May
10

Digesting the World: A Table, A Chair

I’m working on my first paper for the creativity program that I mentioned earlier. The assignment: to research an aspect of creativity and how it applies to my professional life. The subject I chose to write about is the relationship of the physical self (and our awareness of our embodiment) to the creative act. In my research, I stumbled upon an account of an artist’s work that won’t let me go.

I found it in an article by David Peat, called “The Alchemy of Creativity: Art, Consciousness and Embodiment.” Peat proposes that creativity works like the alembic chamber of the alchemist, where there exists “an indivisible cyclical movement of projection and internalization, one of making manifest within the realm of the physical and then of ingestion, in coded or symbolic form, back into the world of the mental.”

Peat graphically expands upon the reference to ingestion in his description of the work of artist Janine Antoni, who has created art works consisting of lard and chocolate (600 pounds of each), which she has chewed up, spat out, and then reformed into lipsticks and chocolate bars. Peat says that Antoni has wondered aloud to him about the possibility of chewing up a table, spitting it out, combining it with her skin and hair, and then rebuilding the table.

The image of an ingested, semi-digested table becoming mingled with the spit and skin of a woman, has haunted me in the past few days. I note that Antoni doesn’t seem to want to swallow the table—not really eat it, just masticate it, pulp it up, melange the fibers with her digestive juices, just shy of complete absorption.

So now I’m wondering: after the taking in, and the transforming, and the act of putting our work back out there into the world, what have we fully digested? If I’m interested in the role of embodiment, to what degree might I really mean in-body-ment?  Does it depend upon what’s on the menu, what’s being in/di-gested? Because, if we’re talking about taking the world (and all its various renderings) into an alchemical, transformational, alembic-wrapped oogedy-boogedy,  you have to admit: there’s a big difference between chewing 600 pounds of lard and the same amount of chocolate…

Ultimately, I think my fascination with Antoni’s work is the length to which she goes. She offers a challenge, which has gotten under my skin. How far do I go? I know I hope to be transformed by the work I put out into the world. But how would I feel about pulling splinters out of my tongue?

Perhaps this is a challenge one works up to.

Would someone please pass me the chair?

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