Exploration 02: Transformation Through Attention

By nuff
July 13, 2023
5 min read

One of my goals for this class—and indeed for the entire programme—is to get less precious about work. Put more smaller stuff out, more often. Hold onto things less. And of course, On the very first attempt, I find myself agonising over what to make and failing to submit on time. Classic.

On Deep Listening, Fantasy Football and Four Modes of Thought

For our first assignment in Exploratory Making, we've been tasked with flipping through the exercises in Pauline Oliveros' book Deep Listening, A Composer's Sound Practice and doing three exercises. I wasn't familiar with the book, author, or ideas beforehand, and have (so far) only read the introduction, so this was a bit of a venture into the unknown.

One of the exercises in the book is Four Modes of Thought. In listening to a conversation partner (or other discussion), we are to identify which mode of thought we notice in the speaker:

  • Sensation (experiencing through the senses)
  • Intuition (direct knowledge)
  • Feeling (I’m honestly not sure how this differs from intuition but the author says it’s “the result of experience […] associated with the past”)
  • Thinking (cognitive/analytical approach)

I happened to be listening to a podcast about Fantasy Premier League not long after reading (side note: how is the new season almost here already?). I thought it’d be a terrible use case for this exercise but to my surprise, the host went through all modes of thought, even while discussing his thoughts on Harry Kane vs Erling Haaland as a premium striker pick.

Side side note: these terms seemed familiar to me for some reason—they show up in Jungian personality psychology (as the N/S and F/T that make up the second and third letters in the MBTI). I’ve read a lot of stuff disavowing Jungian ideas in favour of things like the big five (OCEAN) and free trait theory (via Susan Cain’s work on introversion) and now I don’t know how that makes me feel about this whole exercise.

This was the exercise I spent the most time on. The other two I did were:

  • Breath improvisation: (this was weird to do alone but I also feel could have been annoying to do in a group?) I’m not really sure what to make of this one. I think it felt…silly? Like, in a theatre school cliché kind of way (no offence intended, thespians, you are not your clichés).
  • Sound/silence: There really is no silence in NYC, *********sobretodo *****not when you’re on the top floor of a walk-up running every fan in the apartment to try not to melt. But I did start to notice the…negative spaces. Between clock ticks, between cars passing by outside, just generally between. Even as I type this up on the ITP floor, I can hear the different rhythms of the 3D printers, punctuated by their non-printing moments. Small rests, then a bigger one.

On Tiny Homes, or The Gift

Ahead of our first class, we were asked to bring a gift—”a seed of passion that could root and grow in many directions”. I brought in some scent strips to represent my recent detour into amateur perfumery.

We were paired and asked to exchange gifts, discuss them and create…something in response to what we received.

My counterpart Mishka gave me Never Too Small, a YouTube channel (and now book!) dedicated to beautiful tiny homes. I had recently attended a talk about Sustainable Futures with a guest speaker who designed off-grid, small, and otherwise alternative dwellings. As such, this topic was top of mind.

Never Too Small

(Also, it turns out I had already seen at least one NTS video!)

We briefly discussed small-space living, urban density, practical layouts, modular furniture and ways to wring utility out of every square foot. I lamented the difficulty of modifying your own space as a renter, or someone lacking architecture skills. I’ve just moved into a (slightly) smaller apartment in Toronto and had to purge more than half of my stuff. It still feels cramped. (I guess it’s a good thing I’m doing a global, low-residency degree for the next year!)

My first instinct was to try and design some small-space innovations for my own space. This didn’t really go far and also betrayed our instructions to work in a medium with which we are already familiar, and spend under two hours doing so.

After much trial and error, I resorted—as I often do—to Adobe Illustrator.

In this tool and style, I have a vocabulary to fall back on. A degree of comfort that lets me drive the car without a map, knowing I can just build the road as I go. I didn’t set out to make this room at all—I just had a fuzzy picture of a cube with stuff in it to make it seem small but well-utilised. I recognise many of these elements (stars, grain, light rays) from other stuff I’ve made. Even the purple gradients, while not my style at all, seem to be the style I reach for when trying to escape my style.

In many ways, I’m glad we didn’t have more time for this exercise, as I’d probably have spun my wheels even longer before ending up more or less back here, back home.

[…] responses to each other's gifts using whatever medium we felt comfortable with (more on that here). My classmate Mishka made a cardboard perfume bottle, complete with label and bottle […]

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