17 Nisan 2014 Perşembe

Journals: Unfolding the Process of Inquiry

On a page from one of my notebooks dating back to autumn 2009, some half-erased writing reads “home is where you …” and a little bit of “r” at the end. This is a provisional answer for the underlying question that drives my inquiries. The partial sentence (“home is where you ...”) on the page questions whereabouts of “home”. The precision of that one line answer is disfigured at the end. A cup of coffee spilt on the page and washed away my desires for a quick fix.
Underneath the partly erased handwriting, a drawing surfaces vaguely in the background. The drawing is from a time when I was waiting for my flight to Edinburgh at the airport in Istanbul and the writing is from a later day. I can tell the exact date of the drawing and I remember the location very well. It was the time I was setting off for Edinburgh and waiting for departure, sitting across those chairs I have drawn in my journal. The drawing belongs to that moment, it is an observation from the immediate surroundings. The short sentence happened to land on the other side of the page at sometime when I was in Edinburgh, it is a reflection on an ongoing inquiry. In a way, these inscriptions represent different sides of my inquiry, different ways of exploring the field.
In this chapter, I will try to elaborate on the process of research, “the Searcher’s labyrinthian wanderings” (Unwin, 2009, p.39) by revisiting my journals; the field notes which I have kept over the course of my research informed by an autoethnographic sensibility.
 As Schneider and Wright indicate “‘the field diary’ of the anthropologist … and the sketchbook or ‘visual diary’ of the artist” is another common practice between art and anthropology (Schneider and Wright, 2006, p.26). My journal-keeping practice gained a particular significance after I decided to approach my research from an autoethnographic perspective, for which developing a “personal sense” of the field is an essential practice.
Primarily, I have considered the principle of autoethnographic journal-keeping practice to be a meticulous self-monitoring, self-tracking gesture. Such work aims to reach to an understanding of the site of inquiry through the personal, which requires an ability to keep a critical, reflexive eye on oneself. how do I handle my field as a practicing artist? What purpose do these journals serve in my practice?

In the journals, the character of my dwelling appears on a daily basis. The pages are filled with quick notes, to do lists, hand-drawn maps for finding my way and journey details, timetables; minute observations, reflections, diary entries, and comments on daily events; sketches, scribbles, notes for future projects and questions; some references to look at later on; life studies from my surroundings, drawings of everyday objects and sketches for installation proposals. A disparate range of materials serve wildly differing purposes: notes on how to get by in everyday situations as a newcomer, notes of ideas for projects to be developed and notes from the field all accumulate on these pages.
I find it hard to bring these diverse paths appearing in the journals into a coherent and polished whole. In the process of inquiry, the researcher is located “in the middle of things, in motion” says writer and architectural designer Jane Rendell (2003, p.224). The flow of things takes the research towards unexpected directions. The space of inquiry is open to generative and creative possibilities, in which research is considered as an open-ended process, through which ideas, concepts and theories emerge. The disobedient character of the wandering mind opens unforeseen diversions from the main destination which shape the character of inquiry and thus, the knowledge produced. Therefore, Linda Richardson argues that the production of a “textual corpus”, a “text” and theory should be reconsidered as something substantially driven by practice, as an ambiguous project in the making, a work emerging in the process (2000, p.940).
As a discipline which traditionally identifies itself with the “writing of the culture”, the text is pretty much at the centre of ethnographic research. There are different modalities of “writing” present in the ethnographic research process, as Nigel Rapport describes:
There is inscription – the writing of notes, keywords and mental impressions; there is transcription – the writing of dictated local texts; and there is description – the final writing of coherent reflections and analyses, facilitating a later retrieval of overall sense and order (1997, p.94).
In all of these three modes, (in-scription, trans-scription and de-scription) what is common is the task of scribere, the Latin word for “to write”. From the beginning of ethnographic research to the very end of it, writing is the task that the ethnographer engages with; it is the medium shaping the whole process. From the quick notes and minute observation in the journals to the final monograph, the ethnographer writes. These myriad modes of -scriptions are woven together to form the final corpus.
Yet, Tim Ingold distinguishes between writing and inscription. Inscription, in its original sense, which Ingold is expanding upon, is not “a matter of finding the right words to record or convey what has been observed” (2007, p.128). The act of inscription is about following the gestures and lines of the matter. Writing shares with drawing, as well as “walking, weaving, observing, singing, storytelling” an innate character to “proceed along lines of one kind or another” (2007, p.1). Thus, by emphasising this character of writing that merges with the field it is studying, Ingold suggests a “graphy” that follows the lines of the world in its becoming. In that sense, the work of ethnography could be understood as “inscribing culture” instead of “writing culture”.
On the pages of my journals writings and drawings of various sorts, in various modalities come together, in differing relationships to each other. The drawings on my journals almost always appear with writing. They subtitle, supertitle and annotate the drawings. The writings surround, underline the sketches; they become lines to be pursued further. The complex trajectory between making and thinking fleshes out in this correspondence.While sketching for future works questions and some possible solutions to be tested are jotted down next to the sketches. The drawings intermingle with the lines of handwriting and intertwine different modalities of observing and thinking about the field of inquiry.
The inscriptions in my journals manifest the paths I have taken during the course of my research, the disobedient diversions in my inquiries. These paths sometimes conflict, sometimes cut across each other and sometimes turn into dead ends with no concrete destination. Yet each path signposts a specific moment and creates the many layers of my inquiries. The velocity of a page ranges between quick scribbles and detailed drawings, between short notes written hastily and lengthy reflections that cover the surface of the page line by line. Different paces of thinking and different modalities of working appear in my journal pages. The way I dwell on the space of my notebooks hints at the way I dwell on this “many sited, open ended” (Rapport, 1997, p.xvii) field of my research. The loose, multidirectional trajectory appearing in the notebooks interweaves the destination(s) of my inquiry.
When it comes to following the provisional guidelines I sketched in the journals, working on these fleeting ideas in the flesh, the actuality of turning these ideas into reality changes the character of the lines. A column of tourist travel adaptors that I imagine to look like a spinal column proves itself to be difficult to realise, for example. In these sketches, in the imaginary exercises for future work, the faint lines of imagination set me free, yet the work in the studio has its own dynamics translating my sketchy ideas into its own making. Other unexpected questions rise which demand addressing. The light material of imagination wandering on the page lands on the ground and it is now subject to gravity. An embodied, embedded inquiry is at issue here, the loose ends of things, “things” which gather the world in themselves (see Heidegger, The Thing 1977) draw the routes of my wanderings. New questions and unanticipated sideways emerge along this route.
Bruno Latour reminds us that in research, “‘where to travel’ and ‘what is worth seeing there’ is nothing but a way of saying in plain English what is usually said under the pompous Greek name of ‘method’ or, even worse, ‘methodology’”(2005, p.17). Method originally means a “pursuit, a following after” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Practitioners as “wayfarers” follow “the grain of the world’s becoming and bending it to his or her evolving purpose” Tim Ingold says (2010, p.92). Thus, the method and methodology of practice suggest an intertwined movement with the field of inquiry. Beyond rigid structures and strict guidelines, this is instead an attendance to the everyday world. Through “coupling the movement of the observer’s attention with currents of environmental activity” the aim of the inquiry does not only seek “to represent the observed but to participate with it in the same generative movement” (Ingold, 2012, p.11). This is a way of searching that is always on the move and it is always open to unexpected trajectories. A mode of thinking that opens towards something that was not there at the outset.
“This is serendipity”, says Dona Davis reflecting on the “intrinsically haphazard endeavour” of ethnographic fieldwork practice (2007, p.3). Relying on “happenstance and chance” Davis suggests that such a practice acknowledges “unsought, unanticipated or not predicted”(ibid.) aspects of the field that demands following new directions and unexpected diversions opening in the process. It is in the nature of the “method”, of the “way” to be diverted. As such, the “method” of a practitioner differs from a method that is “largely about testing hypotheses ... about predictability” (2007, p.3). For Davis, the latter is the quintessential “way” of scientific study.
Similarly, Brenda Farnell and Robert Wood emphasise the distinctive ways scientific discourses work and they underline the distinction between the practices of art and science. While artistic practices “aim to enrich and expand the realms of human experience”, the latter “usually aim to understand such experience through explicit conceptual formulation” (Farnell and Wood, 2011, p.93). Whereas scientific discourse aspires to provide an “explanation of the world”, art dwells on ambiguity “to give us an expansive experience of human being in that world” (ibid.). There is a tension between such an approach aiming for a closure, for a conclusion and an attitude which instead suspends the answers and holds a rather ambiguous position “released from the need to circumscribe or explain” (Ravetz, 2011, p.161). 
These inscriptions manifest the routes of the unanticipated ways of making-thinking which is the essential character of a practice based study. They host the unruly wanderings of a practitioner, of “distracted, tactile eye” (Ingold, 2011, p.14) drawn by the serendipitous, evasive character of a world that draws us towards things that might not happen at states of heightened awareness” (Ravetz, 2011, p.169). The journals house moments of passing resolutions to “be configured into a formation ... an essay, thesis, painting, sculpture, symphony, poem, design, recipe, play whether monster or masterpiece” (Unwin, 2009, p.38). Yet the motivation behind these “final” forms is not to “illustrate ideas” (Rendell, 2003, p.225), or to explain. These “formation[s]” describe an itinerary, a way that opens itself to the other .