FIELDWORKING | Frameworks … Forward

Posted on 17/12/2012

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I was going to do a summer semester, but life got strange and energies flagged, so I withdrew, having already pulled a bundle of books out of the library. The subject for the semester is Research Methods. I have always loved research, especially fieldwork and qualitative research.

We rely on the past, the familiar, the experiential – as if only what we know has veracity and significance. Something else needs to come into play – imagination, possibility, exploration, creation and emergence. What is here and has been is, of course, important but what can be is the carriage of our stirring hopes and rising aspirations for our lifeworld. It is not just longing or wanting, but something more integral to our being. In the Heideggerian sense, it could be more akin to ‘care’. When I think about care, I imagine a set of practices that usually involve a practice like washing my hands, or preparing food, or touching. Care and contact, to me, seem intertwined.

For some time, I was involved in an experimental writing group where we worked with ‘writing as research‘. It wasn’t just the text or language as technology, discourse, power, communicative rationality and so on, but writing as practice, as material, as caring … It was an immersive and processual approach to writing in that it was generative, embodied and knowing.

And so, for the purposes of research, I am considering ideas about walking as research for two of my current projects, Long Time, No See? and Fieldworking. For the later, I have now developed a broad approach to this project. Upfront I need to further define my conceptual frameworks and departure points. At one point I was drawn to Umberto Eco’s Six Walk Through the Fictional Woods, so there is perhaps some need to revisit this as a guiding structure.

After I have prepared and understood my framework, perhaps like ground rules, I will implement these through a series of walks. This is perhaps akin to fieldwork and orienteering, where I encounter and address public artworks along prefigured paths or mental maps (see Mental Maps by Gould and White). In the first instance, I will be walking from Fitzgibbon to Aspley, loosely along the green corridor/waterway, where I know there to be a number of public artworks, starting with The Hidden World Playground developed by Russell Anderson. My second walk is likely to commence from Roma Street Train Station, trekking to two of the more recent and ‘contentious’ public artworks, Yayoi Kusuma’s Eyes Are Singing Out and then over the Kurilpa Bridge to GOMA where Michael Parekowhai’s The World Turns was recently installed. (POSTSCRIPT: This also speaks to institutional and political imperatives with the Judicial and Cultural Precincts being significant statements, symbols and arrangements of State Government authority, affirming the hierarchy of capital city primacy. Whereas the inclusion of public art in community spaces plays a different role and makes a different kind of statement about Local Government and community.)

Notetaking and pathmaking is an important part of the process, so working in Evernote (with Skitch) on my tablet will be part of the perambulatory or nomadic modality.

I enjoy the idea of starting in unlikely places – like suburban environments – and seeing what is revealed. I am already sensing contextual considerations that may affirm a bifurcation along the nature/culture lines. Where suburban environments have their gardens, parks and remnant ecologies attentive to community, more urban environments make larger scale and elite cultural statements. This intends to be a deeply immersive research and mapping process that enables a strangely hybrid way of working in the field: both orienting and disorienting.

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