SYMPOSIUM: Did Hans Namuth kill Jackson Pollock?: The Problem of Documenting the Creative Process

When Hans Namuth and Jackson Pollock finished filming on the Saturday before thanksgiving in 1950 they walked inside from the barn, out of the cold. Pollock walked over to the sink, reached down, pulled out a bottle of whiskey and said to Namuth,"This is the first drink I've had in two years. Dammit, we need it!'. The rest, as they say, is history.

[Source: Jeffrey Potter, To a Violent Grave,1985]

Embedded in this brief account is the very real problem of how the creative process can be documented.  Does documenting art 'kill' it? Arguably, the film assured Pollock his place in history, but can the archive deal with living process? If it is not possible to make a document that doesn't impinge in some way on the creative process, can it tell us much about how creativity happens?  How do we interpret and understand such documents? Does knowing about an art work's evolution spoil our relationship with that work? 

More recently artists have collaborated to make documents of their thinking and making, so is the Pollock anecdote simply not relevant today? Can contemporary artists use documentation creatively, as an integral part of their process?  How have new technologies impacted on this documentation of process?  And what role do conservers and archivists play in documenting the creative processes?  This symposium aims to address the above questions. 

A collaborative project between The Visual Intelligences Research Project, Institute for the Contemporary Arts at Lancaster University, the Journal of Visual Art Practice, the refereed journal of the National Association for Fine Art Education and Camberwell College of Arts.


  • Art & Language
  • Sue Breakell, Archivist, Tate
  • Victoria Worsley, Archivist, Henry Moore Institute
  • Andrew Grassie, Artist
  • Ian Kirkwood, Artist & Head of School, Fine & Applied Art, De Montfort University
  • Prof Kerstin Mey, Research Area Leader 'Art and its Location' in Interface:
  • Research in Art, Technologies and Design and Director Research Institute Art and Design, University of Ulster
  • Linda Sandino, Senior Research Fellow, VIVA [Voices in the Visual Arts], Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London
  • Prof Nigel Whiteley, Professor of Visual Arts, Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Art, Lancaster University


  • Chris Smith, Editor, Journal of Visual Art Practice, & Principal Lecturer, London Metropolitan University
  • Ian Heywood, Research Fellow, The Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Art, Lancaster University
  • Rebecca Fortnum Research Fellow, LICA & Senior Lecturer Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London

Cost: £30 waged, £20 Unwaged (including students). For further information and booking form please download the Symposium leaflet or alternatively you can book online (see below).


In relation to this symposium an exhibition, Inspiration to Order, is also taking place at Wimbledon College of Art. Notes, drawings, films, commentaries and photographs are used to creatively document an artwork’s development. These are shown alongside the final artworks, allowing the audience insight into the artists’ discipline. Exhibiting artists are Neil Boynton & Emma Rose, Gerry Davies, Rebecca Fortnum, Michael Ginsborg, Beth Harland, Paula Kane, Mary Maclean, Amanda Newall, Vong Phaophanit and Kirk Woolford.