Intuition reconsidered as an artistic methodology

Most people would agree that there is such a thing as intuition and that it is often experienced by artists and can have a profound influence on their work.

“While the term intuition has been marginalized within recent art theory and criticism, the idea of a creative epiphany that lies at the centre of creative production is explicitly intuitive,” says Jennifer Fisher (right), an art history professor in York’s Visual Arts Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts, as well as a critic and curator specializing in contemporary art.

Fisher, whose research has engaged with the role of the non-visual senses in art and culture, became intrigued with examining the sixth sense. She has brought together 24 collaborators in an anthology called Technologies of Intuition, an assemblage of artists’ projects, essays and interviews which she edited.

“Each contribution reveals a specific perspective on extra-rational approaches to art,” says Fisher. The collaborators in the book, which encompass artists, art historians, theatre directors and psychoanalysts, “explicitly engage aspects of the sixth sense in art, cultural theory, art history, curating, theatre and psychology.”

By using “technologies” in the book’s title, Fisher aims to make it clear that there is more involved in delving into the sixth sense than just its “hardware”, that is, Ouija boards, deck of cards, crystals balls etc. There is also a methodology –  the practice that the artist uses to focus her attention to achieve a certain state of mind.

For example, says Fisher, performance artist Marina Abramovic uses danger and fear to clarify her focus. “One of her performances involves her balancing precariously on a bicycle seat very high up in a room for up to six hours.”

Right: The cover image of Technologies of Intuition

The artist herself says in the book, referring to one of her performances, “I was sure I was going to die. There was this incredible fear — which lasted only until the public entered. It’s amazing that focusing is only possible for me when I can experience the collective energy.”

Fisher adds, “Marina Abramovic’s focus is so intense that it generates a force that is palpable. You can see her interacting with the people watching her, staring them right in the eyes. There is something going on here that is intuitive…that shifts the audience’s consciousness.”

Another artist, Linda M. Montano, undertakes seven-year performance cycles that she structured “as vehicles for generating awareness,” says Fisher.

Such artists “work on themselves in order to transform themselves through certain kinds of exercises or durational work, and exemplify. what I mean by the term ‘the technologies of intuition’.”

Fisher also mentions Chrysanne Stathacos, who takes photos with an aura camera typically used at psychic fairs. The technology records the body’s invisible energetic spectrum and combines it with the subject’s portrait on Polaroid. In Fisher’s interview with the artist, Stathacos explains how intuition played a part in the making of the series of photographs, and discusses several strange phenomena that happened during the process.

Left: New York Girl (2001) by Chrysanne Stathacos; image courtesy of the artist

Technologies of Intuition aims to demonstrate that intuition is a viable methodology — one that can enhance their understanding of art is a continuum of experience open to the flash of insight.”

For more information on The Technologies of Intuition, click here. For more about Jennifer Fisher, click here.

The publication of Technologies of Intuition will be celebrated on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 7pm, YYZBOOKS, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 140, Toronto, telephone 416-598-4546.

This article was written by former YFile editor Cathy Carlyle, now a freelance writer and contributor to YFile.