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Portfolio NW Artists talking blog post #2: Darren Murphy

For the second contribution to the Portfolio NW Artists talking blog, writer and artist Darren Murphy considers the attempt to create a critical framework around the exhibition:

"An interest in dialogue is the main drive behind my work … the conversation [in all its forms] is the integral part of my work." Darren Murphy (2013)

"A theorist is one who has been undone by theory." - Irit Rogoff, What is a theorist? (2006)

Through Portfolio NW, the Bluecoat is constructing the framework around the exhibition for critical discussion to take place: Jack Welsh's text, this blog and a critical writing event to be held by The Double Negative. How, though, can an institution be involved in the development and presentation of work, then expect to have a say in how it is spoken about?

An artist's statement, such as the extract of my own at the head of this article, is intended for an audience to help them engage with the artist's work. The artist's statement is commonly believed to follow this definition, but I see it serving a greater purpose. Statements help the artist understand their own practice; they help the artist place their work within the extended ecosystem of the art world, and help the artist understand why they are doing what they are doing.

My statement explains that my practice is the pursuit of both creating and understanding dialogue. I recently completed a programme of discussion as my contribution to the Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2013; I saw it as the first opportunity to expose the mechanisms of my practice as well as to explore its potential. A question (which remains largely unanswered) was lying below the surface of the discussions: ‘What is the potential of the discursive framework?’  When this question came towards the surface, people opposed it, but rather than answer the question we explored it. We needed to mutually understand what each word meant in order to move forward, yet the experiences of each interlocutor affected their own understanding of the words, and the conversation would often wander. It seemed the potential of the discursive framework was unfathomable, endless. Could it not be a means to an end?

In her essay What is a theorist?, Irit Rogoff questions the theorist and reaches the conclusion that they have become undone by their own research. In a pursuit of understanding the role of theory, the theorist has fulfilled that phrase attributed to Socrates by Plato, "The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know" and placed themselves in disarray. The theorist is one who has become undone by theory. Rogoff’s text dismantles the theorist, and then encourages each of us to do the same with our own practices. She advocates a present where we dismantle the platforms we stand on, a world where we consider the current and the future more than the past, a criticality. Portfolio NW is creating an opportunity to do what Rogoff asks of us.

Through Portfolio NW, the Bluecoat is becoming the framework for discussion; it is providing not only the content for a discussion but the people to have it with and also the venue for it to happen. It is encouraging an exploration of the present and encouraging a critical analysis of itself.

Darren Murphy, recent graduate of Manchester School of Art, has written for and exhibited at a number of the North West's cultural institutions. His work, regardless of how it manifests, explores the interplay of art and how we regard it.


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Image: Darren Murphy, Hours of Idle Conversation, 2013. Photo: John Lynch.


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