Adventures 2019: Kate Farrington – Square, Triangle, Circle, & Threeing

I am busy packing my bags for Seoul and can’t help thinking how much the Square, Triangle, Circle are perfect icons for Adventures 2019.

I’ll use this blog post to tell a little about myself, and also to introduce the artistic practice of “threeing,” which is the focus of the “Art & Impact” workshop I will be leading on March 17, 2019.

The exercise of "threeing" is a simple art practice that enables people in groups of three to switch roles in a fun and playful way, and thereby avoid breakdown of social bonds which often come over time when roles get entrenched.

Where did I learn about threeing? It turns out that the answer lies in two areas of interest to me: contemporary art and zen philosophy. To tell you a little about myself, my lifelong love of Asia dates back to 1987 when I spent a year living in China and first learned to see the world in a whole new way. I am now an artist and professor of liberal arts at Montserrat College of Art near Boston where I teach courses on Asian art, Eastern and Western philosophies, and contemporary art practice. This is my second trip to South Korea - I was here last fall to attend the 2018 SeMA Media City Seoul Biennale and the 12th Gwangju Biennale.

“Threeing” can be thought of as a technique for creating a harmony of relationships. Believe it or not, the technique originated in the 1970s after an early video artist and communication theorist named Paul Ryan (1943-2013) spent countless hours - even days - looking into the lens of his video camera as it recorded water flowing over rocks. Talk about zen! It was his belief that the cybernetic technology of the video camera allowed him to stretch his thinking beyond normal subject/object experience. From then on, he engaged in continuous artistic research in video performances to produce knowledge about relational circuits. His work allowed him to develop and share playful techniques that people can use to enter into what he calls a yoga of relationships by continuously rotating positions of initiating, responding, and mediating. The artist claims that threeing is “the best thing since sliced bread.” I use “threeing” in my own classes as a way to encourage people to take on different identities and fully participate in class discussions. Threeing produces good energy, and it is always a lot of fun.

The second reference I want to bring in is zen philosophy. When I first saw the Lighthouse icons for hipster/hacker/huckster, I immediately thought of Kazuaki Tanahashi, a zen scholar and master calligrapher who visited my city last summer to put on a week-long festival of “Painting Peace.” It turns out that as a young boy, Kaz (as he is known) was one of the very first students of O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba (1883- 1969) the founder of the martial art of Aikido. O Sensei founded Aikido as an art of peace after the Japanese surrender in 1945 using the three basic forms of triangle, square, and circle to train his students to use not only their own bodies, but also the bodies of their opponents in concert with the force of underlying energy flows of any situation. In the public painting performance, Kaz made three large ink paintings of a square, triangle, and circle, and spoke of the harmony of those forms as being essential not only to aikido but also to zen. It turns out there are correlations with the "Threeing" definitions that we will be introducing in the workshop:- triangle is firstness (spontaneous, initiating), square is secondness (reply, answering), circle is thirdness (mediating, blending). I am excited to introduce the both simple and profound artistic practice of “threeing” as a tool for hipsters, hackers, and hustlers.

As for plans in Seoul, I hope to discover some out-of-the-way art spaces and art collectives, meet artists and entrepreneurs, and enjoy some delicious Korean food. I love trying new things - please offer suggestions!

Sengai Gibon (Japanese, 1750-1837),  The Circle, Triangle and Square,  Edo period, early 19th century. Ink on paper.

Sengai Gibon (Japanese, 1750-1837), The Circle, Triangle and Square, Edo period, early 19th century. Ink on paper.

Kazuaki Tanahashi (b. in Japan in 1933),  Circle , 2015. Acrylic on paper. One of Kaz’s trademark enso paintings, which comes from Zen,  Mu  (無/ nothingness). Photo by Paolo Marino.

Kazuaki Tanahashi (b. in Japan in 1933), Circle, 2015. Acrylic on paper. One of Kaz’s trademark enso paintings, which comes from Zen, Mu (無/ nothingness). Photo by Paolo Marino.

Paul Ryan (1943-2013), “Threeing” relational circuit.

Paul Ryan (1943-2013), “Threeing” relational circuit.

Hyojin Yoon,  Hacker, Hipster, Hustler , Adventures 2019.

Hyojin Yoon, Hacker, Hipster, Hustler, Adventures 2019.


Written by Kate Farrington

Kate Farrington is an artist, philosopher, and assistant professor of liberal arts at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. With a background in fine arts, Kate’s artistic practice now is devoted to creating place-based social justice. She is taking part in Lighthouse's Adventures 2019 Workshop and we're glad to have her here in Seoul!