Falling paper drawings
During an experimental drawing workshop I asked two participants, Maxine and Goli, to draw lines tracing the movement of a falling piece of paper. It was intended only as a warm up exercise, and an introduction to the morning discussions on science and art. However, I think there was something quite interesting in the results, that I would like to unpick here.
When they entered the room I gave them paper to draw on and a pencil. I started straight away, so as not to give them to much time to think. I explained that I would drop a strip of paper and they should try to draw its movement. I stood on a chair and dropped the same strip of paper ten times, resulting in drawings of ten lines each. We repeated this experiment with 6 different strips of paper, folded in a variety of ways so they would fall and twist differently.
The three of us were surprised at the difference between the drawings, we looked and compared a little, put them away and continued with the day. We pulled the drawings out again at the end of the workshop a few days later. Surprisingly, it was fairly easy to line up each strip of paper with its corresponding drawings. So the drawings contained not only the information to match with the piece of paper, but this information was subtle and nuanced. Maxine and Goli's drawings were quite different from each other as you can see here:
Maxine started her lines sequentially (from left to right) across the top of her page. her lines were curly, with lots of loops as they traced down the page. From this you can quite clearly see that she was interested in what the paper was doing in relation to itself, how it twisted and looped.
Goli started all her lines from the same point, in the centre at the top of the page, from where they radiated down and out. There were no loops, instead there were wiggles. She was clearly more interested in the position of the paper in space, some lines even stopped short when the strip of paper landed on the chair I was standing on.
So these simple line drawings tells us something about how a strip of paper falls, they also tell us something about the person drawing, about how they see and relate to the paper.
My feeling is that in looking and drawing (very quickly in this case), as you watch and try to understand how it moves, you start to project yourself into its motion and in so doing you start empathise with the phenomena of the falling strip of paper, with its movement, its dynamics, its weight and flow in the air. In the moment of drawing the border between what you see and what you draw becomes a little ambiguous.
So what about the drawings afterwards? They contain information, knowledge for someone to see. Is it then a similar process? As we looked at Maxine and Goli’s drawings and try to match them again to the strips of paper. As we start to tease-out the difference between them, we also start to empathise with how they perceive and express.
I find this fascinating and would like to pursue it further. Some things to think about:
How do we interpret movement and flow?
What knowledge can a drawn line contain?
What happens in this moment of perception and expression?
Is it as simple as seeing and doing, input and output? Or is there a more complex relationship, Something to do with being and presence, with participating in, or empathising with the phenomena. Is this involvement with a process (or subject, phenomena, environment etc), a kind of knowledge? I think so. It is a form of tacit knowledge, that comes from our experience of being-in-the-world. And is at the same time an expression of that same being -in-the-world.