Yesterday, we had a day of CPD. We decided to go to the Tate Modern.
Before we left, we watched this video:
Here are some fragments that resonated with me:
[1:10] ... a large part of seeing depends on habit and convention
[4:19] ... [the images] are surrounded by the familiarity of the room you are in
[6:33] ... the days of pilgrimage are over
[8:10] ... somehow I should be able to feel its authenticity
[11:55] ... the uninterrupted silence and stillness of a painting
[12:50] ... a corridor, connecting the moment it represents with the moment at which you are looking at it
[13:40] ... remove a detail from the painting from the whole, its meaning changes
[16:09] ... in paintings there is no unfolding time
[26:00] ... children look at images and interpret them, directly with their own experience
I wrote the following words on pieces of paper, our values and other concepts that occupy my thoughts at the moment: Responsibility, receptivity, attentiveness, de-centration, waiting, presence.
We all chose one at random, discussed briefly our feelings towards our word, what it means for us, and then carried it with us for the day.
I selected attentiveness. Having this word at the front of my mind had the effect of pulling me towards others, asking questions when I might not otherwise, stopping and listening where I might have continued otherwise; a sense of movement towards others, towards the art, enabling me to be present.
We will discuss our experiences with our words at our next meeting.
At the gallery, I asked everyone to write a brief-but-vivid account, that would allow them to re-enter a moment at a later date, in line with the discipline of noticing. We met afterwards, and discussed our pieces of writing.
I intentionally sat with a piece I did not particularly 'like', in view of attempting to move beyond feelings of like and dislike, beyond attraction and repulsion. This is my account of a piece that was reasonably repulsive.
10 screens, in colour, various sizes, and depth. Synchronised and then unsynchronised, of joints, a sense of age. The condition of the skin, old video footage, (in)elasticity. Joints flexing in repetition - ankle, knee, elbow, wrist - skin bunching and stretching over joints.
The sound of cars and voices, in parks, cars, being in the street, the sun is glinting off arms and legs, the sunlight reflecting and through hairs.
My eyes flicker across the screens attracted by synchronicity of the whole, behaviours of flexing limbs. I focus on one at the expense of the others.
My desire is to draw away, as I attempt to remain present.
After reading our descriptions, we read this excerpt from John Berger's Ways of Seeing:
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.
But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.
Yet this seeing which comes before words, and can never be quite covered by them, is not a question of mechanically reacting to stimuli. We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. As a result of this act, what we see is brought within our reach - though not necessarily within arm’s reach. To touch something is to situate oneself in relation to it.
We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.
Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world.
We ran out of time, but will discuss at a later meeting.
An interesting day. Reflections to come.