The Façade Within

Catherine Ferguson

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 9, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in words
practice: image
keywords: Antoni Gaudí, autopoiesis, Humberto Maturana, Josef Albers

abstract video about the author(s)


The painting is finished and it is a static object—this is a fact but still it can’t be fully known. Inside perception there is an awareness that there is a process of individuation anterior to that individuated “object” and the individuated “subject” who is looking. What is at stake is to discover, through writing, a thought that is older than I am; let’s say it’s a thought that belongs to painting.

Where does writing begin this task? Perhaps, with something that I notice that is not what I expect it to be. There has been a rupture; for what should be a legible sign has become problematic. This legible sign (a motif of an Albers painting, turned upside down, embedded in Uslé’s painting La Garganta de Albers, Las Muelas de Gaudí [2003]) doesn’t address me as ironically postmodern. The cliché has been overcome and, together with the sign of Gaudí, an interior “organisation” has come about. This is the organisation that Maturana and Varela describe as generative of the autopoietic living organism—the painting as a form of life. But its organisation is not reducible to its components, hence, writing must invent something schematic: an internal architecture that can demonstrate how these objects from the past return to create the new—a “radically” new that is not given by that past. Albers and Gaudí return as objects of perception, of course (because I can name them), but there is something else that is invisible and which Uslé’s painting has extracted and which creates these works anew.

This paper will propose such a schema. It will attempt to show how an “opposition” between the metonymic operation of Albers’s rhythms and the metaphoric operation of Gaudí’s façades (between diachrony and synchrony) is both created and overcome in Uslé’s painting through the creation of the figure of an “arche-metaphor.” The work of the arche-metaphor is metamorphosis. Perception is displaced and complicated through a schematisation of the “unlived” or virtual—what accompanies every perception but which can only return through involuntary memory. Ultimately, the arche-metaphor works through the medium of the façade to produce the façade in its essence; disconnected from the empirical façades of the past, it is the façade as a pure and empty form through which different moments resonate in time. The paper will attempt to argue that this essence of “façadeness” is the dramatic event through with the fractured “I” appears—“façadeness” as the revelation of Deleuze’s pure and empty form of time.


about the author(s)

Catherine Ferguson

Catherine Ferguson is an artist and writer based in London. She completed a fine art PhD in 2007 titled “Painting, Deleuze and the Art of ‘Surface Effects’” and is a lecturer in fine art at the University of Leeds and a visiting tutor at Chelsea College of Art. The relation of painting to its history and contemporary context is an ongoing concern together with issues raised about the relation of painting to writing. Recent research includes exhibiting work at Berloni Gallery, London (2015) and Pulchri Gallery, The Hague (2014); the curatorial project Straddle the Line, APT Gallery, London (2014); conference papers at “Daughters of Chaos,” 8th International Deleuze Studies Conference, Stockholm (2015); and the publications “The Façade and the Picture Plane” in The Journal of Contemporary Painting (forthcoming, 2016), “Painting and the Metaphor of Discourse” in Painting with Architecture in Mind, edited by Edward Whittaker and Alex Landrum (Bath Spa University Press, 2012).


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University of Leeds, UK