The conversation regarding teaching and understanding abstraction/abstracted thoughts shaped the arc of my thinking for my final.

I am creating an environment/performance in which to explore the nature of representation, particularly in language. Kubler’s Shape of Time heavily influenced my interest in the replication of sound in my last piece. I’m now expanding the direction of the work to consider replication of thing into an image, representation of a thing in physical space and in language, and the lingual blur between fact and fiction. I’m interested in the conversation that has developed (in our class) of language and its intrinsic inability to create precise definitions and exact comprehension, but it’s success even through ambiguity.

Images/representations are criticized for inability to produce interaction and experience, but what new iteration of experience is created in image culture?

experience of a thing vs. an image

experience of a representation of a thing


The space:

I’m creating a swamp as a small community space. In the center there is a small wooden pool of water, algae, plants. It’s an agreeable temperature. Participants can hang their feet in the water if they please. This iteration sits somewhere between an image and representation of a “swamp,” out of context, but with descriptive similarities. Perhaps images and representations are the same.

There’s a ladder to the window. I’ll open the blinds. This is the “true” sky. On the wall there is a large projection of a changing skyscape. How do these experiences change especially when observing something so physically inaccessible?

The performance:

Jorge Luis Borges wrote an essay called “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” in which he criticizes John Wilkins concept of a “universal language,” where Wilkins proposes a system of more or less objective language holding exact meaning in the word itself.

“Wilkins’s system decomposes the entire universe of “things and notions” into successively smaller divisions and subdivisions, assigning at each step of this decomposition a syllable, consonant, or vowel. Wilkins intended for these conceptual building blocks to be recombined to represent anything on earth or in heaven. The basic example Borges gives is “de, which means an element; deb, the first of the elements, fire; deba, a part of the element of fire, a flame.”

Borges sees this as a fundamental impossibility.

“it is clear that there is no classification of the Universe not being arbitrary and full of conjectures.”

In this essay, Borges describes a translated Chinese list that seeks to describe all animals. It’s later revealed that this is entirely fictional and that he lied about finding this translation. He is suggesting that regardless of the attempted universality, language is, in a way, an arbitrary manner of socially organizing the world.

I am not positing this as correct or incorrect, just as a curious thought. I want to assign my classmates into these categories. During their time in the passive environment dealing with the same questions, I’ll give them their category, based on how I perceive them.

The list is ambiguous and nonsensical. Such is language, and somehow it’s easy to make some sense, and garner some feeling from many words, especially when applied to the self. The reason why I pair each individual with their category could be analyzed through my own thoughts, but is likely not based in rationality.

If they are unhappy with their classification, they can trade. They should trade. In addition to abstract extraction of meaning from this list, it’s exciting for me to see how I perceive the Other vs. how they perceive themselves. They might then consider how the Other considered them in their own reflection/perception of self.



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