Thinking things into being.

Thinking-about, to one self, aloud, on one’s feet, through. Thinking is meditation and process, it reaches out yet remains private. Thoughts may be shared, hidden, or even weighed. Light and at times heavy they always ceaselessly flow, in between internal and external realities. To think is to make contact, to be with, and to think with- in an intimate dialogue with oneself and with the world.

“I think, therefore I am”, said famously Descartes. Does thinking only secure my existence or does it also take part in calling the world into being? Am I not part of the world? The Cartesian rational subject transcends the limitations of the material world in his thought. Thinking then takes place in the realm of immateriality, mind and meaning, in opposition to materiality. On the other hand thinking has been traditionally aligned with everything subjective and internal, distinguished from the external realm of collective language and objective facts. Thinking may also, however, be understood as mode of engagement that unsettles these rigid oppositions. The claim, that things thought do exist, takes us to the threshold where the two worlds, external and internal, material and mental, entwine inseparably.

Do thinkable things already exist, or do we think things into being? Whet can be thought can also exist. Thought may, thus, push the boundaries of what is possible. This is the creative power of imagination. Yet thinking, looking and listening, also makes space and gives time for things to appear, to become meaningful to us. Thinking, in a way, calls things into being. It is a process of becoming, both for the thinker and the things thought.

What if… Sea was solid concrete. The landscape moved, instead of us or with us, as the plane takes off. The seasonally changing colours and contours of a mountain were not the kind of organic growth we assume. There was something in an empty grey landscape. The raven captured in the painting was somehow not still after all. Or, embroidery was a political act. Familiar turns strange in front of our eyes, and in our eyes. The appearances of things become unfixed and gain new life under our lingering gaze and fleeting glimpses, in meticulous as well as passing moments of thought. Neither gaze nor thought, when truly open to the world, fixes things, their shapes and meanings, but instead lets them loose, in motion. They transport us somewhere unexpected, as times unawares.

Thought may thus leap- a leap into the yet-unknown, letting go of the familiar, safe and solid base. The leap always leads back, but where it returns to is never quite the same as where it left from. Something has irreversibly changed in the course of thought. Our perception of things and our position as the perceiver has shifted.

Thinking is always a matter of perception: How do we perceive things, how and what do things mean to us, what do we see? Or, how things appear to us, how they can be allowed to appear differently, how they may gain meaning and shape? How things could be seen otherwise? To think means to be attentive, to focus on something- even if only momentarily, in passing. Thought attaches itself then onto something- an idea, an object, whatever- and takes the thinker and the thing on a journey together. (….

…) Here mapping doesn’t schematise the world into readable fixed forms. Instead, here it seems to be a mode of redrawing or translation that gives life to the objects of study and unsettles any presumptions we may have of them. This approach to mapping is powerfully evident in some of Lisa Stålspets’s works: for example a map of the world turned into its mirror image leaves the viewer baffled as to what has changed in the nearly familiar order. Her maps twist our perception suddenly yet subtly and leave us floating without a solid ground beneath our interpretative machinery, at least for a little while. The tiniest shifts in focus or emphasis can change everything. She talks about the notion of “jamais vu”, never-seen, which refers to a surprising, absolutely novel encounter, which makes the viewer’s perception of reality and of oneself tremble momentarily. Nothing is quite the same after such an encounter. The limits of the possible have shifted.

Other works by Stålspets draw us into a narrative realm yet do not quite allow us to enter t fully. Miniature cityscape of brightly-coloured houses or a painting of a fjord encircled by a mountainous road offer spaces for the projection of narratives, which rely on our active and imaginative input. The story told in voice-over hovers in and and above the spaces yet we find ourselves between them, bridging the gap. We are on the threshold between a fictional reality out there and our own internal worlds. The slightly clumsy, cut-and –paste aesthetics adds to the unfinished effect that calls for participation, lures us close, yet doesn’t allow for total absorbtion. There is something vulnerable or even melancholy yet simultaneously distanced, something familiar yet strange. For example, when staring at an image of a fjord painted directly onto a screen, we are suspended between identification and detachment. It is not my view nor is it the story of my childhood summers, but I could make them mine, somehow, maybe. Perhaps the works arouse in us compassion that is not identification nor pity but proximity, recognition of relation in difference, and desire to take part in the narrative, in its telling. (….)

Exerpts from the text “Thinking Things into Being” by Taru Elfving, originally published in Alt Som Du Tenker på Fins, The Master of Fine Art Trondheim 2007 exhibition catalogue.