In Radical Form(ation): Bergsonism, Bodies in Process, and Unconscious Vision

Abstract
In this practice-led research I aim, through text and visual artworks, to examine the dynamic, vitalist body of ‘emergent forms’ and becomings in art. From a theoretical standpoint, I focus my examination on Classical Bergsonism and the unique implications it holds for the figure in time. I probe Henri Bergson’s insistence upon the notion that life and reality are in constant flux in order to explore how this central claim could shed light on the status of the dynamic or shifting figure in art. My investigation examines the space in-between the virtual Bergsonian body, (a formless body of dynamic vital energy which lies just beyond the scope of representation), and the body accessible through representations of the figure (a formed body defined by static anatomies and defined outlines). Bergson claims that all codified forms and representations fall short of the way creatures live in time. His claims are founded in the notion that the real is inaccessible to the rational mind, thus creating the need for an alternative form of cognition – namely, the intuition. Relating to this, through my artwork I search for signs of the amorphous created by the body which access what could be termed as a 'Bergsonian vision' of the real. Drawing upon Bergson’s concepts of ‘ontological becoming’, ‘duration’, intuition, élan vital, and ‘flux’, my investigation explores how manifestations of the figure existing at the periphery of codified semiotics may be interpreted in a way which embraces and validates intuition as an indispensable mode of consciousness. Interwoven throughout this discussion is an exploration of the aesthetics which Bergson’s philosophy promotes. I examine how the movements of Futurism, Cubism, and Surrealism approached the task of interpreting the dynamic, unbound figure through the lens of ‘unconscious vision’. Alongside this, I examine the role which photography has specifically played in extending perception into the territory of Bergsonian becoming. Finally, uniting Bergson’s concept of the intuition as an ideal mode of philosophical inquiry with insights provided by Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, I consider the concept of the ‘intuition image’ and how it may provide access into pure possibility. This discussion is facilitated an examination of my own practice, which draws upon the tradition of non-objective photography and Benjamin’s ‘unconscious optics’, while engaging the subjects of the nebulous figure, movement, time, and transformation.
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