Drawing during quarantine at the hotel room 525
Room 525 was a project I completed within 14 days of quarantine in the hotel during the COVID-19 outbreak. 525 is the room number where I have been quarantined. I noticed that every time the front desk called me, they addressed me as 525; I need to fill in the room number when I need to report my temperature from the APP every day; The boxes and letters I received were also marked with a large 525 by the staff. During those 14 days, I lost my identity and became 525 itself.
Most hotel rooms are numbered and guests have the right to use the room from check-in to check-out. It's not so much that the body takes up a space as that it has the right to use it for a specified period of time. In this sense, space is temporal. Room 525 naturally dictates the location (hotel room) and the period (check-in to check-out time) for my project, and we can think of it as a research site. In this site, my aim was to experience how my body-subject relates to the hotel room, making the space a place and embodied in the drawing process. And in the process, explore how consciousness and the unconscious work together.
In order for the project process to be rigorously implemented and the future to be academically analysed, I wrote an instruction . My drawing process followed this instruction, and I wrote it in a style that seemed to the reader, so that anyone could try to follow the instructions.
Before you begin, prepare paper, pen, and any other materials you can get your hands on (oil painting sticks, chalk, watercolor, etc.). Try to relax yourself, empty your mind, and turn off any distractions.
Scan the room for scenes or objects that your eyes like and want to draw.
Now draw what you like. You don't have to draw very carefully, just let your hand slide freely and automatically on the paper. (You don't have to represent anything, just capture the first impression and how you feel right now.)
When you feel like you can stop, walk around the room and focus on other objects that interest you, then keep drawing.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you think you can stop.
Put the finished drawing anywhere in the room you feel appropriate, and take a photo of it.
Write down how you felt at the time, or afterwards.
Now you have completed this activity
How do the conscious and unconscious participate in this process? and what is the role of drawing in this project? First, I agreed that place is what is created by practice, and naming (Cresswell 2004, p.9), experiencing (p.12), and making affective connections are ways of making space a place. Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan claims that places can be big or as small as the corner of a room. There is no doubt that 525 can be regarded as a place.
Likewise, "a sense of space has been defined as an open arena of action and movement while place is about stopping and resting and becoming involved"(Cresswell 2004, p. 20). Walking home, moving house, sending letters, and walking the dog are all movements, while "such movements appear to be below the level of conscious scrutiny. The body-subject knows what it is doing…"(p.34).
First of all, I need to emphasise that my research is based on the phenomenology of perception, and I agree with Merleau-Ponty's view of body as subject. On this basis, we perceive the external world through the movement of the body, and adapt to the environment instinctively and unconsciously (known as the 'body schema' ). In Room 525, I connected with the room by constantly changing positions, changing my visions frequently, and unconsciously sketching images with my hands. Such a connection is not one-way, nor is it my grasp of the object, nor is it a visual representation of the object, nor is it a representation of the unconscious content. When the body-subject encounters the external world, the unconscious is already embedded in the individual's history and manifest through language, painting, music, behavior and so on. Drawing brings such a kind of unconscious precipitation in the past to the present, making it a kind of 'pause', and thus making space a place.
In addition, researcher Kozyreva summarised Merleau-Ponty's and Husserl's views on exploring the the unconscious in terms of phenomenology, that is, the unconscious should be investigated in a non-representative way, in two directions: 1) via situated, embodied, perceptive consciousness, 2) via non-representational relation to the past (Kozyreva, 2017, p.155). Drawing can be seen as a combination of these two directions. Specifically, Kozyreva suggests we can thought the unconscious as a sedimented practical schema of subjective being in the world. It is the way one perceives and interprets the world, and the background against which we relate to the world. In particular, the unconscious becomes the way we fill in the uncertainty, a horizontal dimension that connects past and present without making this past an explicit object of observation (Kozyreva, 2018, p.204).
That is to say, in project Room 525, 'perception, interpretation, and the way of filling the uncertainty' are key words. When we scan the room and move around the room, we perceive the room; When we decide that we can stop, we're really looking for a way to fill in the uncertainty, to continue to fill in the picture, to decide what to draw, or to decide when to finish the drawing; Finally, we explain drawing through personal experience. It may be unnoticed, but the unconscious is involved in the process.
"Painting is not so much a wholesale transferral of unconsciously preconceived images as it is a process of forming those very images through a dialogue between unconscious and conscious modes of processing "(Jussi 2015, p.11)
I do not intend to draw unconscious. I am not investigate the unconscious content but focus on the function and process of unconscious through drawing. "What we gain through experience does not appear in our minds in a conscious or unconscious way" (Merley-Ponty 2013, p.310). The unconscious itself does not appear in any comprehensible way, but as a 'sedimented practical schema' in one's perception, interpretation and the way to fill the uncertainty. Therefore, drawing is not the result of presenting the unconscious, while the process of drawing practice (perception, way of filling uncertainty, explanation) is the way of experiencing the unconscious.
Cresswell, T. (2013). Place: A short introduction: John Wiley & Sons.
Kozyreva, A. (2017). Phenomenology of Affective Subjectivity: Analyses on the Pre-reflective Unity of Subjective Experience: Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.
Kozyreva, A. (2018). Non-representational approaches to the unconscious in the phenomenology of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 17(1), 199-224.
Merleau-Ponty, M., & Landes, D. A. (2013). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge.