My Master’s Degree in Fine Arts was taken at the University of the Witwatersrand. For this degree, I developed a project titled Some Combinations: Praxis, Multimodal Art Research, and Complex Environments. This project moves around three areas: those of creative arts research, environments understood through complexity, and Johannesburg city, understood as a complex environment. This project investigated the emergence of environments in Johannesburg through a series of encounters and responses to these encounters. These engagements with details of this city allowed me to develop, drawing from a range of theories, a multimodal research process that is useful for creating knowledge and sensation in the world.
My engagements with Johannesburg were a series of becomings in, through, around, and with the city. The project drew on these experiences as an entry point into a philosophical understanding of environments as complex systems (Cilliers 2005, 2007; Morin 1999, 2007, 2008), and as being co-constitutive of assemblages (Deleuze & Guattari 1987). Through the production of works of art and its processes (Deleuze & Guattari 1994) in different modalities (Cole & Masny 2009) as praxis (Deleuze 2004a), these undertakings can be understood as creative arts research.
The structure of the Masters of Fine Arts degree required the submission of a theoretical component and practical component. The theoretical component took the form of a dissertation. The project’s practical component was assessed through the form of an exhibition. The project as a whole, however, worked to question the validity of that separation given the type of knowledge generation that occurs through the arts. In approached theory writing as a practice, and argued that it exists alongside other practices that are useful for understanding particular aspects of the world. Such a move expanded my thinking toolbox with a range of methods: writing, reading, conversing, walking, object-making, space-making, and so forth. These methods and processes in the world, I argued, allow arts-based research to function not only in reflection but also as productive engagement with the world. Underlying my investigation into research design, method and methodology, then was a deep relationship to place and place-making.
The dissertation and the exhibition, therefore, were only two entry points into an embedded research project that was engaged with processes, materials, and bodies in various environments. The research was an attempt to find a working approach that can engage complexity (Cilliers 2005, 2007; Morin 1999, 2007), heterogeneity, and becomings (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 1994).