This theory explores the possibility that direct raw experiences of objects or events are kept suppressed in our minds by the intellectual and intelligent ideas we learn to project over all we see and do. The theory requires art to be created without predetermined thought so that we are forced to look at the end result using instinct, and to reach this older way of sensing an artist will be working to avoid recognisable images, stories, social comment, composition, structural harmony and established technique. The purpose being to understand art as a sensation created by a return to mind of an experience generated by recall of impulses that once gave us an unlearned power of observation, and avoiding intellectual or intelligent content in art is the only way to rediscover this sensation. Art created through intuition and instinct, without learned thought, will disturb us rather than please us and we therefore find ourselves looking to reduce the uncertainty of this experience. We find ourselves searching for imaginative imagery – faces or figures in runs and dribbles of paint, patterns in disorder, or melody in unorganised sounds, etc. - because of a behavioural response that has developed to keep a dormant way of sensing out of our conscious experience of what we see. I am looking to the idea that any artist unaware of this behaviour will be subconsciously driven to remove rawness from what they create, whilst those who are aware will look to promote rawness as an essential element of the art experience.
RETURNING ART TO A BASIC RESPONSE
Artists have always looked up to profound meaning, spiritual assent and thoughts of 'inner' necessity in their work, but I prefer to look down to primal beginnings. Here, art becomes a raw experience. You find yourself confronted by a blob of unguided paint, an unformed lump of clay or accidental sound or movement, and in this unknowing, in this natural arena of what remains of our animal mind, a basic response begins to be recalled. You begin to get a little echo of a dormant way of sensing through instincts that have become buried beneath the clever intelligent learning we have evolved to impose over our view of the world.
I am an artist who believes our minds work to suppress raw instinctive experiences of objects and events. That is to say that I have come to realise that we look at everything in this world to remove any recall of an older way of sensing, and we do this because this older way of sensing has become a redundant view that would, if provoked, disrupt our ordered intelligent powers of observation. I look to create art objects to return a dormant state of mind, and to do this I have to avoid recognisable content and established principles, since these values project intelligent ideas and social interactions into our thoughts that drive the older experience out of all we see and do.
I believe this older experience is the remains of a forgotten way of sensing objects and events that has been passed down to us from our distant origins, and in art this sensation can only be glimpsed when an artist creates a work that removes the ideas we expect art to display. When we look at blank material, presented without controlled modelling or meaningful content, this rawness triggers the old inherent way of sensing from our minds. However, the idea that this should be considered art has always been though distasteful because of the persuasive arguments that only an educated mind, that looks to control material and uphold social and personal achievement, can create art. (Arnheim 1974, Schapiro 1978) Looking to raw inherent response as art has always been decried as a naive approach, and the idea that modelling material to create art actually destroys a dormant way of sensing has remained unexplored. Most people learn to look for meaningful content in art rather than blank rawness that results in work that has been thrown together without control or skill, and for this reason art that looks to a basic response has never been clearly explained. Work that places emphasis on rawness - work with no recognisable images, no stories, no social comment, no composition, lack of harmony, no structural organisation and a total absence of technique - is still looked upon with suspicion rather than considered as an attempt to get back to an 'uneducated' intuitive experience of what confronts us. For example; organising and controlling colour and form in painting is more 'acceptable' than throwing paint because the creative image is seen as an attempt to reach a 'higher' realm of enlightenment rather than raw experience. This idea of enlightenment in art was adopted by the early non-objective artists who pioneered abstraction, - Kapka, Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian – and they used an intellectual formalised approach to shapes and colours to aspire to contemplative form rather than an attempt to rekindle blind response. The movement called Suprematism was not considered as an attempt to get painting to recall a basic biological 'animal' insight, generated by raw material, but was seen as an attempt to reach “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” (Malevich 1926).
Art has always been given this aura of intellectual superiority over the animal experience, and a work of art is not thought to be about reverting to primal sensations that can only be found in rawness. Art arose from prehistory as an enlightened experience expressed through perfection to bring a superior sense of order to the human intellect. The reasoning behind the pioneering of abstraction is explained as an extension of this belief. The prevailing view of abstraction is that it represents a, “means of communicating with the realm of cosmic harmonies. The function of art for these artists, who invented abstraction, was, like the Tibetan mandala's, the Moslem hypnotic mosque decorations or the Christian icon's, to induce states of religious consciousness”.( Rose 1962, p374) The opposite idea, that raw shapes and colours open our minds to the return of a base animal way of sensing inherent from our primal origins was never considered. The view that an artist is unconsciously influenced by the remains of intuitive instincts left over from a distant past is rejected in favour of finding a more 'intelligent' reason for an artists need to explore abstraction. Even though few artists now look to religious icons to find 'spiritual' enlightenment, the prevailing belief has remained that an ethereal influence is at work behind the inventions of modern artists. (Gablick 1984 p.88ff.) No one looks to the idea that the reason we create controlled organised imagery is because, without this input, our minds start to recall an old animal insight. Our minds have evolved to remove this sensation from what we see, and in art nothing provokes this disturbing recall than the loss of representational images. Abstraction, with its blank shapes and colours, elicits an older way of sensing more than recognisable content because it offers less visual information. This generates a sense of uncertainty and, because our minds now work to rid our powers of perception of this experience, we fill the 'feeling' that abstraction provokes with ethereal thoughts. We start to believe the experience of abstraction holds a key to spiritual calling, and in the case of non-figurative painting this 'spirit' is sought through an idea of composition and harmony that is imagined to bring awareness of a devout inner presence of mind. (Pariser1983)
Figure 1. Raw Experience, 2014. One of my 'paintings' made by screwing up paint soaked paper to create uncontrolled accidental forms. There is no design or meaning in this work and its purpose is to try to help you sense what confronts you using your old powers of animal instinct. This experience, felt when our mind is free of the burden of the 'learned' ideas we impose over what we see, is easily lost in day-to-day observation.
My assertion is that our human need for some sort of meaningful explanation in art, as in life, arises in our minds because we are reluctant to face raw experience, and so we seek to find a message, or stories, or composition and 'spiritual fulfilment' in traditional values to suppress the return of an old inherent way of sensing that we unconsciously look to keep out of day-to-day experience. In art, the thought that raw shapes and colours - created by throwing paint, or unrefined sounds and movements created without composition - could be 'calling' a return to mind of an old animal way of sensing is not a popular view. It implies we create through a need to keep an underlying influence of a basic bodily function out of our thoughts, and few would be willing to suggest that our need for art is like our need to go to the toilet. The very idea that artists have, right from the beginning, been driven to rid themselves of a 'feeling' that gives recall of an older animal way of sensing is a repugnant suggestion. Art is believed to be about aspiring to human greatness not returning to an animal view, and if any art object begins to provoke this sensation of instinctive recall it is rejected. The fact that challenging traditional values gives us an insight into a dormant way of sensing is overlooked because we prefer to explain away the disturbance by insisting disruption in art must be an attempt to reach a 'higher' calling. The artist is thought to be like a prophet who is concerned with 'the fragility of life, society's reluctance to confront death, and the nature of love and desire.' (Nicholson 2001) and we look to rid art of raw experience because we don't like to think art is about returning animal influence into our thoughts. The very idea that artists create art because they want to get back to a 'lowly' visualisation of objects and events is less popular than the idea that artists create art because it reflects a 'higher' civilised way of thinking. Art is believed to endow us with the means to reach a refined visualisation of the world in ways that the vulgar physical workings of the brain cannot, and to admit that we are at the mercy of an animal mind would degrade our belief that our subconscious is a realm of transcendence. Even if the artist throws paint to create a non-figurative work it must, from the transcendental point of view, be explained as an attempt to 'talk' to our 'higher' mind, and not, as I believe, an attempt to recall an older inherent way of sensing the world.
My argument is that thinking our minds are receivers of ethereal calling is distracting because what is at work in our unconscious is the remains of an animal that once sensed the world without intelligent awareness. We only get a glimpse of this long lost part of ourselves if we are sensitive to the remaining echo's of animal impulses from this old part of our mind, but this experience is easily lost behind our intelligent demand for intellectually meaningful art created with perfect command of thought. Reducing your command allows you to hear the cry from the remains of your old animal mind, and this is what I believe raw abstract shapes and colours can give to us. They provoke uncertainty about what we see, and this brings back impulses that once allowed us to sense objects and events without intelligent learning. This state of mind offers a great aura of freedom that is suppressed by intelligence, but we are no longer able to accept this wildness in art because we expect an artist to display learned ideas about what we see. This way of looking swamps the original animal echo's that our minds now work to keep out of day-to-day observation, and so we dream up no end of imaginative ideas in art to stop the raw reality of material provoking recall of the animal mind. We look to art to remove raw experience, and we demand icons and meaningful content and this response drives our older way of experience from our thoughts. We find, therefore, that when we are confronted by art that has nothing to say – art made without subjective content with no composition, or stories, or iconic images – we get recall of the remains of our old animal mind, and, until modern times, artists have always worked to remove this disturbing sensation from their work.
Because of this response anything made by intuition and instinct that displays blank raw materials is frowned upon unless it can be justified by claiming it gives account to the 'inner' necessity of a 'higher' calling to human spiritual needs. (Kandinsky 1912) This same demand for 'higher' justification is also found in modern works like those of Damien Hirst, "I just can't help thinking that [medical] science is the new religion for many people ... there [are] four important things in life: religion, love, art and science. At their best, they're all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness." (Stolper, 2005) We seem to need to impose some sort of 'meaning' into art because, when deprived of explanation, we find ourselves faced with the uncertainty of the animal experience and it appears to us as darkness. When art has nothing to say 'the darkness' becomes more pronounced in our minds and we look to suppress this disturbing experience. When you create raw objects with no reference to religion, love, art or science, you find yourself facing an age old experience generated in your mind by recall of animal instinct. We look to suppress this view and so we fill our minds full of notions that artists, like priests, must be seeking spiritual awareness. We look to art to say something profound about belief, love, the state of society, or drugs (Gallagher 2012) so that what an artist is doing is thought meaningful. A more realistic view would be to say that we look for profound ideas to suppress our old instinctive way of sensing, and we should be aware that our animal past will have an effect upon all we see and do.(Diamond 1991) This includes art, and it is here, when we find ourselves disturbed by any recall of animal instinct, we encounter a 'feeling' of empty darkness. Our human need is to suppress this sensation, and so the artist takes paint, clay, etc. and rearrange these materials into art because this removes the raw feeling. Art creates a path through the darkness, but, from an evolutionary psychological standpoint, this would make art a behavioural response that tries to rid our minds of recall of an old way of sensing. What we find in art is that people want intellectual content rather than rawness because this stops their old inherent instinctive way of sensing returning impulses into their intelligent mind, and we all crave for meaning in life because this draws our attention away from the disturbing unconscious 'darkness' that is the remains of our animal mind. Our need to create art has, therefore, never been though to be about returning an animal insight, but when an artists reduces art to rawness our intellectual ideas are all blown away and we are faced with emptiness. When this happens our old animal way of sensing floods back into our thoughts and, because we have evolved minds that work to stop this return, this transforms the natural view into a feeling of 'darkness'. In art this response equates to making pictures from the rawness of paint, or finding rhythm in jumbled sounds, or, like Damian Hurst, finding profound meaning in medicine bottles exhibited in cabinets in an art gallery, etc. This response drives our old 'animal' way of sensing rawness out of our minds. ( * comment )
If we stop thinking that art is a gateway to profound thoughts and start to realise art arose to suppress our natural animal powers of observation we can begin to get recall of raw responses. This requires removing meaningful content from art and promoting abstraction that is void of any recognisable images, intellectual idea of transcendence and perfected technique. This gives rise to argument that controlling materials to attain subjective artistic expression – making pictures, stories, music, etc. - could be working to destroy an underlying way of sensing in what an artist creates. A view of chance aesthetics (Malone 2009) can therefore be advanced that implies artists began to create meaningful figurative art to suppress an old inherent way of looking at objects and events that has now become dormant in our modern mind. Non-figurative creations, made by chance and accident, bring recall of this lost experience, but, of course, any object made without controlled intelligent input will look empty and meaningless. Such work has to avoid recognisable content because any such image will work to suppress rather than provoke recall of our old animal mind. Raw art has to therefore avoid intellectual refined output, and there will be nothing to 'picture' or to understand in this experience. What you are looking for in this type of art is a sensation of animal intuitive awareness that your mind looks to remove from all you see and do. It therefore follows that, until modern times, artist had no knowledge of our animal origins and would have been unknowingly working to remove any ability of art to provoke recall of a redundant way of sensing.
* Comment: It has been pointed out to me that it would be undesirable to return the human mind to a state of animal 'darkness', however, my point is that this 'darkness' is a lost way of sensing that has become a redundant intuitive insight into a natural state of mind. We have lost this insight through the evolution of intelligence - that creates an artificial way of looking through the projection of learned ideas over what we see - and, therefore, the underlying view only appears as 'darkness' because we are no longer able to experience a natural way of sensing. My assertion, as an artist, is that the natural way of sensing is not 'darkness' but a very intense unlearned way of looking. We see this intense experience as 'darkness' because intelligence only knows how to look through learned ideas and the view I seek to reveal has to be sensed by instinct. The only way to sense by instinct is to try to learn to look without intelligent ideas and , therefore, my work attempts to rediscover an insight into a natural way of sensing that lies beyond the 'darkness' created by intelligent learning. Any object could be looked at in a natural way if we could remove the learned ideas we project over what we see, but we find our minds no longer know how to look without ideas.
Figure 2. Meaningless Disorder 2014 These works are attempts to force you to look without calling to mind the belief that only intellectual considerations such as composition, harmony and meaningful content are necessary to attain the art experience. Here chaos and disorder are being used to provoke recall of a much older inherent way of sensing by instinct as the basis of the art experience. All intellectual control has been removed so that a base sensation can be glimpsed rather than suppressed within our powers of observation.
Before our understanding of our animal origins artists set about to remove any influences from their work that would give recall of this old inherent way of sensing by instinct. They looked to create art by guiding material to make intellectually fulfilling results – objects that are easily recognised and are full of stories, fine workmanship and composition, etc. - rather than objects that have no meaning, are crude and create a sense of uncertainty about what we look at. The idea that working, or acting, in uncontrolled ways to provoke a return to mind of a suppressed way of sensing was never considered, and only when we get to modern times does it become possible to look towards the idea that an old animal experience of objects and events, that we will have inherited from our past, has always been suppressed behind the demand that artists make art that is relevant in society. To find the 'animal' view of an object you need to look without any idea of what you are looking at, and this requires learning to act without reasoned thought to allow your natural instincts to return into your powers of observation. An example of an artist who tried to work this way would be Jackson Pollock, (Naifeh, Smith 1989) but because this way of working is open to much abuse and misunderstanding - by being labelled as abstract expressionism - the depth of its implications for intuitive animal insight has never been clearly explained. Whilst Pollock worked to create a sense of uncertainty that provokes a return of raw experience in the viewers mind, this insight was overlooked in the critical responses to his work. (Karmel 2000)
"Answering a questionnaire in 1944, Pollock said that he had been impressed by certain European painters (he mentions Picasso and Miró) because they conceived the source of art as being in the unconscious. To the surrealists the unconscious had been a source of symbolic metaphors – that is to say, of pictorial images that could be identified, recognised, and that differed from normal perceptual images only in their irrational association. The association of an umbrella and a sewing-machine might have a significance that could be explained – interpreted or analysed. Such explanation was none of the painter's business: his only obligation was to project the significant images. But such images, in psychoanalytical terminology, come from a relatively superficial layer of the unconscious, from what Fraud called the pre-conscious. There exists another kind of image, not an associated pictorial image, but a sensational image, an image of indeterminate shape and imprecise colours, with no immediate perceptual association from the external world" (Read 1968).
Allowing intuition and instinct into art opens up the possibility to explore, rather than suppress, unlearned experiences of shapes and colour that have become buried behind our learned way of thinking. Working by throwing or pouring paint, accidental sound, etc. revels that not controlling materials provokes sensations of objects and events that are kept dormant by an artists efforts to control their command of technique. When this command is reduced or removed from art we have to rely upon intuitive actions, and these bring recall of the older way of sensing through animal instinct. (Plotkin 1994) The view therefore arises that our need to make recognisable art objects could be a behavioural response that drives us to remove uncertainty from our mind – because uncertainty provokes recall of a way of sensing that makes us 'feel' uncomfortable. When an artist works in an uncontrolled way, using intuition in place of reasoned actions, this creates uncertainty and our old animal response begins to creep back into our controlled conscious thoughts. (Petruselli 2010)
We need to consider two scientific discoveries as very relevant to what an artist is doing when they create an art object. These discoveries also hold bearing upon our understanding of how objects effect the way we all – artist or not - respond to what we encounter in the world around us. (1) We need to accept that the theory of evolution – with its model of inherit instincts that are modified by descent and passed down to us from distant animal beginnings - is a realistic description of events. (Darwin 1859 &1871, Dawkins 1989 & 2005, Gould 1982, & 2002 ) And (2) that it follows from this that the biological structure of our minds will be working to stop any redundant information from this process disrupting our nurtured cultural imprinting. ( Barklow & Cosmides & Tooby 1992, Bedaux & Cooke 1999, Pinker 2003, Wilson 2004, Dutton 2009, ) Art, from this point of view, becomes a behavioural response that drives artists to take material - paint, clay, sound, words, etc.- and guide these elements to remove any sense of disorder and chaos that would provoke recall of our old inherent animal way of sensing. This basic response would underlie all social and spiritual subjectivity infused into the art work, and it also follows from this that we will come along and look to remove any recall of our old redundant way of sensing from what we see.
The implications of this are that some artists - no all artists - will retain more recall of our old animal way of sensing by instinct, and these individuals will possess unconscious reverberations that provoke an insight into the rawness of objects and events that has become buried beneath our learned intelligent view of the world. Science tells us we will have all evolved to suppress this experience in our minds, and, therefore, we will now possess a redundant way of sensing that we look to keep out of all we see and do. Some artist must be open to the old echo's of remnants of this redundant way of sensing, and they will 'feel' the rawness of the animal impulses that once looked at objects and events without learned intelligent thoughts. Some individuals will get greater recall of this experience than others, and this will disrupt their day-to-day powers of observation. They will be people who 'feel' their view of the world is incomplete, and their response to this 'feeling' will depend upon their disposition of mind. Some look to fill this rawness in their view of the world with the 'spiritual' comfort of an 'inner' benefactor, whilst other will seek to suppress the rawness by imposing technical perfection, intellectual control and meaningful content into their work. Both these ways of acting remove, rather than reveal, any disturbances caused by the return of animal instinct in our intelligent way of picturing the world.
Our minds have evolved to remove an old inherent way of sensing objects and events from our conscious thoughts, and in art we therefore find a painter of representational images is a person working to rid their work of any hint of this sensation. The raw paint provokes uncertainty - and recall of our old inherent way of sensing by animal instinct - and so the artist guides the paint by using their intelligence to make a picture because this is an unconscious response that directs their mind to suppress the raw view. I have always assumed – rightly or wrongly - that most people will have less recall of our old animal way of sensing through instinct, and are less disturbed by the rawness of sight, shape, sound or movement than an artist – in music, for example, composers, until modern music, looked to filter out, rather then incorporate, extraneous noise. (Hegarty 2007) This shows that the order and organisation structured into traditional music composition looked to suppress, rather than provoke, our inherent responses by lessening the disturbance of any sense of uncertainty created by accidental sounds. Any artist 'unaware' that order and organisation in art suppress a redundant way of sensing will be making an object that works to remove raw experience from what they do, whereas any artist who is 'aware' will begin to disrupt order and organisation to get their work to provoke more recall of rawness. These 'aware' artists will look to create in none-objective abstract ways and will be innovative in none conformist anti-art. They will also use low-cost, found media to produce work that defies categorisation. Many use unglamorous items of domestic wast, organic detritus, such as skin, nails, recycled toys, books or even items of personal hygiene. An example of this type of direct confrontational experience with the reality of an object would be Tracey Emin's, My Bed (1998) where the artist places empty booze bottles, cigarette butts, stained sheets, worn panties, and other personal items around her unmade bed to depict the aftermath of her struggles and phobias in life. The end result is a disturbing direct encounter with a real experience, rather than a traditional transformation of this direct experience into the indirect view structured through a painted picture, - or a cast sculpture. Tracey Emin works to uphold a direct sensations of uncertainty that will generate recall of our old way of sensing by instinct, and raw, found and scavenged materials (Manco 2012) are used in this way to create art that offers the possibility to provoking a glimpse of a redundant state of mind that we look to keep out of our day-to-day encounters with objects and events.
Figure 3. Chaos Confined 2014. The sensation of disorder is less disturbing if kept confined within a picture frame. We can call to mind the established belief that a picture frame defines a work space, and therefore this space can contain the chaos so that it does not spill out to contaminate our ordered controlled view of the world.
LOOKING TOWARDS OR AWAY FROM ANIMAL INSTINCT
In art you find two different types of people who create and look in opposing ways at what confronts them. There will be those who are disturbed by raw experience and find it an empty unsettling view. These people will be attracted to work that has been carefully created by the artist controlling their materials to present us with meaningful art full of recognisable pictures, superbly carved sculpture, wonderfully composed music or well choreographed dance, and, generally speaking, people who look for this content in art will dislike anything that fails to display these qualities. These type of people look to remove any hint of direct raw experience being provoked in their thoughts, and they rid their mind of any recall of an underlying animal way of sensing. They impose their intellectual understanding over what they see rather than accept that this destroys a natural view. Other people are intrigued by uncertainty and these people realise that art made through less conventional approaches gives recall, rather than suppress, their natural powers of observation.
Until modern times all artist controlled their materials to make art objects that stopped us looking to raw experience, and they composed recognisable pictures, sculpture, music and dance rather than championed bland paint, clay, sound or movement. The traditional idea of art therefore works to direct us to think the art experience can be created by taking material and controlling it to attain a result that reflects a quality of an assertive mind. A painter, for example, guides paint to create an image that shows how we human beings command the power of creative visualisation. This idea is now used to encourage attitudes to achievement in art as well as the sports, health and business, and teaches a belief in reaching ideals.(Lorrison 2014, Gawain 2002) It demands - in the language of new age author Shakti Gawain - such responses as "Contacting Your Higher Self", "Meeting Your Guide", "Setting Goals", etc. This assertive language creates a successful way of thinking, but it blocks out any recall of your biological base experience of the world. This implies that negative responses – uncertainty and not knowing - brings back to mind the older inherent way of sensing through instinct. (Fisher & Fortnum 2013) This, of course, is not a desirable methodology in a world that teaches you to think positively and to attain success. You are encouraged to uphold the belief that art is a quality of intellectual refined learning given form through the control of materials to create an intellectually stimulating result, (Read 1974, Gombrich 1996) but I state this is misleading. Creative visualisation looks to attain a successful result, and whilst this is very useful in gaining a positive outlook in life, it requires that we look for high ideas in art rather than animal instinct.
The meaning of art has to be seen as holding two opposing points of view. “From a strictly behaviourist position Uexküll (1864-1944) attributes all living organisms two basic systems: a receptor and an effector mechanism. The character of the balance achieved between stimuli received and response made will determine the development and quality of the life of the organism.” (This quote from Cassirer 1977 taken from Oxlade 2013. p.254) Art can either be used as a way of allowing our imagination to transform our deepest thoughts into high ideals, or as a way of directly provoking rawness from our powers of observation. The 'unlearned' raw view will result in art that defies all reason as to what is and is not acceptable as art, and we can, through art, either visualise, affirm and assert our beliefs, or look to art to remove these beliefs to bring uncertainty through negative results. This provokes the sense of disruption and not knowing in our minds, and opens our powers of observation to recall of our older way of sensing by instinct. Artist have, until modern times, always worked to avoid provoking disruption in art by removing disorder to attain successful results, but the opposite view is that this way of working destroys an original experience.
Art can bring us to creative visualisation, but this visualisation has to be controlled by conscious thoughts and this will impose order to what Anton Ehrenzweig called the deceptive chaos of art's substructure. (Ehrenzweig 1970) This order destroys the remnants of an older way of sensing, which can only be recalled to mind through an instinctive response. To get to this old view you have to learn not to impose a learned idea over what you do. Acting to look in an 'unlearned' way would, of course, produce a very inartistic result, but the only way to glimpse the old state of mind is to stop yourself imposing your intelligent commands over what you do. A view generated by not knowing is what you want to arrive at. In Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (Cabanne 1971) this idea of keeping your 'learned' ideas out of your work is referred to by Duchamp as “Visual Indifference”. Cabanne enquires how Duchamp differentiates a ready-made from any object chosen at random.
Cabanne: “What determined your choice of readymade?”
Duchamp: “That depended upon the object. In general, I had to beware, at the end of fifteen days, you begin to like it or hate it. You have to approach something with indifference, as if you had no aesthetic emotion. The choice of the readymade is always based on visual indifference and, at the same time, on the total absence of good or bad taste.” (Cabanne, 1971. Page, 48.)
Visual indifference would be akin to recalling an older inherent way of sensing an object by instinct, and requires you to remove all the intelligent 'learned' ideas you use to judge the usefulness or purpose of an object. Duchamp's Fountain (Camfield 1989.) presented as art holds no artistic values and the learned idea we associate to this object - its usefulness in disposing of body fluids - is removed from what we see by exhibiting this urinal in the art environment. Duchamp gives himself fifteen days to see if this sensation of not knowing and uncertainty is lost by his choice of object. The work had to fail to attain aesthetic values and he looks to maintain this loss over time. The irony was that – after the abuse had died down - art critics and theorists moved the goal posts to include Duchamp's anti-art gesture into their classification of the 'high' ideals of art. This revealed to us that our minds unconsciously work all the time to stop the raw experience of an object returning into our view of the world. The bland raw reality of Duchamp's ready-made gesture was glossed over by claims that what he was doing was an avant garde expression of a perpetually wandering mind that refused of bow down to tradition and was committed to an anti-nationalist pacifism through artistic practice. (Demos 2012) Psychologically we all look to remove any initial disruption to our ordered way of comprehending what we see, and there is no better way to do this in art than to claim that anything that disrupts established principles must be full of grand values. No one seemed to have the balls to just say that what Duchamp had done was to place a mindless raw experience in front of us. We don't like any recall of this raw experience and, just as we do in day-to-day life, we crave for some kind of meaning – any meaning rather than no meaning – in the objects that surround us. We seek to find explanation and intellectual content, rather than empty mindless confrontation, and we do this because we begin to get recall of our old animal way of sensing when these values are removed from what we see. This disturbs us, and even the most hardened experienced professional minds find that not understand is hard to do. Here is a discussion about an early Cristo work – a chair wrapped in sheets of plastic and tied up with rope – by Rudolf Arnheim that demonstrates how we think to suppress uncertainty.
“By wrapping an armchair in sheets of plastic, tying it up with ropes, and displaying it in an art show, one transforms the object into the image of a tortured prisoner. When the aesthetic attitude is called up, it automatically turns the practical function of the object into an expressive one: the chair becomes human, the ropes are fettles, and the crisscross becomes the visual music of violence. The demonstration is no creative achievement, but it is useful and rather upsetting.” (from his 13 January notebook 1967, Arnheim 1989)
Arnheim 'fantasises' about a chair wrapped in sheet plastic and tied with rope, and this allows him to arrive at an intellectual explanation of what confronts him, rather than sense the work as an attempt to remove all the 'learned' values we look to projected over an object that is now shrouded in mystery. Cristo looks to disrupt your powers of recognition, and, just as with a Duchamp ready-made, you have to try to sense by not understanding the work so that it can provoke raw experience. Arnheim, looks to 'explain' what Cristo places before him, and therefore rids his mind of any recall of the raw animal sensation of what he is looking at. Arnhiem is unconsciously responding to suppress any 'feeling' that begins to provoke a return of his old redundant instinctive animal mind. He tells us this type of art is 'no creative achievement' and is 'rather upsetting', but fails to realise that the loss of creative achievement is what is provoking recall of the 'rather upsetting' animal way of looking from the depth of his mind. All our minds have evolved to remove this “rather upsetting” experience from all we see and do, and we look to overpower it when we sense it's return into our consciousness. (Lorrison 2014, Gawain 2002) Looking at anything – art or not - that removes intellectual meaning, aesthetic values and creative achievement from what we see brings a sense of rejection that is a manifestation of our mind getting to work to suppress the return of instinct. We are born to find and uphold a positive 'learned' understanding towards what confronts us, and so anything that fails to display these values will create a negative response. The work will generate a “rather upsetting” experience, because the object is forcing our mind to sense without the learned ideas that we use to suppress an older way of looking. Our minds have evolved to rid our powers of observation of this experience, and art has, - until we get to modern works like a ready-made by Duchamp or the wrapped objects by Cristo - always reflected an unconscious need to steer clear of anything that provokes uncertainty. As soon as artists create works that do provoke uncertainty our negative response kicks in to stop our old animal sensations returning to mind. Christo acts to provoke, rather than suppress this recall of an old way of sensing, but most of us think like Arnheim and unconsciously seek to remove this “rather upsetting” feeling from what we see by thinking up intellectual explanations to rid our minds of the sensation of not knowing.
Of course, what I am describing is a biological response being generated by our reaction to an object that confronts us with uncertainty. This kind of 'art' requires you to abandon the age old view that only intellectual appreciation of the highest order is what the art experience is about. To me the less intellectual content the better, and the challenge becomes one of removing as many ideas as possible from your work to provoke, rather than suppress, the remains of our raw animal view. You cannot 'express' this animal experience, because this will transform it rather than reveal it. It can only be unconsciously triggered in our minds by instinct, but our problem is no amount of learning can picture it. We have evolved minds that generate ideas that change our ability to sense the raw 'reality' of objects. (LeShan 2012) Indeed, applying 'learned' ideas about objects – either superstitious, mythical, scientific or aesthetic - removes the raw view, and one has to assume the raw view has become suppressed in our minds because this way of sensing was less successful than the intelligent view that arose to replace it.
From an evolutionary point of view aesthetic values in art would be offering an advantage in perceptual acuity. The aesthetic would drive us to think about the qualities of an object or an event in an imaginative, rather than a real way. This brings with it the ability to remove raw experience from our minds, but animal don't seem to display this need. If you watch a chimpanzee painting you witness a natural mind at work. (Morris 1962) The animal makes no attempt to impose any imagined image to suppress uncertainty and not knowing in what it does. We work in the opposite way, and we look to guide the paint to remove this sense of not knowing from what we do. This suppresses the raw experience, but the animal lives with this rawness and does not look to rid it's mind of this sensation. If you compare a chimpanzee painting to a human painting you can see how, despite our genetic similarities, we are working to comprehend the world from almost opposing points of view. ( Morris 2013) The human sets out to suppress all natural intuitive interaction with the paint to produce an intelligently controlled result that sets up an artificial image of the world. In most cases this results in a recognisable picture – an image that resembles a landscape, a portrait, or whatever - but, from the biological point of view, this is a behavioural response that has developed in human beings to give us an advantage over raw experience. In the case of painting we look to remove the uncertainty sensed in raw shapes and colours, but a chimpanzee does not seem to want to reach this end. The chimpanzee makes no effort to guide the paint into an artificial image - let us say a picture of a banana - but we feel the loss of this information in the blobs and smudges of raw paint, and so we set to work to guide the paint to remove this uncertainty. We create a recognisable picture that imposes artificial order over raw shape and colour and, from the biological point of view, finding this artificial order in the rawness of the world must have given us an advantage over the animal way of sensing. We look to suppress rawness, and Natural Selection (Darwin 1859) would imply our minds have mutated to do this because finding order and organisation in raw sensations is a more adaptive and successful way of comprehension than using instinct. Our old 'animal' way of sensing has therefore become a redundant unconscious sensation that we look to remove from our experience of what we see. (Fraud 1911) This act of suppression is more pronounced in art, and when we come across anything that provokes raw experience – paint that has been thrown at a canvas - we set to work to remove the “rather upsetting” sensation of rawness that floods back into our minds by thinking up imaginative ideas to give explanation to what we see.
Our need to remove raw experience from our view of the world is a survival trait, and, until we get to modern times, art objects have always mirrored this trait. Artists have always taken raw material and rearranged it to create an object that is given a place in an environment that looks to uphold aesthetic values. (Verstegen 2014) If the artist does not uphold this age old artistic requirement – if she, or he, looks to make disordered and meaningless work that holds no iconographic information - then it is less likely to be classified as art - it is less likely to survive. It will abate aesthetic character, but, from a biological point of view, the iconographic qualities of art suppress uncertainty. (Yockey 2011) This destroys an inherent way of sensing the raw experience of an object, and the icons act to suppress rawness and remove animal intuition from art. (Lewis 2013) It appears we 'crave for information' rather than seek to experience loss of information because this is a trait that has evolved to give us a better chance of survival, and, therefore, the requirement for aesthetics is, in the world of art objects, acting like a survival trait. Finding as much information as possible about an object has became a dominant feature in our powers of observation, and in art this trait translates into an artists need to guide material to uphold aesthetic values. (Goldman 1995) Any artist trying to recall our old, less successful, animal way of sensing through instinct - without aesthetic values - will have to take material and remove as much information as possible from it – i.e. not model material. Until modern times we can see that artists always worked to avoid this by bringing more and more aesthetic value to art, and therefore they have always been working to replaced their intuitive raw experience of material by filtering it through intelligent learning. When faced with art that tries to reverse this age old practice most of us will look to suppress the blankness it presents to us, because the loss of aesthetic values brings a return of our old animal sense of uncertainty. This 'feels' like 'emptiness' because it cannot be pictured through learned ideas, and we look for icons in what confronts us – faces and figures in the twisted tree roots, or etched into wind eroded rocks, and even mythical astrological signs in the random distribution of the stars. (Hurlurt & Schwitzgebel 2011)
In all art before modern times the emphasis was to remove rawness because it gives recall of our older way of sensing that artists simply had no knowledge to comprehend. Until the concept of evolution artists always worked to rid art of the animal experience, and only with the rise of modern art was interest in primitive working procedure - related to intuitive inherent response - thought relevant. (Stepan 2006) The 'inner' rawness of the primitive eye is always suppressed in the creation of art if the artist consciously guides the paint, clay, sound or movement into some form of intellectually refined image – like a religious picture, an opera, or a painting of a tin of soup - but the primitive artist has less control over guiding their materials. They are untrained and, therefore, their output is less refined and unfinished. This generates more recall of the underlying rawness of reality, and some modern artist, aware that learning suppress raw experience, look to abandon the age old insistence that to become an artist you need to 'learn' a set of established principles. For these artists, the raw experience of an 'inner' view is what they seek to reveal by stopping their conscious mind controlling the end result. You therefore find that looking to primitive ways of making art, that allow you to act free of intellectual reasoned thinking, is closer to a natural inherent state of mind. (Rhodes1994, Peiry 2006) Doing this, however, seems very difficult to accept. Even the Swiss artist Paul Klee was reluctant to go as far as to allow raw primitive sensation to give recall to his animal echo's.
“If my works sometimes produce a primitive impression, this 'primitiveness' is explained by my discipline, which consists of reducing everything to a few steps. It is no more than economy; that is the ultimate professional awareness, which is to say the opposite to real primitiveness.” (Klee, 1961, p.451)
Klee feels honour bound to justify his art as the result of his 'high' learning rather than a primitive influence. He will not accept that undeveloped, crude, simple, original, primary working procedure holds the power to provoke recall of animal intuition and prefers, like Gombrich, to insist that only the artists 'high' intellect has the authority to take those primitive sensations and 'mould' them to reveal the art experience. (Gombrich, 1996) Regression to an intuitive response must, in the professional mind, be controlled. Here is Gombrich telling us that, “If I was asked to name one artist who exemplifies in his work just the right balance between regression and control, the exact dosage of the primitive handled with mastery, it would be Paul Klee.” Roy Oxlade notes “How encouraging that Gombrich could get it so wrong. If any artist's work displays just that combination of trite, safe, tidy playfulness now increasingly obvious as kitsch it must be Paul Klee's. It is encouraging because it demonstrates yet again that for all his scholarship Gombrich is at the mercy of his discriminations.” (Oxlade 2008 p.65)
I prefer to allow 'real' primitiveness to reveal art as an animal vision of nature, rather than the professionalism that looks to take that experience and conquer and control it to create an 'artificial' work. I don't want any controlled reasoning to taint what I do because control suppress the inherent view. Art existed long before 'educated' thinkers tried to make it a product of intellectual learning, so why think seeking to attain 'ultimate professional awareness' can arrive at the art experience. I am of the opinion thinking this way destroys the art experience and what you end up with is a work that reflects the 'clever' mind and not the natural view. You need to look towards not understanding what you are doing, and look into your mind for intuition and instinct, but the educated view is that this primitive experience can only give recall to “archaic expression” of this 'inner state of mind' that will be dictated by nothing more than ignorance of representative methods and defective materials. (Sadler 2013) My point of view is that looking to ignorance of primitive working methods – avoiding the 'professional' idea that command of the mind is needed to 'express' the art experience - is the only way to get your mind back to natural visualisation that is lost to all learning.
Creating 'unlearned' art would require an artist to act without any need to understand what they do, and to give free reign to the primitive mind. To listen for the remains of it's echo in all the complex clutter of modern thought, but this is not an easy thing to do. Not even the learned intellect of the professional is willing to surrender the sacred belief that only the 'high' ideals of artistic achievement can reach the art experience. The primitive mind, and it's predecessor the animal mind, cannot be imagined to bring art. The primitive is regarded as lacking the intellect to translate the art experience into controlled form, but I argue that translation destroys this experience. The primitive, by being less bound by artistic convention and history, is therefore closer to fundamental aspects of human nature, (Rhodes 1994) and shows us the 'inner' mind is full of instinctive responses and raw experience, which, to the educated view, is not considered capable of creating art. If, as I state here, all work after the primitive experience directs an artist away from their natural ability to sense by animal instinct, then the end result, if it is filtered through intelligent learning, will destroy the essence of the 'inner' view, and it is this essence that brings the art experience. All attempts to express it at our conscious level of understanding will transform this experience, and the only solution is to try to regress your mind to its old way of sensing the world through animal instinct. To bring back this echo of an original raw experience requires not learning so that all the clever ideas you use to give recognition to what you do are absent from your thoughts. Few will concede their delusion of human greatness to allow the animal from which they have evolved to take back their powers of observation. For this reason true primitive art, made by wild uneducated minds, will remain outside the established demand for the aesthetic in art.
“The various texts I look at turn to exotic figures to delimit the aesthetic on one hand, and concepts drawn from aesthetics to comprehend the savage on the other, yet they cannot get beyond the problem of thinking the primitive. As we will see the primitive introduces into the aesthetic and the savage an element that proves necessary yet exceedingly difficult to think. At its most profound, that element engenders a loss of confidence in one's ability to understand the humans relation to itself and to the world”. (Brown 2012)
Uncertainty abounds in primitive art, and because we have minds that look to suppress this sensation, 'unlearned' naïve objects are thought to be less desirable than intellectually stimulating creations. The view from the ivory towers of artistic appreciation sees primitivism undermining the intellectual belief in high ideals. A professional artist can use primitivism for inspiration, but dread the thought that they should think of allowing primitive responses to dictate the end result. Such a notion is unlikely to yield an output that comes anywhere near upholding the type of rich 'clever' content that controlled intelligent reasoning considers a requirement of art. (Stepan 2006) The primitive act, like chimpanzee paintings, reveals the opposite point of view. It allows us to see that removing the demand for intellectual content in art is a very disturbing idea but it is the only way to arrive at a natural insight. This suggests that only objects made without skill or command of technique will work to force recall of an older way of sensing that only returns to mind when the object you look at keeps your learned ideas out of what you see. How you respond to this sensation will depend upon whether you think art is a product of intellectual learning or a behavioural response that brings recall of the remains of an instinctive 'animal' sensation back into your mind. (Sanouillet & Peterson 1989)
Figure 4. Brushing Skins 2014. Painted paper hung up to create a sense of not knowing. I am not looking to 'express' the art experience from my mind into a work for you to look at, but to provoke the art experience as recall of your own inherent 'animal' way of sensing objects. This type of installation is about disturbing your established beliefs to bring an experience to mind that would be suppressed if I made work that told a story or painted a picture. This 'art' object has nothing to say and is best experienced by wandering around it without reason or purpose.
Our old animal way of sensing objects and events is now suppressed in our minds by intelligence. This alters our original way of experiencing what confronts us, but one animal impulse that has lingered in primitive thoughts is called animistic sensibility. This is a condition of mind that draws no distinction between living and inert material. In the primitive mind traces of animistic sensibility can still be observed, but any attempt to recall this sensation - that once looked upon all material as animate - is lost to us because of our modern 'knowledge' of what we see. “It is right to compare this idea of the 'animistic sensibility' which early anthropology viewed as an integral component in the word-view of the savage, the child, and the neurotic”. (Rhodes 1997, p.158 ) Fraud (1913) saw a great depth of analysis in this naive notion that inert things possess an animate presence. Like Frazer (1890) who preceded him, Fraud advanced the view that early people used a 'living' interpretation of all things, and he called this state of mind animism. He saw this as “the remarkable conception of nature and the world of those primitive races known to us from our own times. These races populate a world with a multitude of spiritual beings which are benevolent or malevolent to them... they also consider that not only animals and plants, but inanimate things as well, are animated by them”. Fraud describes 'animistic conceptions' as the myth forming consciousness and perceives animism as a primitive stage in mankind’s psychic development towards a fully mature 'scientific' view of the world. ( Rhodes 1997, p. 158)
From the point of view of my own research this view of our animistic sensibility is indicative of recall of an animal power of intuitive instinctive response. The idea that everything is 'alive' is very much an 'animal' view. You flee from anything that moves without reasoned thought, and you only survive by using inner inherent impulse. I believe this way of sensing material is what lies at the heart of artistic insight. The view that you can take inert material and mould it into a work of art has always been thought to give life – in the spiritual sense of the word – to your work by infusing into material an ability to allow it to trigger an emotive response from our minds. The artist, it is warned, cannot afford to think like a scientist because to do so would yield a lifeless result based upon observable facts. You cannot get art to come alive - in the scientific sense of the word - but to sense intuitively is to concede that your mind once looked at the world without scientific knowledge. That we once faced a very different view, and the strange notion that everything was 'possessed' still remains buried somewhere beneath the hardened architecture of our modern thought processes. Our distant ancestors have passed this old view down to us in the very genetic material that builds our brains, and this 'living' interpretation of the world is still present but lost to us.
Of course you might wonder why consider recall of a redundant way of sensing that is obviously outdated and outmoded? One reason would be that because we look to a logical 'scientific' analytical experience in the world around us our minds have lost a vital insight. The animistic sensibility of our minds is far older than the scientific picture we live with today, and the way we now think about objects and events suppresses a view that dominated most of our history. Our analytical view is very divisive and this contaminates the naïve experience to such a degree we cannot recall it. We know too much, and, therefore, when we stand in a storm surrounded by thunder and lightening we no longer experience the essence of the environment as a living entity. We know that these forces display physics at work and not the outpourings of some malevolent spirit, but in this analysis a unity of the mind with nature is lost. I, as a painter, would love to recall this 'living' unity with inert material, but I have been taught to think in a detached analytical way that stops me sensing the 'unscientific' naïve insight that brings paint alive. My mind has been contaminated by modern learning, and the naïve view that experienced 'life' in all things is lost to me. Science tells me I would need to propagate a pulse and a heart beat – and self replication - to bring life into the world, but the artist in me senses a different idea. The animal notion tells me inert material 'talks' to me, and that I once sensed that all material is a reflection of an intuitive impulse of nature that our modern 'scientific' view suppresses in all we see and do. You try to paint without understanding so that you can get your work to reflect how your mind once sensed the world before mankind progressed from magic through religious belief to scientific thought, (Frazer1890) and you look to animal instinct because this older naïve sensation that everything is alive must still be at work somewhere behind all you see and do.
Figure 5. Claustrophobic Confinement 2014. Painted paper screwed up and thrown into an old car park to provoke a sensation of not knowing and uncertainty within an enclosed space. Inert forms like this once gave us the primitive sensation that the essence of life possessed all things, but we have evolved to suppress this experience behind leaned understanding. We know this is inert paper, but if you allow your mind to recall a little uncertainty about this installation -especially in poor light – you begin to get a recollection of how it must have felt to be an integrated part of the material that surrounds you.
UNCERTAINTY AND NOT KNOWING AS AN AGENT OF ANIMAL INSIGHT.
Any artist who inherits stronger recall of the suppressed remains of our old animal way of sensing through instinct, and wants to get their work to provoke this sensation, is going to be looking to promote raw experience as the main ingredient in what they do. The artist will be seeking to create in unlearned ways, and the challenge becomes one of stopping uncertainty being driven out of the end result by controlled modelling and intellectual ideas. Creating an art object through intelligent learned understanding - by being given a project or a commission - will, in all probability, transform your natural powers of observation into a creative output that will destroy the sensation we are talking about here.
Uncertainty and not knowing gives us a glimpse into an unconscious arena of the mind, and most people look to suppress this disturbance. Some give recall of this depth of mind an identity as a depository for spiritual calling – like a religious experience – but I prefer to believe what is 'inside me' is the remains of my natural animal mind. My view is biological and looks to see our 'inner state of mind' as a neurological construct that can only have originated from our animal beginnings.(Crick 1994) No other agent can be imagined to be involved in influencing the impulses that arise from this place in our mind, and when we talk about art we should not think about some ethereal agency that is calling us from beyond the reality of our bodily functions. We should, in place of this airy notion, look to an inherent unlearned way of sensing by instinct that arose from the hunter-gatherer minds of our ancestors. The end of the Pleistocene era is the most likely period for the transformation of our minds from animal instinct to the beginnings of human responses, (Mithen 1996. Shepard 1999) and arts beginnings are rooted in this distant time. Whatever you believe art to be about, it has, at its origin, an animal foundation upon which arose the product of conscious actions given form through the Upper Paleolithic. (Cook 2013, Williams 2004) Art flourishes when prehistoric peoples began to look at the world to remove, rather than reveal, the raw experience of the animal view. The artist begins to generate an artificial, almost hallucinatory visualisation of the external world. Cave art begins to reflect a more spiritual transcendence beyond the natural animal experience of direct response, and this promotes the belief that art, like religion, is a product of ethereal origins. This idea arose before we understood we have evolved from animal beginnings, and it now seems more likely that buried in our unconsciousness is the remains of our old animal way of sensing implanted in us over the vast length of time from which our distant ancestors emerged.
Art has become one of many ways we translate a direct raw experience of the world into conscious awareness, and this requires our greater capacity of mind to find ways to transform animal impulses into some form of recognisable image. You inherit a mind that, rather than sense rawness in the world around you, looks towards imaginative images. The Green Man (Basford, 1978) enters folk law and brings the belief that a spiritual entity is at work in nature, but a more down to earth explanation is now available that sees the human mind is working to suppress an animal way of sensing through the acquisition of language. (Pinker, 1994. Savage-Rumbaugh, Shanker, Taylor, 2001) Intelligence tries to 'picture' a sensation of not knowing that resides in the depth of our minds, and this drives us to concoct all manner of fantastic images and language that we use to give form to our 'inner' thoughts. This process drives us to picture spiritual wonderment around us, and we dream up images and stories to give substance to the rawness of our surroundings. We emerged from the Upper Paleolithic with minds that had mutated to begin this journey to remove our raw view sensed by the animal mind, and now, thousands upon thousands of years later, we find ourselves possessed by the desire to rid our thoughts of any recall of this experience. (Abram 2011)
I regard all subjective content in art - superstitious images, religious icons, social comment, scientific anxieties, or surreal fantasy - as having been created through iconography and language to propel us to look away from sensing the raw experience of the art object. My assertion is that art holds the power to both suppress or reveal this raw experience that our ancestors once lived with, but we prefer to suppress it because it generates a vision of the world through not knowing and uncertainty. (Fisher & Fortnum 2013) We find we cannot picture this experience unless we relinquish our learned intelligent way of looking, and taking material and rearranging it to try to model the unknown from our conscious point of view cannot recreate the raw experience. It will result in a transformation of this 'inner' animal sensation into an ethereal desire for ascension over the material you work with. Until modern times artists have always looked to suppress this sensation of not knowing rather than use art to provoke it. The artist has always ignored the reality of the material in favour of modelling to create an idea – a fantasy, a picture, a story or whatever - and this reflects a state of mind that looks to transcend, rather than expose our natural powers of perception. Neurophilosophy and Evolutionary Psychology give the best models for a down to earth look at this idea, (Churchland 1989, Buss 2011) and combined with understanding about our early animal ancestors, (Dawkins 2005, Gould 2002, Diamond 1991) these scientific advances are beginning to allow us to see that artists have always worked to transcend any sense of animal uncertainty provoked by the raw experience in what they do. Any object or event that brings back to our conscious awareness our old primitive way of sensing will be thought undesirable and rejected. This is how all our minds have evolved and this reflects what is seen in psychology as contrasting states of mind between uncertainty-orientated (UO) persons and certainty-orientated (CO) persons. (Sorrentino and Roney 2000)
BEYONG THE U.O. AND C.O. PERSON
Some artists – not all artists – show signs of wanting to create art to provoke uncertainty and maintain it in their work. This is not considered in UO/CO studies because both types of persons will be seeking to resolve the disturbing sensation of uncertainty from their minds. The Sorrentino/Roney study cites that UO and CO persons look to view the world in one of two ways. UO persons are attracted to uncertainty because it offers challenges to find new answers to resolve problems.
“This means that UOs have a positive orientation towards novel and uncertain situations: to them these situations can be seen as an opportunity to learn something new about themselves and about the world.” (Sorrentino & Rone 2000, p.4)
UO persons see uncertainty as a means of exploration, but the answer, whatever it might be, then removes the sense of uncertainty from their view of the world. In contrast to this a CO person does not like uncertainty and senses it as an undesirable experience. These types of individuals look to block any move that will rekindle any disruption in their view of the world.
“It does not matter what the effective value of the information is likely to be. Whether one could feel good or bad about some information she or he might discover, all this person cares about is that she or he should not look in the first place. In other words, one should not try to resolve or deal with uncertainty.” (Sorrentino & Roney 2000, p.6)
This view is related to how open minded or closed minded you are in response to anything that fails to conform to know ideas (Rokeach1960) and is reflected in art through like, or dislike, of works that look to remove established principles from the classification of what can, or cannot, be called a work of art. The open minded person is...
“...characterised by the extent to which the person can receive, evaluate, and act on relevant information from the outside on its own intrinsic merits. The more one can do this the more one is open-minded. The less one can do this, the more one is close-minded. The key word here is can. Closed-minded people simply are not capable of handling new information without reference to some authority figure or independent of current or existing beliefs.” ( Sorrentino & Roney 2000, p.17)
The third possibility that I, as a modern artist, look towards reaching is to create uncertainty in my work and to try to retain it. The key word being retain. I don't want my mind to resolve this sensation, and I don't want people who look at my work to come to a conclusion about what I have done. I want visual indifference, but most art will fail to retain the uncertainty needed to keep this indifference after its initial creation because it gets assimilated into established styles or movements that suppress indifference. Art adjusts to remove this disturbance because any new type of art creates an initial sense of uncertainty, and this will generate recall to the remnants of our older inherent way of sensing through animal intuition. We have evolved minds that seek to remove this sensation, and in art this is achieved by a new work being assimilated into the 'art' world by inclusion to an idea of iconographic status. Art widens its parameters to what can , and cannot, be called art, and this removes the sense of uncertainty. Retaining uncertainty in art requires making work that will not fit any accepted established idea of what constitutes an art object, however, this has become very difficult to achieve in an environment that now accepts anything as art. (Gablik 1984) You would be looking to not create an 'acceptable' style of art, and this has to be understood as an attempt to avoid the UO or CO orientated mould.
To generate and maintain this third mind-set requires making objects that avoid intellectual reasoned content and promotes raw experience. Anyone seeking to undertake this type of work will be looking to create as much uncertainty about what confronts them as it is possible to achieve. This would require seeking a permanent state of unknowing in a work that would bring recall of an older way of sensing through animal intuition. The work would have to confound all reasoned thought and confront us with raw experience that cannot be understood through any learned ideas.
Most artists, like all UO and CO persons, will work to suppress uncertainty rather than provoke it. It is psychological, and any attempt to bring and maintain uncertainty into your work would require you to act through instinct in an attempt to set-up a working procedure that then echoes a natural response. I attempt to do this by making objects that provoke as much uncertainty in my work as I can, rather than resolve it. However, I have found you cannot guide the material to do this. You can only act through chance and accident, and, because of this my work is doomed to failure. It must, to succeed, stop you calling to mind any ideas that you have learned to impose over what you see. You have to look with a clear mind that allows the old sense of animal uncertainty to arise, and, like Agnes Martin, “I don't have any ideas myself, I don't believe anybody else so that leaves me a clear mind. Gosh, yes, an empty mind so that once something comes into it you can see it.” (Smith & Kuwayama 1997) All our minds work to remove this 'emptiness' because it generates a sense of uncertainty, and I find, therefore, that all you can do is try to make an object that will disrupt learned ideas. If you find yourself looking for recognisable images, controlled workmanship or intellectual meaning in my work your mind is trying to remove this sensation of uncertainty that gives recall of your old way of sensing through animal instinct. Art made through an 'empty mind' opens up the possibility of generating this inherent way of sensing by instinct, but you will find yourself desperately trying to suppress this disturbance by seeking to transform the 'empty feeling' into recognisable content.
In painting the only solution seems to be to reduce empathy- to lessen your attributing an object to your own emotional and intellectual understanding of what you do , and allowing abstraction – with its absence of individuality and reliance upon free form - to generate recall of your old way of sensing by instinct. (Worringer 1908) This way of thinking about creating art would facilitate instinctive responses over learning. It would require us to stop trying to explain and rationalise what an artist is doing, and look to the idea that art made without reasoned thought and controlled actions is the only thing that brings recall of our old animal way of sensing. Few who live with high ideals of art believe the subject can be presented in this way. Trying to show people that mindless behavioural animal response is the only way to get to the art experience, and to suggest we are driven to create high ideals in art, not to revere our greatness, but to suppress our animal origins is not a popular view. Most insist our minds aspire to greatness through art because of intellectual command of thought, but for those who accept that animal responses underpin the substructure of human aspirations (Dawkins 1998, Griffin 2001, Hauser 2000) it looks more probable that any 'calling' in the mind is an echo of an unconscious animal way of sensing. A lost resound from what remains of a way of experiencing nature that does not perceive the world in any assured way.
The whole point of this essay is to state that this animal experience, found in raw material, is only the starting point of enquiry. Mindless empty art created by throwing paint is not the goal that raw objectivity strives to reach; it is only the trigger. The 'empty' work is the prompt that recalls animal instinct, but the challenge becomes one of finding a way to bring this animal experience back into human awareness without intelligence transforming and destroying it. This would be the ultimate aim of this type of abstraction, but all art either works to suppress this inner 'empty' animal sensation through insisting art can only be an intelligent construct full of intellectual meanings and aesthetic values, or that it pertains to some sort of calling to the human spirit. What I look to create is raw experience. There is no meaning to be found in this experience and certainly no spirit. It is empty of all intellectual and intelligent input, but because it so empty it works to recall what remains of our old animal mind. Our problem is how to glimpse this old way of sensing because any attempts to model it through intelligent thoughts will transform the view. All our learning has evolved to suppress this sensation, and so we find we reject anything that seems empty and meaningless. We look upon this emptiness as the inevitable outcome of a reductionist approach to removing everything that was thought relevant in art, but the bland areas of colour, the raw clay and the concrete noise that is all that is left after reductionism are not the end. It is just a doorway to rediscovering an alternative insight into how we sense objects and events when deprived of ideas. A way that looks to remove all the clever thinking we impose over what we see so that we can get back to a raw experience of what confronts us. What seems meaningless is in fact an object the fills your mind with uncertainty, and here, in this state of not knowing, you will begin to recall how to look without learned understanding. How you respond to this experience will depend upon how sensitive you are to the remains of what is left in your mind of an old inherent way of sensing by animal instinct.
Figure 6. Animistic Sensibility. Paint soaked paper hung over string in an abandoned factory. Another attempt to provoke the primitive sensation that everything is alive. We no longer think this way because we have learned to analyse and differentiate inert and living material in our intelligent interpretation of the world, but to the animal sense of instinct this interpretation of material does not exist. Recall of this animistic view still persists in primitive peoples who see all things as possessed by a benevolent or malevolent presence.
Additional points of interest concerning direct objective experience in art
Direct objective experience is a basic principle at work in artistic endeavour. To identify it you need to look at a very complex subject in a simplified way so that all the vast differences in style and content in art can be reduced to a contrast between raw material and its transformation into ordered organised work. Art ranges from the practical skill of craft to the high ideals of academic achievement, and to find a basic principle behind all this diversity you need to consider the idea that all artists, regardless of where they work, when they worked, or what they make, take raw material and model it into a controlled form. This is the most fundamental observation you can make, and, to my way of thinking, this is an act that removes any sense of uncertainty from what the artist does.
I see this as a behavioural response that propels us away of an older inherent way of sensing through instinct – that I assert is caused by our minds having mutated to suppress animal rawness. I believe the direct sensation of raw material in art makes us feel 'uncomfortable' and artists are particularly attuned to this experience. They sense it more than the rest of us, and they are therefore driven to take raw material and rearrange it to create an art object that then removes this sensation. I see this as a basic act behind all art, but the idea that you can reduce art to such a principle is thought to belittle the importance of the subject. I believe only an open minded approach will allow us to grasp that reductionism in art is the only way to understand the complexity of the subject, but the bland empty results that emerge from this approach are not the end of the story. They only represent a starting point towards a different direction of enquiry into the nature of the art experience that challenges the age old belief that creating art implies absolute control of raw material so you can guide it into some form of intellectual result. Given a box of paints most painters think they need to take this material to create a recognisable meaningful product, rather than, as I assert, throw the paint on the floor to create a meaningless mess. This mess will provoke, rather than suppress recall of an older animal way of sensing through instinct, however, people come along and look at your mess of the floor and think this is the work of a charlaton. They decry what you have done as inartistic, because anyone can throw paint on the floor, but this misses the point. The paint on the floor is there to trigger an older way of sensing from your mind. It is not the end result but the starting point, and it exposes a raw experience that is hidden behind all controlled works of art. If I laboured to paint a picture and hung it on a wall this object would offer no ability to provoke your old way of sensing. It would, instead, direct your thinking to look for intellectual ideas that work to suppress any uncertainty about what you see. Only by returning art to a base experience can an inherent sensation be recalled, but where you go from here is the challenge. The mess on the floor just points you in a new direction of enquiry that looks to find out how to retain, rather than suppress, your old inherent natural powers of observation.
“Because the artistic impulse in mankind is so difficult to understand and its origins are so obscure, we must grasp at any piece of information we can in order to improve our chances of comprehending its nature. The work of human infants, of the insane, of primitive peoples and of prehistoric cultures, are all important, but the painting of chimpanzees is, for me, no less fascinating and revealing. The chimpanzee shows, in its struggle towards order in its simple visual statements, a brain that wants to 'compose' its lines into some kind of pattern. The pattern never becomes representational, but it does change and develop with the passage of time and it does show just enough organisation for us to analyse it and study it. If the ape brain were more advanced, analysis would become difficult. So the ape painter is a wonderful subject to study. He is no joke, he is no artist...he is just on the threshold of art, struggling to pass over into the fascinating world of visual exploration that fills our human art galleries and the walls of our houses with such exciting images.” (Morris intro. in Lenain 1997. p7)
The very idea of 'art' has come to imply that to 'create' this experience an artist must guide material to make 'exciting images'. When we look at a painting created by a chimpanzee there are no 'exciting images' but only free form. What we look for in this free form is an insight into rawness because this is what the chimp sees. The play activity is without intent, and what emerges from studying chimp paintings is the remarkable revelation that all life has a basic need to find a balance of pattern and rhythm in form.(Whyte 1968) This ability is inherent and not learned, and the chimp does not guide the paint to 'picture' this balanced pattern or rhythm; it just plays with the paint and allows these qualities to emerge. We do not do this. When we paint we apply to this natural sensation aesthetic values that suppress rather than reveals the natural sense of order. Aesthetics drives us to seek an enforced ideas of control over nature by directing us to discover recognisable content in what we do. (Carbone, Gromov, Prusinkiewicz 2000) We look to control pattern and rhythm and we seem to possess minds that 'feel' disturbed when these values become hard to find. However, because we are so desperate to enforce a pattern and rhythm we destroy the nature of what we try to discover. We create an artificial visualisation which, as Morris discovered, chimpanzee's do not. Chimps reveal the natural pattern and rhythm that artist have always suppressed because the artist learns to guide the paint. This you cannot do, and only raw responses brings natural pattern and rhythm to you. We come along and, faced with a work created in a raw way, we set to work to transform this sensation into an intelligent recognisable pattern that destroys the nature of the original experience. We look for signs of order and organisation in rawness because our human way of thinking stops us looking at the view that contains the natural uncontrolled pattern and rhythm. We 'force' ourselves to guide this pattern and rhythm to bring it to our level of conscious awareness using aesthetics, but this turns it into an artificial image. Marcel Duchamp exposed this response to us in his attempts to run away from aesthetic requirements in the act of creativity. (Demos 2012) Duchamp demonstrated that all the traditional baggage imposed through meaningful subjects and individual workmanship in the creation of a unique art object is a distraction, and it destroys our ability to see the natural uncontrolled pattern and rhythm in what surrounds us. Any object could reveal this natural experience if you could find a way to discover how to remove the inflexible thought processes that makes us look for the imposition of intelligent order and organisation over what we see. (Sanouillet & Peterson 1989.)
We come along and we try to impose our 'learned' ideas over raw material, and our minds get to work to rid our thoughts of the 'emptiness' this material provokes from our minds, but this destroys the natural pattern and rhythm in our mind. We replace it with an artificial view, and in art this response translates into our need to find artistic meaning in what we see, even when it is not there to be found. This removes the power of uncertainty to disturb us, (Rutsky 1999, Pardey 2008) and only human beings seem to need this assurance about what we look at. The animal mind does not set out to find any meaningful result when it plays with paint, but we displace this natural way of sensing at an early age and replace it with artificial ideas that make us think art is a sensation revealed by guiding material. What we should think is that by failing to guide the material we can rediscover a natural sensation of pattern and rhythm. People who can't draw are closer to art than they think.
“Much of the research on “none-expert” drawing has noted what is missing in relation to “experts.” This in turn is nothing other than individuals who are artists or who have mastered basic tricks for producing realistic images. But once again this begs the question of our ability to understand simple, abbreviated signs, bits of graffiti and the like in the world around us. In spite of this bias, important research has been completed on the principle by which non-expert drawers base graphic production.” (Verstegen 2014 p.66)
If, as I state here, we possess an unconscious fear of uncertainty, and the desire to suppress raw experiences that provoke this sensation, then those of us who can't draw get more recall of this view. Our 'non-expert' efforts reveal more uncertainty, whilst those who have mastered the rules work to suppress this sensation. We think learning to draw creates art without realising this is an unconscious behavioural response that drives us to remove an original way of sensing by instinct from our minds. We are driven to create and impose aesthetic qualities in what we do - through perfecting technique, balanced composition, ordered meaningful content and recognisable images - to rid our minds of a natural power of observation. When we are young we don't look to do this because our minds have not yet learned to remove our instinctive way of sensing, but within a short time we all overcome this freedom to act without intent. In art we begin to reveal a sense of direction of line and shape that guides the material to recognisable imaginings. Stick-like figures begin to emerge (Cox 1996) but few of us outside child psychology realise that what the child has done is take the first step on a journey to suppress raw experience of what they see. Most of us, once we grow into adolescence, will have forgotten that we inherit this raw view of objects and events. What we should realise is that those who cannot draw are closer to this raw view, but our problem is that in any attempt to 'picture' this experience our mind will get to work to suppress it. (Gardner 1980, Matthews 2003)
Social psychology has come to acknowledge our conscious minds are but the tip of the iceberg in deciding how we behave, what is important to us, how we feel, and recognise conscious self-awareness in our relationship to the world, and beneath this surface view vast unconscious impulses remain at work. We look to solve problems, construct emotional reactions and predict our responses without conscious input and an 'inner' mind seems to be a powerful and pervasive element controlling our real motivations, judgements and actions in ways that our conscious awareness seems to mask. (Wilson 2002) From an artists point of view creating art through the need to find usefulness – art that tells stories, social comment, advertisement, pictures of recognisable objects and events, or even entertainment and decoration - will always suppress any intuitive way of sensing. An underlying impulse from an older animal experience of objects and events, generated by instinct, will be lost behind our need to guide the paint or mould the clay to say something. When we remove this need – when we act without purpose - we find ourselves looking at objects that give recall of an older way of sensing a natural pattern and rhythm. An insight into raw experience is revealed when our ordered thoughts are disturbed by loss of information, and the remains of an almost extinct experience returns into our minds. We get a little hint of the echo of its calling that has become a dormant view, and it is this disturbance that I believe modern art arose to explore. I think some artists have realised they possess the remains of an animal way of unconscious sensing, generated by the remnants of an experience our distant ancestors once lived with, and they come to see that the only way to recall this experience is to fail to understand what you create. Only through this sensation of uncertainty can your work give rise to the final dying resound of what remains of our natural animal mind.
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