Hargrave, Kathryn F.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
Floccinaucinihilipilification is one of the longest words in the English language. It is mainly used as a curiosity, and means the action or habit of estimating something as worthless. Stumbling upon words like this has always brought me a small amount of joy, and the moment I learned this word I knew it encapsulated everything this project was meant to be. The allure it held went beyond the definition, which I connected to the difficulties I experienced when beginning this creative research endeavor. I chose it thinking of the titles of many scientific research papers; they contain words that are alien unless you know them intimately, and I wanted to know this word intimately. Wielding this title like a sword, I had power simply because I learned how to pronounce it. The definition and the aura of floccinaucinihilipilification are in direct opposition to each other, existing in a strange duality. This word, as a symptom of its complexity, foreignness, and overcompensation, has authority (or at the very least a certain kind of exclusionary power). At its genesis, the project was centered around a pseudo-scientific experiment that involved a fictional ‘Achievement Program.’ In this experiment, there were three roles to play: (1) a subject to participate and be studied, (2) the scientist or researcher who was observing, and (3) the artist who was cataloging the entire project as creative research. I played all of these roles. There were thousands of hypotheses for what I might learn through this process, but of course the most interesting parts were unforeseen. As the subject, I began the experiment with an urgency and investment, I wanted to see if achievements could offset the floccinaucinihilipilification I directed towards my own life. But I grew to have a distaste for the process and the requirements that I was forced to meet. I began to detest the system that developed it (which was me). As the scientist, I felt that the data I was gathering each week would be essential to the final product. But at the end of the experiment I learned basically nothing and the data only confused me (most likely because this experiment was not designed to be scientifically sound). As the artist, I had no intentions, I was only there to discover the concepts that I most wanted to express and how to do so visually or experientially. Through developing this fictional experiment, I had hoped to show that the authority that comes with titles is a negotiable territory. The trouble was my own involvement; I had become synonymous with the project. My image was in the documentation as the subject, my conflicted feelings captured in journals, my emotional state measured based on statements that were too broad or too specific.
I would like to acknowledge the Art Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for their continual support and encouragement of artists who are pursuing creative research and building their practices. They push each student to explore every possible avenue for expressing concepts. I would like to specifically thank my thesis director, Jennifer Danos, for sticking with me through the entire process where she helped tremendously with research regarding artists who have made work similar to this project.
B. F. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Arts -- Methodology; Research -- In art; English language -- Etymology
Art and Design
Buffington, Bonnie A., "Floccinaucinihilipilification" (2017). Honors Theses.