CONSTELLATION Lecture: Do I have ideas or Do Ideas have me? – Dr. Clive Cazeaux

In this lecture we were posed with the question: “Do I have Ideas or do Ideas have me?”

 The words form and idea come from Greek origins: ‘eidos‘ – something that is seen, form. ‘idea‘ – seen or conceived by mind.

Plato’s theory of the forms negates that forms get their identity from ideas. This means that to begin with, we have an idea and it is from this that forms are then created – that forms cannot be created without such ideas.

But, What is our relationship with Ideas as Artists and Designers?

René Descartes wrote his philosophy on ideas around the time when the world was forming modernism. One thing he was sure of, was that he could doubt everything except the fact that he was a thinking being. Hence his famous phrase (in Latin) “cogito ergo sum” which translates to “I think, therefore I am”. He also had the view that we are all pilots within our own bodies – that we live within our minds. English philosopher John Locke’s view was opposed to Descartes: He believed  that the emphasis on thought was too great. That to live and think is much more physical. He felt that we exist on the inside but retrieve things from our senses. Descartes has rational and distinct ideas, Locke uses simple ideas.

Clive Cazeaux referenced the Numbskulls who believe that our thoughts are controlled by the inner mind. When we are born we are a blank slate and senses create our personality.

But how does this effect us today?

The Death of Art

We are born too late, Art has died…

Marcel Duchamps’s fountain (1917) signifies the death of art. He takes a urinal and signs it and calls it art this puts an end to expression. Art is now being ready made and borrowed it does not come from ones self. This now effectively means that art can be anything.


But if art can be anything, then why would you paint or draw or sculpt when you could just take a ready made object?

Here, Form decides what art is. 1939-99 are known as the decades of death. However there is one exception, the death of design has never really happened because there is always demand for it. The market will always want practical things to be aesthetically pleasing. If there is always demand for something, it cannot die out.

The Death of the Author

In 1916, Linguist: Ferdinand De Saussure felt that thought and matter were of the same value. Language is a series of words but they are separate from the object, he felt there is desk the word and desk the object. According to Saussure, words have two aspects, ideas and concepts and Sound. Saussure said that there is no connection between the word tree and the object. Language is a network of sounds, we name things by the sounds that we want to make. He felt that thoughts are made by matter, external things, not from the mind.

Saussure spells the end of the Numb Skulls: with his idea of matter and external factors affecting out thoughts. This blows the idea of inner self completely and the inner mind affecting our thoughts is out of the water. We live in a constructed world. In reality the world is made and we are made.

Immanuel Kant said that our life is structured and shaped. Experience is made and held together. What holds time and experience together? Concepts and ideas. Concepts are at work within the old holding things together.
How do we describe things of conceptual acquisition?

Martin Heidegger sums up Kants thoughts in one word ‘Dasein’ – being there.
Who am I and What am I? We cannot think about this without referring to some part of the world. We are part of the environment. Heidegger does not treat the self as a human being, he says we are defined by technology and our environment. An example of this would be humans being defined by their phones – ‘phone beings’. We are technologically constructed. How do we think through the world and through materials? What does portrait mean nowadays? In terms of phones and technology a portrait is a SELFIE.



An example of artwork that has been shaped by ideas: Christian Bolanski’s no mans land 2010. Where a load of found clothes are displayed. A collection of old clothes is a portrait because of the people they are associated with. We wonder who they are – concept. Ideas are in the world, we always access them through other ideas and technologies and here materials that are available. The reincarnation of St.Orlan by Orlan is another example. Here she has surgery and uses her own body to create the art. She changes herself but is this ever really possible? Can you do something new with Ideas? What is possible within Ideas?

Is Art Dead?

NO… there are more ideas to discover and possibilities of far more concepts to consider.

What we pick up comes to hand, we reach for, select and what with think of all have prior meanings. They will guide or direct us in our actions but will lend themselves to new possibilities through being applied in to new alternative settings. We live with ideas. Ideas structure us. We need to think about what is possible and how are our lives changed by this?

We are not self contained beings. We have come to the post human predicament. The world is dead but there are endless possibilities within it.


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