Depiction, Objective and Subjective

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echandl2
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Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by echandl2 »

Hi all, I'm working on a thesis for my design MFA. My topic is about the role of the unconscious in design. My conviction is that design operates at an unconscious level. The most salient designs throughout history are archetypal and not the result of deliberate, conscious planning–crosses, mandalas, swastikas, etc. Furthermore, they are utterly abstract. Abstract expressionist painters knew this–over and over again they expressed the need to create free from meaning (in the most conscious, subjective sense of the word).

This leads me to suspect that there is a spectrum between subjectivity and objectivity and that depictions all have a place somewhere along this spectrum. We see, for example, how a solid circle can become a mandala, which can then become the Vitruvian Man, etc.–all following this endless chain increasing in subjectivity, which I don't believe has an endpoint. Moreover, I don't believe that the solid circle depiction is the endpoint of objectivity either; it's still only something like a lowest-common-denominator depiction. In fact, this model that I'm describing presents pure objectivity as a formless singularity from which subjectivity radiates out into an infinite number of threads ending in increasingly specific cultural or personal forms. The abstract expressionists attempted to circumambulate this singularity of objectivity proposed in model.

I read Kastrup's The Idea of the World and wonder what he would have to say about the subjective-objective spectrum and the effect that both (relatively) objective and subjective depictions have.
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AshvinP
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by AshvinP »

echandl2 wrote: Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:46 pm Hi all, I'm working on a thesis for my design MFA. My topic is about the role of the unconscious in design. My conviction is that design operates at an unconscious level. The most salient designs throughout history are archetypal and not the result of deliberate, conscious planning–crosses, mandalas, swastikas, etc. Furthermore, they are utterly abstract. Abstract expressionist painters knew this–over and over again they expressed the need to create free from meaning (in the most conscious, subjective sense of the word).

This leads me to suspect that there is a spectrum between subjectivity and objectivity and that depictions all have a place somewhere along this spectrum. We see, for example, how a solid circle can become a mandala, which can then become the Vitruvian Man, etc.–all following this endless chain increasing in subjectivity, which I don't believe has an endpoint. Moreover, I don't believe that the solid circle depiction is the endpoint of objectivity either; it's still only something like a lowest-common-denominator depiction. In fact, this model that I'm describing presents pure objectivity as a formless singularity from which subjectivity radiates out into an infinite number of threads ending in increasingly specific cultural or personal forms. The abstract expressionists attempted to circumambulate this singularity of objectivity proposed in model.

I read Kastrup's The Idea of the World and wonder what he would have to say about the subjective-objective spectrum and the effect that both (relatively) objective and subjective depictions have.

First, we should understand the bolded part is an assumption. It is an assumption based on the notion that everything 'below' the threshold of our conscious intellect (i.e. the collective 'unconscious' or subconscious) is a dark instinctual void. Yet the error in that logic should be obviously immediately - if we do not actually know what is below that threshold, what gives us the warrant to claim it is inherently "unconscious" i.e. instinctive, like a crocodile or similar animal? There is no warrant for that. All we can say without extending well past our given experience-knowledge is that, "I don't know what is beyond this threshold, so it appears dark and instinctual to me". Furthermore, I would argue this projection of dark instinctual void onto eveything the rational intellect has not yet experienced-known makes very little sense of the ideational power contained within the symbols you mention, such as the Cross and Mandala. Everything in our experience and logic tells us that conscious ideation is only what explains such symbols, but our intellect struggles mightily to avoid the most simple and direct explanation. Your thesis sounds very interesting avenue to explore, but I would humbly suggest you rethink that aspect of it and perhaps transform it into, "the role of the subconscious in design", and if you decide to diligently explore the fact that what we call "subconscious" may actually be fully conscious across the threshold of mere intellectual cognition, i.e. in the realm of Imaginative cognition, you may actually blow the socks off whoever is considering it... or they will reject it immediately, but you will still have a dissertation you can be proud of and may someday soon be quite revolutionary!
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
echandl2
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by echandl2 »

This is really great feedback and I agree, thanks. “Unconscious” is a bit of a misnomer anyway. Do you have any book recommendations for this?
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AshvinP
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by AshvinP »

echandl2 wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:59 am This is really great feedback and I agree, thanks. “Unconscious” is a bit of a misnomer anyway. Do you have any book recommendations for this?

I do, but, since you are already familiar with BK idealist framework, I think it would be best for you to check out Cleric's essay on this forum - Beyond the Flat MAL.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
Steve Petermann
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by Steve Petermann »

echandl2 wrote: Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:46 pm Hi all, I'm working on a thesis for my design MFA. My topic is about the role of the unconscious in design. My conviction is that design operates at an unconscious level. The most salient designs throughout history are archetypal and not the result of deliberate, conscious planning–crosses, mandalas, swastikas, etc. Furthermore, they are utterly abstract. Abstract expressionist painters knew this–over and over again they expressed the need to create free from meaning (in the most conscious, subjective sense of the word).
I don't know if this has any bearing on fine art but I utilized the unconscious/subconscious mind in my design process. I worked as a design engineer for some 40 years, designing machines, software, and systems. At some point, I would feel the design was complete but before I released the machine drawings, software code, or system design I'd set it aside for a day or two without consciously thinking about it. I understand artists do this as well. Sometimes during that period, something would pop into my head that I'd missed or get a general feeling something didn't seem right. So, I'd go back and try to resolve the issue.

While this process relates to a practical application, I think it may also point to the role of the unconscious/subconscious for metaphysics or art. While in the midst of creation there is a focus on details that present themselves consciously, there is also an unconscious/subconscious gestalt being formed that is holistic. That gestalt may stem from a general sense of the myriad of "forms" or "archetypes" and how they combine and relate to one and another. Depending on what the artist or metaphysician is aiming for, that gestalt will have a "feel" or intuitive force to it. When things come together well for that purpose there can be an ecstatic experience or if they do not, a nagging sense something is wrong. Or, more likely a mixture of those.

One could think of the arc or holistic impact of a story, symphony, or painting. Now, depending on what the artisan is shooting for, the "rightness" could be the portrayal of either "the light" or the "the dark" or a mixture of both. Something true shines forth.

As an example of experiencing this in art, here's where the great theologian Paul Tillich recounts an experience of art that changed his life: One Moment of Beauty
findingblanks
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by findingblanks »

"The most salient designs throughout history are archetypal and not the result of deliberate, conscious planning–crosses, mandalas, swastikas, etc."

I love this topic. And how the moment an archetypal designs splashes out of the unconscious and onto the artist paintbrush, it immediately then becomes enmeshed in a complex interplay between the conscious and unconscious elements that drive the creative process.

"Moreover, I don't believe that the solid circle depiction is the endpoint of objectivity either; it's still only something like a lowest-common-denominator depiction. In fact, this model that I'm describing presents pure objectivity as a formless singularity from which subjectivity radiates out into an infinite number of threads ending in increasingly specific cultural or personal forms. The abstract expressionists attempted to circumambulate this singularity of objectivity proposed in model."

This is delicious! In his technical phenomenology Eugene Gendlin tried to show why there can't ever be a 'common denominator.' You'd have to read his core texts (Experiencing And The Creation of Meaning, Thinking Beyond Patterns, and A Process Model) to see exactly how he does this, but maybe I can evoke it via lucky words.

First, unless your model suggests otherwise, let's start with the first human who produced what we would call a circle. Obviously some animals would do that, too. My my hunch is that you are speaking about when an archetype moves through a human mind with some level of meta-reflection...?

My first thought is that the human that produces that is obviously producing something incredibly specific and particular. Our abstracted tendency might be to notice elements that we experience as abstract patterns, but we have added those. Standing in the artist's shoes, we experience a very specific (and probably intense) object of perception that we are forming. In fact, those first artists would have definitely not attributed the experience they were having to a mind or brain or 'creativity' or 'imagination.' If they had to speak of what shifted in their experience as they suddenly felt the emerging need to create, they'd probably have to accurately describe it as some form of possession. Later forms of consciousness will of course have changed and not only experience such 'possession' differently but certainly understand it and explain it differently.

The tricky part of any attempt to 'think' a process is to retroactively place our insights in front of the creation of meaning. Once we do that we 'know' that the creation of meaning is the result of 'this' or 'that' element or process or reality.

"this model that I'm describing presents pure objectivity as a formless singularity from which subjectivity radiates out into an infinite number of threads ending in increasingly specific cultural or personal forms."

Curious if your model has a stance on whether there is something it is like to be that pregnant and formless singularity?

One basic way of maybe saying what Bernardo's model might say to your question is that the ground-floor of M@L is exactly the prior unity of any and all the archetypes you can imagine. As MaL 'plays' it nature into manifestation, those unitive self-aspects will diversity spontaneously and freely as they are translated via an alter.

So glad you shared your project.

By the way, Ech, Thinking Beyond Patterns is free online here:

http://previous.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2159.html
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AshvinP
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by AshvinP »

findingblanks wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:43 pm My first thought is that the human that produces that is obviously producing something incredibly specific and particular. Our abstracted tendency might be to notice elements that we experience as abstract patterns, but we have added those. Standing in the artist's shoes, we experience a very specific (and probably intense) object of perception that we are forming. In fact, those first artists would have definitely not attributed the experience they were having to a mind or brain or 'creativity' or 'imagination.' If they had to speak of what shifted in their experience as they suddenly felt the emerging need to create, they'd probably have to accurately describe it as some form of possession. Later forms of consciousness will of course have changed and not only experience such 'possession' differently but certainly understand it and explain it differently.

Of course they attributed it to mind... just not their own mind, because that ego-consciousness was yet incarnated. The entire history of art, mythology, and spirituality (and early philosophy) testifies that they experienced imagination as revelation from Divine intelligences i.e. spiritual beings. Yes, some form of possession is probably accurate, but not abstract possession by the "instinctual unconscious", rather possession by the manifold Gods and Goddesses. The underlying Reality which gives rise to these thought-experiences does not change (spiritual beings evolve, but do not altogether disappear), only our relative cognitive perspective on it.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
findingblanks
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by findingblanks »

Echandt2, when you wrote:

"Furthermore, [salient designs] are utterly abstract."

I'd love to hear you expand on that, on what exactly you mean by abstract in that context. Thanks!

"The abstract expressionists attempted to circumambulate this singularity of objectivity proposed in model."

My guess is that you'd agree that the singularity is somehow always implying the coming-into-being of itself as 'design,' so to speak?

This active implying/urging/leaning towards is baked into the cake?

If so, we can see ways in which Bernardo's model of dissociation can come in handy, methinks. The pre-separated multiplicities (the living archetypes) must be, moment by moment, 'funneled' via the alter into 'an' expression. This would explain why they can evoke transcendent states and yet will always be incomplete. And always susceptible to various forms of idolatry.

However, I may be adding to many projections to how you hold your model. Wonderful stuff.
echandl2
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by echandl2 »

findingblanks wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:43 pm Curious if your model has a stance on whether there is something it is like to be that pregnant and formless singularity?

One basic way of maybe saying what Bernardo's model might say to your question is that the ground-floor of M@L is exactly the prior unity of any and all the archetypes you can imagine. As MaL 'plays' it nature into manifestation, those unitive self-aspects will diversity spontaneously and freely as they are translated via an alter.
Thanks all for responding to this and helping guide my research with some great references.

I would say that this formless singularity is behind a markov blanket and that any act of creation is inevitably and irreducibly subjective. Even the all-universal archetypes are depictions on some level only pointing toward the formless. The event horizon is at the exact moment of creation of forms. So, in other words, in this model all forms only circumambulate the singularity at varying distances.

What is it like to be that pregnant and formless singularity? Who can say? But I think you'd have to turn toward mysticism–Nisargadatta Maharaj, Neem Karoli Baba, et al, who insisted they were utterly centered–for an approximation of relative centeredness.

So I don't think we truly have the ability to be at the center, but I do think that we are able to say, if not empirically, that something is closer or farther from Objectivity, Truth, etc., and that that's enough to suppose a spectrum pointing toward singularity. I think at some level aim plays a role in this distance from objectivity (though "aim" may be problematic w/r/t levels of consciousness). For example, we can see that a depiction or design or work of art that completely misses the mark and say that it's tied to other unintended threads.

"Furthermore, [salient designs] are utterly abstract."

What do I mean by this? "Utterly" might be overreaching, but I'm struck by how symbols without tangible, physical counterpart–purely mental depictions–carry near-universal meaning. Ancient symbols depicting something like animals or mountains are clearly depictions of the physical, natural world, but why is it that a spiral or cross or swastika unequivocally depicts a similar spiritual meaning? If there is no obvious model or analogy in nature on which to base these symbols, where did they come from and why did they independently arise across separated cultures to depict a similar meaning?
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AshvinP
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Re: Depiction, Objective and Subjective

Post by AshvinP »

AshvinP wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:10 am
echandl2 wrote: Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:59 am This is really great feedback and I agree, thanks. “Unconscious” is a bit of a misnomer anyway. Do you have any book recommendations for this?

I do, but, since you are already familiar with BK idealist framework, I think it would be best for you to check out Cleric's essay on this forum - Beyond the Flat MAL.

To elaborate a bit more - I think your dissertation would really blow people away if it kept away from the typical abstractions of modern analytical philosophy as much as possible, when you are attempting to circumambulate the 'singularity' (the "Self"). This is easier to do than most people [fail to] imagine. We have a wealth of concrete imagery in the various spiritual traditions at the dawn of the Axial Age, across the world (China, India, Persia, Egypt, Palestine, Greece). These are mostly what acted as the 'design templates' for the other images you already mentioned. Even though you are dealing with aesthetics, I am sure your professors expect a thesis such as this one to rely heavily on modern abstractions. To talk about "singularities", "archetypes", "unconscious/subconscous", "formlessness", etc. How pleasantly surprised would they be when it builds from concrete mythopoetic imagery and language instead?

What we are really referring to with the "singularity" between form and formlessness is the threshold of physical death (as well as dreaming and deep sleep). It is the archetypal representation of the threshold between invisible spiritual world and visible natural world. So I would suggest looking for images and poetry which deal specifically with those thresholds, and then I suppose you already have a strategy for connecting that to whatever aesthetic designs you have in mind. It is true, however, that the most solid empircal data here will come from times when ability to directly perceive across the threshold was already gone. So it could help to also reference some modern poets like Goethe, Emerson, Rilke, Holderlin, or perhaps composers like Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, etc. if you can manage to make the concrete connections with music, because they had intimations of Imaginative cognition which can cross the threshold.

There are also the Western medieval mystics - Eckhart, Boehme, Bruno, Cusa, etc. - or visionaries like Dante, who could provide a lot of useful concrete imagery. I have written some essays related to modern spiritual and soulful aesthetics of this sort, and may also be able to pull some good imagery if I have a better sense of what kind of specific connections you are making. Just some more food for thought.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
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