The video embedded below is a talk by Daniel Kahneman entitled- “The riddle of experience vs. memory”. Kahneman discusses how the mind can be thought of as two different parts, an experiencing self and a remembering self. The experiencing self is aware of experiences, of what’s happening in the ‘now’. The remembering sense recollects what happened, and places it in a narrative. The remembering sense is primarily responsible for what we remember about our experiences.
An analogy can be made between this way of thinking and painting. The experiencing self is in charge while painting, while the work is being made. We have experiences, but we’re not quite sure what they are and it’s hard to articulate them. Painters often use the word ‘intuitive’ to describe this phase, while they’re working. It’s used to mean- “I have no idea what I’m doing” or “I know what I’m doing but don’t care to explain it.” The artist can’t place their work in a narrative.
It’s only after the work is completed (and often after some time has gone by) that the remembering self takes over. The remembering self can articulate what the artist was trying to accomplish and what the artist was thinking about. The remembering self can put the artistic process into a cohesive narrative allowing the artist to talk about and understand their own work.
However, there is a gap between these two selves and the experiences they describe. The story as described by the remembering self makes sense, seems cohesive, but doesn’t completely capture the true nature of the experiences.
Some artists have a very difficult time articulating what they’re doing or what the intent of their work is. Perhaps they are responding only with their experiencing selves. Their experiences are truthful and vivid, but can’t be articulated by their remembering selves.
Kahneman’s idea is useful in separating the information (or often verbal gobbledegook) of an artist’s statement with what could be seen as the inherent truth of the artwork itself.