and being touched – Perceptual Reciprocity
In the space between self and other there may be a twinkle, a frisson,
an electric song … here … or here… It is this that
I listen and feel for – this murmuring in between bodyselves .
I stop, and attend. Then, as I attend with my whole self, “the
present expands to become an enveloping field of presence.” [Abram,
203] In practice, what this means is that I lose track of linear time
– or indeed of any conscious awareness of time, while I am engaged
in this interchange with another.
The closest description would be that of a continuous present, where
each detail is sharp, immediate, declaring itself without expectations.
While working, whether I am drawing, painting, or photographing, my
attention is honed and oddly expanded into an attentive focus that is
both a participatory interchange and a sensual intercourse. I am drawn
into the sensible mystery of the other, into strange languages, sensations
and a shared vision that is not only my own, but also other.
This communion assumes and acknowledges the agency, the real presence,
of the other. In Western culture it is not usually supposed that so-called
inanimate objects have agency. We relegate such ideas and experiences
to the realm of fantasy, or childhood. Perhaps children do engage an
unclouded vision. As a child, the wind, the birds spoke to me and I
to them – and this was not so much as I desired, but simply as
the world was. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram speaks often
about the agency of things such as rivers, trees and winds, noting that
this recognition of agency is unremarkable in many non-Western cultures
– it is simply the way the world is. In the world of the artist,
even objects such as houses, shoes and chairs have their own Being and
their own stories to tell.
“The artist is a translator; one who has learned to pass into
her own language the languages gathered from stones, from birds, from
dreams, from the body, from the material world, from the invisible world,
from sex, from death, from love.” [Winterson, p 146]
I once saw a film of an elephant, gently and tenderly enquiring of an
elephant skull on the plain. For a long time she touched around, through,
caressing and gathering the stories of this other. As I am present,
embodied within my vision, reaching out to another, I am reminded of
this elephant carefully and lovingly touching and turning the skull.