Art History

Applications are now closed

Visual Complexity in Contemporary Art


Supervisor

Gregory Minissale

Discipline

Art History

Project code: ART006

This is a scoping project to establish current research on visual complexity in contemporary art for a new book manuscript I want to begin working on this summer. The aim is to explore art installations that arrange found objects and materials into visually complex structures and systems. This helps to stimulate ‘divergent thinking’ which typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, 'non-linear' manner. Sometimes artists vary these complex installations by fragmenting objects into parts or components in order stimulate perceptual multistability. This multistability functions as a continual switching between whole and part views. In neuroscience this switching has been understood in terms of nonlinear dynamics and fracticality. Thus the research into visual complexity aims to address multiple levels of description.

Scholar’s Work

There are two stages involved: a literature review which should inform a later stage of image research:

1.    In terms of a literature review the keywords ‘complexity theory’/’visual complexity’/’nonlinear dynamics’/’metastability’/’fractal’/’fracticality’ in conjunction with ‘art’/’artist’ should be used for a title and text search in Leonardo, the MIT Journal of Art and Science, as well as for searches in some other databases and Google Scholar. Summaries will be required of the relevant sections in Martin Kemp’s Visualizations: The Nature Book of Art And Science (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press. 2000); Stephen Wilson, Art + Science Now  (London: Thames & Hudson, 2010) and Ton Jörg, New Thinking in Complexity for the Social Sciences and Humanities (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2011).

2.    Image research. The scholar will need to become familiar with definitions of nonlinear dynamics and complexity theory in order to identify visual analogies and structures in exhibition catalogues. Manual Lima’s Visual Complexity (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011) has various diagrams and illustrations that could serve as models to make visual analogies across different media. A search through catalogues and books in the Fine Art Library and online will be restricted to the main artists: Sarah Sze, Cornelia Parker, Tomoko Takahashi, Jan Fabre, Thomas Hirshhorn, Olafur Eliasson, and Herman De Vries. Scanning or photocopying key images will be required for discussion with the supervisor.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

Knowledge of the relevant scientific concepts would be required. The ability to identify visual structures of composition, beyond simple identification of a scene, is also important, so a student with some art history, architecture or design knowledge would also be considered, as well as a science student. Ability to read and absorb complex texts quickly and provide accurate and succinct accounts of these with bullet points would be required for this research.

Applicants should address these required skills in their application and indicate if they have been in touch with the proposed supervisor.

Current commemorative art and war memorials in New Zealand


Supervisor

Robin Woodward

Discipline

Art History

Project code: ART007

The purpose of this project is to discover and analyse commemorative war memorial projects that have been commissioned recently throughout New Zealand. War memorials are ubiquitous and sometimes so obvious, that their existence is often taken for granted. With the centenary of the Great War currently garnering attention internationally, there has been an upsurge in the number of civic bodies and community organisations commissioning commemorative works. This Summer Scholar project is a discrete study which will track and analyse the variety of commemorative works that have been commissioned in relation to the centenary. The aim is to ascertain if there is anything distinctive emerging among such works and to consider them in relation to earlier memorials in New Zealand, particularly war memorials.

Memorial art is thriving during this centennial period, from 2014-2018: funding has been provided by central government. This is an appropriate time to assess the plan behind current activity, to consider who has accessed funding, who is managing the projects, and how they are progressing. How many of them have been realised? How many of them have fallen into abeyance? What forms have they taken –and how do they compare to earlier, perhaps more traditional, forms of memorials.

Scholar’s Work

The Summer Scholar will source, document and analyse new work and current projects being developed in the area of memorials that relate specifically to New Zealand’s engagement in international conflict. This will be done though accessing primary and secondary source material, including online information. Initial research should be online, followed up by contact with librarians, council officers, artists and gallerists. One of the first tasks will be to identify the range of memorial works currently being commissioned and funded, and then to research the history of the commissions and the process involved. Works will need to be documented, and the rationale for the commissions and reasons behind the selection and form of content need to be ascertained. From this research, patterns should start to emerge which should offer avenues for further investigation and analysis. Research could identify projects that are currently being mooted, and consideration could be given to those that are either at the planning and consent stage or are actually in process. There could be some research done in comparing current forms of memorials to historic examples. Findings will be written up in preparation for publication.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

The Summer Scholar will need to have a strong knowledge of New Zealand art and also a background in history. S/he will need proven skills in art history, particularly in visual analysis of art works, and have the ability to contextualise them. It would be beneficial for the Summer Scholar to have previous experience of researching and analysing official commemorative art as well as knowledge of the work of independent artists who do not have official status. A strong knowledge of the history of twentieth century New Zealand would be a real advantage. A major component of this project will be sourcing material by contacting Council and library staff as well as galleries, so the Summer Scholar must have excellent people skills and an ability to work with others who are from a variety of backgrounds. An ability to think laterally will be necessary, particularly in the preliminary stages of this research when a database is being established. Meticulous attention to detail is needed for documenting projects. The Scholar will have strong academic research and writing skills.

Applicants should address these required skills in their application and indicate if they have been in touch with the proposed supervisor.