overview

This workshop is offered as part of the Media Technology MSc and ArtScience programs. It deals with the question of how art installations (in the broadest sense of the word) can be documented in a structured manner. Such documentation can serve to promote the resulting work, explain it, get financing, or to describe the process by which it came about for a broader audience.

The method of documenting one's work that we discuss uses many elements from scientific writing. Central in this are:

The page that you are reading now is in support of the workshop. Part of the workshop is spent on documenting the works that students created. The results of this exercise are discussed within the group and feedback is given. This should kickstart the possible describing of these works for future use.

Who am I?

Maarten Lamers of the Media Technology MSc program at Leiden University. Follow these links if you want to know more.

What can you document?

What works did you create?

Why document your work?

Academic writing

Scientists have been writing down the results of their thinking and research for ages, in a highly structured and focussed way. In fact, writing is usually the only output of scientific labour. The method that I propose for documenting your work uses elements from academic writing:

"But my art speaks for itself!"

That's very true (I hope). However, reading your writing may be very different from experiencing your work. Reading about an artwork may enhance its experiencing or even kill it. But here's the thing: your writing is usually meant for another audience (curators and fellow artists, for example), and to add to the experiencing of the work itself. It is intended for people who want to go beyond experiencing your work.

Describe the context

The context of your work is what gives it meaning. It is the collection of knowledge, other works, human behaviour, current events, your own experiences, trends, whatever, that your work relates to.

Describe your choices

What about technical stuff?

Reflect on your own work

It is wise (and good practice) to include a short reflection on your own work at the end of your documentation. Perhaps you can draw some conclusions from your work or mention area's of improvement. Certainly when it comes to possible improvements, it is better to mention them yourself than to have someone else point them out to you afterwards.

A title

Start your document with an appealing title. If you named your product or installation, you can include that name. However, most often it is wise to give your documentation a more descriptive title, so that people can decide from the title if they want to read it. And don't forget to mention your name(s). Some examples:

Really useful: an abstract

An abstract is a short summary of your document (approx 100-150 words). Every scientific article starts with one, and they are a good thing to have.

Examples

Where to start?

Getting started is the difficult part. Most importantly, try to keep it simple at first! If you know a good project description that you like, use it as an example. Here is a suggestion for the steps that you can take:

  1. Think about the context of your work. How does it relate to other works? What theory does it use? Why is your work relevant at this time? Make a short list with some context issues. If necessary, find information about these issues on the web or elsewhere.
  2. What are the most important (conceptual) design choices that you made? Make a short list of a few, and make sure that they are conceptual choices, not technical ones.
  3. Make a structure for your document. Suggestion: 1. Introduction, 2. Context, 3. Your Concept (with design choices), 4. Technical Issues, 5. Conclusion and Remarks.
  4. Start by writing the Context section. After that, describe your concept and design choices. Then the Technical Issues (keep it short!).
  5. Shortly discuss your own work in the Conclusion and Remarks section.
  6. If you then still need it, you can write a short Introduction section (sometimes this gets merged into the Context section).
  7. Come up with a descriptive and catchy title.
  8. Finally, write the abstract that shortly summarizes what you wrote.
This is just a suggestion of how you can describe your work. Go ahead and rename the sections if you want, or split up your writing into more sections.

Assignment

Describe the work that you created for this course. Start with the structure that I proposed (1. Introduction, 2. Context, 3. Concept, 4. Technical, 5. Conclusion). Try to get as far as you can, and don't worry about the writing style. Present your writing before the group.