In The Footsteps of Wittgenstein

“One must always be prepared to learn something totally new.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

I’m currently working on a series of paintings exploring the landscape around Chunal, Glossop in conjunction with Ghislaine Howard and the Art History (Contemporary Art History) Interactive Arts Manchester Metropolitan University School of Art.

In the footsteps of Wittgenstein – Students from Manchester Metropolitan University School of Art celebrate the achievement of Ludwig Wittgenstein on the moors above Glossop.

It has become something of a tradition for students and staff from the School of Art to gather on the moors above the Derbyshire mill town of Glossop to celebrate the time spent there by Ludwig Wittgenstein – one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

This year is no exception – at 11.00 am on Thursday 7 April 2011, students and staff from MMU will be flying kites and other aeronautically apposite objects and machines on Chunal Moor.

In 1908, Wittgenstein arrived in Manchester aged 19, with the ambition to design, build and fly an aeronautical machine – only 3 years after the Wright Brothers made world’s first successful man-powered flight. Wittgenstein spent the spring and summers of 1908-1909 at the Grouse Inn on Chunal moor, just two and half miles south of the Derbyshire mill town of Glossop. His job was constructing large Cody kites designed to carry students’ experiments into upper atmosphere. This was a key moment in Wittgenstein’s life – in 1910 he left Manchester for Cambridge, determined dedicate himself to the elucidation of the key philosophical questions that tormented early twentieth century thinking.

Students and staff from Art History (Contemporary Art History) Interactive Arts and Fine Art visit the moors to celebrate this conjunction between ideas, place, biography, imagination, creativity, philosophy and technology.

Wittgenstein has become the archetypal modernist hero, a patron saint for artists, musicians and poets. His writings teach and suggest many things – one of the most pertinent (and troubling) is that language, so essential to whom and what we are, does not explain the world, but is a product of the world.

One of his students wrote that Wittgenstein was “incapable of playing the game of the illusion of understanding,” Like William Blake, or Leonardo da Vinci, he never stopped being amazed at the world and his place within it, never stopped trying to explain it and never accepted any proposition he couldn’t either prove or believe in.

In our time, when virtual reality and powerful imaging technologies shape our understanding of reality, Wittgenstein’s questions about how we know what we think we know are as pertinent, and difficult, as ever.

Perhaps his memories of our landscape with its ever-changing weather patterns remained with him when he made notes for his last book – his Remarks on Colour. In that text, proposition number 15 reads ‘We must always be prepared to learn something totally new.’

Not a bad epitaph.

Find out more at In The Footsteps of Wittgenstein or browse some of the artwork on the interactive map below:

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