IOU’s creative process entails multiple points of focus coalescing in such a way as to provoke meaning – not fixed or singular meaning, but elusive, resonant, emergent meaning-possibilities. In their sculptural work, as in their theatrical productions, IOU are characterised by incongruous couplings and multiple associational networks. IOU artefacts create around themselves a conceptual space. Entering it requires a suspension, a willingness to be with incompleteness. Sometimes, as in Electric Field, a production will be formed of many overlapping conceptual spaces that spectators can literally walk through, choosing where to stand, what to watch, navigating not only the blends in a single object but the blending of many ‘objects’, one with another, each creating their overlapping conceptual spaces. Faced with IOUs bisociations, audiences are invited, and enabled, to make their own creative meaning-couplings in their reception of the work. The acts of perception, understanding, and imagining are foregrounded as audiences enter into multiple, dissonant blends.


The framework provided by Fauconnier and Turner in their discussion of conceptual blending provides a useful tool with which to articulate creative processes of the kind carried out and offered to audiences by IOU, and to apply this analysis to other artists who employ blended creative processes in making and presenting their work. Applying this model has allowed us to interrogate the likely sources of an installation such as Vessel 1 and 2, and to understand better our own spectatorial experiences in response to it. Comparing this three-dimensional sculptural piece to the metaphors generated through a bisociative process by Rothenberg’s writer gives us a greater insight into the ways in which materiality and the specificity of the materials in question affect the nature of the spectator’s encounter with a blended artistic output. Our subjective experiences of IOU’s signature aesthetic are articulated through our idea of the resistant blend. Finally, then, we trace the submawhales of Vessel 1 and 2 to their appearance within the highly complex and ingenious production Electric Field. While we might just as productively focus on any of a number of other images and devices from the piece, the submawhales allow us to build from the identification of a relatively simple set of initial inputs into a consideration of the submawhale blend itself becoming one more input in a vastly complex network of images and associations in the multi-blend of Electric Field.


Fauconnier and Turner have illustrated a process of complex cognitive behaviour that results in simple verbal strategies, such as figures of speech, which we take for granted in daily life. By approaching IOU’s Electric Field through the lens of cognitive blending, we hope to have provided some insight into the nature of a work in which resistant blends are set in motion in richly choreographed spaces that are both conceptual and actual.