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Paul Grobstein's picture

Evolving Systems

April, 2010 Core Group Meeting

Background, Summary,
and Continuing Discussion



On April 20, 2010, the core group of the Evolving Systems Project will be meeting with Peter Rose, a Philadelphia artist now working largely in video, to explore the relation between his work and aspirations and themes that have emerged in group conversations to date.  Among these are the constructedness of experience and its relation to understanding, the relation between individual and cultural understandings, the multiplicity of understandings both interpersonal and intrapersonal, and the implications of these things for both art and intellectual activity .

Some relevant reflections of Peter Rose on his own work include


"Some of us work in a proximate relation with our intended audiences, speaking familiar languages so that the archetypes of our culture may be recognized; and some work out a self-creating interiority from which, if we are lucky, we bring back the shape of a newly imagined alphabet of feeling.  I find myself oscillating between these two agendas and find the dialectic a productive one, a reflection of the complex, contradictory nature of our times." ... 

from Peter Rose Picture


I like Eddington's remark - Arthur Eddington, the astronomer - "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine." To the extent that semiotics or Marxism or any other systematic approach has as its goal the reduction of things and events to known categories, I see myself as adopting a subversive stance, trying to reveal either the edges of that discourse, you know, or to reveal what's underneath it, to try to open up some spaces

I think it's always a bit foolish to talk about what I'm doing. You have to realize that I don't really have an agenda, and that the pseudo-agendas I create for myself usually evaporate before the project is over. That is, the internal dialogues which I conduct with myself while making the work have no credibility for me two years later. They are simply scaffolds that I use to construct the work and which fold away after the project's been launched.

That being said, I can affirm an interest in simultaneity, in paradox, in complexity; an interest in teaching an audience the rules of certain games and in exploring, with that audience, the implications of those rules. I'm - interested in setting up these systems -visual, conceptual, linguistic- whose laws are known but which somehow get out of hand, that have unexpected implications- a life of their own-and that affirm, however metaphorically, the existence of something outside of a reductive materialism, that affirm the spirit.

Excerpts from an interview in "Opsis"

When I enter my studio, I enter a space filled with the contradictory, clamoring voices of past and future selves, a space inhabited by images, sounds, questions, pleasures and ideas that catalyze one another in unpredictable ways and that come to constitute a space of imaginary being. It is to this internal, living community of influences that I demonstrate my loyalty, to which I bear responsibility, and from which I derive my satisfactions. I do not feel the obligation to demonstrate such fealty to anything less fictional.

Thoughts on Interiority


I can imagine remembering the past as if it were the source of a series of actions, emanating from some region wide beside the edge of sense and moving, as if by refraction, into the present and beyond.

Or-remembering a past in which I imagined a future from which I might remember that past-and so attempting to consubstantiate the process of time itself in a single act of awareness.

But no-it goes beyond this - beyond any mere image or metaphor. It is like a wind, a presence that enters after some invisible journey, drawing strength and paradox from the appearance of accidental synchronization, chance alignment, strange agreements.

From  Metalogue



A meeting summary


Continuing discussion (below)


Anne Dalke's picture

"Light in the form of touch reveals new aspects of the world"

Thanks so much to Ben for arranging to bring his colleague Pete Rose to visit our group yesterday. I am haunted by a number of the films we viewed together, as well as by some of the language we used to describe our experience ("Light in the form of touch reveals new aspects of the world: all those tangible fine details that are mostly hidden from our viewing"). I know that I will be showing those images to friends and students for some time to come. For the record, and as an aid when I do those showings, an archive of some of my thoughts from both our group conversation and from dinner afterwards:

Of much interest to me was the question of whether Pete saw his film-making as a creative activity in the service of a critical idea. He was trained in math, but @ a point where he "no longer knew what he was proving," was inspired by an art show to explore the ways in which film's "formal structure" might be used to "restructure time and space" (an especially interesting move, in the context of our discussion, that morning, about the limits of formal systems). Or were Pete's aims, as he also said, "more naively aesthetic," as in, "let's see if I can make something visually interesting"? (He has "no idea ahead of time" what his films will look like, but engages in an experimental process--say, subtracting every 15th frame--to see what it will produce.) Asked once what audience his work addressed, Pete quipped that he was "loyal to his internal community."

I would say that our own discussion also moved back and forth between two poles: the critical and the mystical. On the one hand, Paul was interested in reading the films as representing how the brain works (putting together, for example, a "temporal scan," from the series of snapshots the retina takes from different directions). On the other, Bharath was asking whether such a reading--getting beyond everyday perception to "real perception"--wasn't an attempt to replace our experience with a metanarrative about it.

We had quite a discussion about what words to use in describing what Pete was up to. "Metavision," invites us, for example, to "see all of Einsteinian block time in a glance," as "temporal displacement gives you a map of the whole space." Would we call such work "mystical"? "Opening"? Does it "redeem" experience by aestheticizing it"?  Create "resonances"? "Ring our experience, like a bell"? "Distill" it? Does it "make the experience fuller," by capturing the  mystery that is "left aside by naming," "not describable in language," that which we "normally foreclose with language"?  And is that "something" Platonic or more Zen-like? Does "Pneumenon," for instance, reveal, Platonically, "the tree behind the tree behind the veil"? Or is it more Taoist, revealing that there is "no man behind the curtain"?

A second strand that interested me in the conversation had to do precisely with this matter of the relation of language to visual images: how necessary is it to have written commentary for films like these? How much does such commentary constrain our perception of the images? How might it, for example, open up our perception, enabling us to see what we otherwise might not? As an intermediary between the film and its viewers, language can  "clarify" (providing "categories for seeing" both the world and the work), but those categories can also "coarsen" our perception.


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