Past, Session

Tales of the Unexpected I Session by Chris Rose

Chris Rose is a Senior Critic in Architecture and Design at Rhode Island School of Design, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London. Chris is also a Fellow of Arts Letters & Numbers and has been a crucial part of the organization since the beginning. During the time of November 9th and November 11th, 2018 he directed the session ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ for a full house at Arts Letters & Numbers in Averill Park, NY.

'Tales of the unexpected'; Why the title? Well the expected when taken alone can either become a delight, for example when we lose a sense of time by being thoroughly immersed in what we love to do, or it can be a form of cultural hypnosis or dulling of awareness. It is often the unexpected that wakes us, brings us to awareness and appreciation, keeps us in creative relation with possibilities that surround us. So the ‘expected / unexpected’ is a vector of awareness.

In the session we considered the ways in which experience enters our present moment - that mysterious human sense of the 'persistence of the present moment' which is a feature of our conscious life, of our imagination and dreams.

We shared some experiences of our own, and as a framing device for the four days we made use of images, sounds and writings to open up an appreciation of those things that are shared and those that are personal; an exploration of what may be termed 'the grammar of experience'. The musical analogy is with the word ‘timbre’ the pattern of sound we instantly identify with a distinct instrument, a flute, a violin, a saxophone for example. These identifying qualities are independent of a particular piece of music in the same way as we can sometimes feel a recognizable type of experience separately from its specific instance or narrative content. Here ‘the grammar of experience’ may be a thought provoking term

We had some short texts that were from previous centuries and current times, all of which evoked a sense of persistence, currency of human experience through narrative, word pictures, ideas from the sciences and from different cultures and epochs to show how much persists and is common across human experience in many domains, lending us the remarkable capacity to perceive previously unperceived things. We heard an audio dramatization of ’Time Regained’; a famous concluding section of Marcel Proust’s ‘In search of Lost Time’. We listened to it because hearing is a sense that is volumetric and spatial rather than linear. This audio experience vividly illustrated how our attempts to remember the things that matter to us by using only the intellect, or our ‘thoughts about memories’, are unsatisfactory and it’s hard to know why. But the human senses can suddenly and profoundly connect us across time in a moment - a sound, a smell, a certain phrase; the power to ’solve’ the loss of memory is a part of our sensory life made up of a conciliation of all the senses into the present moment.