Abstractions of Visual Abstracting

By Holtzman, Harry | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, December 2004 | Go to article overview
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Abstractions of Visual Abstracting


Holtzman, Harry, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


THE TWO DESIGNS reproduced on the covers of this issue of the General Semantics Bulletin (see page 569) were made by Margaret Nelson, who classifies herself nowadays as housewife and mother, and Lillian Charney, Executive Secretary, Canadian Home & School & Parent-Teacher Federation. Both products emerged during the course of my workshop at the Institute's summer seminar-workshop at Bard College last August.

It will be of some interest to those who have not attended these annual intensive sessions to realize that the designs are not the result of an emphasis on producing 'art' objects. Although this kind of association and appraisal is not irrelevant or undesirable, it is more interesting to know that the workshop is conducted directly as a laboratory for the application of GS methodology. Outside the context of the seminar-workshop itself, it may be difficult to grasp the relevance of these formings as the consequence of applying such principles as non-identity, visualization, silent levels, orders of abstraction, process of abstracting, consciousness of abstracting, etc.

The two works reproduced are results of a gradual displacement of the tendency towards identification. Here the exercise was to employ 'letters' as shapes found in a magazine, and to use them as material for experiencing sensory-visual order, rather than as 'words.' In fact we are able to refer to the lab as a workshop in visual, non-verbal abstracting, and in this way the products relate to the general symbol-forming processes implicit in general semantics.

Very few of our students come from the fields of the arts, and most have very severe feelings about their abilities and limitations to express themselves with any form of 'artistic' mediums. ("I can't draw," "I can't carry a tune," "I can't dance," "I can't ...") Thus the workshop becomes an elegant ground for applying the methodology from standpoints of self-involvement, self-discovery, and self-appraisal. It also permits the correlation of individual and social dynamics with learning processes and situations.

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