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Visual Art and Embodiment in a World of Subjectivity

©Beth Carruthers 2003

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Artmaking is always collaboration. One must be, or become, good at listening - attentive to the murmuring between self and other, self and world. This attentiveness is always present in creative process and in the interchange among myriad others, oneself and the work. Working with these others regularly requires more and different ways of listening, of negotiating languages of process.

“What is the language, the world, of stones? What is the language, the world, of birds? Of atoms? Of microbes? Of colours? Of air?” [Winterson, 146] Some listening occurs with effort, but the place where listening and hearing become effortless is the place to find, because there is the intimate connection of intention – the new life of the work.

The place of the manifestation of the work is where inspirations and visions come together, at times collide; but it seems to me that the invisible murmuring of shared process leads form to resolve itself to this intention (murmuring) – and then interesting things happen. We can see and hear that the piece has its own life and desires its own form. Sometimes I am visited in a dream, or a vision, or on waking from sleep know exactly what is next wanting to resolve itself.

“We speak of inspiration, and the word should be taken literally. There really is inspiration and expiration of Being, action and passion so slightly discernable that it becomes impossible to distinguish between what sees and what is seen, what paints and what is painted.” [Merleau-Ponty, 167] A kind of immersion in pleasure is inherent in the intensity and immediacy, the sensuality of this coupling with another. Such a coupling requires “active surrender” [Winterson, 6] – the naked presence of the self.

The language that I use to describe the process of art making is loaded with words like intimacy, intercourse, gestate and birthing, because it is like carrying the intention and growth of a new form, until it is born – which is sometimes difficult - and then there is the post-partum sadness when it is no longer with me. “ The painter’s vision is a continued birth” [Merleau-Ponty, 168]