Cein Watson


In a language, there’s grammar and there’s vocabulary.  Syntax is grammar and semantics are vocabulary.  I think about my work as an aesthetic grammar that manifests in nearly any form of making. As the basis of my studio practice I follow a set of chosen rules that can be applied to multiple platforms.  To me, the rules that govern an art making process are syntactical/grammatical while the medium acts as a vocabulary.  In the end, an art object is the result of an invented studio language.  A work of art is a combination of rules an artist chooses with the implementation of a chosen medium to execute them. 


Cein Watson

C12 Statement:


The artwork in my thesis exhibition was a tautological experiment titled “The Triple Lindy.” It was an architectural manifestation of a series of drawings.  These drawings grew into a series of books and those books grew into a body of over two hundred artist’s books.  “The Triple Lindy” was the byproduct of that body.  Each mark on the page a cell, each drawing a tissue, each book an organ, a group of organs working together to create a system and then systems.  These systems worked together to create a self-supporting body. The structure itself had two main components spread over three levels. The library portion housed the artist’s books.  And the reading room rewarded the viewer for an ascension to the top level.  The reading room acted as an intimate space to engage with the library.  As I made the artist’s books and reflected on architecture it became clear that they were both vessels defined by their purpose and content. As a piece of architecture this artwork was a vessel defined by other vessels. “The Triple Lindy” was a structure built to house the drawings that it manifested from and because of this it was a tautological argument.  



Cein Watson


Some basic studio principles I follow are:

1) If it can be drawn, then it can be built.

2) You can’t not learn.

3) Always fall in love with potential.

A love affair with potential is the burden of every artist.  My abiding belief in utopias grows out of this love of potential. These utopian fantasies manifest in my work as proactive building projects and theories of eudaimonia. Drawing acts as the foundation of all my projects. Whether it’s an instructivediagram, a naturalist study or a building plan…drawing grounds the work.By using drawing as the foundational problem-solving tool I can movebetween systems, dimensions and mediums.Recently I’ve been building structures to contextualize my other art works. For example the piece “The Triple Lindy” is a three level repository and reading room. The sculpture is a vessel for 200 artists’ book I made over the last year.  These structures have been an answer to Sol LeWitt’s question, “What does the world look like from inside the sculpture?” 


Cein Watson

 Studio Inter_entailment:



I approach the work on three levels: space, structure, and material. 

Space determines structure and material. Space is inside and out. Space is also context. And context gives meaning to the object.  A building project is the control or creation of a space based around the intended function of a structure.  For example, I built a library and reading room as an intimate and reflective space. It was a work intended to comfort the viewer while pushing them to reflect inward on the artists’ books stored within the structure. 

Structure is a series of systems working together to create a body.  The structure is the median between space and material.  The body is a vessel for space and the shape of a vessel is determined by its intended contents.  As a body the structure can be a host or a parasite to other structures. 

Materials are both the tools of making and the material of the structure. Materials determine what kinds of systems make up the body of the structure.  

Each project has its own set of intentions, which inform the space, structure and material. When the intention of the space is determined these three tools are the key elements to my building practice.  


Cein Watson




My father calls me the most charming fungus...


Cein Watson





I’m not sure I am an artist?  Depending on my condition I might introduce myself as a fabricator, a contractor, or a stuff maker.  Germans particularly hate it when I call myself a “stuff maker.” Sometimes I just lie outright to avoid having to explain my work…

Section: Syntax in general:

Generally speaking I make things I wanna see made. Sometimes I make things I need made and other times I make things I’m paid to make.  I have no particular loyalty to the art world, to a specific medium, or any one process.  In my opinion art’s always had the same flavor as first order logic: it’s a syntactical tool used to investigate the relationships between propositions, thoughts, and other sets of abstract entities in order to establish their truth value.[1] And like formal logic it’s helped me to see to the bones of structures and the systems they participate in.

In a language there’s grammar and there’s vocabulary.  Syntax is grammar and semantics are vocabulary.  The rules that govern an art making process are syntactical/grammatical and the medium acts as a vocabulary[2].  In the end an art object is the reification[3] of an invented studio language. I think about my work as an aesthetic grammar that can manifest in nearly any form of making. As the basis of my studio practice I follow a set of chosen[4] rules that can be applied to multiple platforms.[5]


Section 2:  The Studio/ Valid but Unsound:

The studio is a problem space for solution states.



The Next Section:  Content? An abiding interest in Agency and Emergent Properties:

In the history of philosophy Agency poses a problem.  What are the conditions that need to exist for us to be free?  It’s thought that there are four conditions that need to be met for agency to exist:

1)   An event is brought about by a person and that person is responsible for it.

2)   The action has to be in the power of that person to perform or not perform.[6]

3)   We can’t say any act included in the action was caused by some other event.

4)   Nor can we say that the action was uncaused.[7]


For Agency to exist the agent must be an uncaused cause, which isn’t an easy thing to come to terms with. The bulk of my work has been spent grappling with the issue of the uncaused cause.  I wasted years diagramming different theories of agency in the history of philosophy in hopes of better understanding it through a visual lens.[8] Now I’m more interested in Agency as a matrix for accountability and authorship.  Specifically in regards to my work in the forest, my obnoxious obsession with self reliance[9], and my struggle to be a self legislator[10]


            And then there’s Emergent Properties.  An Emergent Property is when a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  For example Cell -> Tissue -> Organ -> Organ System -> Animal…or the mind as an emergent property of the physical body.

            Emergent properties are used to explain a myriad of problems in biology, environmental science, neuroscience…and other stuff.  Emergent Properties hold a certain gravity for my work because they’re a way to understand pieces in relation to a whole.  If I’m making work across multiple platforms as a constellation of an aesthetic grammar then to see the work as a whole would be to see it more as an emergent property than a set of tissue. 



[1] A definition of Logic from a gin stained 2005 notebook. Used in both deductive logic and 20th continental philosophy and filled mostly with exceptional gel pen drawings.

[2] Spend a weekend in the Sol LeWitt building at Mass Moca.

[3] A Debord handle, but I like how my friend lawyer Bryan uses it.

[4] ehh;)

[5] Think Bauhaus, Le Corbusier ‘s5 points toward a new architecture, William Morris,  or De Stijl…

[6] Echoes issues in freedom of choice from Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex.

[7] Lecture notes from Prof Benham’s Mind Language and Reality.

[8] Pun intended

[9] Thanks Mom for the middle school book on tape ofEmerson’s Self Reliance. And Michael York as Candide.  

[10] Nietzsche’s self help phrase for breaking the dialectic of mediocrity.







Cein Watson





The last few years I’ve thought of my art as diagrams for the digestion of texts.  Through a visual language the work was meant to help me better understand ideas of agency, personal identity and mind/body relationships.  But recently the work has focused on my own theories and acts as a means to survey, map, and build these ideas.  



cein watson





i’m reifying strong miss readings of the history of philosophy… 



Cein Watson





I consider the work to be a thought experiment. It is not a narrative and it is not an argument.  It’s something in between.

The rules of the art making process (syntax) determine the formal elements of the work (semantics).  The syntax is designed around a given theory.  These rules are governed by their need to illustrate, express, or embody the prescribed theory or theories. 

At the risk of committing an Intentional Fallacy

I dare not say more.

Cein Watson





I started the fall with what I thought were two types of work. I had my works on paper which were to me an extension of my academic interests. These functioned as visual representations of readings or ideas I’ve struggled with. And then I had the projects on my land. One was coming out of an interest in understanding the theories of the past. The other was helping me understand how I relate to the world.

As I make more work it occurs to me that the two bodies aren’t entirely separate and that the more work I do the more they’ll inform one another. The works on paper are fast becoming my own theories and the works on the landallow me to give meaning value and purpose to objects.

I’m not going to force a marriage between the two, but let them have a relationship over time.

I don’t know if my work evolved over the semester. But I do know that given time these projects will become more cohesive.


I don’t see the affect of the semester as an arch. I see it more as a cycle of peer interaction. I don’t feel like there’s been a grand narrative but instead an opportunity for people to lay out a set of problems, concerns and ideas. For example:

The issue of how a viewer reads a graphic line and the associations they make with it… how display can affect the viewer’s sense of context and value… or how a space can do the same… how craft is a consequence of intention and not universal… the relationship of the image to the wall or the floor… how does one make work is a short period of time… that I have strengths in building and craft…  The course has helped me recognize how rigid my process can be, which doesn’t mean I’ll change but it has made me more self aware. At the very least this self awareness will let me break my own rules…if I so chose.


I’ll be spending the summer thinking about function, furniture, and display. I’ll be thinking of how my drawings relate to the ground, wall and room. I’ll also be thinking about other mediums to use in regards to my next body of work. People are less interested in the conceptual weight I have and more interested in how they interact with the work. It’s a question how and not so much a question of what or why. 

Cein Watson



My intention has been to make work that reifies the history of philosophy into new texts. The last few years I’ve focused

specifically on the problems of agency and determinism.

I see the work as a thought experiment. It’s somewhere between a narrative and an argument.


Cein Watson




I choose a concept.

Then i establish rules.

Finally this statement. 



Cein Watson





Each piece is made based on a set of rules. These rules correspond to a concept. Each concept has a different rule based prescription which represent or embody the idea.  A series of work is a consequence of a set of rules followed over multiple pieces.


For example the rules for a series based on “theories of personal identity”  might look like:

Black and White

Oil based



Qualia≠ all over composition

Empirists≠ vanatas 

Cein Watson




Under a conceptual frame of Emergentism the works map a disjunctive range of interests. The last three years have focused on diagramming theories of agency and determinism through illustration, expression and embodiment. The consequence a constellation of work that proposes a whole greater than the sum of its parts. 


Cein Watson





3 ways of saying what doesn’t need to be said:


There’s no unified body of work.  The last few years I’ve been mapping theories of agency as a proposition in syntactical discourse.


The art objects are going to be different. The idea is the same but the process changes.


Stuff’s going to be different cause it’s done different.





Cein Watson




the emperor's new clothes