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Oppenheim: The Utility of Romance



















































































































The relationship between the notation and the record of an event. The notation precedes the event...the record follows it.


The inference in a natural event as distinct from the indexical sign of itself. This distinction is the difference separating the actual and represented—signified and sign—from their apparent similarity. Hence, their simulacra (sign/signified) is an illusion to be lanced...after it is offered...before it is exposed.


Interpretation and fabrication.


Meaning drift and the consequences inherent in the choices of material.




Sequence and interrupted sequence...eruption and consequence.


The notion of the trace of a previous event and its "presence" in the immediate here and now.


The record of the event as a separate thing-in-itself.


False clues as cyphers to the meaning of a sequence of events—scrambled,

re-structured, descrambled.


Selfhood and the reconstruction of recalled memory...the body considered as objectified medium.


The role of involuntary voyeurism as knowledge-without-representation.


The surrogate's role...the surrogate as meta-object.


The notion of the protocol contravened, defied and reversed as a means of reflecting the fictional status of the surrogate's ritual.


The surrogate's pseudo-frivolous juxtaposition.


Smithson's "entropy" vs. Oppenheim's "energy".


The idea of an attached meaning via onomatopoeic shapes (forms) or characteristics...meaning as inherent in the onomatopoeic power of fictional, relational configurations.


At some point one realizes that one has as much (or more) memory as one has a this point memory's role (weight, import) and its relative correspondence to the sense of self projected into its anticipated future. (re: Oppenheim's motif index regarding the imbalance of past and future; exemplified by the doings of his puppets / surrogates)

Alchemy becomes a key metaphor...D.O.'s "signature" of impending or past threat, converted into energy.


Regarded as a whole, D.O.'s entire enterprise appears to be in a perpetual state of mid-course correction. Heterodoxic. henological, non-dogmatic, post-minimalism.


Mingling idiosyncratic concerns with paradigmatic general assertions (held in common by the culture's "conventional wisdom").


Re: Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief"...the distinction between voluntary and involuntary solipsism in D.O.'s corpus. Involuntary solipsism being one definition of madness itself.


Re: Backdrop: Minimalism is the greatest manifestation of platonic geometry  in contemporary art. D.O's corpus understood as Counter-Platonic...the non-ideal as a emerging significant form.


"Seriousness" could be defined as acute attention to detail...thus its value is the correct ratio between detail and governing pattern.


Consider the animistic-anthropocentric axis driving internal cohesion; while addressing the emotional and physical ravages instigated by conventional wisdom...implying a moral as well as an aesthetic order, which is disintegrating.


Re: Memory...Consider Proust: it was his mother's death that convinced him we never fully experience anything except retrospectively. Thus the presence of the beloved person or object or landscape activates the senses; the imagination functions only in their absence.


Re: Ambiguity: Merleau-Ponty: "Ambiguity is ambivalence that one dares to look at face to face."...Ergo: the ambivalence of the surrogate. What substitutes identity with a fictional context?


The surrogate as a carcus...Aporia, in the rhetoric of the deconstructionists: meaning an impassable

path, representing a cover-term for difference—and its effects—and the structure of deviant figuration...the logic of D.O.'s deviance, as The Logic of Inconsistency.


A shifting double replacing "reality" as it relates to the surrogates and their staging...thus the entire issue of the stage, and the tableau; i.e., the theatrical vein in the performance and body works...

which copes with certain devious obsessions defining the work's "problematic" as exemplary manifestations of our era's absurd obsessions...i.e., the surrogates seem to spite a magisterial venality; anticipating pre-cyberpunk retro-kickbacks dreading the future.


Romancing the absurd: D.O. as a Surrealist in the sense regarding the displacement of meaning...i.e., not to represent things in the world as much as to displace the represented with a shift in focal attention; not unlike the "rules" governing a three card Monty game wherein meaning emerges with one's determination as to what's what...which is then verified or exposed, dismissed, mocked.


Re: The "transference" impulse converts to the "transitive" impulse...via the ephemerality of selected materials...the ersatz-slapdash veneer of much of the material embodiments, including the extensive employment of documented images extracted from the performances and installations.—all this undermines (even mocks) the classic materials of "permanence", replacing it with a sort of embrace of the contingent using all available things in the Bricolure's sense of opportunism (the tool-machine pieces immediately come to mind as prime examples).


The key and central role of inconsistency thoughout D.O.'s extensive body of work..."Logic teaches us to expect a residue of dreaminess in the world, and even self contradictions". (C.S. Peirce). Re: As the complexity of the emotion (feeling, impulse) increases, it reaches a threshold, such that the only available and viable means of manifesting it is through the methods of inconsistency.

The photographic record of a performed event (episode) in which the event's primary status is conveyed via the secondary status of the infinitely copyable photograph or video record...such that the secondary record takes on the "energy" of the primary event, and is thus remixed and reassigned.


Re: D.O.'s addressing the question of the degree of difficulty. I.e., the range and scope of multiplicity as it unfolds in parallel non-intersecting domains, simultaneously hermetically sealed and reflective of both.


To simultaneously invoke an idea and its inarticulate parallel: engaging a moral sense...a guilty sensation and a wobbly equipoise oscillating between perfidy and conspiracy...Such a silent contract offers the viewer a grasp and a glimpse at forbidden fruit, withdrawn and suspended a la Tantalus...then ridiculed, mocked, for having glimpsed.


The act of distancing as a means of combining intimacy and cold objectivity. Ergo, the queer, ineffable combination of the hot and the cool...the slow and fast burn intermingled.


Re: Sequence and interruption...regarding the displacement of conventional data with incremental layers of fiction...such that the expected is engaged by a kind of pugilistic surprise, a kind of abrupt double-take, wherein the expected (the anticipated, the probable) is shattered.


The essence of compulsive activity is repetition. Ergo, the command of repeated acts, gestures, kinesics, and voices in D.O.'s opus, often akin to exposing the inherent compulsion in a spectrum of culturally determined human behavior,  context (framework, setting, target).


A hovering deus ex machina pervades the strategy and tactics of D.O.'s maneuvers. Such that they depend upon the inexplicable appearance of a sudden intrusion into the unfolding logic of things; in which the force of surrogate duplication shapes and directs repetition.


Re: Blake: "Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason and is bound by the outward circumference of Energy." "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom..." "Exuberance is Beauty..." and the essential idea of experimental wandering.


Finally, consider the governing ratios contrasting efficiency and is one or the other. There is rarely such a thing as a viable synthesis. It is these polarities defining D.O.'s fluid intent. This intent, in turn, encompasses the scope of difference, variance, deviation and permutation honing in on such distinctions.

Frank Gillette


NYC / East Hampton, 1999

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