Monday, December 01, 2008

Concept Mapping the Unconscious

I have been reading about Matt Mullican since Dorothy Spear's New York Times article "Mapping an Imagined Order, Page by Page" from Nov. 16th. He traffics in symbols, signs, and links them together in ways quite familiar to those who use concept or mind maps. He "performs" his art by taking to the stage under hypnosis and drawing on large canvases. Of the many questions that Spears says his art posits include "how can thoughts and emotions be communicated visually?" This is a question we ask as instructional designers and artists. Mullican works in everything from notebooks to large, commissioned public works. If the work is familiar it is because there is something of his in every modern museum, and his work reveals something about how we use visual patterns to communicate. The Times piece discussed the influence of Oceanic and tribal art on Mullican but what is curious to me is that Oceanic and tribal art were also engaged in an attempt to communicate complex ideas and systems (cosmography, religious ideas, rituals, etc.). We engaged in the same activity in the work place that people have been engaged in for millennia now.

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