Magazine article National Forum

Excerpts from Attention's Loop: A Sculptor's Reverie on the Coexistence of Substance and Spirit

Magazine article National Forum

Excerpts from Attention's Loop: A Sculptor's Reverie on the Coexistence of Substance and Spirit

Article excerpt

The book Attentions Loop began with my wish to document a single sculpture by photographing it again and again, in many different poses and in different kinds of light, to find the limits of its emotional range. The sculpture itself is jointed and movable, designed to assume a wide range of anatomically subtle body positions in space (it is small: one-half life size). My search for its gesture has always been an important part of its formal presentation in a gallery setting, a search that has elsewhere led me to set the sculptures in motion with film animation. For the book, I proposed to photographer Katherine Wetzel the idea of assembling a portfolio of poses, and our subsequent work engaged her lighting design and photography, and my sculpture and choreography. I later added a second sculpture to the project. In our work together, each image emerged as an interweaving of our responses to one another's ideas. We pursued a double intent: to record in detail a self-evidently mechanical object, and at the same time to draw out of that object a convincing illusion of human presence.

And precisely this double intent is the book's subject, its text written during and after the photographs were made, always with the images before me. I am driven by the mystery of the human body as a biological organism on the one hand, and on the other as a personality - with memories, plans, and desires. How do these things emerge from the cellular mechanics and chemistry of the body? The book is laid out as a series of image-text pairs, with each pair forming both an entity in its own right, and a part of a growing accumulation of cross references that address and enact this double order of being. The following pages represent a new arrangement of text and photos for National Forum, as noted at the end of each excerpt. The text itself is a ruminative "voiceover" that travels across the divide between subject and object - on one page the sculpture itself appears to speak, on the next, it is addressed from without. I think of this book as a kind of cinema-in-the-hand: an animation. My performer, a self-portrait, is mobile and doubles back; the notion of the loop emerges as the voice itself anticipates, remembers, laments, and speculates.

Goes Outside the Body and Comes Back In

I saw this picture recently in a book:

It describes the way speech and hearing make possible a loop that can connect two parts of the mind otherwise inaccessible to one another.1 What if even the most fleeting ruminative fragment of our mental life involves immediate sensation or body motion - or the memory of them? Then these phenomena, especially as they are articulated and broadcast by works of art, must be central to the unfolding of our conscious relations with the world. Attention goes outside the body and comes back in, to make thought. [... ] The sensorium: ear, eye, nose, hand, the moving limbs... we give form to thoughts in order to have them.

(photo p. 55, text from p. 16]

... for character and feeling are things we want and need to know about in persons we address, and we are all very skilled in interpreting visual appearance to this end posture, gesture, glance, the fixed lineaments of the body and face. In particular we are sensitive to what all these imply of an attitude towards ourselves... Michael Baxandall is speaking here of the way we transfer this sensitivity to works of art.2 I sometimes feel that proprioception, our sixth sense, the body's internal knowledge of itself in space, is sculpture's primary

realm, one to which vision is only expedient. …

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