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Ben Highmore - Writing vs. Research - The de Certeau remix

Ben Highmore's most recent book Michel de Certeau: Analysing Culture adds to his already impressive output (see also Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction and his edited volume The Everyday Life Reader).

There are too many useful ideas in the book to address here, but he argues that de Certeau offers more than a series of catchy terms (tactics vs. strategies, poaching texts, etc.) for application in cultural studies/theory, but articulates a "metamethodology," or an exemplary practice of cultural analysis.

Of particular interest to us is Highmore's discussion of university research. He notes, "...research is encouraged as long as it follows a prescribed pattern." This pattern, of course applies to nearly every liberal art discipline, "...'research' is a euphemism; what it really means is 'publication' - production..." Writing, and a very specific form of writing at that, becomes the only way to explore ideas, the only embodiment of research. Highmore argues de Certeau shows that "writing works antagonistically to the business of research." Highmore quotes de Certeau: "While research is interminable, the text must have an ending, and this structure of finality bends back on the introduction, which is already organized by the need to finish..."

This writing vs. research concept provides further context for why LeisureArts operates within the domain of art so frequently - it is merely the most flexible arena for conducting research. It also points to our problem with so much project-based work which itself tends to possess the same "need to finish" of writing and quickly leads the exploration of research to its own structural demise.

As Highmore puts it:

Here writing isn't simply a constructivist architecture that produces the past; it is more characteristically directed against research, interning the past in variously ornate mausoleums:

Writing speaks of the past in order to inter it. Writing is a tomb in the double sense of the word in that, in the very same text, it both honours and eliminates. Here the function of language is to introduce through saying what can no longer be done...[Highmore quoting de Certeau - edit not in original]


Highmore goes on to caution against any absolutist stance relative to all this. He says that de Certeau is not seeking a "pure writing," but looking to develop writing as an operation, seeking to engage the practice of research within an ethic of commitment and sees this as an "invitation to participate in world-making."

Ferry - Everyday Life - Todorov

Excerpts from Tzvetan Todorov quoted by Luc Ferry concerning 17th century Dutch painting in Ferry's What is the Good Life?

"...Beauty is not beyond or above commonplace things; it is at their very heart, and one look suffices to extract it and reveal it to everyone. The Dutch painters were, for a time, inspired by a grace - in no way divine, in no way mystical - that enabled them to dispel the curse that weighed on matter; to rejoice in the very existence of things, to intertwine the ideal and the real, and therefore to find the meaning of life in life itself."

"...What is needed is not to abandon daily life (to contempt, to others), but to transform it from the inside, so that it is reborn illuminated with meaning and beauty...That is when daily life would cease being opposed to works of art, to works of the mind, to become, in its entirety, as beautiful and rich in meaning as a work of art."

Charlie's Angels Pose Archive Update

The Charlie's Angels Pose Archive has over 900 images thus far. We are still seeking submissions in an effort to reach at least 1000 examples. Behold the glory:



Cooking, Eating, Thinking - Recipes for Values - Thoughtful Practice

Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food, Deane W. Curtin and Lisa M. Heldke eds.

The book seeks to consider and construct a philosophy of food. The standout essays in this edited volume are from the editors themselves.

Curtin's "Recipes for Values" and Heldke's "Foodmaking as a Thoughtful Practice" both

Norman Wirzba - LeisureArts - Agrarian Philosophy

Recently finished reading The Essential Agrarian Reader, Norman Wirzba ed. Wirzba's own essay in the volume, "Placing the Soul: An Agrarian Philosophical Principle" argues for an embodied and place-centered philosophical and religious perspective. Otherworldly and disembodied philosophy/theory has played a large part in the decimation of agrarian values and communities. Wirzba looks to articulate a counter-philosophical perspective for agrarianism.

Wirzba's account of ancient philosophical endeavor cuts to the heart of the LeisureArts paradigm:

"...what becomes clear is that the philosopher was first and foremost interested in practicing a way of life [emphasis ours]."

Wirzba contends that philosophers developed complex theoretical constructs of the world, but that was secondary to the experiential working out of what an "ideal human life" might be:

"In other words, philosophical reflection was intimately tied to experience, to the testing, trying, and experimenting of life that constitute our condition."

The modern period pretty much eradicates experience-based reflection under the aegis of pure cognition - thus begins the reign of the scientific method (detached, formal, objective). Wirzba cautions:

"...our thinking is never merely 'about' the world, but also 'from' the world."

This leads us to our ongoing (and perhaps tiresome) complaints about social practices in art. Far too often these activities are bounded conceptually as well as institutionally as "projects." They become another body of work (like a group of paintings) set aside from lived experience. They are professional (used here in Ivan Illich's vitriolic sense). In Wirzba's account, they would be considered philosophical failure, for philosophy demands "...an open life...not just an open mind..." Too much of contemporary art practice is merely open minded, content to think things through (even though this thinking through might take the form of "experience" it is often in a highly contrived and discrete form) rather than live them. LeisureArts, like Wirzba, believes that it is important to "...abandon ourselves to the experiences of life..." and to understand that this requires "tenacity and commitment." This is more than philosophical/art work - it is the work of love - "...for it is in terms of love that the true marks of knowing can emerge..." Sappy perhaps, but urgently so...