A while back I wandered into Blackwells looking for some new books on psychology, hopefully to support my work on How to Draw.They have an amazing psychology section, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the books I was recommended, and became totally distracted looking through everything else.
At a party a while back, I was chatting with Sina, a friend I met during uni years who is now a computer scientist doing phd research. We were having an extended and slightly drunken conversation about consciousness, what it is, what it isn’t, and what it might be caused by. I reckoned it was just a phenomenon produced by a certain level of particular types of complexity in the brain, and Sina was playing devil’s advocate.
As far as my input was concerned, it was a pretty ill-informed conversation, full of supposition and leaps of logic, so back to Blackwells! When I saw this amazingly hefty and awesome sounding book…
…I decided to pick it up and try to inform myself. I’m really glad I did, since although it’s very heavy going, it’s incredibly interesting. It’s an in-depth comparison and discussion of all the different ways we’ve looked at consciousness, from the philosophical to the psychological, neurological and scientific. It turns out that the subject of consciousness touches every study, from visuals to memory to religion to all kinds of perception.
Basically, it seems that to be totally thorough, the study of anything that a human has ever thought must begin with a study of consciousness, the seat of experience and thought itself!
Thankfully, I’ve also begun to find tie-ins with my work on How to Draw as well! The title of this blog entry and a lot of the book itself refers to Phenomenology (which I still can’t pronounce out loud without stumbling), which is:
“…a ‘leading back’ or redirection of thought away from [the mind’s] unreflective and unexamined immersion in experience of the world to the way in which the world manifests itself to us. … Things remain before us, but we envisage them in a new way; namely, strictly as they appear to us … an investigation concerned with the modes or ways in which objects are experienced and known … focusing not on what things are, but on the ways in which things are perceived.”
This struck me as exactly the perceptual method I attempt to describe in How to Draw when I say:
“Draw the object in front of you, not the symbol of the object.
Forget words, and treat the object (be it natural, human, mechanical or otherwise) as a set of shapes, a sculpture, a physical entity. Look at it as if you’ve never seen it before, you don’t know its name, and all its form is fascinating and unknown.“
It seems that the ideal mental state for an artist is either very similar to, or identical to a central mode of thought in the investigation of consciousness, and a lot of that investigation is obviously wrapped up in our visual perception. I’m excited to read more, and see if what I read supports or undermines my ideas. I’m sure I’ll at least find plenty of inspiration for ways to expand my little bookling.
It’s also a compelling read for the simple fact that as it proceeds, I’m brought closer to our collective best understanding of what consciousness is! I wish I had more time for reading ><