"Broken Grammar" with Michael Bowdidge


According to Wittgenstein, “grammar tells us what kind of object anything is”. In the deeper sense of this word, thinking in terms of grammatical structures provides a useful way of describing what might be termed the ‘normative structures’ of life, and understanding how context and structure can generate and shape meaning. However, the simplest way to expose unseen and unthought aspects of tangible (or intangible) everyday structures is to disrupt their grammar through processes of reconfiguration, displacement and substitution.

Using these three simple methods, this workshop will examine the disruption of grammar in the broadest sense. Initially it will encourage participants to identify, question and re-evaluate the pre-existing grammatical structures of their own creative practices, before moving on to a reconsideration of the physical, cultural and social spaces which surround us at the residency, exploring what Max Ernst termed “the consequences of a systematic putting out of place”.

Alongside the writing of Max Ernst , this workshop will also touch upon the later work of Wittgenstein, aspects of the work of Jacques Derrida and Henry Staten’s linking of these two figures, and the writing of Billy Klüver and Julia Martin on Robert Rauschenberg. Works that we will examine in relation to our investigations will be drawn from across a wide range of media and will include contributions from Stephen Butler, Rosalie Gascoigne, Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Kasimir Malevich, Meret Oppenheim, Steve Paxton, Ad Reinhardt, and Bill Viola amongst others. 

This workshop will take the form of a series of interlinked and interwoven non-medium specific exercises and assignments, interspersed with brief presentations and discussions of contextual material. Throughout the week emphasis will be placed on learning and thinking through individual and/or collaborative creative exploration and active participation, with a view to gaining a deeper critical perspective on our own practices, and an awareness of the ways in which thinking in terms of grammar and its disruption can provide new strategies for creative production.



Michael Bowdidge is an artist who works with found objects, images and sound. He received his undergraduate degree in Fine Art from Middlesex Polytechnic in 1989, and completed his doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh in 2012. His project took the form of a practice-based investigation into the relationship between the later philosophy of Wittgenstein (specifically thePhilosophical Investigations) and assemblage sculpture. This research was fueled by the same curiosity about the possibilties of object-based sculptural practice which has also driven 20 years of creative production in this medium, resulting in a substantial number of exhibitions both within the United Kingdom and internationally. The notion of the sculptural as a distinctive set of qualities and criteria (after Koed) also informs his work. Michael works in a variety of educational contexts, which include academic and community settings. All of these activities enrich his teaching practice, and by extension, his creative output – as, for him, these two areas of endeavour are fundamentally intertwined.

Visit Michael’s website