Can someone please tell me how to write # art?

Thanks to the gorgeous Howard Hardiman ( and, I cycled to the Post Office depot this morning to collect my pristine copy of John Berger’s ‘Bento’s Sketchbook’. (

To my mind anything by John Berger is at least worth a sampling, but this time I’m particularly looking forward to lapping up crumbs from the master’s table because the premise of his book is Berger musing on Spinoza’s philosophical writings by re-imagining and re-drawing his lost sketchbook; an undertaking akin to a/r/tography, in short.

Just to briefly recap (for those who missed my last blog), a/r/tography (or at least my version of it) stands for art/research/translation and the writing thereof, with the ‘/’s representing the folds and pleats created when these usually separate disciplines are brought together.

My a/r/tographic practice- and current doctoral study- is (to paraphrase Jim Cohn) translating the pictorialism inherent in the visual language of British Sign Language poetry into objects and artworks in the plastic arts, in order that the art and image of BSL poetry can be more widely understood, and differently appreciated.

So I’m working to produce art, but as Rita Irwin argues, in a/r/tography:-

“The processes and products are aesthetic experiences unto themselves because they integrate three (or possibly more) forms of thought.”

In Bento’s Sketchbook, I’m hoping to find Berger not only engaging in ‘illustrative’ drawing practices (i.e. giving visual form to existing ideas), but also using drawing as a process to investigate, extend, reflect on and respond to Spinoza’s original thought (what I call ‘contributive’ practice).

But what I’m really salivating about is the prospect of examining Berger’s writing and picking up tips on just how to describe these multiple yet conjoined forms of thought, the spaces his drawing practices uncover. This is not a case of constructing an exegesis (detailing inspiration, intention, ideation, creation, processes and materials, et cetera) or writing a description or critique of a finished artwork.

Irwin, in a line that conjures the darkest vampire flick, suggests

“There are spaces between and spaces between the in-between”

I can see them….but just how do I capture them in the written word? On second thoughts forget the crumbs; Mr. Berger, I offer you my jugular…….

Irwin, Rita (2004) A/r/tography: A Metonymic Métissage, in Irwin, Rita L. and Alex de Cosson, eds., (2004) a/r/tography: Rendering Self Through Arts-Based Living Inquiry (Vancouver, Canada: Pacific Educational Press) pp.30-31

Cohn, Jim (1999)-discussing Ronsard’s contribution to poetics in- Sign Mind: Studies in American Sign Language Poetics (Boulder, Colorado: Museum of American Poetics Publications), p. 69


About nanafroufrou

Nana is currently developing two strands of creative practice; translation art ,and [w]righting. View all posts by nanafroufrou

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