Imaging the In-between: The Serial Art of Richard Tuttle

Since 1964, the American artist Richard Tuttle (b. 1941) has made approximately three hundred disparate series in the mediums of drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and painting. Although Tuttle’s commitment to serial art is unrivaled within the postwar period, his art has yet to be interpreted by scholars in conjunction with the concept of seriality, perhaps because it so deliberately confounds our expectations of the series. Unlike most serial projects in art, Tuttle’s series neither repeat nor progress in any discernible way, making his an artistic practice that provocatively resonates with various philosophical concepts of Gilles Deleuze, whose writings are contemporaneous with Tuttle’s development of his puzzling serial art.

Central to Tuttle’s unconventional seriality are the serial objects themselves. Constructed of common materials such as twigs, cellophane, and wire, these objects seem slapdash and incomplete, a sense of provisionality that is further complicated by the fact that these objects are highly abstract—devoid of overt subject matter and resistant to representation. When viewed in serial succession, these strange objects do not read as consistent or progressive but rather as disjointed and disparate, as if each object in the series signaled something different. What is more, the last object in each series appears to be an arbitrary end, an abrupt break in the series that would have continued, if allowed. Indeed, in viewing Tuttle’s series of art, we find them to be unresolved, incoherent, and amid a process of fluctuation. But to what end this curious seriality? Why might Tuttle continually make abstract series that refuse resemblance and identity and seem to only evince ideas of perpetual difference and fluctuation?

Drawing on Deleuzean concepts such as “difference and repetition” as well as “becoming,” this paper takes seriously Tuttle’s paradoxical reliance on the systematic method of seriality and considers Tuttle’s method with implicationsfor both for art and life. By focusing on two examples of Tuttle’s seriality (an early series and a more recent one), this paper examines how, in its resistance to and coherence and conclusion and its insistence on differentiation and fluctuation, Tuttle’s seriality manifests ambiguity and uncertainty, ideas that, in turn, challenge and upend the traditional conceptions of art as a fixed solution. For Tuttle’s seriality is always in-between beginnings and ends, imaging a process that is as if between a question and its answer, linking the experience of Tuttle’s series to our own meandering processes of thought and ongoing pursuits of knowledge.

Deterritorialize Yourself!

time— … (in a sense) proliferating—connection … —(promulgating connectivity piecemeal)— …

This paper imagines a line of flight from composer J. K. Randall’s provocative, experimental 1972 essay “Compose Yourself: A Manual for the Young,” transforming Randall’s prescription into the imperative deterritorialise yourself, and pursuing its radical implications. Just as territorialisation and deterritorialisation form an always- ongoing assemblage through which identities are constructed and transformed—fixing and unfixing; always becoming-other—“compose yourself” (I suggest) bears with it a differential “decompose yourself” through which my identity is bound up in the very process of changing through the impingements of affective forces or actions of double capture that improvisational interactions engender. The thrust of this paper is to refract the implications of becoming-other enacted within processes of music-improvisational interaction back toward the emergent identity of the individuating participant, as a decomposing-oneself, as an always-ongoing process of deterritorialising oneself, as an enactment of an aberrant relationship with oneself, as a queering-oneself. This goes beyond the notion of performing one’s identity (or performing the identity of the musical work): performativity is nothing if not the acting-out of a differentiating relationship always already bound up within the more-than of a proliferating ecology.

The more-than, as Erin Manning describes, is an affirmation of difference, of the variation felt at the edges of relational experience, of the minor gestures that continually decompose performative acts even as they are being enacted. Like Manning, I assert  that to think in terms of  this double movement is to take an ethical position in which  the boundary between what we might call, even creatively and affirmatively, a subject and the others the subject affects and is affected by becomes productively porous and identities become expressions of relationships, impingements, movements. Nuptials. My composing/decomposing, territorialisation/deterritorialising (sonic) self-situates alongside and interacts fundamentally with a network of other selves, human and otherwise, all impinging on one another in complex arrays of affective relationships, all engaging in multiply-directed acts of capture. Identity, therefore, is a process of becoming-with as much as it is a process of becoming-other.

… —Drift. Slip a Cog.—drifting across some infolded interlock,—some mergingtime, Unfold.—(in passing). Reshape.—Refocus.— … colour of focus infolded: now merging, connecting;—infolded colour of merging unfolded: now focal;—structure: Bettertell time from time to time.

The Time of the Encounter

Of the three principal modalities for the creation of the new—the dark precursor (“so is the world born” [Deleuze]), the contemporary (a counter move against the forces of the present [Baross]), and the encounter as a becoming [Deleuze])—two, we know, correspond with distinct, discontinuous and heterogeneous, temporalities. The first passes in reverse, against the progression of time; in the second, the present heterogenises itself, leaps outside the flow of chronological time to contract with different geological layers of the past. What is it that we can say with regard to the third, the time of becoming, or the multiple times/temporalities of plural becomings, when it comes to sound and music? What new event passes in their time? Or rather, what new orders of temporal relations must necessarily be constituted between different elements for a becoming in/of sound— not to pass, for it does not pass, it does not aim at or reach an end—to take place, as it must, in time?

These are some of the questions in the context of which I will attempt to ask: what happens in and to time when sounds encounter one another (for sounds do encounter one another; have an extraordinary propensity for articulating, conjugating, reciprocal modifying, contracting, etc. with one another, which explains contemporary music’s appetite for inventing/incorporating new sounds), and how the critical categories of musical time—of Boulez, Deleuze, Manoury—may already think the difference between not just between music and painting, or sound and colour, or “brute” noise and “son bruité,” but also between music and writing.

Eventum Tantum: On the Paradoxes of Sense, Dark Precursors, Quasi-Causes, and the Excessive Rest

Deleuze’s notion of the “dark precursor” makes its first appearance in Difference and Repetition as that agent or force that initiates and ensures the communication between two series of differences. It is thus assigned the task of differentiation as such and burdened with its own disappearance once the differences have been differentiated. A certain affiliation with the tradition and critique of reification, with the logic of the disappearance of the process under the product, has been asserted by various readers of Deleuze: difference as becoming (process/virtuality) tends to disappear within the differentiated as being (product/actuality). I will try to show, why the question that makes Deleuze so interesting for contemporary art is how one can reveal the traces of the artistic process while it insists on them and at the same time, buries them beneath its product? How can one not fall back into a deterministic or reductionist model of causes and effects? In The Logic of Sense, this problematic is further developed within a theory of the event, defined as the event of sense and, thus, as strictly incorporeal. The “dark precursor,” I would like to argue in my presentation, reappears in The Logic of Sense as the “quasi-cause,” a notion Deleuze develops out of the stoic differentiation between the body, on one hand, and incorporeal effects, on the other hand. I will trace the notions of the “dark precursor” and the “quasi-cause” within the two cited works and point out their relevance for a non-deterministic and non-reductionist account of the world as infinite becoming. I will do so by confronting these Deleuzian concepts with exemplary artistic positions and their influence on artistic research since the late 1960s, thereby questioning the (im)possibility of escaping reification.