Notes on Noticing II

This post is by Elizabeth Huang.

Elizabeth works on the Publicity team. On the rare occasions she’s allowed to leave the law library, she can be found at the Maypole trying to understand new-fangled things like mobile telephones.


“This is what art is” – wrote Laura in her lovely post last week – “a narrative of noticing that allows others to notice too”. Notes too, has its own narrative of noticing – of selecting, curating, arranging. Each issue, we present material to be noted and I like to think that Notes can facilitate noticing in the same spirit as a work of art or piece of writing. ‘Notes on Noticing’ is thus a kind of homecoming, a reflection upon, and return to, what we ourselves do in the process of creating each issue.

In some ways, the act of noticing is a paradoxical one. Noticing requires un-noticing: to notice something demands a selective gaze. Rani Rachavelpula’s “twelve tolls of the church bell”, Anju Gaston’s “five pounds’ worth of twenty pence pieces”, Tom Pryce’s “earthy caramel pebbles” – all these are details, imagined perhaps, but chosen nonetheless. We do not know what else there was. Noticing is at once a process of recording down, and a process of forgetting. You focus your attention on a detail (a brushstroke, a line, a simile, a moment) and the rest recedes into the background.

At Notes, we find ourselves faced with this tension – what do we select? What do we leave out? How do we challenge and disrupt our own habits of noticing? Inevitably, every issue of Notes must be a fragment – a mere sliver of material, which we have carved out from our own (fallible and imperfect) noticing. But we accept that something is always lost in this translation between the eye which sees, and the I which interprets. Part of our work, I think, is to learn to notice that which the eye sees and does not instinctively like.

Noticing is a mindful thing, and ‘Notes on Noticing’ invites you to partake of its stillness: the pause at the end of a poem’s reading-out, the white margin surrounding an artwork. These are the moments which allow us to notice – “emptiness is another form of art”, writes Jamie Hancock – in these moments, our own narrative of noticing lies blank, and waits patiently to be written.

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