Solid                 -            Liquid
Creation            -            Destruction
Intentional        -            Random
Reasoned          -            Arbitrary
Known              -            Unknown
Truth                 -            Myth
Closed               -            Open
Control              -            Chaos
Positive              -            Negative

The artist plays with the structure, but does not create the structure. They do not make tautologies ("dependable systems in which everyone can agree on the terms and oppositions"), they break them. 

In the language of complexity theory, artists are those who play with constraints. Constraints define systems, allowing order to emerge from chaos.  A rule like 'i before e, except after c' adds structure and sense to language, allowing us to communicate in a more complex, and nuanced, way. But what if e came before i - what would that look like? What possibilities would this rearrangement open up? These are the concerns of the artist, of the one who plays with constraints.

The dance of the artist is, like that of Shiva, a destructive one. Structures move and shake from its tremors, and openings emerge; cracks and holes in which new possibilities can enter. The structure may crumble and fall, or it may absorb this new information and become enlarged.

"Without the random, there can be no new thing [...] creative thought must always contain a random component."

Artists then, are interested in the random. And randomness is synonymous with deconstruction, disorganization. In creating something we impose sense and order, and in destroying it we do the opposite.

The arts threaten the known world. They give lie to the idea that we can have a totality of knowledge - or, indeed, of anything.

The artist has a child's relation to the world - Bourdieu describes their existence as 'a sort of children's game' - which stands in contrast to the citizen, who takes the adult approach.  

Psychoanalysis, like art, looks beyond the accepted conventions of the everyday in order to examine and 'play' with its underlying assumptions. By digging deeper - exploring the depths - we gain greater insight into how things are and how to change them. It should come as no surprise, then, that many psychologists held up the example of the artist - autonomous, creative, self-making - as an 'ideal' mode of existence.

The artist lives in the liminal, complex realm - between order and chaos - where he plays with connections. He is more sensitive, the canary in the coal-mine, and creates art and ritual in order to transmute anxiety (produced by contact with chaos) into meaning.

I am really interested in the different ways that language functions.

It's difficult to see what the functioning edges of language are.

The place where it communicates best and most easily is also the place where language is the least interesting and emotionally involving - such as the functional way we understand the word "sing" or the sentence "Pick up the pencil."

When these functional edges are explored, however, other areas of your mind make you aware of language potential.

I think the point where language starts to break down as a useful tool for communication is the same edge where poetry or art occurs.

Roland Barthes has written about the pleasure that is derived from reading when what is known rubs up against what is unknown, or when correct grammar rubs up against nongrammar. In other words, if one context is different from the context that was given to you by the writer, two different kinds of things you understand rub against each other.

When language begins to break down a little bit, it becomes exciting and communicates in nearly the simplest way that it can function: you are forced to be aware of the sounds and the poetic parts of words.

If you deal only with what is known, you'll have redundancy; on the other hand, if you deal only with the unknown, you cannot communicate at all. There is always some combination of the two, and it is how they touch each other that makes communication interesting.

Too much of one or the other is either unintelligible or boring, but the tension of being almost too far in either direction is very interesting to think about.

Art is interesting to me when it ceases to function as art - when what we know as painting stops being painting, or when printmaking ceases to be printmaking - whenever art doesn't read the way we are used to.

In this manner, a good piece of art continues to function, revealing new meaning and remaining exciting for a long time, even though our vision of what art is supposed to be keeps changing.

 After a while, however, our point of view as to how art can function changes radically enough that the work of art becomes art history. Eventually, our perspective is altered so much that its functions just aren't available to us anymore and art becomes archaeology.

[Bruce Nauman]
Please Pay Attention Please ('Talking With Bruce Nauman: An Interview, 1989')

It's like I'm reading a book... and it's a book I deeply love.

But I'm reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite.

I can still feel you... and the words of our story... but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now.

It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed.

Dialogue from 'Her'

"From West to East" is a commonplace journalistic structure for an article. "From West to Female" is more like poetry. By jumping from one criterion, one binary, to another, it represents a real difference rather than the staged differences of the binary. It's fresh!

[language becomes] mere texture when dichotomy ends.

What the remapping of the binaries produces, I think, is something irrational: beauty. 

It also produces a sort of self-knowledge; the realisation that all truths are provisional, contextual, consensual, habitual. It's therefore good to break one's habits from time to time -- to "binary hop".

Only poets -- those incorrigible binary-hoppers! -- can really change the way we see, because only they (with their under-the-hood view of language) are willing to abandon cookie-cutting binaries, or pick them up and play around with them.

Unfortunately poets can't organize anything, and can't make any lasting systems. Because to organize, you need to reduce and repeat. You need a dependable system in which everyone agrees on the terms and the oppositions.

And there we have the tragedy of human life. The people who can change things can't organize anything, and the people who can organize things can't change anything.

'Binary hopping'

I think what artists do, and what people who make culture do, is somehow produce simulators where new ideas [...] can be explored.

There's a very interesting book by Lakoff and Johnson, that famous thirties singing team, it's a book about metaphor, it's called Metaphors We Live By. They give a very clear example of the effect of metaphor. They say we use in our culture the metaphor, argument is war. All of our language about argument "she defeated him", "he attacked her position", so on and so on, they are all arguments that relate to fighting.

When we think about the process of arguing, we tend to then reconstrue our possibilities in terms of that metaphor.

What Lakoff and Johnson say is suppose that somebody had said argument is dance, suppose that was the dominant metaphor. So instead of it being seen you have the process where one person defeats another, it becomes a process where two people together make something beautiful between them. We could have that metaphor for argument, we don't.

But do you understand that a shift of that kind produces an entirely different kind of discourse. How the shift from one way of dealing in activity that we all engage in to another changes that activity.

Suddenly our language of possibilities is renewed and different.

What I'm saying, I suppose [is that] we're saddled with a whole set of metaphors [...] about how the world works, how things organize themselves, how things are controlled, what possibilities there are.

Generative art in general is a way of not throwing those out, we don't get rid of old metaphors, we expand them to include more. These things still have value, but we want to include these things as well.

My feeling about artists is that we are metaphor explorers of some kind. ... An object of culture does all of the following, it innovates, it recycles, it clearly and explicitly rejects, and it ignores. Any artist's work that is doing all those four things and is doing all those four things through the metaphors that dominate our thinking.

[Brian Eno]
'Evolving metaphors, in my opinion, is what artists do'

To stop for a bit and watch someone who is doing something, even the most obvious and customary thing in his life; to look at him in such a way that he begins to suspect what he is doing is not clear to us and it could also not be clear to him: this suffices to make that security tarnish and falter.

[Luigi Pirandello]
One, No One & One Hundred Thousand, p.108

Silence […] is a scandal to speech, an offence to the adequacy claimed by the empirical orders of language. What I have called the managerial motive in language is, more desperately, the insistence of those who use it that there is nothing it cannot name.

Poetic language refutes this observation by transgressing it. Bourgeois language insists on finding signifieds for every signifier, and containing the entire field within the rule of law: the law is the homogeneity of signification. Julia Kristeva has suggested a psychoanalytic understanding of this law and of poetic language as its infringement.

[…] if experience is, in practice, divided into official and unofficial, authoritative and occult; what corresponds to this division, in language, is the distinction between discourse, with its official diction, and the several poetries, with their several ‘contradictions’.

It is the aim of management to accommodate every apparent contradiction within the standard diction by neutralising the offensive words.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 96

If philosophy and science helps us understand the world better by building it up with new explanations, art helps us understand the world less, by taking these explanations and punching holes in them - not just to confuse everyone, but to build another kind of knowledge; and as a political statement, to tell people ‘stay curious.’ 

That thing you thought you understood, maybe you don’t anymore. That process of undoing knowledge is a productive process, and one that we should always be open to.

[Anthony Huberman]
'Anthony Huberman on For the Blind Man…' 

[...] deconstruction is always already at work, even in those texts that would seem most expressly committed to a 'logocentric' order of assumptions.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 57

The general proposition of the eighteenth century, indeed of all previous centuries [...] is that there is a nature of things, there is a rerum natura, there is a structure of things.

For the romantics this was profoundly false.

There was no structure of things because that would hem us in, that would suffocate us. There must be a field for action. The potential is more real than the actual. What is made is dead. Once you have constructed a work of art, abandon it, because once it is constructed it is there, it is done for, it is last year's calendar. What is made, what has been constructed what has been already understood must be abandoned.

Glimpses, fragments, intimations, mystical illumination - that is the only way to seize reality, because any attempt to circumscribe it, any attempt to give a coherent account, any attempt to be harmonious, to have a beginning and a middle and an end, is essentially a perversion and a caricature of what is in its essence chaotic and shapeless [...] a tremendous great stream of self-realising will, the idea of imprisoning which is absurd and blasphemous.

That is the real fervid centre of romantic faith.

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 114-5

At times we need a rest from ourselves by looking upon, by looking upon, ourselves and, from an artistic distance, laughing over ourselves or weeping over ourselves.

We must discover the hero no less than the fool in our passion for knowledge; we must occasionally find pleasure in our folly, or we cannot continue to find pleasure in our wisdom. Precisely because we are at bottom grave and serious human beings - really, more weights than human beings—nothing does us as much good as a fool's cap: we need it in relation to ourselves—we need all exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childish, and blissful art lest we lose the freedom above things that our ideal demands of us. 

It would mean a relapse for us, with our irritable honesty, to get involved entirely in morality and, for the sake of the over-severe demands that we make on ourselves in these matters, to become virtuous monsters and scarecrows. 

We should be able also to stand above morality and not only to stand with the anxious stiffness of a man who is afraid of slipping and falling any moment, but also to float above it and play

How then could we possibly dispense with art—and with the fool? --And as long as you are in any way ashamed before yourselves, you do not yet belong with us.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 107

The romantic theoretician – it is, of course, imprecise to speak of theory or thought in this context — lets the image do its own thinking. Abandoning himself to permutational or antithetical play with the ideas of others, he inflates linguistic designations of these ideas to an ambiguity rich in allusions.

Thus there are no romantic ideas, but only romanticized ideas.

This romantic way of dealing with things is based on the practice of constantly escaping from one sphere into another, to the alien “higher" third factor, and of blending ideas from different spheres.

The point around which the circle of the romantic play of forms turns is always occasional. Therefore, the romantic quasi argument can justify every state of affairs.

Today the French Revolution is what Burke thinks it is: abnormal idolatry and a senseless crime. Tomorrow it can also be “the natural force, the elective affinity of life oppressed and in fetters,” which breaks the bonds of moral considerations and forms, and so on.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 144-5

Accessing the drives and rhythms that symbolic law and order typically repress, psychoanalytic practice, like the poetic text, revitalizes or reactivates the semiotic chora, a connection to the maternal body or to femininity. 

Such practices let loose the disorganizing energies of the body, the pleasurable rupture of sense and nonsense. They take productive advantage of the dialectical discord between semiotic and symbolic and thus keep this discord oriented toward dissent and protest rather than inner collapse. Although the semiotic resists the symbolic order, or cannot be contained by it, the two are always entangled and imbricated in language; drives both support and subvert the symbolic operation, bringing bodily rhythms and forces to signification, both impelling and pulling apart its organization and stases.

This disruptive potential of semiotic drives and rhythms is associated with negativity as a force of revolt, an excess, most archaically, the force of bodily expulsion, but more generally the forces that continually spur the dissolution of one's own organization.

Negativity maintains life, keeps it going by circulating energy, rendering the subject always in process. Through its movement, the subject is not a rigid identity, but always developing, reconfiguring itself through the interplay of drives and language, in the tensions between body and mirror image and between mirror image and self.

While Kristeva advocates for ‘poetic revolution,’ (meaning the ongoing process of reconfiguring language and oneself by exploiting the heterogeneities between semiotic and symbolic elements), she is sometimes read as a conservative thinker because of her commitment to maintaining a symbolic order and social contract.

The danger of a too strong or too weak symbolic order is that it encourages a return to abjection or melancholia, to the point prior to ego-formation, to a dissolution of the borders that maintain social life and creative subjectivity, contributing to the ego's collapse into an empty abyssal void and discouraging semiotic creativity.

Such a fragile, fragmented, disintegrating ego, always in search of objects to heal the rift of being, dreaming of a return to unity but suffering the nightmare of upheaval and collapse of identity, is especially susceptible to the traumatic impact of encountering the stranger, the unfamiliar other or alien who provokes turmoil and who is repudiated in a rebound to delirious narcissism and a reassertion of self-mastery and self-identity.

The stranger disturbs boundaries, indicating the failure to fully eliminate the refuse of identity and purify oneself.

Kristeva sees in the ethics of psychoanalysis, premised on self-division, being strange to oneself, the possibility of establishing an ethical relation to alterity, inviting it into our political bonds (and warding off the most virulent forms of abjection).

Where Irigaray aims to introduce sexual difference into the social contract and the domain of law and rights, Kristeva proposes that we introduce self-discord.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

We may sympathize with Proust's view and envy insight, his observation, and his superbly subtle awareness of the motives of men and women: but we must disagree with his idea that the homosexual man is feminine.

Rather is he a child whose development is incomplete - a boy who has not yet matured into a man.

The homosexual search is often determined by an absence of a satisfactory identification in early life with the parent of the same sex; and in homosexual men it is common to find that the patient's father has been absent or in some way impossible to identify with.

A father who is hard, unapproachable, and overbearing may inspire such fear that the developing boy turns away from him. A weak, soft, and ineffective father does not provide a sufficiently forceful personality to evoke masculine qualities in his son. In either case there is a failure of identification, and the son turns away from his father to seek in others those masculine attributes which he needs for his own development.

If all goes well he finds them and, by modelling himself upon a teacher or friend, himself becomes what he has been looking for in others. But, if he is sufficiently discouraged or frightened, he may continue to feel that other men possess something to which he can never aspire, and so remain in a state of immaturity.

[Anthony Storr]
The Integrity of the Personality, p.113

A hypothesis is some idea which can be tested experimentally and proved or disproved from which theory or laws may be generated. We may, as we do in Cynefin, not attempt to prove or disprove a hypothesis but instead, construct a safe-to-fail experiment based on that hypothesis which runs in parallel with others.

Yes, this may prove or disprove the hypothesis, but the multiple parallel processes of hypothesis-based probes may change the dynamics of the situation to open up new possibilities for action. The value of the hypotheses can lie in this, it doesn’t matter so much if they are right or wrong.

[Dave Snowden]
'Conjectures and hypotheses'

Ritual dramas are not automatic expressions of folk spirit. They were created, just as were the poems, dances, and songs that heighten their impact, by individuals moving in a certain cultural sequence, formed by the tradition and forming it. Whether we call these individuals "poet-thinkers," "medicine men," or "shamans," terms used by Paul Radin (1957), seems unimportant.

Plainly, they were individuals who reacted with unusual sensitivity to the stresses of the life cycle and were faced, in extreme cases, with the alternative of breaking down or creating meaning out of apparent chaos. Let us call them primitive dramatists.

The meanings they created, the conflicts they symbolized, and sometimes resolved in their own "pantomimic" performances, were felt by the majority of so-called ordinary individuals. There was, of course, magic here too; but, more deeply, there was a perception of human nature that tied the group together.

The primitive dramatist served as the "lightning rod" for the commonly experienced anxieties, which, in concert with his peers and buttressed by tradition, the primitive individual was able to resolve.

This is not to say that the primitive dramatist simply invented meanings promiscuously. It was always done within a given socio-economic and natural setting. But he shaped dramatic forms through which the participants were able to clarify their own conflicts and more readily establish their own identities.

There was an organic tie, then, between the primitive dramatist and the people at large, the tie of creation and response, which is, in itself, a type of creation. The difference was that the dramatist lived under relatively continuous stress, most people only periodically so […] The distinctions are a matter of degree.

The very presence of the shamandramatist is a continuous reminder that life often balances on the knife edge between chaos and meaning, and that meaning is created or apprehended by man coming, as it were, naked into the world.

[Stanley Diamond]
'Plato and the Primitive'

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Escaping Uncertainty
Do Not Disturb
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Negative Capability
The Tyranny of Novelty
Levels of Meaning
The Eternal Ideas