Perpetual Doubt, Constant Becoming

The philosophical proposition of the rhizome offers a “structure” (or anti-structure) that goes some way to describing the often unnameable, intangible processes required for the production of art—establishing a set of conditions that support the necessity for unknowingness and uncertainty as methodology.

In taking the rhizome as a basic principal for consideration in the generation of physical work, employing emergent processes rather than construction by design, my practice engages this key concept from Deleuze and Guattari in multiple ways:

In aiming to be composed “not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion,” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 21) the work consists of many strands, structured from hundreds of thousands of rubber bands, that wrap, stretch, loop, hang, and twist around and across an architectural space. The work exists in the space between, growing among things, opportunistically inhabiting and encompassing architecture as part of its structure where the work “forms a rhizome with the world” (ibid., 11)—rather than existing separately to it.

The work does not rest within a single discipline: the lines act like drawings in three dimensions—it consumes and melds with architecture, the push and pull of effusive colour in space emphasises painterly qualities while often referencing, in it’s analogue form, digital technologies and the vastness of “the web.” The practice exists more broadly within the expanded field of sculptural installation where ideas and processes for generating art are not separable into constituent parts but exist in symbiosis.

The entangled network of filaments from which the work is constructed are like threads of visual organisation connecting any point to any other point in a meshwork and bit-coding of information. The seemingly abstract, annotative qualities of the work act like a mapping in the space of its own making. The vibrating strands become a fluid diagram—“a shifting map” (ibid., 19)—of the performative act that constituted its construction.

There are different timescales embedded in the work. The piece may take minutes, hours, or days to install, although the strands, with their handmade morphology, have been hundreds, thousands of hours in the making.

The elastic band is a unit of variable measure, therefore the work lacks exactitude as its overall length is immeasurable and is relative to the amount of tension and weight exerted upon the ropes. The strands are still being made, but there is no definable amount, no given end to the making of the material: “It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle from which it grows and which it overspills.” (ibid., 21) There are many beginnings and ends lost among the mass metreage of loops that expand or contract across space.

Nomadic in nature the work can be packed down and reinstalled (almost) anywhere. Taking form for a finite period of time until rolled up ready to be remade in a unique, but relative, form in another time and space—much as worm-casts represent the aftermath of movement through the ground and exist for a while on the surface until they become washed down again by rain. They can reform, but each time, differently.

The title of the work reflects the overarching uncertainty of process through which one may burrow to arrive at the production of an artwork. The work is a processual murmuration where any seeming point of arrival quickly loses itself as it melds into a point of departure—the journey to seek form continues—arrested momentarily only by fleeting instances of articulation.

References

Deleuze, Giles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. “Introduction: Rhizome.” In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi, 3-25. London: Continuum.

Aesthetics of Power

This paper presents an interpretation of Landfall (2005–10), a site-specific work by Hiryczuk and Van Oevelen. In Landfall the scenery of Surtsey, an island that emerged after a volcanic eruption in the 1960s off the south coast of Iceland, is exposed on ten large billboards in a newly developed area in Amsterdam, the Dutch main business hub called Zuidas. Conceptually Landfall is based on a single action—“Surtsey is superimposed on Zuidas” —yet the work in situ requires a second action: “The recreation of Surtsey on Zuidas through projection” (Hiryczuk and Van Oevelen 2011, 16). One action will be considered in more detail: the superimposition referred to, which folds two maps into one construction, thus enabling us to frame and to reflect on the architectonics of capitalism. Recreation may thus be considered to be a critical power relationship of difference with itself.

A close reading of Gilles Deleuze’s Desert Islands (Causes et raisons des îles désertes) (2004) should provide sufficient reference points to be able to analyse the (in)tensions between the distinguished strata of Landfall. Guided by the French title of Desert Islands, the aim is to clarify the differences and relations between the “causes” and “reasons” of islands. More in particular, what could be the reason (taken as motive) to “superimpose” the frame of “Surtsey” upon the “Zuidas”? Certainly, a “frame is transposed and forced in to be imposed on,” but in this case one of the consequences, that it “fits badly,” seems not only to be regarded as intended but also as desirable (Derrida 1987, 69).

Some basic artistic techniques and tricks could be grasped, yet first and foremost this paper aims to gain insight into the status of “the island” in art and philosophy. To gauge the philosophical depth of Deleuze’s concept of “desert island” a detour to Kant’s distinction of phenomena and noumena seems therefore indispensable (Kant 2007). One of the three sources of (sublime) aesthetic power referred to above—of nature, art, and architecture—becomes the main matter of philosophical as well as artistic work: How can Deleuze’s notion of “desert island” be understood as a critique and repetition of Kant’s noumenon? Which site-specific projections does the frame of one desert island affect and effectuate, both as a tool of critical recreation and as a point of focus, in an actual state of a body politic?

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 2004. “Desert Islands.” In Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953–1974), edited by David Lapoujade, translated by Michael Taormina, 9–14. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

Derrida, Jacques. 1987. The Truth in Painting. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hiryczuk, Elodie, and Sjoerd Van Oevelen. 2011. Landfall. Jap Sam Books.

Kant, Immanuel. 2007. “Of the Ground of the Distinction of All Objects in General into Phenomena and Noumena.” In Critique of Pure Reason, edited by Marcus Weigelt, based on the translation by Max Müller, 251–64. London: Penguin.

Urban Songlines: Reterritorializing Public Space by Translating Buildings into Music

The tradition of Songlines, a system for navigating and connecting to their land among Australian Aborigines, can be translated to mapping urban space by creating music from its topography, initiating a discussion on how we use and experience the public domain and to what degree we can claim ownership over it. In this project I translate buildings, sites, and objects in public space into music, working site-specifically with architects, designers, dancers, musicians, and choreographers to rethink our relationship to the city. The “Urban Songlines” created are given away to DJs for free, allowing these places, transposed in space and time through sampling, to be shared and (re)experienced.

Exploring the Longitude and Latitude of Public Space Through Sound Art

This presentation addresses site-specific sonic practices from the artistic practitioner’s perspective. The intention is to outline a proposal for a revitalisation of the field of site-specificity beyond transcendentalism, offering a challenge to conceptualisations of “form” and “content” that still hover around site-specific practice today.

Departing from the assumption that spatial production understood in its broadest sense should always be understood as process (Massey 2005) and informed by Spinoza’s notion of “body,” which later on was developed in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) “ontology of assemblage,” public space can be understood in terms of assemblage in consisting of a tremendous number of components, human and non-human, material and immaterial, each of which has specific relations and its own agency—that is, the specific capacity to affect and be affected. Focusing on sound, sound from such perspective can be understood as having its own agency as a vital part of the production of the assemblage we refer to as public space.

The focus for this presentation is on bringing forward various crucial effects that such an assumption has on site-specific (sonic) practice in terms of vital spatial practice: “Site-specific practice it’s not a question of how one should ‘install’ a work but a question of how to articulate an assemblage” (Cox and Stjerna 2015). Such a statement returns to the idea of considering the site as a body composed of two vectors: latitudes and longitudes. “Latitude” concerns the specific material, historical, political, and social components of a place and the way in which they establish different relations. “Longitude,” then, is about my ability as an artist to understand and to modify these relations in the work, how I can reformulate those relations through sound.

Consequently, site-specific practice, on the one hand, should be understood as an exploration of the heterogenic and complex force relations that together constitute the assemblage of a place and, on the other hand, the modification of these relations through art. As a practitioner, I think of myself as exploring what Deleuze and Spinoza call the longitude and the latitude of the place. Through some recent actualised artistic projects, I intend to discuss site specificity as an ability to trace the ways that specific relations form or have formed a specific site or spatial context and the ability to alter it through art (Cox and Stjerna 2015).

The proposed presentation is mainly based on the first chapter of my ongoing (still untitled) artistic research project on sound art in public space.

References

Cox, Christoph, and Åsa Stjerna. 2015 [forthcoming]. “Sound, Affect, and Public Space: Åsa Stjerna in Conversation with Christoph Cox.” In Dirty Ear Report. Berlin: Errant Bodies Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: Sage.