Focusing on Any Specific ‘Thing’
Focusing on any specific ‘thing’, discuss the ways In which Its meanings are constructed. It seems that we can only understand ourselves by the things’ we find around us. Even if it is only to understand everything we are not. Any phenomena perceived within what we call our universe can be coined under the term of being a thing. Whether it be a piece of toast, a planet or a Neuron firing within our brain, any phenomena which can be observed and, therefore, named can be said to fall Into the all encompassing term of being a thing’.
Some would argue that even that which cannot be physically observed, such as a dream, a thought or negation could also be thought of as being a thing’. I suppose their argument would be that whatever can be differentiated from something else can be argued as being a thing’ in its own right. L, however, would like to keep the term related to this, perceivable, dimension and focus on that which can be seen to be physically ‘real’.
Specifically I would Like to focus on the Artists sketchbook and pencil, In terms of being things’ which unquestionably play a huge role in the practice of art and my particular field of study, Illustration, and has done for centuries. During this essay I intend to explore and discuss the life and death’ of the Artists sketchbook and pencil, starting with the initial encounter and how an individuals life experiences can and do affect our personal and public perceptions towards these things’. I would also like to reflect upon how, as practitioners, we Interact with these two very deferent, but equally Important, tools’.
I hope to briefly discuss the phenomenology of things’ in general and reflect upon the way in which construct meaning towards them. I am Interested in the notion that we ourselves bestow a kind of ‘life’ upon these, mingle lifeless, things’ by the way in which we give them a particular place In our own lives. Finally, I will explore the death’ and/or retirement’ of these objects and discuss the idea that they may be ‘reincarnated’ as new objects, with new social context and given a new ‘life’ within the world. When we experience any thing’ all of our senses are involved.
This is fundamentally how we are able to construct a ‘realistic’ (from human perspective) view of It. If I am In the stationers, purchasing a sketchbook, naturally, all my senses are involved with this, infinitely unique, encounter. This means the impression I first have of the object is spontaneous, subjective and not pre-meditated but felt, tacit and would be different for any individual depending on innumerable precedent experiences. “Objects are encountered Initially through the senses and the body” (Hooper- We have an extremely complex and reciprocal relationship with things.
We have been surrounded by them since we could possibly remember, there could never of been a time when being conscious, of not being conscious of some thing. Our development towards understanding them is essential to our ongoing understanding of the world. In regards to the specific example of the sketchbook, most people ,upon first impression, would obviously notice and understand it to be a sketchbook as most of us have experienced them in some way, usually through school. The feelings that proceed the observation are usually due to the context of the past experience.
As I have personally had lots of experience with sketchbooks during my practice, I would immediately see them as an object of interest to me and would be concerned to know the size and grade of the paper. Having my individual preconceptions about owe I personally work and about what I would want to be using this sketchbook for. If I was to consider purchasing it I may refer to a thing called the price’ which, in turn, might affect my decision towards buying it when compared to a thing called my bank balance.
Upon further thought, when considering the size of a particular sketchbook I may even, sub-consciously, be thinking about the size of the bag that I will most likely carry it in! These types of ‘personal bias’ will in affect determine whether I like or dislike a particular sketchbook or, at least, whether It will become the sketchbook that contains y work, as opposed to the next person who comes along, whoso ideals may be more suited.
The sketchbook is Just What it is’ and doesn’t come with a small tag attached telling me how I feel towards it. This, I would say is the case for all things’ ( old also like to suggest that even the non-physical things’ like dreams and emotions are inherently free from all presumption) and it is actually ourselves that create a personal and intimate impression of, and relationship with, any thing “Tacit knowledge remains at an emotional, reactive level” (Hooper-Greenville. E, 2000:116).
When I look at a sketchbook different emotions arise, for example, the last sketchbook I bought I already had in mind that I wanted to create some landscape images, so obviously when confronted with a range of sketchbooks in the shop, the ones that fitted my prior prejudices appealed to me much more. It should also be considered that I had quite probably seen some artwork, prior to this, that was landscape format which appealed to me for certain reasons of its own. Concerning all my past experiences with pencils.
Interestingly, my prejudices could even be formed from other influences concerning things that even resemble pencils. It seems to suggest that this kind of sub-conscious conditioning is what can trigger irrational phobias, where, for example, a person may see the same pencil as me and immediately pass out due to it reminding them of some traumatic event in their life which is, in someway linked to pencils! Admittedly, very unlikely but you see my suggestion. “What is seen must at the present moment so organize itself as to present a picture to me in which I can recognize my former experiences” (Merle-Panty.
M, 1962:22-23). It would seem plausible to suggest that a trained art practitioner, when faced with a hooch of possible pencils, (besides sheer excitement over such an event) would have a more critical and objective set of criteria in comparison to, for instance, a young child who’s only experiences with pencils to that point would probably be involved with the fun and uncaring side of expression. Whereas a fully-grown man, who relies upon his art for his livelihood, would not consider a novelty pencil, for instance, to hold as much appeal.
Unless he was buying it as a gift, when all of a sudden his new ‘personal bias’ would be in regards to what he believes the would recipient would enjoy. The individual standing in a particular place within history and culture, focuses on those aspects of the object which s/he is able to recognize and thereby grasp both visually and conceptually’ (Hooper-Greenville. E, 2000:103). In the specific case of a sketchbook and pencil l, as a practitioner, would consider these two things’ to be equipment to be used in conjunction with each other to create imagery.
Another artist may see this thing more as an object than a tool and have plans for the life of this pencil as a small part in a sculptural piece to be on show at an exhibition, for instance. Whereas another could be using this pencil to write a letter to a loved one in another country. I write this to highlight the incomprehensible amount of varying factors that could completely change the ‘life’ of an object. In this case, a Pencil. As a child we are initially unaware of the permanence of objects.
That is to say that whatever is immediately inferno of us is our only concern and are completely void of preconception whilst engaging with things. Once out of our view, it is also completely out of our mind. We learn over time that things’ do not Just simply sappier once out of our immediate vision (Although quantum science have found some very interesting things out about unobserved phenomena, but that is a discussion for another essay). As we start to make connections between objects and our memory develops, we start to learn that they are permanent and not Just momentary things’.
The mind of a new born child is a essentially a completely blank anything can occur and leave a lasting impression, adding to and slightly altering our understanding of the world. Our minds seem to have a great quality of connecting thoughts and ideas as to let n object tell its story, for example; Cornelia parkers “The feather from Fraud’s pillow’ (1997) is a great example. The artist took and photographed one feather, taken from the pillow sat on by Freud, supposedly present during the great physiologists practices.
I believe the subtle message here is that ‘ideas’ or ‘concepts’ towards an object can be very beautiful in themselves and highlights a very interesting point about the meanings we bestow upon things’ and the stories we ourselves create for them. I find it interesting that we still feel the essence of this idea even through a hotplate of the object which, materialistically, has no relevance to the feather; All of those emotions and ideas encapsulated within this tiny, almost insignificant, object with the power to project emotions without saying, or doing, a thing.
Just as IM sure Freud would have had a deep attachments to his Journals which contained his thoughts and findings, I myself have a personal and emotional attachment to my old sketchbooks. The permanent impressions left upon the pages by my forever ‘old self obviously hold a deep and intimate connection to me. Whereas anybody else looking at the images would intemperate it from there own personally bias’ point of view. Giving this object, which is essentially free from preconception, boundless meanings within every individuals life according to there own prior experiences.
A practitioners relationship with his sketchbook is more psychological, than physical, we do not (often) use it to shelter rain or eat our dinner from but in it we hold our ideas, feelings, thoughts and perceptions of the world (those things’ that cannot be seen or touched) and to lose it would feel like losing a part of ones self. “People in modern industrial societies convert commodities into possessions by endowing them a personal identity’ (Haskins. J, 1998:194).
You could never draw the same image twice or have the same feeling experienced when creating an image or writing down a thought, in the same way no experience with any thing could ever be the same twice as we are forever a ‘new person’, with a new collection of experiences and preconceptions. In contrast to the sketchbook, a practitioners relationship with a pencil would be much more physical than physiological, we may sometimes keep the end of a attachment to it may predominantly be concerned with its effectiveness in this role.
For instance if we particularly liked the marks it produced when we are recording our ideas. It would seem we have a much stronger attachment to the things in which we bestow personal emotions and thoughts than the things in which we appreciate as being merely useful or practical, such as a pencil. We are constantly ‘greeting’ a new experience and therefore, in a way, always Involved in a new confrontation with things’ as both of our ‘lives’ proceed and take on new meaning.
As I have attempted to highlight during the essay, I believe we are always carrying with us, to each new experience, an ever changing set of ‘personal as’ which participates in the construction of our immediate experience with any new thing. Cornelia Parker plays with with our preconceptions towards things and challenges them by Deliberately taking out of their everyday context, Just like the example of the art practitioner who saw the pencil as its form and not its use and used it as part of a sculptural piece.
She takes everyday things’ that are usually considered to be tools instruments used for preparing food or creating music, as example, and gives them a new ‘life’ and context within the world, which forces the viewer to see it in a new way ND challenges there old view on it. “Its important it was something before, its important it’s had a death and it’s important it’s got a new life” (Parker. C, 2010). In one of her works, “Breathless” (2001) she crushed brass instruments and hung challenged face to face with our old one.
Immediately and all at once, we are processing the idea of this new object and although we can clearly recognize the instruments involved, we must give it its own meaning and place is our lives as a whole new thing In another of her works, “Cold dark matter” (1991) she takes a shed full of objects ND blows it up, almost instantaneously transforming its identity. Essentially you could say at that very moment of explosion these things have ‘died’ only to be ‘reborn’ as a new thing, ready to be reflected upon given a whole new ‘life’.
I would suggest that, Just like every thing else, including you and me, the ‘life’ of a sketchbook and pencil is determined by circumstance and is perpetually changing. The momentary role it plays and the meaning it has in our lives is subject to our own ever changing experience and although it may move on to live a ‘new life thin someone else experience and its own ‘experience’ be subject to their interaction with it, the meaning any thing held within a persons life, in any way, will live on forever in the soul of the universe.