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SUS N IM

ONS TU

10 sutdio notes


2018


SUSAN SIMMONS

Artist Statement, 2018


My work begins with the domestic space. I am curious about the objects we possess and the places we inhabit. I am interested in the things we think we must have, the things we lose and the things we pass on. How do our possessions define us? What if we have no possessions? What if we have too many?


Once upon a time, I lived in a collapsed city. I arrived with my own grief. I left with more. While I was there, I took photos of places, people and things. I interviewed people. I wrote a book. The houses were filled with grief. The people less so. The question I asked was, What is the difference between grief and collapse?


Our culture does not speak of grief. There is no visual language for it. How do we pick up and carry on despite loss? We are on our own. All the sadness comes out in the photograph. When I got back to Texas I started to work with my hands. Photography was too hard. It required too much thinking. I put the camera down, picked up some clay and I started asking these questions with my hands.


When I make an object, I am searching for that place of knowing, that which feels familiar. I want to know how an object can prompt a feeling and how the material affects this knowing. Each object makes up a place, adding to its feeling.

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c. The Sublime

Overview: For Kant, the other basic type of aesthetic experience is the sublime. The sublime names experiences like violent storms or huge buildings which seem to overwhelm us; that is, we feel we 'cannot get our head around them'. This is either mainly 'mat hemat ical' - if our ability to intuit is overwhelmed by size (the huge building) - or 'dynamical' - if our ability to will or resist is overwhelmed by force (e.g. the storm). The problem for Kant here is that this experience seems to directly contrad ict the principle of the purposiveness of nature for our judgment. And yet, Kant notes , one would expect the feeling of being overwhelmed to also be accompanied by a feeling of fear or at least discomfort. Whereas, the sublime can be a pleasurable experience. All this raises the question of what is going on in the sub lime


Kant's solu tion is that , in fact, the storm or the building is not the real object of the sublime at all. I nstead, what is properly sublime are ideas of reason: namely, the ideas of absolute totality or absolute freedom. However huge the building , we know it is puny compared to absolute totality; however powerful the storm, it is noth ing compared to absolute freedom. The sublime feeling is t herefore a kin d of 'ra pid alte rnat ion' between the fear of the overwhelming and the peculiar pleas.ure of see in g that overwhelm ing

?verwhel ed . U'hus, it turns out that the su blime experience 1s purposive _after a ll - that we can, in some way, 'get our head around 11'.


ince the ideas of reason (part ic ularly .fr ,;i,<!nm"\ 1mporta_nt for Kant's mo ral theory, the . interesting con nec tion between the su b!


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something else must be going on in the sublim 0teh r an the mere overwhelmin gness of som Kant MIi later claim, objects of se nse (ocean

etc.) are called 'sublime' only by a kind of co:-·e

, ·hat e calls a 'subreption' (sect.27). In

all) subhm , Kant argues, are ideas of our

;;;:s elmangness of sensible objects leads t


No\\,. uch presentations of reason are

: b a : ·=nse. i\Ioreo,·e , the faculty of r

dema ds that its idurce::: such ideas, but chara

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\·ha:. creates all the; lecft c':t h = :

:.:iah:n 1r: : ;-e e An nomies.) Kant !aim

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This Kant discusses under the heading of:moral cul!ure',

: i,?n: ,t=f e wa u :nt ; en b , ;:i training that taught them to recognize the importance of thelrownfacuhyofreason.


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Traditionally, the sublimei has be(in the n me for objec\S inspiring ewe, because of the magmt ide of their siu /height/depth(e.g. the ocean, the p}TI1m1ds of Cheops), force (a storm). or transcendence(our idea of God). Vis-d-uis the beautiful, the sublime presents som unique pu17les to Kant. Three in particular are of note. Fir-st, thal while the beautifuliseonttm«ll'>ithform,thesublimemaye'"enbe (or e-."Cn especially be) formless. Second, that while the beautiful indicates {al least for judgment) a purposi\·eness of nature that may ha,"C profound implications, the sublime appear-s to be 'eounter-purposini". That is, the object appear.; ill-matchedto.does\iolence'to.ourfacultiesofsenseand cognition. finall)·, although from the alx,ve one might e.,cpect thesublimeexperiencetobepainfulinsomeway,infactthe sublimedoesstillinvolvepleasure-thequestionis'how?'.


Kant divides the sublime into the 'mathematical' (concerned l'>ith things that ha\·e a great magnitude in and of themselves) and the •dynamically' (things that have a magnitude of force in r-elation to us. particularly ou r l'>ill). The mathematical sublime is defined as something 'absolutely la • that is, 'large beyond all comparisoll' (sect..2.5). C.:sually, we apply some kind of standard of comparison, although this nttd not be e.xplicit (e.g. 'Mt. Blanc is large• usually means 'compared with other

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mountains (or perhaps. "ith more familiar objects). Mt. Blanc is large'). The absolutely large, however. is not the rcsultofaromparison


ress ourselves entirely incorrectly when we call this object of nature sublime ... for how can we call tg by a term of approva l if we apprehend it as in trnpurposive? (secl.23)


/, blem constitutes Kant's principle argument that

als!:ect.27)

in a kind of'h armon e lmm g s e nsib le object to o the rationaJ idea of o; analogy to the faculty. The sublime ex : totah ty to.any sensibl

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First, a contrapu .. pe . 11 the!', IS a h\·o•layer process

faiJ to complet?° ;i; ':;"h,ch our f culties of sens stran ely purposfre layer in \\ :r:n 1on. Second, a r tes a 'negath·e e.xhibition' ('G IS ,·ery failure

o o"'1?g sect.29J of the ideas of re ene J Comment'

o thnen be presented). This 'e.xh·b· so (which could not a purposl\·eness of the natural b1. 1t1on thus also provides the 1emands of reason. :\foreo,:/ect fo.r the fulfillment of prm1des a new and 'higher' u . nd importantly, it also se themseh·es which are s" enes.s to the faculties of

f;:ti;.?ed \ith. respect to ru iuerstood !o be properly

£ •• i) i.e. m the ultimat IJ)ersens1ble vocation'

wculties. Beyond simply comp ?ral_ hi rarchy of the

wh:fit0 .urffiacuJ t): of nsibility, : gf d hi du_ al sensible

15 or. \\e \nU retu . 5a), no"'· know

consequence of this purpo .m to this point shonly Tb

Sl\'eness is exactly that' . .e



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