Course
Broken Grammar

Instructor
Michael Bowdidge

Description
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.

Goals
To explore the use of non-medium specific creative strategies in relation to the notions of grammar (and its disruption), the former being understood here as a way of reframing and thinking normative structures. 

To achieve a general understanding of the many ways in which notions of grammar (and their disruption) can be brought into fruitful and productive dialogue with creative practice.

To explore the use of grammatical structures (and their disruption) specifically as a way of understanding the processes and/or results of individual or collaborative creative practices.
 

Schedule
Day 1
: Wittgenstein and the disruption of grammar as method.

10.00 – 10.15: Course introduction, course aims, course ethos and protocols.

10.15 – 11.00: Short exercise: Breaking Grammar #1

11.00 – 13.00: Class presentation and discussion of readings: a brief introduction to Wittgenstein, his methods and his interest in grammar and its disruption and how doing so brings the ‘deep grammar’ of ‘forms of life’ to visibility, and how this resonates with both Max Ernst’s notion of ‘the cultivation of the effects of systematic putting out of place’ and with the Burroughs/Gysin ‘cut-up’ method.

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 15.30: Assignment: make three works in a medium or media of your choice.

One which makes use of a conscious (or compositional) displacement (this needs to be here because...)

One which makes use of random displacement (this ended up here and I like it there because...

One which makes use of random displacement with a view to stimulating conscious decisions about composition (this ended up here and I like it there but I think it would it be better over here).

Please be prepared to talk about your reasons for your choices

15.30 – 17.00: Group presentation and discussion of workshop results. 

Readings to prepare: 
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein/
http://www.manovich.net/vis242_winter_2006/New%20Media%20Reader%20all/07-burroughs-03.pdf


Day 2: The grammars of the everyday: “Surveyable by a re-arrangement”

10.00 – 11.00: Short exercise: Breaking Grammar #2

11.00 – 13.00: Class presentation and discussion of readings: the disruption of grammar as a way of rethinking and reconfiguring everyday objects, spaces and structures (both physical and social). Relevant artists will include Barbara Kruger, Meret Oppenheim, Bill Viola and Ai Weiwei, amongst others. 

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 15.30: Assignment: working with a grammatical structure that you encountered on your journey to or from class, identify three ways in which the grammar of that structure can be broken. Note what is exposed by doing so in each case. Choose one (or more) of these breakages and find a way of realising/enacting or simulating it. Now disrupt the grammar of what you have created.

Please be prepared to talk about your reasons for doing what you have done

15.30 – 17.00: Group presentation and discussion of workshop results. 

Reading to prepare: 
http://www.vasulka.org/archive/Publications/FormattedPublications/Viola.pdf

Bring to class:

Identify and record or describe a grammatical structure that you encounter on your journey to or from class. Use any medium or means that you feel is appropriate for that structure.


Day 3: A Grammar of Art? 

10.00 – 11.00: Short exercise: Breaking Grammar #3

11.00 – 13.00: Class presentation and discussion: looking at the various ways in which grammar has been used as a way of structuring and framing creative activity, and trying to establish what relationship these structures have with other notions of grammar, with a view to discovering what this fit (or lack of it) can tell us about art and its making. We’ll be looking at works by Pina Bausch, Jorge Borges, Rosalie Gascoigne, Kazimir Malevich, Steve Paxton and Ad Reinhardt, amongst others,

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 15.00: short exercise: Prescriptive/Descriptive

15.00 – 17.00: Preparation for and presentation of class workshop results. 


Reading Requirements
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein/
http://dangerousminds.net/comments/a_word_in_your_era_william_burroughs_explains_brion_gysins_cut_up_method
http://www.vasulka.org/archive/Publications/FormattedPublications/Viola.pdf

Suggested Readings
Ernst, M. (1948) Beyond Painting, And Other Writings by the Artist and His Friends. New York, Wittenborn & Schultz.
Fann, K.T. (1969) Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy. Oxford, Blackwell.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. Oxford, Blackwell.

Keywords
art, grammar, disruption, dislocation, wittgenstein

 

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