USE OF MY SENSES – Emily Orr

RESPONSE #2 Emily Orr

In our last meeting Graham Burnett and Sal Randolph led us in an exercise of ritualized attention. Through a choreographed sequence of four stages in silence, we all attempted to engage, disengage, and reengage with the ten-pound note over the course of about half an hour. I was aware of other people’s approaches to the objectives of the four stages alongside my own. I was struck by the variety of ways in which the ten-pound note caused us all to act, move, and look. Was the ritual about the power that the object could have over us? What could be learned from the movements that this encounter generated?

D. Graham Burnett and Sal Randolph

D. Graham Burnett and Sal Randolph

In reflecting back on the session now, I think what I gained most was an awareness of my senses. I was alert to how I could see different elements and details at different distances. Due to the note’s pliability (and maybe the nervous tension present in the room during the time in which we held the notes), most people’s instinct was to enact their sense of touch and fold the note, to play with it, or to crumple it. I ran it over and in between my fingers, registering its texture. I could feel that the note left a film on my fingers, as evidence of this concentrated contact. All of this handling generated certain noises in the room to which I became aware. I recognized that the exercise was creating a certain soundtrack that was challenged by outside noises coming in through the open windows. I was waiting to hear a rip, if and when someone’s grip became too aggressive. Paper money does have a particular smell that I detected but did not want to indulge in since it was unpleasant. Graham mentioned that the ten-pound note smelled of all the people that had ever touched it and that this smell was now stuck to his hands.

When I recently went to visit my chosen object, a ten-legged African stool, I did not follow through with the four step formal exercise, but I did however aim to actively engage my senses. I noticed a distinctive smell that I had not noticed the last time; it was musty and stale. Was this the smell of old wood? Or was it the dirt that had caked into the bottom of its legs? I ran my hands across its whole surface, along the ridges of the design of its top, the grooved tool-marks covering its legs, and the sharp peak at the center of its pointed underside. I looked for evidence of its construction, which I still cannot quite figure out. I inspected for joints between the legs and top, or the use of tenons, or even glue, none of which appear to be present. I heard how the stool wobbled as I turned it around on the table. For one more week, I have gained this knowledge simply from observation; I have resisted the temptation to do any formal research and am instead satisfied with what I have gained from the use of my senses.

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