Abstract of PhD Thesis

Experiments with the Activated Presence: Joanna Louise Mayes 2004

“This thesis considers how the making of artwork can enhance or develop an experience of being present. This is done through researching what it means to be present within the moment and how this can be shared with audience. An exploration and analysis of this way of working is provided, both in terms of the research process and artwork outcomes made as a consequence of it.  The entanglement of process with outcome is central, as is the interrelatedness between personal research and artworks presented to audience.

Activated presence refers to a way of researching, making and presenting performative artwork; artwork made from a place of attention to the moment. This is the expanded moment of Eastern philosophy, Christian mysticism and the new physics; what Varela describes as the ‘deep now’ (qtd. in Mulder 18). This notion of activated presence also refers to, and acknowledges, the collaboration between ideas, materials, artist and audience in the creation of artwork.

My initial approach is to make personal research explorations, utilising the terrain of Dartmoor[1] as a starting point, with walking and documenting as essential tools for this exploration of presence. Initial plans to create outcomes utilising digital technologies are dispensed with in favour of physical exploration of site, utilising audio-visual recording technologies as tools for the documentation of presence. These documentary outcomes form the basis for further investigations, whether through installation or video artwork. A more direct and inclusive relationship to audience is then considered; where the artwork outcomes investigate and acknowledge the notion of activated presence, through audience participation. This practice forms the heart of the thesis, through both critical and reflective writing, and associated audio-visual documentation. Also included are short edits of associated video artwork (DVD and DVD Rom).

Available through Dartington College of Arts, Plymouth University, 2004

[1] Dartmoor National Park; the high moorland area of central Devon, England and its immediate surroundings.”