PHILOSOPHICAL OUTREACH ON A COLD NIGHT IN CARDIFF
The Cardiff Philosophy Cafe constitutes monthly gathering of like minds at the Gate Arts and Community Centre in the Roath area of the city. Speakers are invited to provide the stimulus for lively debate and last Tuesday that was my role.
“Drawings hold more sensitivity in them than a graphic representation would”
“I felt shock. A form of violence”
“Draws attention to the vulnerability brought by this form of cancer” “Cancer vs. other illnesses: it’s not you, it’s an alien, malignant growth”
“Relativism is a luxury”
“Your body doesn’t usually dictate your reality in the way cancer does”
From the audience…
The Gate – a gateway then through which the ethos of the Drawing Women’s Cancer project could stride confidently after the success of the show at the Senned last month. The Gate – a place of art, and thought, and attention.
We were gathered in the dance studio. An unusual venue I was told as normally the talks were held in the bar. A temporary provider of the essential alcohol or soft drinks was set up however along the side of the room. It was duplicated in the wall sized mirrors that doubled the numbers as people began to arrive, some looking a little confused but all looking expectant. People sat together in small groups around tables that had been strategically arranged in the room. There was a very sociable atmosphere as people chatted and made sorties to the bar. Yellow post it notes and ballpoint pens were deposited on every table – some began immediately to write (or draw) even before anything had begun.
I felt ready, comfortable. I had presented a version of this paper some weeks before in Dundee, again at a philosophy seminar, and I was struck by the impact it had made on people who were never so close to the experience of cancer as I have been in recent months. I was looking forward to this opportunity to again introduce what Drawing Women’s Cancer is about to people who otherwise may not have easily encountered it, people who are fully signed up members of the public, people we are needing to reach.
I read. I presented the powerpoint. I gave out the catalogue of the show.
The response was fantastic! I was thrilled at how the people in the room were so engaged with the subject, with the ideas, with the whole issue of the lived experience. The debate was inspiring and gave so much credence to our aspirations for the future progression of Drawing Women’s Cancer. I want to say ‘thank you!’ to all those who were there.
On the companion Blog, DisFiguration, you can find the full version of an excellent review of the evening written by the Cafe organiser, Chris Groves. The full version is at http://smokewriting.co.uk/philcafeblog/, where you can find more details and the powerpoint presentation.
Here is a small taster:
In traditional Western philosophy – and in theories of art like Tolstoy’s – the goals of thought, communication and art is accurate representation, disclosing a truth which we can all acknowledge to be true, discovering that the other is, ultimately, no different from oneself. Deleuze’s ideas about philosophy and about art depict their respective roles quite differently. Dr Saorsa spoke of how she finds key aspects of her practice reflected in Deleuze’s criticisms of ‘recognition’. Instead of art being the means through which the hidden truth is revealed in explicit form, in ‘clear speech’ the artist engages with a reality wherein s/he ‘stammers’ in an effort to find new forms, through the use of media whose transformation is charged by emotions that cannot simply be ‘represented’ and reside in the multiplicity of experience. As a result, the audience is challenged to perform a similar work, to engage with and transform the artwork, in its physicality, into new understanding of an otherwise unreachable reality. But there is no guarantee in the work or elsewhere that what has been created – somewhere between the subject of the work, the artist, and those who engage with it – is ‘the truth’. Rather, what is created is a new (temporary and perhaps fragile) community of understanding, founded on sensation.