(Next week’s reading: Understanding Patriarchy, B. Hooks).
Let’s suppose that Dylan’s mid-60s work qualifies as ‘visionary’, and that he accurately articulates both his experience of producing it, and what has changed for him since then. It raises the question: how can visionary art be simultaneously an accurate report of ‘seeing into the truth of things’, determined by one’s circumstances, and a genuinely creative act that imposes a novel interpretation on those circumstances? I will argue that we can only answer this question by seeing artistic Vision as embodied, embedded, enactive and expressive.
Like everyday vision, artistic Vision is enactive – poised between passively receiving information from one’s surroundings and actively constituting the visible object. Visionary art thus enacts and expresses new meanings rather than merely registering and reporting them. Following Merleau-Ponty (1948/1991), and drawing on further self-descriptions of creative activity, I argue that this is possible because what we see is determined by our embodied and active habits and the sociocultural scaffolding within which they are embedded. These habits bestow an inescapable capacity to experience the object of vision as something that essentially goes beyond our contingent and finite access to it. A 4E conception of visual perception thus affords resources to understand artistic Vision as involving both genuine discovery and creation.