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A Phenomenology of Artistic Doing: Flow as Embodied Knowing in 2D and 3D Professional Artists

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Abstract This research investigates flow experiences and explores meaning construction for artistic practices that differ in haptic nature. In addition to the phenomenological analysis of interviews, videos of artistic practice and practice-based research (in which participants instruct the researcher in their primary techniques) were employed to obtain both retrospective and real-time records of the physicality of artistic practice. Drawing on authors who emphasise the automatisation of actions in flow (Dietriche, 2004; Spinelli, 2005) and heightened body awareness (Pagis, 2009) flow is reconceptualised in non-representational terms as optimal precognitive engagement with the world. In this light meaning in flow results not from bringing order to the mind as Csikszentmihalyi (2002) proposed, but through its embodied construction in activity. Analyses revealed that the sources of enjoyment and meaning, the relationship between artist, tools and artwork, and the nature and extent of self-differentiation differ between artists who work in two (2D) and three (3D) dimensions, and whose physical actions differ in the production of their artwork. 2D artists derive enjoyment from their creative process and meaning from capturing an atmosphere or place, and attribute artistic control to their artwork. 3D artists derive more enjoyment from the product of their artistic activity and meaning from the recreation of the self in material form, and do not attribute artistic control to the artwork. Consequently, embodied physicality of activity appears fundamental to similarities in flow experiences and meaning-making: accounts of flow and the meanings generated in activity differ between activities that differ in their haptic or performative nature but are similar among haptically similar activities.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Oxford Brookes University


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