Who was I when I made this work?

I was having a shower this morning when I remembered a comment Jonathan made regarding us reflecting on ‘who we were when we were making our work’… it came up again in the first of our chats of the term this week. It made me think about all the ‘me’s’ there are….

  • The botanist/ herbalist who still exists strongly but drifts in and out, emerging under certain circumstances and relationships, depending who I am with and in certain relatively specific locations.
  • The mother : a mutable role and identity, especially as my sons grow and mature into adults and our feelings and responsibilities change.
  • The sociable participant who wants to experience as much as possible ( within reason!) for as long as possible.
  • The solitary reflector
  •  The investigator
  •  and many more…

Being in the shower makes me reflect on sensory experience as I meditate on the feeling of the water, soap and warmth on my skin. All of us may experience some similar events but our personal experiences of them are different. In the shower is one of the many places that I am reminded that my experiences of water on my skin are different from the sensations produced some time ago. Also, I believe that I feel the same sensations in ways that other people do not. Sometimes, I do not feel the sensation of heat or ‘wetness’  at all. Or maybe it does not feel like heat…maybe cold..or nothing. However, if I think about it more , I have no idea how someone’s experiences heat to wetness. I only know that my sensations of these are different from before. What is heat/ wetness. Who am I when I am in the shower? I am reminded of Buddhist thought on ‘self’. Am I my sensations or the emotions and feelings they evoke? or the knowledge which my interpretation of them provide.

Buddhists do not believe that there is anything everlasting or unchangeable in human beings, no soul or self in which a stable sense of ‘I’ might anchor itself. The whole idea of ‘I’ is in fact a basically false one that tries to set itself up in an unstable and temporary collection of elements. Take the traditional analogy of a cart. A cart may be broken down into its basic components -axle, wheels, shafts, sides, etc. Then the cart is no more; all we have is a pile of components. In the same way ‘I’ am made up of various elements or aggregates: form , feeling-sensation ,perception  volitional mental activities , sense consciousness. http://www.thebuddhistsociety.org/page/about-buddhism-2/fundamental-teachings

I have just started to read Visualising Feeling by Susan Best. This book discusses affect and feeling in art in the past 50 years. It starts by discussing the anti-aesthetic tradition and also concepts of spectator and experience. This was surprising to me for some reason as it took me back to the issues i was considering during my final year of BA but I had not somehow associated them directly with ‘affect’?? The book discusses the work primarily of two artists I have looked at previously ,in association with work I have made. Lygia Clark and Ana Mendieta as well as Eva Hesse and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha ( who I only became aware of when I originally referenced this book. Interestingly Clark violently disagreed with her positioning her work within performance art’…. because her work …… ‘rejects the idea of spectator’ seeing her work as ‘ existing in direct contact with the body of the participant beholders’ Yves- Alain Bois, Introduction to Lygia Clark,’Nostalgia of the body’, October 69 (1994), pp.87-88 in Visualising Feeling – Affect and the feminine Avant-Garde : Susan Best I feel this book will be of great significance to the ideas I am thinking about now, though still in relation to memory and time. Here also is a  COFA lecture by Susan Best on the same topic.

The book also mentioned Cecilia Vicuna so I have had a look at some of her works too In particular Red Coil which reminds me of some of my actions in the past .

This lead me back to Jimmie Durham, who was brought to my attention by Jonathan Kearney. Round in circles… I must be on the right track to something! I’m also thinking of other concepts of projection in psychotherapy etc which tie into these ideas of self and subject and spectator….. Next post should help a little with this…..


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