Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Anti-Conceptual Object

I awoke from a dream this morning in which I found myself pointed to text by a friend and teacher. I will not elaborate on the sequence that led up to this moment, nor will I discuss the importance of dream in my work. I will leave that for another post.

In this text I was referred to one sentence in particular. This statement came to me clearly, as something of interest. "To create, simply, an aesthetically pleasing object." Analysis of this statement, and its implied meaning by way of a formal approach, is not my specific challenge, so I will not begin by segregating its component words and addressing each; simple, aesthetic, pleasure, object. Nor will I rummage into the abundance of tangential inquiry associated with it. Suffice it is to say that it carries with it a character of simplicity as well as complexity, difficulty and yet ease. It is more important for me to address this in the scope of my recent inquiries and my past, current and perhaps future work.

To better explain the immediate associations that this phrase brought to mind, I will reinterpret it, assuming the meaning and title "anti-conceptual object", this is a divergence from from the original statement, however it has appeared to me as intriguing, and have decided to elaborate on my thoughts related to this statement. My reasoning here is based upon my immediate and subjective response to such a statement. The feeling that I encountered from this phrase was anti-intellectual, not to be assumed as negative, simply lacking, or devoid of any intellectual or conceptual content. I am thus led to question weather it is possible to create such an object?

Mans perception of reality appears rooted in the presence of physical phenomenon; the matter of our visible and intelligible world. There is no established capacity for man to perceive any object without some type of mental activity. Perception, at its most fundamental level, involves cognition and the interpretation of sensory stimuli that are transmitted to, received, and interpreted by the mind or some extension of the neurological system. The conscious experience of man is thus derived from the dynamic and interdependent actions of the mind-body-environment complex and therefore, any and all experience can be said to involve some form of mental activity. The emotional, instinctual, or intuitive responses to objects are thus, is some way, subjects of cognition and involve some aspect of the concept. This would appear to negate any possible existence of the anti-conceptual object.

If there is such thing as the anti-conceptual object, on an absolute scale, and with very strict definition, it must effectively not exist in relation to human perception. It must be completely removed from physical or conceptual existence and be elusive to perception, Perhaps the closest one can get to such object is through metaphor or the antithetical.

And so, how can one approach the anti-conceptual object. There is an interesting region of crossover between what i describe here and the development of the matter-antimatter paradigm. Modern physics has proven the existence of antimatter and scientists at CERN have successfully created antimatter particles in laboratory experiments. These particles cannot encounter their material counterparts or the resulting effect is annihilation. However, these particles do exist and were once considered science fiction, and today, they can be created under controlled conditions.

I find this interesting, and it is worth considering the implied meaning when applied metaphorically to the conceptual-anticonceptual paradigm. Perhaps, there is such a thing as the anti-conceptual object. Assuming a similar approach as that of the matter-antimatter paradigm, if one encountered its antithesis the pair would be annihilated, that is to say that in order to approach the anti-conceptual object, a prerequisite of such encounter would be a complete removal of conceptual content. This at minimum would increase the probability of such encounter.

The issue of the matter-antimatter paradigm is potentially very different than that of the conceptual-anticonceptual object. My purpose of exposing the reader to such information is simply to open the mind to possibility and explore options.

I have also found the term "anti-conceptual" within the domain of philosophy and theory. However, my intention here is not to connect this term to past theory, though connotation is unavoidable, and i am sure the associated information would raise in my mind other questions. What I am doing here is simple using the tools of language to explore my understanding of reality and more specifically, currently, the existence of objects. Thus i have come to the term; anti-conceptual object.

It is worth noting that I consider variations in the general approach to the making of an object as modes of making. I find value in each, and do not consider any one as having any more validity than any other. In this post, I am referencing two modes of making; that which ends in the conceptual object, and the focus of this post, that which could possibly end in the anti-conceptual object. Once again, I should note that this method of categorization is not intended to be a concrete taxonomy, it is simply a tool which I find useful, at certain stages of my inquiry, in elucidating new thought and information to be considered and contemplated.

When making, Much of my mental effort is exerted while considering the vast spectrum of possibility, and exploring the uncharted, diving for what is beyond, and from such inquiry, my work changes. I have recently begun to circumscribe some form of what I recognize as the intellectual or conceptual aesthetic. That is, the dimension of aesthetic experience that is rooted in the mental-emotional activity associated with the load of such work; the conceptual content that is invested or attached to that which is made.

The conceptual aesthetic can be more readily approached by considering concept art, the ‘beauty’ of the mathematical proof, and the enrichment of the aesthetic experience by way of information associated with works of art. I will elaborate on this at a later date, and have begun to expose my interest in this region of aesthetic theory and philosophy in previous posts; notes to conceptual aesthetics. For now I should return to my present inquiry, as it becomes a requirement for my inquiry of the conceptual object: the anti-conceptual object.

Setting aside, for the remainder of this post, the need for some absolute definition and the impossibility of creating a strict physical anti-conceptual object. I am moved to imagine the results of loosening my definition, for now, and begin considering the possibilities that may present themselves. What types of objects, through this loose lens, could be considered anti-conceptual? This is perhaps where i am able to return to the simple, aesthetically pleasing object. What things exist in this world, or perhaps can be created, that involve a critical reduction in the region of intellectuality and highly participatory conscious cognition. Through this lens I become aware of those simple objects that cause a subtle, emotional, or empathetic response in the viewer.

The approach to the making of an anti-conceptual object thus presents itself as having a much different methodology than that of the conceptual. Its challenge is perhaps not to become overtly involved in thought, not to conceptualize, and certainly not to intellectualize. It is an effort to reduce to an absolute minimum, if not eliminate as far a possible, all of the mind-stuff that can be invested into an object, all of the conceptual load. The task here is to react instinctively, intuitively and emotionally to the object during its development; to create an object that is, simply, aesthetically engaging, perhaps emotionally absorbing or sub/supra-intellectually engaging. I say this because I have postulated in passing the existence of, among the greater scope of the aesthetic experience, a place for the response, emotional or not, experienced by the mind; that which involves conceptual processing and the intellectual engagement of a man. However there is also an area of the aesthetic experience that involves perceiving something that does not require knowledge to be appreciated, that need not be exclusively interpreted by the intellect; it is appreciated by other faculties of the being and thereby captivates its viewer. Is this a characteristic of the anti-conceptual object in its loosely interpreted form? Perhaps? Though if the definition is tightened, becoming more conservative, i would think not. I am however, currently considering the possibilities, if the definition is liberal.

This then brings me to my work and the potential development of such simple, aesthetically pleasing objects: anti-conceptual objects. In the past much of my work has been conceptually invested. My objectives did not rely on the communication of this conceptual content; it was simply a part of my process and of the work. My objective was simply to be, and act as I find most natural to my own being at any given point in time. And due to a sometimes overwhelming involvement in mental activity, my work often involved a desire to synthesize the experience of conceptual content, the material, and the form of the work; an investment into the body of the work of some data-information-knowledge content. Though I should emphasize again that I do not consider the transmission of such content imperative to the aesthetic experience.

My work, when related to the viewer, on some level, is intended to provide a plastic, polymorphic, and multi-modal experience for the viewer, wherein if something more, in the way of conceptual content was desired, such experience could be accessed. That is to say, for he or she whose approach is focused upon the perception of formal qualities such as form, texture and composition, the physical qualities that comprise the work could initiate the aesthetic experience. However, I also work to consider the viewer whose aesthetic experience is enriched by something aside from the physical qualities of the work. The individual who desires the conceptual experience can then find in the work another dimension. My attempt has been to provide for possibility, to account for the subjective experience by considering, and attending to, the methods of perception with which I am familiar. In this way my work is rarely simple.

But the making of the loosely interpreted anti-conceptual object involves a very different approach. This mode of making, relies not on the conjuring of associated data-information-knowledge, but on its opposite, that which is unnameable and simply experienced, perhaps the region of the emotional and spiritual. In its most liberal form, the anti-conceptual object could perhaps exist as those relatively simple forms, possibly exhibiting some nature of being universally accessible to the aesthetic experience of mankind. This type of object would simply rely on the absolute minimization of any intellectual or conceptual content which could be readily engaged by the perceptive viewer. The approach of the viewer, and his or her cognitive process would then be of vast importance to the consideration of such an object/experience. This however, will have to wait for another post. For now, i will attempt to exemplify some of the most simple of objects that could be thought of as anti-conceptual. I present to the reader for inquiry, those objects that are raw, natural, simple and yet pleasing to the senses: stones, pieces of wood and metal, water, and fire. These raw, elemental materials have been known to initiate aesthetic responses in man that are linked to the aesthetic experience, and have thus been portrayed in art since the beginning of mans relationship with nature. If there exist, thorough the loose definition, any such anti-conceptual object, it is here where I am prompted to extend my investigation.

There are several other regions of inquiry to which i could turn this exploration and will consider doing so in future posts. In closing I should state that I have, in the course of writing this post, become more concerned with a conservative definition of the term anti-conceptual object. This is more likely to be my next region of inquiry. I will leave the reader to his or her own thoughts regarding the issue.

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