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Discussion paper from the Working Group on Situational Fiction, Chelsea College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London: On the value of Situational Fiction for an artist's writing

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This article takes the issue of epistemology in writing for (performance) art to ask: What is the value of using fictional as in novelistic writing in reflective discourse on creative practice generally?

Using Susan Sontag's seminal essay Against Interpretation as a starting point, the article argues that much writing on art assumes art's will-to-signify its value as a form of meaning and consequently explanation as the purpose of art writing. The problems with this reflex are discussed, including its suppression of alternative responses, which may include acknowledging that art is an affective entity: it has a function (if, in Kant's phrase, it is without purpose) and it has an ontology that may be more than its identity as signification.

Extending, or restoring, the scope of art's reflective discourse in this way, the paper also notes, via reference to George Steiner, that a reciprocal extension for the media of this discourse is also possible, and it seeks to map the two extensions as the axes of a grid that offers varied combinations of the content-form dimensions of art writing. One of these conjunctions produces fictional writing as a possible response to art. Seeming to dispel the problem of reductionism in explanatory discourse, the article then goes on to argue that the use of fiction in the spaces of art writing Situational Fiction may be valuable in other ways as well.

Hence, this is an argument for knowledge of creative practice in creative form. But Situational Fiction may pursue this ethos of creative knowledge in another way as well: as its reflexive dimension implicates the reader in deciding whether any aspect of this academic paper designates this work as fictional, as the paper understands this.

Keywords: Situational Fiction; Susan Sontag; artists' writing; creative knowledge; explanation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of the Arts London, UK.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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