Research - Strange Tools - A few notes from chapters 4-7 / by Ally McGinn

I noted in a previous post that I have been listening to 'Strange Tools' as an audiobook while attempting to not take any notes. The purpose of this is to encourage me to stop and listen, without worrying about the record of information (which anyone reading this blog can see is something I often concern myself with), and to enjoy the process and accept the communication of information in this way. 

There have, however, been a few things I've noted in relation to my practice. Transcribed from voice memo's taken while driving the following are a few notes of importance. 

Due to the nature of driving and listening, they are unreferenced specifically. This serves as a note and if I use the information in future I plan to return to the book. 

* What I think Chapter 4 is talking about is art as an example of evolutionary adaptation, which even the author admits is a narrow view of art and doesn't explain the ‘artness’ of art. But it is an element of art, and a perspective on art, that should be considered.

* Noe chapter 4 - argues that pictures are a way to experiment and explore seeing. They tell us what an object should look like. Which I think is an interesting perspective.
Images are the objects of our contemplation, and a way those objects are contextualised (almost a direct quote)

* I need to remember the idea of something that doesn't inspire the thing it suggests. So like a poem that speaks about euphoria but doesn't achieve this feeling when reading it. I'm wondering what this would mean if you translated it into an artwork.

* In response to the monumental sculptures of Richard Serra, Noe suggests that it is not about seeing something you don't understand, but it's about being in a place and not knowing where you are or how to navigate it. They are so monumental that they fill your view, you can't step back from them, you can only step into them.

* Quite a fascinating note, that Noe brings up in chapter 7, is that seeing isn't just something we do with our heads, it's something we do with our bodies. We are constantly moving our bodies to bring things into focus and to better explore the world.
In terms of my work - It's not about standing still and viewing the work, it encourages you to get closer and explore it physically. This is an important idea in my work at the moment.
It asks the viewer to take different viewpoints.

* Noe suggests that one of the purposes of art is to catch ourselves in the moment of experiencing the world, which I think is quite a beautiful idea, and it's a lovely articulation of a thread I have been beginning to think, the reformation of an idea I had begun to feel.
If art can be anything, then art can be found in the world around us. What we are actually doing by nominating or creating art is making people pay attention to things, we are catching them in that moment. 

* Another thought from Noe is that performative work demands your attention, or tries to grab it in some way. Whereas I feel that the performative slant of my work requires some form of active participation on the part of the viewer. Which I don't think performance necessarily does. The idea of the artist performing for the viewer can be seen in the same way paintings are experienced, as a passive experience to be enjoyed.
What I am trying to achieve is more of an active involvement, which is happening in the small details, people don't stand back and look at the work, they move around it and get close to the small details. They are intrigued.
They get involved with it, moving into it and around it. I am very proud of that.
I could see it last night at the open studios. There were some who glanced around and moved on but there were others who moved around the work in a really engaged way. I remember Nigel bending around the canvas wall to look at the things explored in there. That was a brilliant moment.
The way people interact with my work is very important to be, it always has been, and I feel that I need to make that more inherent in the work.

* Noe argues that art is a philosophical practice, which implies that anything can be art, but also means that nothing is guaranteed to be art. It is a form of investigation and a mode of research, focussed on transformation and reorganisation.

* When people are described as artists in their field it is usually when they are challenging the criteria of their field. So in the book, Strange Tools, Noe uses the example of Ali’s rope-a-dope. He forced other people to question their definitions of boxing, and he was an artist in that sense.

*Reductive materialism - the idea that everything that exists is matter and can somehow be explained in this way.

* The idea of reductive materialism itself implies that everything can be explained. And I think that is true objectively but consciousness brings a subjective layer to it.
Our existence as beings and the fact that it is ‘beings’ who are trying to figure this stuff out adds another layer to the reality of reality.

* Noe classifies 1st level activities as organised activities, and 2nd level activities as re-organisational practices. An important distinction to note for the future.

* 1st order activity examples are talking, dancing and perceiving. So it’s not really the nature of objects or the creation of images even but the perception itself. The level 2 activity of that is making images, objects and ‘Art’.

* A Whitman poem - the puzzle of puzzles. About a fact of being.


Noe, A (2016) ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.’ Narrated by Tom Perkins. Available at: (Downloaded: 24/10/17).