The Minor Gesture, by Erin Manning - Meeting #4 - Chapter 3 (Weather Patterns) & 4 (Dress Becomes Body)



We are reading The Minor Gesture by Erin Manning, with virtual meeting every 2 weeks between April 25 and July 4 for live discussion.

In Meeting #4, the group will dive for “pearls” from deep within the words of Chapter 3 “WEATHER PATTERNS or How Minor Gestures Entertain the Environment” and Chapter 4 “DRESS BECOMES BODY: Fashioning the Force of Form.”

Reading Schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. MDT – Chapters 3 and 4
  • Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. MDT – Chapters 5 and 6
  • Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. MDT – Chapters 7 and 8 and Postscript

Organizer: Geoffrey Edwards @Geoffrey_Edwards


Here are some color photos of Rei Kawakubo’s “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” collection which Manning focuses on in Chapter 4.

I know next to nothing about fashion, but this show is obviously doing something different than what we tend to think of as ‘fashion.’ This clothing seems to disturb our very perception of the body. Very interesting work!

I’m going to miss this meeting, unfortunately, as I have to take care of a few things in the morning which I’m afraid I won’t otherwise be able get to this week. However, I look forward to viewing or listening to the recording, as I have been keeping up with the reading and continue contemplating Manning’s thoughts on artistic process and practice. I am curious about how the session will land for me from an asynchronous approach angle.


I’m starting us off with Chapter 3 this morning. I wanted to share the etymology of “aesthetic” here for your consideration and will explain more when we meet!

aesthetic (n.)

1798, from German Ästhetisch (mid-18c.) or French esthétique (which is from German), ultimately from Greek aisthetikos “of or for perception by the senses, perceptive,” of things, “perceptible,” from aisthanesthai “to perceive (by the senses or by the mind), to feel,” from PIE *awis-dh-yo-, from root *au- “to perceive.”

Popularized in English by translations of Kant and used originally in the classically correct sense “science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception” [OED]. Kant had tried to reclaim the word after Alexander Baumgarten had taken it in German to mean “criticism of taste” (1750s), but Baumgarten’s sense attained popularity in English c. 1830s (despite scholarly resistance) and freed the word from philosophy. Walter Pater used it (1868) to describe the late 19c. movement that advocated “art for art’s sake,” which further blurred the sense. [Whewell had proposed callesthetics for “the science of the perception of the beautiful.”]

As an adjective by 1798 “of or pertaining to sensual perception;” 1821 as “of or pertaining to appreciation of the beautiful.” Related: Aesthetically.


Here is the reference to the exhibit at the Ontario Art Gallery that Pat spoke about :

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I’ve satisfied my desire to “wordle” and to pull forward a thread in the embroidery…

Chapter 3:

Here is one way of reading this Wordle/Worldle as a poem: (online file plays in Dropbox in case file doesn’t work:
(Feel free to share your own variation of a word map and/or reading of the word map as poem.)

Chapter 4:

Here’s a way of reading the Chapter 4 Wordle/Worldle as poem. “Midst Remains”: (online file plays in Dropbox in case file doesn’t work:

(What I like in both of these recordings–done spontaneously–how would it differ if arranged in advance?–is that they allow the clusters of ideas to speak together, each node a force of meaning becoming something other than itself, something more relational.) (I lose my flow in the middle of Chapter 3 & 4’s Wordles. I wonder if you can find the place the meaning of the poem stops participating. I wonder if you can shape them in your own way to sound across the surface, to percipitate the sky, to fold the fabric anew.)

To let the implicit speak.

To let the knowing know.

To enfold.

A type of response.

I learned new things about Geoffrey and John on this call, and we dove into the grooves of our own experience and writing-“with” the book. Thanks everyone for your shares!

Here are some shares of mine. I invite you to use an “open focus” if you want to engage them, letting yourself be drawn in where you are and not bogged down by the constraint of “response-ability” to know every inch of the cloth or intricate gesture (that you may not know). What is it that moves you or that you move toward? What is that movement? Who notices?

Open-Focus Attention Training (which can be applied to reading):

And open focus exercises:

Eugene Gendlin on Heidegger’s Befindlichkeit (which influenced or nuanced his own sense of the felt sense):

Gendlin on Bodily Implying (and implicit intricacy):

Bodily Implying 2 (Gendlin):

"Beyond Postmodern: From Concepts Through Experiencing" (Gendlin):

Writing and Sewing (mouse-over the image and click on the “Sewing is Writing is Body is Sewing” pieces):

A hinge, an interstice, a fold (for me):
“The smell of red is how the weather pattern of autumn makes itself felt” (64).

A “carrying forward” from the previous chapters (–which is a Gendlin term for what we do with the implicit that cannot yet be expressed): “[A]rt is before all else a quality, a difference in kind, an operative process that maps the way toward a certain attunement of world and expression” (47).


Here are some of my designs :

First, my “gzip” dresses. Note that these are all the “same” dress - it consists of three pieces in four shape variants and two colours that are zipped together in different ways.

There was also a matching accessory, the gcielo, which transforms from a bag into a cap and scarf combination :

That was my 2010 collection. My 2015 collection was the Infinity Corsets. Similar idea - one basic (underbust) corset in four colour variations (all white, all black, black and white, white and black) but a vast range of “panels” that can be zipped onto it :


I played it, and it followed right on with Holly Cole singing Temptation from my playlist. Nice segueway!

Some of what I shared I have never done before - you folk got it in “primeur”. I think my friends Cora and Pat might have learned some new things about me as well! I was partially inspired to open up, I think, by your comments about gender in your Naropa text that you shared with us, Heather @hfester - “Bodies on the Line”.


Thank you for your courage to share, @Geoffrey_Edwards, and I hope it feels like a good space for doing that because it is welcome as far as I’m concerned. I adore the designs above also and find that each new piece I add in learning about you is surprising and deep. I love the idea of the gcielo (and find it brings a sense of deja vu for me somehow–the word and the garment). I also enjoy the idea of the zippers and asymmetrical details. The lines of the models and the clothes entice my eye (their jewelry and boots too). The colors are perhaps the most interesting part of what makes these designs your own, and I’d love to know how they beckoned to you as styles you would wear. (And, have you seen Phantom Thread?)

I will have to consider what I would wear if I could design anything. I don’t think I’ve ventured to do that since I played with fashion plates that you arrange and rub with crayon. :slight_smile: Well, that’s not true. In 7th/8th grade, I started to make my own clothes. I sewed a pair of skorts that fit very well–unlike a lot of other clothes I had. And, I made a skirt that I wore in my first year of high school. I think those were both from pattern. But, I remember the way the skirt in particular dove-tailed with the dreamed self, kind of like you described it, now that I think of it. I remember with the skorts, going over and over the patterned fabric with my hand as I was planning it. I remember working hard on the zipper and clasp, and how imperfect they were, but still fine. I also designed my own mixer cover and placemats as a gift for an ex–which were subsequently ruined by rain and then mold in storage. And, I made a replica outfit for a teddy bear to match his work clothes (replete with a name patch like he always wore on his workshirts–heaven knows why. He didn’t have to wear a uniform, but that was part of how he dressed himself, I guess, and I shouldn’t judge). I designed my own casserole carriers for family members one year and even quilted them, and I have been planning for a couple of years a beach towel that folds into the corner to become its own bag (from one I found). But, these are in a much different league than your designs.

All of that was without a pattern. :slight_smile: I wonder sometimes where all of that creative energy has gone, and I hope it’s being channeled into equally worthy things. But, my homework will be to sketch out my own outfit for where I am in life now–the clothes I want to wear.

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I love Open Focus and have practiced for years. I also appreciate Gendlin’s pioneering work and his attempt to apply Heidegger. I have big problems with Phenomenology, in general, as it has lagged far behind Analytic philosophy, with rather sad results. The Humanities, which should take the lead in human affairs, has been dwarfed by Science, Inc.

The objective and narrow has trumped us up. The diffuse and immersive are underdeveloped. We need to use all attentional styles at the same time. We have become a dangerously mono-phasic culture. I hope we can learn to co-create a more poly-phasic culture. I imagine that is what wants to happen as we study Manning together and explore our experiential practice. A strong field effect.

So much phenomenology I find vague and very sloppy. I hope we can revive a robust phenomenology, dealing with actual practice and with a process orientation, rather than a crude, factory model product orientation. We need a balance of attentional styles.

In that spirit of open inquiry, I offer a brief Clean Language demonstration by my friend and mentor, James Lawley. I have been using CL informally in some of our calls and have done a few group demos on Cosmos Cafe and hope to use it more often in the near future. I anticipate that CL can be used in the area of creative writing and compliment other approaches you are offering. May we use all of our knowledge and use all of it well.

Thanks, again, Heather, for the steady guidance you gave to our “group grope” as we use the mind to touch all of those cracks and fissures in our Cosmic Egg(s). I also appreciate the theoretical under mind you point to in your choice of references. There are many overlaps and I expect emergent knowledge creation is happening. I sense that there is a family resemblance between Clean Language Practices, Gendlin’s Focusing,and Les Femi’s Open Focus. It may be an interesting collaborative research project to overview theses varied approaches from a meta perspective to discover the patterns that connect.

And when we find those patterns that connect, what happens next?


I also have problems with phenomenology, but for different reasons, @johnnydavis54. Although to be fair, I note that Gendlin is himself critical of what one might call “mainstream phenomenology” - his approach is not to slave himself to the “standard” but to set off in new directions, which I appreciate. My problems with phenomenology are two or possibly three fold. First, phenomenology is often associated with a focus on experience, and the problem with that is that it becomes very human-centric. Erin Manning is critical of human-centric approaches and I find I cleave to her unease with that. Neither Deleuze nor Whitehead are phenomenological philosophies, even though both were influenced by work in that area, and both favour the non-human. For me, the non-human is extremely important, as it shifts the human away from the centre of things.

The other main problem I have with phenomenology is that, because it tends to be focussed on the experiential, most of the methods used to carry out “phenomenological research” are essentially ethnographic, that is, they are rooted in a study or analysis of texts and/or other representations produced by humans. Whereas research that is grounded in other approaches (Deleuzian, Whiteheadian, Jamesian, etc.) focus on movement, performance, and the study of interactions outside the strictly experiential, or indeed, that are experiential but are inexpressible. Phenemonological studies don’t tend to grapple much with the inexpressible. Indeed, in a sense, although Merleau-Ponty “corrected” Heidegger’s blind spot towards the body, and phenomenology is often promoted as an embodied approach to the world, it has been noted that the body is actually absent from most phenomenological studies. Instead, one finds discourse about the body, but not the body itself, and discourse about experience, but not the inexpressible side of experience. In a related way, movement is also absent from phenomenological studies for similar reasons - that is, there is discourse about movement, but not studies of movement per se, in all its dynamicity and its ineffable aspects.


I agree with your basic assessment, Geoffrey, and hope we can bridge the gaps between humanities and the sciences before we crash and burn.

I would add that the focus has begun to shift away from the brain- in- a- vat metaphor of early AI to a more sophisticated brain(s) in environment(s) approach that is friendlier to non-human and atypical, alternate ways of knowing. A knowing that comes from left field, diffuse and just on the tip of the tongue. Metaphor and narrative are where the poly-phasic rhythms enter the weave. Bateson was a master of mapping this kind of territory but even he ( sometimes) became lost in the woods with his paradoxes. He was in some ways willing to sit in the paradoxes but Humanity, now, has little leisure to do that. We are going to have to get up and move. Many paradoxes are resolved when we get up and wiggle our hips! Dance is the royal road to resolving paradox, impasse, and rigid mind games. I think Nora is sensitive to this. We are more than observers behind a one way mirror.

Heidegger and Husserl and even Merleau-Ponty, for all of their brilliance, tends to reproduce endless aporias, that go nowhere and create conditions for the Nihilism, Inc, to set up control centers, just about everywhere. We have deconstructed ourselves to limbo.

The reductive, representational, visually dominant style, as you suggested, is narrow and fast, too fast to keep up with. Hence our increasing fragmentation increases with each new gadget, an increase in sensory overload, not sensory acuity. I am working with a somatic syntax.

If you realize your head is in a cage, you can drop your attention down into your hips, and shake yourself till the cage gets looser and you use your hands deftly to remove it.

And can we get our heads out of the cage and feel the earth move and watch the dark clouds clear?

That, as Bateson used to say, reminds me of a story…

Hence, the importance of story, rather than algorithm, a way of developing inter-subjective capacities, intensities, shared realities, that are neither objective nor subjective but in between.


I saw that you were replying, and I couldn’t wait to see what you would say, so I kept coming back every two minutes to see if you had finished… but then I needed to get going to another appointment, so I gave it up and left. But now you’ve finished, and I’m happy :slight_smile: As always, your words lead me to new places and I love that.

And now I’m going to say something odd for a writer, though. While I think story is very important, obviously, these days that is my primary activity (even when I write scientific papers, I am somehow telling stories), part of my work at the boundary between the arts and the sciences is to be attuned to and sensitive to expressions that are not storied. It is one of the things I like about what they tend to call “new media art”, that quite often, there is no story, there is only some experience, some sensation, some reaction, some recognition that consists of states of being that are unexpressible, what in French we call “indécible” which is an untranslatable word that means unsayable or even unthinkable or unfeelable. Some new media art is too intellectual, but much of isn’t, it is simply other. Because while story is one of the primary ways we humans structure our understanding of the world, it is sometimes assumed that it is the only way or the principal way, and I think that is wrong. Some poems are stories, but many poems are not, and poetry in general tries to work with the indécible. And I love the non-storied things artists do, almost more than the stories themselves, even though I write stories… although I do try to bring the indécible into some of my stories, by defying some of the conventions around how stories are supposed to be constructed…More minor gestures!


we operate as integrated, recursive communication systems , we are folds within these systems and we unfold the folds, as we cross over between zones of influence or fields…like this picture…we are gestures, minor and major, and we are triadic with perceiving, observing, and mediating with many kinds of observing systems, human and non human. When I am communicating at my best it is like this…a night at the opera…we are, as Eliot says, the music while the music lasts…metaphor and narrative and myth and in a mixture…a meta-space for alternate ways of making contact…multi-sensory…and asymmetrical…we are fire and air…and always something extra…beyond the horizon… mind and nature are transformed trans-linguistically through process…some call this God…


This is a good summary of our discussion, I think. I have been re-listening to the recording, and I am as enthralled listening to it as I was participating in it. The “shifting of the field” between fashion design and writing is absolutely fascinating, and still inspires me, in both directions, as it were. “fire and air” although which is fire and which is air I am not sure. And “always something extra” @johnnydavis54, which relates to the traces the Forsythe talks about for dance - the fashion speaks to “something extra” as does the writing. “Transformed trans-linguistically”! That is, speaking beyond the expressible - the fashion does this!

I also found Pat’s (@p.mckeever) suggestion of a link between habit as behaviour and as clothing and its relation to habitus (and by extension habitat) as another fascinating line of reflection/inspiration/inquiry. This may be my next foray into the world of fashion design - habits are really interesting! Imagine, from dresses to corsets and then on to habits!

I also Love Love Love @johnnydavis54’s idea that the fold in text is the punctuation. And with regard to my book cycle, not only is it constructed so you can read them in any order, or read any subset of a certain size and still get a sense of the larger story, but you could also break up some of the books into their “parts” and reconfigure the parts to form entirely different books and configurations of the story. Another destabilizing minor gesture…