Art and the Conscious Mind Workshop – Artists intentions and Audience Self Awareness

I found this such a helpful and interesting workshop, it really inspired me to consider a different approach to how I direct my work.

Our discussion began with the theory of embodiment, we are able to navigate and experience the world because we are made of the same material as the world. However, we are consciously aware of very little and a lot of our experience is processed subconsciously. The element of surprise often prompts our conscious awareness, for example seeing a chair on the floor, beside a table is most likely going to be processed by our subconscious as it is a ‘normal’ occurrence – however, if we were to walk into a room and see a chair on top of a table, with someone sat in it – our conscious mind is drawn to the unexpected event.

Artists have a lot to offer in the debate on consciousness and can generate ways to draw out the awareness of an audience.

Richard Serra is a good example of an artist who has worked specifically to create a sense of audience awareness within his work. His large metal sculptures draw the viewers attentions to their presence next to the large scale pieces – becoming dwarfed and aware of their vulnerability, they may also become aware of the softness and frailty of their bodies next to the hard, solid metal structures.

We also had the opportunity to experience our lecturer – Craig Thomas’s own installation work, which also looks to explore a new way of allowing an audience to experience their own presence.


The work Labyrinth, exists as a maze of netted material, with projected lines of light shining through. Navigating through the piece was such a distinctive experience, the lines move up and down and generate a real feeling of being pushed down and lifted up. The space was disorientating, but created a real sense of awareness of your own presence within the space, almost in a way that was dreamlike – but very distinct from any other experience I’ve ever had.

This workshop was really enjoyable, and from it, I have begun to consider how I approach my own practice and what it is that I actually look to do with my work. Often my work looks to explore a theme or idea, in quite a metaphorical way – but I can see that I very rarely consider the actual audience experience of my work, it tends to instead be a reflective exercise. Following the discussion in this workshop I am beginning to consider how I can re-frame my intentions with my work, giving much more thought to the actual reaction or experience I want to give the audience. Instead of a passive act of reflection, I would like to start considering how I could create work that can create an experience.


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