[xmca] Dewey's Art as Experience

From: Beth Ferholt (bferholt@ucsd.edu)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2006 - 10:59:34 PDT

This past Monday we had a lab meeting at LCHC in which we discussed
the first chapter of Dewey's Art as Experience, led by Matt Brown of
the Philosophy Department here at UCSD. We thought the discussion
was relevant to some of the recent XMCA topics -- the entire
'interweaving' thread, original experiences (mentioned by Don, from
James), “face” (mentioned by Michael, from Levinas) are what
strike me as the most closely related topics, but there are others as
well. Below is the handout that Matt provided, as well as my notes
on the discussion (no one was taking notes for anyone outside the
room at the start of the meeting, but they should be helpful anyhow!).

By way of introduction, this quarter at LCHC we have been presenting
our varied uses of video in our research. Matt's presentation was in
part in response to issues of representation of complex social
interactions in general, and was also a response to my wondering why
art has been central to my own efforts to analyze, and communicate
with fellow researchers on our playworld project, about
perezhivaniye. Also, many of us have been thinking about
ethnographic practice through an on-line and in-lab discussion which
Ed Hutchins has initiated concerning his development of a digital
cognitive ethnographic method.



The discussion moved first to Dewey's claim that experience has a
certain rhythm of equilibrium-disequilibrium.
(How does this compare to Vygotsky's claims in 'The Psychology of Art'?)
For both the artist and the scientist, although the first is focused
on producing experiences and the second on problems, the rhythm of
the process is the rhythm of experiencing.

Here we struggled to express ourselves and someone observed the
importance of temporality – that our language is inadequate to
capture the process we were discussing.
(In a way this is part of what brought us to the discussion in the
first place: do we turn to video in our ethnography because words are
inadequate for expressing complex social interactions, as they are
unfolding through time? if so, what video techniques are we making
use of? techniques from art or science? At one point someone asks if
the technology we are using was designed for art or science, at the
time we are discussing sound recording, and while people think it was
a scientist, Edison, who first used the technology, they think he
first used it to sing a song!)

We became temporarily lost in a dead end which pits entertaining
oneself with art against using art as a scientist, using art to help
answer a problem.
Mike takes us out of this dead end by stating that the problem is one
of communicating about perezhivaniye in order to make it empirical
and objective – that no progress has been made since Dewey on
writing about experience. In order to analyze and represent
experience we need a technique which enables the creation of a
concept that encompasses emotion and thought.

But, is it possible to develop a method which is a fusion of art and
How could this be possible if artists and scientists have different
Perhaps we are looking for a multi-method approach.
We asked if perhaps Luria was in pursuit of such a multi-method
approach with his Romantic Science.

Somewhere in this first part of the discussion we also tackled,
although haphazardly, the false distinction between what Dewey calls
art and esthetics -- the making and perceiving of art. I'll put here
a quote from Ch. 3 of 'Art as Experiencing" that I mentioned at this
"In short, art, in its form, unites the very same relation of doing
and undergoing, outgoing and incoming energy, that makes an
experience be an experience... The doing or making is artistic when
the perceived result is of such a nature that its qualities as
perceived have controlled the question of production... The artist
embodies in himself the attitude of the perceiver while he
works." (p. 50--Perigee edition, 2005) Dewey gives an example of a
work of 'art' being moved from an art museum to a natural history
museum when it is found not to be a product of another culture but
instead an accidental natural product: the point is that the esthetic
experience is directly connected to the experience of making.

We then moved to another area of interest in Ch. 1.
Mike points us to: learning by expanding!:
"... if life continues and if in continuing it expands, there is an
overcoming of factors of opposition and conflict; there is a
transformation of theminto different aspects of a higher powered and
more significant life. The marvel of organic, of vital, adaption
through expansion (instead of by contraction and passive
accommodation) actually takes place. Here in germ are balance and
harmony attained through rhythm. Equilibrium comes about not
mechanically and inertly but out of, and because of, tension." (p. 13)
And Zoped, too:
"There is in nature, even below the level of life, something more
than mere flux and change. Form is arrived at whenever a stable,
even though moving, equilibrium is reached. Changes interlock and
sustain one another. Wherever there is this coherence there is
endurance. Order is not imposed from without but is made out of the
relations of harmonious interactions that energies bear to one
another. Because it is active (not anything static because foreign
to what goes on) order itself develops. It comes to include within
its balanced movement a greater variety of changes. " (p. 13)

We returned to the discussion of science itself, and someone pointed
to Dewey's example of the mountain top: although above the clouds, it
not only rests on the earth, it is the earth. This is his claim
concerning art (as Vygotsky wrote that even a child is creative
-- ). Is it what we are claiming about science? (The question, 'Is
ethnography science?", from the discussion as the dsog lab, is raised.)

Here experimental writing, particularly Yvonne Lincolon Norman Denzin
's 2007 workshop, was recommended for those interested in the work of
others who have found the boundary between art and science to be fuzzy.
Ray McDermott's poetic writing was also mentioned.

We returned to a discussion of perezhivaniye -- it's colloquial vs.
technical meaning, F. Vasiluk, and then time was up.

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