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Breaking Down Preconceptions | My Hermeneutics Circle


This section of research explores a comparative notion of similarities between accepted academic research - reading, comparing theorising - and more controversial artistic research - creating experimenting and conceptualising.

Figure 1: Diagram - Hermeneutics in relation to art. Inshes roundabout, near UHI, Inverness Campus. Screenshot from Google earth.

An artist’s methodology of investigation could be defined as ‘practice-based research’ in our quest to seek new meaning and truth. Just as the theologian studies scripture, artists study or research our ‘religion’ by creating. Thus, our practice becomes a cross referencing tool. This argument will be expounded upon by using a linguistic method of interpretation called ‘The Hermeneutic circle’ explored in Professor of Linguistics, Dr Paul Fry of Yale University. Bearing in mind that art can be used as a method of dialectal communication of a realisation of understanding between the author/artist to the reader/spectator. (Fry, P., 2012).

I worry that my road roundabout (fig, 1) turns into a merry go round at a children's playpark. There is a real danger of us being thrown off at any point, landing awkwardly only to stand, then wobble off, overcome with the dizziness of confusion. Noted is my memory of Dundonians calling a roundabout a ‘circle’.

The notoriously complicated, vicious roundabout near the UHI campus, (fig, 1) causes many a learner driver to fail their driving test. Even an experienced driver is confused about how to enter, manoeuvre around then exit. What is certain though is that wherever we enter and exit we can still return, enter then exit again and again from any direction.

The art of the hermeneutic circle of interpretation

When we smash a mirror then look again at the altered reflection our views or prejudice becomes distorted. It is in this distortion that our interpretation evolves.

Hermeneutics is a method or art of interpretation. When one is looking for a meaning or interpretation of biblical text, for instance, when one reads a solitary scripture, one forms a prejudiced subjective view. If our view or ‘scripture’ is cross referenced our prejudice or opinion evolves resulting in a new bias of interpretation. Fry explains that this circle of understanding is a process of breaking down prejudice that need not to be a vicious one but a rather a progressive, evolving sphere.

Referencing back to the subject of iconography one delves deeper into each progressive stage. If former or subsequent artwork was absent, then how could one progress onto the next stage; there would be nothing to ‘cross reference’ it with. Therefore, we would be bereft, devoid of objectivity, left in solitude with our first prejudiced subjective bias. (Cacioppo, J. and Cacioppo, S., 2018).

If a person allows themselves to have an evolving understanding through the act of creation preconception is broken down. Artistic methods of research such as reflection, conceptualisation, archiving, experimentation, crafting and social engagement are all way of searching for meaning or more importing meanings that are true. (Fry, P., 2012, p37).

Looking back at the circle (Fig, 1) it can been seen that at each point of research we act, make and create. This causes artists to open up our minds, or think out of the box, resulting in a deeper interpretation of our research questions. This interpretation then informs our research just as our research informs our practice.

Observation of comparative research adjectives | Artistic | Academic

Whilst comparing terms used to describe a process of artist practice-based research to academic research the following was observed (Table, 1).

Table 1: Highlighting similarities of terms that describe a process of research - artist with academic adjectives.


Reflecting back to the notorious Inshes roundabout (fig, 1) Fry’s explanation throws light onto the notion that an artistic researcher can enter the circle at any point using creativity to further explore in a unique way. The rest of the document shows evidence of how I have used informative visuals to enable me to further my understanding. I am communicating with myself through acceptable academic methods and cross referencing it with my work by ‘drawing’ my thoughts.

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