Full review of Module 703

Developing the Third Man and his unreliable narrator as a framework for my practice.

Defining the philosophical context


1.Embracing the notion of the space between conversationalists (conversational partners) is paramount because I am keen to explore the idea of the realisation of proximity.

2. Creating narrative is key because it is analogous to the act of conversation, and the way it is exchanged (moment to moment) using homonyms as an analogy because the multiple  interpretations available for each of the words aligns to the ease with which one is able to misinterpret or redirect meaning; here standing in for self-bias.

3. I want to develop a work which considers humour as integral to its development and is referred to in the outcome.

4. Crucially I wanted to set myself a challenge which would, in part give me space to experiment with mediums and improve my Jelly Printing technique, and also test my commitment to my practice. My proposal for the year defined that I was to focus down on producing prints as part of my outcome and to use figurative work to build or work up my ideas


Having critically evaluated my practice over the summer my overriding drive this year is to examine my practice in terms of working to my strengths by drawing out my commitment to printmaking, illustration and language.

Reading about Oulipo (Gallix, 2013), for instance Raymond Queneau – One Thousand Billion Poems – Cent Mille Millards de Poems ) and considering the use of humour in artistic practices where “accidentally comic situations, or perhaps a private joke which you happen to stumble across,[ but which you] are not really sure whether [whether] it is supposed to be humorous or not.”(Dezeuze, 2008) and yet gives you pause to consider what is being said by the work or the artists. These considerations have helped build a better structure to my framework arguments and this combined with my deep research into artists who specifically make work which highlights our awareness of proximity for my essay  seeded the idea to contextualise notion that a conversation occupies the space between coversants.

Practical Drivers

Starting this semester by working figuratively in both pen and ink and in lino relief printing (under a mentor) brought back a reason for being an artist, I found great pleasure in producing a series of drawings of pigeons in pen and ink and in designing and producing two lino prints. However, my ambition to produce a triptych of some 8 sq ft per frame as flocked lino prints, which fulfilled my need to bring humour had the complication of a time commitment due to the problematic production of lino cutting in the time frame, particularly as I wanted to explore other aspects of my practice too, brought to bear, on a practical level, that I was also having problems with the bendiness of my joints which meant that the act of cutting the lino was putting pressure on my finger joints and would, as a practice, eventually have physical consequences.

Talking with Chirs Cox during my tutorial this year brought home my own aims of exploring my strengths this year. I was greatly encouraged that he was able to recall areas on which I had consistently questioned other artists in their reviews or articulated my views during group discussion and he made a connection from these for me to my practice/proposal. This tutorial helped me focus and pinpoint important drivers such as my interest in the connection to meaning and non-meaning and chance and random outcomes, and a strong attraction to patterns which can be generated through these actions. Taking these considerations forward I decided to concentrate on the abstract canvass and paper prints.

I have made a film of the Pigeons in Tavistock and like the way they move about gently in the space and the interludes of disturbance and they fly into and out of shot and interact with each other. I will keep this film as part of the work to help make the connection between the final elements. However in the main I realise that I don’t have filming in my skill set and all the other films I took and those from Gary at the crit added nothing to the works narrative beyond recording the process. (See Blog Review)

The Challenge

The choice of canvasses and the sheer number has indeed proved a challenge in terms of logistics and application. I am enjoying the deep engagement with the process whilst, overwhelmingly, I am constantly pushing myself to stick to the rules I have set myself to produce the series of prints. My head is constantly trying to change the rules or the method, but there has been a new awareness which has come with making myself complete each set of 30 canvasses with one stencil and one colour for each layer has led to innovation and critical evaluation in the design process.


The introduction of a title.

The creation of multiples as monotypes prints brought to mind Plato’s Third Man Arguement  and the idea of pigeons as birds which we recognise as pigeons but which are, actually, quite different and their propensity to fly up between people, which seemed to embody the idea of conversation occupying a specific physical area.

Having created a link between humanness, conversations and jokes it was from Josie Cochrans’ reference to the ‘unreliable narrator ‘in the story telling seminar that a) brought a smile when using that to describe how I was creating a narrative and b) seemed entirely appropriate. The same seminar also emphasised the connection to The Third Man through our review and performed Ursula Le Guin’s meme “It was a dark and Stormy Night” (Le Guin, 2013); the narrative examples the change of emphasis dependent on how the story is related or related to. The story being told and retold emphasising that whilst there was one story it had multiple iterations.

Focusing down on one aspect of language to create a framework

This brings me to the use of  the ambiguity in Heteronyms (Stevens, 2013) as exampled in related or related to. Following the Activity Session in the crit I have contemplated my delivery and context and begun to review what is important, or necessary, in the delivery and framework for this piece, and how I want the audience for the work to contribute the element of chance to the narrative.

Considering how human we are in the context of ourselves and art

Humour is pertinent to my work and to validate humour as an area of critical research I am developing subjective and objective taxonomies for humour and its connection to ourselves in artistic practice (Higgie, 2007).  As I see it humour reflects the human condition and is bound to the analytical philosophy as a pragmatic aesthetic (Shusterman, 1992) which can be applied as a philosophies, within the analysis of humanness, as an awareness of ourselves and our relationship with art. Research into this area has included works by Richard Shusterman, Simon Crichley and Jennifer Higgie. Initially I had thought to frame the work in the context of the absurd, but recent deeper research of the use of humour in arts practice has refined this notion to effect a less obvious route and brought a focus on the humanness of people tying this to my context. The notion that a joke mirrors the delivery of conversation and social communication as a focus in my current practice framework.

I am also evaluating artists who consider humour as integral to their practices, (List and links below) particularly focussing on those who acknowledge that there is:

“It has to be a congruence between the joke teller and the audience, if you like there’s a there’s a tacit social contract at work”(Talks, 2008) Simon Crichley

Simon Crichley argues that humour examples the ‘human’ condition and that philosophy includes comedy in its consideration of our humanity (Critchley, 2001). You could argue that the joke ties us to a philosophical anthropology of humanness (Plessener) in that ‘we can experience the experience of our life’(Mul, 2016) Habits and feelings can be intelligent, and by paying better attention to them, they can be rendered more intelligent, effective, and rewarding” (Shusterman, 2010) I believe that it is our consideration of these aspects that leads us to an awareness of ourselves in proximity to the situation, be that an object or an emotion, which defines us as our body and which is considered by Merleau-Ponty in his Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/2005).

Further research will, I hope, bring a deeper understanding of humour in artistic practice as a definition of ourselves as ‘human’ in a way which will help me frame our fundamental and amusing propensity to react/reinterpret subjectively and thus define that space in which we may listen to but not necessarily hear what is delivered.

External influences

Megan Players (review here) Humour and Humanness

David Shrigley (review here) Humour and Humanness

Joe Ketsher (review here)  Humour and the humanness

Imogen Stidworthy (review here) Text and sound

Edward Woodman lead Letters over a cliff

Martin Creed (review here) screwed up paper balls

Bruce Nauman (review here)  text and humorous delivery

Ursula Le Guin (review here) It Was A Dark & Stormy Night

Raymond Queneau (review of OuLipo here) One Thousand Billion Poems

Dave Ball I Don’t Know Why But Fish Are Just Funny Dissrtation (Ball, TBS)

Ball, D. TBS. I Don’t Know Why But Fish Are Just Funny: Figuring the Event of Humour.

Critchley, S. (2001) On humour. New York ; London: New York ; London : Routledge.

Dezeuze, A. (2008) ‘: Article : Whatâ’ so funny?  Anna Dezeuze on humour and contemporary art’, Art Monthly, 314.

Gallix, A. (2013) ‘Oulipo: freeing literature by tightening its rules’.

Higgie, J. (2007) The artist’s joke. London : Cambridge, Mass.: London : Whitechapel ; Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press.

Le Guin, U. K. (2013) ‘It Was a Dark and Stormy Night; Or, Why Are We Huddling about the Campfire? – Le Guin Dark and Stormy Night.pdf’, Critical Inquiry,  Vol. 7, No. 1, On N, 7.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/2005) Phenomenology of Perception (Hardback) – Routledge. Translated by: Smith, C. 4 edn. London: New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, p. xiv, xix, 64, 70, 87,101,106,116, 117, 239, 369,.

Mul, P. J. D. 2016. Talk: Philosophical Anthropology 2.0 – YouTube. UTube: University of Malta.

Shusterman, R. (1992) Pragmatist aesthetics : living beauty, rethinking art. Oxford: Oxford : Blackwell.

Shusterman, R. (2010) ‘What Pragmatism Means to Me: Ten Principles’, Revue française d’études américaines, n° 124(2), pp. 59-65.

Stevens, R. J. (2013) Wordplay – Heteronnyms.

Talks, G. 2008. Simon Chrichley on Humour. New York: UTube.