UWS Archive: Skill, Skilled, Skilling

Year:     2001
Level:     First Years, Autumn Semester 1
Unit:     33062 Foundation Studies 1
Duration:     6 days
Dates:     April 23, 30, May 7, 14, 21, 28, June 4


This project was again something of a team-effort, although the original question around what constitutes a skill was my suggestion. The preliminary shoebox drawing component probably was suggested by Chai. The list of artists to reference came from Eugenia.


Given that we appeared to be quite consciously working in an environment of de-skilling (or rather de-conditioning in respect of what can constitute an ‘art practice’), I thought it would be interesting to re-introduce the notion of acquiring skills and becoming skilful, but view this not in an evidently ‘artistic’ way eg: a ‘skilled’ painter (adept at manipulating paint) or a skilled ceramicist (adept at manipulating clay), but rather see it in relation to what would normally be considered more mundane (non-artistic) activities or accomplishments such as ‘getting dressed in the morning, which for the purposes of the project would then become ‘the art’ of getting dressed in the morning: ‘Art’ as a verb rather than a noun that could be applied indiscriminately to any activity.

The first phase involved evoking the sense of the particular skill chosen through graphic notation of various kinds that would allude to the skill in question, alongside relevant ‘tools’ associated with that particular skill. This ‘toolkit’ along with the ‘drawn plans’ would then facilitate a ‘skilful’ studio activity that would be illustrative in some way of the chosen skill.


The second project addresses issues of “skill” and will attempt to broaden the scope of possibilities, in the different ways in which that term can be understood; in extending its definition to include a variety of activities that are not in this case specifically art-related and may in fact be considered quite mundane as tasks but that none the less require a certain kind of “skill” to perform or achieve.

Five simple examples of the performance of a mundane skill:

1  the art of consuming a bar of chocolate or ice block, without leaving a trace of the activity.
2  the art of riding a bicycle, without falling off.
3  the art of watching television without becoming distracted or falling asleep.
4  the art of talking on the telephone.
5  the art of showering and getting dressed.

The idea is to work in unaccustomed ways with accustomed habits (is a habit a skill?)
What part does time, repetition and practice play in acquiring a skill?

This project operates initially through the processes of “drawing out” a skill
First you need to select a “skill” that you have (this should have no relationship to art-making)
You then need to think of ways in which that “skill” can be made evident as a “drawing” or form of graphic notation that can be contained within, outside and around a shoebox (and could incorporate aspects of the shoebox itself). You are not allowed to use drawing implements in any conventional sense to create the “drawing” (eg. drawing with a pencil or a paintbrush in your hand). You need to devise other means to generate the “drawing”. Graphite, charcoal, ink, paint etc. can be used but cannot be applied in the conventional way. Consider other mediums and implements of mark making. The “box” needs to be full of “drawing”

Some key words for this project:
Trace, tracing, imprint, print, press, impression, mark, marking, remarking, remaking, scoring, scratching, dragging, repeating, custom-made (individualised), ending, endless, unfold, uncover, recover, discover.

Requirements to be brought to the first session after the break:

1  The filled “shoebox” “drawing out” the “skill” you have selected.

2  A “suitcase” that not only contains the “shoebox” (above) but also sufficient “tools” and materials to be able to work further on developing the “skill” you have chosen.

The following artists (to be found in the library) would be useful to research in relation to this project. The catalogue of the 11th Biennale of Sydney “Everyday” (1998) contains much relevant material (see Martin Creed, Germaine Koh, Ximena Zomosa, Ariane Epars) as well as works by Janine Antoni (gnaw / loving care), Felix Gonzalez-Torres (lolly installations), Ann Hamilton (tropos / lineament), Pistoletto ( globe), Marina Abramovic & Ulay, Kusama Yayoi (infinite mirror room / phalli’s field), Cia Guo-Qiang (the firework drawings), Fiona Hall (Paradisus terrestria).

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