RestrainingOrder: The Art of Self-Control

Restraining Order: The Art of Self-Control from Advanced Hindsight.

We interviewed some of the participating artists about their work and their views on the topic of self-control.

Directed, edited and produced by Aline Grüneisen.

Featuring Dan Ariely, Catherine Howard, Mark Kinsey, Geraud Staton, Heather Gordon, Catherine & Neil Palomba, and Jack Swinney.



Ariel

Stranger in Paradise

Pencil, painted and found papers, digital animation

6.5" x 9"

Progress Photos

Every sexual encounter is a collage. Vogue and Penthouse magazines. Images from ancient Greek vessels and 17th century maps. Snippets from a fairy tale text and old advertising.

The initial sketch was re-imagined from a 1798 painting Cupid and Psyche, by Italian/French, Neoclassical society painter Francois Gerard, a student of David. The myth of Eros and Psyche quivers with alternating restraint and abandon. The Love God is sent by his mother, Venus, to strike the too-beautiful mortal girl with an arrow of unfortunate Love. Eros loses control and wounds himself with his own arrow, becoming enamored of Psyche.

At his Palace, the God imposes a categorical restraint on their lovemaking – it will only happen in the dark. One night when he’s sleeping, Psyche can’t control herself – she lights a lamp.

The collage records the eventual happy ending, after Psyche has overcome many restraints imposed by the god’s mother, and references Yves Klein’s sculpture Blue Venus from 1960. My restraint in the work was to scan the collage for the animation after each piece was added (or, occasionally, moved) – without any digital “fixing.” The process of the collage’s creation, animated, reveals dimensions of the love affair not visible in the final, rather restrained, portrait.

There’s a delightful experiment from three decades ago in which researchers at Swarthmore College took groups of college students, each comprised of four males and four females, and placed them in a room for an hour with no instructions about what to do. There were no rules. The students could essentially talk about or do whatever they wanted. And what did the students do with this freedom? They ended up chatting about all sorts of scintillating topics such as where they went to high school, how many siblings they had, and even their thoughts on the current, past and upcoming weather. They made “light” conversation, so to speak. Another set of group was put in a slightly different setup. They were given the same instructions, but the room they were led into was completely dark. What happened now? The discussion was very different. Their interactions were very different. Intimate and uninhibited, they were unchained from the social norms and expectations that prevailed in the lit room. In fact, not only did all of them accidentally touch someone else, but 90% of them did so on purpose. Eighty percent of the group reported to be sexually aroused, half of them hugged another participant, and some even ended up kissing. All in all, it’s amazing what a bit of fluorescent lighting can do for self-control.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Sleep Map

Clarke Barry

Sleep Map

Fabric, manipulated Polaroid photos, acrylic, embroidery thread, T-pins

16" x 20"

Progress Photos

I identified two areas in my life where I lack the necessary self-control to allow myself to be successful creatively: sleep schedule and television addiction. I stay up too late watching television. I oversleep and have difficulty getting started in the morning. I’m late to work and fatigued during the day, leaving me with no creative energy after work.

I attempted to reprogram myself by: limiting television consumption and going to bed then waking at a consistent and earlier time. I used social accountability by teaming up with my friend, Jeanne Taylor. She set up a parental control timer lock on my cable box to turn the TV off at 9:30. I programmed the lights in my house to turn off at the same time, so I would be descended into darkness and have no choice but to go to sleep. I kept a sleep diary for 4 weeks to track various data. Jeanne and I shared a workspace and kept each other motivated to stay on task and finish the project.

My piece is a sleep map of the data I collected. Each rectangle is a day; the bottom layer is a photo representing a dream, the top is sleep. The 4 points on each day represent (left to right): Sleep Quantity (hours), Sleep Quality (1 poor - 10 good), Daytime Sleepiness (1 awake - 10 sleepy), and Mood (1 sad - 10 happy).

While we humans are generally poor at exhibiting self-control, we do have the potential to exert control over the design of our environments. And in doing so, we can occasionally reach more desirable behaviors. In this project, Clarke put restrictions on his TV and lights in order to get the environment to encourage his desired behavior. This is a great example of a case where direct self-control is difficult, but changing the environment so that it invites certain behaviors can be simpler and more productive. A few years ago I discovered my own personal favorite environmental mechanism for self-control just after an eye exam. I came back from the ophthalmologist with my eyes fully dilated, and realized that I couldn’t work, watch TV, or even open my eyes in the light. So I lied in a dark room, ready and able to do nothing else but talk and listen. I suspect that if every married person took on this exercise once and awhile and dilated their eyes before going home from work, their quality of marriage would certainly improve.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Success: Goals Met / Failure: Burden of Regret

Gabriella Boros

Success: Goals Met / Failure: Burden of Regret

Acrylic on wood panel

28" x 16" each

Progress Photos

Success: Goals Met shows avenues of accomplishment including, love (dancing couple), spare time (vacationer), professional (woman with Birkin Bag) and financial (man leaning on ancient art). I also illustrate the Ulysses Contract, whereby you relinquish all self-control to meet a goal.

Failure: Burden of Regret creates a Hell where the hapless strive and fail endlessly. Up front is a case of money mismanagement, next to a fellow who struggles to carry a ladder full of unspecified regrets. Next to him, the media-addicted woman and behind her the calorie enslaved. Squeezed between her and the money addict is the Orthodox zealot, which can be replaced with any religious zealotry. The professional in his suit with permanently-attached phone to his ear is in back along with the female cadre tied to each other’s social striving. Finally, the pet owner overwhelmed by her dogs.

This grouping is not all encompassing, but it certainly gives a face to what self-restraint may and may not be able to accomplish.

Some people have better self-control than others. However, we don’t know whether this increase in self-control is due to what we call “will” or “grace.” The distinction between will and grace is the difference between lack of or immunity to temptation (grace), and the ability to fight temptation and triumph (will). And while studies are only starting to point toward the latter as the driver of self-control, I personally hope this is the case because it gives us a better chance of conquering the tempting world around us.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Taking Care of Trees

Bureau of Change

Taking Care of Trees

Oak, pecan and unidentified wood, glass, soil, oak sprouts, plastic cups, and inkjet prints

Dimensions variable

Concept by Margot Herster and Justin Stroemple, with Jean-Paul Bernard, Annabelle Grimes, Jared Hornsby and Colin Roberson

Progress Photos

Following a hurricane, New Orleans – both the individual citizens and its governmental overseers – undertakes a process of attempting to replace that which was lost.

BUREAU of CHANGE performed trips to collect fallen trees after summer storms. Using basic wood-working techniques, we transformed the lumber we collected into our own version of trendy homewares inspired by goods sold by boutique vendors on etsy.com, large chain retailers like West Elm, and high end furniture designers. During the same period, we also scavenged for acorns and oak sprouts in New Orleans City Park and Longue Vue Gardens, two of the city’s best funded and cared for green spaces. We paired each of our dead tree commodities with a sprouting new tree and documented the locations of their origins.

The sales agreement for each homeware and paired acorn sprout in this project requires the collector to care for the fledgling oak tree and periodically send photographs and notes documenting its growth to the artists. Thus the exchange and production of the work will continue beyond its initial sale, as well as reflect the real and symbolic relationship between our society’s purchased goods and increasing concern for the raw materials that enable such purchases.

In this project, the artists challenge the buyers of the art with a self-control exercise. With a purchase, the buyers not only receive a piece of beautiful art, but they get to contribute to the earth by raising a tree. But with this comes accountability, as the artists require ongoing proof that the tree is alive and well. But, how long will the warm glow last? Will the exchange be as rewarding after four or five years? Long after the art has been lost or broken, the buyer may feel less enthusiastic about caring for their seedling as the initial joy of goodwill fades and the responsibility sets in. I am looking forward to learning about this over the next few years.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Reclaiming Order: A Scroll & Series of Sculptures of our Explorations

Marisa Dipaola

Reclaiming Order: A Scroll & Series of Sculptures of our Explorations

(Scroll) Ink & watercolor on found rice paper scroll; sewn found paper & lace; found birch bark cover. (Sculptures) Hand-sewn found fabrics & buttons; found foam & stuffing

(Scroll) 1' x 50', (Sculptures) 6-9" x 18-24"

Progress Photos

In an ideal world I spend time out in nature every day,
sketching and wandering in the woods,
living as if the outdoor world was my own living room.
When time allowed, this was a daily activity,
and has lead me outdoors to many incredible places,
transforming me into a hiker, a forager, a camper, and an explorer.

Wishing to find a way to sneak long-term goals into our hectic, short-term schedule,
our control is our daily routine toward growth: exploring nearby natural areas,
sketching on-site, and then meditating on life while cleaning up garbage and debris.

My husband and I created a scroll of our explorations,
as ink and watercolor sketches collected into a series of site-specific daily additions
to a roll of rice paper that I found in an old desk.
The sketches stitch together the evolving narrative of our explorations,
documenting the wondrous beauty found each day:
including several species of fungus and plants,
which were identified and sometimes eaten.

Within our ever-changing landscape,
their enchanted presence was fleeting,
as fall fell and the natural world began to hibernate,
leaving a barren void once they departed.

As rain fell and winter was near,
gathered materials were transformed into a sculptural project:
a series of soft-sculpted mushrooms recreating their inspirational and magical world,
which we then brought back and “planted” into the locations of their magnificent fruitings.

One of the most interesting topics in self-control is called structured procrastination. Structured procrastination makes the procrastinator feel as if she’s doing something useful, even when it’s not. If you’ve just spent the morning watching cuddly cat videos on YouTube instead of working on a research project, you can’t help but feel like you’re procrastinating and wasting your time. However, imagine that you make a to-do list and keep track of what you are doing, checking things off when they are finished, or spend an afternoon moving files around your computer to organize your desktop – these activities make us feel as if we’ve made progress when in fact we’ve made none. And while technology has generally done great things for productivity, it also introduces many distractions and creates ever-increasing opportunities for structured procrastination. Which of these two effects of technology on productivity wins out in the end? The pros or cons? This remains to be studied... but I will get to that as soon as I clear my email inbox.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Don't Forget to Remember

Spring Flowerchild

Don’t Forget to Remember

Graphite and colored pencil on craft paper

2.5' x 6'

Progress Photos

Since I was an infant, I have suffered with a seizure disorder. Most of my seizures are auras or partial seizures that cause me to experience a feeling of being outside of myself. This is commonly referred to as depersonalization. I call it “Otherness.” It could occur at anytime and derail my efforts to make consistent progress. In this work, I attempt to recreate these brief, but frightening moments of “Otherness.” The different faceless figures engaged in various unproductive activities as I watch on, bewildered, is a fanciful depiction of the feeling of losing control and the struggle to feel comfortable in my own skin. The “Self” is not a constant for me. As a coping mechanism, I have had to resort to making lists, sending myself memos and setting up various other forms of accountability, to remember where I “left off” after I come back to a place that is grounded in reality. If I don’t do these things, I seem to wander in a never-ending circle of doubt and unproductivity. I used very basic materials, graphite and colored pencil, because they are unpretentious and rudimentary materials. I purposely allow for imperfections in the drawing to reflect my daily struggle to move beyond my present self and remember.

We often think about self-control as a struggle between two sides of ourselves. The rational, cold side that considers the long term and the irrational, hot side that is easily swayed by instant gratification. With her medical condition, Spring Flowerchild gets to experience this duality of the self in a very different and interesting way. One question we can ask is whether such an increase in the perceived difference of the selves makes overcoming temptations and self-control easier or harder to achieve.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Final Temptation

Xóchitl Gil-Higuchi

Final Temptation

Mixed media on panel

24" x 36"

Progress Photos

Final Temptation references the myth of Persephone in the moment she succumbs and eats six luscious pomegranate seeds condemning herself to the underworld. I chose to depict this moment, a moment of loss of self-control, because it also represents transformation. This is the metamorphosis from innocence to experience where she becomes goddess of both Life (Spring) and Death (Queen of the Underworld). It represents an instance that could be loss of control or choice – of freedom and the responsibility that it entails.

I bring her and her story into the contemporary by portraying her in the throes of sensory ecstasy, a phenomenon celebrated in our popular culture. She is garbed in a white dress that alludes to modern wedding gowns, and her half skull face integrates the painted skull tradition of Dia De Los Muertos/Day of the Dead from Mexico. She is a multi-dimensional, multi-cultural being that brings to light awakening human consciousness, self-awareness, and mortality.

The modern version of the myth of Persephone can be thought of as resembling psychoactive drug use. The allure of mind transformation weighs heavily, but it is hard to imagine the joy (or, ahem, the ecstasy) and the potential ramifications without the actual experience. Only taking drugs gives the true experience, but it also brings the possibility of addiction. Moreover, some drugs – after a high – create a strong craving that can only be fulfilled by another dose. Craving begets craving, and the cycle goes on. Pomegranate seed after pomegranate seed, a continuous cycle of drug use has the potential to result in deadly consequences.

Dan – Dan Ariely
How to Fold My Heart in Quarters

Heather Gordon

How to Fold My Heart in Quarters

Latex and graphite on canvas

Four 24" x 24" panels, totaling 48" x 48"

Progress Photos

The self-discipline of practice meets exploration in How to Fold My Heart in Quarters. For this project, I used a process of visualizing information according to a set of rules combined with improvisation. Each quadrant is an interpretation of a set of data each depicted in variation.

The people in our lives define us. Through our relationships, we come to understand who we are and navigate the complexity of choices that create the path of our personal narratives. Can these relationships be visualized? Can this visual expression be read, like a fingerprint, holding all the relationships between the data intact?

To answer these questions, I combine theories of geometric folding patterns, geographic locations, and personal history to create a method for making crease diagrams fulfilling these objectives. By using the birthplaces and current residence locations for seven people who are most important in my life, I create a small set of spatially related data. Then using a program called TreeMaker, I create a “tree” using this data and allow the program to optimize a crease pattern. This tree can be manipulated while keeping the relational distances intact to create variations for the resulting shape.

One of the most extreme examples of self-control is depicted in the film Dr. Strangelove. In this movie, the Russians built an automatic mechanism that detected the firing of any American missile and, upon identification, it would fire the entire Russian arsenal without any room for human intervention. (Of course, this means that the arsenal was not only triggered without humans, but also could not be stopped by humans.) This device was aptly named the “Doomsday Machine,” based on the idea that its existence and its automaticity would eliminate all potential threats by the Americans (then again, things did not turn out so well in the film...). The interesting part about the Doomsday Machine is that, while very effective, it is also very difficult to create and commit to a mechanism that’s completely out of our control. But in allowing ourselves the flexibility to apply different rules at different times, we also create the conditions for failing time after time. Strict rules, like those that Heather employs in her work, can guarantee that we won’t fail – but only if we have the guts to create them and stick to them.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Things to Consider Tomorrow Morning

Kimberly Gormley

Things to Consider Tomorrow Morning

Framed digital photographs with captions

10" x 12" each

During his presentation on The Art of Self-Control, Dan mentioned that there were several things certain people would do for a latte that they wouldn’t do for say, three dollars. Up until this point in his lecture, I had been feeling smug, assuming I was in control of my own self-restraint and couldn’t be swayed by temptations. Then all of a sudden, I really wanted a cup of coffee.

Caffeine is one of the most addictive substances we know of, and I consume it at least twice a day. I’ll settle for brown, bitter, gas station sludge when it comes to my morning cup. In the US alone, we drink 400 billion cups of coffee a day – using it as a pick me up, a medication, an excuse for a social interaction, etc... I never stop to think about the farmer who grew my coffee or picked the berries, or the roaster for that matter. I didn’t have the self-restraint to pick a product that will wake me up as well as benefit the communities from which it originates. After several months researching coffee economics and social implications, I documented moments in which I truly appreciated my morning cup. Although a coffee is a small purchase, a little bit of self-restraint and informed buying, in this case, could produce a lot of good.

When we try to bridge the gap between our long-term intentions and actions, habits and rituals can become particularly useful. When we have a ritual, we don’t think about whether to engage in that particular behavior or not – we simply do it out of force of habit. If you want to exercise, for example, the best way to go about it is to make exercising a habit. Creating new habits is challenging, but one thing that can help ease the process is to link desirable behaviors to existing habits. For example, you can put your medication next to your toothbrush so that you take it when you brush your teeth (assuming that brushing your teeth is a habit, of course). From this perspective, coffee could be a fantastic ritual to piggyback on. If you want to develop a habit, like stretching or taking a daily vitamin, try pairing it with your morning coffee.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Phalli Pinnati Project

Tanya Hart

Phalli Pinnati Project

Felt, cotton, bamboo, synthetic filling

Dimensions variable

Progress Photos

You should play, and laugh.

This project was inspired by the birth of my son. I wanted to create a space in the world for masculinity to be expressed with freedom, lightness, joy and playfulness.

The phallus is an ancient symbol of masculine and procreative power. The shape of these winged phallus creatures is based on a Roman bronze tintinabulum from about 100B.C., in the collection of the British Museum. Tintinabula (with little bells) were hung by doorways as protection from evil.

Less obvious at first is the ancient archetype of feminine power within the piece: The Weaver. In the tale of the Seven Swan Brothers, for example, the weaver-sister of the transformed boys takes up a challenge of skill, misunderstanding, pain, and relentless work in order to free her brothers from enchantment.

The action of this piece is in two parts. The first part is the creation, the artist’s labour in hand-making each individual ‘creature.’ This is the order of restraint. The second part of the work occurs as the strange creatures fly and interact with one another and with the audience, as people touch them and set them moving. Feel free.

In this project, Tanya used her attention to detail as a portrayal of restraint and the free flowing structure of the mobile to represent its absence. However, I think that the choice of topic (the penis) is the real issue at hand. In fact, penises probably represent some of the most common symbols of both self-control and its antithesis – lack of self-control. While there is a disturbing level of crime attributed to passion, and unprotected sex reigns as one of the most prevalent sexual mistakes, the penis is also found in many cultures as a symbol of self-control. Take the Catholic priest, for example, who uses his celibacy to signal his control over sexual urges and to represent purity in general. The penis can create self-control problems but also serve as a symbol for overcoming these challenges. And while I fully appreciate Tanya’s homage to the phallus, I wonder how her sentiments will change when her son reaches puberty.

Dan – Dan Ariely
The Future Bind

Leila Holtsman

The Future Bind

Steel, gesso, acrylic, pastel

72" x 19"

Progress Photos

Earth strata, fossils, and geological timelines inform my sculptural work. Their quiet patinas and topographies imply natural forms, maps, and the body.

I make low-relief surfaces that evoke displacement and change, alluding to the passage of time. Through the manipulation of materials – forming clay into abstract shapes, printing layers of images and giving steel panels over to rain and other elements – I make objects that call to mind the discomfort yet inevitability of change. These are the forces that fade memories and recycle once-living things back to the earth.

Time holds many mysteries and uncertainties, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to plan for the future. When we give something up right now, we know exactly what we’re giving up – but when we sacrifice something now for something in the future, we don’t know what exactly we will get in the future and whether (or to what degree) the sacrifice will pay off. For example, if we live frugally and diligently save for retirement, it might end up being very good for us. But there is the possibility that we will strike it rich at age 62 or die young before we are able to cash out, which would mean that our sacrifices have been made in vain. Coupled with wishful thinking, this uncertainty of the future is one of the main barriers to taking painful actions now (like saving money) that might benefit us in the down the road.

Dan – Dan Ariely
The Silent Battle Inside

Lekshmy Jayasree

The Silent Battle Inside

White acid-free paper, brush pens & pencil

13" x 17"

Progress Photos

The first thing that came to my mind regarding the subject ‘self-control’ was a war that is happening inside a person, the war between the heart’s desires and the brain’s commands. Emotions, frictions, heat... finally the victory of one of those two – heart or intelligence. I gave red for heart and intelligence and connected them together.

The female figure in the picture is holding a mold in her right hand and the molded mask in the left hand. I used different shapes around the central piece in order to express the lightness of our mind and the fluidity of our goals.

The fluid, shapeless objects on the right hand side are the goals she is trying to pursue. Those goals are, in turn, reflecting her face.

The top right piece contains an hourglass (sand timer), reflecting the importance of time, another powerful factor that can shape human life. The spheres on the left side represent the lightness of the masks she had made. Her posture reflects her achievements and thoughts for the future.

Representing ourselves as having two sides is subjectively appealing, and this concept has been depicted in pop culture in characters like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Hulk, Jim Carrey in The Mask, and the shapeshifting realm of werewolves. What is interesting about the popular depiction is that one side (the rational, long-term thinking being) is central to how we view ourselves and is more consistent, deeply rooted, and permanent. The other side, however, is highly emotional and largely influenced by the environment. If the environment is calm, this “other” side is not very loud or influential. But when the environment is emotionally invoking, it can get us to experience and act on our anger, hunger, frustration, pain, sexual arousal, and so on.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Poor Flabby Toothless or Rich Fit Grinning

Mark Kinsey

Poor Flabby Toothless or Rich Fit Grinning

Acrylic on paper and plastic wrap

36" x 48"

Progress Photos

In my non-artist life, my central goal is to grow my massage practice. For seven years, I have intended to improve my marketing, but I’ve been distracted by one thing after another. So I asked myself, after the Restraining Order discussion, what if I attached my primary goal (building my business) to my secondary goal (creating artwork)?

My project includes 48 panels corresponding to the amount of time given for this project. On each day, my goal was to work on marketing for 30 minutes. If I achieved the goal, I was allowed to display the corresponding panel here at the exhibition. If I didn’t achieve the goal, I had to display a blank panel with the word “poor” written on it. For every minute I worked on marketing, I earned a minute to work on the painting.

I attached two other goals to the project – exercising 30 minutes/day and brushing my teeth before leaving the house in the morning. When I missed one of these secondary goals, I was still allowed to display the panel, but I had to cover the panel with plastic wrap and write “flabby” and/or “toothless” on the plastic wrap prior to the exhibit.

The project motivated me in multiple ways. First, it attached the creation of marketing to the creation of art. Second, it attached failure to achieve my daily goals to public scrutiny. Third, the negative words on the panels are designed to create a stronger association in my mind between failing to grow my business and failing to live a satisfying life.

The project was largely successful. I’m in the habit of applying deodorant immediately after showering every morning, and my toothbrush is next to my deodorant, so I was able to attach a new habit to an old habit. I only missed one day of tooth brushing in the morning. I did not manage to build a habit of daily exercise, but I did exercise more than I would have otherwise. And of course, I achieved the goals of stoking my creativity and adding some colorful art to my walls! Not bad.

When we try to overcome problems with self-control, one approach is to use what we call “reward substitution,” and get people to do the right thing for the wrong reason. In principle, Mark should work on his business, exercise, and brush his teeth because these are important things to do. They are in his personal long-term interest, and he knows it. However, as he also knows, this does not seem to be sufficient motivation. In this project, he took the gamification approach where he can express his daily successes to others through this art, but only if he works on marketing for his business, exercises, and brushes his teeth. Mark’s reflection of his own experience seems to suggest that this public accountability was a successful motivator... but I wonder how many of these habits will last beyond the 48 days leading up to this exhibit.

Dan – Dan Ariely

Anastasya Koshkin

Reliving and All Falling

HD video, stereo sound, 4:42 min

Dimensions variable

Progress Photos

The footage within the overall composition was captured on a beautiful sunny day in New York, as it turned out shortly prior to hurricane Sandy. The static shot featuring New York’s Brighton Beach shoreline resembles the fixity of physical space where events could and most certainly would occur.

The time that elapsed between the filming event and the storm that took hold over the horizon on October 25 2012, is a difference in time significant enough to have altered the plans of many residents affected by the storm. Reliving and All Falling focuses on a specific moment in time with a nod to the future as an attempt to reconcile disparate moments in time. It is as an exercise for a greater comprehension and anticipation of the human trajectory. Or perhaps it is as an exploration of control between then and now, over the continuously variable state of our natural environment.

Preparing for potential – but unpredictable – natural disasters creates a substantial challenge for human nature. Arrangements of this kind are incredibly costly, and the likelihood of any one particular catastrophe occurring is incredibly low. With the tension between guaranteed expenses for preparation on one hand and uncertain, probabilistic benefits on the other, the natural human tendency is to delay preparation. After all, this is the basic building block of procrastination – don’t postpone anything to tomorrow that you can postpone to next week! It is easy to see the downside of spending money to prepare for a natural disaster that may never take place, and much more difficult to see the benefits until after it is too late. And as multiple events (like hurricane Katrina or Sandy) have demonstrated, in times of very real need, such lack of preparation can be devastating. Should we trust our ability to respond quickly and efficiently when the needs arise? Most likely not. Rather, we should create a standard for preparatory behavior and get into the habit of equipping ourselves to combat such unlikely but devastating events.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Walter Scoggins

Gracelee Lawrence

Walter Scoggins

Found paper, poke berry ink, thread

Installation dimensions variable, Book: 10" x 16" x 2"

Progress Photos

My impulse when pondering “self-control” was to create a paper installation based upon the repetitive act of using a signature stamp. Covering hundreds of sheets of paper with the same stamp, I used half to create a hand-bound book and with the other half created a suspended installation. Using the ideas of obsession, repetition, and compulsion, I spent 30 minutes stamping every day from October 8 until December 7. The end products are both tangible and intangible, in terms of time and the two different products created from the same materials.

In this project, Gracelee explores an intriguing boundary between self-control, obsession and compulsion. This is particularly interesting because we typically think of the concept of self-control as forcing ourselves to do something rather than not do it. We often demonstrate self-control by exercising instead of resting, eating healthy instead of unhealthy foods, working instead of procrastinating. On the other hand, obsessive compulsive behaviors are those that we are naturally inclined to engage in (repeatedly washing one’s hands or checking the stove to make sure it is off multiple times before leaving the house), but where we need to suppress the desired action in order to attain the desired goal. Along these lines, an interesting case where our natural tendency is to act (and we need to fight it) is the case of investing in the stock market. When stocks go up, people tend to see the increase and buy (“buying high”) and when stocks go down, they fear their loss and tend to sell (“selling low”). This is precisely the strategy that is least profitable, but most common. Understanding where our instincts cause us to over-act where we should not is particularly useful in cases such as this.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Forever Untitled

Victoria Martinez

Forever Untitled

Paper

16" x 20"

Progress Photos

As an interdisciplinary artist, I compose and structure mixed media ephemeral collages. My objectives are to establish urban environmental interventions within abandoned spaces, on my own and in collaboration with the people who live in close proximity to these spaces. These urban interventions ultimately culminate with performances that are directly related to the art work(s).

I collect and incorporate into my art works samples of items such as discarded encyclopedias, fabric/textiles, kitschy articles, as well as ‘found’ entities indicative of urban environments and Mother Earth, i.e. boxes of fabric, string, photographs of flowers... Perhaps, to many people, the articles/items that I use are superfluous and disposable. However, when I discover these materials in abandoned spaces, I desire to give them a chance at potentially better and longer lives.

There is ‘mystery’ in all of these things; I will never know or entirely understand the history behind the commodities that I find as I explore dusty warehouses or leaf through texts from aged journals. This process is fascinating to me. I relate this to the ‘feeling’ of calm air before the spontaneous, ejection of a speeding bullet or the intuitive anxiety of darting after the falling candy from piñatas.

Victoria turns a focus to discarded materials in this project. Disposed materials like these, “another man’s trash,” can be thought of as the temple for impulsivity. When we see something new and shiny: a piece of clothing, a book, a mug, a keychain, we often feel the instant urge to have it. Only later, when we are accustomed to its banality, do we discover that we didn’t really need it in the first place. But the urge at the moment is so strong that it not only changes our desire; it also blinds us to the possibility that we will lose interest in this object in the very near future. If we wanted to catalogue the places where self-control fails the most, the collective garbage and donation to the Salvation Army would probably be the perfect place to start.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Future Lost / Future Found

Catherine & Neil Palomba

Future Lost / Future Found

Acrylic mixed media

24" x 24"

Progress Photos

The Paintings: Our two acrylic paintings contrast the presence of self-control with the absence of self-control and the impact this choice has on a person’s future. The first painting, Future Lost, tracks a simple abstract figure from a period of opulence to a declining future. Illustrating poor choices for self-investment, the figure gets progressively smaller as the composition moves from left to right. While the opulent figure is heavily marked with colorful designs, subsequent figures are less marked and less colorful. The temptation for excessive behavior is illustrated by party-like designs floating above the opulent figure. And the lack of a support system and personal rules for self-control are illustrated with a base of “sand” at the bottom of the painting. The second painting, Future Found, starts with a smaller, plain figure on the left. Reflecting good choices, the figure gets larger and more colorful as it moves from left to right into the future. A strong support system is illustrated by a solid base of diamonds.

The Viewer Self-Control Experiment: The most recognizable characteristic of our work is the heavily textured abstract surface which viewers often reach out to touch. For our experiment, we are asking viewers to fill out a short questionnaire about their temptation to touch the paintings; which, if either, painting was touched, etc. A prize will be awarded to a randomly selected survey participant.

Catherine and Neil depict the long-term implications of having versus lacking self-control. One of the most interesting experiments on self-control is Walter Mischel’s original marshmallow experiment, where children were put in a room with a single marshmallow and told that they could either eat the one marshmallow or wait for the experimenter to return with another, yielding them a total of two delicious marshmallows. With the fluffy white ball of sugar in front of them, many of the children gave in and ate it before the experimenter could reward their patience with another treat. However, some children were able to exhibit self-control, waiting in agony for the second marshmallow to arrive. And what research finds is that having this kind of self-control at a young age is predictive of a wide span of positive life outcomes such as college grades, financial success, better health, and so on – showing indeed that the dividends of self-control are both high and present themselves in multiple domains. Now, the next question we have to ask ourselves is whether we can not only measure, but teach (and learn) self-control.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Developing the Habit

IlaSahai Prouty

Developing the Habit

Photography

28" x 84"

Collaborator: Eliza July Hickman (daughter)

Progress Photos

In five sessions over eight weeks, I set Eliza, my two year-old daughter, in front of a computer and asked her to wait. I photographed her as she waited, and at the moment she began to type. The distance between the two photographs represents how long she waited. The number of attempts represents the length of each session. Her typing is shown here. At the start of the project, she had encountered the computer and typing a handful of times.

IlaSahai’s study is a modern variation of Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow study, in which children were asked to wait patiently for an extensive period of time (which, if you’re a kid, feels like a lifetime) for a larger reward. In this version of the study, there was no larger reward – there was only a question of the delay. When we look at the pictures together, it seems that the first session had a much lower delay than the following ones, which gives me some hope about kids’ ability to learn to control themselves. However, I wonder about the intervening effect of the pacifier and the bottle. Could it be that having such distractors could help anyone become more patient?

Dan – Dan Ariely
Diving / Discovery / Blueprint

Daniella Rubinovitz

Diving / Discovery / Blueprint

Acrylic on paper

19.5" x 25.5"

I am in action, diving into my subterranean world with paint tube in one hand; the other hand is prepared to explore the terrain of these three sheets of paper.

Self-control? Not that I am aware of, as I dance and experience the lines floating on the surface of the paper. As I flatten out a juicy paint stream into a surface, I observe that I can rest on this surface, stay for a while and breathe.

Time to jump over to another feeling. I don’t know where I am moving to, through this adventurous discovery, but momentum keeps me ticking. It feels good, it feels right, and it is a discovery.

One feeling leads on to the next one, like multiple train stops. I am on this track. I rest at the wider stops and wonder, “Am I forbidden to move on?” I take a step back to ponder the created paths. Did I create this? As I look at my hands, it is clear that yes, I have created them, and they are my chosen paths.

I start to build meaning around my paths, and I develop habits. Habits start to create my day, my year, and my life. My world starts to fill in. The once serene background of nothing and everything fills up with more structures and beliefs.

Who does this serve? Ah, this is a restraining order, and I have created the ultimate blueprint for the art of self-control. I am safe from myself.

In these “blueprints,” Daniella (who, by the way, is my cousin) portrays the challenge of staying focused on one task. We have random thoughts entering our minds all the time, and one of the important tasks we need to engage in multiple times a day is to suppress these thoughts and focus on the task at hand. Indeed, some of us are more skilled at focusing, some of us are less, and some of us use this process to inspire our art.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Restraining Dis-Order: The Art of Heroes & Self-Control

Leslie Salzillo

Restraining Dis-Order: The Art of Heroes & Self-Control

Acrylic on canvas

70" x 64" (50 portraits, 8" x 10" each)

Progress Photos

In an attempt to discipline my creative methods of operation, I promised myself that I would paint and complete 50 portraits of UnSung Heroes within 50 days, painting one per day. I very much enjoyed meeting my goal of one portrait a day for the first 3 ½ weeks. Then I missed a day. I told myself I failed. Then I missed a day. I told myself I failed. Then I missed more days, thinking, “why bother now? I’ve blown it.” My determination began to taper off much the way one would go off a diet or return to smoking. This project has made me aware of some things about myself and in general.

  • Setting my goals too high makes them more difficult to reach.
  • I don’t have to quit with the slightest deviation of my goals.
  • I can continue to work at being a more orderly and disciplined artist.
  • The “all or nothing” often fails.
  • I can apply tools of AA/Twelve Steps: Taking one day at a time, and starting each day anew.

These photos reflect the beginning of my project through what I have painted thus far. Yes, I failed to complete by the deadline, and no – it is not a complete failure. Something else I learned: Finish what I start.

The basic problem of self-control is a gap between our intentions and our behavior. As Leslie’s project demonstrates, it is relatively easy to declare lofty goals and plans, but execution is much more challenging when we get to the details. There are some failures of self-control that fall in the category of the “what-the-hell” effect, where one deviation from the plan leads to an avalanche of mistakes and, ultimately, complete failure. For example, many dieters report that if they are on a strict diet and for some reason or another they start the morning with a cookie, they suffer from a “what-the-hell” feeling and don’t adhere to their diet for the rest of the day or week. Painting could be like this as well. Not sticking to the plan in one particular part of the painting could lead to a complete change in the painting. And if we approach a task thinking that there is a good chance that we will “fail” at some point, we should ask ourselves how to structure the task such that a singular failure will not lead to a total obliteration of the goal.

Dan – Dan Ariely
If We Only Allow It

Allyson Seal

If We Only Allow It

Enamel, spray enamel, ink and frosted vellum on birch panel

41" x 41"

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I took notes on 13 conversations about self-control and integrity, and those gems about restraint, discipline, desire, and community shaped the experience of how I made this series. With various tools in hand, I started with expressive mark-making; I started with a letting loose of the controls I normally put into place in the act of making. And then I piled on the masks – sander, spray enamel, tape, frosted vellum – in search of a balance between the expressive and the contained.

This series, with its accompanying gift of a deadline, transformed me. Instead of obsessing about the complications and intrigues of everyday life, I took refuge in thinking about self-control and the search for ways to do the things we don’t want to do. I thought about why we stop ourselves from doing the things we want to. The temptations for each of us are different: the cookie, the drink, the conversation, the day job. And yet, they are all battles between self-control and nature.

It”s easy to think about all of the cases in which we don’t have enough self-control. Overeating, overspending, under-exercising, procrastinating, and even biting our nails. We reprimand ourselves and promise to stick to that diet or hit the gym, scolding ourselves for our self-control failures. Not to mention our need to present ourselves in a positive light to others. But it is also worthwhile to think of the cases in which we have too much self-control. Sometimes we wish we could just hang loose and enjoy the simple pleasures around us, taking a break from work and turning the microscope away from our faults. Of course, the most common cure for this problem is alcohol; it loosens our inhibitions and sometimes gives us permission to behave as we really want. An interesting question is figuring out how to strike a balance between keeping ourselves on track and occasionally letting loose. How much self-control is necessary in different cases, and how should we determine when to have more self-control and when to have less?

Dan – Dan Ariely

Alexandr Skarlinski

Generic Slather Style Voyeur Scene

HD video, with royalty-free purchased audio track, running time approximately three minute loop

Progress Photos

The issue or theme I am most concerned with is the point of perspective, when we go from a documentary shot (simply watching actions to make a narrative) to point-of-view shots (when the audience’s perspective is that of the psychotic killer).

We watch a girl enter a cabin. It is an informative shot, we know the place, time of day, and that she is alone, and usually dressed in her underwear. Suddenly the camera begins to move, the movement is more organic and familiar to our own perception, we are seeing through the eyes of the killer. We as the audience are the killer.

As a group do we agree with what we are seeing? Are we becoming excited with hairs on end because we know the outcome?

The guideline for these films are quite systematic, most horror and suspense films are based on this system. But we still remain on edge, we are not in control of our actions, we are vicariously demented. Watching a film makes us voyeurs, but by continuing to watch we become the killers ourselves.

The topic of perspective is a central one when it comes to making decisions. When we take the “outside view” – making decisions for somebody else rather than ourselves – it is much easier to ignore the insidious effect of emotions and think rationally. From this perspective, we can think about the long term and make better decisions for others. But things become much more difficult when we take the “inside view” and think about our own decisions. In these cases, we are often guided by our emotions and short-term thinking, and make decisions for ourselves that we would never suggest to others. This is also why parents often tell their children, “do as I say, not as I do.”

One trick that comes out of this is the approach to try and make our own decisions as if we were recommending these decisions for others. Another approach is to ask for input from those who are not personally involved in the decision. For example, my brother-in-law just decided to get married – and I wish he had consulted me first.

Dan – Dan Ariely
The Hanged Man

Geraud Staton

The Hanged Man

Oil on canvas

24" x 36"

Progress Photos

This particular project came at the perfect time. Nineteen hours of school while working part-time and trying to maintain an art career took massive amounts of juggling and control. It was fun coordinating what project to work on and determining what importance one thing had over another. True to form, given a list of what seemed to be over 100 things, those with consequences further out always fell to the back burner, no matter how important they may have been. Of course, I was able to see it, but it rarely changed my perspective on how to tackle the list!

SERAPHIM: Strength. Energy. Radiance. Adventure. Passion. Hope. Inspiration. Mystery.

This acronym is how I define Seraphim Studios, the title I’ve given my art business. I desire a life filled with these things, and I want to provide those same ideals to as many people as I can. With that in mind, I try to ensure that every oil painting I produce fits into the list above. I believe that we are what we surround ourselves with. My work, then, is a reflection of these ideals. As an award-winning artist, I am able to reach an even larger segment of the population, and hopefully I can bring strength, energy, radiance, adventure, passion, hope, inspiration and mystery to that lives.

Some self-control solutions are about tying our hands. When you promise to do something by a certain deadline and are willing to take a substantial penalty if you don’t adhere to that deadline, you’re basically forcing yourself to behave in line with the deadline. In this painting, Geraud seems to be taking this one step further, literally tying his entire body and hanging himself upside down. I suppose that this art piece depicts the idea that sometimes we can go a bit too far when we try to control our behavior.

Dan – Dan Ariely
John / Hayes

Jack Swinney

John / Hayes

Oil on canvas

16" x 20" each

Progress Photos

Old habits die hard. For years, I have followed my whims. I have painted only when I felt moved to do so. For this project, I wanted to try a new, disciplined approach to painting, complete with self-imposed rules of control.

My first portrait, the face of my daughter, was to be painted on a strict schedule. For three weeks, I wanted to get up earlier than normal and go directly to the studio to paint. During the second 3 weeks, I planned paint my son’s portrait by reverting to my old habit - painting only when inspired to do so.

Once I signed the contract to participate, the proposed plan became impossible. I became interested in both paintings and motivated to do my best with both. The idea of being lackadaisical with respect to my son’s portrait would have been phony.

I keep a journal, which is displayed next to the paintings. You will see that by the time I started my son’s portrait and before finishing my daughter’s, I realized that the premise of my original proposal no longer applied.

More self-control is not always better. In this particular project, Jack attempted to engage in two models of self- control: one high and one low. But he failed at carrying out this premise and, interestingly, instead of giving up on a high level of self-control (as is typically the case), he failed to show a low level of self-control. I suspect that, like most of us, the artist occasionally has lapses in self-control in his daily life – but when it comes to a rather permanent depiction of one of his precious children, sloppiness was too difficult to adhere to.

Dan – Dan Ariely
Critical Understandings of Poinephobia in Apis Mellifera

Jeanne Taylor

Critical Understandings of Poinephobia in Apis Mellifera

Original illustration, paper, mixed media paints and inks, collage materials and machine stitch

8.5" x 11"

Progress Photos

I’ve examined the imagined or implied punishment for not making good choices. The struggle, with a constant underlying worry or fear, of what will happen when/if one doesn’t have self control – and how powerful that is.

My project explores the positive and negative results of applying self-control wisely or poorly. I have illustrated a “busy-bee” character going through the decision-making process, highlighting the fear of making indulgent choices (poor self-control) in contrast with making restrained choices (good self-control).

Through years of working in close proximity to each other, my friend, Clarke Barry, and I realize that we are more successful when we have external accountability. Our shortcomings in completing art projects stem from having too many options: theme, materials, scope, time, etc...

With that in mind, I asked Clarke to hold me accountable in the following: maintaining project scope, staying on deadline for project development, and setting limitations on material selection.

One of the more curious aspects of self-control is that we often care more about the opinions of others than about our own long-term goals. Many years ago, we conducted a study with elderly individuals that showed exactly this. Despite the fact that all of them knew of the benefits of walking (and intended to exercise), very few of them actually went on walks. But as soon as we scheduled meetings for them at a street corner with a friend, they met and went for walks each time without fail. They all knew that walking was good for them, but this was not enough on its own. Not wanting to disappoint a waiting friend was a sufficient motivation to show up, and once they showed up the next step was easy; the social force literally moved them to action.

Dan – Dan Ariely