From the Other Side

By Deb Bouchette, Cohort ’12

Many of our studies follow the development of the philosophy of subjectivity-objectivity, or simply the “Other,” that really took root with Descartes and Humanism. To riff on that split, I just passed my orals, and am now on the Other side from where I began at IDSVA. Well, really, I am on an Other side—for if grace is with me, there will be at least one more Othering: a successful dissertation defense.

Research Fraction: Part of Donald Judd's private library

Research Fraction: Part of Donald Judd's private library

Looking back on the three years that led to this point, I am humbled by the ascent. I started with a crude knowledge of art history and one course in philosophy (over 40 years old). I am a visual artist, not a teacher, and have always been a slowwww reader. How did I make it through?

During my first residency in New York, at dinner one evening, a member of the cohort ahead offered advice to make a schedule for the reading. Thank you, that was exactly what I needed. Once I set up a detailed schedule, reading—at my own snail-pace—took precedence over all other activities. I could say “I can’t [do this or that] because I still have n pages of reading to get through before bed.” I went from barely getting through about 50 pages a day to 150 on some days.

It’s not all about reading, though, it’s about listening, letting in other voices, even in the act of reading. Looking back, I am surprised at how much bias about art I carried into the program, since I consider myself a liberal person. I had not realized that I held deep-seated opinions about art and cultural movements, and even about particular artists. But IDSVA has opened my eyes and heart to trans-historical dialogism and to appreciating the “structure of feeling,” as Raymond Williams put it, of the living context of authors and artists. Now I “listen” first.

What’s next? More schedules. I will be scheduling my reading and writing along with producing monthly objectives and weekly status reports, as we called them when I was in industry. I have a new tool, too: confidence. It’s no longer just a matter of “trust the process”—it’s a matter of trust in myself.