The beginning, a start, is not fixed. Fixity: within practice is porous and malleable. Practice is a referent of artistic practice. Again, at the beginning, a start, is not fixed. Fixity: within practice is porous and malleable. At variable measures of humidity (effectiveness), the air (totalizing context) of the word-model and its constituent recursive potential, prompted by the first two sentences, and abruptly positioned, tenuously threaded, will beset, enfold and adhere to permeable and susceptible constructs that will be presented in this paper. Susceptibility, inherent to constructs and discrete works (artwork), is an operation of oscillating action between concept, percept and temporality. It produces potentially volatile sequences of moments that constitute an assemblage (duration), and, despite the durability by accretions of effort and physical material, a discrete work is equally fragile. Again, at the beginning, a start, is not fixed. Fixity: within practice is porous and malleable, and fragile.
As a carrier, air and variable humidity, lodge constructs (concepts) and material (markings, objects) in confined spaces, in contours and cells, that delimit and cohere a structure: grid (Figure 6). The grid, a body, is a compositional field that acts as a constraint, yet its primary function is to enable the emergence of dispersion; to be broken by what it constrains and contains. Lodged elements: concepts, markings and objects, are neither always perceptible or imperceptible, they may be positioned under strata of any imaginable form. Additionally, spatio-temporal conditions may deform concepts and the position of markings to the underside/backside of works as well as exert unpredictable influence on the practice. It is accepted that in exceeding the maker’s ever-becoming ability, concepts, markings and objects may become half veiled, temporarily hidden, dismissed or forgotten.
Declination of the viewer’s access to the concepts that animate the work is a consequence of deep coding yet optimistically, nomenclature—made accessible only by the artist through written language and speech—makes apparent, however indiscernible, the presence of poetics, submerged along with trauma and fear in the contours of the psyche and the work’s compositional plane. In addition, the consequence of a specific refusal of access to viewership, countless layers of collapsed ontologies or “Tiny Ontologies”3 that Graham Harman might say “withdraw” from a cognitive mind, further complicate the viewer’s gaze. Donna Haraway writes, “the world is a coding trickster with whom we must learn to converse.”4 Again, at the beginning, a start, is not fixed. Fixity: within practice is porous and malleable, and fragile, and tricky.
The positioning of a work—a volatile sequence of moments that constitute an assemblage (duration)—and its relation to other works as well as environmental and architectural components in space apprehend meaning or “sensation.”5 Lodging and sponging, as is apprehension (cognitive and physical), is a temporary state which allows the implication of flux to the concepts and work that shape the practice. The negative (spacious) form of apprehension, meaning, and the relative certainty of sensation is vibratory in that, stability is complicated by a simulation of depth and flatness, together, on either of Gilles Deleuze and Feliz Guattari’s “plane of immanence”6 or “aesthetic plane of composition”7. Apprehension, meaning and certainty is dependent on incremental frames of context either facilitated by the artist/viewer or exceeding the artist/viewer.
Indexical narrative8, incremental and uni-directional in its trajectory may be signified by a reaching staff (Figure 9) which is conjoined with an omni-directional perceptual apprehension of space-time relations that are referenced by the sponge [the concept of the sponge, inverted sponge and bleeding will be explained in subsequent pages]. The underside of planes, particularly but not limited to paper, are veiled, translucent stratum whose dimensionality however minuscule, support apprehension and specific mobility, by way of sponge action, and the bleeding of colors. Color, specifically color markers (red, blue, green, yellow, black, pink, purple, brown) are tethered to bodily movement and performance. Simply, the markings or drawings made with color markers directly correlate to the bodily movements of the maker. The co-constitution of color and body movement is reinforced in Karen Barad’s summary of Niels Bohr’s central notion of the nature of measurement and his philosopy-physics: “In the absence of a given apparatus there is no unambiguous way to differentiate between the object and the agencies of observation: an apparatus must be introduced to resolve the ambiguity, but then the apparatus must be understood as part of what is being described.”9 Furthermore, color implemented by markers, which Barad may describe as the “agency of observation”, does not serve to differentiate movements of the body that are exercised in the making of a drawing. The sum of color (red, blue, green, yellow, black, pink, purple, brown) equals the totality of movement.
Apprehension, within the practice, is mobility in the form of absorption. The specificity of this absorption attempts to trouble the common privileging of mental cognition. Absorption or apprehension facilitated by internal organs, the submerged body, may allow additional contours of experience and composition to the practice as well as allow for the proliferation of new material, concepts, symbolic structures and codes. Of particular interest is the hepatic function and regenerative connotation of the liver. Alternatively, imagining an inverted liver and in turn, an inverted sponge, bleeding its contents outwardly is an equally useful code that frequently emerges in the work. Regeneration, or specifically compensatory growth, as a concept and artistic process is loosely practiced through recursion.
Cutting shapes out of planes is a method of generative delimitation; a way to loosely chart a boundary around a drawing or object so that excess space is framed. In this case, delimitation is not territorialization, rather it is additive. Augmentation of a drawing or object in this manner increases surface area and has dimensional implications. Cutting out or tearing surfaces interrupts flatness. However thin a material, when cut or torn, it will begin to register as sculpture. In the work of the practice, the declination of flatness, its seeming refusal to be accessed, is likely a misunderstanding or the result of the discriminant viewer, in fact the maker is a viewer as well. Still, the work is predominantly sculptural in its aspiration. Wide views achieved by zooming in and out of the compositional plane troubles fragmentation and dislocation and ultimately aligns spaciousness with cohesion. How does distance foster things to long for each other? How does it facilitate attraction? Let’s begin again . . . Beginning . . . Beginning . . . Beginning . . . an extract of a transcript-composition from a sound work first derived from an improvised performance, entitled “Durations of Audio Between Units of Percussion, Units of Percussion in Place of Words, 2015”10 will provide a simple illustration of serial moments and spans of time between objects both of which comprise of the concept of durations that is employed in the practice: 0:00 16 sec. (audio) 1:17 “It can not watch it” 32 sec. (audio) 1:49 “Not” 8 sec. (audio) 1:58 “same” . . . 10
For “Durations of Audio Between Units of Percussion” [abbreviated title] (Figure 1) single words or short sentence fragments are spoken and divided by varying intervals of space. Sound, both electronically generated, error sounds from software and environmental sounds of traffic from a nearby street, occupy spaces where words are absent. Primary focus is directed to liminal space bordered by words. Yet, interdependence allows for the equal consideration of the words, particularly how sound or the space in between can re-contextualize meaning and exert force upon that which designates it. This exertion of force, remotely related to Fred Moten’s formulation of the phonic materiality of Aunt Hester’s scream, is effectively framed in a single sentence in the opening paragraph of In the Break: “While subjectivity is defined by the subject’s possession of itself and its objects, it is troubled by a dispossessive force objects exert such that the subject seems to be possessed—infused, deformed—by the object it possess.”11
For purposes of the practice, force is recontextualization. Also it is not limited to words; physical objects my also be affected. At this juncture it is important to designate nomenclature and explicate this affected object: duration. There are (3) forms of durations: Continuous, Interrupted and Stretched (Figure 2-4). A Continuous Duration is a tight, chronological sequence or series of moments. There exists no noticeable jump, skip or stretch of concept or aesthetic elements. The relation of the new work or duration is directly and noticeably a result of the previous duration from which it originated. An Interrupted Duration is a set of serial moments, that comprise of a duration—a discrete object—that is intersected, or to use Nathaniel Mackey’s term, “interrupted.”12 Interruptions as he describes, create opportunities to generate new works. Stretched Durations act similarly to Continuous and Interrupted Durations in that, the work remains continuous and chronological, yet, wide indeterminate gaps of process and time result from many undocumented steps or moments that are purposely skipped. This skipping ahead of steps or stretching creates a work that seems unrelated, far removed from its origin. A sociological read of stretching can be related to cultural assimilation, loss of culture, connection to familial relationships and to geography. Durations are not dissimilar to Ian Bogost’s “unit operation”13 in that, “units partake of one another, engaging through various acts and gestures, material and immaterial, as they coalesce together and recede again.”14 In review, durations are constituted of serial moments: the accretion of moments upon previous ones. In addition, durations are bodies, porous at all sides and susceptible to influence and change by way of spatial positioning, deterioration, context, and memory (forgetfulness and recollection). Grids, Cells, Zoom, Reaching Staff, Sponge, Bleeding
In previous works, parts of the body were covered in order to blind, inhibit, and constrain normal functions associated with drawing and cognition (Figure 5). Impeding vision, mobility and coordination by covering the eyes or hands as well as setting time constraints and other self-imposed limitations are constructions of impairment that help in perceiving objects in new ways. Later, elements of the “submerged body”, particularly the liver become a source to draw additional constructs. Because internal organs are obscured from view, the idea of the liver fits comfortably within the conceptual framework. In Liver Drawing (Figure 6) marks, tiny drawings, were made within the confined spaces of the checkered grid. The constraint of the necessity for precision was soon broken by the allowance of mistakes or accidents. The grid—the constraint—then became a guide for dispersion and openness. This is likened to the delimited topographical space of archipelagos—while confined to a relatively small area of land, the limitless horizon of open ocean complicates the notion of constraint. The elevation of islands is imaginable, when it is considered that they are indeed tips of mountain ranges or volcanic ridges. While seemingly disparate the following is an exercise in scale and heterogeneity referent of archipelagic topography: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their account of music and its elementary framework of sonority: air, (monophonic), motif (polyphonic) and theme (object of harmonic modifications). This explicates the possibility of openness within, or due to, the closure or shutting-off inherent to frameworks or grids: (T)he most important musical phenomenon that appears as the sonorous compounds of sensation become more complex is that their closure or shutting-off (through the joining of their frames, of their sections) is accompanied by a possibility of opening on an ever more limitless plane of composition.15 Continuing the experiment of scale, heterogeneity and simultaneity, Alexander G. Weheliye critically adds to the idea of limitlessness as a result of constraint, frames and limitation. He writes: The fecundity of these becomings, what Deleuze and Guattari term machinic, however, ought not be cognized as unavoidably positive or liberating, particularly when set against putatively rigid structures such as race and colonialism, since assemblages transport potential territorializations as often if not more frequently than lines of flight.16 The juxtaposition of divergent viewpoints by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari with Alexander G. Weheliye serves to satisfy an on-going pursuit that seeks to observe dynamic hierarchies as they directly relate to attentiveness or the revelatory act of noticing. Hierarchy, in the practice, is constantly rearticulated and reframed. It is a shifting and malleable domain that is especially susceptible to noticing. Noticing, though similarly susceptible and elusive, captures momentarily hierarchy or a hierarchical chain of intervals, and then a temporary account of what is primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. is established.
For the purpose of demonstrating duration, and to thereby employ the retrospective function of the Interrupted Duration let us then extract an element of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ17 and place it into a new duration. In this case, the new duration is simply the territory of context as it relates to supplementing the notion of dynamic hierarchy. [It must be stated that durations are typically applied to discrete physical artworks. The following exercise is an experiment to observe the applicability of durations to concepts.] The tension co-constituted by the psychic and fluid vacillation of the virtual and real world in eXistenZ is again for the purposes of this exercise, a moment within the entirety of the film that can be extracted (interrupted) and placed within a new duration—creating context: the observation that perception is “sticky” in that, experiential and cognitive apprehension is directed to what is present and immediately noticeable. Only until the character’s attention to the possibility that their experience is inconsistent, does attention shift to the experience of bewilderment; the previous focus, or lack of, on the immersive reality of the game is quickly made secondary in a dynamic hierarchy which is then temporarily superceded by attention to real life experience, outside of the game. It is important to note here that a characteristic of the Interrupted Duration is its continual service to a forward trajectory, despite the retrospective operation of extraction (interruption) of previous durations. Bruno Latour asserts, “The antimoderns even accept the chief oddity of the moderns, the idea of a time that passes irreversibly and annuls the entire past in its wake.18 The seemingly unsubstantial body—psychic and physical, submerged and identifiable—is susceptible to change, dependent to what it is attentive to.
Cells as exemplified in Liver Drawing (Figure 6), Exploded Cell (Figure 7) and Zoom-Overview (Figure 8) are opportunities for mark-making in confined spaces. Constraint becomes a self-imposed exercise where small movements of hand and marker encounter the cramped spaces (cells) of the grid. The resultant micro-drawings act as a cohering force or as Fred Moten may describe, a “deformational force”19, which disperses and explodes the constituent tension of the body’s cohesion. The application of Liver Drawing, Exploded Cell and Zoom-Overview can be expanded to Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus in that, each work “insists on the importance of miniscule movements, glimmers of hope, scraps of food, the interrupted dreams of freedom found in the spaces deemed devoid of full human life (Guantanamo Bay, internment camps, maximum security prisons, Indian reservations, concentration camps, slave plantations, or colonial outposts, for instance).”20
Zoom(ing) is another aspect of the practice. In the works Exploded Cell (Figure 7), Zoom Overview (Figure 8), and additionally, Stretch-Arc-Stretch (Figure 9), scaling is uni-directional, in and out, as opposed to the omni-directional action of the sponge that will be discussed in subsequent pages. The zoom and the overview, as Wendy Chun describes, replaces the pastiche, “they have become so compelling partly because they’ve become key to dispelling post-modern confusion, to enabling a form of resolution that moves fluidly across allegedly dissonant scales, from the molar to the molecular, from the individuating to the generic.”21 Enlargement of small compositional elements is a result of zooming, it presents the impossibility of the minuscule marks of micro-drawings, made with small movements of the fingers/hand, to be exaggerated, in a sense stretched and affected beyond it original state. The stretched mark (or object) may still be recognizable in form but the processes that shaped its beginnings are transformed: the marker (apparatus) and its original usage can no longer produce the kind of mark represented in the new, enlarged mark. Conversely, zooming out “underscores unseen things and relations.”22 While isolation of the senses, body parts and words create an experience of separation, wholeness is retained through zooming out; relations cohere all the parts on a plane and definiton can acquired through association. The operation of zooming (inwardly and outwardly) is a means of coherence and connection. The interstitial, the meanwhile, of extreme and incremental states of zoom can be observed in Ed Bland’s Cry of Jazz23. The partitioned structure of the film is likened to increments, moving together in a forward trajectory. Increments are joined at times by juxtapositions and superimpositions of the spoken words of Alex (played by George Waller) and the sonority of Sun Ra’s music in the score; an intra-action24 of inward and outward zooms that consist, at moments, of monologue, dialogue and the sonorous combination of horns, piano and percussion instruments.
The concept of the sponge is preceded by the reaching staff (working title) yet the following writing will begin with a description of the sponge. The chronology of constructs is not bound to the same system of employment as durations. Constructs in the practice are volatile. They can recede and return inverted, dissipate and be forgotten or emerge by way of translucence, or attenuated, puncturing through layers. The reaching staff is an active apprehension, a form of mobility that pierces, not to break but to support. In the film Pickpocket25, hands signify the operation of reaching staffs: penetrating yet absorptive and supportive of the objects that the thief’s hands sought to acquire or apprehend. When a physical or conceptual object is grasped it is samely supported by the mind and hand—in a sponge-like manner. The reaching staff is sponge with a uni-directional range of movement. Imagining a slow motion view of the incremental motions of the hand penetrating a pocket is the kind of incremental stretching of time and motion which is attempted to be replicated in some of the compositional elements of Stretch-Arc-Stretch (Figure 9).
Bleeding is an inverted mechanism of the sponge. Its movement is outward and omni-directional. The relation to blood is purely conceptual and developed from Liver Drawing and Exploded Cell. In practical application, bleeding is the result of the absorption of marker ink into paper. The dimensionality, the two-sidedness or even three-sidedness of paper is brought into focus. Bleeding is not limited to drawings or sculpture but can also be expanded to sound. In the film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives26 the overlapping (bleeding) of the sounds of the night jungle seep into the sounds of intimate scenes between individuals. The viewer senses the vast dimension of the outlying forest that permeates spoken words. The practice is partly a meditative model for an intuitive inspection of the effects of societal and cultural forces, namely dispersion, displacement, assimilation, yet the practice also considers a transformation by propelling itself beyond familiar concepts towards the accretion of additional facets of the already multi-faceted object of affects associated with the immigrant and the citizen. The constructs and the works are imperfect in that they are limited traces of an otherwise on-going and deeply entangled activity. However (in)discernable the vocabulary of the practice, with its constructs of duration, grids, cells, zooming, reaching staffs, sponge and bleeding, etc. it may be understood as distorted projections of presence or practice: a force, a negative form, a ghost or modest refusal whose flat surface obscures a volatile atmosphere and volcanic topography. In an attempt to close this paper in the frayed and abrupt manner as it began, it might be apt to end (or begin) with Hortense Spillers: “the topic always exceeds a particular investigator’s resources.”27
Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2007
The Cry of Jazz. Directed by Ed Bland. 1959. Quantum Leap, 2004. DVD.
Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012
Pickpocket. Directed by Robert Bresson. 1974. Criterion Collection, 2014. DVD.
Wendy Chun, Institute for the Humanities: “Imagined Networks, Affective Connections”, Digital Environments Workshop, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnqZBIv_Zn4
eXistenZ. Directed by David Cronenberg. 1999. Dimension Films, 1999. DVD.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. What is Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991
Dueñas, Sid M. “Durations of Audio Between Units of Percussion, Units of Percussion in Place of Words” performed on The Monthly internet radio show KCHUNG, 2015.
Haraway, Donna, Simians, Cyborg, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991
Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991
Mackey, Nathaniel. Appearing on Close Listening radio show with Charles Bernstein, Kelly Writers House, February 1, 2011 https://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Mackey/02-01-11/Mackey-Nathaniel_Complete-Conversation_Close-Listening_KWH-UPenn_02-01-11.mp3
Moten, Fred. In the Break: the aesthetics of Black radical tradition. Minneaplis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003
— “The Case of Blackness” In Criticism: Vol. 50: Iss. 2, Article 1 (2008): 177-218
Spillers, Hortense. University of Waterloo English Department: “The Idea of Black Culture” in Winfried Siemerling’s “Contemporary Critical Theory” class, March 19, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1PTHFCN4Gc
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. 2010. Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Strand, 2011. DVD.
Alexander G. Weheliye. Habeas Viscus. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014