Apprenticed to Ghosts: Accountable for mending shadows

Julie Montgarrett

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    This paper concerns my creative practice as research which questions the received histories of the beginnings of settlement of Van Diemen’s Land – 1803-1825. By way of drawing and embroidery, I aim to present ‘possibilities from uncertainties’- visual narratives like unfinished sentences which aim to unsettle fixed perceptions of the past. By questioning the ways that narratives might be constructed to fold back across time I hope to reveal worthwhile aspects of the present from visual and material shadows of the past; to visually question these connections without falsifying history, to create contemporary meanings in ways denied to historians. Like most artists engaged with narrative form, my research is fundamentally performative in both its production and audience reception. It begins through a process of divergent textual, visual and material methodologies which assist the development of a personal language shaped by the disciplines and traditions of drawing and embroidery. These strategies generate more ‘enquiries’ to be tested visually and materially, returning to critical and textual sources to drive the wider research process. These are adaptable methodologies informed, challenged, re-directed, and motivated by way of an unpredictable process; a contingent, performative practice driven by a circular methodology. My creative practice is an ‘attention to the process of creativity’ as defined by Merleau-Ponty. It is a form of inquiry into the phenomena of visual narrative through artistic, material and aesthetic means. This creative practice-based methodology conceives research as an enactive space of living enquiry, a performative, material ‘making visible/tangible’ production of meaning. According to Barrett and Bolt, ‘ the innovative and critical potential of practice-based research lies in its capacity to generate personally situated knowledge and new ways of modelling and externalising such knowledge while at the same time, revealing philosophical, social and cultural contexts for the critical intervention and application of knowledge outcomes.’ Further, they refer to knowledge that arises through intuitive understanding closely related to Bourdieu’s theories of a logic of practice, of ‘being in the game’ where strategies are not pre-determined but emerge and operate according to specific actions and movements in time. As such my works emerge slowly through the research process. They don’t appear immediately like photographs; they evolve unpredictably, reliant on particular material encounters and chance occurrences that emerge from process. Form and content are gleaned and cross-referenced visually, materially, and textually through wider research and reading as much as the process of making to generate often unforeseen narratives, meanings and outcomes. Significantly the methodology of the artist is driven by trial and error and is profoundly reliant on ‘process’ as well as speculation, or asking the question, ‘what if?’. Or perhaps better still, as Samuel Beckett said, ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Fail again. Fail Better.’
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalFusion Journal
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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