• Taking the long view: Cultivating an ecological worldview through the attentive observation of light

French, Michaela, 2020, Thesis, Taking the long view: Cultivating an ecological worldview through the attentive observation of light PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The concept of light as an ecological phenomenon serves as the catalyst for this practice-based artistic research investigation. The study adapts and applies psychologist James J. Gibson’s seminal text The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979) as a methodological framework for practice-based ecological artistic research. Light as information is central to this enquiry which investigates the systemically entwined interrelation between light, perceiver and environment. Following Gibson’s ecological principles of mutuality, reciprocity and subjectivity, the perceiver is understood as an active participant in a holistic, direct and inseparable interaction with their environment. The act of perceiving cannot be separated from the experience of the environment or co-perception of the self. In Gibson’s ecological paradigm, visual perception takes places within a field of light defined as the ambient optic array.

While Gibson’s ecological vision has a long association with art and design practice, his theory has not been adapted as a framework for practice-based artistic research. The Gibsonian methodology I develop combines artistic practice with ecological theory, visual perception and subjective observation. The framework is applied and tested through four practice-based artistic research projects using the research methods: Durational Observation, Ecological Lens and Reflective Artistic Practice. These methods are applied to investigate core tenets of Gibson’s theory through the attentive observation of light. The study is positioned within the emerging interdisciplinary field of ecological artistic scholarship.

As an artist-researcher, my subjective interactions with light serve as a site for enquiry and reflection. My perceptual experience and the integrated process of attentive observation influence the quality and breadth of knowledge emerging from the study. Gibson’s concept of an education of attention, which considers the perceptual system capable of maturation and learning as it is sensitised to increasingly refined information, was applied to generate new knowledge by expanding my capacity to perceive my environment. This approach afforded a reciprocal dialogue between theoretical and experiential knowing as the foundation of the enquiry.

The research demonstrates the value of Gibson’s theory as a framework for ecological artistic research. The research findings indicate that rigorous attentive observation of light leads to attunement; attunement to light leads to an education of attention; and an education of attention undertaken using the Gibsonian research framework cultivates an ecological worldview. This constitutes my original contribution to knowledge, which is supported by a body of evidence consisting of a comprehensive review of relevant theory and practice, visual data sets and light-based artworks. In establishing a research framework capable of cultivating an ecological worldview, my research affords a broader contribution in addressing the ecological imperatives increasingly influencing contemporary artistic and cultural discourse.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Communication
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2020 11:32
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2020 12:04
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4437
Edit Item (login required) Edit Item (login required)