‘Unforeseen Possibilities: The Agency of Indeterminacy’ – Adam Blackburn: PhD Exhibition – School of Art Galleries, 7th June – 9th July 2021

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My research examines indeterminacy, principally within a visual art context. It is considered in relation to the role of authorship in art, and explores the importance of the role of intentionality in the making of art.

In particular, the research explores indeterminacy within a historical context of Modernism, using a series of case studies. Indeterminacy is considered, alongside chance procedures, in terms of its generative capacity, as an alternative to the deliberate agency of the artist. Chance procedures were deployed by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) as a means of circumventing subjective judgement in the execution of an artwork. These procedures would have a significant influence upon compositional technique during the Modernist period, in both art, music, and sound.

For this reason, the research also explores, by way of analogy, indeterminacy within a sonic context, in relation to the work of composer John Cage (1912-1992). He had been profoundly influenced by Duchamp’s explorations of chance procedure. Cage deployed indeterminacy as one of the governing principles of his work, in order to more closely align art with life by circumventing intentionality of traditional compositional method. This enabled ‘sounds to be themselves’. By applying the same forces of indeterminacy and agency that he believed acted upon the universe, Cage was able to ‘imitate nature in her manner of operations’.

By building on Cage’s, as well as Modernist visual artists’ applications of the principle of indeterminacy, the research establishes a correspondence between the visual and the audible stratagems, and deploys new variations and applications of the same. My own artworks are transcriptions of interactions between forces of agency and indeterminacy in the form of, for example, tree drawings, rucksack drawings, and the “accidental” bi-products of determinate acts of drawing and painting.

My work also seeks to highlight the renewed relevance of indeterminacy for postmodern art practice by exploring further its potential to produce otherwise unforeseen possibilities and aesthetics. The research proposes that during these uncertain times in our history – when our models of politics, security and health remain unbalanced, undetermined and chaotic – indeterminacy can provide alternative ways of generating hope, order, and structure, as well as new approaches to thinking and acting in relation to art and life.

(Click on images to enlarge them.)

 

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