My practice-led research aims to define what it means to call a person or thing ‘cool’. Methodologically, my fine art practice is bricolage: disassembling, repurposing, and modifying objects or ideas to generate new wholes and understanding. As a bricoleur, I thus set out to break down the value judgement of cool into constituent parts, to enable a more nuanced definition to emerge.
By surveying current research on cool in fields such as marketing, jazz, and neuroscience, and by creating two artworks, I identified 14 sensibilities (i.e. processes sensed and engaged with) that culminate in judging something to be cool. My artworks, 1 2 3 (Unfinished) (2014-2016) and Lunar Salon (2015), highlighted that the sensibilities of originality and spontaneity are related to creativity, and so I proceeded to investigate how cool might be valuable to a creative practice.
My final artwork, spacesuits for animals (2016-ongoing) concluded that all 14 sensibilities of cool could become incorporated into, and could enhance my bricolage methodology. In this report I articulate what these sensibilities emotionally and materially felt like as they fused with my practical methods. This articulation was key to understanding that cool as a value judgement is comprised of a flexible network of both experienced and observed sensibilities. The specific network that I produced was subjective, but its constituent sensibilities are a synthesis of discourse on cool and my personal experience, and are original contributions to knowledge.
Cool is made of pre-existing physical/conceptual material, but it contributes unique value to the world in the same way that a bricolage sculpture creates unique value: not from what it is but rather, from how it is made. Calling something cool is the result of a creative methodology which builds connections between bodily interactions, personal experiences, concepts, and personal values, and as such, can help to articulate and even formulate one’s identity.