21 August 2009

The inaugural Hinterland Reading Room event took place on 31 July 2007. Timely for me, in the sense that it coincided with a period of limbo in my own practice, where, through a rigorous process of self-reflection and improvement, I was attempting to reinvent my role as artist.

The first event, in which we read and discussed an extract of A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) by George Berkeley, can only be described as an eye-opener.

I found the exercise of reading such a text an act of endurance, but a rewarding one. Ashamedly, I had never heard of Bishop Berkeley before the event and had no idea how he, or any of the other copious numbers of philosopher’s dropped into the ensuing discussion, fitted into the larger chronology of the development of western philosophy over last few millennia.

I didn’t know, but now that I had become aware of the gulf in my knowledge, at least what I did know is that I wanted to find out. I started reading more books and my enthusiasm for the subject grew each day. An archived Tea Blog thought from this period gives us an insight:

22 August 2007, 9:52, Coffee

My sudden interest in philosophy must be a result of the reading group. I’m desperate to know everything there is to know so that I can say things like ‘oh, how very Nietzschean of you’ or ‘my, your behaviour is so Hegelian today’
Teablog (Entry no. 1067)

I wanted to develop an understanding of the ‘history of ideas’, not just so that I could make snide or witty remarks to impress my friends and colleagues, but more because it now seemed apparent, if not obvious, that this was essential knowledge for any aspiring conceptual artist, more than conventional art history itself.

The more I read, the more I stumbled on the conundrum of how to retain such a quantity of information, so that I could refer back on it and put it to good use in the future. I needed a ‘brain extension’ in which to order and archive it all. And so I created one, by designing Know Your Thinkers & Theorists – an easy-to-read, quick reference, colour-coded wall chart for my studio wall. The five posters (normally each printed at A1 size) were finally completed in autumn 2008 and are reproduced in miniature on the following pages.

The Know Your Thinkers & Theorists wall chart is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence and can be downloaded free from my website: www.ellieharrison.com

Ellie Harrison