Research Advisor: Carolyn Guertin
Studio Advisor: Jean Marie Casbarian
With a plethora of artistic skills from film to drawing, photography, audio and installation, Tacita Dean traces multiple layers of time and challenges all of these mediums so successfully.
I am interested in one particular series, Fatigues - immense blackboard and chalk drawings that document the melting of snow from Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains.
In the same vein as William Kentridge, these drawings are in a state of constant flux between the drawn, the redrawn, the erased and the ghostly remains of what came before it. There is impermanence inherent in the medium of chalk on board. Dean created this work in situ so in this way they become a form of performance.
Quiet, meditative and a respectful handling of the subject matter, this work talks about time, disappearance and obsolescence. Most of Dean’s practice sits in the realm of meditation and patience; saturated with the sublime of human endeavour. She wants you to look at images longer than you usually do, to find a different rhythm of thinking. She is instinctive in her approach and closely observes the world around her.
Ephemeral and fragile in nature these drawings appear like negatives. Labour intensive work is common in Dean’s practice and these particular drawings took nearly a month to complete. Their name “Fatigues” is apt in that Dean is known for her methodical and meticulous method of working. It was refreshing for me to find this out about her practice as artists are often criticised as not being spontaneous if they take this approach. I wonder if it is possible that because she hones such intense concentration in the studio, when she steps outside, her attention to detail is immensely magnified?
Royoux, Jean-Christophe, Marina Warner and Germaine Greer. Tacita Dean. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2006, p26.
Of all the artists discussed, Robert Irwin would have to be the most relevant for my investigation. His sense of play, curiosity and sensory manipulation through the psychology of perception is a really fascinating aspect of his practice.
One of the leading Californian perception artist (along with James Turrell), Irwin states that his art is about “the basic relationship of the three primary aspects of existence in the world: being-in-time, space and presence.”
Initially drawn to Irwin’s installation work with light, I was fascinated to discover through this research that there was a time earlier in Irwin’s career where he painted dots, but not just dot, that he laboriously painted the dots on both sides of the canvas...
“…maybe from my exposure to Zen pottery ware –the basic idea being that any gesture or act that you’re involved in, if you’re in it as more than a gesture or act, should read all the way through.”
He spent months sometimes finishing the back surface of a painting in an area that nobody was ever going to see. “I just had this conviction that in the sense of tactile awareness, if all those things were consistent, then the sum total would be greater.”
It was with these dot paintings that Irwin really started push the boundaries of perception. He initially created his canvas with a curved surface to de-emphasize the edges of the painting. This was so subtle it was barely perceptible to the casual viewer. Irwin was more concerned with the viewer picking up on the subliminal energy this type of canvas created.
“I could maximise the energy or the physicality of the situation and minimise the identity …I was not pursuing an intellectual issue here but rather a perceptual one.”
What was really fascinating about Irwin’s path was that very early on in his career he went into a form of self-imposed isolation. Without any real motivation or conceptual reasoning, he simply found himself traveling the world and at the same time slowly distancing himself from that world. There is a really interesting description of the mental progression he went through while living completely alone, no books, no communication, no language (or plug ins as he called them). He was living in a remote corner of Ibiza. He could not communicate with the few people who lived near by as he didn’t speak the language. Gradually the people became part of the landscape. Gradually...
“He thought about less and less. Finally, he just thought about thinking, no longer calibrating his thoughts in terms of a social reality…he almost stopped thinking in terms of language. There was a slow purification of thinking; he speaks of arriving at pure ideas, stripped of any worldly ambitions…”
Weschler, Lawrence. Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees. California: University of California Press, 2008, p 79, 93-94,41.
“The artist’s purpose is not to re-create the inner or the outer world, but to be a membrane between them. Art is a halfway point between the world and ourselves.” William Kentridge
What I really appreciate about William Kentridge’s practice is his proclivity towards drawing as the sole medium rather than as a support or preparatory medium for other art forms. I am particularly interested in Kentridge’s use of movement, sound and projection with drawing. His drawings, when projected, create an experience of being enmeshed in the drawn space rather than just as a passive viewer. For my project I am aiming to answer the question of how to create an immersive experience with drawing as the medium? Projection is one possible answer to this.
Many of the questions that Kentridge investigates through his work are universal and he often looks simply at the nature of things: a coffee pot, flowers etc. However, often there are layers of meaning imposed upon simple subjects.
“Kentridge is interested in how humanity is layered over nature, in how our perceptions are determined by ourselves rather than by their objects.”
For me it is the movement in drawing that intrigues me most about Kentridge’s work.
The drawing projections imply both a compulsive tendency and impermanence. The drawings are constantly assembled and then disassembled with the film as the only evidence that these marks ever existed.
“They are widely labor-intensive; each involves thousands of acts of drawing and erasure. A powerful tension exists between the meticulous gradualism of his techniques and the abrupt world he chronicles, in which people are murdered and quickly forgotten.”
"Kentridge has said that the palimpsests in his films and drawings originally seemed to him a grave misfortune, the result of imperfect erasing - and then a friend remarked that it was the most interesting thing about the work. The pentimento of his first imaginings haunts the image that is preserved. There is no present tense in Kentridge's work that is not mottled by the past.”
This statement makes me question my fascination with the future and how the idea of visible erasing speaks of the past could be turned upside down to create drawings that give a glimpse into the potential of the future...
Kentridge, William. Notes Towards A Model Opera. London: Koenig Books, 2015, p 58, 38.
Chris McCaw is an American photographer who has stumbled upon a surprisingly unique way of working with analogue photography. In his Sunburn series McCaw creates photographs that do not represent the sun but where the sun is an active contributor – a collaboration between himself and the non-human. For this work the sun actually comes into the camera, interacts with the paper and leaves behind the evidence of this interaction.
The slow process is, in a way, a reaction to the instant digital process. McCaw’s process can take up to 24hours to make a single image. In addition, this process doesn’t allow for replicas or prints to be made from the original. He has created a completely different way of looking at photography as a creative medium.
Sunburn – is created using vintage (often expired) black and white photographic paper, connecting this work literally and conceptually to the history of photography. In a DIY style, McCaw has created purpose built cameras that holds the paper in place of where the negative normally sits. His cameras use military lenses that are exponentially brighter than traditional camera lenses. By pointing these lenses directly to the sun over extremely long exposure times the sun literally burns into the paper the trajectory of its movement throughout the day. McCaw often spends from sunrise to sunset in a single spot while the sun draws on his images. This gives him the chance to slow down, to develop a relationship with each of the spaces that these images were created in.
“It makes you reconsider your existence in the world. You watch space being utilised and experienced for a relatively short amount of time…in the mean time the sun is always just rising and setting…”
It is the experimentation, chance and inconsistency that fascinates me about this work. The minimalism that results in the final image is breath taking in its beauty but it is the process, the connection to space and time, and the interaction of a nonhuman entity in the creation that makes this work exceptionally interesting.
“Since my childhood, I have always made works with polka dots. Earth, moon, sun and human beings are all represent dots; a single particle among billions. This is one of my important philosophies...”Yayoi Kusama
The all-consuming intensity of Kusama’s process is closely related to the process of my current light drawings. The meditative repetition that verges on compulsion has coexisted with Kusama her entire life. She has also maintained an element of isolation/solitude/loneliness throughout her studio practice since the very beginning with her Infinity Net paintings. And yet, during her time in New York she also managed to balance this need for solitude with her socially active, politically motivated Happenings in response to the Vietnam War, sexuality and the social hypocrisy so prevalent throughout the 1960s that continues to this day.
However, what I am most interested in, in terms of her ideas, methods and presentation is how Kusama has so successfully translated her repetitive practice of solitude, dots and psychological torment into a positive immersive experience.
Kusama is exceptional at creating spaces that so closely relates to her 2 dimensional works. She manages to transform her 2D world into living spaces with such tenacity and tension that it transcends between that which touches reality so closely it paralyses us with fear and something so whimsically unreal it captivates us to stay present in the face of that fear.
“I want to live hidden in the world that lies midway between mystery and symbol”
The Infinity Room is an example of a 3 dimensional translation of Kusama’s Infinity Net paintings. The “Infinity Net” in her paintings appears like a safety net, protecting the viewer from falling into the psychological void, protecting the viewer and herself from obliteration. And then the Infinity Room places you squarely into that very same psychological paradigm minus any safety net for protection. She manages to capture an intangible psychological condition deeply understood in us all and then place that understanding squarely into the real world experience of her audience.
“I am deeply interested in trying to understand the relationships between people, society, and nature; and my work is forged from accumulations of these frictions.”
All of Kusama’s work is bound in deep psychological “truths” that surface in us all when confronted by death, the universe and infinity...
“Dissolution and accumulation; propagation and separation; particulate obliteration and unseen reverberations from the universe – these were to become the foundations of my art.”
The project I am currently working on came after a confrontation with death. I was unaware of how the project I started related to the experience until I reread Kusama’s autobiography. It is interesting that I had chosen Yayoi Kusama in my initial proposal, even before changing direction in my work in response to a confrontational experience with death. It seems now that she is even more relevant to my process…my instinct to cocoon my practice in isolation, to repetitively and compulsively mark an existence in this world before the light and breath vanishes into darkness…
“In the darkness that follows a single flash of light, our souls are lured back into the black silence of death.”
Kusama, Yayoi. Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. London: Tate Publishing, 2015.
Research into Adrian Piper's project Food for Spirit lead to the development of a project I have been working on titled Visualising Breath: in a world without edges. Both projects involved photography as a tool for documentation. Food for Spirit consists of 14 black and white self-portraits and also included audio recordings of Piper reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
I had felt such a deep connection to the vulnerability and courage Piper conveyed in the haunting, naked images she had taken of herself as she faced self imposed isolation, fasting and months of immersion into Kant’s thought process and philosophy.
I really appreciated the level of dedication and honesty Piper put into this project, to immerse herself into the process so completely that it overpowered all other aspects of her life at the time.
Adrian Piper’s images are an investigation into a private, autobiographical experience of embodiment, with a power that is present in each image shown though an atmosphere of quiet…
MSVU art Gallery 2005; http://msvuart.ca/index.php?menid=06/04&mtyp=2&article_id=14&pg=4)
Zarina is an Indian born, New York based print maker and sculptor who works primarily on paper. An identity that spans 2 continents, her work often conveys a subtle reflection of being an Indian-born, Muslim, female American diasporic artist.
Zarina: Paper Like Skin series resonates with me because of the simplicity of the medium, paper. It’s unassuming nature and the unexpected in the common is interesting to me.
“Works on paper have been a key interest of mine over the years…as these too are often relegated to the margins of the art world.”
There is a connection between paper and language, memory, history and storytelling that has followed humans throughout modern history. Even in a purely oral culture such as that of the indigenous Australians, paper bark still managed to find a way into becoming an important utilitarian material.
A part of my project is about transcending perceived boundaries and this is reflected in the commonality of paper as a medium. It too transcends geographical boundaries and has facilitated ties between the east and west since the 5th Century.
There is a subtlety to Zarina’s work in which white on white reflects minimalism and a respect for the beauty of gossamer or art that is barely there. This philosophy is also developing in my MFA work.
Zarina started her series if 20 pin drawings in 1976 – I was unaware of this series when I began my pin drawings. What I found interesting through this research was that Zarina completed these drawings just before her husband’s death. I started my series just after the death of a very close friend.
“…The series derives its meditative character and underlying element of mystery in part from the disciplined repetition of perforations on each page and in the subtle haze that they produce as a group. The gesture of the artist, and thus her physical presence, is felt in the act of perforating.”
“I looked at paper and just loved it. It is an organic material almost like human skin: you can scratch it, you can mold it. It even ages.” Zarina
Pesenti, Allegra. Zarina: Paper Like Skin. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2012, p 6, 23, 14.
Uta Barth is a photographer who uses the medium to investigate perception rather than the more traditional use of photography for documentation or abstraction of the visual world. Barth’s investigation into perception is more inline with artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell or Olafur Eliasson. What is fascinating about her work is that she has so successfully translates the psychology of perception into her chosen medium of photography; raising the question, “is how we see more important than what we see?”
“Her photographs…often hover on the edge of appearing to show nothing at all. Only if the viewer is willing to give contemplative time to them do they begin to reveal their real content.”
A fundamental question that has permeated Barth’s practice is, “How do you get someone to think about looking, rather than what they are looking at?” Her work is often referenced back to great light painters such as Vermeer and Turner; however, she is opposed to this as it implies that a photograph aspires to be a painting. Barth tries to deter this analogy by placing hyper sharp images into the mix of ‘blurred’ minimalist images.
There is a definite connection to minimalism and the investigation of how the viewer perceives space through actively having to construct it…“the subject is removed and one is left with relating information to the edge.” It is the edge and our interaction with it that also fascinated perception artists such as Robert Irwin and James Turrell. Light, breath and the blurring of edges within the drawn space are at the foundation of my investigation also.
The series, “…and to draw a bright white line with light,”(2011) was particularly inspiring for me to discover when looking into Uta Barth’s oeuvre given my current interest in drawing with light. It is for this reason I will stay within the medium of drawing and not photography as Barth has already conquered this challenge so successfully in this series.
Barth, Uta, The Long Now. New York: Gregory R. Miller & Co, 2010.
Lee, Pamela, Matthew Higgs and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe. Uta Barth. New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 2004.
Research Paper Introduction
Revealing+Concealing: and the intimate nature of the present future
This paper aims to examine the human connection to all that lies beyond the self. Inspired by a social phenomena experienced while exhibiting a previous series of work, I found out by accident that if people hold hands their hearts will begin to beat to the same rhythm and pace. Although I have since found out that this is common knowledge in the medical world, it sparked my curiosity into wanting to understand how we as humans can be so connected internally through interactions that exist purely in the external world. Since this time I have discovered a number of unexplained examples of internal physiological parameters synching to other human beings when placed together in specific situations. I question whether this extends to the nonhuman also.
How do we carry the marks and nuances of our shared experience?
Is it possible to create a nonlinear experience...in a world without edges and if so, what would that feel like? If it possible, could this experience remove the imagined boarders we have created between one another and between the self and non-human world in which we co-exist?
The following research will investigate the relationship between the complex web of bio-spherical systems, constructed networks and intricately woven connections in an attempt to re-evaluate human and nonhuman relationships. The aim is to move beyond the preconceived idea of “us above them” and to transform this language into a nonlinear experience that distorts/changes our perception of what lies at the edges (surroundings).
By investigating theories that discuss the human condition, social behaviour and sensory perception/deception this research endeavours to gain a deeper understanding of the complex web of interconnection. It aims to question the impact we have, the marks we leave and to hypothetically uncover the possibility of latent human potential held in deeply understanding the interconnected nature of existence.
Through investigating scientific research into sensory perception, neuroscience, psychology, mythology, emergence and agential realism theories and the potential for technology, this paper aims to show that an understanding of the human mind (both the ephemeral and tangible aspects) is at the core of human potential. How we perceive the world directly correlates to how we experience it. This paper aims to highlight what potentially lies beyond social and cultural alliances, imagined boarders and the commonly perceived hierarchy of the human above all else. Taking into consideration the “science as religion” culture the West predominantly subscribes to, a scientific investigation into such an esoteric topic seems the best direction.
An experiential investigation into solitude, breath and contemporary drawing as a form of meditation on light, sound/silence and pace will also be conducted. This will form the foundation of a visual project that aims to translate the act of drawing into an immersive space that seeks to addresses the research question. It is important to consider that this is a study that is just as much about space and the human emotional instincts that arise when encountering a space as it about science, theory and technology.
As a means of support for the experiential and hermeneutical research methodology stated above a critical framework in relation to contemporary art practices that align with the concept of psychological sensory perception/distortion will also be evaluated in relation to this project.
Research Paper Outline
1.1. Single sentence summary
1.2. Motivation for this research
1.3. Why this research is important for my art practice
2. Research Question
3.2. The aims of this research
3.3. Assumptions and Direction of the research
3.4. Methods of research
4.1. Research Question
4.2. Sensory Perception and Psychology
4.2.3. Robert Irwin’s experiential investigation
4.2.4. Distortion & Deception
4.3. Sensory Perception and Neuroscience
4.4. Symbolism and Mythology
4.4.1. Carl Jung
4.4.2. Mythology of creation with light and breath
4.5. Emergence & Agential Realism Theories
4.6. The potential of Technology
4.7. Solitude, Breath & Contemporary Drawing
4.7.1. Relationship to Meditation, Pace, Light & Silence/Sound
4.7.2. Translation into Space
Abraham, David. The Spell of the Sensuous, Perception and Language in the More than Human World. New York: Vintage Books,1996.
The Spell of the Sensuous investigates ecological philosophy and presents research into the power of our senses and their role in gaining a greater understanding of nature. The ideas discussed in this resource challenge the commonly held Western belief of the human above nature, controlling and dominating the planet and treating it as some kind of theatrical stage for humans to play out their geopolitical drama. This book is relevant to my research in that it draws knowledge from far reaching cultural philosophies such as Balinese shamans and Apache story telling. The interconnection of the greater human identity within the context of being equal to the nonhuman aspect and all that lies beyond the self is important for me in attempting to answer my research question.
Arbesman, Samuel. Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension. London: Current Publishing, 2016.
Samuel Arbesma is a complexity scientist who dedicates his research towards understanding the complexity of technology and argues quite convincingly that even the creators of our technological world don’t quite comprehend the interconnected behaviour of it. Arbesma examines the future of knowledge in an age of science and technology and the sociological impact this potentially has on our understanding of the world we have created.
“Complexity science has unlocked new insights in physics, seismology, biology, even finance. In Overcomplicated, Samuel Arbesman makes an original and invaluable contribution to the field by exploring human interaction with complex systems.” James Richards
Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.
A classic book written in 1958 that examines the phenomenology of inhabited spaces and how it relates to our personal, emotional and psychological response to the space that surrounds us. The psychological analysis of Bachelard’s interpretation of space has given an interesting angle from which to analyse the research question I am posing and the immersive space I am aiming to create.
“A creature that hides and “withdraws into its shell,” is preparing a “way out.” This is true of the entire scale of metaphors, from the resurrection of a man in his grave, to the sudden outburst of one who has long been silent. If we remain at the heart of the image under consideration, we have the impression that, by staying in the motionlessness of its shell, the creature is preparing temporal explosions, not to say whirlwinds, of being.”
Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Mater and Meaning. NC: Duke University Press, 2007.
Karen Barad is a theoretical physicist who, through her Agential Realism Theory, uses scientific theories and quantum physics to show the world as an interconnected whole rather than being composed of separate natural and social realms.
“In an agential realist account, the world is made of entanglements of “social” and “natural” agencies, where the distinction between the two emerges out of specific intra-actions… Barad reveals questions about how nature and culture interact and change over time to be fundamentally misguided.”
The interconnection of all that lies beyond us is at the core of my research, and using commonly accepted scientific theory to demonstrate this connection is a highly valid influential tool in the “scientific religion” our society currently values itself on.
Barth, Uta. The Long Now. New York: Gregory R. Miller & Co, 2010.
This book presents a collection of essays and interviews that consider a 20-year span of Uta Barth’s photographic career. An in valuable reference tool and evaluation of the scope of Barth’s creative practice containing over 100 images of Barth’s photographs and in-depth conversations with artist over that timeframe.
Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. United Kingdom: Polity Press, 2013.
The Posthuman, by Braidotti, was an invaluable introduction to the common discourse surrounding the, often controversial, topic of what it means to live within a constructed posthuman society. Braidotti also questions the effects a globalized, commoditized post human society has over the post-anthropocentric world and the sustainability of our planet as a whole – this was all presented through a lens of optimism rather than pessimism which made for a nice change from the normal discussions on such topics.
This book was invaluable for my research in trying to gain a fresh perspective of where the human and non-human interconnection currently sits within our social/natural bonds and constructs. Also, what the future post colonial, racial, gender and environmental spectrum may inevitably look like in the post human society.
Cacioppo, John & William Patrick. Loneliness: Human Nature & the Need for Social Connection. United Kingdom: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.
In this book Cacioppo presents his research on the psychological and physiological effects of loneliness on the human condition – going so far as saying that the chronic loneliness that is so prevalent in modern society can alter DNA replication. At the foundation of my project is an investigation into solitude, breath and contemporary drawing. So the ideas presented in this research fascinates me in that I question the effect of isolation on the psyche. Also, although my research involves self imposed isolation as a means to develop the work I am hoping that the outcome will present the opportunity for social engagement in those that encounter the final work. I do question aspects of the research findings presented here, but it is valid to investigate both sides the topic.
Cacioppo, John. Social Neuroscience. United Kingdom: Psychology Press, 2004.
John Cacioppo is a Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago as well as the Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.
“As a social species, humans create emergent organizations beyond the individual—structures that range from dyads, families, and groups to cities, civilizations, and international alliances. These emergent structures evolved hand in hand with neural, hormonal, cellular, and genetic mechanisms to support them because the consequent social behaviours helped humans survive and reproduce.” (http://www.johncacioppo.com)
By using the tools and methodologies now available in the field of neuroscience, we can devise concrete analysis of the emotional cognition associated with the social nature of human behaviour – I would be interested in seeing how this work would evolve if it was to move beyond just the human to human interaction and would love for this field of science to investigate the human to non human interaction also… however, this is an extremely informative based just on the human to human interaction.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
The Power of Myth is a Q&A style of writing that is based on a 6-part documentary Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. What is really interesting about this book is the author’s ability to illustrate the relevance and interconnection of ancient mythology with not only modern versions of myth (such as Star Wars) but also how the themes still to this day play out in modern human experiences. In a number of creation myths, light and breath play such a significant role. In addition I am fascinated by the connection between humans that exists through the act of story telling.
Chiang, Ted. The Great Silence. New York: Electric Literature, 2016.
This was one of the best short stories I have read. I was drawn to this book initially for the title, The Great Silence. Silence and isolation have become part of the making process for the light drawings so I was intrigued as to how you could have a great silence. “The Great Silence” is another name for the Fermi Paradox, and the Fermi Paradox is a meditation on two contradictory truths: 1) the idea that we represent the only intelligence in the universe is preposterous and 2) despite the increasing range of our extraterrestrial search, we have found only silence.
After reading the story a number of times, I found many possible concepts to explore for future projects. The story succinctly develops a deep understanding of our connection to the nonhuman aspect of our existence and the modern human tendency to ignore this connection. It is a great example of story telling as a means to clearly articulate complex ideas.
Copper Ramo, Joshua. The Seventh Sense. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 2016.
The fundamental question that this book seeks to address is:
“Endless terror. Refugee waves. An unfixable global economy. Surprising election results. New billion-dollar fortunes. Miracle medical advances. What if they were all connected?”
By examining the networks that connect every aspect of our world from DNA to trade to finance and the obvious Internet connection are we then able to gain an understanding of the current political and social climate we now find ourselves in? Connection is at the foundation of my research, and this book opens up the potential to grasp the complexity of human and non-human connection. It was able to clearly articulate the enormity and complexity of the interconnection we have now created for ourselves.
Crawford, Matthew. The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in the Age of Distraction. United Kingdom: Penguin, 2015.
Crawford convincingly argues that our current crisis of attention is only superficially the result of digital technology. There are a myriad of other factors associated with modern life that contributes to the psychological state most of us find ourselves in on a daily basis. This book covers a lot of interesting phenomena in human behaviour that we have commonly come to accept as contemporary life and if this very same behaviour were presented to a person even just a few decades ago it would have seemed absurd. This book provided invaluable insight into the benefits of focused attention in a world of distracted and fractured mental attention. This was interesting to read given the nature of my current process and the meditative focus required to make them. And even though there are vast amounts of literature dedicated to the benefits of meditation and focus this book was interesting in the relationship Crawford drew between his observation of modern behaviour and the manifestation of the negative effects of a distracted mental state.
Eagleman, David. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. New York: Vintage, 2012.
My all time favourite neuroscientist, David Eagleman has the ability to clearly articulate the science behind the most complex organ in the human body. He is a professor at the head of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine and is the founding Director of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. Neuroscience has always fascinated me and I find the connection that exists through perception and often deception can only be truly understood by understanding the inner mechanics and ephemeral workings of the brain. In this book Eagleman delves more into the ephemeral or subconscious workings of the brain, which is fascinating when tackled from a scientific perspective. “Incognito is a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and all its contradictions…”
Eagleman, David. The Brain (Documentary). United Kingdom: BBC, 2015.
Where as the above reference by Eaglman is focused more on the subconscious mind, this 6-part documentary focuses on a myriad of different aspects of understanding the human brain and the social implications this understanding has over our behavior. And although all 6 episodes were fascinating, episode 5 “Why I Need You?” was the most relevant for this research. This segment investigates the social nature of our brain, how our sense of community is established, what happens to the brain during times of intense isolation (such as prolonged solitary confinement) and how social revolutions and genocides lure people into acting in ways they would never have predicated they could act. Understanding brainwashing, propaganda and the ways our brain choose to be influenced by these political tactics is crucial in the current divisive political climate if we are to have any chance of eliminating perceived boarders and racial hierarchy and replace them with deep connection and empathy.
Farhi, Donna. The Breathing Book. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
Breath has become a really important aspect of both the research and subsequently the practical work. Breath is a means of connection to the nonhuman element of our environment and it is a way of connecting us directly to our existence (life). This book was written from the perspective of Yoga philosophy and Pranayama. An in-depth introduction investigates the power of potential that resides in each and every breath we take. Often we breathe without thought or awareness of the latent potential we hold.
Groys, Boris. In the Flow. New York: Verson, 2016.
Written as a series of essays/chapters, Groys intelligently creates a complex web of connection between philosophy, art, politics and the digital age as they have progressed over the past century of turmoil, war and cultural/technical revolutions. Groys units the seemingly unrelated across different times, cultures and circumstances to reveal the depth of our interconnection.
Johnston, Steven. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. New York: Scribner Books, 2001.
This book is an insightful evaluation of the power of interconnection and the Emergence Theory that seeks to explain why the whole is far more powerful than the sum of its parts. Some of this theory can be explained through adaptive learning, feedback loops and self-organsiation. Self-organisation coupled with the interconnection of our internet obsessed culture has potential beyond what most of us can comprehend. Steven Johnston has the ability to explain this potential despite the complicated and at times counterintuitive nature of a lot of the content of Emergence Theory. To gain an understanding of this potential in relation to interconnection is at the foundation of the conceptual component of this project.
Jordan, James, Mark Moliterno & Nova Thomas. The Musician’s Breath: The Role of Breathing in Human Expression. Chicago: Gia Publications, 2013.
Although this book was written for musicians, the content is invaluable for anyone who would like to imbue their breath with creative intention and more importantly expressive outcome. At times the ideas expressed here required a degree of blind faith in the process, and yet you lose nothing by having that faith – you have to breathe anyway so why not try breathing with intention? The last section of the book gave an interesting investigation into Eastern philosophy and the breath. For some reason when it comes from the East it sounds more plausible.
Jung, C.G. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. United Kingdom: Harcourt Harvest, 1955.
Carl Jung instinctively understood the powerful influence mythology and symbolism had over the psychological structure of the human psyche. Jung presented this essay as a lecture in Zurich in 1931. The ideas presented by Jung during this time were heavily contested and debated, and to this day, they are still considered contentious in modern psychology. Breaking away from his mentor, Freud in 1911, Jung went on to develop theories surrounding a collective un/subconscious where symbols are the language used to communicate. Jung argued that the psychological and spiritual unease often felt in modern life is the result of a void that has taken the place of what once was a rich identification with myth and symbols.
Jung, C.G. The Earth has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life. California: North Atlantic Books, 2002.
Here Jung advocates for a renewed connection and understanding of the natural world that surrounds (or in some cases doesn’t surrounds) us. By identifying with small communities (even in cities), by working less, making less use of technology (written well before the tech revolution – I wonder what Jung would make of the current state of technological dependency) and reconnection with the natural environment as a means to heal psychological dysfunction. The aim for all of this is not to repair nature but rather to let nature repair us. Jung identified that he was living in (an we are still living in) a hyper masculine, linear, causal and goal-orientated obsession with the material outer world in conjunction with extensive instinctive atrophy. Although, our largest problem is the belief that we can dominate nature combined with the idea that we no longer believe that we are nature.
Kahn, Peter & Patricia Hasbach. Ecopsychology: Science, Totems & Technological Species. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.
While I respect Jung’s perspective and a lot of the ideas he presented in his psychological theories (see references above) I question the references to technology given the time in which it was written. Even Jung with all his foresight did not (I don’t think) truly comprehend where we were heading in terms of technology. Ecopsychology (2012) speaks a similar language to Jung in terms of the importance of understanding our connection to all that lies beyond the self, especially the kinship we share to the nonhuman world (nature). However, this book differs in the understanding that this kinship needs to be integrated with both our scientific culture and technological relationships. Realistically, we need a balance if the more esoteric ideas put forward by Jung are to be accepted into the modern cultural identity.
Keats, Jonathon. You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Fuller was one of the most creative problem solvers to challenge societal norms in his time. Assuming the title of Comprehensive Anticipatory Scientist, this book documents Fuller’s six-decade quest to use creative thinking to solve many of humanity’s problems, most of which we are still facing today. Unconventional in nature, as with most creative thought, Fuller had been dismissed during his time and has been revived through the persistence of Keats (an experimental philosopher) and the ideas put forward in this book. Here, Keats places Fuller’s philosophy into a modern context and the relevance is significant given the current ecological crisis we now find ourselves in. The entire philosophy can potentially be condensed down to basically “doing the most with the least” according to Keats. This resource demonstrates the interconnection of everything and therefore the holistic problem solving techniques we need to use to address humanities most important issues.
Kentridge, William. Notes Towards A Model Opera. London: Koenig Books, 2015.
In the book, Notes Towards A Model Opera, William Kentridge’s scribbled notes and ideas give a glimpse into his artistic thinking, private musings, historical research and visual themes. This book gives an excellent insight into the workings of Kentridge's artistic mind. There was an interesting essay written by Andrew Solomon in the beginning of the book titled, William in Exile: Thoughts on Failed Utopias. The following is an extract taken from that essay:
“The pentimento of his first imaginings haunts the image that is preserved. There is no present tense in Kentridge's work that is not mottled by the past. These shadows are most sweetly manifest in his intense love of history itself: Plato, the Enlightenment, the failed ideologies of African colonialism and the Russian Revolution."
This statement makes me question my fascination with the future and how the idea of visible erasing speaks of the past could be turned upside down to create drawings that give a glimpse into the potential of the future...
Koch, Christoph. The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Englewood: Roberts and Company Publishers, 2004.
The research presented in this book aims to lay down a scientific, tangible explanation for what the conscious mind is. How are the vast numbers of experiences we have on a daily basis interpreted by our consciousness? Using recently acquired knowledge in the field of neuroscience and in particular the anatomical workings of the brain, Koch seeks to subscribe consciousness to tangible structures laid out within the brain’s anatomy. This field of research seems to working in the far-reaching edges or parameters of biology and takes on the challenge of asking the question, “how do the operations of the conscious mind emerge out of the specific interactions of myriads of neurons?”
Kohn, Eduaro. How Forests Think, Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. California: University of California Press, 2013.
This is a great resource for analyzing the possibility of how the nonhuman engage and potentially communicate with their surroundings. I particularly found Kohn’s analysis of language and semiotics (the creation and interpretation of signs) useful in understanding how forms of communication outside of the special parameters of human language permeate our living world. “What we share with nonhuman living creatures, then, is not our embodiment, as certain strains of phenomenological approaches would hold, but the fact that we all live with and through signs.”
Kurzweil, Ray. How to Create a Mind: the secrets of human thought revealed. USA: Penguin Books, 2013.
Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading futurist and inventors. Here Kurzweil presents theories about the phenomenon of human intelligence, the mind, decision and communication networks and how they all operate within the condition of acceleration. A phenomenon known as the Law of Accelerating Return, it applies to both biological and technological evolution – it states that “any evolutionary process inherently accelerates (as a result of its increasing levels of abstraction) and that its products grow exponentially in complexity and capability.” Kurzweil is of the point of view the other intelligent species are unlikely to exist. In summary, he states that if they did exist we would have noticed them by now. This is not a point of view I hold which is why this is such an important resource to research further.
Kusama, Yayoi. Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. London: Tate Publishing, 2015.
Yayoi Kusama is one of the artists I had chosen to research as a way of identifying aspects of her practice, ideas and presentation that are relevant to my current investigation and artistic practice. The autobiographical nature of this book makes this a great reference tool, as the insight into Kusama’s process, timeline and thoughts are deeply personal and relevant rather than being a theoretical interpretation.
Lee, Pamela, Matthew Higgs and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe. Uta Barth. New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 2004.
A comprehensive survey of Uta Barth’s photographic work and a number of essays and interviews that focus in on detailed aspects of Barth’s process, conceptual considerations and ideas that inform her oeuvre
Leonhard, Gerd. Technology vs Humanity: the coming clash between man and machine. United Kingdom: Fast Future Publishing, 2016.
Gerd Leonhard is a word leading futurists, but where he differs from a lot of other futurist is his ability to critically observe, theorise and discuss his ideas from a humanist perspective. One of the key questions Leonhard asks is, “how do we embrace technology without becoming it?” As Leonhard states, this book “is neither a celebration of the rapidly onrushing technological revolution nor a lament on the fall of civilization…the future cannot be created based on blind optimism or paralysing fear!” This is a view I hold to be true and further research into Leonhard’s theories, ideas and predictions seems invaluable given the nature of this research.
Levine, Caroline. Forms: Whole, Rhythms, Hierarchy, Network. USA: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Based on concepts found in design theory, Levine argues that all aspects of human endeavour from politics to art, cultural studies, literature and academia can be traced to an understanding of form. The connection to the four main forms mentioned in the title can be inextricably linked to every aspect of our experience as humans. This resource is valuable in that Levine presents the arguments on both sides of the formalist/antiformalist debate.
Martin, Dr Bernard. Mental Silence. Switzerland: Xlibris Publishers, 2015.
This resource presents ideas surrounding the mind through an understanding of meditation, Eastern philosophy and focus. Dr Martin Bernard is a trained psychiatrist who has spent the past 48 years studying Buddhist mediation techniques (that are based on breathing) as a tool to help many of his patience. Martin comes from a unique position of being a medically trained Western doctor with a deep understanding and respect for Eastern practice. The science is finally catching up to 3000 years of yoga philosophy, and this book presents both sides of the approach to understanding how to experience mental silence.
Morton, Timothy, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
Timothy Morton convincingly argues, with wit and humor, that our understanding of the ecological crisis we face is a Mobius strip – our understanding of the crisis loops back onto itself as a fundamental position of accepting that it is just how things are. There is such a familiarity expressed in this idea. Regardless of how concerned we may be towards the future sustainability of our planet, it is very hard to know how to not be a part of the problem – the agricultural system and society we are so heavily dependent upon seem so entrenched into the human identity.
Morton explains the concepts of this loop within the context of a Dark Ecology in such a lyrical and intelligent way that it changes the way you think about the entire subject.
“The dark shimmering of faerie in fate is a symptom of what Dark Ecology is going to attempt. We are going to try to see how we Mesopotamians have never left the Dreaming. So little we have moved that even when we thought we were awakening we had simply gathered more tools for understanding that this was in fact a lucid dream, even better than before.”
Pesenti, Allegra. Zarina: Paper Like Skin. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2012.
This book was printed to support the solo exhibition of the same title, Zarina: Paper Like Skin, which was organised by the Hammer Museum in 2012. The exhibition toured to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2013 and the Art Institute of Chicago in later 2013. As a retrospective exhibition, this was an invaluable resource to research the trajectory of Zarina’s practice, finding out the sequence of events that lead up to the making of her pinhole drawings. It also gave valuable background information into her life that, like most artists, heavily informed her creative work.
Ramacharaka, Yogi. Science of Breath. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1905.
It is futile to attempt to research the significance of breath without delving into the 3000-year-old science of yoga. And although yoga has many channels of investigation they all, at some point, intersect with an understanding of the breath. Hindu Yogis have always paid significant attention to the Science of Breathing and this book is a classic text that demystifies their knowledge. The fact that this book was written over 100 years ago (a blip in the history of passing on knowledge) is insignificant from an Eastern point of view. Unlike most in the West who are fixated on the latest source of information, in the East it is knowledge imbued with time that receives that most attention.
Rogers, Angela. Drawing Conversations: drawing as a dialogic activity. United Kingdom: Tracey Contemporary Drawing Research, 2007.
This was an academic paper that I found while researching my initial proposal that considered incorporating drawing as a social practice for engagement with strangers. My project has changed significantly since then, but some of the ideas presented in this paper are still relevant as drawing continues to be as important component of the project. There are ideas presented in this paper that look at the psychology of drawing, the playfulness it inspires in people and the connection it can create through a materialized record of encounters. Also, Rogers discusses and analysis space, the space in between encounters, the space in between people as they draw together, and the space the two participants chose to go into on the drawn surface – whether to invade each others space. Space is an integral consideration for this investigation.
Romachandran, V.S. The Tell-Tale Brain. A neuroscientist’s quest for what makes us human. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.
The Tell-Tale Brain uses story telling techniques to give an in depth understanding of complex concepts associated with connecting the physical anatomy of the brain with areas of language, creativity, thought and consciousness. Most importantly, for my investigation, Romachandran presents significant research into perception, senses and the brain’s role in understanding through reading and interpreting biofeedback systems. It is through these systems that the brain can connect to the outside world. It is such a strange concept when we stop to think about the fact that the brain spends its entire life enclosed in a dense case of darkness and yet is responsible for every aspect of perception and therefore determines how we experience a world it has never directly been apart of.
Todd, Mabel E. The Thinking Body. New Jersey: Princeton Book Company, 1937.
This is a classic book that presents research that is still relevant to this day. It focuses on the effect psychological states have over the movement of the body; how we carry what we think within the physiology of our body structure. The connection between mind, body and breath and its relationship to our connection to the outside world through movement within space is an interesting idea to investigate further for this research.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Chicago: Basic Books, 2012.
Sherry Turkle has been at the forefront of research into the psychological effect of computers and the potential social consequences for current tech. revolution. She is a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Professor Turkle has a double PhD in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University. The focus of her research (and this book) is the subjective side of human relationships with technology. In this reference the writing focusing on the human sacrifice we are making for electronic companions, social media networks and the paradox of isolation/loneliness through connectivity.
Turkle, Sherry. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2005.
This is a book about the psychological effect of first being confronted by a machine whose behaviour and mode of operation incite us to think differently about our own ability, human thought, memory and understanding. Although this book was first published 20 years ago (prehistoric in computer years) and computers have become infinitely more complex in that time, the fundamental relationship we have with interactive media from a psychological point of view has stayed the same – in other words the computers have changed but we as humans have not. What has changed is how we interact with computers and the dependency and in some cases classical signs of addiction are ever more apparent as social norms. The psychology of this relationship and its effect on social engagement is what is valuable about this research.
Van Campen, Cretien. The Hidden Sense: synesthesia in art and science. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2008.
This book provides an in-depth evaluation of the sensory perception “distortion” (rather than dysfunction) known as Synesthesia. Van Campen provides detailed research into our understanding of perception and how our senses relay external sensory information to the brain, which for some people (those with synesthesia) the wiring crosses into multiple parts of the brain. This means that for some, external stimuli can trigger different perception interpretations in the brain. To see music as shapes, taste as sound or letters as colours is to understand the world as experienced by a person with synesthesia.
Weschler, Lawrence. Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees. California: University of California Press, 2008.
With over 30 years of documented conversations with the artist Robert Irwin, Weschler has presented a really comprehensive overview of both hi life, art and their intertwining connection to each other. I really valued the section that discussed Irwin’s gradual progression from painting, to dealing with the diffusion of the edge of the painting through to the point of removing the painting all together and dealing purely with the perception of diffusion, light and the absence of all edges.
“…he wasn’t opposed to pictorial or articulate reading of images…rather that he wanted to suspend such conventions as much as possible, to hold them in abeyance…His was a full scale assault on the taken-for-granted… Irwin continued this “phenomenological reduction”…curiosity came to supersede ambition.” (P84-85)