• Susan Ossman


Looking at a detail of “spazierhen gehen” (going for a walk) brings  process invention to mind. I made it for  a site-specific project about the materials/processes of knowledge production   at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, where scholars ( and a few writers and artists) are invited to spend a year's sabbatical in a yearly cycle. The "fellows" live in an idyllic, leafy atmosphere throughout the year, working on projects of their choice. They are not required to produce anything in particular, yet as their stay comes to a close, most seemed began to count up what they had done throughout the year. Most wished they had done more. In this piece I explored these tensions and the processes of layering of thought on thought, word on word, language on language of thought that go into thought and its expression in words.

I’ve long been interested in calligraphy and calligraphic- inspired painting ( Cy Twombley’s white writing  was an early inspiration). I’ve used script in a lot of pieces over the years, often working with multiple scripts.  In this piece, I wanted to convey a stronger sense of the overlaps, erasures and confusions  involved in the process of discovery. So I sat at my desk, as I do when I write an article. I imagined being poised at the edge of a thought and began scribbling. This was the start of  what I now call  “almost writing.” The scrawls and scribbles that compose it are not quite doodles- some of the  scribbles are legible as words.

To make Spazieren Gehen I  photographed a single piece of almost writing, then printed  copies on A 4 sized tissue paper ( a technique that I learned in posts about making  wedding favors). Next, I  rolled out a length of  primed linen and   attached some of these transparent sheets to it. Most of the sheets of paper suggested pages: one suggested a cloud of words. This set out a kind of map for the spring "thought walk."

A leisurely walk often produces scattered thoughts one my one, or by comparison. But sometimes, the pace quickens, words swarm and tangle and compete. The  searching and searching again that is research is textured and intense. By  gluing pages of almost words atop on another with acrylic gel medium in layer after layer I did not so much illustrate this processes as mime it. Just as I do when writing an article or book chapter, I gather all of the data an all of my ideas about in  a kind of thought pile. I painted some of them. Made further marks on others.  Then, tore into the filo-like material with a blade, extracting colors and almost words, revealing the several layers.   Isn’t this the way we often think of getting at the truth? Whether the real story of one’s life revealed by talking to a psychotherapist or of an ancient civilization unearthed by an archeologist, digging into the depths is a prevalent metaphor  for discovery. Truth is depth. Or so it seems. The pressures of adding up one's accomplishments or worrying one hasn't "done enough" that this piece  references may suggest otherwise. Perhaps there is a beauty in just thinking and experiencing the way that  ideas emerge in response to the bright blossom/brushstrokes of the spring.

(Look here more on the Wissen/Schaffen project )

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