A Walking Artist

Whilst walking down Dundas street last sunday, I happened across a small gallery. Inside, I found a small collection of squigly drawings. They were, in fact, drawings which had been penned by a person walking through the city, along the streets.
This was interesting for several reasons. First, they drawings are not strictly representational reproductions of a frame of the city. This is because the artist draws various aspects into the picture while moving along, so the perspective is literally in flux as the picture comes together. This means if you go back to the sight where the drawing was made, there is no photograph which would be a rough approximation of it, because the perspective is litterally drawn out across time and space (the distance travelled while the activity of drawing took place). But it is even less representationalist than this – because the artist only draws things that catch the eye, so what is drawn is always something the artist is already engaged with, already recognized as meaningful (and not only as valueless object). In fact, the practice itself is direct evidence that we do not encounter objects and then ascribe value to them, but that in encountering them we always already see them as things which are meaningful, interesting, etc… In other words, what is primary is not the formal shape, but that shapes meaning.
Another sense in which the art is not representational is that the activity itself is “compromised” by the jarring-ness of walking along. The non-linear movement of walking prevents the drawings of posessing clear and distinct lines. The obvious way to account for the squigly lines is in this way – to say that the activity of drawing, which is inherently one of careful representation with accurate and distinct lines, is muddled by the walking. But this misses the point – the practice of walking while drawing is itself a practice unto itself, which means the squigly lines are not “accidental”, a “compromising” of some pure form of drawing, or at least, are not only that. What they are is a different practice of drawing, one which doesn’t attempt to cut itself off from lived experience, and then reflect back on it like a photograph, but rather, be itself part of the trauma of existence, and have the art embody that movement. In other words, whereas representational art might have as its final cause “movement”, in this art “movement” is both the final and moving cause of the art.

4 thoughts on “A Walking Artist

  1. ACCCORDING to Maslow’s hierarchy the answer is yes. It suggests you can only ponder the state of your soul when your most basic physical and material needs have been met. But philosophers, and other professors in the humanities, struggle to convince the world otherwise.

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. No philosopher would ever claim that you should do philosophy, or anything, without your basic material needs being met. Everyone’s basic material needs should be met – that’s already in U.N. Human Rights declaration. Anyone who doesn’t think everyone’s basic needs should be met is a mosnter and I have no interest in talking to them. If that’s what you mean by “luxry” then Philosophy is perhaps the only luxury taht everyone categorically has the right to participate in, as a direct derivative,

  2. That article is a joke. The discussion seems to have focused on philosophy being a personal luxury, while the article (one of many recent articles) questions the societal value and function of philosophy. I understand the strategy, if philosophy fulfills a necessary societal function than it isn’t a luxury, but I have problems with limiting philosophy to a monolithic practice or even an appeal to the institutionalized form.

    While Tristan’s response remains limited to individual engagement with philosophy, one of the things I liked about his notion of a right to philosophy is that it stresses other faculties that are more immediate than the esoteric defense (philosophy is the type of thing that is valuable precisely because it isn’t marketable), and so more easily understood and sold to the general public as necessary and valuable, such as the ability to engage in complex and self-reflective thoughts, curiosity, a desire to tackle extremely difficult problems, to engage in public discourse and interact with others, etc. It moves from the institutional form and reading of canonical texts to a form of engagement with the world that many people might share (even if they aren’t particularly gifted at it when compared to professionals) and might not have a choice in the matter (it’s dispositional).

    I also understand the oblique strategy the author employs. Society often doesn’t see the value, or want to fund things that add indirect value. Things like regulatory agencies are shunned when everyone is making money and sorely missed when the disaster actually strikes, but the mainline of the esoteric defense is that philosophy has other, non-market based values. Whether such value exists, and whether or not philosophy exhibits them is a legitimate question that I will leave up to you. Some people think it is terrible to attempt to devolve universities into highly specialized trade schools, others think it is practical and the highly romanticized version of knowledge is logically incoherent and untenable in a modern economy. That’s a personal opinion. I’ll simply content myself by noting that I am extremely leery of the form of the author’s oblique strategy that reduces philosophy to the reading of Kant, and mistakes it as moral education. It is so asinine that it makes my head hurt; the obligatory Kant reference to show that he really knows his philosophy, the assumption that philosophy is about a moral education, and then the attack of the practice based on his incorrect assumptions about the practice. ‘Kant won’t stop dodgy loans’ is so simplistic and stupefying that it is asinine by itself, even if it wasn’t just the crowning achievement on a heap of banalities. It makes my head hurt!

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