Brittany Kleinschnitz IA

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Ideas and Art Spring 2012

Artists and Artworks

Shannon Ebner - the first image I saw at a lecture at the Guggenheim over FWT called "The Artist as Typographer". It is an installation view of her cinderblock letters spelling out "asterisk". The second image was found at the same website and consists of multiple silver gelatin prints.

How to Explain Sherrie Levine to your Grandmother - a funny short article on Sherrie Levine's appropriation art. I thought it would be 'appropriate', ahah no pun intended, to think about Levine's work in the context of Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence".

Olafur Eliasson - project called "Your colour memory" - Eliasson explores perception and the way people react to environments, as well as the connection between nature and culture. Images from Arcadia University Art Gallery.

Interesting Links

VS Ramachandran - TED lecture, neurologist talks about synesthesia at 17:40.

Plato's "The Seventh Letter" - the excerpt below is an explanation of circles and how we come to understand ideas/images.

For everything that exists there are three instruments by which the knowledge of it is necessarily imparted; fourth, there is the knowledge itself, and, as fifth, we must count the thing itself which is known and truly exists. The first is the name, the, second the definition, the third. the image, and the fourth the knowledge. If you wish to learn what I mean, take these in the case of one instance, and so understand them in the case of all. A circle is a thing spoken of, and its name is that very word which we have just uttered. The second thing belonging to it is its definition, made up names and verbal forms. For that which has the name "round," "annular," or, "circle," might be defined as that which has the distance from its circumference to its centre everywhere equal. Third, comes that which is drawn and rubbed out again, or turned on a lathe and broken up-none of which things can happen to the circle itself-to which the other things, mentioned have reference; for it is something of a different order from them. Fourth, comes knowledge, intelligence and right opinion about these things. Under this one head we must group everything which has its existence, not in words nor in bodily shapes, but in souls-from which it is dear that it is something different from the nature of the circle itself and from the three things mentioned before. Of these things intelligence comes closest in kinship and likeness to the fifth, and the others are farther distant.

The same applies to straight as well as to circular form, to colours, to the good, the, beautiful, the just, to all bodies whether manufactured or coming into being in the course of nature, to fire, water, and all such things, to every living being, to character in souls, and to all things done and suffered. For in the case of all these, no one, if he has not some how or other got hold of the four things first mentioned, can ever be completely a partaker of knowledge of the fifth. Further, on account of the weakness of language, these (i.e., the four) attempt to show what each thing is like, not less than what each thing is. For this reason no man of intelligence will venture to express his philosophical views in language, especially not in language that is unchangeable, which is true of that which is set down in written characters.

Again you must learn the point which comes next. Every circle, of those which are by the act of man drawn or even turned on a lathe, is full of that which is opposite to the fifth thing. For everywhere it has contact with the straight. But the circle itself, we say, has nothing in either smaller or greater, of that which is its opposite. We say also that the name is not a thing of permanence for any of them, and that nothing prevents the things now called round from being called straight, and the straight things round; for those who make changes and call things by opposite names, nothing will be less permanent (than a name). Again with regard to the definition, if it is made up of names and verbal forms, the same remark holds that there is no sufficiently durable permanence in it. And there is no end to the instances of the ambiguity from which each of the four suffers; but the greatest of them is that which we mentioned a little earlier, that, whereas there are two things, that which has real being, and that which is only a quality, when the soul is seeking to know, not the quality, but the essence, each of the four, presenting to the soul by word and in act that which it is not seeking (i.e., the quality), a thing open to refutation by the senses, being merely the thing presented to the soul in each particular case whether by statement or the act of showing, fills, one may say, every man with puzzlement and perplexity.

Weekly Reading Responses

week one

"The Eureka Hunt" - Jonah Lehrer

The initial response I had while reading "The Eureka Hunt" was a kind of insight in itself - I found that I do understand that in order to have revelations one must relax and essentially stop thinking, and yet in my conscious life I often strive to be creative and make unique connections between subjects, inevitably defeating the process that allows the insight to form. The insight here is that reading this article did not surprise me in the least; instead I had the feeling that the article talks about: "As soon as the insight happens, it just seems so obvious..." What interests me most about this information is the dichotomy between our conscious attempts and internal mechanisms. This double-nature does not only consider the outward reactions we produce, but extends to the processes that make it work - namely, the separation between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain: "If [the prefrontal cortex] decides to turn on parts of the right hemisphere, then we might end up with an insight; if it decides to restrict its search to the left hemisphere, we'll probably arrive at a solution incrementally or not at all". Through my interpretation, the right hemisphere represents the block-relaxation process and the left hemisphere represents the intentional attempts at an insight. The only way I can describe this connection is by using the word transcendental. It is interesting to consider the notion of "insight" in terms of science, when for so long it has been consider as coming from a divine or otherwise omnipotent source. Either way, even the science is extremely philosophical, metaphysical, whatever word you want to use. Particularly the part where the Zen meditator is given the C.R.A. test. - we see a person who has acquired a true mental capacity for control and focus, nothing more than that, nothing godly or out-of-body has influenced his abilities, preform this task by use of this capacity. I suppose what I make of this is simply a better understanding of what one calls "enlightenment" - there is no ending to the search that people creates for themselves, just a better control of the processes and parts that navigate the search.

In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art - Linda Weintraub

The notion that inspiration and influence are two separate and quite different things came as a sort of surprise to me, and was well described in the introduction, "Sourcing Inspiration": "...evidence of influence is often visible in the thematic and stylistic components of a work of art. It is, therefore, traceable. Inspiration, however, occurs within the private regions of an artist's contemplations and imaginings". Inspiration is thus the less tangible component of an artists process, while influence becomes the thing that inspiration grasps onto, that is, if one works in this fashion. What I discovered from this passage is that an idea only becomes clear when these two factors are balancing the equation. Another interesting part of the introduction was the point at which this article and "The Eureka Hunt" overlapped - "These instances [spiritual insights] are often referred to as "a-ha!" experiences because they seem to burst through a confining psychological membrane into consciousness". My first instinct was to underline and circle "confining" and write in the margins, "Why is there always something keeping you from creative ideas? What is it? Ego, maybe." My conclusion was this: inspiration, because it is internal and fleeting, works on an individual differently than another because of our psychological make-up. This is why we are inspired by and find interest in different things, also spontaneously. Thus, in order to burst through that psychological membrane or blockage, one must not give up their inspiration (as controlled by the ego) but understand their internal make up and use it rather than be lead by it. This mirrors the description of the Zen meditator in the C.R.A. experiment - overcoming the psychological block, not shedding it, using consciousness as a tool. Julian LaVerdiere is in a way using the collective psychological make-up as inspiration for his work, calling up past events that have influenced a large bulk of society and reforming them to a graspable image. And while William Kentridge is working along the same lines as LaVerdiere, his scope has been narrowed by a more specific culture and consciousness, also by his deep personal connection to the subject at hand. Kentridge is pulling at the two "characters" he depicts in his films: "Though a white man, he felt alienated from the European social patterns and cultural values that were imported into this colonial outpost, but he also felt detached from the native culture in the land of his birth".

week two

The Ecstasy of Influence - Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence" only reinforced my beliefs about honesty in making art and the decision to appropriate. The notion that one owns intellectual property only follows from the equally absurd notion that one owns physical property…but that's another conversation we can have with Rousseau. My strongest feelings about this piece come from Lethem's proposition that "the primary motivation for participating in the world of culture [is]…to make the world larger". The first inventions, the first works of art, the first pieces of literature were all using (and continue to use) objects and spaces and concepts that existed in the world and their environment as an attempts to understand them, and furthermore, to build on them. Who is to say that this perpetual building is to end? We create art and postulate ideas with the intention of making them public, of sharing them with society and with the desire for a reaction. Reactions come in many forms, and they often add to the initial idea. For instance, Lethem's story about the redesigned copy of his book in the MoMA's design store: the redesigned copy was a reaction to the content of the original book, not an attempt on Robert The's part to capture those ideas and make them wholly his own. Along these same lines, to re-use lines or images or whatnot is nearly always pointing to a reaction to their first conception. In a world so large as ours, even with the spread of culture through technology, there is a basic human faculty that is to absorb information, process it for one's self (make it your own) and repeat that information in a new context. Without the re-imagining of past ideas many new ideas could not come to fruition, rather, they stagnate and are forgotten.

Cracking Creativity - Michael Michalko

Along the same lines as Lethem's piece on plagiarism, Cracking Creativity fully suggests the same idea - to view ideas that already exist in the world from a new perspective, to use those ideas and line them up for comparison with something unlikely for a fresh understanding of what they actually are beyond the original meaning. It is a basic method of creative thinking - variation on a subject allows ideas to thrive: "Genius is analogous to biological evolution in that it requires the unpredictable generation of a rich diversity of alternatives and conjectures". The suggestions that this piece made to change one's perspective were really quite helpful, particularly the sections about visually mapping out verbal ideas, writing out questions about how certain demographics of people would view the idea, and looking at the idea from the perspective of a child. Each of these virtually puts you in a different mindset, nearly forces you into a position you otherwise wouldn't have thought to occupy.

"Is Lateral Thinking Necessary for Creativity?" - Mark McGuinness

In my opinion, lateral thinking being "necessary" for creativity is probably true, but that doesn't mean that if one can't think laterally they won't ever produce a good idea. The article quotes de Bono saying that "Lateral thinking is not a substitute for vertical thinking. Both are required. They are complementary. Lateral thinking is generative. Vertical thinking is selective". I think I agree most with this statement than with any other in the article because it is not exclusive of other methods of creative thinking. As described in the Cracking Creativity article, the concept of "lateral" or "divergent" thinking is necessary to get over blocks in creativity. This does not mean that it is necessarily essential or completely irrelevant to the process. In terms of the example given in the article about the engineer, I believe that the physiologists were using lateral thinking in simply suggesting that an engineer look at the problem, not particularly in the way that he ended up assessing the solution. Essentially, one could not develop a creative or helpful response to a problem without using previously acquired knowledge and also diverging from that knowledge, as de Bono says, both are necessary.

week three

Cracking Creativity - Michael Michalko

This article was mainly helpful by its variety mind mapping processes - I particularly found the "moving mind map" interesting, being able to shift one's thoughts physically on a surface, juxtaposing disparate ideas in order to make new associations that perhaps wouldn't have been considered otherwise. The ability to translate words and though into visual information is curious; often we are told to write down our ideas simply with words, when our minds function with images as well. I also enjoyed the part about Picasso, how he "filled" himself with his subject before creating a painting. The concept of continually storing information before releasing it through a physical act feels like a necessary process if one is to successfully create something that embodies that idea. Mind mapping thus extends beyond the mental sphere into a process of research: first discovering what you know and how what you know came to you, then supplying other stored information about that subject, and finally reaching outside of the self to glean new information. The one part of the article that I didn't quite understand was the Force Field Analysis. It seemed like a different concept than the other mind maps - more of a precursor to the actual diagramming.

week four

Creating a Life Worth Living - Carol Lloyd

When I first started reading this article I had the assumption that it was going to be pretty bad, inaccurate, corny. Though it was all of those things in some respect I actually found that the classifications Lloyd gave were very helpful in thinking about the way I work and communicate with other people. It was difficult to place myself among one or even a few of these categories...I felt that none of them really described my process, but in combination I think that the characteristics of the maker, interpreter, and mystic were the most exemplary of my methods. I wish that the article was more of a discussion about these different creative identities rather than a way to help people figure out what type of job they can get or what exercises they should do to fit that roll. There were a number of interesting points that were made that I wouldn't have otherwise thought, for example, that a 'healer' is a common category for a creative person. I also liked that the writer gave examples of people she would consider a member of that category, such as Bores as a thinker.

The Artist's Mentor - Ian Jackman

The selections from The Artist's Mentor were really quite interesting because of it's collage-like structure but really I wish he had written some of his own material instead of just outlining a million other sources. Still, it was helpful seeing disparate points of view on art making juxtaposed, allowing for an all encompassing view while reading the text. The one thing I was completely distracted and turned off by was the fact that the author only really talks about painting (with very small mentions of sculpture, writing, photography, and the less "pure" art of architecture...[?!?!]). The chapter headings were "The Creative Act" and "Being an Artist"...not "The Creative Act of Painting" and "Being a Painter". Though I understand why one would solely discuss painting because of its roots, the whole thing became very exclusive and elitist to me. There were a lot of points where it seemed like the writer was forcibly trying to make other art forms look lesser than painting:

"Two painters, asked if they might have wanted to do something else with their lives, say they are happy to be doing what they do, if not unequivocally. A sculptor, on the other hand, says he knows of sculptors who have taken refuge in painting".

or the quote by Elizabeth Peyton: "In kind of low moments I wish I was a photographer [instead of an 'artist']. Like maybe life would be easier".

or "For more than a hundred years, painting has been threatened by photography and declared dead or dying frequently".

So yeah it was hard to take any of the information that was presented through this article seriously considering that the writer seems very close-minded and unoriginal. Though it was attempting to clear a space to talk about art from as many perspectives as possible it was simultaneously suffocating a huge part of the art world and other processes of making. The question "Why do you paint?" is very different from "Why do you photograph?" or "Why do you sculpt?" just seemed that Jackman was not concerned with these other methods of making art and how the differ from painting. I am not as much interested in the cross-over or the generalizations about art but more about the differences in process and how we consider those differences other facets of art making. This piece really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know and I felt that it's attempts at spanning a large and complicated topic completely failed.

Journal Entries + Idea Development

week one

Idea One

This idea came to me impulsively. I was drawing in my sketchbook and I drew what then seemed to be a close to perfect circle (or as close as I could get by hand). I decided that I wanted to try to draw as many "perfect" circles as "necessary" (a word I chose as an alternative to "possible" because of it's less finalized or striving meaning). I believe that I came to this idea because of the reaction I had to reading "The Eureka Hunt". While drawing I entered a meditative mode, focusing on nothing but the repetitive movements of my hand and consequently not planning on a specific structure to the page.

Distilled: This idea is about a meditation on repeating a movement and the attempt to create an idealized image.

Idea Two

My second idea was born from three paragraphs in Vladimir Nabokov's Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. In pages 34-35, Nabokov describes for the reader his experiences with synesthesia, a perception disorder that causes two senses to work in tandem. In this case, color-graphemic synesthesia, sound signals a reaction in the brain that connects each letter to a corresponding color. This list is of the alphabet; each letter is perceived in a different way, has a different color characteristic. These are the beginnings of my translation of his descriptions into physical color. My plan is to create a color for each letter he describes, and to use blocks of those colors to create prints. I have yet to decide what the colors will spell out but my first instinct is to use text from the autobiography itself.

Distilled: This idea is about perception and translation, color memory, and communication without words (or, non-thinking).

week two

Idea One expanded - three senses

Distilled: This idea is about a meditation on repeating a movement and the attempt to create an idealized image.

1. Sound - Repeating the word "circle" perpetually, on a loop cycle. Each repetition of the word would have a slightly different intonation, breath, pronunciation, accent, language(?), etc.

2. Touch - Multiple globe-shaped sculptures that appear to be identical until felt - there would be slight imperfections (bumps, scratches, indents, etc.) unique to each one.

3. Taste - Cut out the drawn circles and place drops of flavor on each one, some similar as to make the difference unrecognizable, some entirely different. Allow the viewer/taster to choose.

Idea Two expanded - three senses

Distilled: This idea is about perception and translation, color memory, and communication without words (or, non-thinking).

1. Smell - A panel of scratch n' sniff-like papers with labels listing different scents (pine, wet dog, strawberries, etc.), that when smelled actually possess scents opposing to the label.

2. Taste - A strip of candy dots on paper that says something in Braille - they all have the same flavor, and the words disappear as you eat them.

3. Sound - Different letters of the alphabet (or full words) are heard while random color flashes are triggered by the sound.

week three

The first two maps are branched off of two of the main points of the map for my first idea. The second two maps are also main points, but from the map of my second idea.

Mapping my creative process and how I enter into an idea.

The process of mapping was actually very fun and exciting, I felt that I was more susceptible to discovering connections between the words I was writing by being in that state for a period of time. I would begin one map, remain on that page for a while, writing down what I had already stored in my head about that particular idea. Then I would take a specific subject from the map I had started and did research online for other related texts and information. After building up the first map, I began a second one, then a third, and then a fourth (choosing two key points from each of my ideas to branch off of). By working on multiple maps at one time I was able to find even more connections that related to each one individually, and often two or more ideas as a group. I think this reaction to the process uncovered a deeper realization of why I came to these two ideas in the first place. Though they are disparate in their content and initial ideas, after digging deep enough I found that there were intrinsic similarities that I perhaps wouldn't have found otherwise. The visual stimuli of the map was also key to finding connections - from the inception of the first map I thought about it in terms of a drawing; how large I was hoping to make it, how to space certain boxes out that would perhaps hold more information, how to draw certain lines (solid or dashed) to convey different meanings. I even believe that seeing the ghost maps and drawings I had made on previous pages due to their transparency helped fuel the desire to connect. Processing the information I was working with in such visual form was much more productive and active than simply writing it out (though now, after exploding ideas all over these maps, I find that it is surprisingly easy to describe in linear words how the process affected my thought production). There were many small eureka moments where I had a sporadic, clear-headed flash that would produce a truly satisfying connection or fresh idea about the subject I was meditating on. I believe that by immersing myself in this project, making multiple maps at the same time and researching external sources, I was able to "fill" myself with information and thus spill it out onto the page in a way that was both free and organized.

In terms of my creative process, the above description of creating mind maps really acts as a metaphor. When coming up with an idea for a project I often look to the stores of information I already have - photographs or pieces of writing, past work I have made and work made by other artists/writers who I already know. It is sometimes helpful to attempt to mimic the work of an artist I respect in attempts to access their mindset during their own creative process. If these sources fail to spark my interests initially, I often like to do a lot of research - very scatterbrained research, 10 books at a time or countless browser tabs that branch from one another. I tend to give up on an idea if I feel that I am reaching for an idea or thesis that simply isn't there, isn't connected or coherent. Though during the process I often choose one idea and stick to it very literally, the research process allows me to move between sources in a way that reaches completely new concepts (though loosely related to the original source). I feel as though I am collaging thoughts in my brain, and what comes out on the paper or whatever material is a visual amalgamation of those thoughts. Recording my research and process as I go is very important; I carry a notebook at all times and litter books with post-it notes with thoughts scribbled on them that connect to my idea or back to other points I had made. These resources are also what motivates the ideas that come to me spontaneously. As we have discussed in class, new ideas come when I am most relaxed and not thinking about much, but also in a concentrated mode: in the shower, right before falling asleep while watching the X-Files, a long drive in the car, doodling in my sketchbook. I also find that I get a lot of imagery and ideas from reading; I always have a desire to create connections between visual art and literature because of their basic similarities in expression, process, and structure. When writing I find that I enjoy creating pieces that I feel can be read in the same way that a person could look at a painting - even if it is blunt and entirely literal there is always something in the material and the architecture of the piece that enters a realm of non-thinking, or rather, affects the viewer/reader on a level that can only be emotionally felt and not verbally explained.

week four

This week I revised my creative process map by adding to it - after looking back at what I had done I realized that everything I included really only talked about how I came to find an idea to work with, not how I actually worked with it. So this second map is really a follow up to the first one...both are important and describe two steps in the process. This map discusses mostly how I interact with materials, my interest in process, and the potential paths I would take while working. I find that the most developed area of the map was my discussion of simply starting to work with materials. This revealed a though process to me that talked most about how using the process and manipulating the process would lead me to content and thought deeper than the original idea (but still connected to it). The other most developed area was the 'sketch' area, where I realized that there are more ways to sketch than simply putting pen to paper. I very much enjoy color mixing, researching how colors affect a fewer psychologically and what they mean in different contexts or their symbolic meaning in different cultures. Sketching is also proofing and forcing myself to scrutinize the first product. I am rarely happy with the first product but it is necessary to create it, to make it clean and seemingly finished. Interpretation is also an important part of developing my work. The entire time I am creating something I think about how it will be read between use of materials, colors, structure, etc.

I also revised my second idea a bit further by thinking about it structurally and in terms of materials, which I feel that I didn't really consider past my first desire to print. I am having a debate with myself about scale and presentation. Originally, I saw the prints horizontally, on separate sheets of paper lining a wall...also large scale (like 22x30 or larger per sheet, each sheet would have 1 sentence/line on it). Then I decided it would be interesting to make the prints the size of a standard piece of paper and vertical, including all of the margins (header, footer, indented first line of a paragraph) and perhaps some footnotes as well. A second thing I was debating was the process with which I would execute the image. I considered making the images digitally and printing them on inkjet paper. My strongest sense as of now is to do prints that are the size of a standard piece of paper, 8.5x11 or smaller, and to perhaps make a small book out of them using my own writing. I don't think I will abandon my first idea...I might still make some large scale ones just to see how they compare, but I am suddenly feeling the impulse to shape them in a more interactive way.

My last bit of revision is going to be to add a new idea that I have been thinking about outside of class but did not introduce. I am doing this because I feel that my first idea was definitely something to pursue but was not part of a class or linked to a larger project. This does not mean I will abandon that idea, rather, I would like to present my new idea for the last classes in order to get some feedback. So here is the process this idea has gone through in the last couple of weeks, summarized:

-The idea is the 'memoir' piece(s) I will have to write for my Reading and Writing Memoir class. I want everything I write in this class to be a cohesive project - to culminate. -My original idea was to separate the finished product into three sections: one about animals or other creatures, one about water, and one about god. Each of these sections would have a number of short pieces dealing with the specified subject. So, animals would have stories about my interactions with animals during my life, etc. The reasoning for this 3 section separation is as follows:

    Creatures/Animals = the self in relationship to other living things
    Water = the self in relationship to place
    God = the self in relationship to the self

-Soon after coming up with this structure we did an exercise in class where we told a fictional story about our lives. Instead of making everything up completely, I had a compulsion to tell an entirely true story but to add one fictionalized action to the story. The purpose of this was to tell something truthful but to add a complex, whimsical layer which focuses on the psychological (conscious or unconscious) state I was in during the event. I believe that even though this seems like a method of avoidance, it is simultaneously revealing an aspect of the memory which tells much more about the actual meaning of it - why it was remembered, why it is important, how it has affected me since.

week five

While approaching a somewhat 'finalized' part of my second idea I realized just how much potential there is in what I am doing, though I had previously thought it was far more simple. During these final stages the questions I was asking myself were in materials and methods - to print via traditional techniques (screenprint/monoprint) or digitally? For the sake of time I decided to print a page digitally, but still considered my options for further attempts, such as using paint versus ink...or (thanks to Rebeca) making a stamp and perhaps using watercolor. I like these options because of the physicality they bring to the process, and considering that the idea itself is about the senses it seems appropriate to at least use one of these manual methods. Creating the page digitally was definitely 'easier', though it made me realize exactly how time consuming this project is. Once I had made colors for each of the letters needed in the text I was using it wasn't so bad, but to make numerous pages I believe that I should make a dictionary of sorts, to simply copy and paste certain repeated words (another reason why doing this digitally helps).

Additionally, my choice in text was not arbitrary but also not completely decided. I ended up using a text I recently wrote, part of a memoir. The reason I decided to use this text was because of what the story is about (or really, what my entire project is about - explained in a paragraph from last week) - deception of memory and what truth is revealed through fictional imaginings. I found a connection between these two projects through those ideas and would like to get feedback on how these things work together.

Lastly, another development I have yet to decide is whether or not I should make these images large scale and individual, or, another idea - make them smaller and more personal and eventually put them into a book. I suppose it would depend on what the final text I choose is, I have had the notion that I may write some poems that have a stronger relationship to the concepts I am working with (memory, color, etc.) in order to have them work well in a book form (perhaps some sort of translation system?)

I feel like I am getting ahead of myself but I suppose that's what these past five weeks have meant to do, that is, reveal the infinite possibilities of even the smallest idea.

week six

For the last week of classes I wanted to step away from the project I've been working on in VA and think about the idea I proposed late - the subject I am working with in my memoir class about fiction in memoir. I just did another mind map considering all of the ideas and interpretations that come with the territory of fiction and memoir together and separately. I was able to develop questions and answer most of them...this exercise has certainly helped me figure out how I feel about writing this way and how I can continue to improve on the process.