Metaplasticity rendered visible in paint

how matter "matters' in the lifeworld of human action

Martyn Woodward

pp. 113-132

Recent theoretical and philosophical movements within the study of material culture are more carefully attending to the variety of ways in which human artefacts, institutions, and cultural developments extend, shape and alter human cognition over time. Material Engagement Theory (MET) in particular has set out to map, explore and understand the relational nature of mind and material world as can be read through cultural artefacts. Within the context of MET, the neurological concept of metaplasticity has been expanded to include the affective domains of technology, materials, and things in the neurological development and architecture of the plastic human mind; a "transactional' relationship between a plastic mind and a plastic material world that are correlated at the ontological level. The challenges of mapping this metaplasticity of mind lie in understanding how the mind and material culture should be understood in relation to the constantly changing lifeworlds of humans over time; the ecological, social, technological and environmental contexts that form the historical specificity of cognitive development. This paper explores how the historical specificity of metaplasticity can be made tangible through the study of material culture, focusing upon the particular activity of oil painting. It will be argued that paintings can provide clues to the historical specificity of the mind that crosses the lifeworld of human action; the technological, phenomenological, philosophical, material, and social conditions underpinning the creation of a painted mark. Drawing from a range of sources that have a root within a Deleuzian process philosophy, the paper builds an account of painting that can be read as expressing the encultured and historical manipulation of paint as an expressive material in itself; an action rendered visible that express the historical emergence of mind.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-017-9553-8

Full citation:

Woodward, M. (2019). Metaplasticity rendered visible in paint: how matter "matters' in the lifeworld of human action. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (1), pp. 113-132.

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