Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practices is a subject that gives students scope to push the boundaries often inflicted on art in popular perception. Inspiration and a deeper understanding of art are sought through philosophy, and as a result some fascinating abstract concepts are addressed in an impressively varied collection of installations. Each artist has employed different methods and media to communicate their own idea, demonstrating exceptional levels of imagination and contemplation.
The modern world, and its impact on our perception and experience, is a prevalent theme this year. Erin Fairley’s environmental installations are both thoughtful and visually impressive. She aims to challenge the idea that the man-made is separate from the natural, fitting her striking designs around the ridges and crags of existing terrain. The form of her pieces is inspired by primitive art and ritual, reflecting the romanticised notion of nature unspoiled, but she crafts them from synthetic materials in vivid, bright colours, insisting upon the reality of the modern day interaction between us and our environment.
In stark contrast to Fairley’s work, Keith Thomas John MacLeod has employed some thoroughly contemporary materials to investigate the nature of what we call reality. He is particularly interested in how new technologies allow us to project an edited self to the world – the self that we would prefer others to know. His interactive installation cleverly invites the viewer in, tricking him into becoming a part of the piece. It is a thought-provoking work, and its playfulness only serves to make it more enchanting.
Lisa Gordon’s work is also concerned with interaction, and her installation is part performance piece, part interactive sculpture. Interested in Gadamer’s concept that art becomes art only once others feel a willingness to participate, she has filmed herself interfering with an orchestra as they attempt to play, and then presented the film in such a way that the viewer must manoeuvre various obstacles to enjoy it. The result is again somewhat humorous and certainly a particularly creative approach to addressing her theme.
Abigail Blair’s Conversation Pieces, also enhanced by a touch of humour, is probably my favourite work from this year’s show. Concerned with the inherent importance of conversation as a mechanism for social and cultural bonding, Abigail transcribes pieces of chit-chat she overhears while going about her daily routine. Her installation presents these snippets of conversation out of their original context. The dialogues are variously funny, heart-warming, trivial and bleak. They become the topics of new discussions for spectators of the exhibit, and thus their relevance is sustained. Reading and listening to them out with their original circumstances gives a truly transparent, unaffected insight into human relationships and culture, and it is enlightening to see such a simple exercise effectively portray such a profound concept.
Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practices allows for real, unbounded creativity. The resulting show features an impressive variety of ideas, approaches and skills and makes for a truly compelling experience. Here highly abstract philosophical concepts are being communicated through art made up of physical components, sound, light, reflection and interaction. Leaving the college, I waded through a mass of students from “Save Our Studios”, a group protesting proposed cuts to studio space. Perhaps the quality of work and variety of individual styles on show can provide inspiration as to how finances may be balanced without depriving one of Dundee’s most important cultural assets.