The Art Historian and the Neurobiologist Forum
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welcome to the forum
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2005-11-19 10:39:13 :
Link to this Comment: 17074
Maybe neurobiologists have something to learn from art historians? And vice versa? Maybe there are useful ways to learn from one another somewhere in between evanescent casual conversations in the halls and formal presentations and tomes in libaries? And maybe something in the Conversation About Proprioception, the "I-function", Body Art and .... Story Telling makes you think of something that might be useful to others? Whether you're an art historian, a neurobiologist or ... something else entirely? Join in, and let's see what we can learn from the different places we are and the different things we work with.
|tears and epistemology|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2005-11-21 20:27:18 :
Link to this Comment: 17125
What strikes me, amid all this, are two main things:
Elkins' description of his "getting sober" as he got older, his "growing toward books and away from fresh encounters with paintings" made me think that--perhaps?--your own move "from traditional painting and sculpture into body art" was an attempt to resist such a slow "damping down" as he describes, to insist on attending instead to the sort of art that moves us--in ways that we can feel in our bodies, in ways that matter (and in ways that may be akin to your animal studies and research into psychic abilities)?
If our engagement w/ culture is (as Paul has hazarded elsewhere) simply the latest stage in the world's on-going experiment of "trying out new things and seeing whether they last" (only now w/ the knowledge that we are doing it), then...mightn't we all contribute to the survival--of us all--by continuing to attend to proprioception? See Storytelling in 3 Dimensions and The Profit of "Unconscious Cerebration" for some descriptions of how using such a sense might contribute to exploration in the classroom.
On the other hand, there have also been quite a few stabs at maintaining an ontological/epistemological divide--which (by my lights) have not held up to scrutiny. Briefly (as per, say, a discussion in the working group on emergence), the attempt to distinguish between "nature" (aka ontology/what IS) and "science" (aka epistemology/how we KNOW it) won't hold. What I would say (have said), at this point, is that "ontology" is simply "ad-hoc" epistemology (or "hack-epistemology"). What we call "is" is only what we "know"--knowing, however, that we can't ever, really, know it. So--
to privilege the "metonymic" as "ontological" is to privilege something that...
we can't know we know, for sure. It is to make one aspect of the endless, complicated back-and-forthing of metaphor and metonym "foundational" and "elemental"--which we really can't do.
Do you think the working on us of the sort of
performance and conceptual art you attend to suggests otherwise?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2005-12-11 10:12:08 :
Link to this Comment: 17373
One of the things that didn't sit quite right w/ me, in this Conversation about Proprioception, was the use of the term "proprioception" itself, to describe viewers' sense that "something was amiss" in the gallery where Burden was performing White Light/White Heat. A remarkable review essay in today's New York Times Book Review (Barry Gewen's "State of the Art," 12/11/05), begins and ends w/ mention of Burden's work. It reminded me of my nagging sense of the mis-use of the term--and provoked me to return here to suggest an alternative.
I think what Kristine was talking about, in her analysis of the experience of the spectators, wasn't at all proprioception (technically and still usefully an internal awareness of the position and movement of one's own body) but rather an awareness of the position and movement of others' bodies (an awareness once, and still, key to survival). This is, in turn, primary in what Gewen terms "the necessarily... social interaction" that is art: "not only a space for the individual to realize himself in knowing himself, but also a space to enable others to know themselves, as well as a space to evoke the bonds that exist between artist and spectator in their common self-awareness."
I'd like to propose another term, here, for this shared sense of self-awareness.
A little time digging around in the OED showed that
"proprioceptor" results from combining proprius (own) and reception,
"extrioceptor" from combining externus (exterior) and reception,
"interoceptor" from combining interior and reception.
Moreover, the suffix in "other" originally signalled "a spatial sense,"
expressed "the contrast between two or more things with regard to their location."
So how 'bout replacing "proprioception," to describe our (uneasy!) awareness of one another, in relation to ourselves, with an alternative, something like
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2006-01-10 15:40:02 :
Link to this Comment: 17585
|thinking with the blood...and shuddering without e|
Date: //2006-01-14 18:33:12 :
Link to this Comment: 17619
This is maybe/probably bringing coals to Newcastle, but...
Kristine: do you know Elin Diamond's essay on "The Shudder of Catharsis in Twentieth-Century Performance"? Reading your latest addition to the conversation about proprioception and the "I-function" put me in mind of Diamond's suggestion that the discomfort produced by contemporary performance art is unending. She focuses on forms of postmodern performance that, she says, leave "no space for representation," and calls them "acts of total expenditure that refuse the separation of performance and the 'true-real': though at some point the performance will end, what is suggested in shuddering without end: permanent catharsis."
What I hear most loudly/clearly in your own account is the very similar claim that performance art refuses us the conventional pleasures of theater, insofar as they were defined as the indulgence of watching others go through melodrama: it forces our participation, our emotional involvement, in what is happening on stage=in our lives (you say, "the live presentation of traumatic subject matter...connects observers to viewers...transforming them...into witnesses," that, for example, "Burden's actions...put the viewer in difficult situations of responsibility, decision-making, and human interconnection").
Where I get confused, though (can you help w/ this?) is where you insist on distinguishing, and preserving, a "reality" that exists "outside" of the stories we make about it: "the event, an action...of violation, destruction," the "facts" that "are not simply 'stories.'" You say, for instance, that "one of the deepest ironies of this particular historical round of radical relativism is that it appeared on the horizon just at the moment when identity politics...emerged, thereby negativing unique claims for equality and agency by reducing each to mere competing stories." But what happens, in this context, to the "reality" of the "new paradigm for interpersonal agency" which you say is offered by performance and body art? Why (for instance) might we want to perpetuate an atrocity in performance, to insist that viewers re-experience it, rather than allowing it to pass out of memory? Why create more victims?
I've been at work, the past few weeks, revising a course I have long taught here on the "big books" of 19th century American literature. This coming semester, I'm going to use these texts to invite students to think w/ me about emotion--what it is, what triggers it, how we respond to it, how we display/enact it, what role it plays in our reading and our thinking (as well as what roles thinking and reading play in our feelings). In the course of preparation for this class, I've come across Arlie Hochshild's book on The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, which draws on Lionel Trilling's work to say that
Quite a bit of material I've been reading for the course also addresses your "suggested future topics," particularly those of the "I-function" and the "self" in the "human-animal and animal." I've found J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals especially useful in prodding my thinking through these matters (and would be curious to hear your response--as someone who does a lot of work with animals--to these ideas):
So: where does all this lead us? Can the unending shuddering of performance art lead us somehow into sympathetic imagination of others' beings? Mightn't the capacity to share those stories enable us to re-make the world in which we all live?
|No atrocity perpetrated here.|
Name: Kristine S
Date: //2006-01-29 12:18:10 :
Link to this Comment: 17838
Date: //2006-08-08 10:37:18 :
Link to this Comment: 20137
|a proscenium arch, a horse's stall: self-defense?|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2006-02-02 18:00:52 :
Link to this Comment: 17941
So my thoughts have been running in three (I think only three, but let's see...)
related (...I think related) directions:
And it does so in a world where, well, "anything can happen." As my student also said, "performance art can show us that we are bodies in space... to control atrocity in the environment of performance art and to act out what very may well happen to each of our bodies can be terrifying but...also oddly cathartic."
Such performances might be said to explore the multiple ways in which the boundaries we construct to keep ourselves out of harm's way (a proscenium arch, a horse's stall) do not--will not--hold.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2006-03-06 21:18:40 :
Link to this Comment: 18463
|taking one's own stories with an appropriate dose |
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2006-03-14 23:08:12 :
Link to this Comment: 18529
Some further fiddling with those further thoughts.
So much for the promise to avoid military metaphors. Describing the
...which means that in, teasing out the role of the I-function, it's probably important not to valorize (by contrast) the directness of the perception of the unconscious. It is not only the I-function that has no direct information either about the body or the world. Neither does the unconscious: all the information it gets is mediated, comes into the self via neurons that are material. It is for that reason (among others) that the "I-function" can function as "final authority in the realm of describing its own experiences," but "not in that of understanding them," i.e., either in explaining their sources or predicting future behavior from them.
And it is for that reason that not only a "coherent state of self," but an awareness of the (potential? always barely contained?) incoherence of self only comes into existence when the "specialist modules" which comprise the unconscious report to the story teller--a story teller that may indeed include itself in its stories, and thereby continually unsettle them. (For more on this, see the great book review in the NYTimes this week, 3/5/06, on "Irreconcilable Differences," which explains how we can "shuffle our self-classifications": "Human nature isn't finished with human individuality, or with itself....the evolutionary logic that makes us different from one another will gradually make us different from ourselves.")