University of Rochester
Advanced New Media / Spring 2021
Professor: Ash Arder
Let’s reflect on the section entitled The Body’s Silent Conversation with Things on pg. 39 of Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. Consider Abram’s encounter with the clay bowl, and the way he describes the other objects or entities in the room.
Now watch the interview in the link below of fine artist Terry Adkins discussing his process to make sculpture that feels like music, and to make music that has the physical suggestions of sculpture.
Consider the concept of potential disclosure he discusses. Reflect on the idea that objects in a junk yard might “speak” out to him or identify themselves as having the potential to do something else.
Think about the way he talks about bringing items from the junk yard back to his studio for a period of gestation.
Spend today’s class time observing your surroundings. Consider the way your own body is interacting with objects in your space.
Is your body making adjustments you might not usually pay attention to?
What do you notice about how you are experiencing the space?
Consider how the space might be experiencing you. Are you blocking sunlight from reaching the objects behind you?
Are you intercepting a conversation an object on one side of the room might have been having with an object on the opposite side?
Are you the warmest object in the room?
If not, which object is warmer than you?
What do you think is the coldest object in the room?
Sit for 10min and just observe quietly your surroundings. You do not need to write your ideas down.
When 10 minutes is done, try to perceive three objects that are speaking out to you. Which three objects are identifying themselves to you in this moment? If possible, gather them together on a table or surface, and spend some time observing them.
Your assignment is to document your encounter with the three objects. You can write (type) freely about this experience, or you can record a vocal reflection about your encounter. Your reflection can be as honest and raw as you want. You can describe what you see in terms of color, materials, texture, etc.
You can also talk about how the objects are interacting with one another. What do you think the objects are trying to communicate to you? To each other? This can take on whichever format feels good to you. The goal is to practice active perception.
Your reflection does need to say which three objects you are encountering. Once you gather the objects, take a digital photo of them. We may use this later.
MORE-THAN-HUMAN (MTH) COLLABORATORS
Now that you have spent some time reading and thinking about how the bodies of humans, more-than-humans, inanimate objects, etc. engage one another in a shared space, I'd like you to choose one particular entity you will devote the remainder of the semester building a relationship with. Choose one more-than-human entity (a natural material, something geologic like water or clay, or a plant) that you will commit to working with for the semester.
Spend today's class period watching Jane Bennett lecture about the vibrancy of matter. Pay close attention to the way she encourages the backgrounding of the human experience, in order to better expose or ponder the experience of more-than-human objects. How can you apply that thinking to your collaborator for this course? How also can you quiet the "traditional" ways o engaging with non-human-objects to better listen to them? Re-think the hierarchies that might exist between you and your collaborator.
Now that you have selected your more-than-human (MTH) collaborator, your first assignment it to come up with a strategy for receiving communication from them. Think back to the below excerpt from chapter 3 of The Spell of the Sensuous. Think, also, about the fact that the language of MTH's might be expressed through chemicals and impressions they leave on the earth's surface.
Moreover, if we allow that spoken meaning remains rooted in gesture and bodily expressiveness we will be unable to restrict our renewed experience of language solely to animals. As we have already recognized, in the untamed world of direct sensory experience no phenomenon presents itself as utterly passive or inert.
To the sensing body all phenomena are animate, actively soliciting the participation of our senses, or else withdrawing from our focus and repelling our involvement. Things disclose themselves to our immediate perception a vectors, as styles of unfolding—not as finished chunks of matter given once and for all, but as dynamic ways of engaging the senses and modulating the body. Each thing, each phenomenon, has the power to reach us and to influence us. Every phenomenon, in other words, is potentially expressive.
At the end of his chapter The Body as Expression, and Speech, Merleau-Ponty writes:
“It is the body which points out, and which speaks.... This disclosure [of the body’s immanent expressiveness] ... extends, as we shall see, to the whole sensible world, and our gaze, prompted by the experience of our own body, will discover in all other “objects” the miracle of expression.”
Submit your strategy in any way you feel appropriate. You might find that typing it out helps me understand your approach, but you might also find that visual information and examples will help. Do some research on this subject. Has anyone ever tried to communicate with a rock? with water? What did they come up with? How did they go about interpreting the messages?
This should be FUN and INTERESTING. If you find yourself trying to learn sacred geometry in two days and you're bogged down, SWITCH UP THE APPROACH. There is no right or wrong way of communicating with MTH. You need to be concerned with explaining and eventuall testing your approach. You can deploy tools to help you receive their communication style. You can use historic findings to support your strategy.
Thank you for submitting your first round of thoughts on how you might go about forming a method of communication with your more-than-human (MTH) collaborator. I'd like you to spend today's class period doing the following:
Watch: Nature: What Plants Talk About
As you watch generate a list of the physical tools and apparatuses used by researchers in interpreting plant behavior/messages. Think about the role sun, water, nutrients, and kin (family) are discussed.
How do the researchers go about capturing plants' responses to those specific elements?
What are some of the plant responses to trying to get light, water and food?
Do they move in a specific way?
Do they change their bodies altogether?
Do they send signals?
Once you've watched the documentary, think about your own MTH collaborator and your planned approach to communicating. Spend some time researching precedence for your approach. You need to compile into a document the items in the list below. You can make this PowerPoint, PDF, or whatever style works best to get your ideas across.
• 3 Scientific approaches to understanding the way your MTH behaves and why
• For each, please include: name of the researcher and title of the study; a one-hundred and fifty character statement about the findings; the year study took place; a link to article or website where study has been published.
• After you have the who/what/where/when/why of three different scientific approaches, please include a blurb about how the study relates to or coul inform your own approach to communicating with your MTH. You need a separate blurb for each study.
• 3 Artistic examples of someone developing or portraying a relationship with your MTH collaborator
• For each, please include: name of artist; name of artwork or project; 150 character (or less) statement about what the work does; link to the artist/artwork
• A blurb for each artist/artwork that says how it could inform your own approach to developing a relationship with your MTH
• 3 Popular culture examples of this MTH
• By popular culture I mean examples of how your MTH has shown up in film/TV, fashion, music etc. This can be current or historic. Was there a children's TV show that portrayed the relationship between people and your MTH? A series of books? A fashion-trend?
• For each, please include: name of the pop culture moment; year or years it occurred; link to some supporting media (website, YouTube video, article, all of the above)
• A blurb for the way each pop culture moment featuring your MTH will influence or inspire your own process to develop a system for communicating with your MTH
Today's class period should be devoted to a "free make". You've spent some time familiarizing yourself with the way your MTH has shown up in science, art and pop culture. You can choose any method you want to work on a first creative project exploring an encounter with your MTH collaborator. You can focus on one feature of their physical make up, you could attempt to portray them, or imagine how they might portray you...really whatever you want.
I have uploaded a few worksheets in the Learning Module tab. You can use those to familiarize yourself with a software or media tool you might want to use. You could also decide to research some other media tool and practice working in that for this first creative prompt.
Today's prompt centers around developing your feedback/critique skills.
You have been randomly assigned two projects submitted by your classmates for the last assignment.
You need to write a critical review of their work.
Use the attached worksheet as a guideline for which themes to include in your review. DO NOT worry about including information you do not have from part 1 of the worksheet. You will not be given the title or artist name. You should be able to address when/how the work was made, and the size of the document.
Check your email for the two projects you need to review.
Each review should be at least 1000 words and saved as “yourname_review1” and “yourname_review2”
Reviews will be distributed to your classmates so they can understand how successful their projects were. Be sure to provide thoughtful feedback that they can use for creating works in th future. No names will be included in any of the documents shared between students. Unless a student has included their name somewhere in the visuals of their project, you will not know whose work you are reviewing. When you receive your own reviews, the authors will be anonymous.
Now that you have started to develop a workflow around investigating your MTH collaborator, I'd like you to spend today's class period doing some research. Please find two living artists with work in major museums and/or art institutions that are working closely with the same (or very similar) MTH entity as you. I would start by looking at the online collections of important museums and galleries like Tate, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim, Serpentine Gallery, Hauser and Wirth, Gladstone Gallery, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., and there are many others.
When I say "important" I a usually referencing galleries and institutions with "encyclopedic collections", or that are regularly reviewed in journals like Artnews, Hyperallergic, The Art Newspaper, and ArtReview.
Once you have found your first artist, you need to dig deeper to find out how and why they make. Find text or video interviews of them talking about their work.
Are there process photos that show them in the studio?
Do they talk about other artists who inspire them?
What about books? Do they mention any of note?
Take screenshots of your research journey can also capture links to articles and media you find helpful.
If you are having a hard time finding interviews with the artist, go to their website and check out their CV. They will usually note which publications have written about their work.
Rinse and repeat for your second artist. You can compile all of the notes (images, links, blurbs, etc.) you find from each artist into the same document. This exercise is meant to expose you to the context and precedent that exists for the themes you're exploring in your work. It should model ways you can think about your own future projects.
Ask yourself: who is making this work and why and how are they doing it?