Testing my revised plan for ‘Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics’

Here is an outline of my revisions to the plan I propose for the book I am writing, which is based on my doctoral thesis. My proposal is currently being considered for publication with Bloomsbury, and has undergone rethinking my original work and including new material, following recommendations from the Readers who reviewed my original proposal (and previous comments from my unsuccessful application for publishing this book with Edinburgh University Press). But the point of Making Sense remains, I hope? Tell me what you think…IMG_1598

Introduction

This book is divided into two halves: the first considers how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics in a clinical sense (that is, either inside or outside of the psychiatric clinic) and in terms of healing for the individual subject. The second part of the book considers how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics in a larger, social context, as a critical method of thinking and epistemology about the world we inhabit. Both of these viewpoints then define how art helps us to make sense of the world.

In the introduction I present the main terms I use throughout the book (sense, making sense and transformative therapeutics) and also my methodology for establishing my central thesis: how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics that helps us to make sense of the world. To establish the critical and practical position for Making Sense I pave a path between contemporary art practitioners and poststructuralist aesthetic theories through psychoanalysis. The aim for this project is to instigate a process of (and desire for) discovery and healing (or ‘transformative therapeutics’), which is applicable to the reader who connects with and learns about themselves and the world by engaging with the investigative and critical approach, through the agency of art practice, that forms and fuels the content of this book.

The introduction begins to develop an understanding of how we can use art as a method of healing and as a critical method of research (the two ways by which I define ‘transformative therapeutics’). Firstly this is considered in relation to the subject, and an individual’s healing, which can take place both inside and outside of the clinic. I begin by using specific cases of art psychotherapy, with examples where making art has been therapeutic in a clinical, psychiatric setting. I then consider the therapeutic agency of art practice outside the clinic, via Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of schizoanalysis, which destroys the clinic (although I question this) and open out how art practice can provide an agency of transformative therapeutics on a larger scale that can instigate social change. At this point I develop Making Sense through making art as a critical method of ‘material’ thinking that can provide a sense of politics, territory and a real epistemology, beyond the subject who performs the act of creating or viewing an artwork.

In the introduction I also define my position with regards to the suffering, illness, or pain, which art is said to alleviate, heal or cure. Defining cure does not involve a teleological (mis)understanding of progress, but a neurodiverse understanding of self-awareness, and a politics of care. I am not approaching cure from the viewpoint of a clinician (although I go through pharmaceutics in the final chapter). I do not want to impose psychological normativity. Here I engage with Lucille Holmes’ work on art and perversion, and build a schizoanalytic (rather than psychoanalytic) trajectory.

Part One: Transformative Therapeutics as Healing for the Individual

 

1. Making sense of transference: how art can nourish the senses

This chapter considers what happens when we interact with an artwork and asks the question: how and why does art affect us? The purpose of this question is to begin laying out how an artwork can stimulate the agency of transformative therapeutics, which is seen in this chapter through the ways that an aesthetic encounter ‘nourishes’ the senses. I interrogate the sensory experience of visual perception, which happens when we look at an artwork. This involves considering phenomenology (through structuralist and poststructuralist thinkers such as Bergson and Deleuze), neurobiology (through Barbara Stafford), and the judgement of taste (through François Cheng and Kant). By using the sensuous example of viewing and being affected by a selection of paintings by French neo-Romantic painter Jean-Bernard Chardel, I show how encountering an artwork can nourish the senses and in this way provide an agency of transformative therapeutics.

I then consider how making an artwork can nourish the senses. This involves examining the psychology of the process of art practice, and considering what happens when, say, we paint an image. I develop the concepts of transference and countertransference, through Joy Schaverien, to understand how an artwork can transfer, hold, transform and evoke attributes and states, causing growth and transformation for the person who makes this object, and for the viewer who encounters and perceives it. I consider the picture as a ‘scapegoat transference’ and a talisman. I then situate this as an agency of transformative therapeutics, particularly in relation to French photographer Jean Frémiot’s work with disadvantaged adolescents. Frémiot shows how making art can provide special attention, a new worldview, and, indeed, an ethics of taking care that nourishes the senses and creates a new mode of existing.

2. Making sense inside the clinic: episodes of art psychotherapy

In the second chapter I situate the agency of transformative therapeutics of art practice as it may take place inside the psychiatric setting of the clinic. This chapter is about art psychotherapy, which I introduce and describe how it can help people overcome difficulties, illness, and suffering. I do this by including vignettes of my own formal experiences of art therapy and psychoanalysis, showing how art practice involves desire and subjectivity, and leads to growth and transformation, with the influence of (and problematic dependence on) the art psychotherapist. This enables me to further consider and define the concepts of healing, growth, transference, subjectivity and desire. In theoretical terms I use Joy Shaverien (via Jung), Lucille Holmes (via Jacques Lacan) and Griselda Pollock (via Kristeva) to analyse my experiences of art therapy in terms of its clinical setting. This setting raises problems, and at the end of this chapter I question whether art’s agency of transformative therapeutics is dependent on the clinic. My critique here raises Deleuze and Guattari’s efforts to destroy the clinic and, in particular, psychoanalysis with their practice of schizoanalysis.

3. Making schizo sense: destroying the clinic

This chapter is about Deleuze and Guattari’s project of schizoanalysis, and the concepts of ‘counter-actualization’ (which is a synonym of healing) and the ‘desire machine’ (the motor and fuel of counter-actualization). Deleuze and Guattari’s intent with these ideas is to destroy the clinic, which they argue causes rather than cures psychiatric illnesses. In this chapter I define schizoanalysis, going through Freud, Klein and psychoanalysis, and Kant, questioning how this is a useful or applicable practice beyond its task to destroy Freud and the clinic. Schizoanalysis wishes to source ‘a place of healing’, or agency of transformative therapeutics, by engaging with the schizophrenic and liberating them from their clinical detainment. There are problems with Deleuze and Guattari’s argument for this position, with their dependence on (and exclusion of) the schizophrenics Artaud and Schreber. I raise these problems, and then use Deleuze’s morality in The Logic of Sense to resolve them and source the transformative therapeutics of art practice, using the example of the schizophrenic artist Adolf Wolfli, and the movement of Art Brut.

4. Making sense outside the clinic: Lacan’s sinthome

Now that we are outside the clinic I show how art can take the place of the analyst for the ethical treatment of the symptom. This chapter is about Lacan’s concept of the ‘sinthome’, which he raises in his work on James Joyce. I engage with another schizophrenic artist, Kyle Reynolds, who uses painting as a method of healing that has enabled him to evade hospitalisation and manage his psychosis for over a decade, outside of the clinic (and without any formal intervention of an assigned art psychotherapist). Lacan’s sinthome helps me to define how art practice makes sense outside the clinic. The inclusion and application of Lacanian theory is potentially problematic to Deleuze and Guattari (based around Lacan’s defining desire as a lack, whilst Deleuze and Guattari define desire as inherent production), although Guattari was trained by Lacan and his influence is still apparent in the schizoanalytic project. I use Zizeck here, to question and resolve the difficulties of juxtaposing Lacan with Deleuze and Guattari, and to continue building the independent agency of transformative therapeutics. I then utilise another example, from Brazilian psychoanalyst Suely Rolnik, who talks about how she initiated an episodic practice (and healing) of schizoanalysis, by the intervention of Deleuze, outside the clinic.

Half way through the book we are outside the clinic and can build, transfer and expand this agency of transformative therapeutics beyond providing care and healing for the individual subject. Now we can establish the transformative therapeutics of art practice as a critical method of research on a larger scale, which can instigate social change and help us make sense of the world at large.

Part Two: Transformative Therapeutics as a Critical Method of Thinking

 

5. Making sense of territory: the painting event

In the fifth chapter I propose art practice as a method of ‘material thinking’ (via Paul Carter), which is informative about how the world exists and is territorialized. In this chapter I examine art practice as a critical method of research and develop the concept of ‘the painting event’ to define the process of creating any artwork. I show how this process marks territory and, in so doing, provides a method of thinking (or practice as research) that offers a transformative therapeutics. I look into the movement of ‘Process art’ and Robert Morris’ ‘Anti-form’, to move our understanding of how an artwork has its affect away from the final object formed, and onto what might be achieved or provided, as a method of thinking in itself, during the process of its creation.

This chapter offers the dual perspective of the aesthetic (or the reception, consumption and reflection of artworks) and the artistic (or the production and the creation of artworks). Between both these perspectives lies a way of thinking about sense that helps us to think about territory and how we inhabit the world. Here transformative therapeutics is sourced from art practice as a method of thinking about and marking territory. In this chapter we use art to learn how we inhabit the world. We consider our place in the world through the process of making art. In this sense, meaning is practice-based and it provides an aesthetic ecology. I establish these ideas by utilising Simon O’Sullivan’s Deleuzian-inspired work on ‘geoaesthetics’, through the paintings of Caroline Rannersberger.

6. Making political sense: String Games

In Chapter 6 I consider how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics through the technology and politics of play. To start, I examine a new media performance-installation by the Canadian artist Vera Frenkel. During the creation of this work in 1974, String Games: Improvisations For Inter-City Video, there is a sharing of the sensible, an invention, improvisation and transmission of meaning, and a technology of play, which is how I demonstrate that the artwork makes political sense. Playing String Games provides inter-personal (and inter-state) healing that demonstrates topical social change. This is political sense.

During the event of this work Frenkel choreographed space, time and the senses through playing a game of cat’s cradle, via inter-city video, between two rival cities in Canada. I show how the process and installation of this performance makes substantial insight through its political sense: we learn how to improvise language, with its gaps for expressing the dissensus and difference of identity, and create a holistic sense of space that forms a ‘community of sense’. In this way Frenkel’s artwork provides a transformative therapeutics and a political community for its participants. The work is set in relation to the capitalist monopoly of the medium, governed by Sony’s overbearing control with this elementary form of ‘Skype’, and also in the economic rivalry between the two cities, Toronto and Montréal, which Frenkel here engages diplomatically, on each side of String Games.

I use Rancière’s notion of the ‘partage du sensible’, or the ‘distribution of the sensible’ to consider the boundaries of our active participation and place within the world. Rancière helps me think about what is fundamentally at stake in Frenkel’s art performance, seeing its political sense as a sharing of the sensible and in terms of its technics – the technology of the game and of the inter-city video facility. I then show how such a technics provides transformative therapeutics, which demonstrates how this artwork offers a Making Sense of, and in, the world. The point is to find a method and way of thinking that helps us understand and extend the emancipatory potential and transformative, therapeutic power that can be gained from the political sense of Frenkel’s work.

Donna Haraway’s work on playing string games becomes a useful way of thinking about politics and the primacy of technology and game-play in our definition of politics. In all these cases I develop how the artwork offers an affective therapeutics and transformative sense about the world. The psychology (and transformative therapeutics) of play involves Joy Schaverien’s work on Sand Play and helps us understand the political sense and opportunities for transformation provided by playing and performing String Games.

7. Making sense at the limit

In this chapter I show how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics as a method of palliation, mourning, and ‘being in the present’. Firstly, I consider how an artwork can offer us an intimate sense of the ineffable threshold of existence, or an experience at the edge of our existence, at the limit of what is real. Secondly, I demonstrate how the process of making an artwork can provide a form of therapeutic palliation, as the capacity to enable a method of ‘being in the present’ in relation to this limit. By examining an encounter with Sophie Calle’s installation Couldn’t Capture Death, Calle’s artistic process, and then turning to American video-installation artist Bill Viola (who also works on the threshold), through the aesthetic theory of Jean-Luc Nancy, this chapter aims to develop the ongoing hypothesis that engaging with art can provide the transformative therapeutics that defines our Making Sense of the world.

In theoretical terms this chapter aims to open and develop the dimensions of Nancy’s aesthetic theory on how an encounter with an artwork presents the ‘threshold of existence’, and also how an artwork provides a ‘technique of the present’. With critical reference to Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and by examining the enclosed space and aura of works by Calle and Viola, set in Robert Storr’s curation of the 2007 Venice Biennale, this chapter thinks about how encountering these works provides a poignant sense of our finitude during and beyond their event in Venice. We gain a sense of how an encounter might provide a making sense of the world at the limit, our limit. Then I open this discussion onto how the process of making these artworks provides an ethos and technique of existing, or ‘being in the present’, by using direct interviews with Calle and Viola, and developing a discussion about technology through Jean-Luc Nancy and Heidegger. I also utilise the psychoanalytic theory of Darian Leader, which considers art in relation to mourning and the mother figure, and helps us to understand the transformative power and therapeutic sense of Calle and Viola’s works. We discover how art practice can provide transformative therapeutics in the way that it offers a way of life, and here conclude with Foucault’s hypothesis of seeing the artwork as a ‘technique of the self’.

8. Making sense with the Pharma

In this chapter I use the term ‘Pharma’ to account for pharmaceutics and the drug industry, and also the ‘pharmakon’, which is a dual sided concept that can indicate both a poison and a cure. Sourcing the curative pole of the pharmakon is the object of this chapter. Stiegler partakes in this search in his What makes life worth living: Pharmacology. The title of this book captures the extent of our situation: Stiegler says that the misery of the present (the ‘disenchantment of the world’) has led us to lose the sentiment to exist, and now we just don’t know why life is worth living. This situation introduces our need for the curative pole of the pharmakon.

The search for cure leads me through Winnicott and Schaverien on the transitional object. Winnicott shows us how we can use an artwork to supply a resource for re-enchantment and the curative situation of the pharmakon. We see how art uses creativity and play to define meaning, sense and healing.

Winnicott’s psychanalysis raises the clinical setting and leads us to consider the role that pharmaceutics has to play in the search for a cure. Although, by now in the narrative of the book, we are supposedly outside the clinic, healing and therapeutics might seem to rely to some extent on the drug industry, which can resolve the ‘chemical imbalances’ that are said to cause some mental illnesses. Here I consider whether, as Stiegler argues, the use of psychiatric drugs is amplified to make people functional members of the workforce, so that ‘normality’ is controlled or manipulated by capitalism and consumption (via Stiegler, and also Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma). This continues my critical questioning of psychological normativity, healing and cure. I use Stiegler’s pharmakon to build a politics of care, Taking Care, which employs a neurodiverse perspective that is fuelled (again) by art practice as a sensuous, hands-on process of transformative therapeutics. In relation to this pharmaceutics are still necessary and important, although controversial and problematic. Making Sense has limitations: it can’t replace drugs, but it can still occur outside the clinic, independent of the professional, and be applicable for everyone.

 

Conclusion: Making Sense of the World

In this book we have developed an understanding of how an artwork can have an affect on us, and we have been through different kinds of art psychotherapy that provides healing, psychological self-awareness and growth. We have then located therapy outside of the clinic, and our agency of transformative therapeutics has extended beyond the individual case examples to provide a critical method of thinking about society that can affect the world at large. At the end we question the remaining disenchantment of the world, and the influence and dependence on the drug industry, which pose limitations to Making Sense. But we have still located and begun to understand how art practice can provide both a method of being in the world, understanding it, and an agency of transformative therapeutics that is applicable to all.

The purpose of this book is to inspire and stimulate this accessibility and encourage the reader to experiment with art practice as research and locate this agency. The proof of its potential to offer a way of being in and transforming the world that is universally accessible depends on continued stimulation and experimentation, which is an on-going, nascent inquiry that extends beyond the confinement of this book.

My conclusion is that we are all artists and we can all access and stimulate the desired-for growth and transformation that is provided by art practice. At this point my book launches a new and equally-accessible aesthetico-therapeutic paradigm. Here the world Makes Sense.

New plan for Making Sense monograph

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I’m trying to publish a book that is based on my doctoral thesis. The proposed title of this book is Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics. Bloomsbury are currently considering my proposal for publication. Three reviewers (Professors Leon Tan, Joy Shaverien and Lucille Holmes) read my initial proposal and said it was academically interesting but that I needed to include more psychoanalytic theory and material from art psychotherapy. I have digested their critical responses, which were very helpful, and here is my basic new plan. What do you think?

Although the main field of Making Sense will remain focused on contemporary art, poststructuralist and deconstructive philosophy, I will insert new material and a more critical use of therapeutics and therapy, to define and back up my position of transformative therapeutics. This approach will provide a narrative going through the book. Firstly, I introduce and define how creating and viewing an artwork has an affect that I call transformative therapeutics, which is applicable for the individual and society at large (I show instances where this is the case). This involves chapters that deal with the senses, beauty, politics, and territory. Then I take a clinical approach, using my own formal experiences of art therapy and psychoanalysis, to show how art practice involves desire and subjectivity, and leads to growth and transformation, with the influence of the art psychotherapist. This investigation leads me to question the clinic, and build the position that the transformative therapeutics and making sense of art need not rely upon a professional. My argument needs to go through therapy to realise that the therapeutic affect can occur without formal therapy and take place through the motor of art practice itself (rather like the ‘desire machine’ of Deleuze’s ‘Body without Organs’). Here I look into how schizoanalysis challenges psychoanalysis (and breaks the clinic), through a Deleuzian morality. I then use Lacan (and Kyle Reynolds) to argue that the artwork can replace the analyst and be a therapeutic force in itself. I then describe examples of such a position, in relation to how art can provide palliation, an ethos and a technique of the self. I then consider the role art has in making life worth living. Here I go through Winnicott and Schaverien on the transitional object, through Stiegler on the notion of the pharmakon. In this chapter I approach the clinical setting of pharmaceutics. Although, by now, we are outside the clinic, healing and therapeutics might seem to rely to some extent on the drug industry, which can resolve the ‘chemical imbalances’ that are said to cause some mental illnesses. Here I consider whether the use of psychiatric drugs is amplified to make people functional members of the workforce, so that ‘normality’ is controlled or manipulated by capitalism and consumption. This continues my critical questioning of psychological normativity, healing and cure. I use Stiegler’s pharmakon to build a politics of care, Taking Care, which employs a neurodiverse perspective that is fuelled (again) by art practice as a sensuous, hands-on process of transformative therapeutics. In relation to this pharmaceutics are still necessary and important, although controversial and problematic. Making Sense has limitations: it can’t replace drugs, but it can still occur outside the clinic, independent of the professional, and be applicable for everyone. My conclusion is that we are all artists and we can all access and stimulate the desired-for growth and transformation that is provided by art practice. At this point my book launches a new and equally-accessible aesthetico-therapeutic paradigm. Here the world Makes Sense.

Plan N + 1 (which is bound to fail)

I’m applying for a job at Goldsmiths — lecturer in Fine Art Critical Studies. I have no chance of getting anywhere near being shortlisted (and I’m going to do an MFA at ARU anyway). But this is my dream job. I need as much help as I can get. Here’s my proposal — please do comment and tell me how I might improve it…

My teaching experience and knowledge of current trends in art (its theory, history, education policy, criticism) develops from my career as an artist, writer and arts educator. I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a PhD in aesthetic philosophy, with a thesis that provoked and expanded art practice as a critical form of thinking and a transformative method of research. I am currently editing my thesis, under the rubric of Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics, which is being reviewed for publication with Bloomsbury.

My research continues and develops from my doctoral studies into a growing movement of thought, and series of annual colloquia, called ‘Making Sense’, which I founded in 2009. This would make a significant contribution to the research culture of the art department at Goldsmiths: I draw together a creative community of thinkers and artists who communicate and collaborate in new dimensions and media to produce a language and knowledge that is sensuous, invigorating, accessible and politically active. This year’s colloquium will be held at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, with curator and critic Robert Storr. Next year we go to New Delhi, India, where our ethos is socio-political, ‘Making Sense of Crisis: Art as Schizoanalysis’, and we respond in particular to the current crises (such as gang rape and violence) across India.

Organising and leading these events (at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, the Whitney Humanities Centre, Yale University, and The Met. for example) has given me experience with and influence on the role of art institutions in the public domain. The different art theories, critical studies, media and practices that result from these events would provide innovative and interactive source material to contribute to the research culture at Goldmsiths, particularly in light of its implications for the REF 2014, with such socially engaged artwork. In this regard I am interested in how art can express, react to and transform social disturbances, collective traumas and group ‘norms’ associated with systematic violence. This extends a consequent distribution of innovative knowledge beyond the wider community who assemble to participate in this series of events, with online and literary publishings and through social media.

From this background I have a proven record of achievement in international, cross-disciplinary and exceptional research. My aptitude for the position at Goldsmiths is also demonstrated by my teaching experiences in Paris and Cambridge, where I have developed my own syllabus, taught and examined research, masters and undergraduate work. I assessed students’ work, using both traditional methods of examination (such as marking essays, listening and oral comprehension tests) and also performative or creative expressions and interpretations of the different ideas and theories we covered in my classes.

My vision for the lectureship at Goldmsiths juxtaposes a practical methodology of ‘thinking through doing’, or research through practice, with the history and theory of modern and contemporary art, to bring forward a focus and stimulus that provides an invigorating and original research enterprise. My experiences and knowledge would stimulate the students, within (and exceeding) the assigned lectures on the Critical Studies syllabus, such as Postcolonial Identities and Representation; Art and the Everyday; The Right To The City; Utopias in Contemporary Art; Post-Criticalities; Acts of Appropriation; The Film Effect – Moving Image Art in Context. I would relish the chance to teach these subjects. I would also be able to inform and inspire the students in relation to theoretical issues alongside the practical needs of art, encouraging and animating talent and zeal, so that students can work together to create a dynamic, innovative and progressive department.

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New page on my site!

I’ve added a new page to my site, ‘essays’. You can see this by clicking on the link on the left.

This first essay is about a schizophrenic artist, Kyle Reynolds, whose work I find immediately fascinating, intuitive and deeply moving. He shows us a way to perceive the world beyond the dictates of ‘common sense’, whilst his works replace the psychoanalyst and exist as healing powers in themselves. My essay uses the psychoanalyst Lacan’s theories on the symptom, and how art practice might replace the need for the clinic, and Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalytic theories about the Body without Organs and the time image. I also compare Kyle’s work to Salvador Dali. My hope for this essay is to demonstrate the nurture-power of art practice, and show how it might heal the individual and society at large. This is a ‘test-run’, so to speak, and I need feedback. It is perhaps controversial to use Lacan alongside Deleuze and Guattari, and my theory may be naive or simplistic. But I would rather to draw out the essence involved in art practice, rather than write a strict or scientific (incomprehensible) work of critical theory. So, enjoy! (and tell me what you think…)

Morphing Monsters in My Head…

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See the essay, here: https://lornacollins.com/essays/

A fairytale on Ryanair about Pedro the Spaniard

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The amphitheatre for bull fighting in Málaga

It’s absolute carnage here. I’m on board the Ryanair plane to Málaga. It looks like there aren’t enough seats for all the passengers, who cram the (very) tight space and race to get the best seats. Relatively speaking, that is. This race is not exactly speedy but there are so many people trying to get a seat with air hostesses barging everyone out of the way, getting in the way, trying to make space for the luggage, so it’s all very competitive. Panicky, even. And as for “best” seats, well they’re all the same, sordid, plasticised minuscule boxes to park one’s derrière into. It’s rather ferociously uncomfortable: there’s barely room for the length of my legs, whilst my arms are far too long and basically I simply don’t fit in.

The two people on my right, I have so far inferred, are Spanish. One (in the middle seat, which is just next to me) is playing a Spanish game on his iPad. This game has brightly coloured characters that resemble the pic-n-mix sweets that children eat at the cinema, or those fruit mix gambling games you play in pubs or at the fair — where you press a number of the buttons trying to reach a certain score so you can win a prize. Decidedly dull. Oh well. The man in question has now given his iPad to his friend, who has changed the game to Solitaire. I’m not sure how entertaining it is, but both these copains seem enthralled.

One is lanky, with long greasy hair and stubble. He has very hairy arms, peeping out of his black airtex top (which has a sprinkling of dandruff on the shoulders). Oh dear — the air hostess has just told them to turn off their iPad whilst the plane takes off. They look bored. Still, at least the plane is taking off. We’re on the way! How very exciting. Anyway, as I was saying, this man, with the hairy arms. He also has a clumpy watch, which has three faces. I imagine he must travel lots and so needs to see different time zones at the same time. I imagine he’s a professional bull fighter from Madrid, who travels the world to different Spanish colonies like Argentina, Africa (I’m sure one of the countries in Africa is Spanish) or Peru, or the moon, or Saturn, where Richard Branson’s company Virgin imported bulls, who are crazed at the heat. Pedro (this Spaniard with hairy arms) is on his way to Saturn, via Málaga. He’s stopping off in Málaga to celebrate Palm Sunday with his mother, and be principle maestro at the grand procession. Easter is big in Spain (it’s a Catholic country). The new pope, Francis, is going to be there and he and Pedro are giving Mass together. The Pope wants a layman to help him give mass, particularly a Spaniard, because of the new democratic, down to earth and accessible ethos of his papacy. Pedro has been chosen to fulfil this role because he represents both an ancient Spain, as a bull fighter, and also as a modern man, because of the way he has transformed bull fighting into a dance with bovines. Rather than attacking, wounding or slaughtering the bulls, and engaging entirely with The Death Instinct and relishing blood, Pedro has invented bovine dressage, where he teaches the bulls to dance with he and his dramatic, red cape. It’s a bit like that dog Pudsy on Britain’s Got Talent. In this case the Pope is Simon Cowel, and the setting is a relic of an ancient amphitheatre, rather than ITV. Pedro whispers to the bulls — he is a “Bull whisperer” and they perform together like a form of poetry in motion, in time to the jangling percussion of buskers whom Pedro (and Richard Branson) employ to provide the sound for he and his bulls’ performance. It’s like a Big Issue Seller scenario, except with music and bulls, since Pedro uses homeless buskers who live in the street.

Richard Branson comes in because he’s exported bulls to Saturn, and cows as well, a whole herd, with baby calves, who thrive, surprisingly, on the molten landscape, due to some magic ointment that Pedro himself invented, which he puts on their hooves/trotters (whatever they’re feet are called) and because of his mother’s special Spanish tapas, which the cows love to eat, far away on the planet. And Richard is launching “Saturn’s Got Talent”, either on ITV, or BBC3. There’s a massive price war going on at the moment, with these two channels in a bid to win the rights to air this show. My guess is that BBC3 will win it, since Pedro’s bull (pseudo) fight is artistic and balletic. It’s about culture. No more blood and guts. And We Don’t Want Any Adverts to disrupt the flow of artistry as Pedro dances with his bulls. So I’m sure it’s more suited to BBC3 than ITV. Although I expect ITV will pay Richard more money, which he needs, since financing the hole project in Saturn is ridiculously expensive. I mean, how does one (i.e. the cows, or Pedro, or the other contestants (use your imagination) on Saturn’s Got Talent breathe? Well, indeed, quite.

Richard at first tried to import air from earth, in a specially adapted cow-friendly cylinder, whilst Pedro had to do special training at the Astronaut Academy in Hollywood (another expense). But eventually it was my yoga friend, Theo, who has a PhD in something scientific, who came up trumps. He invented a device which uses the pranayama breathing exercise we do at the beginning of Bikram yoga. Theo transported this and transduced its biomechanics in a schizoanalytic fashion, which meant that All Could Breathe On Saturn, suddenly. It involved teaching both the cows and Pedro how to do Bikram yoga, but that wasn’t hard. Obree (Theo and Jennifer’s dog) helped, and so did Alejandrro (the Spanish Bikram teacher at T + J’s studio). All sorted. So Pedro’s off to Saturn, after Easter in Málaga with his mum, and the Pope. But now, by now, still on the plane, he’s fallen asleep. Luckily (for me) he’s not snoring. His friend is continuing to play Solitaire. Engrossed on the iPad…
IMG_1233Me in Málaga

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Making Sense with entropy: Tunisian Collaborative Painting

(for Bikram yoga, click here: https://lornacollins.com/2013/03/03/bikram-yoga/)

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I am applying to participate in an artistic retreat at Wysing Arts Centre, in Cambridge. To make this application I need to propose a workshop. There will be a lot of brilliant applicants and I am unlikely to secure a place, although I would really like to go. The retreat is on theme of “Tracing the Tacit”. My proposed workshop needs to be on one of the sub-themes of Entropy, Chance, Disorientation or Silence. I have chosen Entropy, and propose an edition of David Black’s marvellous Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops. Please look at my proposal and tell me how I might improve it. The deadline for applications is the end of this week. For more details, see:

http://www.wysingartscentre.org/whats_on/retreats/escalator_retreat_13_-_call_for_proposals

  1. Workshop Proposal

This is a participatory performance exercise in which I gather individuals at ‘Escalator Retreat 13’ together as strangers who meet, collaborate and create a painting. This collaborative experience interprets the concept of entropy, meaning inherent disorder and friction, as a necessary stage in the development of a process, namely art-making, that then provides a restorative and replenishing social act.

‘Tunisian Collaborative Painting’ is an art form that was developed by Hechmi Ghachem in the 1980s, responding to the dictatorial government and oppressive political regime in Tunisia. It allows a group of people (artists or non-artists) to work simultaneously on a canvas without discussion or planning, following a simple set of predetermined rules. As a consequence, the process of painting involves strangers meeting and creating together in a way that enacts the disorder of their random alliances, as posed by their gathering at Wysing. The canvas becomes a meeting point for these public performers, who, whilst painting together, embody and situate the arguably lonesome, marginal, starving edges of a society. The canvas and its occupants become an Augusto Boal-ian Theatre of the Oppressed, where different cultures, identities, opinions and styles come together, whilst strangers meet and work through their sometimes opposing viewpoints and visions. This process then responds to divergence with an economy of contribution, rather than capitalism, and a truly democratic constitution.

This worthy political effect occurs during my workshop as a result of passing through the entropic, chaotic visual mess of individuals’ random and differing marks in the canvas. Since any person can paint over or change another’s marks and create an entirely different effect, the painting process might become a violent act, which produces disorder in the closed system of the shape of the canvas. However, as no single person is responsible for the whole composition, there is the elimination of desire in the creative act. There is no ego, and from the collaborative experience (with its necessarily entropic process) a painting created by a group of individuals resembles the work of a single artist. Thus, instead of the unravelling of the order of a system (i.e. the canvas) into inherent disorder, the expenditure of energy that occurs whilst each participant puts marks on the canvas, and their collaborative teamwork, results in a an efficiency for this system, which can now express both the individuality of each participant and their unity as a whole.

In this way my workshop will show how order can only be produced by increasing entropy; just so the final painting, with its cohesion, can only occur as a result of the chaotic, aggressive and entropic process that occurs whilst making it. As a result, we will discover that disorder is only a limited perspective of order, and vice versa, whilst passing through entropy is a necessary stage towards one and the other. Meanwhile, participants discover a new way of working together and create an artwork that testifies to their different identities and the ways that these congregate at Wysing.

  1. How this proposal within the retreat is relevant to my practice at this particular moment

The participatory workshop of ‘Tunisian Collaborative Painting’ I propose for ‘Escalator Retreat 13’ represents a timely culmination of my artistic research into Making Sense. This is an expanding collective of artists and thinkers who have gathered in response to my research and art practice, to develop an act of reflection that is at once sensual, conceptual, accessible, and interdisciplinary. I organize annual colloquia that found a junction between theory and practice, in collaboration with philosophers Jean-Luc Nancy (in Cambridge), and Bernard Stiegler (at the Centre Pompidou in Paris) with Elaine Scarry (at Yale), and this year we are holding the event at The Metropolitan Museum, New York, with Robert Storr. These colloquia draw together professionals engaged in the worlds of art, philosophy, critical theory and psychology to provide live source material for invigorating debate and creative research, forming an interface between artistic creation, theoretical debate, and academic scholarship.

At last year’s colloquium I collaborated with David Black, an American painter who highlighted the significance of Tunisian Collaborative Painting at a pivotal time in the Tunisian Revolution. We held two Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops, where participants discovered a diplomatic sense that translated across their different, disordered and divergent ways of thinking. This experience showed me how such an activity, of directing strangers to paint together, could develop and disseminate a language and semiotics that is diverse, creative, transformative, and inclusive. This practice then demonstrates how art-making can be used as a means of responding humanely and critically to social crises and traumas – the living reality of the inherent disorder and conflict that defines the entropy that besets our very being-in-the-world. This is the mode of ‘real’ that I bring to Tracing the Tacit: my workshop of Tunisian Collaborative Painting poses a diplomatic and regenerative response to the ‘universal’ law of perpetual decline.

I need to take part in Escalator Retreat 13 to bring to fruition my ongoing artistic scholarship with Making Sense, make new connections, collaborations and prove how this is possible through the process of making art.

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Bikram Yoga

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I had a euphoric moment in Bikram yoga today. I went to my friends Theo and Jennifer’s new studio, Ethos Hot Yoga, in town, and practiced in both of their classes. I ‘did a double’ (with my packed lunch and lots of coconut water in between). This experience brought me a momentous bodily nirvana as a trolled along to my Sunday’s duration.

The first class was lead by Theo. As I exerted my body to the maximum, trying to achieve the perfect muscular alliance and traction during each pose it occurred to me that I have become so besotted to Bikram because it seems so like my previous love (and obsession): dressage. In both arts there is a set sequence of movements which never change: in dressage you follow a particular test, trying to perfect each movement, which is judged and marked out of ten. The tests might change, as you progress and advance to a higher level, but the movements stay the same. You are always trying to improve and interpret these movements with greater correction, pureness and poetry.

Just so, in Bikram the 26 poses are repeated in each yoga session, and they do not change. But every time you practice you try to improve and interpret each pose with greater correction, pureness and poetry, just like in dressage. And, in both arts, every time it feels different. In Bikram, the body reacts and plays differently, as the heat changes in intensity, whilst you can feel your muscles being stretched and your internal organs being massaged in different areas, with different amounts of pressure, as you attempt to perfect each posture.

Equally, in dressage, the horse and the rider always feel different in their interconnection and in the ways they align and communicate to interpret each movement. I used to talk to my horse with my body, through pressure from my seat bones and our connection through the reins, and with our synchronised breath and muscular harmony we could communicate and reassess each movement, always trying to advance the power of the horse’s body and show the meaning of beauty. We did this by practicing each movement, and using this process to enhance the muscular anatomy and poetic brilliance of the horse. In dressage this is an endless search and a lifelong journey that changes and is always different every time the horse and rider come together and perform.

It’s the same in Bikram yoga, my new-found love. The poses are always the same, but each effort to move the body to create them is different. I always lose my balance in ‘Standing Bow’, or during the three bounces to test the balance in the third part of ‘Awkward Pose’. During these poses, and in fact in every pose, I am tested to my limit.

But today this test erupted. There was a tsunami of sweat, as I melted (and came in the heat) and an oozing evanescence between the boundary lines of my body and my mind as they came together and performed each pose. Within the set barriers regulated order of the sequence there was a continued effort to grasp a purity or essence that might be obtained if you can ever achieve the pinnacle of perfection by doing each of the postures properly. You trust that the muscles of the body will be compressed and stretched, massaged and realigned to their ultimate benefit by doing these postures. You can really feel it happening, or, at least, that’s what I felt today. Like dressage, the practice has the aim of improving the anatomy and reaching a pinnacle of health and wellbeing, as well as achieving or creating an artistry and genesis.

Today I felt this come to fruition. Jennifer led the second class and I was determined to test my body to its utmost. It was hot. I felt so situated inside this flesh, and aligned by my practice that I took off my long-sleeved black t-shirt, which I always wear during every Bikram class. So, for the first time, wearing my crop top, I bared my arms and their scars, my stomach and its weight, and the meaty covering over my ribs, which used to protrude and now are no longer visible (even during the pranayama breathing exercise). Most of all, I bared and shared my body with myself, and felt at home there, as the sweat flushed and dripped down me. I put my all into each posture and, despite wobbling around during most of these attempts, there were moments when I could really feel the benefits of this practice. I felt fit and alive. I could see the scars, as relics of my psychotic, destructive, detained past, in the mirrors, but I no longer needed to create them, or to hide from them. I was surrounded by new friends, a new life, and the discovery, or self-discovery, of a healthy way of being inside my new body. This was my euphoria.

 

Artistic vision in words

My paintings show how the act of creating art becomes a method of existing and making sense of life. My PhD thesis concerned an academic and theoretical quest of trying to understand how and why creating an artwork has a transformative agency. The paintings and interdisciplinary colloquia that form my output as an artist are the enactment of this agency. From the strict figurative linear forms, bursting into tactile hallucinations of schizo-affective disorder, through experiments with colour and bursting beams of light, my oeuvres continually narrate and experiment with my life experiences. Art provides a making sense of these experiences, which have taken me to the gates of hell bound fury, a black hole of total amnesia following brain damage, and the birth of the essence of light and life, which is desire, pleasure and the body.

Making Sense lies at the forefront of my vision. This is a loose and expanding collective of artists and thinkers engaged in ‘making sense’, who have gathered in response to my research and art practice, to develop an act of reflection that is at once conceptual, sensual, accessible, and transdisciplinary.  This movement has a common striving to cross between modes of theory and praxis and to find a common language in the contemporary context.  I have organized yearly colloquia in collaboration with philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy at the University of Cambridge; with philosopher Bernard Stiegler in 2010 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; with Elaine Scarry, at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale. This year we are at The Metropolitan Museum, New York, with Robert Storr. These colloquia draw together a creative community of thinkers and practitioners engaged in the worlds of art, aesthetic philosophy, contemporary theory, psychiatry and psychology who communicate and collaborate in new dimensions and media to produce a language and knowledge that is sensuous, invigorating, accessible and politically active.

In between my painting practice and the powerful and provocative Making Sense events that I organise, the works in my portfolio show the search for an affective and structural essence of existence, and a process which holds my existence together and offers a method of understanding the various new dimensions that are revealed to me when I create.

 

Updates to the portfolio

IMG_0929

Crystal watercolour pigment, gouache, egg white, gloss acrylic medium. wood.

IMG_0909

Crystal watercolour pigment, gloss acrylic medium, gouache.

Crystal watercolour pigment, gouache, egg white and acrylic gloss medium
IMG_0941

Crystal watercolour pigment, gouache, egg white, acrylic gloss medium

Assembling my portfolio

commission 2004 2

Pencil on paper, A3, 2004.

‘Darkness Clings (tactile hallucinations)’

Pencil on paper, A4, 2010.

100_0617

Expressions with watercolour, pencil, ink and emotions on A5 sketchpad

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‘Saisir sur le vif’, daffodil and wax, A3, 2010.

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Cotton thread on paper, A4, 2010.
IMG_0218

 Acrylic on paper, A4, 2011.

IMG_0048

 Crystal watercolour pigment and acrylic on paper, A4.

‘Touched with Fire’, watercolour, acrylic, charcoal and pastel onboard, 50 cm x 80 cm, 2009.
IMG_0148
Crystal watercolour pigment, coffee, sand and PVA glue on paper, A4, 2012.

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Acrylic and crystal watercolour pigment on paper, A5, 2012.

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Acrylic and crystal watercolour pigment on paper, A5, 2012.

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Acrylic and crystal watercolour pigment on paper, A5, 2012.

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Event – the second Making Sense colloquium (this poster is also one of my paintings).

Making Sense lies at the forefront of my vision. This is a loose and expanding collective of artists and thinkers engaged in ‘making sense’, who have gathered in response to my research and art practice, to develop an act of reflection that is at once conceptual, sensual, accessible, and transdisciplinary.  This movement has a common striving to cross between modes of theory and praxis and to find a common language in the contemporary context.  I have organized yearly colloquia to found a junction between theory and practice, in collaboration with philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy at the University of Cambridge; with philosopher Bernard Stiegler in 2010 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; last year, with Elaine Scarry, at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, and in 2012 with David Black. These colloquia draw together thinkers and artists engaged in the worlds of art, aesthetic philosophy, contemporary theory, and psychiatry/psychology to provide live source material for debate and further research, as well as to form an interface between artistic creation, theoretical debate, and academic scholarship.

IMG_0534

‘Threshold’, acrylic and oil on canvas, 60 cm x 45 cm, 2012.

IMG_0509

Charcoal and crystal watercolour pigment on paper, A4, 2012.

My encounter string games
‘My encounter with String Games‘, performance with Vera Frenkel’s String Games, 2008. 

Passion oozes

‘Passion oozes’, crystal watercolour pigment, acrylic gloss medium, bleach, A4, 2013.

The artist explains:

I smile

a while away from guile,

new style to foster truth,

a sleuth to track the tundra

underneath the embers

remembering the wonder

and warm magenta umbra – 

a place I can call home.

This status is unstable

no cable ties me down,

not stagnant with a label

inventing fickle fables

shunning my pure Able

I move forward now.

I shall tell you how:

 

Majesty is amnesty

where agony is blasphemy

and not the sad solution.

Now I face anomoly,

a cavity, a strategy

where I am unknown

and thrown.

 

But here there is a throne:

my bones are amply carpeted,

I’ve grown to hone my skills

so I can now be targeted

to reign inside this temple

my body has become.

 

And so I am still smiling,

there are wrinkles by my eyelids

and dimples on my cheeks.

I think I see a peak —

perhaps I am approaching

reproaching from the modesty

(my previous technique)

which claimed I was an oddity

with fodder for restriction

that led me to my weakness

a falling out of Eden.

 

But now I find another path

and laughing I move forwards

towards an unknown future,

with hopes to heal the sutures,

and featuring the possible

— that nothing is impossible —

I can render all asunder

beyond the growing wonder,

new indigo adventures

mark a bench for my fruition

and tuition, self-reliant,

defiant I will save myself,

guide myself, feed myself.

This is my belfry,

I ring out the ritual,

alone, at home, within.

 

Opulence

The consequence of provenance,

and confidence in consciousness,

plus the growth of form.

New born I have the dapper,

to fritter, happy clapping,

the wrapping of my bones,

newly enthroned with sustenance,

as I increase in weight.

My fate was overturned,

by a yearning for a future,

reaching life anew,

with succor from a stew

of concocting minerals

that seep inside my blue,

so that there is transgression,

and the colours come to freshen,

poised on the brilliance,

the thrills and spills of overload

that toys my form’s new fancy.

On fire I feel a nancy

or perhaps a Clancy,

in rhyme that seals my poise,

a synaesthetic noise

shaking there in front of me,

not breaking stairs but running free,

ascending into providence,

autonomous with stimulus.

Can’t you see I’m drunk on words,

the third degree enlivens me,

sturdy here I climb new trees,

and make a den to settle in

fine fettle on the fens outside.

Tears all dried I burst with joy.

Yes it does deploy the suffering

that has quivered in my aura,

when i was told to die

by the voices shrieking ‘why’,

but now their force is dry

and refocused on compassion.

I thrash them with my love for life

and overcome their mournful strife

with a new populous less ominous

abundant with opulence.

So welcome,

Here I Am.