Sally Potter and the best time to start is now

This is from Simon Ellis’s site.

Great advice from Sally Potter, maker of Orlando with Tilda Swinton.

Great art as research on two levels, the artist and the artform. The movie explores and researches gender, time, identity, place… Also Sally tells us what she learned from her research of movie making. Both help us in our exploration and research of our own experience.

Simon also introduces us to dance and art as performance at the artistic, personal and academic levels on his excellent site.

The best time to start is now (don’t wait)
Take responsibility for everything (it saves time)
Don’t blame anyone or anything (including yourself)
Give up being a moviemaker victim (of circumstance, weather, lack of money, mean financiers, vicious critics, greedy distributors, indifferent public, etc.)
You can’t always choose what happens while you are making a film, but you can choose your point of view about what happens (creative perspective)
Mistakes are your best teacher (so welcome them)
Turn disaster to advantage (there will be many)
Only work on something you believe in (life is too short to practice insincerity)
Choose your team carefully and honour them (never speak negatively about your colleagues)
Ban the word “compromise” (or the phrase “it will do”) (the disappointment in yourself will haunt you later)
Be prepared to work harder than anyone you are employing
Be ruthless – be ready to throw away your favourite bits (you may well be attached to what is familiar rather than what is good).
Aim beyond your limits (and help others to go beyond theirs) (the thrill of the learning curve)
When in doubt, project yourself ten years into the future and look back – what will you be proud of having done? (indecision is a lack of the longer view or wider perspective)
Practice no waste – psychic ecology – prevent brain pollution (don’t add to the proliferation of junk)
Be an anorak – keep your sense of wonder and enthusiasm (cynicism will kill your joy and motivation)
Get some sleep when you can (you wont get much later)

– Sally Potter

I think I first happened across this list when the choreographer Theo Clinkard posted it on FaceBook many years ago. Simon Ellis.

A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain

Extract – Coming from the world of outdoor and experiential learning and then the arts and the arts therapies, it seems clear that we think with our bodies as well as our brains. Dancers and climbers both do this. As do joiners and sculptors, painters and decorators and artists. Art as research or art a way of exploring and expressing personal experience connects directly to embodied cognition, but the output of exploration or research is art and experience. If we are seeking models for understanding art-making experiences and or outdoor experiences, embodied cognition is a kind of conduit to shift ideas from one context to another.

Samuel McNerney November 4, 2011

Embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind, is one of the more counter-intuitive ideas in cognitive science. In sharp contrast is dualism, a theory of mind famously put forth by Rene Descartes in the 17th century when he claimed that “there is a great difference between mind and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and the mind is entirely indivisible… the mind or soul of man is entirely different from the body.” In the proceeding centuries, the notion of the disembodied mind flourished. From it, western thought developed two basic ideas: reason is disembodied because the mind is disembodied and reason is transcendent and universal. However, as George Lakoff and Rafeal Núñez explain:

Cognitive science calls this entire philosophical worldview into serious question on empirical grounds… [the mind] arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experiences. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason; rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment… Thus, to understand reason we must understand the details of our visual system, our motor system, and the general mechanism of neural binding.

What exactly does this mean? It means that our cognition isn’t confined to our cortices. That is, our cognition is influenced, perhaps determined by, our experiences in the physical world. This is why we say that something is “over our heads” to express the idea that we do not understand; we are drawing upon the physical inability to not see something over our heads and the mental feeling of uncertainty. Or why we understand warmth with affection; as infants and children the subjective judgment of affection almost always corresponded with the sensation of warmth, thus giving way to metaphors such as “I’m warming up to her.”

Embodied cognition has a relatively short history. Its intellectual roots date back to early 20th century philosophers Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and John Dewey and it has only been studied empirically in the last few decades. One of the key figures to empirically study embodiment is University of California at Berkeley professor George Lakoff.

Lakoff was kind enough to field some questions over a recent phone conversation, where I learned about his interesting history first hand. After taking linguistic courses in the 1960s under Chomsky at MIT, where he eventually majored in English and Mathematics, he studied linguistics in grad school at Indiana University. It was a different world back then, he explained, “it was the beginning of computer science and A.I and the idea that thought could be described with formal logic dominated much of philosophical thinking. Turing machines were popular discussion topics, and the brain was widely understood as a digital computational device.” Essentially, the mind was thought of as a computer program separate from the body with the brain as general-purpose hardware.

Chomsky’s theory of language as a series of meaningless symbols fit this paradigm. It was a view of language in which grammar was independent of meaning or communication. In contrast, Lakoff found examples showing that grammar was depended of meaning in 1963. From this observation he constructed a theory called Generative Semantics, which was also disembodied, where logical structures were built into grammar itself.

To be sure, cognitive scientists weren’t dualists like Descartes – they didn’t actually believe that the mind was physically separate from the body – but they didn’t think that the body influenced cognition. And it was during this time – throughout the 60s and 70s -Lakoff realized the flaws of thinking about the mind as a computer and began studying embodiment.

The tipping point came after attending four talks that hinted at embodied language at Berkeley in the summer of 1975. In his words, they forced him to “give up and rethink linguistics and the brain.” This prompted him and a group of colleagues to start cognitive linguistics, which contrary to Chomskyan theory and the entire mind as a computer paradigm, held that “semantics arose from the nature of the body.” Then, in 1978, he “discovered that we think metaphorically,” and spent the next year gathering as many metaphors as he could find.

Many cognitive scientists accepted his work on metaphors though it opposed much of mainstream thought in philosophy and linguistics. He caught a break on January 2nd 1979, when he got a call from Mark Johnson, who informed him that he was coming to Berkeley to replace someone in the philosophy department for six months. Johnson had just gotten his PhD from Chicago where he studied continental philosophy and called Lakoff to see if he was interested in studying metaphors. What came next was one of the more groundbreaking books in cognitive science. After co-writing a paper for the journal of philosophy in the spring of 1979, Lakoff and Johnson began working on Metaphors We Live By, and managed to finish it three months later.

Their book extensively examined how, when and why we use metaphors. Here are a few examples. We understand control as being UP and being subject to control as being DOWN: We say, “I have control over him,” “I am on top of the situation,” “He’s at the height of his power,” and, “He ranks above me in strength,” “He is under my control,” and “His power is on the decline.” Similarly, we describe love as being a physical force: “I could feel the electricity between us,” “There were sparks,” and “They gravitated to each other immediately.” Some of their examples reflected embodied experience. For example, Happy is Up and Sad is Down, as in “I’m feeling up today,” and “I’m feel down in the dumps.” These metaphors are based on the physiology of emotions, which researchers such as Paul Eckman have discovered. It’s no surprise, then, that around the world, people who are happy tend to smile and perk up while people who are sad tend to droop.

Metaphors We Live By was a game changer. Not only did it illustrate how prevalent metaphors are in everyday language, it also suggested that a lot of the major tenets of western thought, including the idea that reason is conscious and passionless and that language is separate from the body aside from the organs of speech and hearing, were incorrect. In brief, it demonstrated that “our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”

After Metaphors We Live By was published, embodiment slowly gained momentum in academia. In the 1990s dissertations by Christopher Johnson, Joseph Grady and Srini Narayanan led to a neural theory of primary metaphors. They argued that much of our language comes from physical interactions during the first several years of life, as the Affection is Warmth metaphor illustrated. There are many other examples; we equate up with control and down with being controlled because stronger people and objects tend to control us, and we understand anger metaphorically in terms of heat pressure and loss of physical control because when we are angry our physiology changes e.g., skin temperature increases, heart beat rises and physical control becomes more difficult.

This and other work prompted Lakoff and Johnson to publish Philosophy in the Flesh, a six hundred-page giant that challenges the foundations of western philosophy by discussing whole systems of embodied metaphors in great detail and furthermore arguing that philosophical theories themselves are constructed metaphorically. Specifically, they argued that the mind is inherently embodied, thought is mostly unconscious and abstract concepts are largely metaphorical. What’s left is the idea that reason is not based on abstract laws because cognition is grounded in bodily experience (A few years later Lakoff teamed with Rafael Núñez to publish Where Mathematics Comes From to argue at great length that higher mathematics is also grounded in the body and embodied metaphorical thought).

As Lakoff points out, metaphors are more than mere language and literary devices, they are conceptual in nature and represented physically in the brain. As a result, such metaphorical brain circuitry can affect behavior. For example, in a study done by Yale psychologist John Bargh, participants holding warm as opposed to cold cups of coffee were more likely to judge a confederate as trustworthy after only a brief interaction. Similarly, at the University of Toronto, “subjects were asked to remember a time when they were either socially accepted or socially snubbed. Those with warm memories of acceptance judged the room to be 5 degrees warmer on the average than those who remembered being coldly snubbed. Another effect of Affection Is Warmth.” This means that we both physically and literary “warm up” to people.

The last few years have seen many complementary studies, all of which are grounded in primary experiences:

• Thinking about the future caused participants to lean slightly forward while thinking about the past caused participants to lean slightly backwards. Future is Ahead 

• Squeezing a soft ball influenced subjects to perceive gender neutral faces as female while squeezing a hard ball influenced subjects to perceive gender neutral faces as male. Female is Soft

• Those who held heavier clipboards judged currencies to be more valuable and their opinions and leaders to be more important. Important is Heavy.

• Subjects asked to think about a moral transgression like adultery or cheating on a test were more likely to request an antiseptic cloth after the experiment than those who had thought about good deeds. Morality is Purity

Studies like these confirm Lakoff’s initial hunch – that our rationality is greatly influenced by our bodies in large part via an extensive system of metaphorical thought. How will the observation that ideas are shaped by the body help us to better understand the brain in the future?

I also spoke with Term Assistant Professor of Psychology Joshua Davis, who teaches at Barnard College and focuses on embodiment. I asked Davis what the future of embodiment studies looks like (he is relatively new to the game, having received his PhD in 2008). He explained to me that although “a lot of the ideas of embodiment have been around for a few decades, they’ve hit a critical mass… whereas sensory inputs and motor outputs were secondary, we now see them as integral to cognitive processes.” This is not to deny computational theories, or even behaviorism, as Davis said, “behaviorism and computational theories will still be valuable,” but, “I see embodiment as a new paradigm that we are shifting towards.”

What exactly will this paradigm look like? It’s unclear. But I was excited to hear from Lakoff that he is trying to “bring together neuroscience with the neural theory of language and thought,” through a new brain language and thought center at Berkeley. Hopefully his work there, along with the work of young professors like Davis, will allow us to understand the brain as part of a much greater dynamic system that isn’t confined to our cortices.

The author would like to personally thank Professors Lakoff and Davis for their time, thoughts, and insights. It was a real pleasure.

Richard Long in Mexico

Kidnappings, Train Crashes, and Vanishing Art: Peripatetic Land Sculptor Richard Long on the Joys of an Artistic Life on the Roa

The veteran British artist on his return to Mexico, losing his Venice Biennale sculpture, and why Donald Judd was a “teddy bear.”

Javier Pes, February 17, 2020 – See original article here on

Richard Long Portrait
Richard Long. Photo by Jack Hems. Copyright, Richard Long; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.

Architecture purists might want to look away. Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s brightly colored Modernist masterpiece, Cuadra San Cristóbal, has an unexpected visitor: the peripatetic Land Art pioneer Richard Long.

The veteran British sculptor, whose extraordinary interventions into the natural and built environment take him to all points of the globe, has materialized in in the suburbs of Mexico City to create four massive works at Barragán’s oft-Instagrammed stable yard and home. Long has taken the commission in his rangy stride, unfazed by the pressure or baggage that intervening in such a famous spot might present. In fact, Long had never heard of the architect—a legendary figure in architectural circles—or seen images of the famous building before accepting the gig. 

“I’m an opportunist,” the artist said. “They told me that he’s an amazing architect and it’s a beautiful location.” The opportunity in question was a solo exhibition at the space, organized by Lisson gallery, and timed to coincide with the flood of visitors heading to Mexico City to the week of art fairs and openings earlier this month. Richard Long at Cuadra San Cristobal.

Richard Long, “Orizaba to Urique River Deep Mountain High,” Cuadra San Cristóbal, designed by Luis Barragán, Mexico City. Copyright Richard Long; Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo by Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano.

The artist (now technically known as Sir Richard Long, following a 2018 knighthood) is no stranger to working in unique locations around the globe. The Turner-Prize-winning Royal Academician has undertaken epic journeys to make sculpture in the landscape, from Alaska to Mongolia. There have been some hairy moments along the way. “I’ve been slightly kidnapped,” he casually mentioned. It happened in Anatolia. He was put in the back of a Turkish farmer’s truck and held captive in village for two days before being released unharmed. On another daunting walk, this time across Sicily, he was curb-crawled by a Mafiosi, he recalled. It was just outside the village of Corleone, of The Godfather fame, he recalled with a chuckle. 

Mexico Revisited

The last time he was in Mexico, Long and his fellow artist and travel partner Hamish Fulton were involved in a train crash: “No one was hurt, but the carriages were concertinaed.” They put on their backpacks and walked to the nearest town. “[It] had a small airport. I used my American Express card for the first time, and the same day we were back in Mexico City,” Long said.

There were no such dramatic mishaps on his return to Mexico for “Orizaba to Uríque River Deep Mountain High,” the show at the Barragan property, and his first exhibition in the country. Road trips to quarries near Mexico City and Puebla went without mishap. Using the volcanic stone and slate he gathered, Long has created four signature works: a large circle, half circle, line, and cross, all composed of stone. They are classic forms given a new twist by being in such an unexpected and colorful setting. The dramatic lines of volcanic rock, hewn by hand by quarry workers and then placed by Long with the help of only one assistant, work especially well against Barragán’s Minimalist backdrop, with its black, wooden horse rails juxtaposed against hot pink walls.  

“A lot of my work comes from really nice, dynamic, visual experiences,” Long explained. “It is not about working in the studio. It is about engaging with all this crazy stuff in real life.”

San Cristóbal is still owned by the Egerstrom family, which commissioned Barragán to create the property in 1968. Long first saw it in January when it looked very different from the tranquil, pristine images seen in architecture books, magazines, and social-media feeds. The stables were being used as a backdrop to a fashion shoot that day. To the owner’s dismay, there was a bit of a blow-up between an Italian model and the photographer. Far from being put out by the clutter and drama, Long was amused; the fashion shoot could be filed under the category of “crazy stuff in real life” that keeps his practice interesting.   Richard Long at Cuadra San Cristobal.

Richard Long at Cuadra San Cristobal. Copyright the artist. Photograph by Joanna Thornberry, Courtesy Lisson Gallery.

“My Work Is About Freedom”

Long’s sculptures and mud murals, which he creates by hand, aren’t like Land Art in the mode of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty or Michael Heizer’s Double Negative. No bulldozers or rock-blasting is required. “My work is deliberately not monumental,” Long explained. 

Often the sculptures are never intended to last, be they made of stone, wood, mud, a campfire, or simply a splash of water against a river bank. Most exist only as photographs. As he leafed through an artist’s book documenting a 1979 trip to Mexico, I wondered if Long ever feels like revisiting those sites to see if any trace of the work he made back then remains. (At 74, the keen walker and cyclist certainly looks fit enough to make the trek.) Long looked at me askance. “That’s not the point,” he said. “They are sculptures made as stopping places along the journey. They will probably disappear.”

The stone circle he made above the clouds on the volcanic Pico de Orizaba in 1979 probably only took him an hour to make, he revealed. Splashing water on the walls of the gorge of Uríque took less time. “Essentially my work is about freedom,” Long said. 

The late German art dealer Konrad Fischer was one of the first to recognize the significance of Long’s light-touch interventions into the landscape. Fischer gave Long a solo show in his Düsseldorf gallery in 1968, the year the artist graduated in London. He was only 23. “With one bound I was free of the crazy London art world of Anthony Caro and all that welded metal stuff,” Long recalled. Richard Long at Cuadra San Cristobal.

Richard Long, “Orizaba to Urique River Deep Mountain High,” Cuadra San Cristóbal, Designed by Luis Barragán, Mexico City. Copyright Richard Long; Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo by Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano.

Recognition in the US soon followed his European success. The artist and critic Donald Judd was one of Long’s biggest cheerleaders. Writing in 1986, Judd declared Long to be “Europe’s best artist.” Long downplays the high praise. “Judd seemed to like my work,” he recalled. “Don’t ask me why. He was always very friendly to me, although he made lots of enemies. If he liked you as an artist then he was like a teddy bear.”

Long and Judd exhibited together in a small gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1988; the British sculptor’s work Sea Lava Circles is now permanently on view at Chinati in Marfa, the extraordinary art museum Judd created on the site of a former US army base. It seems odd that Long’s work is sited on what was the officer’s tennis court, rather than out in the natural environment of the West Texan prairie. “I had nothing to do with that,” Long explained. “[Judd] put it there.” It is a good example of how an artist cannot control the display of their work by a collector, curator, or fellow artist. “Years later it could be in a different context. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad,” Long said, stoical. Richard Long at Cuadra San Cristobal.

Richard Long, “Orizaba to Urique River Deep Mountain High,” Cuadra San Cristóbal, Designed by Luis Barragán, Mexico City. Copyright Richard Long; Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo by Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano.

He sounds just as unflappable when asked how he would feel if an unauthorized or fake Long sculpture cropped up somewhere one day. “I often say, there are hundreds of circles in the world. Most of them aren’t mine. In other words, I only have to do a few circles,” he said. 

It may be surprising to learn that the original version of Long’s 1976 Venice Biennale sculpture has long since vanished. Called A Line of 682 Stones, itwas a square spiral that snaked through the British pavilion. Judd’s nemesis—the Italian collector Giuseppe Panza, who went on to sell his collection to the Guggenheim and MOCA LA—is to blame. He borrowed Long’s work for a show and never returned it.  “[Panza] didn’t steal it, he just lost it,” Long clarified. His attitude is the opposite of Judd’s, who raged against the collector for making unauthorized versions of his work on the cheap. Long seems less preoccupied with all of that: with legacy, with ownership, with fame.

“There are plenty of other stones in the world,” Long said. “If I really wanted to make that work again, I could make the same work by just getting some more stones.” 

Richard Long  “Orizaba to Urique River Deep Mountain High,” February 7 through March 7, Cuadra San Cristóbal, Mexico City.

The Internet As Place

Heinrich Holtgreve

January 9, 2016

In the summer of 2012, Heinrich Holtgreve happened upon a blog post — BLDG BLOG — in which its author, Andrew Blum, outlines the potential dangers of the centralization of information. It was this discovery that sparked Holtgreve’s fascination with the physicality of the internet. The internet is a place one can visit: Buildings of varying importance that are related to its facilitation and management are scattered all over the world, and are situated contrary to typical notions of a connected world. The internet connects cities, countries and continents via fiber-optic cables that follow the shortest path between two points. Egypt is a significant location for international data traffic and the cables carrying data follow the same path that international trade lines do, passing through the Suez Canal. Downtown Cairo hosts the largest internet exchange — the Cairo Internet Exchange or CAIX — and cable systems like SEA-ME-WE-3 and 4 or FLAG are routed ashore in Alexandria. Egypt’s geographical location has benefitted the state in a number of ways. Just as the Suez Canal has annually brought in billions of dollars, there is money to be made from selling licenses to cable laying companies, and the Egyptian government is well aware of this. Yet, while he is fascinated by the tangibility of the internet, Holtgreve is also aware that it’s “not all sparks & romance,” and that Egyptians don’t enjoy many of the same freedoms as others with the same infrastructure. For example, the internet was shut down nationwide from the CAIX directly on January 28, 2011, in an unprecedented move by the Egyptian government. It might not sound advantageous that the informational infrastructure for most countries is in the hands of private companies with their thirst for profit, but it’s frightening that governments also maintain such a tight grip on networks, broadcasting the voices of some and silencing others. Indeed, in its brief history, the architecture of the internet has managed to withstand a number of threats. Despite these pertinent issues, Holtgreve hopes to show that Egypt is in a critical location for international data flow, and that Egyptians can proudly say that the magic of the internet, both tangible and intangible, flows from a handful of buildings in Cairo and Alexandria.

Ordinary Wi-Fi routers in living rooms in Cairo.

An area for praying amongst old server racks at a warehouse run by Alcatel-Lucent on the outskirts of Cairo.

A map of all international submarine cable systems that physically connect the world is seen on a wall at the Cairo offices of submarine cable operator MENA SCS.

The point of the Egyptian coast at Alexandria where four international submarine cables enter Africa.

An apartment block in downtown Cairo.

A mobile phone antenna disguised as a palm tree in Cairo.

Rows of chairs near the Great Sphinx of Giza.

A fishmongers stall at a supermarket in the Cairo district of Zamalek.

T-shirts featuring a popular meme for sale at a stand in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

Exposed lights on an empty billboard in Cairo.

A residential window in the Cairo district of Zamalek.

The headquarters of Telecom Egypt in Smart Village, a suburb on the outskirts of Cairo.

A Point of Precense in downtown Cairo.

A large image of a data center near an ECC Data Center facility in Cairo.

A television broadcaster sets up a temporary internet connection to broadcast live from Tahrir Square, Cairo.

A cross section of a fiber-optic cable, photographed office of cable operator MENA SCS in Cairo.

Part of a building complex that acts both as a “Point of Presence” (an access point to the internet) in Alexandria and as a cable landing station for international submarine cables.

The Cairo Internet Exchange (CAIX) building, the most important internet hub for Egypt and the whole North Africa region.

Left: Computer parts for sale in Cairo. Right: Lights that illuminate the Pyramids of Giza.

A box of wires that connects an area of Giza.

Knitting and Climate Change

Original article here at Colossal

In an effort to make the ongoing effects of climate change more visible, needleworkers around the globe are creating temperature blankets and scarves that track local weather patterns. Earlier this month, writer Josie George began an expansive Twitter thread about the project, motivating others to share their similar work. “I decided that this year, every day, I would knit a row on a scarf to mark the corresponding daily temperature/weather of my town,” George wrote in the original post. “It felt like a good way to engage with the changing climate and with the changing year. A way to notice and not look away.”

Although the technique and materials vary, each project follows a basic pattern utilizing a key (like this free one) to track some combination of the temperature, sky conditions, season, and date. The personal projects are part of a larger movement to document micro weather changes that may serve as indicators of broader climate issues. Groups like The Tempestry Project have been crafting wallhangings tracking the daily high temperature of a specific location during the course of year, weaving the results into a yarn-based work resembling a bar graph. Check out this Instagram tag to see more of the activism-inspired projects. (via My Modern Met)

Image © Josie George

Image © qp nell

Image © Rachel Chilton

Image © Annie S

Pottery Meets Experimental Animation in this Spinning Ceramic Phonotrope

See original article at Colossal

Created as part of a collaboration between animator Jim Le Fevre (previously) and artists Al Johnstone and Roops from RAMP Ceramics, this whirling clay pot acts like an animated zoetrope when spun at a certain speed. The film was shot by Mike Paterson and Le Fevre discusses the process of building it over on his blog. If you liked this there’s plenty more zoetrope action here. (via Laughing Squid)