Thought Catchers - an artist talk

in: Doris Ingrisch, Marion Mangelsdorf, Gert Dressel (Hg.), Wissenskulturen im Dialog. transcript 2017

My contribution to the book is an artist talk in the form of a ring composition, shown in the diagram above.

From the Introduction: "Thought Catchers opens with the Straw Star section that introduces my ‘first’ and ‘current’ art works, the first being a piece of childhood craft, and the ‘last’ a diagrammatic template through which I parse information I glean from events such as conferences, and often from conversations with other artists. I then introduce the ‘Timeline,’ a visual device I used in 2001 to understand a significant shift that occurred then in my work, from sculpture and installation to my current diagrammatic work. I present examples of the installation work first, and then show how it has been formally related to diagrammatics throughout. This leads into a discussion how part of my work as an artist is to create cohesion among my inquiries. I present that effort in three short sections, titled ‘Articulation,’ ‘Intensity’ and ‘Narration.’ This completes the descending branch and sets me up to bracket the body of work discussed through the timeline, which by now has been well thought through, with the newly arising Straw Star on one end, and my current work at the other. With that, the timeline finds an updated context. As the childhood Straw Star is quite different from later work that was undertaken as an adult, a question arises: “What is an artist’s achievement? That question creates the hinge in the ring composition. From here, to address that question, sections arise in parallel. ‘The 4th dimension’ draws on anthropologist Alfred Gell’s conception of the artist’s oeuvre, which he discusses as non-linearly interlaced through time, much as I discuss individual works as attractors for narrative. “The Knot” is a very short paragraph, citing Calvino’s visualization of a poet’s oeuvre as a knot or tangle, giving a shape to what he perceives as his episteme. The relation to "intensity" on the descending branch is subtle. Calvino’s piece is suffused with a breathless anxiety he seems to diagnose in the authors he discusses, which is caused by shifting relations between reality and understanding, at the end of the millennium. Since I did not address this in the main text, I include this notion here. "Cut" parallels "Articulation." It draws on Karen Barad to develop a notion of working in the thick of it, mindfully embodied and responsibly.

‘Refrain’ quotes Alexander Baumgarten, in Latin to point to the early origins of his considerations, and in English from a very recent translation, to show his ongoing relevance in asserting that Aesthetics is a way of thinking, deeply engrained. For the parallel in the descending section, I understand diagrammatics as the shape my aesthetic perception takes. As I continue to describe my current work, it is clear that it is work with others. The shape of other artist’s aesthetic perception becomes what my work is about. Thus, it closes the rising section of the ring. For the latch, the closing piece, I am evoking Grounded Theory, with a quote by Leigh Star. I show how my process resembles parts of Grounded Theory’s method, and point to its foundation in Pragmatism.

So, why this "Kunststück" and not a linear text? An interest of mine is to work out how part of the work of art is its tending towards language. A significant part of my process is to speak with artists about their work, and to derive an "epistemic engine" from what I learn in that conversation. This practice has evolved from participation in studio critique, which at its best draws on careful observation in a performative environment, as a professional conversation that draws on experience, embodied knowledge and exemplars. It is conventional to state that the making of artwork is not accessible to introspection. I do not agree with that "black box" theory. The making of art arises neither from the obscurity of "inspiration" or the orderliness of "intent." Instead, an embodied thought process that works in tandem with attention and articulation uses language as it does other materials. "Thought Catchers" is an example of such language in action."


Thought Catchers

Ohrwurm? Hirnwurm! ||: Was zuhanden ist - Körper, Zeug, Zeit. Nochmal: eine Vorgabe, eine bestimmte Zeit, ein bestimmter Ort, der eigene Körper, greifbare Objekte, Selbstvergessenheit. Kinderspiel: Strohsterne; zuschneiden, 3 auswählen, übereinanderlegen, Faden abschneiden, Mitte umwickeln, Aufhängerschlaufe binden. Nochmal: Sterncollage. Vorgehensdiagramm. Kommunikationsstruktur. Nochmal: Gelesenes, Gefühltes, Kunsthochschule, Atelier, Skulptur: Äste, Draht; übereinanderlegen, Mitte umwickeln, Schauen. Gips anrühren, Messer schmieden, Hinzufügen. Ausstellen. Oh, Augenhöhe! Nochmal: "Model for Spheric Theme", Auseinandernehmen, Mitte ausschneiden, Scharniere montieren, falten, fotografieren. Nochmal: Treibhaus. Bromelien. Nasse Mitte. Luftaufnahmen. Nochmal: Konferenz, Notizen, 3 Themen auswählen, übereinanderlegen, 3-Line Matrix. Fractal 3-Line Matrix Template. :|| Verstehensmuster Bildung. Topologie. Epistem.

As a visual artist, my work is concerned with creative practice, taking my own experience as a base line. Recently, I found artifacts from my childhood that offered (ambushed me with) a possible key to unlocking the significance of formal repetitions occurring throughout my work, appearing in many modalities, most recently in the ways I choose to represent content: conversations with other artists about working, art-based arts policy research, conference summaries. To non-intentionally repeat is a common artistic experience. I believe that it points to artistic abandon, also known as flow, or acquisition under diffuse attention, a coveted state that I find to enact Karen Barad's concepts of intra-action and agential cut that dissolve the knower of preceding, representationalist systems, along with things and words, into matter and apparatus. Thus, I am now exploring Karen Barad's understanding of the "conjoined material-discursive nature oconstraints, conditions, and practices" as a model through which to read art practice, in part given through the example above, from a performative, practitioner's perspective.

Abstract , Wissenskulturen im Dialog, Conference, Vienna, September 2016


Straw Star

Seen + Heard: Treats. Chicago Art Department, 2015

Link to Blog



With 3Arts at GIA

I just returned from Philadelphia, where I attended the GIA Support for Individual Artists Preconference as an artist respondent, and then introduced the image below at the main conference, on a panel that centered on communication between artists and grantors, with Sean Elwood, Caitlin Strokosch, Paul Tyler and Sasha Yanow.

This diagram was commissioned by Esther Grimm for 3Arts. The initial premise of the commission was to discuss with artists how not winning a grant might impact them. This expanded to a larger catalog of questions about how artists engage with grant writing. 

more + slide show


So, what is this 3-Line Matrix?

It is a multi-dimensional visual thinking tool. A field descriptor. An oblique coordinate system, or a scenario matrix on steroids. A topological device meant to breathe and stretch.

How to use it: In any given discourse, broadly determine 3 prevalent categories. Assign an axis to each. Then name the outlying positions and mark the end points of the axes. Spin the axes around, play with the ordering. Allow affinities and associations between the end points to emerge. Within the field thus sketched out, place other pertinent points. Is the background filling in densely, are hotspots emerging? Can the elements stand to stay in one place? Are they itching to move? What happens to the axes now? Are they starting to oscillate, bend towards each other, grow tentacles, narrow, widen, become more fluid or rigid? Is a field getting established? Does it oscillate? How can it be navigated?





Enter The Matrix - The Hallway