Last Friday night, out of the blue I found myself sitting around a broad dining room table taking part in something that a few years ago in the back of my mind I had imagined might happen if I entered IDSVA. Along with my fellow Cohort ’11 troublemaking friend, Mary Anne Davis, I was listening with mounting excitement to fifth year student Jen Hall’s plans to create a salon for sharing research and ideas as a kind of a “maker’s think-tank.” She is now in the final phase of writing her dissertation on a subsection of neuroaesthetics that concerns “how the body works to help bring us to consciousness and how those actions can be ways to critique participatory art.” I know very little about neuroaesthetics, but thanks to this salon, I soon will.
Around soup and snacks, Jen described her motivations for organizing a salon and shared with us her thoughts about how it can grow from there. It started with a shared desire to make connections across cohorts at the school. This was not to be a dissertation group, though, but something more far-sighted. She sees it as a formal engine for making ideas. As Jen said, “We are makers. It is about empowering makers to learn to extend ourselves out in the world – that is all we can do.” Another reason is practical. The salon is a way to create a community who can quickly be brought up to speed on new topics in aesthetics. As she says: “I’ve found my peeps.”
Mary Anne and I got a preview of the salon when Jen started explaining what she means by the post-biological era. There was talk of cells and machines, pharmaceuticals, and microorganisms. Gesturing over the bread, Jen turned philosophical: “We are individuals, but the boundaries are no longer where we thought. It is a paradox. Making things is not about you. Making them – ideas or objects – is about the self.”
I can’t wait to hear more. Articles by Noë, Armstrong, and Damasio have already gone out, and Jen’s chapter is soon to follow. Seats are still open! BE THERE: Nov. 17, 5pm. Beverly, MA.