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Making Sense

For an Effective Aesthetics- Includes an original essay by Jean-Luc Nancy


Edited By Lorna Collins and Elizabeth Rush

This volume of texts and images has evolved from papers given at the inaugural Making Sense colloquium, which was held at the University of Cambridge in September 2009. The chapters collected here reflect the multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary sense made at this event, which became something of an artistic installation in itself. The essay ‘Making Sense’ by Jean-Luc Nancy provided the grand finale for the colloquium and is also the culmination of the volume. The collection also includes articles that expound and critique Nancean theory, as well as those that provide challenging manifestos or question the divide between artist and artisan. The volume contrasts works that use texts to make sense of the world with performance pieces that question the sense of theory and seek to make sense through craft, plastic art or painting. By juxtaposing works of pure theory with pieces that incorporate poetry, prose and performance, the book presents the reader with a distillation of the creative act.


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Part 4 Performance Art 131


PART 4 Performance Art SUSAN SELLERS AND ELIZABETH WRIGHT Painting in Prose: Performing the Artist in Susan Sellers’s Vanessa and Virginia Our contribution to the first Making Sense colloquium at Cambridge began with Susan reading from her novel Vanessa and Virginia (Two Ravens Press, 2008, and Houghton Mif f lin Harcourt, 2009), an imaginative exploration of the relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. In the pas- sage Susan’s fictional Vanessa is portrayed working on Bell’s Abstract Painting of 1914 (see figure 6). The reading was followed by an excerpt from the staged adaptation of Vanessa and Virginia by Elizabeth Wright, which included an animated visual score of Bell’s canvas. Elizabeth Wright and Julia Bevan per- formed the roles of Vanessa and Virginia. SUSAN: Making sense, according to Jean-Luc Nancy, resides in the act of making, not in the object made.1 Writing a novel about the real historical figures of Bell and Woolf was, for me, already a praxis of ‘making sense’ in the way Nancy interprets it, where what was at stake (Nancy might say ‘at play’) was precisely an attempt to understand and communicate my own sense (intuited and imagined) of both women’s lives. It was a ‘sense’ derived in part from years of reading and viewing all the available extant materials: in the case of Woolf, numerous published texts, unpublished drafts, corrected proofs, notebooks, diaries, personal correspondence; in the case of Bell, paintings, sketches, murals, room and furniture décor, a few essays, some correspond- ence....

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