An insight into my Masters - My Landscapes of Practice
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Having been away to study art and photography in Edinburgh, I moved home to the Isle of Lewis to set up my own business. Recently I decided to return to study a Masters at UHI in Arts and Social Practice, and this has been the most seismic experience to date in my trajectory as a practitioner. As an Island based practitioner, I have found that the concept of Landscapes of Practice has been extremely beneficial to me, and I would like to share this concept with you all as I feel that it is something that everyone can take something from it to inform their own practice.
"As an island based practitioner, I have found that the concept of Landscapes of Practice has been extremely beneficial to me..."
By training, I am a photographer and a bilingual graphic designer. I am also a native Gaelic speaker, volunteer, community member, dancer and musician, a broadcaster, friend, mentor, project coordinator, workshop leader and an artist. The opportunities available as a fluent Gaelic speaker have arguably formed and directed my interests and personality – My Habitus. Bourdieu’s theory of Habitus is that there is a link between patterns of thought and someone's social conditions, and how these conditions and exchanges then inform and shape a person.
Throughout this MA programme, I have been encouraged to examine and rethink how I look at my day to day work as a practitioner. Doing so has shifted my perspective in how I see the ‘big-picture’ that is my life, and how my experiences work together to inform this. When introduced to Wenger's concept of Landscapes of Practice, many aspects of my life which previously I didn’t see as being related, started linking together. I learned that through examining our various communities of practice, a phrase we as art practitioners are familiar with, we get to know our Landscape of Practice. To contextualise this for myself, I imagine my landscape of practice as a sort of timeline, or a journey, through which these various experiences, jobs, projects and groups I am involved in are all tied together. Populating this landscape is an intricate network of friends, contacts, and fellow artists who can share their skills and support.
Before starting this course, I found it hard to see much overlap between these different aspects of my life. In examining my current landscape of practice, the Gaelic community plays a fundamental role. I’ve found that, often unknown to me, the skills I’ve learned through my various Gaelic Communities, from publishing to conversation, have been transferred to my photographic practice. I now see how the various communities I’ve been involved in have built up a collective transferable skillset that has allowed me to navigate my way to where I am now.
"Knowing my own landscape of practice has enabled me to expand and enhance how I approach my practice..."
Knowing my own landscape of practice has enabled me to expand and enhance how I approach my practice. My collective knowledge from each separate community of practice, can give insight, innovation and understanding to the others. An individual’s practice is constantly changing. Education, experiences, employment, conversations all shape how we see ourselves and our work, how we conduct ourselves. It affects the directions of our life and work. I therefore encourage you to step back and look at your own ‘Big Picture’ and I hope it will be equally beneficial to you and your practice.