Articulating Thresholds: The Threshold as a Framework for Artistic Experimentation with Indeterminacy

I present a proposition for thinking-through-making that asks, What if we consider the threshold as a framework for experimenting with the indeterminacy that arises between thought and action, between philosophy and art practice? I propose that the threshold allows us to understand processual artistic practices whose modes of composition are sensitive to the affective power of material-forces—the flows and movements of matter— rather than matter-form. I follow this proposition through with an example of open, material artworks created using a threshold technique of feeling—following material.

Bergson’s threshold image of the interval of duration allows us to  understand  the mode of experience through which such artistic practices unfold, which is underscored by an intuitive disposition operative at the threshold of spatial and temporal modes of experience, between human habits and more-than-human modes of experiencing the world.

The threshold interval posits an experiential in-betweenness which allows us to disengage from decidedly “human” models of perception that view the material world in instrumentalising and spatialising terms, and to open onto a mode of experience that emerges between the spatial and the temporal, between the virtual and the actual.As such, this threshold allows us to think through practices of decentring the human subject from the core of the research concern, by arguing for the more-than-human possibilities that emerge at the interval—between solid and fluid modes of experience, but also in creative research practices that are active at the interpenetrating juncture between (philosophical) thinking and (artistic) doing.

I argue that the “indeterminacy” of the threshold interval is an expression of a particular, unresolved power (potentiality), in that it describes a mode of experiencing the world prior to the spatial bifurcations of matter into objects and categories of value, instead allowing the material world to be grasped as a multiplicity of forces of becoming. The threshold, then, is that indeterminate and active zone of potentials and forces taking form. Critically, the “in-betweenness” and indeterminacy of the intervallic threshold is not a static juncture or intersection of modalities, but an active site of mutual interpenetration; a carrying-forth and tracing-back of modalities and textures that allows for the creation of something new.

Folding this understanding of the threshold into artistic research practices, the threshold of thinking and doing is also understood as a generative site for the production of new techniques, understood as “concepts in the making.” In this paper, I explore the threshold, the technique of feeling—following as a mode of artistic engagement with material that is open to the way that material affectively addresses us, and which proposes a new ethics of relation to the material world, which sees creativity as an emergent process that is distributed across matter, rather than enacted by the artist upon material. This technique situates the artist within a zone of indeterminacy, articulating a mode of material engagement that oscillates between a modality of feeling (intuitive to the temporal becomings and creative movements of matter) and following (which describes an active engagement with the affective propositions that these material movements suggest for composition).