Friday, May 23, 2008

"seeing yourself seeing" or "sensing yourself sensing"

It was intense to check out Olafur Eliasson's exhibit at the SFMoMa last fall year. He took you into another world where science and art made new environments. Places we often don't allow to entertain our imaginations.

This interview with Eliasson reminds me much of what Dana Gioia the chairman for the NEA, talked about last night. Listening to him, I experienced first hand how magnificent creativity, understanding, and social consciousness can exist in a human being. I was completely blown away with his ability to be a huge political/art leader, while at the same time presenting himself as a flawed human being. His poetry express such, but to listen first hand, it all becomes more real. He never gives a speech more than once and doesn't write them out, apart form a few key words to prompt his train of thought. For this, he is more conscious of his audience's needs and aware of his current environment.

This interview, with Eliasson from the website Bomb, has many of the same currents referring to one's consciousness, of their environment and being.

Here's the first Q&A Enjoy!
Olafur Eliasson
by Chris Gilbert
Issue 88 Summer 2004, ART

Chris Gilbert You often use the phrase “seeing yourself seeing” or “sensing yourself sensing” to describe the way your work functions. It is interesting that this proposition—namely, that the experience of nature is at least partly a human construct—could be taken as a summary of Romantic philosophy’s central idea. Immanuel Kant often referred to his work as effecting a reversal of the Copernican revolution that had put the sun rather than human beings and the earth at the center of the universe. Like the Romantics who followed him, Kant returns humanity to the center with the claim that we are co-creators of the world that we appear to encounter. It seems to me that a similar dynamic, accompanied by an ethics that likewise emphasizes human responsibility, operates in your work. It is indicated with particular clarity in both the title and the function of the work Your spiral view, which puts the viewer in the center of a light-refracting tube.

Olafur Eliasson
If so, I hope this happens in a non-normative way. The problem with putting the model of the person seeing at the center is that it often results in normative ideas of spatiality and personhood. I would like to have the model of the subjective and singular experience at the center, but I would also like it to function non-normatively, which I suppose is a paradox. Kantian epistemology always seems to me inescapably normative. As I use these ideas of seeing-yourself-sensing or sensing-yourself-seeing, they are about trying to introduce relationships between having an experience and simultaneously evaluating and being aware that you are having this experience. It’s not about experience versus interpretation but about the experience inside the interpretive act, about the experience itself being interpretive. You could say that I’m trying to put the body in the mind and the mind in the body. Although I am still proposing a model—a way of seeing and engaging and a way of evaluating our surroundings as a human construction—it can operate with an extremely high degree of singularity. And the important thing is to acknowledge that it is merely a construction, which means that we are not offering a higher state of truth or truthfulness. I can’t say, “Now I’ve got the right model.” It’s not about utopia or anything final.

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