Category Archives: serendipity

Sound of the Spontaneous

Psychedelic Blues from Drew Christie on Vimeo.

Captain Beefheart was asked what the greatest concert he ever saw, and he answered something like this:

Thelonious Monk was to play a solo piano concert at an old Victorian theatre in San Francisco. I got to my seat and waited for the concert to begin. On the stage was a glistening Steinway. On it was stood a beautiful bunch of flowers in a large crystal vase. The lid was open and framed the vase of flowers. The lights softened and from stage left strode the tall Mr. monk. He slowly approached the piano, stopped, looked out at the audience, took a few steps to the piano, grabbed the prop for the lid and set it down. The lid of the Steinway came down and it caused the vase to tumble backwards onto the piano’s strings with a striking eruption of sound.

Monk took a step back, turned to the audience, turned away and walked off the stage. The sound was still reverberating.

Voiceworks -Singing at the Cistern from Al Bergstein on Vimeo.

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Collaboration & Serendipity

Cleveland Ohio artist Stephen Calhoun
I.

FORTUITY [f. L. fortu‹imacbreve›t-us, f. forte by chance, f. fors chance + -ous.]

That happens or is produced by fortune or chance; accidental, casual.
OED

Between 2005-2012, when I was researching serendipity as a decisive aspect of adult development, I brought together a simple insight with the older language of Albert Bandura to formulate a central concept, strategic fortuity.

This concept describes the accidental event that changes everything, and so generates ensuing connective reconfigurations far into the future. But this is not linear at all, so the actual cascade of fortuity acts as a multiplier–as the singular event broadcasts potential and actual instantiations causally related to, but not necessarily in the same order, of the originating serendipitous event. This applies also to the conditions at the time of the eventuated fortuity because those conditions are themselves brought about by prior fortuities.

Example. You met your partner through a marvelous happenstance and soon enough this happenstance sets you on the doorstep of a new house and as it turned out this new dwelling came to you by accident. A strategic fortuity concretely synergizes other fortuities, fortuity fueling fortuity, contingency chained to contingency.

Once you know how strategic fortuity works as a kind of gating and connective circuit completing factor in a social cybernetic routine, there can be very few truly innocent (and naked of contingency,) arrivals of novel data, and, at the second order, of transformative experience, and, at the third order, of novel opportunity or exceptional possibility.

Artist Stephen Calhoun's studio

Amina and grandfather Roger

II.
My studio in our house on a quiet inner ring suburban street on the east side of Cleveland is, during its summer season, split between the garage bay where an assembly line dedicated to sorting materials is located,  the front porch where most photographs are taken, an attic that houses the old recording studio and now is transformed into the computer-based image processing, printing, a framing center, and, the lower rear porch that is where materials are organized and stored and the still-lifes are set-up. This last location provides me with my own magical cabinet of curiosities. My art practice is centered in this room that overlooks the flower garden.

An inveterate collector of possibly useful materials and items, the set-up room inventories both the objects and the experience of obtaining each bit of stuff. Garage sales are prime sources. In 2015 I picked up a gaudy Chinese ceramic lamp and chatted up the owner, a new media curator at Oberlin. I told him how “you never know what you’ll find,” and he responded,

Of course all art is based in serendipity.

This surprised me. The normative supposition is that art reflects the masterful, thoroughgoing, control of the application of technique to materials, and these then are dynamically brought together to serve and realize an artistic vision. Because, at the time, I was clear about the odd element of serendipity, and, moreover, of underdetermination, in my own art practice, I was not prepared to embrace the man’s assertion, thinking I was a different kind of artist who was really using serendipity. Although it seemed to me that there might be a similar relation between fortuity and event in art-making as there is in scientific research, the confidently delivered ‘of course’ threw me; at the time.

III.

stephen calhoun, cleveland ohio artist
Last year the neighbor’s granddaughter expressed the single best thought yet said to me about my own art. In response to being asked what her experience of Four Observers was, Zoe, eleven years old at the time, told me,

“I had to re-adjust my brain to see farther into your picture.”

Zoe and her younger cousin Amina came to visit their grandparents a few weeks ago. When I learned the two girls were coming for a few weeks, I decided to hatch an experiment involving the two coming over to my studio to intuitively piece together set-up still-lifes. It seemed to me it was likely the girls would jump into playing around creatively in a medium not part of everyday artistic/kids’ routines. I thought I would then photograph what the two came up with and set the girls to discovering what manipulation of their own image each liked best. The bonus for me was an opportunity to do some informal, observational, qualitative research about how young people might approach a simple request to use stuff from the room full of dried plant material and objects to learn and build a, by definition, unique and personal still-life.

The experiment developed to the point I was able to capture photographs on my iPad and import the photos into iColorama, an application that provides an entire suite of manipulation routines. I showed the two how to create the mirror symmetries and other geometric recastings of the source image.

I asked the two to save favored images, as each took turns to use the iPad to manipulate the source images taken from their still life. Then each pointed out which manipulation was their single most favorite. (Those choices were later published to my timeline on Facebook.

IV.
A few days ago, while exporting photographs from my DSLR camera, I noted I had taken photographs of their set-up still-lifes! I had forgotten I had done this, and then recalled I took the raw set-ups outside to photograph right before I deconstructed the still-lifes.

The deconstruction process was one of the remarkable aspects of the experiment’s qualitative aspect. (I primed the girls’ agency right before setting each to the task by reviewing what it means to approach creativity and creating by using intuition, setting aside rules and ‘right ways,’ and, from their own sense, using the ability to ‘wing it,’ and ‘go for it.’) As I deconstructed each piece, I noted a whole slew of qualities, made especially clear by virtue of my understanding the difference between their fresh and inexperienced (with respect to my experience,) operation of the task, with how I tend to build a still-life.

Amina&Zoe_DSC0037

For example, I noted both gravitated to larger objects. Both also seemed to realize a set-up that could stand on its own. I noted there were some concealed yet clear positional coherencies. Amina’s still life is more densely packed than that of cousin Zoe.  Were either girl trying to tell a story?

Yet, it wasn’t until I saw the high resolution images pulled off the camera that I was struck–and I gasped–that I was looking at two completely novel images that could not be obtained except through the realized agency of the two cousins, and, crucially, the images could be entered into my own creative process.

Both creative products were obviously consequentially serendipitous. And, anything I might produce by subjecting the images to my own experienced, (and less fresh!) ability to manipulate the images would represent in a singular way my own result being entirely contingent upon, anchored to, the outside creative product of the two cousins.

Any art I might create from the source material provided by others would denote a collaboration forged by means of starting from novel, and, (in my terms,) a “non-reflexive” starting point. Looking at the opportunity with my own eyes I soon saw how I could leverage each of the image’s distinctive compositional and ‘field’ qualities. The images possessed strengths I could not have intentionally brought forth on my own. The strengths were of a different sort than the ones I tend to realize.

By doing a series of manipulations, I generalized and greatly abstracted the objects and object relations of the two still-lifes. The result was this art work.

artist stephen calhoun

I’ve worked in this vein several times in the past. This bundle of approaches yields a curvy dancing psychedelic energy.

V.
Next, returning to the originals, I spent time in trial-and-error mode, a mode itself networked via fortuity and possibly happy accidents. I played around with the integration of both of the cousins’ images in a single image for the sake of retaining their detail and some of their object, (or symbolic content.) Eventually, I came up with a circular mandala-like image that is tagged by several whimsical features, none more so than the lips originally found in the mask in Zoe’s image.

Unity for Zoe & Amina #1 (2017) 36x36a Stephen Calhoun

Unity for Zoe and Amina #1
 is, in my own judgment, a terrific art work. It is demonstrably so in my art practice’s given aspirational terms, in that it scaled up to a thirty-six inch diameter circular image able to realize what I am usually after: an overwhelming experience of intriguing detail and dynamic, visual, object relations. (The piece will go into my primary catalog and someday will be exhibited along with my best 36-48 inch diameter mandalas, mandala-like, and, what I call, unity, pieces.) This art work will always conceal its story of collaboration and serendipity.

VI.
The imperative of being open to unusual and original instances of source material is a pragmatic consequence of understanding that one of the only ways to assure novelty is to network and collaborate with definitively external human agencies and their unique capacities. In the case discussed here it matters very little that the capacities are naive because it matters greatly that the capacities would nevertheless support the distinctive production of materials unable to be realized any other way.

Agents like this, collaborators like this, bring unique potentialities to the table. The threads of serendipity are structurally most obvious in setting to a task people about which little is known, or, are in practice, strangers, unpracticed, inexperienced, outside the norm, or, even, randomly selected.

The over-arching conditioning of new collaborative potentials are also constructed out of all the hidden and obscure factors which, were these concretized and examined, would showcase all the accidental developmental relations which arrived to produce the actualization of exact contingent conjunctions of agency in time and space. You knock on the wrong door, I invite you in anyway!

The shorter idea about this concerns what had to happen to bring the collaborators together in the instance for which collaboration is possible. The example described here possesses critical ‘priors’ which set my studio down across the street from Roger and his granddaughters. These necessary fortuities are, as I like to put it, innumerably prolix.

The promise of novel heuristics was clarified in the experiment and its later ramifications in my art practice. It is worth supposing that there could be a possibly worthwhile problem-solving routine that involves running the problem by, for example, your children. The point of doing so has to do with networking potentially fruitful resources that are by definition possibly powerful precisely because the steward of the external resource, the outside agent, is going to come up with provisional discoveries and findings which may only be sourced in the agent’s unique flux of experience, global and local aspirations, resourcefulness, and, as it is described, fresh eyes.


 

Grandpa Roger’s blog, Fear Not, Living the Second Half of Life Unafraid, is superb.

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Synchronicity and Wheels

Monday, February 13, I was driving to Wadsworth, listening to a CD, thinking about my livelihood as an artist–such as it is–and a tune started up from my single most favored rock record of all time, The Gilded Palace of Sin, by The Flying Burrito Brothers.

The song was Wheels.

We’ve all got wheels to take ourselves away
We’ve got the telephones to say what we can’t say
We all got higher and higher every day
Come on wheels take this boy away
We’re not afraid to ride
We’re not afraid to die come on wheels take me home today
So come on wheels take this boy away

And when I feel my time is almost up
And destiny is in my right hand
I’ll turn to him who made my faith so strong
Come on wheels make this boy a man
We’re not afraid to ride
We’re not afraid to die come on wheels take me home today
So come on wheels take this boy away
Come on wheels take this boy away

The record was released February 11, 1969. I would hear it for the first time at the Amazing Dynamo Man’s house, draped over his bed, in September 1970. He, Jamie Cohen, and I, had just met, just begun tenth grade as first year sophomores at Hawken School in Cleveland. We fell into each other like rain drops into the ocean.

Me, Hoon, atop the Amazing Dynamo Man

Me, Hoon, atop the Amazing Dynamo Man, 1972

Forty eight years later, I’m reflecting on art matters having to do with commerce, Wheels comes on, I glance out my car’s driver-side window, and see a flatbed truck passing me on I71.

It’s badged with this logo:

arts-way3col

I chuckle, then laugh heartily. The moment was not just a gilded moment of synchronicity, it was a text book synchronicity!

Shit.

“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not.” ? C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

Kabir's Sobriety #2(16x16base)

Kabir’s Sobriety 2016 Stephen Calhoun

A synchronicity worthy of the term is required to be deeply disturbing, or deeply disruptive, or deeply derailing. What I have to offer are my happy delusions! I’ve been revisiting Kabir. #326 of his Bijak:

No customers for the word:
the price is high.
Without paying you can’t get it,
so move on by.

In January I had a very simple dream–simple as far as its arc.

(1) I’m on the side porch of a gothic church. It’s a fall day, and the church’s porch is the scene of a rummage sale. I’m picking little costume jewelry pieces up and putting each one back down. I notice some nice oak chairs and old brass floor lamps. I say to the lady, “You have some nice stuff.” She answers back, “I see you’re not in a buying mood, but the prices are right.”

(2) Walking down the steps, with the front of the church rising to my right, I cross a lawn and walk toward an old Chevy station wagon. I walk to the driver’s side and their is a man with a hat, and his wife is to his right, and his son and daughter are in the back seat. The rear has suitcases. I think to myself, ‘It’s an all American family.’ The man asks if I will help him get unstuck. I put my shoulder to the frame of his window to push, and, without much effort I push and feel his car rise a bit and become unstuck.

(3) The car gathers speed and then veers slightly across the front lawn of the church. It crashes into the wall of the sanctuary. I run toward it, but am halted when I see a bloodied brown panther or mountain lion, seemingly crushed between the grill and limestone wall, pull itself out of its predicament and jump over the hood. It stands on the grass and shakes its head once vertically, runs off.

Yes.

The-Guilded-Palace-of-Sin

My favorite track from my favorite record.

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End of History Illusion

This idea upends a cognitive bias that may well have been valuable 100,000 years ago.

Add the actuality of contingency and the fragility of the appearance of stability of the personality is obvious.

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Tying It All Together?

I am sometimes asked why I pay attention to astrology. Actually, I don’t pay much attention to it, but, for some, any attention paid to astrology begs the question of why a so-called pseudoscience could attract someone’s, or my own, attention.

If I sense that this question is hiding the questioner’s desire to hold me to some rational account, I have a tried-and-true response.

You do understand that as matter of a priori development with respect to Baconian science and its successors that astrology is demonstrably necessary to the later development of astronomy and cosmology?

The history of the development of stuff presents a chain of primitive precedents, and, over the span of a future, our current knwoledge might well be someday viewed as being itself primitive. This goes along with what I call my favorite bias, you know the one that captures the brute fact that as one figuratively steps backward in time, all precedents of any sort disappear.

(The epistemic value or utility of astrology in any of its useful forms is determined as a matter of a psychology of practical heuristics. As I have previously written, the astrological chart captures a projection of psyche inasmuch as dealing with its information invokes learning about the Self.)

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Success & the Infinite

Stephen-Calhoun--work-under-inspection

SUCCESS AND THE INFINITE
(originally published on LinkedIn)

The following question was pitched my way recently: how long does it take you to produce a finished piece of art?

Obviously there can only be a generalized answer to this question. On average. . .

The query motivated me to consider how long different steps take, to break the total time down, even if the exercise ends up a matter of estimating an average or mean time.

But, soon enough, being a systems’ thinker, my reflection wandered toward more vague territories, and then into territories where concepts such as interval, or beginning-and-end, come to be defeated close to the outset.

Back up from the moment of one of your own greatest successes. If someone asked you, ‘how long did it take you to produce this success?’ what would go into your answer?

My own reflection on this question-and, for me, a produced art work is always a moment of great success–wandered soon into intriguing considerations which take into account crucial aspects that tend to break apart mere regard for the time interval mechanical elements required.

I’m going to mention a few aspects. Before I do so, my hope is you’ll do a short exercise and reconsider an example in your own life under the light of the following different lenses.

An aspect of any success clearly is defined by all the learning from experience, and, learning from mistakes. If asked how long something took, do we usually sever from our consideration all most necessary but unplanned prior preparations?

Similarly, how much of a time factor in a great success is all of our formal and informal training?

When I turn to the fact of inspiration, and so turn to the genesis of a great success, and consider its origin and the starting point given long before this success was assured, I cannot help but be impressed by how discrete time is inadequate to the task of measuring inspiration.

My brightest ideas emerged from an unfolding story and its colorful conditions. This becomes doubly impressive if we then regard the nature of inspiration to have been a collaborative effort and see, then, a streaming of stories, and, conditions about conditions, all unfolding through a kind of mysterious coordination until these flex and fulminate together into the emergent a-ha, and, up and out comes the bright idea. Tell me, how long did this take?

I next bring into resolution the aspect of the spontaneously fortuitous contingency, what we of course better know as serendipity, and instantly the inadequacy of even the concept of intervalic time, is defeated. At this point our greatest success is seen to be an aspect of an almost cosmic element of lucky timing, of not only being in the right time and place in the concrete sense, but in the right time and place in the sense of an ecology of timing and various places, and, grooved by precedents both planned and unplanned.

Finally, look at the relational genealogy of a success. This is what is meant by the trope, standing on the shoulders of giants. This element is woven into serendipity too, because if we track a success backward in time to where its eventual subject is founded in the past by our: interest, or obsession, or mission, or capability, it is inevitable that we will see these centering commitments to have themselves a founding story. Very often the creation story in the background of our future devotion starts with the happiest of accidents. Those accidents land us: in the right community, around the right people, bring us to our mentors/teachers/guides, with the supporting partner, living amidst the most terrific, and helpful, neighbors, colleagues.

We also see that we can no more separate out from our current success, any of these required prior successes, and failures, and, any small yet required learning, and any chance yet required encounter or precedent.

So it is a web of relationships comes to the front and center, in our regard of what was required for this small or major success. The genealogical current defies both time itself and timing. It provides the awesome “just so” in the deep background of every success.

Yes, one should count themselves a little bit lucky, or maybe, a lot lucky, to stand at the apex of a great success. You and your great success are at the summit of an iceberg, whereas the hidden, necessary, contingent assembly of elements cannot be temporally measured.

To rephrase a Zen aphorism for my purposes here:

the infinite is in the finite of every success

– – – – – – – – – –

|| Stephen Calhoun’s creative successes are being exhibited in a one man show of his photographic and generative art work, The Grasp of Order, at The Gallery At Gray’s, 10717 Detroit Ave – through September 30. open 9/24 noon-4pm – open during the work week, call 216-226-3300 for hours.

galleryatgrays.com
artiststephencalhoun.com

 

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Artist’s Statement, Part I.

FB-Landing Cage 36x27-Stephen Calhoun

Ongoing, and maybe, never ending project aims to describe what I’m up to, as an artist. In my case, my hope is that the statement unhooks the viewer from its priming effect. My artistic goal hopes to invert the conventional idea that the viewer is supposed to correctly decode the artist’s authoritative objective, itself intentionally encoded in the so-called global unified material object. I do not encode my work with this end in mind, so there cannot be anything but authoritative experiences.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

I.

My art’s aim is to grip the viewer, and then inspire the viewer to seek their own unique discoveries in each piece. The pieces present deep opportunities for visual serendipity by drawing the viewer into experiential, insightful, seeking.

I do not create images to pre-program or encode the viewer’s experience. Each piece is underdetermined up to the point of the viewer’s enactive presence and constructive experience.

The pieces aim to invoke a kind of pareidolia. (Pareidolia–the grasp of order from seeming randomness–is the psychological phenomenon where people see recognizable shapes in clouds, rock formations, or otherwise unrelated objects or data.)

The engaged viewer completes the image’s possible program by virtue of their own subjective and unique experience.

My artistic intention is evoke the truth of spontaneous discovery. Each piece captures an experimental result. The viewer’s unique encounter and seeking completes the experiment.

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The Wonder of Decay

Art of the Collection: The Photography of Rosamond Purcell from Hans Weise on Vimeo.

An Art That Nature Makes, Molly Bernstein’s new film about the artist Rosamund Purcell, has opened, and closes tomorrow. Clearly this will be a must see once the Film Forum in NYC receives its due.

Ms. Purcell doesn’t count as an influence on my own art, although we work in related veins. I’m a naive artist after all! But, I’m relieved one of the world’s finest photographers never became animated by mirror symmetries! Many of her photographs possess qualities worthy of their being cut and re-coalesced.

Still, as it is with most (of us) artists working with photographic set-ups, Purcell is famously a scavenger and collector.

Wunderkammer

Collectors of our sort do end up with their own cabinet of curiosities.

from the article An Eye For Anomaly,

The rotted book, along with the other objects she has amassed in her studio, reflects her fascination with “things that are transitional — between natural and artificial,” as she puts it, and with decomposition’s way of forming strange and symbolic juxtapositions.

Yes. Same rotted page.

Note her comment during this Q&A about randomness. This would be the subject I would engage her on if I ever had the chance. I couldn’t make out the question about kitsch, also a concerning subject.

She’s not in the collection of the CMA. (Shakes head)

No (!) Wikipedia – her books:

Egg & Nest (Harvard, 2008)
Owls Head: On the Nature of Lost Things (Quantuck Lane, 2007)
Bookworm (Quantuck Lane, 2006)
Ricky Jay: Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck (Quantuck Lane, 2002)

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Throw Back What You Catch

Throw Back What you Catch (3 Panel Version)

Throw Back What you Catch (3 Panel Version)

Garage sales are a primary source for the raw material for my photographic and generative art work. The process of gathering these materials together is part of my creative process.

In late June I ventured down the driveway of a beautiful Georgian style house in Shaker Heights, and arrived at the point of sale, where several portable tables were set up. Yet, what caught my eye as I scanned the large backyard were several desiccated peonies. On closer inspection I observed a really well thought out landscape and flower garden, centered on a tiny cabin and pond. To myself, I went, “Hmmmmm.”

Turning my attention to the tables full of cast offs and objects, I spotted a plastic bag with small figures in it. I looked inside and discovered it was the oddest chess set I have ever seen. Its motif was fishing and hunting, so, for example, the pawns were depicted by leaping fish, and, apparently, the King was a hunter with a rifle at his side, and the queen was a fisherman with rod and reel at his side, or visa versa.

Making the purchase, I told the older woman, of the two presiding over the sale, that I had a question for her, but, that I had to go out to my car to get a card to show her something.

In short order I came back with the post card for my art opening, handed it to her, and asked her,

“Would it be alright if I cleaned up your peaked peonies. I’m an artist and I use dried out flowers and stuff in photographs?”

She looked at the card, and told me that she too was an amatuer photographer. She looked at the art work depicted on the card.

“Wow!”

She thought for a moment and told me,

“You may help yourself to anything past its peak in my garden.”

(Bingo!) Then she got up and gave me a tour to show me where the goodies were in her beautiful garden.

Over the next few minutes I gathered up fallen roses and peonies and lilies and dried out ferns and other botanicals. As I did so I hatched an idea.

“Ma’am, I have had an inspiration. I am going to build a new piece out of this chess set and all the stuff I have picked up in your garden. This piece will use only stuff from this visit.”

She was surprised and then pleased. I told her she would be the second person to see the finished piece. It was at this point that we introduced ourselves to each other, exchanged contact information.

This all resulted in a bunch of excellent raw photographs. I finished two pieces several weeks ago. Titled, Throw Back what You Catch, it comes in a three panel small size, and in a six panel large size. The large size is four by six feet (and would be printed to aluminum.)

I presented her with a signed, framed paper proof of the three panel piece this week. She was tickled and reminded me I could hunt and gather through her garden “any time!”

***

My human encounters while garage ‘sailing’ provide me with great joy, just as well as tromping around the neighborhoods of the east side of Cleveland helps me stock up on vital artistic resources. For example, when people learn that I want to buy junky costume jewelry to put in photographs, sometimes they will tell me to ‘hold on,’ and go into their house and come back out with what they fetched, and then give it to me for free. This happens all the time.

Upon reflection I understand that my creative aims make room for my art being participatory in the way my goals allow for a friendly and serendipitous conjunction of human interaction, enacting/transacting, recycling, and, ‘reversioning’ of botanicals, junk, and objects.

In this way, art pieces come to embed: social processes, objects with specific origins, and the many stories about how stuff comes to end up in my hands.

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Missing Contingency

Ouroboros (Stephen Calhoun - 2016)

Ouroboros (Stephen Calhoun – 2016)

This motivational tendency is a creative process through which the agent approaches new solutions, and enacts new meanings (Arnellos et al. 2007). As we have argued so far, aesthetic emotions provide the agent with the capacity to enact even before learning, by assigning values to current interactive conditions as pro- visions of the enacted meaning. Thus, aesthetic experience motivates the agent to avoid situations, for which the valuative signals are negative (or aversive), and to seek situations for which those signals are positive (or rewarding). This is what we call motivational tendency of aesthetic experience. Accordingly, we suggest that a minimal aesthetic experience should be considered as an aesthetic emotional eval- uation that forms an anticipation for a certain interaction, thereby reducing the interactive uncertainty. Aesthetics as an emotional activity that facilitates sense-making: Towards an enactive approach to aesthetic experience (Ioannis Xenakis and Argyris Arnellos)

Richard Shusterman – Somaesthetics Youtube

I believe that philosophical thinking is not confined to professional philosophers with Ph.D.’s in this subject. This brings me to a further point about the somaesthetics-philosophy relationship. If we conceive philosophy broadly as an ethical art of living that is guided by critical inquiry aimed to promote a more aesthetically satisfying form of life for both self and society, then the various disciplines and forms of knowledge that contribute to this art of living (even if they are not distinctively or professionally philosophical) can be related to the broad philosophical project of the quest for wisdom in how to live better lives. Somaesthetic research in forms outside the normal disciplinary bounds of philosophy surely can contribute to this overarching philosophical project. Interview: Richard Shusterman in Budapest

Somaesthetics at www.interaction-design.org, Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction

Richard Shusterman on Somaesthetics and the Middle Way

Cube-O-Probe: Point to clues about the circuit of, Body / Serendipity / Creative Process

CUBEOPROBE-aesthetics

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Forced Choice

Forced-Choice

In sixty seconds,

(1) Pick your favorite.

(2) Pick your least favorite.

LearningCycle

Experiential Learning:
Fourth Annual Experiential Learning Conference June 16-17, 2016

Hunting and Gathering In the Cleveland Art Museum
(Thursday June 16, 1:45pm) facilitated by Stephen Calhoun, squareONE:experiential toolmakers

Hunting and Gathering sets eager learners to the playful of task of exploring and
discovering consequential relationships between their personal learning goal and novel data able to be hunted down and gathered in the galleries or environs of the Cleveland Art Museum. This experiential tool blends a model of collaborative experiential learning with a framework for deliberately animating a learning space.


Here listed are several aspects of experience and learning I am fascinated by, and, drawn to theorize about, in a most informal way. Other times, I rope in subjects and do experiments!

One–entanglements of contexts and their contextualizations; abductive contextualizing
Two–personal culture and the geneaology of individualized knowledge
Three–hidden contingencies, webs of uncertainty, biosemiotic fragility
Four–novelties, serendipities, oracles, synchrons

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Hunch a Bunch

BobbyZ9_

“Instinct paints my pictures and guides me to my next subject. It’s the voice that says it’s not here, it’s over there.”
– Tasmanian artist Bobby-Z Lambert

A few days ago my cell phone rang and a voice with a British-like accent just started in, and, after a minute or so I disrupted the caller simply to learn with whom i was engaged with! He introduced himself as a fellow artist, calling from Tasmania, calling from fourteen time zones away at 10:45am in my time zone, calling because he had a hunch ‘we had a bunch in common.’

Bobby-Z had discovered my artwork and then made his way over to this blog. He read enoguh to suggest common interests and possible shared affinities.

This sense of his was revealed to be accurate–after we had spoke for forty-five minutes.

How much respect do I have for persons willing to jump right into the opportunity of relations with complete strangers based on a hunch? I have nothing but respect for such audacious acts.

Who is Bobby-Z?

Bobby-z … and the Miners of Potosi

Bobby-Z Interview Gallery Salamanca

. . .kindred soul.

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Touch Recognition

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Gemini’s Sense of Humor (2016) 38×44″

Around the middle of January I received an email from a stranger. This happens often. The question about such emails is: will it sort into the box labeled Serendipitous Contact, or, Internet Scammer?

This one ends up in the former box. Its author had been urged to visit my art web site by a friend from my Vermont chapter. In her email she wrote: I have not begun to plumb the depths of your site, but I am grateful to learn the word pareidolia. I create art and music that is pareidolic (word?) in process. Previously, I have just called it “clarifying the images”. Thanks for the new vocabulary. When I googled pareidolia, I also learned the word apophenia. Also a great phenomenon.

J.S. hipped me to the artist Remedios Varo. Fantastic!

via Wikiart

via Wikiart

She suggested I might correspond with her friend, Genese. She described her friend: She has a great mind, and the spirit of a wild sprite.

Pareidolia, Seeing Patterns, Making Meaning – Genese Grill

Here are two excerpts from longer, and essential, posts. Ms. Grill doesn’t publish posts often, but when she does, her consciousness lights up her subject matter.

AN APOLOGY FOR MEANING The artist, as the “creative subject” par excellence, re-vivifies stale images and ossified words, dissolving the fixed relations and drawn boundaries around entities and forging new meaningful connections between materiality and imagination, individual particularity and archetypal abstraction.

CORRESPONDENCE AND DIFFERENCE A sense of what is beautiful, evidently, is at least somewhat natural and universal. And the works of art or ritual made with this sense of what is beautiful still resonate with a mysterious significance, even if we today cannot fully understand or believe in the things that were sacred to the people who made them. Translation across time and cultures is needed for a more approximate comprehension of the objects, but something very powerful, something powerfully familiar is present even without a struggle. What we want is to maintain the strangeness, while approaching a comprehension. What we must avoid is to diminish difference in the interest of a complete and total correspondence.

I haven’t taken up L.S.’s suggestion. I will. The outreach recently coming my way through the serendipitous transmission has tipped a bit, and so it will be my own effort which brings it back in balance.

Why? Is the highest artistry given in the penetrating and receptive engagement of intracommunicating being?

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Don’t Follow the Directions

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Jack’s New Scheme (2015)


Pagan Kennedy’s New York Times feature, How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity, is apparently drawn from her new book, due January 26, Inventology. Her article is a very good read.

inventology

In the article Kennedy mentions a researcher, Sanda Erdelez. A little digging brought her paper Information Encountering, A Conceptual Framework for Accidental Information Discovery to light. At the end of the paper her summary inspired me to reflect on the status of “pre-direction” in search routines.

From this it seems worthwhile to muse on a adirectional learning, and directionless directing.

Meanwhile, Kennedy wrote:

That’s why we need to develop a new, interdisciplinary field — call it serendipity studies — that can help us create a taxonomy of discoveries in the chemistry lab, the newsroom, the forest, the classroom, the particle accelerator and the hospital. By observing and documenting the many different “species” of super-encounterers, we might begin to understand their minds.

A number of pioneering scholars have already begun this work, but they seem to be doing so in their own silos and without much cross-talk.

What could these researchers discover if they came together for one big conversation?

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Eno On Cybernetics and Music Making

This video is new to me and it provided a big wallop.

In my framing of fortuity, contingency and fragility, I have only roughed out some of the implications for music making. B.E. helps move this forward during a really essential 15 minutes.

He mentions Stafford Beer. (He, along with Ralph Stacey, Gordon Pask, and Gregory Bateson, probably did the most to extend cybernetics to human domains in the first wave of cybernetic thinking. Largely from Beer and Stacey we gain the concept of soft systems, and from Beer we gain the Viable Systems Model (Trevor Hilder’s presentation – pdf).)

What Is Cybernetics?

Leonod Ototsky’s fond archive and research on Mr. Beer is a terrific old style web site.

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Penetrating Sensings I.

(1)

“The actual order (the Implicate Order) itself has been recorded in the complex movement of electromagnetic fields, in the form of light waves. Such movement of light waves is present everywhere and in principle enfolds the entire universe of space and time in each region. This enfoldment and unfoldment takes place not only in the movement of the electromagnetic field but also in that of other fields (electronic, protonic, etc.). These fields obey quantum-mechanical laws, implying the properties of discontinuity and non-locality. The totality of the movement of enfoldment and unfoldment may go immensely beyond what has revealed itself to our observations. We call this totality by the name holomovement.” David Bohm

(2)

In the free play of thought, creative intelligence responds to opposition and contradiction with new proposals.” David Bohm

dharma-wheel-gs

For me and my research into serendipity the notion of hidden connectedness yields to the notions of uninstantiated contingency and radial contingency. In the free play of uninstantiated contingency, sensitive (to radial contingency,) intelligence responds to possible fortuities and unknown potentials with new conjunctions.

Radial contingency means the possibilities that are located at the end of the spokes of a observer/participant’s awareness, as this awareness radiates outwardly toward other locations of awareness.

“The quantum field contains information about the whole environment and about the whole past, which regulates the present activity of the electron in much the same way that information about the whole past and our whole environment regulates our own activity as human beings, through consciousness.” David Bohm

Also, my experiential aesthetics being rooted in a theorization of generative learning are deeply informed by Bohm’s conception of enfoldment.

“Everybody has seen an image of enfoldment: You fold up a sheet of paper, turn it into a small packet, make cuts in it, and then unfold it into a pattern. The parts that were close in the cuts unfold to be far away. This is like what happens in a hologram. Enfoldment is really very common in our experience. All the light in this room comes in so that the entire room is in effect folded into each part. If your eye looks, the light will be then unfolded by your eye and brain. As you look through a telescope or a camera, the whole universe of space and time is enfolded into each part, and that is unfolded to the eye. With an old-fashioned television set that’s not adjusted properly, the image enfolds into the screen and then can be unfolded by adjustment.” David Bohm

David Bohm, Implicate Order and Holomovement (via scienceandnonduality.com)

Two Opposing Types of Order (via Learning to See Timelessness, everythingforever.com)

Interview (1997) with F. David Peat

David Bohm’s Theory of the Implicate Order: Implications for Holistic Thought Processes
Irene J. Dabrowski ISSUES IN INTEGRATVE STUDIES No. 13, pp. 1-23 (1995)

Morphic Fields and the Implicate Order A dialogue with David Bohm (Rupert Sheldrake)

David Bohm.net (curated home page || The David Bohm Society

Mandala-Bohm-quote

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The Flux of Serendipity

Kate, her sister Holly, my wife Susan, with custom pizzas each designed

Kate, her sister Holly, my wife Susan, with custom pizzas each designed

I told my new friend David, ‘last night the Kuper sisters came over for dinner.’

Kate has been a friend of mine since around the summer of 1967, and I met her the first time in the early weeks of seventh grade. At some unknown point during that same time I met her older sister Holly and her younger brother Peter. By the time ninth grade started in the fall of 1968, Kate and her two girlfriends Joan and Sarah were pretty much my closest friends. And, I spent a lot of time at the Kuper’s house because the Kupers were a simply joyful, creative and cool bunch.

Fifty years later, Kate lives with her family in Illinois, and Holly lives with her family outside Dallas. Earlier yesterday I met Kate and Holly, along with some family friends, who came together at the tree planted in memory of their wonderful parents. There I met Mrs. Johnson, who was both a Kuper family friend, a friend of my late mother’s, and, a teacher at Hawken School at the same time I was there as a member of the class of 1972.

After I told my new friend David, ‘last night the Kuper sisters came over for dinner,’ he told me how he would have liked to have been there because he knew the Kupers too, and, in fact, Buzz and Ginger ran in the same activist circles David’s own parents ran in from the sixties onward.

This is not an example of a dramatic coincidence. Over my years of thinking about serendipity, I have come to recognize how stable is the web of local potentials and contingencies when the location of persons is close by one another, and they share preoccupations, and, in effect, the channels for binding relationships are readily accessible.

However, there are hidden features too that make the total contemporary arrangement the result of very fragile arrays of realized contingencies. I am a new friend of David’s because I ventured into his garage sale a year ago, and he responded to his sense that I looked familiar by asking what was my name. In fact, we figured out that although we were not even acquaintances during our one shared school year, that it was likely sometime at the end of the 1972 school year we last caught sight of one another.

I was in a position to go to the garage sale by virtue of a huge array of realized contingencies, and one of the first order ones concerned my high school spanish teacher Mr. Carter, who gave me three “D’s” rather than flunking me–when I had earned the F. A first term F in Spanish would have shaken up my deck a bit, and, it probably was the case that when David remembered me from spanish class he was remembering me retaking my second year of spanish. In any case, the three D’s thankfully destroyed my grade-point average. In turn I did not do well enough to go to Haverford, the college David matriculated to two years after my senior class graduated.

But, there was yesterday Mrs. Johnson who shared an office with Mr. Carter, as both were foreign language teachers together. Had this same Mr. Carter treated me more realistically I might have missed out on being shot by a holdup man while working in a record store the summer of 1974. Moreover, David doesn’t learn the Kuper sisters are visiting Cleveland Heights from distant homes because I wouldn’t likely be back in Cleveland because the family crisis that precipitated by return to my hometown in late 1992 may well have not have taken place had my own life path gone even a little bit differently.

Whether or not the web of contingency and causality extends to the Kuper sisters is, at once, a seeming kind of hard problem, or, is itself mixed in with my actual relations with Kate in the two years I remained in Cleveland, prior to being shot in June 1974, because we reconnected in the fall of 1973, after she returned from a long trip abroad.

At the same time, we’re having dinner together last night in one respect because of the serendipitous reconfiguration instantiated by the hold-up man who walked into Music Madness on Lee Road on a Thursday, forty one years earlier in June 1974, took all the cash the store had earned that day, had me lay down on the floor of the backroom office, and, finally shot meat point blank range in the back. Thank goodness.

In the combination of the more stable ecology of local contingent ‘webs’ and the less stable non-local ecologies–when persons leave their family of origin he or she lands in a non-local ecology–the fragility of realized conjunction and potential conjunctions becomes many times more complex, dynamic and, where dynamical complexity increases so does fragility.

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Boojums, Anti-finality, Art, and Learning

Stephen Calhoun, fine artist, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

African Alchemy – African Alchemy Inversion

 

I’ve been in the season of collecting desiccated Lily blossoms from the Lily patches in our yard and the yard of our neighbors, a retired couple. I walk over and show proofs and drafts of new pieces to ‘Mrs. Neighbor,’ when these involve stuff I’ve picked from the floor of their wonderful, large garden of perennials. The other day, I caught both of them and showed them the photo on the left, African Alchemy. Mrs. Neighbor always asks me to invert the image from the geometry I’ve decided upon. Once the photo was turned upside down–inverted–Mr. Neighbor almost immediately remarked that he liked the inversion better than the ‘pre-inversion.’

I like it better this way! (turned upside down)

I studied it. I nodded my head. I walked away wondering whether or not I could create a new piece out of the inversion, or, join the new pieces into a two panel, and new, piece. A new two panel piece could be immense, 74 inches wide by 54 inches in height.

As an artist of the sort of artist I happen to be, the feedback of a viewer which challenges me to pursue a specific experiment further is simply part of the territory my vision for my art and artistic life inhabits.

With respect to this transaction and response, my outlook intends for the transaction to admit a potential for recursion back into the unfinished project.

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.” 

The Hunting of the Snark – Lewis Carroll

The predicate for the recursion is: uncertainty. There is no completed piece. My work obtains its imperfect goal by virtue of the engaged viewer. There is: the piece, the unaltered (abductive) experiential sense, the abductive experiential sense which requires an altered or alternate explanation.  Three times true.

But then I discovered that the rule of three was not invented by Lewis Carroll. It is far older and used to be called nolo episcopari: I don’t want to be a bishop. The idea was that when somebody was appointed bishop it was a given that they would be too humble to accept the post: that’s what Christian humility means. So they would say nolo episcopari meaning “I don’t want to be a bishop”. They were meant to say this twice as a matter of etiquette. On the third request they were meant to surrender and take the mitre. If they did not, if they said nolo episcopari a third time, it was assumed that they were telling the truth and a new candidate was sought. To say something twice may be mere manners, Truth speaks thrice. – Mark Forsythe, author, The Inky Fool

Kailash Awati ends his excellent article about Carroll’s The Paradox of the Learning Organization,

Conclusion. Experts and consultants have told us many times over that the journey towards a learning organisation is one worth making….and as the as the Bellman in Carroll’s poem says: “What I tell you three times is true.” Nevertheless, the reality is that instances in which learning actually occurs tend to be more a consequence of accident than plan, and tend to be transient than lasting. Finally, and perhaps most important, the Snark may turn out to Boojum: people may end up learning truths that the organisation would rather remained hidden. And therein lies the paradox of the learning organisation.

See also, The Hunting of the Learning Organization. A Paradoxical Journey – Paul Tosey, Univ. of Surreypdf

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Discovering Novel Approaches

squareone learning

Learning Intention: Suggest ways of contemplating the problem I have with a person who just will not walk their talk.

comment:

First, a Cube-O-Probe casting from the newest Cube Sets, Archetypal #3, Archetypal #4, and Experiential learning #3.

Second, this learning intention isn’t directly my own, I’ve borrowed another person’s challenge and used his challenge to fashion a worthwhile intention. Note the intention precedes the casting of the Cube-O-Probe. It addresses a common enough problem.

Third, Because I’m expert at formulating learning intentions in the context of prospecting for transformative learning, this nicely shaped intention displays the several facets of a well-shaped intention to learn. It doesn’t ask for a solution, it asks for suggestions. It aims at deploying helpful ideas for the sake of exploring better ideas.

Fourth, The pole opposite TRANSITIONAL is HEROIC. (The given opposite of a pairing rendered by a cube is the pole of the pair that cannot be shown at the same time as its opposite. It is on the other side of the cube!)

Alterity is a philosophical and anthropological term meaning “otherness”, strictly being in the sense of the other of two (Latin alter). It is also increasingly being used in media to express something other than the sameness of the imitative, numbing conformity often found in today’s mass media. (…fairly good snap definition, via Wikipedia)

In philosophy, the phenomenological tradition it is usually understood as the entity in contrast to which an identity is constructed, and it implies the ability to distinguish between self and not-self, and consequently to assume the existence of an alternative viewpoint.

serenity-prayer-051

 

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Cubes Upon Cubes

Archetypal-Cubes-3

Values for Archetypal Cubes – set #3 (2 cubes)

archetypal-cubes-4

Values for Archetypal Cubes – set #4 (2 cubes)

The cubes of the Cube-O-Probe are color coded to make it easy to constitute different aggregates from the several sets.

The following is one cube set of dichotomies taken from what I term the Covert Pairs of the experiential learning theory of David A. Kolb.

set of dichotomies taken from what I term the Covert Pairs of the experiential learning theory of David A. Kolb

Tomorrow I’ll use the set to address a situation for learning.

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