A Letter to Yvette

Dearest Yvette,

Lovely to talk earlier xxxx and so glad you pulled through your tough week.
Here are some titles and authors that I have found so valuable in helping me contextualize my work and my thinking, having found no space in the usual art historical/art hierarchies:
Laura Marks – The Skin of the Film, and Infinity and Enfoldment : An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art. 
Laura Marks is one of my favourite authors and in Infinity & Enfoldment she talks about how women and women’s work, crafts, weaving, embroidery, weave networks of connections. Surface connectivity, networks and nodes of interaction. She also talks about ornament and the patriarchal fear of formlessness, femininity and insubordination (you !! and me !!! )
a horizontal space of connectivity rather than a vertical hierarchical mode of thought/creativity.
So this is a type of thinking that values connectivity and making networks rather than monolithic structured thinking as in the academia of today that you are struggling against.
The organic arabesque is a trace of body and emotion.
 so very key thinking for me and my work but also I think very relevant to your mode of writing and thinking.
 She talks about how artists from the Middle East have to negotiate a fraught engagement with Western expectations about art. That Islamic art invites embodied perception, that is embodied,subjective and performative. The importance of fantasy and the imagination in Islamic and non-Western art that is always denigrated in the West and haptic tactile ornament that sites the aesthetic experience in the body of the viewer.
so a big focus is embodied dispersed subjective perception.
Marks also talks about horror vacui as a Western response of Western art historians to proliferation of detail and ornament in non-Western and Islamic art. Showing that Western art historians have a preference for a clear distinction between figure and ground, a key element of narrative cinema as well, demanding clear roles of protagonist and an aversion to too many interweaving narratives !!!
So a non-Western preference is for ambiguity, complexity, dispersed forms, non literal and non figurative aesthetic and conceptual forms.
anyway even more valuable ideas embedded in both these 2 books of Laura Marks. She draws greatly on Deleuze and Guttari as well.
These patricarchal academics cant understand the idea that the intricacy and interweaving of forms and ideas verging on confusion to them is in fact how things are, they are tenuous and in flux with the void. Imposing structure and clear figure  / ground relations and hierarchies is what is simplistic and basic but Western art historians claim that not being able to distinguish figure from ground, in art, or thought, is childish and feminine, a long history of thinking this about so called ‘primitive’ peoples art but in fact they are the ones who are primitive and not able to cope with ambiguity and complexity and misunderstand it as not rigorous, selective or focused when infact these modes are employing a very complex mode of seeing and thinking and feeling the world that involves negotiation with ambiguity and nuance.
another formidable lady author is Barbara Maria Stafford, her book Visual Analogy: Consciousness as the art of connecting 
so she also talks about art via the biological and scientific perspective and how the brain actually works, not in the way computer scientists think, but rather the neural networks in the brain make numerous cross connections with each other, producing a tapestry of interwoven patterns. Things are not discrete, They are amorphous, ambiguous and interconnected.
A kind of neuronal collaging process. She says analogy’s comparative drive to map across knowledge systems is helpful in conceptualizing the myriad ways in which the psyche suffers dislocations requiring the reintegration of disconnected components into a whole.
So these women writers are thinking widely and broadly across vast sources and subject matters and areas to bring together new thought.
The Five Senses by Michel Serres – so you see the French are better at this – a wonderful merging of poetic philosophical embodied sensual and conceptual thought. How the sensual and poetic is conceptual at the same time
Karen Armstrong – A short History of Myth  – so I love this woman, who in a short sharp little volume puts paid to all Westerners stupid and non sensical ideas about myth as some kind of story telling – essential reading as far as I am concerned as she blows apart nonsense patriarchal ideas about clarity and rationalism as providing understanding and knowledge. They just dont !!
Well darling I hope you find some of this at least some what helpful and encouraging although of course you have your own vast and powerful toolkit but these are books that helped me understand that the ornamental, the detailed, the imagination, the mythical, the ornate and mystical mode are all modes of another kind of far more complex conceptual thought, via the body and sensation and imagination.
lots of love and speak more soon
Salma xxxxxxx

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