Constellation Lecture: The Literal and Phenomenal in Art and Design: Dr. Mahnaz Shah

Exploring the literal and phenomenal in Art and Design for me is a difficult concept to grasp. Asking is it ever possible to be literal because of the phenomenal is something I’m not sure I can answer. Art logic and perception is not about seeing, it is about vision and narrative. The literal and phenomenal questions our perception and questions the narrative of artwork.

The definition of “Literal” is true to fact and not exaggerated but there some questions to be considered when debating what it means to be Literal:
What is Factual?
Can we do anything without Imagination?
Is it ever actually possible to be literal? When there isn’t a specific answer or concept it become a phenomenon, so what is literal? Who you are effects how you define something. Can you really remove all that and then define something? (be literal)

The Definition of “phenomenal” is a philosophical study of the structures of subjective experience and consciousness – Edmund Husserl 1859-1938


Literal and phenomenal can be subject to interpretation. Boundaries exist in literal and phenomenal but not in Art and Design. As soon as you have boundaries in art, you lose creativity. We must embrace artistic sensitivity by breaking rules and boundaries. “thought can only advance, freeing itself from the shackles of its own subjective condition” – Immanuel Kant. Art and Design is about concept and finding the sublime. Existentialism holds the starting point of philosophical thinking and must be the experiences of the individual – Rudolf Arnheim. Philosophy and creativity is about pattern and shape. We define reality through forms and shapes more than words. Visual perception is visual thinking and therefore a cognitive activity. With artwork, we define it as we view it.

“When a person is capable of dwelling, the world becomes an inside”When we immerse our being so entirely in our creativity and the art world, it becomes part of us and a natural, flowing aspect in our lives – Heidegger

In conclusion, Is the Literal phenomenal and is the phenomenal literal?
You could say there is no such thing as the literal. When you are describing something, you are describing your perspective of it. So the phenomenal is always aiding you describing the literal. Reality can be phenomenal and linked to experience. However, if there was no reality without the phenomenal it may destroy the whole foundation of philosophy. We always know things from a point of view, from perception so the literal creates a view out of the phenomenal. Meanings can be generated from how we perceive things and different ways of looking. The literal and phenomenal help us generate meanings and meanings change depending on how where and why people are looking (the phenomenal). In a nutshell, it is up to us how we define literal and phenomenal.

Is the Literal phenomenal and is the phenomenal literal? Well, that is really up to you.


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