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Navigating the unknown: place, space and drawing

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Rees, A ORCID: 0000-0003-1932-1640 2017 , 'Navigating the unknown: place, space and drawing', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Focusing on manual drawing as an embodied means of encountering place and space this research interrogates how the unknown may be made physically and cognitively manifest through the explorative practice of drawing. Extending colonial and historical notions of the unknown the research references historical exploration narratives, navigational practice and cartography. The unknown is considered as an active space between the world and its representation – a spatially situated and yet mobile zone of inquiry.
Investigated via drawn encounters, the fluid materiality of the sea as a transformative space of potentiality is considered as a rich metaphorical and physical unknown. Experienced over several journeys on a professional cray boat and a two-month voyage on a scientific research vessel, the body of work focuses on searching and the testing of ideas. Journalling is posited as thinking in progress. Presented in digital and analogue format, the journal becomes a wayfinding tool for navigating the creative process and is proposed as a key strategy for activating the speculative and provisional understandings that underpin the project.
Drawing from writers such as Tim Ingold, Tania Kovats and Ross Gibson, the research asserts that drawing is a crucial tacit and materially situated explorative practice suitable for synthesising fluctuating frames of reference, ambiguity and the uncertainty of experience. Exploring the nature of self/world relations, the research contends that manual drawing practices produce ‘positive frictions’ - useful provocations caused by a misalignment between the real and the perceived. Through the speculative process of negotiating such contradictions characteristics such as curiosity, scepticism, fallibility and error become key components of practice-led research. Referring to New Materialist concepts such as intra-action, diffraction and entanglement as discussed by theorists Brian Massumi and Karen Barad, the research proposes that ‘positive frictions’ are vital and generative components of inquiry, providing a critical and meaningful way to engage with other human beings and the world.
Expanding on the work of artists such as William Kentridge and Tacita Dean, the research contributes to discussions of drawing as an iterative, haptic orientation process of actively handling the world — relating to phenomenological concepts as proposed by Heidegger and Noë. Connecting drawing practice to the unknown through a narrative of self-articulation, drawing and the unknown are posed as conditional to lived existence and essential to how experience is practised, negotiated and communicated.
Through the combined use of paper-based and photographic drawing tools, the research contends that drawing in the twenty-first century not only remains an exemplary method to encounter the unknown, but that it also makes such encounters possible — a practice by which connections between self and world are made. The research asserts that manual drawing facilitates these connections via the production of ‘positive frictions’ and identifies these as essential elements of creative practice.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Rees, A
Keywords: drawing, unknown, place, space, embodied experience, journalling
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Copyright 2017 the author

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