, and a chair) all construct my social sculpture pieces. At the same time I am also material for the research, so my practice becomes a mirror and reflection simultaneously. The production of art works is integrated into social situations and experiences where the participants create while I take a more passive attitude to let myself be material for the participants.

Photography, video and sound recording are part of my practice in terms of methods, together with written production. I have a degree in photography and audiovisual techniques and the usage of cameras is part of my practice. Even though my approach to these media will be mainly to document my performance, I do not limit myself to that. The process of editing images and sounds collected during social sculpture experiences is both material for my pieces and a meditative moment that will allow me to process the experience using reflective practice concepts.

In my former sculpture making, I always focused on transformations in terms of form, and how different materials’ qualities could shift a raw material’s natural form into a new form/shape. Often I wanted to see the form in more than one material to see how I reacted to it, so the object could be the same form, but different emotions were expressed through the use of different materials. I enjoy manipulating materials, solving problems within its limitations, stretching and discovering its possibilities, having a dialogue with it, and allowing it to make decisions.

Physical transformations inform my research, but I am also interested in the relationship between memory, translocation, emotions and generational issues as elements of transformation and how they affect present behaviours. These issues may appear during the participants’ decisions taking, like negotiating situations during the creation of a social sculpture piece.

“The models of cultural recall (…) those of second and third generations are situated in a twilight zone between history and fiction…” [3]

That “twilight zone” between history and fiction is the place of memory I’m interested in focusing on. It is in the subjectivity of the twilight zone where I believe memories stay, tinted with emotions, environment and the pass of time. In my personal interaction during the preparation of the actions and in order to gain confidence I listen to stories either from children or senior communities as part of the process. I’m interested in those stories as well, as they may appear during the actions in a non-literal way and the participants (and myself) may not even be conscious of it during the experience.  

Life transformations, the accompanying changes of identity and the memories we carry and we make (at the same time) all play a role in my practice. I will explore how different generations express their transformations in terms of emotions through the composition of social sculpture pieces. Reciprocally the interaction between material, play, and the construction of social sculpture experiences may affect people’s emotions and perhaps memories.

During my research I will, through my interactions with different groups of participants, attempt to find an understanding to how the approach to play (and constructing social sculptures pieces) is different in the multiplicity of generational subjectivities. My aim is to work through a notion of social sculpture that is framed by a playful situation and to find a creative language, a social sculpture language to articulate transgenerational issues.
The social sculptures pieces and interactions with material are going to be delivered as artist/participant-constructed social experience. My main focus will be on different generational communities such as local senior centers, afterschool programs, my five years old son’s group of friends and groups of teenagers from the art high schools’ internships program, which is organized with the help of the Art Center South Florida’s education department. I am interested in a dynamic social environment, in finding ways to create a situation, an experience where the participants create the social sculpture through playing.

“Playing, like ritual, is at the heart of performance. In fact performance may be defined as ritualized behavior conditioned/permeated by play (...). Ritual has seriousness to it, the hammerhead of authority. Play is looser, more permissive-forgiving in precisely those areas where ritual is enforcing, flexible where ritual is rigid.” [4]

In a series of recent (November 2015) performances/actions experiences, I worked at the North Beach senior center in Miami Beach. We (the participants and myself) created a playful environment where I lost control of my own action and gave up myself to the participants’ control, decisions and proposals. I (and a roll of white fabric that I brought) became the material for them, the material for the social sculpture. The participants made all the decisions; they directed me with details of what to do and also how to move. I also lost control of my camera on the tripod as one of them decided to manipulate it and to play music she chose for the piece.

After the performance was complete, I stayed and talk with the participants. I recorded their comments, thoughts and feelings. I documented and internalized the subjectivity of their very different perceptions to the same performance they created: while all talked about metamorphosis, some of their thoughts and intentions were related to the butterfly process, while another person was very sad perceiving the death of things. I realized at that moment how talking about “the senior” is not appropriate. Their individualities guided me to become aware of the diverse subjectivity in beings of different ages.

Nicolas Bourriaud’s ideas on “Relational Aesthetics” are of relevance here as I am drawn to the notion of finding community or public spaces instead of using traditional ones. Bourriaud describes relational aesthetics as:

“A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” [5]

However, Joseph Beuys’ idea of social sculpture is perhaps of greater relevance, as he states ‘everybody is an artist’, 'everything is art’, and ‘life can be approached creatively’[6] as socially engaged ideas, is perhaps of greater relevance. There is a genuine existence of a deep contradiction in me of both wanting to socialize and or interact with the public, but knowing my own personal limitation in doing so with strangers. The resolution of this contradiction might be productive for both my practice and my research, producing work that speaks, relates and hopefully transforms.

My interest in transformation is also pedagogical: for the future and to facilitate the transformation that Nietzsche speaks of on his theory of triangulation, which includes the use of diverse approaches, measuring the data from different perspectives and interdisciplinary approach. Joseph Beuys claimed that his greatest work of art was to be a teacher and explored this through his experimental pedagogy. Similarly, Claire Bishop in her book Artificial Hells has written a chapter dedicated to pedagogic projects:

“Viewers are not students, and students are not viewers, although their respective relationships to the artist and teacher have a certain dynamic overlap…for many decades, artists have attempted to forge a closer connection between art and life, referring to their interventions into social processes as art; most recently this includes educational experiments…” [7]

I will analyze these ideas in terms of how I present and deliver my actions to/with the participant. The social sculpture exploration pieces I want to produce will imply social/political and pedagogical elements that could possibly, through the experiences, transform us (the participants). I believe that during the interactions that lead to the construction of the social sculpture something very pedagogical and political happens. It is mainly in the process: the negotiation of the decisions where all opinions have to converge in a piece is probably the most political and pedagogical moment: a ‘hands on’ moment for the ideas, the materiality of ideas and emotions.

At the same time, by facilitating the environments for the social sculpture to happen, I will be able to witness myself in the participant’s transformations during the experience, which will feed back into my research inquiry into how life is transformed through experience.

“…pedagogic art raises a persistent set of epistemological problems for the art historian and critique: What does it mean to do education (and programming) as art? How do we judge these experiences? What kind of efficacy do they seek? Do we need to experience them first hand in order to comment on them?” [8]

I believe that in fact I need to experience them and reflect first hand in order to write about them. To live the experience is the only way I have to go through the reflective practice process (D. Schön) both during the experience and during editing. I sit and write: writing as method, writing as part of my practice and not separated from my social sculpture producing. The ultimate research process for me is not to differentiate writing and social sculpture making, but for them to melt together as one practice. Katy Macleod proposed:

“…A further option is to consider both the visual and written work as texts, which constitute the final submission...”[9]

Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic are artists I’m currently discovering. Yoko Ono’s “Cut piece” (1964) relates to my work as she gives herself up to the viewers, giving them the control of the performance. “… Ono sat motionless on the stage after inviting the audience to come up and cut away her clothing…”[10] Yet still she is the one giving to the viewers the instructions: this is a difference from my actions as my intent is to give myself up, becoming material and letting the participants (viewers) to take decisions, to direct the action, which is completely the opposite as to giving them instructions,

Marina Abramovic’s performances and her interest in the state of consciousness are intriguing to me and I can see how it may develop in my own practice. Conversely, I can’t relate to the energy (in her case coming from body pain), her personal political views and her aesthetic of violence simply because they are not part of my interests.

I would like to close this section with this quotation from Yoko Ono:

"I often remember this sort of story from my childhood: Buddha actually came from a rich family he was a prince or something like that and one day he just dropped everything and started walking with his wife and his children. Soon, someone comes out and says, Give me something. And Buddha gives him his jacket or shirt. Then he goes on, and somebody else asks him for something; he gives them his family, and so on. And finally, I think it’s a tiger that asks him for his body. So, he just gives his body and is transformed into a spirit. It’s the total giving concept. The struggle with art, for me, became about the concept of whether you were stating your ego through your work or creating an environment where other people can be creative as well.[11]

This paragraph relates to me and my practice very closely: her past memories and the way it shapes her perspective as an artist, her will to create an environment for people while recognizing and giving value to all of us as potential creators. Ono’s childhood influences, her will to work for the community and her subjective memory connect closely with my practice and to my research.

Research Methods & Strategies:

‘Each tale has its own technique’ J.L. Borges

My research methods will include social sculpture and sculpture making and/or manipulating materials. For documentation purposes I will include the use of video, photographs, recording and writing. Katie McLeod’s ‘seesaw’ method will be fundamental during my practice-based research:

“Research evidence has demonstrated that the making/writing issue has gone far beyond a simple binary argument. The relationship between the two can be extremely productive. It is about the tension between them, as each visits and revisits the other and constantly revises, rethinks and (re)presents each to the other. Artist/researchers shows that the two forms are integral …” [12]
This process has already started as I have embodied the interrelation between the writings I have been working with and my practice. I can see evidence of the ‘seesaw’ method in my own research project.

The method I will use to transfer my explorations-experiences during my social sculpture to writing will be based on the concept of reflection. I’m interested in Donald Schon’s ideas and his concepts of reflective practice and organizational learning because through them I will be able to embody the experience and therefore articulate it in writing. Reflective practice’s aim is to bring together theory and practice: using reflection will allow me to have a clear view, process thoughts and theory within the context of my practice during the actions and even more during the editing of the material collected. I will reflect on the practice and being aware of emotions, experiences, actions and responses while

“paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight” [13]

The methodology used in my research will be based on Nietzsche’s Triangulation. He proposed the use of diverse approaches in order to increase knowledge, which echoes the often interdisciplinary nature of practice based research

“Gaining knowledge, requires the resources of many disciplines; no single approach is sufficient. Truth-seekers will have to became more versatile, master many disciplines and methods, learn artistic creativity and balanced judgment” [14]

Schroeder explains that Nietzsche proposes the usage of the cognitive element to elaborate the way to determine the truth; the cultural reconstruction element to diagnose the present; the legislative for the future and the educative element to facilitate the transformation in others. The condition required for the new philosophers, Schroeder states, is an existential transformation, the three-stage metamorphosis of the spirit, Nietzsche refers to in “Human, All Too Human” and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra” the three Metamorphoses.

Similarly in his book, Education for Socially engaged Art, Pablo Helguera explains how in to set a curriculum for socially engaged art, history and theory and the inability in doing so with a critical approach. Furthermore he explains social engaged art as performance that “must break away (…) from self-referentiality” and needs to be approached from different disciplines to get a better knowledge:

“Socially engaged art is a form of performance in the expanded field (…) Only is better served by gathering knowledge from a combination of the disciplines-pedagogy, theater, ethnography, anthropology, and communication among others-from which artists construct their vocabularies in different combinations depending on their interests and needs”[15]

As I have moved in my research from Nietszche and Beuys to Helguera and others, I have become more convinced that framing a methodology-theory that references different disciplines and methods is the best way to articulate my practice and the insights it reveals.


Artificial Hells, Bishop Claire, Verso 2012
Performance Studies, Schechner, R., second edition, 2002
Education for Socially Engaged Art, a materials and Techniques handbook Pablo Helguera, Jorge Pinto Books NY, 2011
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche F., translated by Kaufmann W. 1978, Penguin Books
Continental Philosophy: A Critical Approach, Schroeder W. R., 2005, Blackwell Publishing
Ethics: Subjectivity and truth, Foucault M., Translated by Hurley R. and others, 1994, Edited by Ravinow P.
Relational Aesthetics, Bourriaud N., 2002, Translated by Pleasance S. & Woods F., Les Presses Du Reel Edition
Nomadology: The War Machine, Deleuze G. & Guattari F., 1986, Translated by Massumi B.
Liminal Acts: A critical Overview of Contemporary Performance and Theory, Broadhurst S. 1999, Cassell
The Nomadic Theory, Braidotti R., 2011, Columbia University Press
Metamorphoses, Braidotti R., 1988, Polity
Patterns of Dissonance, Braidotti R., 1991, Polity Press
After Poststructuralism: transitions and transformations, Braidotti R.,
The Doctorate in Fine Art: The importance of Exemplars to the Research Culture, Macleod K., Holdridge L.
Language and Social Psychology (Language in society) Giles H., St.Clair R. N., 1979, Basil Blackwell
The Social Meanings of Language, Dialect and Accent: International Perspectives on Speech Styles (Language as Social Action) Giles H., Watson B.
Runaway Girl, Bourgeois Louise, 2003, Greenberg & Jordan, Adams H. N.
Louise Bourgeois, Berdanac M. L., Flammarion, 1996
Louise Bourgeois, Gardner P., Universe Publishing, 1994
An interview with Louise Bourgeois, Kuspit D. 1988 Elizabeth Avedon Editions,
Eva Hesse, Lippard L. First Da Capo Press Edition, 1992, 1st edition 1976
October files Eva Hesse, Nixon M., Editor. 2002, Cambridge MS: MIT Press
Three Artists (three women): modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner and O’keeff, Wagner, Middleton A., The Regents of the University of California, 1996.
Where Is Ana Mendieta?: Identity, Performativity, and Exile, February 24, 1999
Mendieta, Ana Manchester E. Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico)". TATE, 2009.
English Is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the, by Fusco C., 1995
Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity, Broadhurst S. (Editor), Josephine Machon (Editor), 2011
Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach, Westgeest H., 2016

[1] The Nomadic Theory, Braidotti R., 2011, Columbia University Press, pg.1
[2] “Social sculpture is a definition developed by the artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s on the concept that everything is art, that every aspect of life could be approached creatively and, as a result, everyone has the potential to be an artist. Social sculpture united Joseph Beuys’ idealistic ideas of a utopian society together with his aesthetic practice. He believed that life is a social sculpture that everyone helps to shape.” Tate glossary of art terms,
[3] Amsterdam School for Heritage and Memory Studies,
[4] Performance Studies, Schechner, R., second edition, 2002, pg. 89

[5] “Relational Aesthetics”, Bourriaud, N.1998. pg. 113.
[6] Joseph Beuys: the reader, Edited and translated by Mesch C., Michely V.with foreword by Danto A. 2007
[7] Artificial hells, Bishop, C., Verso 2012, pg. 245
[8] Artificial hells, Bishop, C. Verso 2012, pg. 245
[9] The Doctorate in Fine Art: The Importanceof Exemplars to theResearch Culture, Katy Macleod and Lin Holdridge.
[10] Source: Stiles, K. «Uncorrupted Joy: International Art Actions,» in: Out of Actions: between performance and the object, 1949–1979, Schimmel, P. (ed.), MoCA Los Angeles, New York/London, 1998, p. 278.)
[11] Yoko Ono’s website (in Sculpture Magazine, 2000)
[12] The Doctorate in Fine Art: The Importanceof Exemplars to theResearch Culture, Macleod, K., and Holdridge, L.
[13] Bolton, G., Reflective practice: writing and professional development (3rd edition) Los Angeles: Sage edition p. 19
[14] Schroeder, W. Continental Philosophy – A Critical Approach, Wiley Blackwell, London, 2004, pg.118
[15] Helguera, P. Education for Socially Engaged Art, a materials and Techniques handbook, Jorge Pinto Books NY, 2011, pg x

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