LINES OF FLIGHT
11 – 28 April 2012
Opening Night | Thursday 12th April 6 – 8pm
Lines of Flight is a meditation on the affective potential of a space. Reflecting on the essential qualities of artistic production, it establishes a simple strategy: stare out a window and wait for inspiration. Lines of Flight lays bare the oft-romanticised creative process, staging the anticipated moment of eureka. Without knowing when inspiration will occur, what is pulled into focus is anticipation itself, and how it frames a shifted, heightened aspect of the gallery space for both artist and viewer.
THE FEELING OF AN IDEA
Lines of Flight has its inception in Claire Krouzecky’s studio at the University of Tasmania School of Art. The artist was sitting staring out her window towards Sullivans Cove in Hobart and it occurred to her to trace on the glass the flight-path of the seagulls that arc their way in the sky-space opposite. In so doing (and this is only one way to speak of it) we may say she sought to make manifest an unseen, but nevertheless surely felt, phenomenon: we intuitively know that a point extended through space becomes a line, but birds leave no mark of their passage. Krouzecky’s lines disclose the gulls’ secret air-drawings, as seen at least from her position at the window.
Much of Krouzecky’s work endeavours, following the likes of Bas Jan Arder and the banner of Romantic Conceptualism, to amplify or make palpable some aspects of the natural world that may otherwise remain unnoticed. Or, to put it another way, it attempts to make new the things that have become familiar and therefore no longer truly seen. For Krouzecky this enterprise often has to do with light and air.
For Lines of Flight, however, she has chosen to give evidence of something equally intangible: the gaining, or hope of gaining, inspiration. She will, at least at the outset, occupy a chair by the window and wait. She will wait, as she says, ‘with openness and curiosity’ for inspiration for an artwork, a creative response to the Blindside site, just as she was waiting in her studio back home in Hobart.
A close look at the etymology, though, suggests this is not necessarily such a departure for her as it seems. Inspiration takes its origins from the Latin word inspirere, meaning to inflame or blow into. Looking at its origins is of course not a means to discover the ‘truth’ about a word but it can reveal, as in this case, a certain way of seeing the world. For many ancient oral peoples, to be inspired was to be filled with the light of the gods. To behold a work of art that was no mere re-presentation of nature but opened one up to her mysteries was to witness the touch of the divine on the artist (this is true of art well before the period and beyond the place ordinarily associated with Romanticism)1.
But as the Western scientific centuries passed, and the world was cut up into ever-smaller slices of facts, ‘things that could be said about it with some certainty’ the numinous and the mystery largely receded from consciousness and beyond belief. The chief engineer of this dis-enchantment was language, or more specifically words. Over the centuries words had gained an authority over our experience that had previously belonged to the phenomenal world. The change was probably wrought principally by the advent of phonetic writing, which instills illusory permanence and veracity in vocables that had once been as imponderable as the air that bore them2.
Despite this disenchantment and de-spiriting of the world, even in the modern era some artists claimed, or behaved in a manner that suggested, the possession of a genius – a word also having its roots in the belief in an attendant spirit or daemon bestowing special gifts or insight. We were right to be suspicious of this, particularly as it glorified the artist, not something beyond him.
More recently, a phenomenological understanding of our selves in the world reveals our bodies as open channels of sensation that are in ongoing exchange with the world and its phenomena. As such, the boundaries that were thought to separate us and the world are indeterminate as the stream of events from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’ the body ‘from sensible to sensed’ goes uninterrupted and always subject to change. The body’s experience of its environment is only ever fluid and only ever a conundrum to the mind that uses words and concepts to ‘know’ the world3.
Science itself now affirms that certainly no less than 95 percent of ‘thought’, and probably more than 99 percent, occurs outside of conscious awareness and language, and that conscious, verbal thoughts are the end product of embodied sensation, not the other way around. This is known as the primacy of affect; our being is grounded in feeling4. Quite what to make of this when the process of understanding it would be limited to discursive thought, to the resultant 5 percent or less, is a dilemma.
But that is a problem for philosophers. The Romantic artists (and their counterparts in China and Japan and elsewhere) were never concerned with knowing what reality is, but with a way of being in the world. This entails apprehending it as mystery, and they always knew that the way to do this was by way of emotion.
As we witness Krouzecky sitting and contemplating her creative task, we needn’t feel threatened. We are surely well past the post-modern insecurity that an artist may be claiming to do something that we cannot, as if they wish to elevate themselves above us. This artist makes no claim to genius. She identifies as one of us. Hers is a vulnerable undertaking. In her hopeful lingering by the window she valorises our own struggle for insight and inspiration. If she can emerge from her reverie with something transcendent, she elevates not just herself but all of us. In the meantime she bears witness to the feeling of thought and the desire for illumination.
– Peter Waller
1. Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary, p. 311.
2. This is the argument made by David Abram throughout much of The Spell of the Sensuous.
3. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception.
4. McGilchrist, pp. 184 – 186.