PIRG's exhibition 'In Dialogue: Material Imagination', The Link Gallery, Winchester University, 2015
'In Dialogue: Material Imagination' was 'an exhibition exploring ideas around French Phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard's notions of material imagination, cultural complex and sublimation, through art works and written text. The exhibition attempted to extend the discussion of Bachelard's ideas and open them to a wider audience. Each of the seven artist-researchers incorporated works from diverse research areas to explore, interpret and expand Bachelard's ideas through the dialogue between material and theoretical practices.' From: The Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group poster, 2017.
PIRG preparation session for 'In Dialogue: Material Imagination' exhibition, The Link Gallery, Winchester University, 2015
'Sites of Conversation'
17 - 31 July 2017
Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton
Jane Bennett | Bevis Fenner | Yvonne Jones | Belinda Mitchell | Yonat Nitzan-Green | Noriko Suzuki-Bosco
'Sites of Conversation is an exhibition and symposium by the Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group (PIRG), exploring the notion of material practices and contexts as sites of expanded conversation. The works represent process, contingency and the unfolding dialogue between materials and phenomenological thinking, which expands the possibilities of what conversation can be and can become. In the light of these ideas, the exhibition and symposium center on works – and the wider practices and contexts that surround them – as ‘sites’, not only on and around which conversation can take place, but also as conversations in and amongst themselves.' Written by Bevis Fenner. (To read more please go to 'News & Feeds').
On 8.7.2016 PIRG members (JB, BM and YNG) participated in a conference at Birmingham City University, entitled:
Research Matter(s): Conversations about research in Arts, Design and Media (organized by Faculty of Arts, Design & Media, Birmingham City University, 8th July 2016).
The title of the workshop was:
‘…that which remains nameless’: A dialogue between image and text
‘In a world increasingly dominated by advertisement, political propaganda, cultural industry, and media,
a forum should be provided not for names, but that which remains nameless.’
(‘Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research’, 1974, In Joseph Beuys, Tate Modern, 2005).
NOTES TO BE READ BEFORE THE WORKSHOP
'The Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group would like to invite participants to join us
in a conversation around the table that explores how materials help us access the imagination and memory.
We will draw/write/play with chalk and charcoal on paper as we discuss the ideas of material imagination.
Our exploration of the dialogue between image and text might also be considered
in terms of the relationship between practice and theory. In the past twenty years, teaching in art schools
has become increasingly embedded in theory. As practice-based researchers, we experience the challenge of
how to create links between our studio practice and the theories that inform our work, and this concern is
even more critical in the creative practice PhD, where the academic requirement is to present a methodology through written text.
Our ‘conversation’ will explore how the handling of materials helps us access the imagination
and the poetic image and discuss how practice combines verbal and non-verbal thinking.
Below are extracts that will provide a context for the direction of our conversation
for you to read before the event. Further references are included for those who would like to have more background information.
The session will be divided into three parts of approximately 30 minutes each.
Following introductions all round, we shall begin with reading together a few paragraphs
from the extracts below to start off the conversation.
After about 30 minutes of discussion, we shall have a ‘quiet time’ of reflection
to think about what we have discussed and then put theory into practice by using materials (chalk/charcoal)
in response to our reflections.
(This processes has been inspired by the concept of a phenomenological enquiry.)
The final 30 minutes will be spent in discussing the effect of the introduction of materials on our thoughts about the earlier conversation.'
Table was covered with black paper; drawing materials, including natural chalk from the area of Winchester, and other tools
were placed on its surface.
More than 20 people attended the workshop.
During reflection one participant said she experienced “mental wandering”.
Various texts were sent in advance as preparation for the session, as follows:
Katy Macleod: What is writing? http://www.katymacleod.org.uk/whatiswriting.html.
Barbara Bolt: Materializing pedagogies https://www.herts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/12381/WPIAAD_vol4_bolt.pdf.
Gaston Bachelard: On Poetic Imagination and Reverie Selected, translated, and introduced by Colette Gaudin,
Spring Publications, Inc. Dallas, Texas (2005) pp.80-82.
Ingold, T, (2013) Making: Anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, Routledge, London and New York, Ch.7 Bodies on the run, pp.97-98
Barbara Bolt writes:
‘In Being and Time (1966) Martin Heidegger sets out to examine the particular form of knowledge that arises from our handling of materials and processes. Heidegger argues that we do not come to “know” the world theoretically through contemplative knowledge in the first instance. Rather, we come to know the world theoretically only after we have come to understand it through handling. Thus the new can be seen to emerge in the involvement with materials, methods, tools and ideas of practice.’
What is this ‘handling’? How do we know through ‘material thinking?’
‘The less we just stare at the thing called hammer, the more actively we use it, the more original our relation to it becomes and the more undisguisedly it is encountered as what it is, as a useful thing. The act of hammering itself discovers the specific “handiness” of the hammer. …No matter how keenly we just look at the “outward appearance” of things … we cannot discover handiness. When we just look at things “theoretically”, we lack an understanding of handiness. But association which makes use of things is not blind, it has its own way of seeing which guides our operations and gives them their specific thingly quality. (Heidegger, 1996:65).’ [My emphasis. YNG]. Barbara Bolt’s ‘Materializing pedagogies’ (2006).
What lies in ‘just look at things “theoretically”?
As visual thinkers, staring and looking at things are part of our practices.
In art schools we have been trained at ‘active looking’ through observational drawings;
when eyes, hand and pencil collaborate.
This is already ‘material thinking’; thinking with materials and tools. But what else?
While looking theoretically may imply a thought process that is guided by concepts and perception,
staring or ‘just looking’ may be a form of day dreaming, not a conceptual thinking;
or perhaps, along-side a conceptual thinking.
The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard makes a clear distinction between concept and image:
‘… images and concepts are formed at opposite poles of mental activity: imagination and reason.’
(Gaston Bachelard, On Poetic Imagination and Reverie, 2005, p. 7).
‘The image can only be studied through the image, by dreaming images as they gather in the state of reverie.
It is a contradiction in terms to try to study the imagination objectively, since one receives the image only if one admires it.’
(Gaston Bachelard, On Poetic Imagination and Reverie, 2005, p. 7).
‘The image cannot give matter to the concept; the concept, by giving stability to the image, would stifle its existence.’
(Gaston Bachelard, On Poetic Imagination and Reverie, 2005, p. 6).
‘… for the philosophical realist, as well as for the ordinary psychologist, it is the perception of images which determines the processes of the imagination. In their opinion, we begin by seeing things, then we imagine them; we combine, through the imagination, fragments of perceived reality, memories of experienced reality, but there is no question of ever reaching the domain of a fundamentally creative imagination. To make fertile combinations, one must have seen a great deal. The advice to see well, which is the basis of the realists’ education, easily overshadows our paradoxical advice to dream well, to dream in harmony with the archetypes rooted in the human unconscious.’
Gaston Bachelard’s On Poetic Imagination and Reverie, 2005, p. 12-13.
Space For Peace is organized by Foundation Music, University of Winchester.
This is a yearly, interfaith communal music and art event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place at the Winchester Cathedral.
Posters and leaflets with information about PIRG where on display.
The text reads:
A space for making peace
This is an opportunity to respond to the rich world of music through making drawings.
It is a way to explore through self-expression the dialogue between voices, instruments, bodies, architecture and materials.
It opens a new way of understanding conflict and resolution in its complexity.
It is a collaborative project; the audience is welcome to join alongside group members.
Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group (PIRG)
Two long tables were set up ready for this performative drawing.
It was performative in the sense that people participated, both, by doing and looking; and by the mere fact that it was part of a larger performative event.
Bev and Yonat covered the tables with black and white sheets of paper and put stones, natural chalk and other drawing materials and tools on the surface.
The idea ‘to respond to the rich world of music through making drawing’ (PIRG leaflet) was simple enough.
However, the experience was far more complex. It was interesting to be surrounded by music while
exploring the materials and moving into the realm of imagination.
Chalk in its natural and industrial forms, as well as charcoal, seemed to be suitable for this event
as people were particularly attracted to use these materials. Perhaps part of the reason is that both
have ephemeral qualities, similar to sound.
Some of the drawings where made with a mark-making sensibility;
others seemed to be about patterns. Again, this may be a respond to the structures of music,
such as rhythm and repetition. There were some written massages, too, in the context of peace.
There was a constant stream of interruptions, which seems inherent in any collaborative, participatory form.
The public was encouraged to not speak throughout the event which lasted for about 2 hours.
On Space For Peace publication it reads:
‘This is a place for quiet, reflection, prayer, thought, and stillness. Please refrain from talking until you leave.’ [Emphasis in the original text. YNG].
However, quiet conversations took place while making drawings as people joined or left the table.
The small group (Noriko, Bev and Yonat) was an inviting element for others to participate;
had it been only one person, perhaps audience would feel more self-conscious thus less inclined to join in.
A women introduced herself as a teacher from one of the local schools;
she wanted to know if the group will agree to come to the school to run a workshop with the students based on this method - ‘the table’.
The group will be happy to do so.
This was a great opportunity to test the method in a non-verbal but sound-based environment.
It adds to the exploration and investigation of ‘extended conversation’.
It is an experience to learn from and to build on in the forth-coming PIRG exhibition.
The group will consider the possibility to participate again next year.
It is an opportunity to work with a large audience and therefore will help with funding.
In addition, it may open other opportunities for projects and exhibitions.
As I carry on with organizing the material, word, sound and images, it occurs to me the importance of cataloguing the ‘data’. Many partial reflections can be written, as the amount of data produced in this genre of exhibition-research-lab is great. It may not be possible to reach a point from which an all-encompassing, ‘whole’ reflection can be produced.
There is value to the accumulative ‘data’. It is important to see this accumulation and think how to invent and develop methods for processing it, i.e. – gathering, documenting, analysing, critically reflecting and disseminating.