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The Act of Improvisation within the work of Tacita Dean

Research centre
Art and Design Research Centre

Date
2012

This Special Issue speaks to CRIs notion of improvisation as a site for the analysis of social practice

This Special Issue speaks to CRIs notion of improvisation as a site for the analysis of social practice. To this end the authors explore practical experiences of improvisation through experimental artistic practice. The research sets out to construct a tripartite structure that incorporates failure, serendipity, and sagacity, leading to improvisation by exploring the practice of Tacita Dean and in particular the exhibition, 'An Aside' (2005). Through this exhibition Dean draws together a number of other artists, that at first seem unrelated, into a deceptively provocative and cohesive exhibition by adopting a dilettante role to curatorial practice.

By conducting a critical analysis of Dean's approach in curating this exhibition and a number of her own works, Sneddon considered her welcoming of chance, contingency, and chaos. The research develops a new understanding and awareness of how sagacity foregrounds the use of improvisation as the main driver of the creative process. By considering this choice of work, we are provided with a number of projects that have initially 'failed' at presenting the artist with opportunities to improvise.

By considering ‘An Aside’ and selecting three of Dean’s own projects; 'Banewl' (1999). 'Diamond Ring' (2001), and ‘Presentation Sisters’ (2005), Dean demonstrates the creative impulse and ability to respond to serendipitous discoveries that allows the unimaginable.

This article explores the creative process of how artists make decisions that rely on sagacity and intuition. As Dean has said, ‘uninvited disappointments which are unbelievably painful at the time become productive in hindsight’. Understanding the role of sagacity allows for unexpected results and access to a framing device through which the coherence of the decision-making process of the artists is revealed.

Throughout the article Sneddon refers to methods and approaches borrowed from anthropology to provide new understanding of contemporary art practice that incorporates chance.

Researchers involved

Andrew Sneddon - Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Fine Art and course leader for BA (Hons) Creative Art Practices

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