What if there was no Repetition?

Sel-similarity barb (c)2014 Jane Boyer

self-similarity barb (c)2014 Jane Boyer

My own artwork is leading me to research the mechanisms, structures and relationships between simulacrum and autobiography, this naturally involves repetition – a lot of repetition. RECURSIVE has been a starting point for this study in a way, by peeling the layers of repetition and sort of mulling it over. We’ve discussed some of what repetition is, how we react to it, when it frightens us, and whether it even exists. All this begs the question: what if there was no repetition?

After thinking, ‘oh, that would be interesting…’, then I panicked. Can you imagine a world without repetition? It would be a world of singularity and we would have no reference points, no memory, no experiential knowledge, no rhythms.

What do you think? Can you imagine a world without repetition? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 WHAT IF THERE WAS NO REPETITION?

Book Thief

 

susanefrancis

Susan Francis, RESIDE artist in residence 2012, from 'Book Thief'

Susan Francis, RESIDE artist in residence 2012, from ‘Book Thief’

‘Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion.’

It’s strange how when you begin to engage with a context, instances within everyday life begin to resonate, intertwine and reflect that back to you. Recently I travelled to Belfast to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday with my father and my sister, all that’s left of our family there. My sister Heather is 10 years older than me and has recently taken up writing as a pastime. When I was in her house she pulled out piece of writing that she had written recently entitled ‘The Dark Room’.
Heather was married and had left home by the time I was nine years old and before that our paths rarely crossed as she inhabited the adult life of the workplace while I was still locked in the private world of childhood. ‘The Dark Room’ described a period long before I was born when Heather was very young and lived with my parents in a rather bleak flat on a troubled estate on the edge of Belfast. Our mother suffered throughout her life with bipolar, including suicide attempts and numerous stays in hospital undergoing electric shock treatment and psychiatric therapy. In the depths of her depression she always slept in the afternoon and both Heather and I, in our own individual childhoods, played happily around our mother waiting for her to wake up. Although it was a dark time for my mother, the flat, which they seldom left, was a place of safety for my sister and her only of the view through the tall high windows was of the clouds floating by outside. During this time she would take the books down from the bookcase and build paths around the room, playing at stepping over treacherous waters while my mother lay sleeping by the fire, and this memory is at the centre of her writing.

I read this piece of writing with real emotion as a couple of years ago I was artist in residence on Reside, an online residency passed from one artist another. During that residency I hired the village halls nearby for an hour each time, with very few materials and no preconceived plan as to what I would do there. In one of these halls I took some books and this is the work I did on that day

You may want to watch the video, read the account accompanying it, and bear in mind that Heather and I had never shared this together until now.

Susan left this message last week on the post ‘A Different Repetition‘. I was very moved by her telling of this personal discovery. Here is Susan’s beautifully simple, yet so expressive video: Book Thief

 

The Eternal Return

janeboyer

I came across this from “Difference and Repetition” as I was making a reply to Hitomi on ‘A Different Repetition’: “For it is perhaps habit which manages to “draw” something new from a repetition contemplated from without. With habit, we act only on the condition that there is a little Self within us which contemplates: it is this which extracts the new – in other words, the general – from the pseudo-repetition of particular cases. Memory, then, perhaps recovers the particulars dissolved in generality…It is in repetition and by repetition that Forgetting becomes a positive power while the unconscious becomes a positive and superior unconscious (for example, forgetting as a force is an integral part of the lived experience of eternal return).” (p.8-9).

This makes me think of the cult movie “Paris, Texas” directed by Wim Wenders, written by Sam Shepard. Harry Dean Stanton’s character is portrayed as wilfully wandering the American desert to forget. It’s a powerful image and one which perhaps illustrates Nietzsche’s ‘Eternal Return’. Am I on the mark here? What do you Nietzsche fans think?

Here’s the amazing opening scene from Paris, Texas:

Where does it turn?

The question that has been in my mind thinking about this next post and question for discussion is: when does repetition turn from reassurance to warning sign? Are they simply two different patterns or is there a connection between comfort and destruction? In considering these things, I came across a very interesting article on the World of Psychology blog, by Ray Lumpp. In his article, Habit Formation and the Rat Race, Lumpp discusses a study at MIT finding habit formation takes place in the prefrontal cortex of the brain rather than in the subconscious:

Until now, psychologists and behavioral therapists believed that habits were hidden in the illusive “subconscious.”

But the MIT study shows that the brain is not just aware of habits: it controls them completely, moment by moment. And no matter how long the habits have existed, we can now shut them off, as by the flip of a switch.

The researchers formed habits through repetition and aural cues in mice running through a simple maze over the course of a few weeks. Once they had shown that the habit was fully ingrained, the researchers broke it by interfering with a part of the prefrontal cortex known as the infralimbic (IL) cortex. Using optogenetics, a technique that allows researchers to inhibit specific cells with light, the researchers blocked IL cortex activity for several seconds as the rats approached the point in the maze where they had to decide which way to turn.

Read the article

We all have habits, mostly routines that help us get through our day and let us focus on important things that need our attention. These habits help us relax or just give us a bit of comfort in the ‘known quantity’. But when do these habits turn into warning signs?

When do you take warning from a habit?