constructivist ideas in practice

photographer at 16

A book recommendation for constructivist friends:  'The Photographer at Sixteen’ by George Szirtes is an extraordinary memoir of his mother  A deeply moving and often astonishing book, always questioning the position of the writer, and keenly attuned to the variety of possible interpretations of each aspect of her story.

'The trick is to invent the truth.”

Here, he paints a vivid picture of the life of his mother, constructed from his own and others’ memories and experiences, and from photographs, which were also at the core of her working life.

Like a film run in reverse, the story spools back in time from his family life with her in England to their arrival from Hungary in 1956, and back through her younger years as we fall into the dark and desperate history of 20C Europe. The first page describes, most beautifully, this process of the reverse conjuring of a life:

  the diver

This is a very personal and particular story, yet I also experienced it as posing many fascinating and necessary questions for all of us, about identity, history, belonging, choice, the stories we build, and the meaning of our lives - of any life.

"I am interested in her so I go on inventing her, inventing a truth I can believe in. I invent nothing factual. I don’t make it up, but the person at the core of it all still has to be constructed and understood in terms of invention. The trick is to invent the truth.”

(If buying books isn’t an option, do consider asking your library to buy one - they generally welcome good recommendations and requests, and I believe it is an important book for them to hold.)


infinite spaces

 A constructivist walk through the Architecture Biennale, Venice 2018

"some powerful reminders that we can do things in different ways, and that alternatives-in-action can, and do, lead to amazing things"


imagined futures 

snippets of complexityA collection of interactive explorable (and understandable) explanations of complex systems in biology, physics, mathematics, social sciences, epidemiology, ecology and other fields.

These amazing 'snippets' explore naturally developing systems, such as fish schooling, fractals, pendulums, bird flocking, and growth of organisms - warning: you will get no other work done if you enter here ...

complexity explorables

argumentation from nowhere“people who were previously opponents can sometimes come up with ingenious supports and logics for arguments they earlier disagreed with, perhaps because the need to agree has been removed, or because the activity itself is an intriguing exercise in thinking”

revisiting Kenneth Gergen’s ‘argumentation from nowhere’

argumentation from nowhere - mary frances

nadia naffiNadia Naffi at Concordia University is using PCP interview methods in her work to help young Facebook users become advocates for tolerance.

“In as little as three or four hours, we saw empathy for the refugees emerge, as well as empathy for those who feel differently. In this troubled time, people need to understand where their political tolerance or intolerance is coming from.”

advocacy for refugees

You can also read Nadia’s full paper is here: Nadia Naffi journal/pctp17

ten meter tower

The theory of Personal Construct Psychology makes no particular distinction between thinking and feeling, believing that these things are not easily distinguished from each other, or from other processes such as intuiting, or sensing in the body. We talk of 'construing'.

'Ten Meter Tower' is a short documentary film showing people who have climbed the highest diving board for the first time. The filmmakers, Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson, set out with the purpose of exploring the theme of doubt. They invited people who had never been on a 10-meter diving tower before to climb, and to jump. We see a series of volunteers on the platform, living through their moment of choice, and grappling with the meanings of jumping, or not.

Yes, there seems to be a lot of thinking going on here - calculation, deliberation, sizing things up - but this appears to be inextricably woven with strong feelings including fear, even terror, about the height and depth of the plunge, and we are aware of a powerful experience of the aloneness of the self on the platform.

The volunteers are anticipating what it might mean to jump or to back down, and it seems that core identity is at stake for many participants. Who are they, and who will they be, if they jump ... or if they don't jump? In their own eyes ... and in the eyes of others? A few of the volunteers climb in pairs, and the continuous disruption and reconfiguration of their construing in relation to each other is extraordinary to witness.

As each person arrives on the platform, we see the shiver and the tremble, hear the self-talk, the breathing and the knuckle-cracking. We are witnessing the physical, emotional, cognitive, imaginative, instinctive, gut-flipping moment. This is anticipation, and this is meaning-making. Processes such as thinking or feeling are impossible to isolate from each other. This is construing.

video: ten-meter-tower

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