In response to Taney's earlier request to elaborate on the idea of form as a verb.
1. Taney: How does this reconceptualizing change the way we experience art objects and, in your case, architecture? Because although we now know otherwise, our limited sensory apparatus tells us that objects are static -- paintings, chairs, mountains, or whatever: to our bodyminds these things seem utterly unchanging.
This argument is central to my forthcoming book, Architecture is a Verb (Routledge 2/21) which applies a variation of the 4E approach to understanding architectural experience. The work of the 19th century empathy theorists and in cognitive science has shown that all art is performance art. We experience not only the work of art, but the genesis of its making in our own bodies. Vittorio Gallese and David Freedberg showed how we simulate the slash marks on Lucio Fontana's canvases in our own motor repertoire. When we see etched stone, we simulate the movement that went into that act of making in our own bodies. The crucial shift in thinking moves from the all-too tired Cartesian "I think therefore I am," to Husserl's engaged "I can therefore I am." Our earliest knowledge of the world is through bodily movement, something that the biologist/dancer/philosopher Maxine Sheets Johnstone (The Primacy of Movement) has been arguing for decades. When we begin to imagine the world around us in terms of possibilities for action (an enactivist approach), new dimensions of dynamism suddenly open up. In Giorgio Morandi's shy vases, we feel ourselves being touched, we imagine sitting in the chair or the irritating discomfort of its shoddy design, instead of seeing a static mountain, we notice the veins of massive pressure that heaved it from the deep. We do not see the independent objects as much as we see the world according to the actions they might afford and possibilities and latent stories of their becoming.
2. Taney: I adore this idea of changing nouns into verbs (David Bohm proposed something similar many years ago, using the term the rheomode for this new way of thinking), but I'm having trouble imagining what it would do to our actual experience of the world.
I have also been inspired by Bohm's rheomode, in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order he points out that an obstacle to dynamic thinking is the subject-verb-object structure of
sentences which implies that action arises in a subject and is exerted on an
object. Why do we say, for example, that it is raining, instead of that rain
is happening? To whom, exactly, does ‘it’ refer? This is but one example of
how our language is unable to speak of ongoing processes. Yet in other languages, movement is taken as a primary notion and apparently static things
are treated as relatively invariant states of continuing movement. In ancient
Hebrew, for example, the verb was primary. The root of all lost Hebrew words is a verb form, while adverbs, adjectives and nouns were obtained by modifying the verbal form with prefixes and suffixes. Even the English words dwell
and dwelling, like the word building, are both nouns, verbs and gerunds—their
versatility demonstrates that both terms are implicitly connected to ongoing living processes. Calling attention to the movement initiated by the verb
serves to correct this centuries-old deficit. This act of reordering attention
forces us to reconsider the realities which the verbs describe and opens new
possibilities for thinking in terms of active embodied engagement. Thinking in terms of living processes does not need to split them into bits. Divisions wither in the face of action. This kind of animism speaks to a time when poetry was not a literary genre but a concrete way of experiencing LIFE.