THE ART OF DECONSTRUCTING

Immortal Dreamscape - Digital collage 2019

Pushing the boundaries of our art practice towards new territories: surrealism, deconstruction, dream and imagination.

"Creative Alchemy and Mindful Art Practices" 2019 - A series of articles by Roseline de Thelin,
Multi Media Artist, Creativity Coach & Mentor, Expressive Arts Teacher & Art 
Therapist.

Like many contemporary artists today I am witnessing how cultivating a “surrealist attitude” and practicing the art of deconstructing are becoming key to further my exploration with analog & digital mix-media art making.

The “surrealist attitude” has given us full permission to release control and allow the irrational play of associations/ juxtapositions, to explore and develop new compositions/gestures/narratives. In my previous article I have shared how “chance art” and free association are tools to set our imagination in motion and unleash unexpected source of inspiration in our art making.

Meanwhile deconstruction has become a postmodern practice to break through the limitation/illusion of fixed identity or structures in favor of a more open less defined self. In purposefully breaking down construct we are creating a state of chaos or crisis, a disturbed yet fertile field where fragmented parts may re-construct into new links and emergences. (see my previous article for the definition of  "Emergence")

Ancestors Dreamscape - Triptych Digital collage 2019

Through out the 20st century the freeing of the concept of art, thanks to surrealists such as Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), and the multiple crossing of artistic disciplines have fostered so much diversity in our means of expression that it can be challenging for contemporary artists to find their own unique innovative voice. Today art is a language to communicate ideas and messages about our world as much as a way to re-invent it.

Deconstructing and re-constructing our artistic process is a practice that can help us break through the known, through pre-conceived ways and ideas to uncover fresh innovative possibilities.

Postmodern deconstruction, a theory originated by philosopher Jacques Derrida (Difference, speech & phenomena 1967) is a line of inquiry that unveil the fleeting and illusionary nature of identity, personal & collective, created/embedded/limited by the metanarrative language of our culture.

In the last 15 years the emergence of a global contemporary culture of “everything” seams also to exacerbate the fragmenting of identity. Identity becomes a collage, a mix of reference points tying tradition and modernity originated from a diversity of cultural references.

Rumble Tumble Dreambook - Analog collage 2019

More recently eminent dream and brain researchers like Allan Hobson and Karl Friston (Waking & dreaming consciousness: Neurobiological and functional considerations 2012 ) have come to consider the dreaming brain as an amazingly powerful virtual reality machine, and the dream state as our most creative experience. The deeper researchers explore the dream state the more they uncover its role in the self-organizing process of our psyche.

When in the hypnogogic state, the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, we experience a random kaleidoscope of fleeting images. The waking structure of our identity breaks down while the surface of our ordinary reality de-constructs, fragments, distorts and dislocates itself.

I see the dream state as a de-construction of our waking experience, a fragmentation into a psychic chaos that eventually rebuild itself in some random novel structure in the making of a dream.

In the dream our inner fragments are re-organized in an unexpected irrational order, into a new version of our self/reality that may allow us “to make fresh links between our de-constructed parts”. Here I am referring to Shaun McNif’s definition of imagination to underline the parallel between dreams' "re-construction" and imagination. As James Hillman stated (Dreams and the underworld 1979) "Dreams call from the imagination to the imagination and can be answered only by the imagination.”

Being an adept of dream journaling, dream work and using the dream world as a source of creative inspiration, I am looking for ways to re-inject some of that dream like high creativity in our awaken artistic process. I am also fascinated in how these experiences foster shift of consciousness and alter our self-perception as well as our perception of what is reality.

I am struck by the liminal commonality of surrealism, dream state and deconstruction. Liminal because they all stand as intermediary /in between/ states where ordinary waking consciousness is being challenged, transformed and extended.

Cancer Water Sign - video collage 2019

Now how to practically apply this tools to our artistic process?
What I am looking for is to transcend my habitual behavioural patterns/gestures, to break through my artistic identity/norms and likes, to stretch my artistic vocabulary, to uncover unexpected narratives, to inject new life within my creative process.

Here is a sequence of steps you can explore in your art making:

  • Defining a frame: art form, format, tools, art materials.
  • Cultivating a surrealist attitude: letting go of control, opening to chance accidents, play, irrational gesture and free association.
  • Deconstructing: breaking down surface and structures, fragmenting images and narratives, distorting forms and perceptions. This is a phase where we can experiment with new tools, to cut, rip, cover, uncover, scratch, distressed …
  • Reconstructing: creating new links, experimenting with ways of rebuilding, re-organizing the parts.
  • Recognizing and following the emergence of new forms/shapes/directions, being guided by the work while exercising the skills of seeing and shaping to co-create with the unknown. In this phase the new emergent might be helped in more details to reach its full potential.
  • Phases of deconstructing and reconstructing might repeat themselves, in fragments, facets and layers.
  • Write list of words that spontaneously come up  looking at the surface work (colors, shapes & forms, textures, composition, use of tools) and observing your process (physical, emotional, mental, inspirational)
  • Locate emergences on the surface as well as during the process. What happen that is new? What surprised you, inspired you or challenged you?
    To harvest we use the phenomenological frame of the aesthetic analysis  from the Expressive Arts.

I observe in my exploration the difference of temporality between hands on and digital practices. When using digital tools there is a time acceleration of possibilities and discoveries. The deconstruction reconstruction process can be repeated again and again, parts can be moved around and combined very fast, we can try out so many different possibilities. The virtuality of the process becomes even closer to the dream state where the collapse and break down of the constructs of reality seam to happen in a split second.

And what is emerging from this wild “cut and paste” /or “death and rebirth”/ process? 
A melting down of my certitudes, a vertiginous realization of the unreliable slipperiness of my perceptions, the exiting pulse of discovery and the slight vertigo of not knowing as I am stepping on the edge of unexplored territory …

And hopefully as a side product of this humbling and yet exhilarating shaping, I might be blessed with the emergence of a few good art works standing out; no guaranty, just show up again and again in the art space and keep exploring.

To be continued ...

Below you can read a short process description of the art works I present on this page to illustrate my explorations.

Immortal Dreamscape 01 – Digital collage 2019

Immortal Dreamscape is part of a series of digital collages  on the theme of Immortality. Dimensions 120 x 40 cm
It was made using a combination of photographs from my life using free association.
Photos include:
Ibiza sea, Ibiza almond blossoms, a theatrical diner on the theme “Immortals”, sculpture from my family’s garden in France, Egyptian sphinx from my travel to Egypt …

I try to work with what is alive in my life, what makes me wonder, question. The photos have been cut, fragmented, transformed through filters in a few successive phases of deconstruction and re-construction using Photoshop.

Ancestors Dreamscape 02 – Triptych Digital collage 2019

Ancestors Dreamscape is part of a series of digital collages  on the theme of buried unconscious memories and archetypes. Dimensions for each 40 x 40 cm

It was made using a combination of photographs from my life using free association. 
Photos include:
Ibiza sky and landscapes, African masks from a private collection in Galleria del Elefante Ibiza, bodies covered with clay during a workshop I facilitated in Ibiza Tantra Festival.

I try to work with what is alive in my life, what makes me wonder, question. The photos have been cut, fragmented, transformed through filters in a few successive phases of deconstruction and re-construction using Photoshop.

Rumble Tumble Dreambook – Analog collage scrapbook 2019

When working with clients in private creative session I often make art myself so we share a creative space where we both dip into the theme and the experience.

This scrapbook started with a pencil scribbles exploration on a 50x70 cm in a client session. On a following session with a different client I used these scribbles as a background for a collage exploration.

Then I used this page as a base to create my scrapbook, which I did alone. On the back side of the sheet I collage and painted optical textures.

I deconstructed this 50 x 70 cm piece cutting it in 4 with a ruff knife then I reconstructed into a 8 pages scrapbook creating totally new links between parts, new compositions and new narratives. I worked on each pages with some extra collage elements and paint to finalise it.

Cancer Water sign – Video collage 2019

Cancer is part of a series of video collages on the 4 elements & the 12 signs/archetypes of the zodiac.

This work will be part of a wall of 12 video collages. Here the format is given by Instagram, square and 1mn.

I worked from a short video of the water reflections in the port of San Antonio after a day out on the sea, simply taken with my Iphone. I inverted, deconstructed in several pieces and re-constructed the video into a moving collage.