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Visual Art and Embodiment in a World of Subjectivity

©Beth Carruthers 2003

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There is no better way that I can think of to illustrate this attentive Being in the world, than through a description of the experience of artmaking.

The Agency of Things – Artmaking as Embodied Conversation
Artmaking is a collaborative process that begins with interaction, a conversation. The artist opens and attends to the world through focused, sensual, intimate and often fruitful intercourse with another, or with many others. “The artist”, as Jeanette Winterson says, “is looking for real presences.” [Winterson, 147]
Imagine a large space filled with many conversations and opportunities for interchange; how do I choose with whom and what to engage? As I move about, I am attracted, not always understanding why. Even in an empty room, there is still a manner of light, of form and shape, that will call to me more loudly, interest me more than another, asking for my engagement. At times, I intentionally “listen” for what calls to me the most, for what I find the most intriguing. Once the reciprocity of attentiveness and intention is established, I become acutely aware of my engagement with another force, or presence.

This experience of reciprocity and engagement is available to me always, not just as I approach with an intention, or an idea, of making art. As I move about and through the world, opportunities for engagement are continually presented to me. I may ignore them, hurry by, acknowledge the other quickly in passing - or sometimes I am called to attend, to focus. This may happen when the one-eyed cat arrives in my path, or when morning light hits the stone of the wall and the blue door. Then, if I desire more than a passing awareness of connection, if I desire focused engagement with this other, then what is required is acknowledgement of that other - not as an object in my path, but as another subject - and a willing slowness, as things not only take time, but make their own time.