By William Fitzpatrick
For the exhibition body/marks
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The comments that follow are speculations on “body/marks”. In the circumstances I should not, and I would not, be so presumptuous as to present to you a critique for reasons which will be clear when you know who the author is. I will, however, act as a critic in the sense of presenting, albeit biased, some judgments of a particular kind.
At the outset I will briefly point out some of the areas which will not be discussed in these comments, aspects that will be left to art critics, art scholars and other viewers.
Specifically this paper will be speculating on what Fitzpatrick is asking us, who come initially to the images as viewers, to do as we allow the sense stimuli of the images to, via the visual system, enter our brain, our mind and ultimately becoming part of the “self”, our “Mind’s I; well beyond simply coming before our consciousness. In this regard it is essential that we explore both the visible and invisible that is “body/marks”.
Leading into the speculations, given the nature of “body/marks”, there is merit in exploring what each viewer will initially bring to her/his individual experiences of the images; experiences gained before even entering the gallery. These will include some very natural biases impacting and shaping the experience. These biases are an important consideration as we initially approach “body/marks”.
The speculations will be extended to what may be the intended relevance of these images in the context of the activities which brought them into what is conventionally considered physical existence – their “Becoming”. It will be suggested that these activities, as a process of Becoming, are the essence of “body/marks”. “body/marks” is not about the images on the wall – the exhibition is not about the “things-in-themselves”.
This will be extended to viewing the images as simply necessary physical “residues” of the process/activities. Although as “residues” they are repositories of the energies that created them, these images only have a being as a means to access the “Process” that is “body/marks”. The images created by the conventional activity of drawing will be viewed as something to be “read” as one would read words of a written narrative of an emotive experience or the written notes of a music score.
It will be further speculated that the essence, created by Becoming , includes the participation of the body/mind of both Fitzpatrick and the viewers directly through actual sense experiences. Art is sometimes accused of simply being an imitation of reality/life. With the direct involvement of the very human senses in “body/marks”, and the engagement of the Mind’s I, it will be clear there is no “imitation” involved in "body/marks". In fact the sole objective is to embed reality/life in art.
In what follows the viewer will be asked to not only attempt to understand the Process but as well to participate in it. As viewers you will extend the Process with both viewing and experiencing the physical presence of the Process embodied in the images brought to your consciousness by “body/marks”. The Process will be extended to include the mental processes which ensue in the viewers’ mind. “body/marks” is intended to engage not only your mind but your Mind’s I. By engaging the Mind’s I “body/marks” is intended to elicit an array of sense experiences in the viewer.
These comments will explore a relationship between what is present to our primary senses and that which is not, attempting to make the invisible “visible”. The hypothesis will be presented that the images before your eyes are not self-existents, rather they depend on the Process for their meaning; for their Being to the extent one considers them such .
After addressing the Becoming of “body/marks” and its residue presented before us, the possible social references will be addressed. It will be suggested that the very real experiences Fitzpatrick manifests in the process of creating may reflect many of life’s activities. Some of these references are edifying of life processes others are not.
Once the Process that is the Becoming of “body/marks” and the related aspects are explored, viewers will be left with forming their own conclusions as to what their own private process involving “body/marks” has left as a residue in their Mind’s I.
What These Comments Will Not Include
Let me begin with what is not going to be found in this paper. There will be no insights as to what Fitzpatrick was actually attempting to do with the presentation of these images nor whether or not he was successful in meeting his goals. These comments are my speculations, not those of the artist. As to line, form, perspective etc., these will not be addressed, at least not directly.
What genre or “school” does “body/marks” represent? What other artists are of the same “school”? Where does "body/marks" fit? Is “body/marks” art? Successful art? Is it relevant? No answers nor opinion, not from this writer; at least not here. These aspects will be left to the art critics, art scholars and other art fans to judge. These matters and others this writer “must pass over in silence”.
What the Viewer Brings to the Gallery
Viewers will bring many attitudes and stances with them as, indeed even before, they enter the gallery. Being human the viewers will bring with them experiences, expectations, anticipations and intellectual idiosyncrasies both conscious and subconscious. Some of these are related to art, many are not. Each viewer will have had unique experiences that are part of her/his respective private and secret world. All of these create attitudes, prejudices and biases.
The social and cultural milieu which shapes lives and moral codes will impact on how the individual reacts to art, specific art forms and works. The why and how each viewer became engaged in art will also impact the nature of individual reactions.
Regardless of status as a serious art critic, an art scholar, simply a fan or all of these, being invited and going to an art gallery creates context and expectations of a certain kind. Certainly one might be forgiven if one expects to see “art” in an “art gallery”.
Even subsequent viewings of the same specific works of art will create different and new experiences in the viewer. It is simply the nature of “mind”. However real each seems, our states of consciousness are continually changing with each experience – the previous state/experience being different than the next. The specific mind state and sensation of an experience will never recur exactly as the previous one regardless of the sameness or similarity of the “repeated” experience. Thus the “repeated” experience will not be exactly the same – in many important respects each will be new.
All things considered. can anyone put aside, or suppress, these tendencies in order to arrive at an unbiased opinion, particularly given the nature of “art”? Freedom of Will, its existence or non existence, has been a metaphysical topic of thought and discussion for centuries, by many brilliant minds. To date there is not yet a consensus. I would speculate that to a large degree we, as viewers of art, are all prisoners of our preconceptions and past experiences. There are no unbiased opinions. No one can “leave the baggage at the door” entirely.
It is highly unlikely that neither these speculations nor the comments or intellectual critiques by art critics or scholars will change individual opinions of that which is represented as art. All that can be hoped is that new ideas may be created, or existing ones reshaped, which will be of interest and become part of the viewers’ experiences. In some positive manner, perhaps, worthy new ideas will impact on “where you stand” in relation to art in general and "body/marks" in particular.
Where would I try to convince viewers to “stand” as they consider these speculations and especially when viewing “body/marks”? It is suggested that in many ways the frame of mind of the viewer may be more important for “body/marks” than it would be for more traditional/conventional art forms. The hope is that the viewer would first approach “body/marks”, and these comments, in an attitude of a contemplative mind recognizing that being engaged with art takes time and imagination.
Art, of any form, should not be considered in a casual manner. The viewer must be open to having intellectual and emotional involvement. The eye, brain and mind are important, yet if the viewer is to be fully engaged it is crucial that the Mind’s I become a participant.
In respect of this exhibition it is suggested the viewer must attempt to have what might be referred to as the “Appropriate Distance” – the ideal state of the “third person position”; an impartial position when viewing and judging; that state where we detach ourselves from ulterior interests and sympathies, taking an interest in “body/marks” for its own sake. For all intents and purposes it means making every effort to “leave our baggage at the door” trusting that, as we leave, we will have something more to put in it.
The Title “body/marks”
A title (or label) tends to be a necessary evil of our system of communication. It provides a simple means of distinguishing an idea, thing etc. from others to avoid confusion and as a point of reference. In some cases it implies even more than that. We must always guard against a title/label leading us to incorrect associations or meanings.
When the brain initially takes in each of the two words, “body” and “marks”, what I am referring to as the title, will probably generate concepts very close to the conventional dictionary meaning of each. I would speculate that these two conventional meanings can not be conflated to arrive at the meaning intended by Fitzpatrick.
At the risk of attracting the ire of both Cartesians and Physicalists, “body/marks” attempts to convey the essence of this exhibition which cannot be either touched or “seen”.
Fitzpatrick’s “body” is more than a collection of muscles, hormones, neurochemicals and tissue. His “body” encompasses not only these but as well (roll over Descartes) the entire “reasoning” capacity, the consciousness, the self of the human – what many refer to as the “mind” and/or soul. We will see that none of these elements can be separated from what constitutes “body”. The mind/self does not simply occupy the body – all these elements are one as “body”. When the “Mind’s I” is engaged this includes the “body” in the sense referred to here. Fitzpatrick loses his entire “body” in “body/marks”.
This is not to say Fitzpatrick sides with the Physicalists. The contrary is the case, seemingly a paradox. We will explore how a “non physical”, in the form of a Becoming, absorbs the “physical”.
Fitzpatrick’s “marks” does not refer to anything tangible, anything we can touch or experience with our eyes. The “marks” referred to are not physically made by a “physical” body.
As we shall see the title does set a direction for the viewer. “body/marks” is a reference to something that has gone on before and will continue on into the future.
The “body” is the “marks” and the “marks” is the “body”.
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What We See
Typically the eye is considered as the prime source of our experience of the world, the key information feed to the brain. Agreeing somewhat with William Blake’s view of the eye, distorting the heavens and leading us to believe a lie, I suggest the eye, however amazing it may be, is neither a very discerning source of information nor very analytical by itself.
“body/marks” provides no immediate challenges to the “eyes” and the visual system as we first view the images. The viewing process we will be engaged with begins with energy as reflected light from the images in front of us. Via the eye this light is transmitted to, and collected by, the visual system which immediately communicates it to the brain. Sounds simple enough. On the contrary. All is not what first meets the eye. The image may be simple but as we shall see the experience is not.
Some of our “baggage” has not been left at the door. Our eye is instantly involved in a process of editing what it sends to the brain though we are unlikely aware of it. Depending on our past experiences of art our eye is primed and assisted by our “brain” to scan, constantly moving, to literally add, subtract, to “fill in” what the brain initially deems missing. The brain instantly begins selecting, organizing and attempting to interpret what is being conveyed to it by this initial energy that is light. All this is in the context of what the brain initially has conditioned itself to “see what it wants to see” – to “see what it expects to see” – based on what is already stored in memory from past experiences and its expectations. At this level it is only taking in the “object”, that is the physical image, already adulterated by the viewer’s brain. There may already be a disconnect between what our brain expects to see, in fact what the brain sees, and what the eye has conveyed to it.
The brain wants to pass these images to the mind, to apply reason to this experience such that these drawings and prints can be explained in the context of experience, a paradigm inculcated in our mind from our past. Depending on past experience the brain may instantly register the lack of “colour” and representational form, asking itself: Where are the graceful, sweeping, colour-saturated brush strokes, the overwhelming intricacies of the human forms of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Eve” on the Vault of the Sistine Chapel? Where are the vibrant, emotional oil splashes and drips of Jackson Pollack’s “Autumn Rhythm” canvas? Where is the intricate detail, the various emotive hues and natural light of Fred Ross’s tapestries in “Still-Life With Tapers”?
What the brain is to initially take from “body/marks” may not “fit” any of the “categories”, any of the moulds and forms the brain finds in its memory. Almost desperately it will try to find something in memory to match with these images, a pigeon hole to neatly fit the images. In a manner the brain is acting as one of Plato’s students reverently trying to find the ideal “Form” from which these images flow.
Given this initial experience of “what we see” Fitzpatrick has taken on a stupendous challenge. Some have accused artists of a particular genre of dehumanizing art. While the eye will never see the body, the human is ever present in “body/marks”. Engagement with “body/marks” will certainly ensure this accusation is not leveled at “body/marks”. Engagement will disclose Fitzpatrick’s literal use of the “body” as a raw material. “body/works” has as its goal to bring to the consciousness of the viewer the transubstantiation of human endurance, time, raw materials and energy that is exchanged and the limitations inherent in these elements. This is the life of the human.
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The Process not the Product – “Seeing”
Most people relate easily and naturally to the concept of the existence of objects in the sense of seeing and touching what we consider the “thing in itself”. What is not natural for many is to access what experiences are embodied in the “thing in itself”, what lies beneath the surface.
In Plato’s Cave Allegory the shackled prisoners in the cave grossly misinterpreted the illusion of the shadows on the wall in front of them. It is only when they are freed from their shackles and freed from the cave that they begin to approach reality.
So it is with the images of “body/marks”. The reality/essence of “body/marks” is something very different than that which the eyes see. Though different than what is initially perceived by the brain the images are certainly not hermetic.
Absent an attentive mind it would be easy for the eyes of the viewer to cause the essence of “body/marks” to be subsumed by the images displayed on the gallery walls. The task of the viewer is to get beyond the illusion created by the non-analytical mind. To be engaged with “body/marks” requires one to escape from that safe sovereign place of formal art. It is necessary to go beyond the celebration of the idea of the finality of a fixed “end product”, that stability that tradition expects and often demands as an enduring, stable finished product that is “art” – the physical object as a “thing in itself”. Certainly this tradition may be a “safe” and , perhaps, easy manner for the mind to process what is before it.
“body/marks” is not safe and facile. It is not arcane but it is complex and it is through this complexity that the viewer has the opportunity to embark on an expansive experience of the senses.
It requires that we turn this celebration of the traditional “stable object” on its ear. We are to turn to an experiential exercise in continuing transformation – to a rhythm of continuing movement – rather than to an inert and a stable representational form. To do this “body/marks” uses a play of words of an adage to express an element of the exhibition: “the means becomes the end” and to present to us as a universal: “The Process is the Product”.
Yes the eye initially sends messages that we are viewing physical objects, and they are that. It is only with the engagement of not just the brain (which contains an abundance of process systems by itself) but as well our mind that we can address the possibility that these physical objects are not self-existents. The images do not exist in themselves, rather their essence is derived solely from, and their relationship with, a source outside itself – a pastness, that which what went on before, and a continuance – a process of a particular kind. Absent this process the images themselves have no essence, they do not exist as an independent entity. The images cannot be separated from a process of which they are a residue.
At the physical level the images that “body/marks” initially presents to us is a combination of the raw material used – graphite, wax crayon, ink, paper, video images and the human body/endeavour. The eye initially presents us with simply the elements of shades of black, planes, lines, shadows, video images, etc. This is but one of the physical manifestations of “body/marks”.
This physical presence is not simply these raw materials. These physical presences are a residue, a by –product, of the activities of a process that engaged the human body/mind in time and space, that of Fitzpatrick and others; a process that continues with the engagement of viewers. The reality/essence of these residues, that are the images, is dependent on process for their meaning/existence.
The residues are intended to provide us with an access to the essence of “body/marks”, to its reality. It is from the residue that the Mind’s I is to access the Process and become a key player in it. As it is with “reading” the letters/words/thoughts on this page, the eye is only a “bit player” in the Process. The eyes and visual system, as a gateway to the mind, are the conduit for the residue as the carrier of the narrative of the Process for the brain, mind and ultimately the Mind’s I of the viewer.
The goal of Fitzpatrick is not the images we see before us. The goal of Fitzpatrick is the involvement of the viewer by extending to and sharing with the viewers’ Mind’s I the experience that is the Process.
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The Reader and The Process
A simple analogy may be useful at this point. The reader, simply as a reader and not a viewer, of this page is expected to enter into a process.
At the instant the eye first looks at this page all it can see is a bunch of black marks on a white background (some may see the reverse). In a nanosecond our brain causes the eye to focus on a smaller group of marks that becomes a shape. The brain searches its grey matter for a combination of neuron actions that comprise a “concept”, an “idea” of some kind to match this “shape”. As if by magic a match occurs; the “brain” comprehends a shape we “know” as a “letter” or “punctuation mark” etc. and then as a particular “letter” etc.
Again the brain puts our eyes to work – scanning a series of these smaller groups of marks (“letters”, etc.), which the mind instantly matches with other “ideas”. The writer hopes the brain recognizes these groups of marks as “words”, etc. and as particular words. The eye has done its job. The brain has just begun its work.
The mind now must take this raw material (simply a bunch of black ink fragments, residue on paper spewed from a cartridge by parts of a computer printer) which to the brain has become a collection of “words” and determine if there is “meaning” in them. It is this “meaning”, if there is one, that is the essence of this page not the “black marks” the eye conveys to the brain.
In the case of this page, at least in the author’s hope, the brain enters into a process to “reconstruct” and “match” its own inner concepts with concepts intended to be conveyed by the residue, the ink fragments, on the paper – the “black marks”, letters, words and phrases. It is the author’s intention that a gestalt is created – a meaning, something that is greater than the parts, that was intended to be conveyed to/understood by, and hopefully inculcated into the Mind’s I of the reader.
In the same manner that the Mind’s I of the viewer enters into a process as a reader, it is expected to enter into and become part of the Process that is “body/marks”.
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The Process that is “body/marks”
As a reader of this page you have already become part of the Process that is “body/marks”. Probably this involvement has not gone beyond your mind as yet. As a viewer you are challenged to involve the Mind’s I. “body/marks” wants the viewer to join Fitzpatrick in exploring the phenomenon of the metamorphosis of the self through a process involving the exchange of energies, physicality and raw materials. It wants the viewer to go beyond the “thing in itself” presented to the eyes, beyond the illusion of unchanging states, to a different reality.
In doing this the Mind’s I is to activate all the senses. To enter the Process is to relate not only to Fitzpatrick in the process of creation but to participate in a virtual world of meditation. In doing so, as we will see, perhaps the mundaneness of many everyday activities and labour will be realized. It is to be involved in a process that is of this world and to be interested in the condition of living.
It is always tempting to read or interpret narratives in a linear and/or symbolic/metaphorical manner. Approaching “body/marks” solely in this fashion will risk the viewer distancing herself/himself from it. Engagement is what is asked, not distance.
The Process is a long one comprising numerous quantum phenomena. With infinite time and space available to us it could be traced back to the “Big Bang” (or Genesis?). The Process could also be extended forward into the future except that, as with the staircase in Escher’s “Ascending and Descending”, this process does not end.
Where should our narrative start and end? Where does Process start? Where does the Mind’s I start at becoming part of the Process?
There is no “start” nor “end” of the Process. There are only patterns of transience that are like time – the Present does not exist; when we think we occupy it, it has already made way for the Future, which has already pushed it into the Past.
Space does not permit beginning before Fitzpatrick had the concept of “body/marks”. Nor does space permit exploring the process involved in the Becoming of the raw materials used except in a cursory manner.
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The Process – Raw Materials
As with any such images the eyes take in, there are raw materials, "things in themselves", that are common to many drawings, prints and video images – ink, paper, video technology and related "parts", artist's concept and the human body. In the case of "body/marks" there are a number of phases/individual processes (some small, some large) of the one Process all of which involve experiencing, in some fashion, the metamorphosis of raw materials and its physicality.
Graphite Stick, Wax Crayons, Paper, Ink, technology that is digital Video and the Human body/mind – what are some of the elements all of these have in common? They are all art materials (yes the human body/mind as well) – materials that enter into the process of creating art, or at least some art forms.
Another thing they have in common is that they are products resulting from separate processes of “Becoming”. In a fashion each is a separate “thing in itself”. As such each, in Becoming what some may regard as a “being”, is only a temporary pause for transition, represented by that physical “thing”, in a longer and ongoing process of Becoming. In a sense these, seemingly enduring “things”, are but temporary patterns of stability in a process – in this case the Process that is "body/marks".
As an illustration of the extent of the involvement of process in one ubiquitous raw material, I commend to the reader an essay, unrelated to art, written by L. E. Read simply titled “I, Pencil”. Certainly the pencil, with the essential part being the graphite stick, is typically a mundane tool still made/used today. Once “I, Pencil” is read one will never think of a pencil, or likely anything for that matter, in the same manner again.
The raw materials are as well each fundamentally a bundle of “energy”. Scientists tell us that energy is not “consumed”, it cannot be destroyed. It can only be transformed. The graphite alone goes through a process that includes being baked for several hours at 1,000 degrees Celsius. The body consumes food to “extract” energy to be stored in the various muscles. All latent/potential energy which is waiting for the next step in the process to be converted into another form – a continuum of sending, storing, receiving energy.
All the raw materials are elementary/minimalist as is the form of drawing chosen. With the nature of these materials and the nature of the drawing form Fitzpatrick is able to focus on the Process. The distractions to the Mind’s I, its direction of the Process and the impact to Fitzpatrick are limited by this simplicity.
Limitations: each of the raw materials has limitations. The “body” has only so much endurance and energy. The paper has only so much surface to receive the graphite and wax. The graphite stick will eventually be expended – dust to the floor and on the hands and residue on the paper that becomes the drawings. Of course the “drawings” in themselves have restrictions as to form.
Time is consumed, time is limited. More importantly, time impacts on the mind’s capabilities to focus, to endure the repetition.
Each of the materials will inherit something from each of the others, each will endow something to each of the others, all comprising a network of interrelated elements.
And most important of all, each of the residues of the various processes are to participate to create a form of concrescence as the Process that is ‘body/marks”.
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The Process, Physicality and “angel eyes”
At this point the viewer is asked to use “angel eyes” as a jumping off point for purposes of reference. This drawing is an example of conventional “mark making”, an action initiated by the “body”. It is simplicity itself, yet it is not simple.
On viewing the image, the eye will first convey the image as a “whole” to the brain. It will be digested by the brain as such. It will be a mistake if the brain’s processes stop here.
Unlike the contents of this page, each of the individual images are not gestalts – in an essentially similar manner the “whole”, “angel eyes”, is not more than the sum of its parts. In the same manner “body/marks” is not a gestalt.
After receiving the first light stimuli, in a nanosecond the eye will be instructed by the brain to scan the image, gather and “transmit” parts, the detail – a bunch of black , grey, shades of grey etc. marks on paper as well as line, form, texture etc . In nanoseconds the brain processes these stimuli
– attempting to find experiential “concepts” it has previously stored as brain states in order to match them while the mind tries to sort out some “meaning” of the stimuli to which it can relate.
If the mind can cause the eyes to focus carefully on these marks, and if they are very keen eyes, eventually the brain will realize that the marks it initially transmitted are created by smaller individual marks. The mind will discern that the marks are separate strokes, textures and shades of black all now separated from the whole by the mind. It is now realized that this is not one image but hundreds/thousands of individual images – each stroke of the graphite stick, of the wax crayon, is an image unto itself.
Can the mind possibly comprehend how many individual images, strokes, there are on that one rectangular surface of paper? More important can the viewer’s Mind’s I now start to “reconstruct” an experience within itself of Fitzpatrick creating each stroke, starting to literally slip into the same “brain/body state” of Fitzpatrick as he was creating these strokes?
It is the process of Fitzpatrick creating each stroke, and the stroke itself, that has created a residue to provide a history, a narrative, a part of the Becoming – the Process that is “body/marks”. The viewers are challenged to have their Mind’s I engage this Process, “read” the residue to allow the Mind’s I to be engulfed by the Process and its physicality.
The physicality of the body begins to work with the mental concept of what is to be done. A part of Fitzpatrick’s brain directs the muscles of the arm to flex, the wrist to bend and lower the hand to the tray of wax crayons and graphite sticks. There is a brief hesitation as the mind goes over the concept again – is it started with crayon or graphite? The thumb and forefinger, perhaps involuntary, lower to the graphite stick, forming a pincer and close at just the right spot – just enough pressure to grasp the stick and not break it.
The arm is instructed to raise the hand. As it does, the thumb and forefinger pivot the stick such that the upper part comes to rest where the thumb and finger come together at the hand, the point just at the right distance from the “pincer” to allow the proper pressure/handling when the point is placed on the paper.
The mind reviews the concept again – with the paper blank, where is the first stroke to start? Is the stroke to move up, down , diagonally from the starting point? How much pressure is to be applied as the stroke is started – how much pressure throughout the stroke? How much of the graphite is to be lodged on the paper to be left as the residue, the narrative of the Process?
How black is the residue to be? Is the shade of black to change within the single stroke? Where is the stroke to terminate?
The muscles in the finger, thumb and wrist lift the stick; the forearm lifts the wrist and hand – one stroke complete. How long did it take? A fraction of a second? Seconds? Minutes?
The process starts again – the second, fiftieth, thousandth etc. stroke – how many does the original concept demand? How many deliberate repetitions of the identical stroke? Ten, one hundred? One thousand? Are changes calculated? Spontaneous? Random? Different pressure? Different amounts of desired residue of the graphite? How much distance is each from the other? When to switch to crayon? When does the mind become completely oblivious to the outside world?
Energy exchanged/impermanent materials transformed – brain functions, mind processing data, muscles flexing, contracting, elongating; the transference of graphite to the paper, moving across the paper’s surface. Through the act of drawing Fitzpatrick exchanges energy from his “body”, heat generated by the action across the surface, from the graphite stick itself to the page; the energies are transferred/transformed not consumed. The raw material takes on a different, still impermanent, form – a visual residue of another phase of the Process. The entire “body” engaged – small muscle movement, large muscle movement, electro-chemical action of the brain – transforms energy/sugar stores of the body. The residue becomes energized.
The Process and the Mind’s I is not aware of time. The Mind’s I may not even be aware of the events/actions themselves. The Process may simply take its own course; it is now an organism striving for self-completion.
The Mind’s I is fully engaged, entirely absorbed by the Process. All six senses are fully engaged. Fitzpatrick, without listening, hears the whisper of the graphite’s movement across the paper. If his ears and mind are extremely keen he can hear the miniscule particles of graphite break off the stick. Through the fingers’ nerve sensors he can feel the infinitesimal, numerous, hesitations as the graphite particles break off and the stroke continues. His mind can sense, perhaps feel, the miniscule particles breaking off and lodging on his skin – the grittiness. The Mind’s I can “see” the shade of black, the changes, the direction and length of the stroke, in fact “see” it before it happens. As the head leans closer to the paper, the mind takes in the smell of the paper, the graphite. The “marks” come from the body/mind and other materials – they are part of an ongoing experience.
With the use of crayon the nerves send other messages – different pressure is needed, different olfactory sensations, more texture, more wrist action and finger flexing with increased friction/resistance with the paper. The residue left by the process changes.
How many strokes are required with the crayon? How much pressure – the concept calls for only so much width to the residue of particles left imbedded in the paper. The wax residue left on the hand now sends a different sensation to the brain – softer, smoother, more pliable.
With graphite there are infinitesimal hesitations of the stroke as particles break off, embedded in the paper. There are fewer with the wax crayon – the feel of smoother strokes without hesitations as it moves across the paper’s surface leaving a trail of wax.
How many strokes – hundreds, thousands? How many times are the finger muscles flexed, contracted, elongated? How many before the finger muscles say no, they cramp? Eventually the wrist muscles can barely hold the hand from the paper; the forearm, the shoulder muscles become knotted. Energy is exchanged from the “body” to the residue that is the marks on the paper.
The body’s energy stores start to be depleted as the hours, days pass. How much time before the power of the Mind’s I fades and time becomes a factor
– before the brain intercedes?
The viewer’s Mind’s I is to become engaged in reading the narrative that the residues provide – the Mind’s I becomes engaged in the Process. The viewer’s mind causes the body to seemingly reconstruct Fitzpatrick’s process . The viewer’s fingers and thumb flex, contract involuntarily. The Mind’s I replicates the mind states, the meditation, then mental fatigue – the mental fatigue after perhaps thousands of mental strokes of the graphite and wax. The physicality of the process becomes real to the viewer.
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The Process – As
There will be that instant where Fitzpatrick’s Mind’s I takes over from the mind – where the focus, the patience, the routine of deliberateness and repetition becomes not an escape but rather a meditation. With the attempt to reduce everything to an essence Fitzpatrick’s physical body, mind and the work create another dimension absent spatial and temporal attributes.
The perception of time and space has been interrupted. Fitzpatrick’s Mind’s I subsumes everything to the moment and creates the “eternal now”. Gradually there is no “Other” – the graphite, paper, movement, the physical body, the mind – all are one; the Becoming is a state outside time and space. The outside world at this point does not exist, as if existence has been extinguished into the Process. Metaphysics is truly after the physical.
The deliberateness, the repetition and the routine have evaporated. For Fitzpatrick even awareness of process has vanished, there is only “is”.
While it is the will of Fitzpatrick that causes this process to emerge, with this meditative state comes a form of determinism, a fatalism – “body/marks” is. Fitzpatrick no longer is free to stop its Becoming. Free will is now secondary. Free will has become only an academic subject for discussion.
In “body/marks”, through the Process, Fitzpatrick references social aspects of the processes of life. Fitzpatrick is somewhat restrained in these references, probably unduly, but to the attentive mind these will come to the fore. In this respect the viewer’s Mind’s I is asked to make a jarring change of direction as another side of “habit”, “routine” of a process is explored.
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The Process – Another Side
Fitzpatrick’s physical repetitive actions of drawing, the “labour” of the production and exchanges of energies can be also be seen as references to “everyday labour”, the “working class” of this world but not restricted to the “labourer”. These “everyday labours”, as is life, are part of processes and again the process provides the essence.
Fitzpatrick displays and has a great deal of respect for his own art/creations. In the same vein he extends a high degree of respect to the dignity and ethos of those who are involved in various types of “physical” (mind and body) routine and repetitive labour as “everyday work”, as “everyday life” – those whose life is engaged day in and day out, year in and year out, in this manner. Fitzpatrick could be reflecting on Eccles. 2:24: “There is nothing better for a man …that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.”
As with some aspects of process, there is a level of mundaneness to some of these activities but that is simply being engaged with a reality of life.
The Process as well might be suggesting that the processes of life involving repetitive and routine activities risk becoming not meditation but rather habitual, resignation or even obsessive.
After how many repeated actions of an activity does it become routine? When is the action no longer following through on a concept, no longer the Mind’s I directing the action? When does the muscle’s “memory” take over? At some point does the brain demand that the routine become a habit, perhaps even a ritual? Is there the risk of becoming one of Descartes “automatisms” and free will no longer a possibility? How long can the Mind’s I remain in control before ritual takes over, before there is a complete surrender and resignation to the process?
Consider if there is a point where culture’s/life’s repetitive routine/habit become a consuming compulsion or a resignation to an activity that has the potential to negate the self. There is potential that the self tells us we have no choice, this is the way it is and will be. It has the potential to take on attributes of “the greatest weight” of Nietzsche’s “Eternal Recurrence”.
Fitzpatrick may have guarded, in his process, against this. Perhaps this is a reason (sub conscious?) for determining the size of the paper to contain each drawing in advance in the course of the conceptual development. Perhaps predetermining the boundaries, “putting the fence up”, that are the edges of the paper symbolizes a masking of a primal fear of lack of Free Will. Perhaps there is an exchange of this fear with another form of determinism ostensibly imposed by the self, not by exterior forces. Precutting the paper dictates a limit to the routine, the potential habit or compulsion before it can negate the self. When the boundaries are reached, “the fenced in area” filled, Fitzpatrick must stop.
The routines of every day life, the culture of life’s activities – perhaps there are analogies between them and this other side of a process. There are those who allow (or consider themselves powerless to do otherwise?) some of the processes of their life to become habit/routine/ritual that can erode/consume the sense of self. Some people will set boundaries, others will not (cannot?) provide fences to the self-negating routines/habits.
There are those activities that are potentially overwhelmingly mundane, even meaningless, that some people permit to invade a life to the extent of subsuming it. Some may not recognize it, or chose not to, in their own life. Some will not recognize contributing to this state in the lives of others – those others who serve in meeting our “needs” in the process of the production of consumer products/services for our (and their) personal consumption.
It is easy to reference “working class” culture, object-production oriented activities (e.g. the sewers in the clothing factories) and constructions which involve routine, repetitive labour that provides us with “must have” products/objects. It extends beyond these.
Our culture tends to take pride in ridding our lives of the 19th/ 20th century “factories”. Consider the diversity and nature of some of our modern 21st century “factories”, service-industry directed: computer operators, information services, sales “associates”, call centres, fast food/coffee shops, providers of professional services such as law offices. As well consider the “contracting out”, some of the activities taken on by the “offshore” countries.
Your Mind’s I is challenged to get into the body/mind of the counter clerk at the coffee shop (how many coffees served per minute), the sewer (how many pairs of pants per hour), the call centre “associate” (how many reservations booked per hour), the lawyer (how many “billable” hours today), the computer operator (how many keystrokes per minute) – hour after hour, for days and weeks, perhaps a life time – the routine, the habit, the ritual, perhaps the resignation. Imagine the limits of their endurance, the impact on their Mind’s I. Some will have set their own limits, determined their own boundaries and endurance, too many have not.
Consider those “things in themselves” many strive for – the objects to be bought, the goals set, the positions and status sought. Too often people allow a desire for these “things in themselves” to subsume the process that should be a life. Perhaps those striving for these things as well as those attempting to fill the strivers’ needs have both entered into a Faustian-like bargain without realizing it. The “unexamined life” indeed.
The Process – “The Printmaker, The Tattooist, The Sculptor”
The print series creates additional challenges for the brain and mind. As with the graphite/crayon images the brain, via the eye, will take in similar sense-data when the prints are viewed. The brain will receive stimuli that the mind will likely process as black "marks" on white paper, contours, lines but no recognizable representational shape.
The prints are a residue of a process but unlike the graphite images, the marks are not strokes. It would be difficult for the mind to recognize these marks as much more than graceful elongated "smudges", a blotting effect. It is more of a challenge for the mind to read this as a narrative of the actual process for which these residues, the ink marks, act. The narrative itself is more difficult to read and reconstruct without recourse to another residue in "body/marks". This other residue will provide a means of reinforcing the importance of the “acts” involved in the resulting residue.
This second residue, initially only stimuli for the eye to feed to the brain, is the light/energy captured and stored electronically by the digital video camera. In doing this it uses an old, yet new, electronic binary system. Through yet a process within a process, the stored energy/light is reflected back to the viewer's eye to act as a narrative of a different kind in order to assist with the understanding of the Process of creating these images that are prints. Thus the Process of creating these images that are part of "body/marks" leaves the viewer with at least two narratives, two phases, two sets of residues for our mind to conflate.
With the two narratives the mind will quickly comprehend the source of the ink residues. More importantly they will lead to an understanding of the Process and the interaction of some of the participants (the Tattooist, Printmaker and Fitzpatrick). As with the graphite/wax drawings, it is intended that the viewer go beyond understanding the Process. The viewer is to engage the Mind's I, to become part of the Process.
For the execution of the concept, the Tattooist begins a phase in the Process by injecting ink into Fitzpatrick’s body with an electric needle. Through the skin and nerves of Fitzpatrick’s arm his brain becomes aware of the action of the Tattooist's needle – constant vibration, thousands of pin pricks, each immediately followed by another, to transfer the ink to the skin. Fitzpatrick’s mind makes sense out of the action and process, attempting to calm the nervous system and minimize the physical reaction to the pain. The mind knows it must put up with this for hours.
The system is not inured until the Mind's I kicks in to take Fitzpatrick to another place for the three or four hour process of the tattooing. Perhaps the Mind's I directs the systems to become preoccupied with the next phase of the Process, perhaps other projects; to go anywhere to enable the mind to get through this constant pricking of the skin, the bombardment of the mind with the sense stimulus that is pain. Self-discipline, simply get beyond this phase.
Fitzpatrick's body takes in not only the ink but the physical sensation of the constant, repetitive needle pricks and vibration. The muscles of the shoulder, the raised bicep, will eventually begin to tire and perhaps knot. The mind controls the position of the bicep. The mind causes the body to physically accept these through to the conclusion of the tattoo.
The Tattooist does what he does, a process he undertakes repeatedly, his “thing”. Other than attention to the image, colour and size this process is similar to others that have gone before. He must focus on line, colour, shape and above all a steady hand and cleanliness.
Throughout there is dialogue, meaningful or otherwise, with Fitzpatrick; intermittent directions to Fitzpatrick – keep your bicep level and up, hold the arm still. The Tattooist, focused, is unlikely aware of the discussion although he is part of it.
The Tattooist’s hand, wrist, shoulder, arm begin to cramp and tire – energy begins to be depleted. Muscle-memory becomes muscle-fatigue. Ignore the incessant vibrations of the needle. His Mind's I maintains focus, always on the project, his process at hand. His part is to leave a record as a residue for the Printmaker's phase.
As the Tattooist finishes, time becomes even more of an enemy to the Process. Some of the residue he has left with Fitzpatrick must remain in a state of flux – it must remain physically available to be transferred to the next recipient, the Printmaker’s paper.
There is the residue that has remained imbedded in/under the skin of Fitzpatrick. There is as well the residue of ink that has remained, still wet, on the surface of the forearm. It is this surface, wet ink that will be used as a raw material in the next phase of the Process.
To this point the Printmaker, excluding the conceptual planning involvement, has been a passive participant in the process, a spectator. As the Tattooist completes his phase the Printmaker steps in, already prepared for his part with his artistic talent, knowledge and print paper at the ready. In his phase he must concentrate on timing, technique and form.
This may be somewhat unfamiliar ground to the Printmaker – with unique challenges. He has no control over the amount of “ink” available to use and only limited control of what will adhere to the paper. His fingers, hands and arms are the “press”. There are no mechanical gears to control pressure. Fitzpatrick’s arm is the “plate”. The “plate” moves and is pliable. The paper is to be “formed”, placed “around” the bicep, not on a flat surface.
In addition to artistic input the Printmaker must be aware of the amount of wet ink residue on the skin that is available to transfer to the paper. He must judge what visual effect the available residue and any given hand pressure will impart to the paper and the subsequent viewer – not just the position of the paper, but its absorbency factor, how long to hold the paper on the arm and how quickly the ink on the bicep will dry, the pressure he is to apply as he places the paper on the bicep. All of these will be crucial factors in the narrative imparted to the paper by the ink residue.
More dialogue, more directions from the Printmaker to Fitzpatrick – keep the bicep level or the wet ink will run creating the wrong effect; keep the arm/bicep still or the ink will “smudge” and not provide the form desired.
Each factor impacts on the effect created on subsequent prints. The number of prints which can be created will be finite. Unlike other forms of fine prints, the number of this "print run" will be very limited. The quantity is not determined by the desire/intent of the Printmaker.
The Printmaker's mind may do the calculations for creating the prints but the Mind's I takes over and he is lost in the process. The drying ink on the skin dictates that the Printmaker’s judgments as to the quality, and effect, of the print he wants and is getting must be nearly instantaneous. He has little time for reasoning before proceeding with the next print or the desired ink residue will be lost to the drying process. Quality – equality – counts.
Unlike the graphite and crayon drawings there are no "strokes". Here there are impressions taken from the very fresh, still wet, ink of the tattoo on the surface of the bicep. Each of the prints consists of one mark, more of a single blotting wave-like line than a drawing. This blotting becomes a residue for a narrative of the Printmaker’s phase and involvement, for the physicality and each participants Mind's I involvement in the Process that is "body/marks".
Blood – was blood mentioned? Yes, there would be a minuscule residue of blood mixed with the ink from the needle effect. How much blood has oozed out of the needle pricks? How much blood will become part of the residue that is the prints? Will the viewer's eye be able to convey sufficient detail to the brain to indicate part of the residue on the print is blood? Unlikely. It is up to the viewer's participation in the process, through the Mind's I, to realize this possibility.
With the residue that is the print series, the number of prints has been strictly limited by the available and transferred residue of ink/blood on the bicep. The Printmaker, having completed his phase, leaves his narrative with Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick will carry with him (forever?) the residue left in his skin by the Tattooist as a walking narrative of the Process, the tattoos themselves. The prints become a residue presented in "body/marks" for engagement by the viewer as a narrative of the Process.
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Paradoxes? – Process and Becoming
As the viewer reflects on some aspects of these speculations the assertion may be made that there are paradoxes inherent in them.
By way of example, consider the description of each stroke of graphite as a separate image as part of the Process. The point of the graphite stick being placed on the paper might initially be seen as the start of a separate process as the beginning of the “Becoming” of this stroke. The completion of the stroke may be seen as both the coming into Being of the stroke and the end of a process.
It is submitted that this is not the case. As with the entire image of “angel eyes”, the individual stroke is not self-existent. Set aside as an individual stroke, it has no meaning. It relies for its essence on those strokes beside, under and over it; on its relationship with the action of the hand of Fitzpatrick, on all the elements of the Process that is “body/marks”. The stroke does not become a Being with the lifting of the graphite stick – there is nothing at that point, rather it comprises a small phase only of the visible and invisible Process. Each stoke takes its existence from what went on before the “lifting” of the hand and from what will go on after.
Similarly the Tattooist’s and the Printmaker’s direct involvement in the prints might be seen as separate processes, and Becomings, that conclude with their respective direct involvement – the Tattooist finishes the tattoo and the Printmaker finishes the print making. Again each of these involvements, these phases, and the residues that are the tattoo and the prints as “things in themselves”, are not self-existents. They rely, in part, on each other, their relationship to Fitzpatrick, on the Process for their essence. As noted previously the tattoo and the prints are but temporary patterns of stability in the Process. In this sense there is no Being at the end of each of these phases as the Process continues its Becoming.
In fact one might expect that there will never be a Being that is “body/marks”, there will only be the continuing Process, its Becoming will be carried on by the viewers. If not the viewer, then there is always the energy that the scientists tell us is being spun off into space and will project, however imperceptibly, to the ends of the universe and for all of time.
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Speculations, speculations aplenty. For the hermeneutic scholars “body/marks”, both the visible and the invisible, provides a feast for discussion. By its nature “body/marks” will generate as many interpretations as there are viewers.
Regardless of how each viewer receives “body/marks” there is one certainty. By experiencing this exhibition the viewers with the attentive mind have become part of the Process. Not only have they become part of the Process they will also carry on the Process. Having viewed the exhibition, having given it due consideration it has already left a residue with the viewer. This residue may be nothing more than a neuron state, some electro-chemical bundle of energy, tucked away in some small corner of the brain; a latent code waiting to bubble to the surface sometime in the future.
In an art-related circumstance or otherwise, something will cause this subconscious idea, an element of “body/marks”, to jump back into consciousness as part the process of the Mind’s I in “making sense” of another, future, experience. “body/marks”, its Process and Becoming, continues.
Suffice it to say that Jason Fitzpatrick leaves the viewers with an expansive amount of room for individual interpretation. Oscar Wilde would urge us as viewers of art to be cautious, our interpretations may be reflecting more of ourselves than we intend.
In the final analysis ….
“Everything is what it is, and not another thing. ”(Bishop J. Butler).
Author: Wm. (Bill) R. Fitzpatrick, 2006