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Flow in the Zone 2013



Posted December 1, 2013 by Tonietta Walters

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A Global Perspective on the Inner Experience of the Traditional Artist

‘Flow’ is a widely referenced concept characterized as “a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” (Csikszentmihalyi 1996)
Flow – a smooth uninterrupted movement or progress
Zone – a temporary state of heightened concentration that enables peak performance

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International contemporary fine artists contributed to this exhibition:

  • Alete Burgé-USA
  • Alicia Falcone-Argentina
  • Luisa Mesa-Cuba
  • Jose Polet-Belgium
  • Policarpo Ribeiro-Brazil
  • Nathalie Sebregts-Netherlands
  • Ricardo Triana-Colombia
  • Tonietta Walters-Jamaica

The Flow by José-Xavier Polet

Experiencing “flow” over so many years has become a kind of phenomena that is part of my life, with the always renewed excitement and bizarre side effects. Actually, I think that I distinguish several sequences -each one carrying part of the flow- covering the process in three main moves: before, during and after the climax.  Excitement and stress covers a large panel of tasks, physical and mental ones. There is a relatively long period that can last for months, where I define a theme that can be declined over an undefined number of works that I call a series. Later, when working out the concepts, I know, I know, I feel, I understand when the series is finalized and that another series – mostly within a continuation/ discontinuation relationship – has to come into maturation. And some people feel that all these series are a coherent corpus where they reckon a “continuum” to be.  I myself, of course, see it as a “corpus”, or better said, as a process.

We can say that the first group of sequences, a kind of warming up period, covers all the tasks related to preparation.  Let us assume that I have finally a clear picture about what I am going to represent and how I will work it out. This is the most crucial part of the process, quite heavy but already tinted with excitement and challenging items. Most of the time, it happens in bed, between sleeping, dreaming and insomnia; Actually mixing all of these conscious and non-conscious stages. Sometimes, I jump out of the bed for sketching or fixing the concepts by words. In the meantime, during daytime, I start to collect the material that I need, and if necessary, due to my nomad lifestyle, I reconstruct a basic configuration of a studio. Then already my behavior is tinted with febrile signals and -even though I’m not in the fully creative process- I already have the “avant-goût” or foretaste to the flow.  If this avant-goût shall not be strong and tasteful, a little bit “grisant”, then I know that I have to reconsider the concepts or the subject etc. and that I have to wait for a next wave. Sometimes, it can take months and years between waves, it is not a regular move like the sea, like the “ebbe en vloed”. On the contrary, it is out of command, out of control and subject to malicious interferences.

But, it has to be stressed that the warm up is already part of the flow and that it generates already the same kind of cognitive syndrome with the main characteristics fully underlaying the action. By identifying how I will construct the stuff, I have already this fusional relation to the concept that is so strong that it becomes difficult to be involved in other activities such as family relations, commercial and legal matters, small talks, etc… On the contrary, I become then such a monomaniacal person that I have to hide a little, otherwise unprepared people feels that I am a lunatic. Of course, my beloved wife knows moreover what is going on and doesn’t feel doomed when I’m raising the sail. Although the concepts are very abstract and paradoxical, she is listening, catching probably part of my excitement. Of course, I have tried to share this noetic experience with professionals, discussing with gallerist, critics, art teachers and… plasticians. Most remain polite and try to dissimulate that they don’t understand a clue. So, I stopped talking with people about the flow and the intellectual or rational package around it.

Should I describe the climax, the minutes and hours when -finally- I am into the creative process, fighting with the material, guiding it, whispering to it, waiting with patience and concentration during the drying up periods and then reaching the end, the summum, the climax, succeeding to incorporate hazard, accidents and accepting a little piece of shit, or not accepting it. Then I sing and dance, many times physically. I have the feeling that life is burning at my arm length sometimes. I really feel even that I become somebody else, not like playing Pygmalion, but, anyway, coming closer and closer to the mystery of human intelligence, trigging out the maximum of it, forgetting my ego, becoming fusional with the stuff and feeling somewhere that I humbly am climbing up the three of knowledge – l’arbre de la connaissance. Yes, it is a little like becoming drunk or taking some drugs, but much more intense and loaded with awareness, not simply mechanical at all. Actually, I feel drugs and alcohol are like a threat for the flow, and the morning after, I don’t have a hangover. You can’t really not compare it to an orgasm, and there is not such a thing as “Post coïtum omne animal triste est”

Then comes the “descente”, climbing down the mountain, feeling quite exhausted and running to bed, a little anxious about what I will face when I will come back to the studio. Disappointment, or still satisfaction? What will be the comment that I will collect from my wife, from other people when I sent them a miserable digital picture? I then have to face megatons of idiotic sentences; the more extreme being the ones expressing things a little like a football fan supporting one piece above the others… There the flow finishes abruptly. I have to hide my stuff for years before I can face it again, completely swallowed and alienated. Sometimes I wonder if it is me that did the job.

Think about the stupid allure that most plasticians have at their vernissage or finissage. Think about… they had a kind of secret orgasm, a while ago, and now they have almost forgotten what happened in that quasi-conscious state, and they have to look friendly and enthusiastic with people not knowing that new flows are in the pipe, much more exciting, much more devastating and tasteful than these old and obsolete pieces.


The Flow exhibition series is a program of Art+Science France that gives platform to art and artists using traditional media in the investigation or simple expression of inner experience within the creative process. Art+Science France is a non-for-profit organization that aims to facilitate dialogue between artists, scientists and educators who are interested in the connections between art and cognitive science.

Tonietta Walters

The Reverend Tonietta A. Walters, of our Sci2Art & Consciousness Sciences Alliance, is the founder of NoumenArt Center for Applied Aesthetics and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy for Broward College. She has a Specialized M.A. in Art & Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science from Florida International University and is completing a PhD in Comparative Religion/Mystical Research. A 2010 South Florida Cultural Consortium Media and Visual Arts Fellow, she has participated in group and solo exhibitions worldwide. Tonietta has curated several international art competitions/exchange exhibitions and developed continuing arts projects in collaborative partnerships with several organizations such as the City of Lauderhill in Florida and the Office of the Secretary of Culture for the City of Suzano Brazil. Currently, she is working on virtual environment development on the Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy [MOSES] of the US Army Simulation Training & Technology Center. NoumenArt will collaborate with the Society of Mind Brain Sciences to curate virtual exhibitions, Calls to Artists and Reviews.


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