Performative Co-compositions by Andrew McClure and William Sutherland, or Acting to know the painting such that we may understand something anew about ourselves, or On my becoming a woodpecker one day…
Bill: We are very excited to share our aesthetics with you in the form of our paintings, poems, and multi-media creations. Thank you for taking the time to form a relationship with our work. But what is it, these expressions we name as Art or Beauty? These are great questions, and we invite you to hold them along with us now.
Andy: I see a pattern forming here.
Bill: An individual is beholden to two major domains in terms of the shaping of their organization, that is to say, Nature and Culture, where, at work, we see the movements of evolution and history-shaping and sculpting our developmental form (ontogeny) through time. In this regard, art certainly speaks to a need for a type of expressive process at the level of culture. This same expression appears responsively mirrored at the level of nature among its emergent diversity of creative form (i.e. biodiversity).
Andy: That reminds me of the time, one early morning, when I was awoken by a woodpecker hammering away at a rotted tree. I couldn’t fall back to sleep thinking of the life under that bark so I went out into the misty forest and peeled back some for myself. I felt compelled to put my tongue against the wet wood, though all of my instincts against such an unsanitary act cried out against it. When I stood up my tongue remained rooted there. Unable to speak when I returned home I danced, mimed, and ultimately drew out my story to those that would listen.
Bill: We believe related conceptions such as states of homeostasis, resonance, coherence, harmony, beauty, along with process notions like structure-function relationship (form), connectivity, calibration, communication, learning, creativity, self-organization, and emergence need to be elucidated if we are to have a meaningful conception and articulation of the role for aesthetics in a living, whole, world. It will be our job, going forward, to consider what the conception of such inter-related domains of named process may be.
Andy: I think what Bill is saying here is that the woodpecker knew I needed a new rhythm if I had any hope of inventing a new way to relate before it was too late.
Bill: We take process very seriously, sometimes absurdly so. We would encourage you to never strive for end positions unless they are simply held as necessarily fantasized positions on an imaginary map of dedication, commitment, attention, and vision. Complexity Medicine supports our becoming and inspires our action, it does not deliver us to what we, egoically, would like to be. Counter-intuitively, goals often short-circuit any process, no matter how admirable the intent. So how do we fall into art, or healing, or the like, and not get stuck in either position or outcome?
Andy: So a centipede, emerging from the rot of that log, made me a better dancer? My trip into the forest stirred a hawk from its perch. I knew at that moment the taste of mycelium like fingers on my tongue. I moved, not towards the sound, but with it. We co-create the shifts that let change happen.
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Our Structure/Frame/Point of Reference/Boundary Conditions
We co-paint on the shared canvas at the same time - This creates a new system called “The painting” – wherein three become one - We do not talk, or more precisely do not use words, about the painting (verb) or “the painting” (noun) - These first two points effectively keep the desiring and controlling positions (read “sabotaging”) positions of our ego at bay - Inspired and inspirited music is always a welcome addition, but so is anything that is called forth, including interruptions which may not be considered welcome additions at the time - We recognize our feelings of any valence (positive or negative) are ours alone to have, and ultimately have to be subsumed and individually metabolized for the greater need of the painting, and the service called forth from us thereof - We recognize many attractive forms will rise in the work, and many will again fall back into the flux and chaos of the process as the painting works through its motions of self-organization– We agree not to confuse these movements and moments with the painting - The process is only complete, when the painting (that intersection of systems) states its own completeness, and we know this because both of us are simultaneously unable to touch the pigmented canvas again once the painting has proclaimed itself as such. In artistic terms, this might be thought of as a balanced composition. In systems thinking this might be thought of as a dynamically stable, albeit non-linear state.
Our process is one of listening - Our process is one of calling forth, expectant of response - It is an invocation and evocation to what has been, what is, and what may be in this living moment - It is an invocation and evocation to both the seen and unseen in our relational universe - It is held in our relationship such that it allows us to generate new connections and new relationships or new metaphors or associations - It is rhythmic and cadenced - We look to move from unaligned to alignment through a discovered resonance leading to a broader coherence and harmony of both feeling and action - It is primarily movement and touch - It is a document of a movement, interaction and response through time - The colour and visual form brought forth is the synesthesia of that movement and touch - It is a painting second (dynamic changing movement and moments subsumed and reified to a singular position).
The process opens us such that we traverse our experience from a mundane place into sacred space that renews our wonderment and enchantment in the everyday - There is plenty of room for both reverence and irreverence as long as the focus on process remains - The Trickster in the room is here to help us become unstuck from those forms we didn’t even know we were stuck in - We are revivified and inspirited and transformed and transmuted in the Kairos of this experience - We are collectively raised through being lowered and humbled, and find ourselves in a domain much bigger than ourselves having been diminished - We find ourselves richer having impoverished our prior holdings - We always start with an actualized two and a potential third, but always end by welcoming in an actualized third that is birthed into the world - It is at this point that the three that have been made one come back to being three from the one, but with a difference - Going forward, we always come back to dance with the third (i.e. the completed painting) whenever we are in its presence - This is not an act of remembrance as nostalgia or sentiment, but the reflection of an ever-changing, dynamic process that needs to be tended to relationally. Our paintings continually change with us, and us with them.
Our act of painting is a subjective and expressive one, not objective. No complete “thing” is the object of our gaze while immersed in the process of painting, only the rising and falling moments of beauty that show themselves in the visible space of our immediate doing - In the purest sense, what our paintings “mean” is exactly equivalent to what they are. If we could tell you what they “mean” in words, we would have told you something in words, but as there were no words to convey this meaning, so we opted to paint the painting, as in the same moment the painting painted us - After the painting process is complete, we allow ourselves to see what is there (not in the painting but within our minds) allowing the mythological and archetypal representations to come forward in fantasy - We then enjoy the telling and sharing of these painted stories as teaching and healing tales- The best patterns (compositions) do not reinforce what we were looking for but create opportunities for the existence of new novel and more beautifully intimate and relational patterns to emerge.
Andy: So, the drum, drum, drum of the woodpecker is the bird outside, the heart inside answers in kind, the hand drum, the larynx of sacred song closing, the brush falling on a stretched canvas, the call to interact answered, life experienced?
Bill: Then what you are saying is that even though we start with canvas and brush (or quill and paper), we always finish with a song!
Andy: Yes, with the Dance, finding itself, in the virtuous crossroads of it all where we may root, crawl, swim, or take flight – form born forth from the formless.