The relationship with the body within the research becomes constantly stronger, through the encounter, through the form of the material, through its exchange, its fluidity, its function and the moment it is reminiscent of body and is - itself forceful.
Film made with Karl Foster August 2018
To look at an object is to inhabit it, and from this habitation to grasp all things in terms of the aspect which they present to it. (Merleau Ponty, 2012. p.68 translation)
There is something in the bodies recognition of a material, a form, that sits amongst the body in a crevice, under a thumb, in a clutch. It steers us towards other moments of recognition. The film below shows both Nell and Caroline discussing the license they have been given and how the object equally allows them something more. What is important is not just the encounter as a fundamnetal shift but that these two people who understand the language of the gallery, of the exhibition, of visual language and of art needed to be given license, needed to be allowed. The encounter that Caroline discusses is about a recognition both close to and apart. An ability, that through another material within her hands she touches another material conceptually. However, it is more than a conceptual touch, the belief that she can hold the Penone in the experience of another object is a new truth forming through the embodiment of her grasp, her grip, her hold and perception of the object in her hands. It is not about the Penone and it is more than the object I made - it is her woven threads and connections back and forth or as a triparite between body of flesh, of object of material. 'Every object is the mirror of all others' (Merleau Ponty, 2012. p.68)
'sometimes you have to pause to catch up with where you already are (Stewart 2007. p.63
The images of pages of text of lifting it up, making it fold, obscuring the view stopping me seeing the meaning or read the meaning repeat. I do this action often and the placement of something on the page is a concentration of the words below, although hidden. i make them concrete, a solid way back. They are small deposits on the page - as are the words. Sometimes they are my words and sometimes anothers.
The images below made and obscured or made clear by Charles Garoian make the text, make the words more than themselves and there is something dislocated in the relationship between his marks or shifts in the letters that are all of course equally embedded through the ink of the page. I suppose the splat or the spit, that I repeat are about the space just above the words -the liminal, just before the utterance or thought. Not delicate but clumsy and dumped, the materials of paper, text and matter have a small wrestle.
Sometimes the page has no text and still it seems things need to stand up from the flatness, revealing themselves and becoming an experince beyond a plateau. I cut into and layer in order to see something else, making portholes, connections between marks that do not belong together but are the same. Sometimes the images are more than the assemblages are and suggest something else is possible, sneaking round the corner, or unfolding folded things.
It feels like falsehood -a staged stillness when no one is in the space, or using the objects.
It is It all neat and tidy in the space, ship shape and spic and span. My tidy, our tidy materials, presented on platters, served up for viewing or possible encounter. They are loaded these objects but nobody knows they are laughing at you behind your backs as you are unaware of the disturbances they bring. In this sapce all is calm though and they are neatly balanced and equalised, pulling connections of red between themselves, they echo each other and are a family of things, they make all sorts of sense and no sense, not quite uncanny, neraly wrong , slightly juicy, seductive.
However the conversations around the table pull at the objects and name them, tell their stories, what they enabled, what they did, what unfolded, what was performed. We are sitting also neatly amongst them. They are ready for something else.
Robert Morris writes interestingly about seeing, ‘vision is always mediated’ this idea that we see in certain ways, see what we want to see, what we already know or what we believe we need to see is very much connected with the idea of being present, aware or awake to encounter at a more heightened state of becoming. Morris goes on to say, ‘We believe to such an extent that we do not ‘see’ the absences’. (Morris 2008, 45) in prosthetic pedagogy.
It is interesting to question the importance or relevance of the absences the wedges that fill it between the perceptions we have already formed. The absences are in the wings like understudies that as an audience we never want to be aware of let alone let on stage. We are happy with our narratives and out truth as an anchor.
The seeing is of course beyond the eyes “I perceive with my body or with my senses, my body and my senses being precisely this habitual knowledge of the world.’ P247/286
If we challenge a habitual knowledge or recognition to make way for the gaps in the wings then there is the potential for something new, Ponty’s ideas that within perception itself ‘we do not think the object and we do not think the thinking, p 248 makes the intuitive phenomenological leap all the more exciting and necessary.
Can we see more or encounter more with an armband on our heads? Do we metaphorically float on the surface of experiences with half our bodies wet through, or are we saved from drowning and bob with the flow or tide of information? Some people at Tate wore the armbands on their arms but most didn’t. They were pushed up their ankles over their shoes, they were orange plastic hats or possibly crowns. The materiality of the object was more than the identity of its form, they were perceived and then entangled as accomplishes, extensions or bagged that followed the individual around the space.
When the day was ending, it was mentioned that the unused armbands would be donated to a local pool for children to use in their swimming lessons and I thought of how the armband once on someone’s head would enable a different mobilisation around a space that was unfamiliar. A space that was risky and meant letting go (of standing) to float /to swim (to think differently).
These objects when encountered stand for something more than themselves they are set free form the confines of their functionality and flung into a realm of perception where ‘we are directed toward the object and we merge with this body that knows more than we do about the world, about motives, and about the means available for accomplishing the synthesis’ p 248
As I refer to rhizomes I am conscious that so does everyone else that I read about. Does this make it a more connected thing or less resonant - diluted and lazy. Phrases and words get lost in their repetition and as I reapeat I embedd something and lose it at the same time.
We must at time return to what we think we know and know it a little more. Sometimes we need to see it too, see it happening - don't just think it it live it. With this in mind I let my bowl of potatoes grow and sprout and soften and connect and embed with each other. They struck out filling the bowl, twisting about the space very quietly, under the radar and unseen. If I peeked i imagined any movement would stop there and then. But I am attaching somthing to these enchroaching potatoes and their normal process of reaching out, but importantly i was thinking about them, the process the rhyzome not as an abstracted theory, a drawing, an image but in its actuality.
The rhyzomatic process was happening in my utility room, not as a concept or an analogy or a metaphor it was just happening next to the washing and show polish. It carried on as people washed their hands, found swimming googles and pe kits - the potatoes continued in the way they should and the way they do. I would peep at them under the tea towel as they secretly grew away from my gaze. It is of course just what they do, nothing special, but the rhizome now defines the potato and it has changed as it has many times in my practice over the years. It is all about the potato and nothing to do with it all at.
I spent 3 days in spaces centred on new materialist approaches to thinking, research, practice. Materialist ways of being in the world. Examples and papers delivered and discussed as we the audience sat behind tables in lecture theatres and conference rooms talking about materials. Talking about materials. As I sat and listened I started to notice the types of chair that were in the room, the way that the clock had stopped, the odd texture on a jacket of someone in front of me. I was listening to the presentations and paper but the stuff discussed was so removed from the spaces that we occupied that I sought them out around me.
In between the papers we dispersed, alone or in groups. Myself and colleague would return to the same café and buy tea and cake. My peppermint tea fascinated me, in its physicality. The cup filled with boiling water was stuffed full of the largest bunch of mint leaves. But not just the leaves but the stalks as well. As the lid was put onto the cup the mouth or sipping hole was filled with the stalks that stuck out of the cup like an organic straw or instrument.
The whole presence and smell of the peppermint overwhelmed my thinking and focussed me on the substance - the matter in my hands. You could argue that the conversations that spoke of new materialist entanglements of the closeness and proximity of matter as us and other had fuelled my thinking around this peppermint plunged upside-down in my water, so basic and yet beautiful. However, my feeling is that it was the lack of the material connections of any recognition of how we were positioned and read to in the sessions that led me towards the material of the peppermint. The dynamic intra actions which were showed or illustrated in a PowerPoint had driven me to find something tangible and to see the details of what was just in front of me. I am not here confusing materiality with new materialist thinking but I am asking about the delivery of that thinking. Maybe delivery is exactly the problem because of course the premise would be that the entanglements are in amongst and surrounding. Betwixt and between. Delivering demands a handing over a transaction rather than an entanglement.
Every day that we returned to this café and noticed a cake or loaf next to the other biscuits, I imagined it as a banana loaf as it had the different textures within in it. On the last day we bought the cake and sat in the café, this time the peppermint filled a tall glass cup the entirety of the space filled and green stalks upturned. A plant plunged.
I didn’t take a photo of my tea and tried to find an image to equal it online, and nothing would, because it was the sensory overload that isn’t digital. So, conveying the impossibility of the peppermint encounter becomes a diluted reflection. In practice research, it seems that we may always be on the edge of a diluted reflection or account. The sensory –affect- in the being, the becoming of an event. As I type do I devalue the potency of something that was pungent and vital?
Returning to the banana loaf that turned out not to be, we sat and the waitress gave us the cake. She looked at us and asked if we knew what the cake was. Of course, we had only our thoughts of possible banana, so she went on to tell us the cakes story, that now seems like the start or a part of a fairy-tale. She began, ‘at the end of every day we collect all the cakes that haven’t been bought and we put them together, they are then made into this cake. This cake is all of the uneaten cakes from yesterday, every day the cake is slightly different dependent on what is left’ it was like a cake palate.
This cake story has been so important to me, it is an entanglement of cake. The ingredients of the cake was cake. It felt as though the event of this cakes reforming and reordering was the perfect material analogy. I wanted to run back into the conference with the cake. It was a material fit - forced and reformed. The cake was old new cake, it was functioning a moment after being a reject, it was manipulated to function again with all with the possibility of ultimately being digested. It was a cake full utterance. More than the delivered and didactic new materialist papers this cake was continually reforming being itself and other, a before and an after.
The missing part is how it was done - what the action did the bakers do, was it their hands a compression device.
ck here to edit.
In June 2018 myself and Clare Stanhope another PhD researcher from Goldsmiths presnted and activated a space at the Urban Matters conference in Utrecht. Potatoes, masking tape, glue and clay were our ingredients.
The religion of new materialism; pedagogical matterings and suspensions of disbelief
The shortening of experience by habit and its reconstitution by reflection go neurotypically hand in hand with the greatest of fluidity. What falls out between habit and reflection, leaving a gap they work in concert to smooth over with the aid of language coming from the field of memory, is the coming alive of the field of experiential immediacy, in its emergent dance of attention. (Manning and Massumi: 2014, 17)
This proposal invites participants to encounter a rhyzomatic pause, to entangle with and question the materiality of religion. We explore the idea of the religious encounter in the broadest sense of the word, as a desire to pursue something with great devotion. Be it a philosophical endeavour, conceptual belief or physical understanding. In a world that is becoming more secular, the boundaries of community and boarders are at once shifting and becoming fluid whilst equally constrained and territorial. Boundaries are in flux both blurred and identifiable. As Massumi (2002) discusses ‘Things, perception, and thought are in a reciprocal movement into and out of each other and themselves’ (94).
The Latin root of the word religion is ‘religare’ which means to bind. This brings forth images of being bound to something, perhaps in a supportive guiding form, or bound as in restrictive or repressive sense. It can conjure thoughts of protection and oppression. It is a complex relationship which as humans we often try to grasp. We look towards something outside of our own physical bodies to grasp the very nature of our own existence. The grasp is both physical, when we ‘grasp hold’ of something, but also indicates loss when we ‘grasp at straws’. It is a word that is permeated with gaps, even the onomatopoeic sound it exudes leaves our body like the last expulsion of breath.
Drawing on this creative metaphor we ask participants to work through and bind with material provocations. The material encounters will support a questioning of the singular and individual within the binded community. How does the metaphorical grasp of any support and belief structure, aid our own becomings? We offer a moment to pause and reflect with and through material. A grasping of ideas and matter, both through handfuls of clay - being grasped at, and skins that in turn grasp us. As we all leave marks and traces of our bodily selves, these can trigger a collective thought of how new materialism with its focus on the agentic qualities of becoming with matter can aide understanding of the binded qualities of the flesh. This ‘knowledge about ourselves demands prosthesis, which tie meaning and bodies together (Morton Søby: 2005, 23).
The conference was an interesting event with multiple voices that at the start seemed to chime together in a cohesive hope of the research processes discussed overlapping and embedding a position and aset of ideas. However, as the days went on there developed a tension between approcahes and what had been cohesive became antagonistic. There were suddently opposing teams, the believers and the sceptics. What was particularly relevant was that those involved in religious research and the accompanying belief structures that impacted on people, groups and cultural identities became vocal about their disbelief concerning new materialist approcahes. Taking a skewed perception of what new materailsm was, comments were made that questioned 'what objects really did?' that as one professor commented ' I have never seen a chair move on its own or talk to me' and followed this by the question, 'Where is the proof?'.
Kimberley's practice as an artist is pedagogical, it doesn’t just reference learning, it plays with, embodies and encourages learning at its core. The objects consider ideas of collaboration and authorship, discussions about touch and encounter, and bring into active consideration issues of learning within social and participatory practices.