Living (and Thinking) in Space:
Art, Space and Process:
Traditionally, art is about
making things, Paintings and sculpture are things to buy
and to sell -to hang on our walls or fill up our rooms.
Space is somewhere where we put our our objects so we can see
them and find them -or perhaps hide them, if we wish to keep
claimed that drawing was taking a line for a walk.
Walking is a way of moving around in space -so it is possible to
place a drawing by Klee on the two-dimensional wall of a
three-dimensional museum. We then see, placed in the
context of various levels of physical space, the result of
the artist taking a line for a walk within the conceptual image
space created by his own imagination process.
However, the image space is not simply the area within which the
line has moved: In some mysterious way, the space within
which the line conceptually moves is actually created by the
process of walking the line itself. The environment in which
something lives is (at least partially) created by the way that
organism interacts with its environment.
Feedback and Interaction:
Apparently, not only can we have
a multi-dimensional conceptual image space within a
two-dimensionally constructed wall space -within a
three-dimensional architectural space -we also discover that the
image space is not something which is simply filled up with
something else -but it is the process of filling the space that
actually creates this space.
Perhaps this sounds a little bizarre -but in practice it is
quite simple. When we walk through the museum looking for the
Klee drawing on the wall, it seems as if the walls are within
the space of the museum -but for the architect, it was the
placing of the walls within the building that created the space
which the visitor experiences as being contained by the walls.
So maybe we should be more aware of the difference between
the original creation of the space by nature, the artist or the
architect -as well as the reconstruction of that space
through our experience of using the space.
Through seeing and understanding the different levels of
experience, and the way they intereact with each other, we
may be able to gain more control over the wat we create space
-and the effect that this has on our lives.
Building the mental Space:
If drawing is taking a line for a
walk -then perhaps thinking is taking a thought for a walk.
However, if the architect constructs the space by placing the
walls and the visitor experiences the space by following the
walls -then the artist and the thinker can become both architect
and visitor in the same space.
Just as walking the line through visual space creates the
drawing -so does taking our thoughts for a walk create the
conceptual space within which these thoughts live and
Unfortunately, it is also often our own thoughts which form the
walls that limit the space with in which our thoughts must live
Culture as Collective Space:
If visual (and mental)
space is created through a dialogue between the points and the
lines in a space -and the space that both contains and defines
them -then surely "culture" can be seen as a dialogue
between the individual (as point) and the community (which
defines the point and yet is also defined by the points which
constitute the space).
Surely, each community defines its own space by determining the
organization of the individual points which create and define
the communal space.
Within a global system, each communal space becomes a point in a
communal meta-space and the whole process repeats itself on
another level. However, the communication between the points and
the constituting space may become more difficult -due to the
size and complexity involved in organizing the larger space.
Materializing the Space:
If a drawing is the visible trace
of the effect of taking a line for a walk -then it must be
produced by the physical interaction of the drawing medium in
contact with mind that moves the line being taken for a
As the pen, chalk, brush or pencil moves over the
paper or canvas it leaves behind it a trace of the action that
From the sensory impression left behind in the space created by
the medium we are often able to reconstruct the artist's
physical movements that created the image -and from these
movements we are perhaps able to reconstruct something of the
thoughts that caused these movements to happen.
Echoes in Space:
In the same way the visual
artist's medium leavews its visible trace -it is the musician's
hand or breath that strikes the material that vibrates the air
that collides with our eardrum -that stimulates the nerve,
that initiates the thought process that identifies
The impact of object upon object disturbs the air and penetrates
our minds. We identify the sound and locate the source within
physical space -but also within a mental space. When we
know where the sound is coming from -and then we know if we are
listening to sounds we wish to hear, or perhaps some snake in
the grass we wish to avoid.
The sound may originally come from a single point in physical
space -but we soon interpret it in terms of a complex conceptual
space. A conceptual space which is highly dependent on our
previous experience. With our eyes closed we can listen to
the CD of a performance and imagine the performers are with us
in the room -provided we have had the experience which allows us
to do so. But how are we to recognize the sound if the
musicians on our CD are using instruments we have never heard or
How are we to know if we are safe from the snake in the
grass if we have never encountered one before?
It is the echo of the sound within space that allows us to
reconstruct the nature of that space and the objects that sound
The self-reflecting Mirror:
Our interpretations affect both
our experiences and the actions that result from our
interpretation of the world around us -and yet it is also our
experiences, as a result of these actions, which determine the
beliefs that form the basis through which we interpret the world
of experience around us.
Our experiences expand our knowledge -but our knowledge can
restrict the expansion of our experience.
Sometimes we need to undo our belief systems in order to let in
Accidentally feeling Space:
In Holland, there is a saying:
Those who won't believe must feel. Essentially, it means you
should beat your kids if they won't listen to you.
Perhaps its not a very satisfactory pedagogical principle
(especially if you are a child) but there may be some element of
truth in it.
Even if you don't believe that a car is coming towards you -you
can still end up in hospital, especially if you've made a
mistake. Accidents can happen when our beliefs do not fit in
with the physical world that is outside our minds.
So if seeing is believing -perhaps feeling is understanding!
AUnexpected accidents can be
powerful indications that we have made a mistake during the
process of interpretation -so in that sense they are useful
indicators that we need to rethink our ways and somehow modify
the assumptions or processes through which our belief and
interpretation systems operate.
However, accidents can also be dangerous -so it might be wise
not to rely on them as the only way to correct our errors.
It might be nice if we had some way of exploring both the
potential and the consequences of our belief systems and
detecting and removing any any potential errors before they
Perhaps, before climbing into our brand new aircraft and flying
off at supersonic speed through our newly created space -we
should experience a few hours in the flight simulator first.
Creating a Space for Art, Language,
Experiment and Ritual:
Through our conceptualization of
the world we are able to manipulate the world and control it -if
we wish. However, we can also use our conceptualizations to
reflect upon themselves in the form of a "simulation" which can
act as a useful basis for an error detecting system. By
creating imaginary worlds we can investigate possibilities that
would be impossible in real life.
Maybe art, language and ritual are ways of creating such worlds.
Maybe the mental spaces that are created by our inventions
actually influence the way our minds operate in the world
outside our minds.
Maybe, the inventions created by, and within, our conceptual
worlds actually change the world outside our minds.......
Baclayon January 2011