Protowork as Art’s Expanded Writing Practice
NC is applying for exemption from the Rules for Submission of Theses for Higher Degrees, to submit a thesis for the degree of PhD in the following form: a folio containing 23 writing-artefacts.
The thesis challenges certain preconceptions regarding what a thesis is and what art research and practice-based research are. It is art as research. It deliberately questions the distinction between practice and theory by bringing writing in various forms into practice in order to show how practice is already at work in the written and theoretical discourses conditioning practice. As such it actively puts into question the requirement for a separate written thesis.
The PhD proposes ‘expanded writing’ as art practice. Its originality is that it introduces the term ‘expanded’, common in other areas of art practice since the mid-60s, into writing for the first time. In achieving this the PhD does two things, it introduces writing into art practice, and hitherto non-writing art practices into writing. Thus it could not achieve its research aims without expanding its practice into the realm otherwise reserved for the written part of the PhD, and vice versa it had to bring the reflective and theoretical parts of the written component into the practice.
As the influx of diverse materials and processes into the common and restricted practice of writing as textual as opposed to the visual and/or material, the PhD goes on to question other distinctions, such as that between writing and the image. The ‘writing-artefact’ is the form peculiar to this inquiry. It is comprised of text, image and design elements and combinations of these. The writing-artefact is distinguished from other forms such as ‘chapter’ in the mode of its relation to the whole. Its place in an order of reading is not prescribed. It is a problematically autonomous component. Each is both self-contained and works with other writing-artefacts to establish the whole (the PhD) as itself a writing-artefact.
The usual form of submission for a practice-led PhD is therefore not appropriate for this research. The conventional division between written component and practical component of a PhD submission is elided by the nature of the practice itself. The folio is a unified body of work but it is not one document in a standardised format. It cannot be presented in accordance with certain of the rules for PhD thesis submission because the PhD proceeds by exploring the potential of writing’s diverse formats, whilst at the same time building into these formats a self-questioning and reflection on the nature of art research.
The PhD is just under 80,000 words, and will come with all the required technical apparatuses. The arrangement, production of images, and the various printing processes are all work that needs to be taken into account when quantifying the PhD.
The Supervisor’s Report to the External Examiner which will accompany the PhD will address all the above questions.