DIZZINESS — A Resource

Starting with the attempt to call the phenomenon of dizziness by its proper name, this book brings together diverse voices considering the potential of this in-between state from multiple perspectives and in view of different disciplines.

Ruth Anderwald
Karoline Feyertag
Leonhard Grond
Mode d’emploi

This is the preprint of the preface to the book Dizziness-A Resource, which will be published in autumn 2019 in the publication series of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Sternberg Press.

Slipping into dizzying freefall, sliding into uncertainty, becoming stuck, losing one’s way, and giving up are as much actions as occurrences, both active and passive. Dizziness, marked by an increasing feeling of loss of control and vulnerability, is a midway state at the point where everything and nothing seems possible, where certainty and uncertainty are in superposition. What potential lies in being out of kilter? How does a thought, an expression, the emergence of an idea, or an experiment evolve under such condition? How can this phenomenon of Taumel, or “dizziness” in English, become a resource?

In this book, dizziness is used as a metonym for cognitive, emotional, and physiological processes involving, unbalance, confusion and disorientation. Moreover, Taumel is pertinent to a physical, mental, and metaphorical frame of references, and therefore relevant to cross- and transdisciplinary communication. However, the appropriateness of the terms Taumel and dizziness were challenged throughout the trajectory of the artistic research project “Dizziness–A Resource” (2014–17), that lay the foundation for this reader, evaluating their implications and exploring functionality and appositeness. Through this multidisciplinary confrontation, the project was able to establish dizziness as an operational term for related artistic and scientific research.

Starting with the attempt to call the phenomenon of dizziness by its proper name, this book brings together diverse voices considering the potential of this in-between state from multiple perspectives and in view of different disciplines. With specific attention to moving image art and post-structural philosophy, reflecting the expertise of the editors, this reader assembles essays, interviews and poetic texts of 16 artists, artistic researchers, philosophers, scientists and practitioners from the Western hemisphere located in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, and Poland. Contrasting their respective approaches aims to reveal the richness of a future field of cross-disciplinary dizziness studies, that seeks to understand dizziness not only from the viewpoints of different disciplines, but also on its various scales, from sensory input to philosophical and metaphorical dizziness, to artistic and creative processes, to personal, or socio-political change processes. The contributing authors share a background of interdisciplinary research that broadens their methodological approaches as well as their practice. Referring to this common background the use of conversations in this book represents a methodological approach of the underlying artistic research project. This volume can be perceived as the first attempt to outline the emerging field of dizziness studies. Further and ongoing research is to be found on the online repository http://www.on-dizziness.org.

The book’s four sections “Naming Dizziness,” “Transversal Nature of Dizziness,” “Modes of Creativity,” and “Navigating Dizziness” question in which way and under which conditions dizziness can be regarded a resource.

The prelude addresses the reader as a possible “agent of confusion” and confronts her or him with the personification of “dizziness.” Together, the editors of this book, created the poetic monologue “Dizziness Is My Name” in a collective effort combining art, philosophy, and artistic research with musical improvisation by trumpet player Anders Nyquist from the Vienna-based orchestra klangforum Wien. Midway between manifesto and sound installation, Dizziness Is My Name was employed to lead the visitor through the exhibitions on dizziness at Kunsthaus Graz and U-jazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw.

Drawing on the prelude the first section, “Naming Dizziness,” presents different ways to give dizziness a proper name. Anderwald and Grond’s essay gives account on the research-creation process of Dizziness—A Resource and its starting points, carefully positing dizziness as a resource within “artistic facts,” artistic-cinematic practices, philosophical thought, and scientific research. Following this is a conversation with philosopher François Jullien, which laid the foundation of Anderwald and Grond’s cooperation with Feyertag, who added the focus on French contemporary philosophy to the research-creation. Jullien presents a steady point of reference for the artist duo, well before their research on dizziness set off. Therefore, it deemed logical to explore with Jullien the connection of the dynamics of his thought to dizziness as a concept in motion. The conversation revealed some indispensable preliminaries to the reflection of dizziness, namely, linking dizziness to the philosophical terms ambiguity, paradox, and compossibility. The contribution by Jarosław Lubiak, artistic director of U-jazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art Warsaw, is explicitly concerned with naming dizziness and highlights the fact that the phenomenon called dizziness functions as “proper name,” eluding the necessity for narrowly defining the object of study but rather introducing dizziness into Lacan’s concept of a “symbolic system.” A prospect on this symbolic dimension of dizziness is provided by philosopher Marcus Steinweg in his experimental philosophical essay “DIZZY THINKING: A tour de force” through the mastery of thinking and writing: beginning with Peter Handke, passing by Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Lacan, Jean-François Lyotard, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe’s maelstrom, Simone Weil’s pain, Robert Walser’s Schnori, and closing with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s questions on certainty, Steinweg encompasses the proper risk of dizziness when the individual exposes itself to the act of philosophizing: “No thinking without risk.”

The second section, “Transversal Nature of Dizziness,” focuses on the cultural, art historical, architectural, and performative account of dizziness. Commencing this section, art historian Oliver A. I. Botar emphasizes the corporeal and artistic pleasures of dizziness from the perspective of Callois’ ilinx and spatial theories of the early Futurists in regard to aviation, art history and expanded cinema. Caillois’s game theory is subsequently addressed by the two following authors, architectural theorist Davide Deriu and philosopher Sarah Kolb. Their contributions differ in style, but are both concerned with how dizziness offers ways to position oneself outside the societal norm, be it the illegal art of high-wire walking between the urban abyss of the Twin Towers of the former World Trade Center, be it challenging scientific boundaries by translating the experience of existential dizziness into philosophical writing as the case of Caillois. Rebekka Ladewig’s essay on Jan Evangelista Purkyně’s self-experiments in the nineteenth-century ties in with her book Schwindel: Eine Epistemologie der Orientierung (2017), which considers the significance of vertigo within an epistemology of orientation. Ladewig is also co-founder of the Berlin-based cultural sciences journal ilinx, which proposes and analyses new and experimental forms of research in cultural studies. The first edition of the journal was an essential catalyst for the artistic research Dizziness—A Resource. The title, ilinx, refers to Roger Caillois’s groundbreaking study Les jeux et les hommes: Le masque et le vertige (1958).

The third section, “Modes of Creativity,” begins with a conversation between Anderwald, Grond, and creativity researcher Mathias Benedek, who became another important contributor to Dizziness—A Resource. Not only would Benedek’s and his colleague Emanuel Jauk’s psychological creativity research be challenged by artists approaching them with questions about their own creativity, but their cooperation also created new research in the form of a scientific survey that was incorporated into an art competition, “Living in a Dizzying World.” The artwork that won first prize, “Fractal Crisis” (2016) by Viktor Landström and Sebastian Wahlforss, was included in the exhibitions on dizziness. Besides elucidating on the relation of dizziness and creativity, the conversation also testifies to essential questions of arts-based research and research-based art. Indeed, the problem of mutual translation, translatability, and understanding is a visceral one for any cross-disciplinary research and has its specific moulding within the realm of artistic research. In the essay “The Many Facets of Creative” innovation researcher and head of innovation and strategy at a company that provides medical and therapeutic solutions, Maya M. Shmailov links the personality of creative boundary-crossers with their ability to risk failure, and to place themselves in states of imbalance to come out with new ideas. What Shmailov researches in the sciences, consultant and philosopher Maria Spindler presents as a practice-based example within management. Like Botar, Deriu, Shmailov, and later in the book Pechriggl, Spindler also speaks about the necessary training of specific capabilities in the context of business consulting.

Opening the last section, “Navigating Dizziness,” with the interview “Navigating the Unknown,” philosopher and psychoanalyst Alice Pechriggl refers to her existential experience of dizziness when speaking about writing her last book on acting out and taking action. Her accident led to the inclusion of a specific phase into her theory of action that refers to mise en abîme, which is the human experience of groundlessness, disorientation, and fear of the abysmal. To navigate dizziness as a quandary or predicament equals the necessity to confront fears connected with these personal experiences and to train ourselves “to master vertigo” as Caillois proposed. The following conversation between Kunsthaus Graz chief curator Katrin Bucher Trantow and artist and activist Oliver Ressler strengthens the political aspects of dizziness and dissent their potential, but also pushes for radical change, self-empowerment, and solidarity. Finally, Karoline Feyertag’s essay “Dizziness: From Aporia to Method?” tries to summarize the different and divergent ways in, through and out of dizziness, asking if dizziness and the artistic research project Dizziness—A Resource created a method or rather a poros—the way that always has to be traced anew. As there are a lot of—individual and collective—ways into dizziness, it seems there are as many leading out of, or away from dizziness.

Concluding, the resource of dizziness, like all resources, needs to be activated, explored and exploited in order to become fecund. The plurality of perspectives on dizziness assembled in this volume is offered as such resource: a resource to profit from and to inspire further artistic and scientific investigation on the topic. In this way, this book does not present an exhaustive systematization of dizziness but introduces dizziness in light of the disciplines that make up the core of the artistic research project.

We are very thankful for the cooperation and the ongoing exchange with scientific, practice-based, and artistic contributors and institutions that have contributed to the development of the project. By questioning different disciplines and modes of expression, we aim to draw an accurate picture of the visceral experience of dizziness, its reflection, and observation, and to give an overview of the diverse methods and disciplines engaged in this endeavor. Thus, this book opens a glimpse into what cross-disciplinary dizziness studies could be, and how artistic research contributes knowledge, understanding, and insight on today’s dizzying conditio humana.

Ruth Anderwald, Karoline Feyertag, Leonhard Grond

© Anderwald + Grond

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