Dewey ++

In Art as Experience, Chapter 11. The Human Contribution, John Dewey considers psychological aspects of aesthetic experience.

"Mind forms the background upon which every new contact with surroundings is projected; yet “background” is too passive a word, unless we remember that it is active and that, in the projection of the new upon it, there is assimilation and reconstruction of both background and of what is taken in and digested. This active and eager background lies in wait and engages whatever comes its way so as to absorb it into its own being. Mind as background is formed out of modifications of the self that have occurred in the process of prior interactions with environment. Its animus is toward further interactions. Since it is formed out of commerce with the world and is set toward that world nothing can be further from the truth than the idea which treats it as something self-contained and self-enclosed. [...] Mind is more than consciousness, because it is the abiding even though changing background of which consciousness is the foreground. Mind changes slowly [...] Consciousness is always in rapid change, for it marks the place where the formed disposition and the immediate situation touch and interact."

In the text linked below, Matz Hammarstrom strings a connection from Dewey's thinking about transaction to Barad's intra-action.


Call it first person research.

I can't paint. To force space and time into a viscous layer on any substrate makes me claustrophobic. Cutting up a painting doesn't help, the damage is done the moment I'm accepting the plane with the goop. The inbetween is evicted. Drawing is fine.

Formed disposition is deep ground. Situation is intermediate ground as tool for figuring. Diagram is a representation of ground as tool for figuring. The notion of artist's epistemes is intimately related to figuring through ground.

Being expected to mediate their work, artists develop narratives, relating situations and creating the figure of the oeuvre (from French oeuvre: work, from Latin opera). The illustrated artist talk is a tool towards discerning one's episteme. Below is a version of my narrative:

(1978 - 1987) This sketch is an annotated 'retrospective', starting with a reference to a group of cardboard frames, part of my art school application portfolio, into which clear plastic was stretched, capturing the blur of a trainride. The emergence of a figure from ground was what I puzzled through in my first year at the academy, culminating in the notion of the cut. Attracted to object making, I nonetheless explored options in the plane. I constructed a painting with scaffolded figures, explored my arm's reach, edited film footage of slow motion sequences in which image and ground seemed fused by light, was attracted to medieval paintings (because figure/ground were still so open - gold ground, perspective experiments, text bands), brought my aunt the tailor's dress patterns into play and inspired by those, constructed foldable plywood pieces derived from Naum Gabo's Spherical Theme. (I came across Lygia Clark's Bichos almost 10 years later, when looking at Hélio Oiticica in the context of working with light.) Oddly, photo documentation of the pieces being moved was more satisfying than the pieces themselves.

(1988 - 1996) Moving from Düsseldorf to Chicago, the work transitioned from having object character to becoming environmental. The tightly rounded plywood folds stretched out into space, the second time I thought about a work as representing the act of cutting. While exploring the modularity (cut-ness) I had noted to be part of these pieces, photographing them 'in use' was again intriguing, while the notion of use itself was disturbing within an art world doctrine I had not yet challenged. To facilitate a 'good' usability, what had already become softscapes (felt) were transposed into light. Shapes fused into scapes. I invited musicians and dancers in to perform, and other artists to exhibit. I demanded gifts from visitors to my solo exhibitions, to ante up, be explicitly part of the show. The light bumped up against exhibitionary modes, in collaborations that provoked artists to modify each other's work, reaching behind the object, behind the background, into the 'live' ground of organizations, institutions, of rule sets and beliefs - the live ground as tool for figuring. I now understand my work until this stage as the formal exploration of diagrammatics.

(1997 - 2016) Reflecting on ruleworks and habits, I had begun to teach, then to write, and since I read Dewey's Art as Experience at the time, engaging with his thought gave rise to a set of drawn diagrams. Those then were representations of live grounds, which are tools for figuring. More followed. Taken by surprise by this development, I mulled over Duchamp's Box in a Valise for a few weeks before I pulled images together to trace the trajectory that had led to doing this work. At that point I noticed that the early cross, the cut, had been made with Benjamin Lee Whorf's Language, Thought, Reality in mind. A sculpture, but a diagram. I then gave myself permission to continue in the diagrammatic vein, consciousness always lagging behind the doing, still wanting to be acknowledged, if not to be in charge. I worked through texts on aesthetics, on feminism, and was introduced to Vilém Flusser's writings, taking encouragement from his classification of diagrams as 'elite', or better, pedagogical technical images. I diagrammed arts organizations, emphasizing the fluidity of their borders, their effective integration as networks. The idea of the useful picture took hold. As diagrams had been part of my learning at all times, then facilitated my teaching, they were eventually brought into play at studio visits, too. From there, the notion of the artist's episteme evolved, in conjunction with considerations of aesthetic cognition. I am continuing to work with this, as the notion of the permeable organization has extended into perceptions of cultural ecologies.