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[Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience

You may be right, Rod. Perhaps Beth could give us the quote in context so we have a better chance of understanding it?
*Andy Blunden*
On 17/07/2015 5:19 PM, Rod Parker-Rees wrote:
Apologies again for coming late into a conversation but I was interested by a disparity between my reading of Beth's quote from Vygotsky and (what I understand as being) Andy's  reading of the same quote. Andy seems to read the quote as saying that art BOTH produces (or perhaps catalyses) an experience in the observer AND explains this experience but I read the quote (and Beth's use of it) as suggesting that it is imperative BOTH for art to bring on the experience AND that that experience should be explained (it is imperative ... to explain it) - though not necessarily explained BY the art itself. The reason why I was intrigued by this difference in interpretations is that it made me reflect on what is achieved when an experience is explained. I suspect that we tend to focus too much, even exclusively, on what the explanation brings to (and out from) the experience but isn't it also true that the process of explaining an experience also affects the medium in which the explanation is expressed. A language which is bent into the service of explaining experiences is bent by that process, becoming enriched by the ways it has been used, acquiring a patina of use which is carried into other situations. A system of categories can perhaps be given heart if people struggle with the task of hacking it to describe, represent and explain things which it may not (yet) be fit to explain - so language comes to echo and resonate with the experiences of the people who use it - a kind of frohWian process (that's Whorf in reverse).

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+rod.parker-rees=plymouth.ac.uk@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: 17 July 2015 07:48
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience

Beth. yes, when you reflect on something, it is already past. If you want to reproduce it, then as a human being you will have to analyse it.
The trade of being an artist is the capacity to synthesise the elements and give you something of the ineffable. But I love that quote you have from Vygotsky, where he claims that art not only excites the experience in the reader, but also /explains/ it. I think that is actually setting a high standard for art. Dickens did not explain Dickensian London, but he represented it so faithfully.

*Andy Blunden*
On 17/07/2015 4:13 PM, Beth Ferholt wrote:
But when we reflect on some things it is hard to do so without loosing
the whole entirely in the process of reflection.

Jay said in a chain recently, in response to a related question,
something about having an artist on every research team.  I have been
thinking about this.  If the "artist, in comparison with his fellows,
is one who is not only especially gifted in powers of execution but in
unusual sensitivity to the qualities of things" then  this is who we
need to tell us which property is the one that can characterize the
experience as a whole.

No?  Am I missing something in what you just wrote?  The unity is
prior but how to study the object if this unity is its essence? --
sort of like the empty space in the bowl being the bowl, so when you
study the bowl itself then you miss the whole point.

I am thinking of these two quotes, although maybe I am conflating

"Its nature and import can be expressed only by art, because there is
a unity of experience that can be expressed only as an experience."

“Few understand why it is imperative not only to have the effect of
art take shape and excite the reader or spectator but also to explain
art, /and to explain it in such a way that the explanation does not
kill the emotion/.” -- p. 254, Vygotsky (1971)

I am really meaning this question in a very practical way, thinking of
how I am always speaking to preschool teachers who describe their
students and the activities with these students with such art, and how
I am getting better at creating classroom spaces that support this
description -- but am still not clear about how to consistently create
spaces in my papers for similar forms of representation and

This question also comes from reading the Alfredo and Rolf paper, and
thinking about Leigh Star's work.


On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 1:45 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
<mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

     No, no, Beth. As Dewey says:

         "This unity is neither emotional, practical, nor
         intellectual, for these terms name distinctions
         that reflection can make within it. In
         discourse//about//an experience, we must make use
         of these adjectives of interpretation. In going
         over an experience in mind//after/ /its
         occurrence, we may find that one property rather
         than another was sufficiently dominant so that it
         characterizes the experience as a whole."

     Isn't this beautiful scientific prose! We make these
     distinction when we *reflect* on an experience. And
     perhaps we include the experience in our
     autobiography, act it out on the stage, analyse it
     scientifically, all of which presupposes analysis and
     synthesis. But it is important to recognise that the
     unity is prior. It is not only a unity of emotion and
     cognition (for example) but also of attention and will
     - and any other categories you abstract from an

     *Andy Blunden*
     On 17/07/2015 3:00 PM, Beth Ferholt wrote:
     Or reproducing the part that represents the whole?
     Like a fractal? I think it is the similarity across
     scales that makes an experience proleptic, or gives
     that 'bliss conferred at the beginning of the road to
     redemption" that Vasilyuk refers to.  You have an
     experience on several timescales and so a sense of
     deja-vu is central to having an experience. This is
     what I am thinking about after reading both the paper
     of Dewey's and your recent piece on perezhivanie,
     Andy, although I am picking up on a small piece of
     the last email in this chain -- : If something is
     only itself in its whole then you can't study it, is
     what is bothering me.  Beth

     On Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 11:22 PM, Andy Blunden
     <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

         Not "getting at something", Michael. Just
         pursuing this question you raised about Dewey's
         saying that the aesthetic quality of medieval
         buildings arises from their not being "planned"
         like buildings are nowadays. He goes on to say
         "Every work of art follows the plan of, and
         pattern of, a complete experience." The puzzle he
         is raising here is the completeness of an
         experience which gives it its aesthetic quality,
         and this cannot be created by assembling together
         parts in the way a modern building is planned. An
         experience - the kind of thing which sticks in
         your mind - is an original or prior unity, not a
         combination, and this is what gives a work of art
         that ineffable quality, something which can only
         be transmitted by reproducing that whole of an

         *Andy Blunden*
         On 17/07/2015 2:32 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:


             I'm still not sure about your question.  Did
             I set out to have that experience, that
             morning...no, I don't think so (it was a long
             time ago, but I'm pretty sure no).  Could I
             have just treated it as an indiscriminate
             activity, probably, I had done so before.

             But I am guessing you're getting a something
             here Andy?


             -----Original Message-----
             <mailto:osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On Behalf
             Of Andy Blunden
             Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:21 PM
             To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
             Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience

             YOu said: "... But that time I had the
             experience with the paintings..."

             I mean that was an experience. Did you set
             out that morning to have that experience?
             RE, your question: "what does he mean when he
             says you can't do things indiscriminately and
             have vital experience, but you also can't
             plan things?"

             *Andy Blunden*
             On 17/07/2015 2:09 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:

                 Well I'm not sure I understand your
                 question Andy, but perhaps it has
                 something to do with my grandfather's
                 favorite saying (translated from

                 Man plans, God laughs.


                 -----Original Message-----
                 On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
                 Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:04 PM
                 To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
                 Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Having an experience

                 So Michael, there was just that one
                 occasion, in all your museum-going, when
                 you had an experience. Was that planned?
                 (I don't mean to say you haven't had a
                 number of such experiences,
                 Michael ... just some number actually)

                 *Andy Blunden*
                 On 17/07/2015 1:19 AM, Glassman, Michael

                     Hi Larry and all,

                     I think this is one of the most
                     complex aspects of experience, what
                     does he mean when he says you can't
                     do things indiscriminately and have
                     vital experience, but you also can't
                     plan things?  I have discussed
                     (argued) about this a lot with my
                     students.  I have especially seen him
                     raise this point in at least two of
                     his great works, Democracy and
                     Education and Experience and Nature -
                     and again of course in Art as
                     Experience (notice he is not saying
                     how Art enters into experience but
                     how art is experience - I have come
                     to notice these little things more
                     and more in his writing).

                     The difficulty we have, at least in
                     the United States because of the
                     dominance of the idea of
                     meta-cognition, is that we too often
                     translate what individuals are
                     bringing in to experience to organize
                     it as a form of meta-cognition.  It
                     is kind of possible to make that
                     interpretation from Democracy and
                     Education, although what I think he
                     is doing more is arguing against
                     misinterpretations of his work as
                     random, child centered activities.  I
                     think he is clearer in Experience and
                     Nature that we bring in who we are at
                     the moment into the activity, and use
                     who we are (I don't want to say
                     identity) as an organizing principle
                     for what we do.  It is perhaps one of
                     the places where Dewey and Vygotsky
                     are close.  Perhaps I can use the
                     same Jackson Pollock example.  The
                     first few times I saw his paintings I
                     was trying to "apprecitate" them
                     because I was told that was the best
                     way to experience them.  Dewey says
                     no vital experience there because my
                     activities become stilted and artificia
                         l.  Sometimes I went through the
                     museum and just looked at pictures,
                     one to the other.  No vital
                     experience there, just random
                     threads.  But that time I had the
                     experience with the paintings I was
                     allowing who I was, what had been
                     built up in the trajectory of my life
                     to enter into my experience with the
                     painting, making it a vital
                     experience.  I think Dewey makes the
                     argument in Experience and Nature
                     that it is not just the experience
                     the moment before, but the
                     experiences leading to that
                     experience, the context of my life,
                     of my parent's life, of a long line
                     of historical experiences.

                     Anyway, my take.



     Beth Ferholt
     Assistant Professor
     Department of Early Childhood and Art Education
     Brooklyn College, City University of New York
     2900 Bedford Avenue
     Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889

     Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
     Phone: (718) 951-5205 <tel:%28718%29%20951-5205>
     Fax: (718) 951-4816 <tel:%28718%29%20951-4816>

Beth Ferholt
Assistant Professor
Department of Early Childhood and Art Education Brooklyn College, City
University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889

Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Phone: (718) 951-5205
Fax: (718) 951-4816

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