images from the Land of Mir II

recent work, teaching, time-out

A piece of paper, some ordinary crayons or pencils. A sustained awareness during hours – days, maybe. The resulting image unveils the nature of a unique world; sometimes calling for the sensibility of a butterfly’s antennae, sometimes chaotic, disproportionate, disturbing. Sometimes orderly, even bordering to the surreal. And sometimes overflowing with the vitality and power of living colour.

All works depicted here were performed by participants in this summer’s creative workshop at Gillberga, Södertälje (Sweden).

From top to bottom: a crayon pencil drawing by AE; two graphite pencil drawings by PS; a wax crayon painting by TK.

NUrope XIII, Kiev and Lviv: Interrupted Histories Continue

art, teaching, time-out

One of the local hosts of the Nomadic University: Les Kurbas Theatre Centre

Thanks to the dedication of Curator Yulia Usova (Perfect Art Institution, Stockholm/London/Kiev), the Nomadic University will soon see its 13th oasis happen in Ukraine – and for anyone interested in the field of art, culture and economy in contemporary Eastern Europe, this is a unique opportunity. We are invited to understand the current situation through professional people seeking to work along independent thoughtlines; artists, authors, journalists, theatre workers and film-makers will be sharing their experiences and views.
Programme here:

Kiev-Lviv programme, October 3 – 6 2011

Interested to join? Yes, it’s still possible. For application, go to:

busy days; recognitions

art, recent work, teaching

Saturday, conducting a talk/dialogue at a seminar on spirituality in art (no, I wouldn’t lecture on that; but dialogue will show, unfailingly, how spiritual awareness is at hand);
Monday, presenting “terrastella” drawings for the Pimeyden Kodat/Darkness project and Turku 2011 Foundation;
Tuesday, preparing an exhibition at Vidarkliniken, Järna;
and today, if the volcanoes let me through, leaving for Zadar (Croatia) to plan for the next NUrope oasis.

Thank you, Anne Külper, Ulf Sand, Päivi Lönnberg, Robert Bacalja, Josip Zanki, Reiska and Bengt for your door-openings and invitations.

NUrope X:II

art, recent work, teaching, time-out

sketchbook pages; graphite pencil on paper, ca 30 x 20 cms each

As the “China goes Europe” oasis proceeds, a number of European artists, curators, academics and business people share their views on China. Nomad and artist Stella Fajerson adequately asks for the complementary perspective, but the Chinese persons involved are mainly invited to give their view on how Europeans could understand the Chinese mind – not their own European experiences.

Looking back, this appears as a want. Maybe this oasis serves just to prepare a common ground. Maybe it takes another one to actually address the theme.

The most significant experience to me was a short exchange on the subject of modesty and self-confidence.

modesty – self-confidence

NUrope X:I

art, recent work, teaching

During the presentations, I sit with my sketchbook open; making some quick drawings of people’s postures, hands, moves… as habitual. Afterwards, somebody approaches me and by gestures asks for the book. I lend it to him, and he turns the page to draw my portrait on it.

Next day, the programme goes on with a couple of lectures on the post-colonial theme. While opening the sketchbook, I hear the speaker say “How can we describe the other?”
Well, that question alone doesn’t seem functional any more; it was necessary, yes, and now it’s time to move on.

master narrative

Theories, methods and practices II

art, recent work, teaching

‘Method’ as a way of making out one’s direction between perceiving and conceiving…

The first word to stand out here is ‘one’; because this is something to be carried out by one-self.
Conception springs from perception, and perception is sensual experience; thus, personal.

By this definition, ‘method’ does not apply to the use of intellectual pre-conceptions.

Theories, methods and practices I

art, recent work, teaching

“The common-sense understanding of the word ‘method’ may be something like: ‘a set-up of presumptions and techniques used systematically to arrive at a certain result’… A method, understood as a procedure or a process, should be something going on between theory and practice.”

Let’s say, now, that ‘method’ is a way… a human act of making out a direction from what is perceived (the sense-world) and conceived (thought).

This is rather a broad description.
A special case, with a more narrow, or precise, definition, would be ‘scientific method’. ‘Scientific method’ – and the science produced by it – may be seen as the core of modernity.
In the post-modernity we currently share, some people would have science devaluated to ‘just another story’; a contextual truth told by just another group of people (male white Western scientists?) to fit their own agenda.
The funny thing about this attempted devaluation is that it frequently seeks to legitimate itself exactly by the (ab)use of scientific terms – preferrably fetched from the most prestigious fields of mathematics and physics.
In this aspect, mathematicians and physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont pointed out some French philosopher queens and kings to be very naked. This was done already back in the nineties; I cannot find that kind of philosophy better clothed today.

Logic thinking, scientific method and quantitative research springs from a millennia-long, careful cultivation of thought – not only in Europe.
On the other hand, science cannot (and does rarely) claim to interpret our life-worlds fully. In everyday life, we alternatively employ logic thinking and the language of art and myth.
It shouldn’t be too provocative to say that logos and mythos are both generic human modes of thinking; that they both tell us beautiful and challenging truths; and that they ought not be confused.

The initial quotation is from a text of mine called to care in a peculiar way; see page in English.
For Bricmont’s and Sokal’s elucidating review of some post-modern philosophers’ methods, see Impostures intellectuelles (French version) or Fashionable nonsense. Post-modern intellectuals’ abuse of science (English version); Bricmont and Sokal 1997/98.

Quality and Research VI

art, recent work, teaching

“Is there a method to die?”

How could this question make sense? For all we know, death will happen to everybody alive; it’s the one condition we all share. There’s no method not to die.

This makes clear that the essential word here isn’t ‘death’ – it’s ‘method’. The common-sense understanding of this word might be something like: ‘a set-up of presumptions and techniques used systematically to arrive at a certain result’. Now, if the result – in this case, physical death – is certain, no matter what, the question may still seem absurd. But stay with it a while…

The Greek origin of the word ‘method’ means ‘way’. Without doubt, the way one takes could be related primarily to a determined goal – that is, result-oriented – which doesn’t necessarily affect one’s existence very much. When going to the airport, one may choose between the highway or the railway; both offer the prospect of a fast and safe arrival (though we all know that things do not always happen the way we plan).

On the other hand: when going into something unknown, one will need to enhance awareness when moving along the chosen direction. Finding one’s way then becomes process-oriented; in each moment, the way outside exists only to the extent that it exists in one’s mind. This is how the concept of method is often adressed in contemporary art and research.

I remember the way I travelled by the side of my mother. I remember the parting of ways.

And the question makes perfect sense.

Quality and Research V

art, recent work, teaching

Second course seminar with professor Liora Bresler from the University of Illinois, USA, together with Swedish hosts Lars Lindström and Eva Österlind (Stockholm University) and some twenty master and doctoral students. Akira Kurosawa’s movie Rashomon from 1949 provides a common ground for discussions about truth on different levels.
Most people agree there exists such a thing as objective reality; in Rashomon, it is represented by a man found dead in the forest. The characters involved are struggling to understand the course of events. Their tales are told and retold in multiple layers: by Kurosawa’s choice of sounds and images in making the film; within the story by the actors acting them over and over, each time from another point of view; and when the movie ends, by our thinking and talking over it. On each level, interpretations are constructed, negotiated and created anew; if there is a true story about what happened, it remains an enigma. Still, the memory stays with us, the gesture of seeking truth and meaning.

So, where is the difference, really, between the researcher’s mode of understanding reality and the artist’s? Is it only a matter of context, of different communities and traditions? Here’s one attempt at an answer, from John Dewey in 1934:

“The rhythm of loss of integration with environment and recovery of union not only persists in man but becomes conscious with him; its conditions are material out of which he forms purposes.
Since the artist cares in a peculiar way for the phase of experience in which union is achieved, he does not shun moments of resistance and tension. He rather cultivates them, not for their own sake but because of their potentialities, bringing to living consciousness an experience that is unified and total. In contrast with the person whose purpose is esthetic, the scientific man is interested in problems, in situations wherein tension between the matter of observation and of thought is marked.
The difference between the esthetic and the intellectual is thus one of the place where emphasis falls in the constant rhytm that marks the interaction of the live creature with his surroundings.”

John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934)