Not strictly an installation, but more the by-product of a year-long research project for which, as part as her self-improvement programme, Harrison attempted to teach herself an overview of the chronology of Western philosophy and critical theory from 800 BC to the present. She hoped to retain this newly acquired information by designing an easy-to-read, quick reference, colour-coded wall chart for her studio wall.

In August 2006, Harrison officially ‘quit’ data collecting: documenting elements of her own everyday life. From this point onwards she embarked on a period of self-improvement in which she attempted to reinvent herself as an artist. In summer 2007, after coming to the realisation that her knowledge of philosophy and critical theory was extremely limited, she set about on a major research project to teach herself an overview of the chronology of these subjects from the ancient Greeks to the present.

She believed this task would help her develop an understanding of the history of ideas – which she had come to view as the more natural ancestor of the tradition of conceptual art, in which she firmly routes herself, than conventional art history. She hoped that this newly acquired knowledge would enable her to fulfil the manifesto laid out in her 2007 – 2008 Work With Me project, by enabling her to create more referential and intelligent artworks, which are able to engage a varied audience on a number of levels.

When research commenced, Harrison initially suffered frustration with her information retention abilities. She began to question our methods for acquiring and retaining knowledge and decided that, by visualising the information in a colour-coded wall chart designed especially for her studio wall, even if she was not able to remember everything that she learnt she could quickly access it again with a brief glance at the chart. The set of five posters which comprise the wall chart, therefore, become a storage extension for her brain.

After the wall chart was complete, inspired by Sir Francis Bacon’s assertion that ‘knowledge is power’, Harrison began to consider the power that came as a result of both creating and owning the chart. This coincided with her growing interest in the parallel worlds of copyright and creative commons. As an inversion of the scarcity principle of copyright, in ‘the commons’ the quality and usefulness of a work is often judged by the amount it is reproduced and circulated. As a way of gifting this new found power to others, Harrison decided to make the PDF version of the wall chart freely available to all those interested. Know Your Thinkers & Theorists is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Please email Harrison on the address below for details.


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Photo: Ellie Harrison