Kleist* on the gradual formation of thoughts in the process of speech. You begin to speak before you know what to say. You begin to speak because you want to work out what to say, and because speaking (aloud, in the company of another person, especially if that person is inexpert and hardly listening at all) is the way to work it out. You begin to speak with a problem in mind, a theme, a question, something unresolved, and with "some vague thoughts that are in some way connected with what [you] are looking for," and it is the urgent necessity of continuing to speak that excites the mind towards new insight. "Such speech is truly thought in the vocal medium." 

"The situation is quite different if the mind is finished already with a thought before the speaking starts. Then the spirit stays back in the process of mere articulation and this business of articulation, far from exciting the spirit, on the contrary reduces the mental intensity."

[*see foot of BLOG page for bibliography]

 

I heard about Kleist's text at the Wellcome Collection on Thursday, a week into my new practice of leaving a dictaphone recording as I draw, to capture my reflections as I go along. I wonder if the dictaphone does the same work as Kleist's other person, inexpert and hardly listening at all. The speed, the directness, the transparency of thinking aloud rather than on the page certainly generates a different kind of thought—a kind of thought anchored only to the immediate present, always at risk of being lost, being forgotten, being digressed away from with no means to return.

It reminds me of the risks I would meet when drawing half-blind, and the risks blind theologian John M. Hull would meet when navigating what he called 'unpredictable structures'. And it makes me wonder whether equivalent strategies might be invented to defend against those risks (like recording the speech?), and further, whether such strategies might run counter to the practice thinking aloud altogether.

"Today I'm drawing with a mirror. I've been drawing the same object again and again—the audio recorder—so I thought I'd draw something that allowed a more generous slow gaze, something that would change, something organic, a landscape—and lacking a landscape for the time being at least, I'm trying a portrait, a self-portrait, since I'm who I've got here. [pause] I'll take off my glasses.

"Of course what this needs is a mirror, another glass. So we have the prism directly in front of me, and the mirror. [pause] I've just looked down to look at the thing I'm going to draw. Here I am. As usual I'm rather lower down the page than I'd like. I have to get the angle right. Because I'm getting a too-brief, too-transparent shadow of the image I want to see—shadow is no doubt not the word I want, I have to be specific, I have to learn about physics, but until I do it's a shadow, a breath of the thing I want to see and I don't think I'm going to be able to trace this. A window, letterbox, too narrow.

"I've taken my eye away from the prism to look at it from the side, to judge the angle, and then I suppose I need to adjust the angle of the mirror too, I'll look again, I want to look well. I'm thinking about Milton, about Emma and kairos, timing and timeliness and biding one's time. Opportune.

 

"It's hard work, settling your eye into this machine, it's tiring, you have to get your body lined up correctly from the start.

 

"It still isn't sharp. I don't know why it doesn't satisfy me.

"As I move my face to see my face, my face moves. [pause] I wish I could pluck out my eyelashes, peel up my eyelid, press my face against the page, press the pencil into the skin. This is such a distant way of drawing. The pencil leaves a shadow that interferes with the page. I haven't put a single mark down on the page yet.

"What I'm doing now is I've twisted the thing round in an attempt to draw the other way. I'll move the clamp. OK: now this is better. I'm going to make a drawing that's upside-down. I'm not using the prism as it's meant to be.

"I'm hoping that with clean lenses it'll feel better. It's not a specific problem but a general problem with seeing, a general dumbness of the eye. [pause] Now: again.

 

"Now I have a clean image on the page, upside-down and good. Well-positioned... if i introduce my pencil—now I see the problem with this. Now although the image on the page is copious and bright and palpable and thick and uninterrupted, I can't see the pencil at all. I can see only the image. I tilt my head a little bit and there: the pencil arrives. It arrives at the expense of the clarity of the image, but nevertheless it's something. I can just about make out the tip of the pencil. What I'm doing now: there's a lot of estimation. Sometimes I can't see the pencil tip but my hand and I try to guess how far the tip is from my hand. Sometimes I can only see the pencil. And then the drawing swings uncomfortably into view and I don't want to see the pencil, because then I start just drawing the drawing. [pause] My head's moving. [pause] In order to judge whether or not the drawing is in the right place. The seagull's on the roof again.

"I have to flick between the two images, and absolutely make a guess. Now I'm really drawing blind. It's like I'm just not looking at the page, just the model. [[But somehow inserting the drawing underneath the image of the face, slipping it underneath, hoping I'm lining it up like slipping things under a tablecloth and hoping they'll turn out to be in the right place..]] I know I've got thing upside-down,

"But I really am having trouble seeing the pencil and the object at the same time. I'm guessing. I'm drawing nearly blind. Nearly half-blind. [[And perhaps worse still, the close, close layering of object and drawing introduces a deception, that when the object slides into view it is positioned right for the drawing, that it would be good, rather than bad, to trace it where it is. I think I would be better off, even without this closeness, without this trick of lenses, without this deception of closeness. I would be better off it just being distant and true.]] There. Curious: I've just turned the thing over, and the eye has wound up in the centre of my face, a cyclops. Utterly unexpected, but completely appropriate because this has all been about the eye. It's not a bad rendering. It suggests an accuracy of perspective that I might have struggled to get if I'd been drawing freehand. There's a confidence in the angles, and it seems accurate; the only thing is that the features, while angled and scaled appropriately, are really quite misaligned.

"Ship analogy?

"Do I want to become expert in this? Learn the physics? Or continue to navigate as in Linz?

"It's uncomfortable doing this kind of drawing. You want it to be over soon. It seems unpredictable, thought i'm sure it isn't—I'm sure if I understood the physics of it better I would know how to move my head, my eyes, the prism, the clamp, the mirror, the pencil, the paper, but as it is it's rather haphazard and confused. It's a technology I don't fully understand and I'm trying to use it intuitively and I suppose that's because vision tends to happen in an intuitive way, it tends to just work.

"Certainly it's harder to draw like this than draw by just looking. This way of drawing with the camera lucida seems to do more than just close up the space between the object and the page. It does more than close up that space and conflate it, it somehow puts one behind or inside the other. It means that page is an actual obstruction. The image is an obstruction to the page, the page is an obstruction to the image, and somehow out of this fight, this fight for visibility/supremacy, a new image is supposed to come, and that new image is the evidence of the squabble, of the fight. The two things are not in harmony. It forces the eyes to try to see two completely different things, one each, and those things can't make sense as a single image. It's a cruel thing, it's a forced thing, this poor cyclops.

 

"What am I learning then about drawing when I draw like this? How very simultaneous the object and the paper are, how the image has to capture their simultaneity in difference,

 

Camera-Lucida-Cyclops-1000