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Documenting and Exposing One's Process

Posted on: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Workspace materials documented with Instagram

I had an interesting catch up with my artist friend, Brece Honeycutt, a week or so ago, and one of the topic threads that came out during our conversation was how and why (even) more documentation (of process) should be a part of my work. This observation was coming from me actually, despite being some one who probably shares more than she should online before critical details are resolved from both a material and conceptual standpoint.

It is curious to me these days how one is often tempted to take a photo of a work in progress via Instagram – particularly when one might want to test how a certain studio scene or new form might look with an applied filter.


Eve Hesse with her work – seeing the artist in this manner 
seems integral to better understanding her process at the time

I know that Eva Hesse would never have done this. (I suspect.) Why is my ego currently connected to this mode of documenting just because the technology exists and the sharing promises to link us to other like-minded creators and visual storytellers?


Alyce Santoro's Sonic Sail installation
 photographed with Instagram at Gasser Grunert Gallery

I thought about this more when visiting Alyce Santoro's exhibition in Chelsea last week, particularly as I snapped photos of her exquisite sonic fabric installations and Philosoprop and ontological apparatus creations. Was I doing her a disservice by providing an immediate recording of the event – even if folks seemed to be really "liking" what they were viewing in my virtual community? 

"Documentation" is a definitely a subjective act these days, and one where the goals are not always clear. Perhaps this is what I am struggling with. A record of making that allows for open-endedness, both in terms of a genuine process and the inclusion of a wider audience. 

There are also performative aspects to creating work, documenting it, and then sitting back to absorb the feedback via social media. The real issue is that critical feedback does not come in the form of mere "likes" or virtual heart icons. The art world is surely tougher than this.


Detail of a collage from 1997 photographed with Instagram

I will try something that straddles the road perhaps. A playful documentation process and then a bit of privacy to create things that must hold up to the scrutiny of unfiltered viewing. I will say that documenting old(er) work with a new filter, like this collage photographed one morning with Instagram, does allow for seeing things in a new way, or rather in a way that reminds you of who you were before the onset of social media sharing.

5 comments:

Ann said...

Interesting thoughts. To me, the process (the "how") is as important as the finished piece (the "what"). I love the photo of your collage through glass, with reflection: adds even more dimensionality to a piece that seems to me to be about time - looking back - in the first place.

Willemien de Villiers said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this pertinent issue, Abigail. We live in a completely mediated age, where every second is shared, tweeted, posted, reblogged somewhere else – sometimes, it feels, ad nauseum. As an artist, I too struggle to know what needs to remain private, and what to share; when to take the risk of exposure – sometimes invigorating and affirming, yet so often the opposite. Your work is wonderful and I always feel inspired after reading your thoughts!

Adelaide Shalhope said...

A timely post for me, Abigail. I am in constant 'two minds' about blogging and other social media in regards to my own process. It is interesting how the social feedback can provide some 'needed' (?) feedback, but I'm feeling at this moment that I am in need of real retreat to dig deeper and see what comes of it. I'll be curious to see how you handle documenting your process. I enjoy reading your blog and am fond of your work so I look forward to this new shift for you.

Abigail Doan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abigail Doan said...

How incredibly fortunate am I to have received this very thoughtful and insightful feedback. I agree with all of the dimensions and issues of what each of you have shared and pondered in your own studios and beyond.

One simple word that keeps popping up for me is 'privacy', or perhaps simply, 'silence' to make, test ideas, and even fail and rebuild. It seems harder to do this sometimes (the failing part), if one is subconsciously thinking about documenting the process along the way. Or rather, the documenting can be fine and informative, but not if it is viewed as fuel to keep going or receive affirmation in some manner about the direction one is taking creatively.

I really never let the outside realm interfere too much anyhow, but it is something to consider as we think about what it really means to be connected or grounded as makers.

I am going to play more with this idea, and also savor what it now means to be more of an incubator before sharing.

All of your work is absolutely wonderful, and I feel so touched that you reached out to comment on your experiences and methods.

Best wishes for 2013 and beyond ~ Abigail

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