Jennifer – phenomenology of Time. threads of thought in relation to studio experience

The View point of Philosphers

Plato – only considered the past and the future. Aristotle – only considered the now. Husserl followed this, but then seemed to arrive at a platonic idea, which he then introduces as a field of presence.

Husserl comes to the conclusion:

“..about the concretely experienced now being not a limit without extension, but rather a field of presence: the consciousness of the present expands through ‘protention’ and ‘retention’ to an extent which depends on the degree of focused attention.” (Intro, Phenomenology of ‘Authentic Time’ in Husserl and Heidegger by, Klaus Held a)

Concretely = is anything ever?  Possibly if you are Aristotle… he had some pretty serious boundary issues which have become our serious western boundary issues… Concretely, ‘now’ is a unit, it has an end.  That end abuts the next now, and that now the next, and so on… they string out like beads; reminiscent of Vonnegut and the Tralfamadorians:

“The creatures were friendly, and they could see in four dimensions. They pitied Earthlings for being able to see only three. They had many wonderful things to teach Earthlings about time…All moments, past, present and future have always existed. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”  Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five

Carrying on to Husserl’s idea – now is not a thing that is limited, but rather is a field of presence – now is now a little fuzzy around the edges, a little blurry; it is based on/in consciousness, that is the hub from which the field might emanate. I like very much also this idea of present expanding – dilating through protention and retention… here is a very beautiful thing written by Merleau-Ponty:

“Husserl uses the terms protentions and retentions for the intentionalities which anchor me to an environment. They do not run from a central I, but from my perceptual field itself, so to speak, which draws along in its wake its own horizon of retentions, and bites into the future with its protentions. I do not pass through a series of instances of now, the images of which I preserve and which, placed end to end, make a line. With the arrival of every moment, its predecessor undergoes a change: I still have it in hand and it is still there, but already it is sinking away below the level of presents; in order to retain it, I need to reach through a thin layer of time. It is still the preceding moment, and I have the power to rejoin it as it was just now; I am not cut off from it, but still it would not belong to the past unless something had altered, unless it were beginning to outline itself against, or project itself upon, my present, whereas a moment ago it was my present. When a third moment arrives, the second undergoes a new modification; from being a retention it becomes the retention of a retention, and the layer of time between it and me thickens.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, quoted on Wikipedia page ‘retention and protention)

Relating something in here: This consciousness is not a consciousness that is limited to an intellectualised, nowhere-view (as is often the case) but is explicitly tied to ‘my perceptual field itself’ – ‘I’ the I that makes intelligent comments, is not really in charge of any of this. The availability of such commentary is easily and often mistaken for the source of the information contained therein. Now is a bodily-led field, opening up through my senses, expanding/dilating through my consciousness, my consciousness that isn’t my calculative/mechanical intellect. It isn’t linear, it isn’t delineated, it isn’t – tied down to a world of things, but only my sense, my direct physical apprehension of that world. Now is essentially mine. I am continually evolving this field.

Nearest past and nearest future – the ripples moving away from NOW

“The particular immediately present realization of any content of experience…constitutes the ‘core’ of perception; yet, pertaining to it as horizonal environs are the nearest future in its arriving and the nearest past in its departing.” (Intro, Phenomenology of ‘Authentic Time’ in Husserl and Heidegger by, Klaus Held a)

I’m liking this bit too – I’m imagining a small indefinite nugget of present/now thrown into a pond and the ripples of nearest future/past arriving and departing simultaneously somehow, that they both emanate from the same nugget – the difficulty with the image is that we are stuck in an idea that time only goes forward, but I feel the now is verging both on nearest future and nearest past, so they are both equally there in the circularity of the ripple from now.

Now is time; time = no form and form is an attempt to get a grip on something slippery, sliding, like a fish. Now is a very slippery, very alive fish which simply cannot be caught – although the right net sometimes slows it a bit, allows a sensation of it, a glimpse of scales and fins, to reach out and grab it with both hands has the opposite of the intended effect!

“When we observe a stream of water, we can distinguish between the flowing in and the flowing out; thus time appears to us in the two ‘views’, one as arriving and the other as departing. These two views constitute the basic ways in which time appears because all other possible aspects presuppose them…the mode in which we become originally conscious of time’s happening as it shows itself in the two views of arriving and departing.” (section 1, Phenomenology of ‘Authentic Time’ in Husserl and Heidegger by, Klaus Held a)

And in relation to Studio Time…

How to relate this all back – backwards in time to studio-time… this last quote, the last bit of it: the mode in which we become originally conscious of time’s happening as it shows itself in the two views of arriving and departing… this is important. This mode is maybe what I feel you/we are aiming at with this research – when you say “we are never inside the now – the means for the gradual shift that goes unnoticed – the process of movement” I think of this – this mode is not a conscious one, but it is consciousness and it is the consciousness of now. I characterize it for myself as live time which has little slack – it announces itself after the fact by a process of elimination, the snags that didn’t – no extra intellectual rope to hang oneself from, no gap between the train and the platform, no splitting – like Eugenio Barba says, I am ‘decided’ – to be involved in making a decision is to have a split – interesting that the term he uses is past-tense – but there is a surety that results in choices that are happening without the slow-ness of thought: the surety is something that comes from owning, understanding that now is mine, something I bring with me in a way my head will never ever be able to explain except in roundabout attempts like this one.

To have a destination is part of the being/doing equation and we need both. To have a destination and then be able to trust that it will still be there regardless of when you arrive, or wherever else you happen to go along the way, is somewhat difficult.

Often, I have a lot of trouble with knowing the destination in work that I make, either for myself or for other people – I’ve got a really clear read on what kind of present I would like to experience, or to accompany others on, but I’m not sure what that leads to. I would have an incredibly difficult time starting out with an ‘idea’ (destination) and then figuring out the journey. I’m far more comfortable with following my nose in terms of pathways until I feel that we’ve reached the sort of place I’d like to stay in for a bit. So for instance – if I’m working with a score, I won’t have any real explanations as to why or what, but I’ll have a feeling that keeps coming up, or a meaningful physicality that I cannot move away from and I will not be able to elucidate it in any way other than to work with it like a jigsaw puzzle, but with all of me. With this work we’ve been doing, I feel like the process is quite juicy because there is an enormous amount of trust circulating and there is a lot of abstract stuff to act as fodder, but no grasping to get ‘content’ out. I feel I’m given space to follow my nose and feel things out, and that wherever I happen to get to is going to be accepted. So in one sense, the whole notion of future-anxiety gets bracketed for me. I feel, to be quite honest, that I’m just doing what I enjoy doing most but with some guidance and a supportive presence. Like sitting on a train, trusting it will get where it will get and I can simply toddle off into that weird expanse of reverie.

Of course, this is all on a good day and without the craziness of reversa-phrase to run amok in

Although I was getting into some pretty good grooves with that too!

Jennifer-Lynn Crawford

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