Frank Gillette Evolving Catalogue Raisonne & Selected Archives
"Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking, and observing, there we enter the realm of Art and Science. If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, we are engaged in science. If it is communicated thru forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively as meaningful, then we are engaged in art. Common to both is the loving devotion to that which transcends personal concerns and volition."
“The mythology may change into a state of flux, the river-bed of thoughts may shift. But I distinguish between the movement of waters on the river-bed and the shift of the bed itself; though there is not a sharp division of the one from the other.”
“The Earth is a beautiful place, but it has a pox called man.”
(With a deep bow to Gregory Bateson): What follows is an epigrammatic jumble of cross associative links.
The Choice Points:
1. The question of illusion.
1.1 The problematics of making illusions, images, visages, proto-objects and their opposites.
1.1.1 The technology of making illusions, etc.
2. The value of ambiguity.
2.1 The types of visual ambiguity.
3. The sociology of the makers of illusions, etc.
3.1 The question of private umveldts interacting: producing a cultural space, a domain of mind.
The metalogue consists of three voices:
The setting is any elsewhere one chooses…
Amos: All matters of illusion are of two kinds. What is the nature of the phenomenon itself — and the question of the types of illusion. Of the types, I will suggest two: The Ideoplastic v. the Physioplastic.
Bertrand: Come again?
Amos: Physioplastic types consist of a direct reproduction of the “natural” object/scene or of its memory images…
Ideoplastic representations do not spring from immediate observation but express – represent – ideas, deductions and/or abstractions.
Bertrand: Continue, unpack it.
Amos: Thus a sliding spectrum…and its code.
The key to the code embodies the levels of the codes synthesis: the degree to which a specific work of art is a combination of—or an exclusive example of either extreme…is the salient question, the opening question.
Claire: Within the immediate ethos, our postmodern condition, would you therefore suggest that our ironic double-take by way of physioplastic imagery rendered ideoplastic, without interference in the fidelity of representation…is an example of such a synthesis…?
Bertrand: Would Warhol’s “disaster” litho-paintings of the early 60’s be such an example?
Amos: Yes and no.
Claire: Yes and no?
Amos: Yes in your case, no in his.
Bertrand: Such Warhol's would not exemplify?
Amos: Yes, they would not.
Bertrand: Cut that distinction.
Amos: Cutting such a distinction is essentially a difference between “high” and “low”…The difference is between ontic and topical…Ergo: Back to the original question…and this question now rises to the next level…in an on-going expansion. In turn, this new level of interaction morphs into the previous range of such choices…
Bertrand: Such choices? Name two…
Amos: Name two?
Amos: A caveat: Like the difference between a privilege and a necessity, I entertain attitudes about philosophy —I am not a philosopher…I prefer the sustained dissonance of making images. What follows is thus haptic speculations on randomly acquired/selected nuggets, oddments of interest, attractive choice-points.
An epistemology is herein understood as a cluster of perceptual biases…While Cognitive biases follow. “He who mounts a wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes.” (Randolph Bourne) Qualia is the wild elephant…Maya, illusion, and Qualia. Re: if reality is an illusion, then illusion is a reality…Qualia: private/subjective layering of phenomenal/individuating experience.
From: “Quantum particles are the dreams that stuff is made of.”
To: Pascal’s “Randomness
Bertrand: From Bateson: “Somebody was saying to Picasso that he ought to make pictures of things the way they are—objective pictures. He mumbled he wasn’t quite sure what that would be. The person who was bullying him produced a photograph of his wife from his wallet and said, ‘There, you see, that is a picture of how she really is.’ Picasso looked at it and said, ‘She is rather small, isn’t she? And flat?’
Claire:…A bit like “Love thy label as thyself…” or, according to a long lost legend: In the proto-hysterical depth of Time there exists a mercurial flush and ebb of larcenous collective-future-memory…that there exists a cosmic script for ordaining fate…that all is according to plan. Everything from idle curiosity to paranoid logistics to the existence of doubt is calibrated in the evolution of things…even retromorphosis. Thus the pontificating of fundamentalists, reductionists, and teleologists alike…but, what is a premonition if not a cheating glimpse into the next page in the cosmic script…?
This is the essential range and mix, the idee fixe governing the “noise of targets”…
Plurisignative codes allied with free-floating significance determine and shape the ways and means in which “a basin of all attractions” invites Anna Livia Plurabelle's employment of mix and match maneuvers to effect variations and change…From the dulcet tones of a Bach partita to the migration of glaciers, variations and change are the rule…Rates, frequencies, and periodicity are the measure…While whim and caprice, nuance and detail, rise and fall, are the result.
Amos: The practice of art is a form of experimental epistemology. In the current ethos: The ontic versus the topical.
The assertion that our comprehension of truth is actually a cultural construct, a function of who calls the political shots, of who negotiates power at any moment…is the ultimate piece of cynical and pernicious nonsense…employed to reductively simplify the construct/registration of truth…thus to manipulate it? This position is a species of kitsch…the contra-point: Cyberkitsch vs. digital gravitas…The topical vs. the ontic…
Bertrand: Propositions maintaining the veracity of one over the other are embedded in a warlock of attitude.
Claire: Hence...Qualia and its maintenance…
Amos: The cultivation of private / subjective within the consensual/collective: the clash.
Claire: An essential question erupts: What is the difference? Are they much the same thing? Subjective... objective?
Amos: A warlock of attitudes: Subjective...objective...what is the difference, that makes a difference…?
Bertrand: Difference? Nothing as basic as the distinction between the topical and the ontic, thus Nozich's
remark“…objects and structures wherein sharp properties interlock in a densely layered network
of combinatorial possibilities, relations, and implications.”
Amos: The ethologists Tinbergen and Lorenz surmise that, within given sensitive margins, sets of shapes, configurations, pre-exist (i.e., reside) stereotypically and archetypically in the nervous systems of creatures within the purview of their research. For instance, employing their classic example, a new-born chick, fresh out of its egg, will promptly scurry for cover in the presence of a chicken-hawk’s silhouette / shadow without ever having personally experienced peril from a chicken-hawk. Conversely, a chick will not scramble for protection if the configuration deviates sufficiently from the gestalt of the chicken-hawk. We are left to infer that the shape or silhouette of the predator, somehow dormant in the chick’s “data-base," is activated and translated into immediate tactical action only when the encoded interior template satisfactorily matches the perceived shadow.
Likewise, although exquisitely more flexible and elastic, a repertoire of stereotypes, archetypes, arch-forms, ratios, patterns and schemata exist in interwoven arrays suspended in the private and collective human nervous system. The essential task of the artist, his stock-in-trade, is to draw out, evoke and otherwise manifest these forms, patterns and ratios. Or, conversely, to violate their limits such that novel significance is conveyed by means of perverse variation and permutation.
Although works of Art are not isomorphic with the world, their presence in the world is, paradoxically, characterized by methodologies and procedures capable of penetrating the world’s enigma.
Claire: Is a thing isomorphic with something else when it either is in or can be brought into a one-to-one correspondence with that something else? For instance, a circuit diagram is isomorphic with its program, but a map is not isomorphic with the territory it depicts.
Amos: Invariably reflecting an internal reflexive sovereignty of form, Art, from this perch, is an independent domain of mind cohering information about the world unavailable or inaccessible to the domains of Science, Magic or Religion.
Bertrand: From Gadamer:“…the fact that art belongs in the realm of what Aristotle called poietik episteme, the knowledge and facility appropriate to production…art is present whenever a work succeeds in elevating what it is or represents to a new configuration, a new world of its own in miniature, a new order of unity in tension…We can distinguish two different senses of interpretation: pointing to something and pointing out the meaning of something…’Pointing to something‘ is a kind of ‘indicating’ that functions as a sign. ‘Pointing out what something means’, on the other hand, always relates back to the kind of sign that interprets itself. Thus when we interpret the meaning of something, we actually interpret an interpretation.”
Amos: The idea of ill-defined, or semi-defined, and interpenetrating surfaces which appear to belong to (or emit from) the same structures…but not perceivable (or comprehendible all at once…hence, the temporal attribute in the decoding of the image, as the viewer scans, or runs through, their memory (data?) bank for the templatic match-ups. Thus, the stream of resonance that is both simultaneous and unfolding-in-time combines in an exploratory restlessness (sensual and tantalizing) in the informed viewer.
Claire: Memory and expectation…things tantalize and vanish, reappear differently and enmesh themselves in the implicate constructs of an individual’s memory. Yet, that memory—unique to the private subjective self— mingles with the collective traces of shared forms and associational complexes. Conflict is not chaos, though its presence need not presuppose an eventual resolution. Conflict, as a sub-set of ambiguity, may perpetuate contradictions ad infinitum, it may entangle antipodal meanings, it may even self-destruct, dissolving into afterimages—but it will invariably (within this given definition) invoke meaning which correlates the formal with the memotic.
Bertrand: As if gazing back from the apex of a parabola along its curve to observe whether or not it meets its asymptote, the viewer’s wonder as to what remains unanswered and thus congeals into timelessness is the critical question. Eternity or zero-time have nothing to do with duration. Time is not in the domain of knowledge understood but in the domain of knowledge felt. Likewise, the ambiguous image (visage, configuration, articulation, composition, et al.) is perforce, within the domain of knowledge felt, not understood. It owes its very force and significance to this condition: felt, not understood.
Amos: Paradox and ambivalence, repulsion and denial, acceptance, or faith, and doubt…all contribute to the sensation of a chaos under control (or, at least, comprehended) which induces an indefinite and indeterminate “reading” of the image. It is no longer a question of what is what, but a question of what point in the cycle of interpretation the informed viewer settles for, or substantiates as fixed, although infinitely alterable with repeated viewings.
The key foci between the memory trace and the contingencies of the “living” present reflects the scope and deviance of polyvalent interpretations available to the connoisseurship of a specific viewer. At this point the axiology of the past-present nexus enters the argument. What is the value structure (or bias) of her / his hermeneutics? How is the innate hierarchy of the choice-decision process of the viewer maintained and evolved? What is the history of the viewer’s preferences, and how do they conform with, or defy, the governing consensus? What is the viewer’s description of lived, personalized, experience? These questions centralize the issue of the novel, unique, private, and individuated response with the configuration, or image, confronted.
Claire: The issue reduces to the interrelation between intrinsic, universal values necessarily inherent in successfully articulated images, configurations, objects, et al. capable of summing-up and recontextualizing private contingent values within the viewer.
Bertrand: Fluctuating between reflective illumination on the one hand, and reflexive response on the other, the viewer’s interpretive capacity (or sophistication) emerges as the hub of value associated with the specific image in question. Consensus as to the relative value of any image emerges when a certain “critical mass” of individuated opinion is achieved. Over time, social changes and hermeneutic re-evaluations shift the relative merit of a given image’s consensus status. This much is self-evident, even obvious. The more elusive issue is how all of this unfolds in time. A perpetual vortex of assessment, and reassessment, follows from an initial intuitively determined judgement. Consensuses evolve, and collapse, within the inter-subjective fray of disparate opinion, ideological heresies, ideational branching-out, newly uncovered evidence (or newly invented difference), political expedience, historical and cultural realignment.
Amos: William James’ “four marks which, when an experience has them, may justify us in calling it mystical”…The four criteria are 1) Ineffability, 2) Noetic quality, 3) Transiency, and 4) Passivity.
How do these four “marks” apply to the making and reception of a work of art? Or any aesthetic experience, so defined. That is, to what degree or extent is an aesthetic experience a mystical one?
Bertrand: Thus the role in the making of rapture and trance…in the making and reception of works of art...And the role of social status resident in the work of art that is, as the source of specialized and rarified “rapture”.
Claire: Contra-Rapture…Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “loss of aura” in the work of art as it is the result of mechanized means and subject to automatic reproduction…How to reintroduce the “aura” into mechanistically derived works of art.
Amos: The combination of urgency, seriousness and play understood as the triad enveloping the yoke of necessity in the making/receiving of a work of art…It (the objet d'art) cannot exist merely to provide pleasure and/or entertainment…Ergo: Enchantment is understood as a novel fusion of urgency and pleasure.
Consider the role of intransitive experience in art…That is it's thresholds of fixedness in the flux of meaning…Thus, to enhance the complexity of aesthetically apprehended form…Converging on the epistemology of art from both quarters…from gazing at the surface/object itself an emergent knowledge (unavailable elsewhere) is created…and from the making of the surface/object, the kind (or type) of knowing required (and acquired) by making art, by being in harm’s way, in a sense.
As to the relativity of Judgement: William James’ Pragmatism argues that we shall know a truth by relating its consequences to its avowed purpose. Thus it asserts that moral and intellectual honesty require the implied basis to become explicit: the scheme (proposition, assertion, claim, et al.) must be tested by a concordance between our goal and our achievement.
Bertrand: Painting (pictorial architecture) is a signature of consciousness. A pictorial architecture equals a modus operandi interacting with its material givens…operandi in turn interacting with cognoscenti…Ergo, the work of art is comprehended as an open labyrinth of decipherable gates, or a closed solipsistic system unavailable to penetration…Hermeneutic inquiry distinguishes the two, this is its essential task.
Claire: Heidegger grasps all art as intrinsically poetical, as a means of drawing out the Being of beings into unconcealment…Heidegger thus describes the art-event in terms of a tension between Earth as the creative ground of things, and the “world” which an art-work erects and opens, unconceals, reveals.
Amos: Chomsky's argument that language is a tool of thought asserts (like the neo-Kantian) that linguistic structures are innately programmed in the human mind and operate both as a constraint upon language and as a means of facilitating shared understanding. Are we thus conditioned by a grammar of response?
To distinguish the analytic from the prescriptive…To emphasize the special adversary relationship that exists between adjacent fields of study…To determine and draw out the logical compliments vis-a-vie parallel disciplines…Thus to situate the particular discipline within the local ecology of mind…Thus the necessary role of an adversary relationship between and among the cluster of ideological and disciplinary divisions…i.e., the Postmodern deconstructionists respond with scorn to any notion that the pictorial plane is potentially the arena of transcendental presence…Just as some biochemists are content with the belief that life is “no more” than the actions of atoms and molecules—some historical materialists (and their postmodernist ideological equivalent) believe that a painting is “no more” than the sum of the explicit components of a particular picture, i.e., its stretcher, canvas, pigment, mediums, et al…
Claire: To reveal the peculiar indecipherability of our psychic circumambience…That is, re-encoding (rendering, informing, manifesting) the undecipherable as configured enigma…Invoking a sense of unfamiliarity…simultaneously consonant and dissonant.
Amos: Contra: Art as a metaphysical practice vs. Logical Positivism (scientific empiricism)…as the substantive aspect of an epistemic clash: Re: Language as calculus vs. language as imagination. E.g., Science (the logical positivist version) views the essence of most, if not all, the problematics of Art as many manifestations of a single governing pseudo problem.
Bertrand: The distinction between inference and reference…Rescrambling the imagistic sources vs. a reconfiguring of the formal. For instance Khun’s normal and abnormal practice in science…versus the normal and abnormal practice in Art. The normal practice of Art is currently dominated by (intertextual) reference—mostly inward and internal (in the hermetic-political sense)…Meanwhile current abnormal practice is associated with the groping toward fresh inference.
According to Kubler; “Events may be treated synchronously or diachronously, that is, as events at rest in a cross section of relationships or as events in duration, under unceasing change in motion and flow. In synchronous treatment, events are either densely or sparsely arrayed. In the diachronous view, events are rapid or slow. Dense array and rapid happenings are not equivalent (neither are sparse and slow).”
Memory and the question of duration, as well as its density—of the event-interval “synaptic” leap connecting real time with the afferent and efferent labyrinths mixing and shuffling varying strains of memotic cross-breeding. On the contrary, Zen aficionados speak of permanently dwelling in the perpetual “now”.
Amos: How does this interface with Kant’s temporal a priori…or in Kant’ s belief that time is experienced, but not understood? “All great works (precisely because they are great) contain something unachieved.” (Kundera). This aspect or attribute of the unachieved is yet another species of ambiguous forms dependent upon a complex of memories reminiscent of things further past--but not identifiable, not even classifiable.
Bertrand: What Kundera refers to as the unachieved is, (and here the Gestaltists, the structuralists, and their new brethren the deconstructivists and the post-structuralists, join in, in varying degrees) curiously enough, linked with what can be referred to as the incomplete. There appears, in the strict epistemological sense, to exist a perceptual-memory threshold beyond which an image can be felt but not identified. The resulting residual aesthetic effect is to instill a novel appreciation of the viscerally felt abutted against the rationally comprehensible.
The threading interweave of private memory with beyond-the-reach viscerally received forms, configurations, shapes, et al., manifests a range of potential combinations that perforce transcend issues which dispute the “differences” adhering to such genres as formalism, realism, appropriationism, surrealism, and their myriad internal alliances. Thus the art-world endgame is not about the suicidal flowering of appropriation—as a kind aesthetic rapture enfolding all present possibilities within the ineffable weight of the past. There are other options, distinct and alien from such closing-time tactics. What are these other options? That is the vital question.
Amos: The vital question therefore reinstates a memory-ambiguity axis: caprice, whim, fits of pique, and delusions insinuate themselves into this Gordian knot. Flooding contradictions seep into its infinitesimal interstices. The knot is porous yet remains unraveled. What we are approaching here is the partially disassembled condition of specific, subjectively constructed memories combining with finite, templatic arch-forms. Finite forms, but whose internal permutations approach the virtually infinite.
Claire: Bateson’s “the pattern which connects” as the keystone interlocking the personally possessed mind (the subjective, private, personal, unique) and the environmental mind-web weaving all self-organizing systems into an unbroken continuum. Ergo: Constitutive and contextual are a Janus-faced unity. The Taoist concept of wu-wei, of not resisting the natural flow or grain of things, of remaining patient until the ”way” offers itself—until one’s purpose, or search, matches up with the mind-web.
Amos: Stanislav Grof’s “cartography of the unconscious” represents yet another model-metaphor for the processes accessing, or catalyzing, the inter-relationships existing among and between the immanent mind-web and individual psychic constitutions. It affords an opening overlapping and cross-hatching matrices of the unconscious currents, templates, and dynamics shared by each.
Freud’s delayed gratification: “Under the influence of the ego’s instincts of self-preservation, the pleasure principle is replaced by the reality principle. This latter principle does not abandon the intention of ultimately obtaining pleasure, but it nevertheless demands and carries into effect the postponement of satisfaction, the abandonment of a number of possibilities of gaining satisfaction and the temporary toleration of unpleasure as a step on the long indirect road to pleasure.”
On the other hand, Plank’s theory of Quanta apparently negates the laws of causation, implying a mysterious non-rational source “governing” subatomic domains. Subatomic worlds however are not directly observable. They are ineluctably mediated by both theory and technology. And this is its crux: theory and, without doubt, technologies are persistently mutable while subject to their own peculiar evolution. Hence unfolding developments are ascribed to the independent force of techne itself.
By the last quarter of the 19th century it had become an all pervasive (if not zealous) tone of thought that science was the decisive factor in all aspects of life. Scientific method ensconced itself as the know-all and cure-all as well as the final word on the validity of any given proposition—whatsoever. Its dicta acquired the patina of a preemptory usurpation, reducing all in its wake to mere folklore and superstition. Metaphysics, especially, was reduced to the status of a fool’s hegemony. Art, at worst, was reduced to the status of supercilious diversion; at best, it was considered perhaps capable of providing emotional solace and inspiration, though devoid of any epistemological value.
As counter balance, consider Michel Foucault: “But, then, what is philosophy today—philosophical activity, I mean—if it is not the critical work that brings to bear on itself? In what does it consist, if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently instead of legitimating what is already known?”
While for Nietzsche: “ ‘Objectivity’—understood not as ‘disinterested apprehending (which is nonsense and an absurdity), but as the ability to control one’s pro and con and to apply one or the other of them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations for knowledge. There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival ‘knowing’; and the more eyes, and different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing, our ‘objectivity’ be.”
Art and Hyper-Tech: From the technophile’s vantage, art produced by any other means is a sly malfeasance, intrinsically dysfunctional and spent. Such hyper-tech rhetoric contains a strong solipsistic streak. This is a prime issue…Ringing alarms, the operating crypto-thesis that only hyper-tech ways and means of making art are the ways to make art now! How myopic! And paradoxically, how reactionary!
Bertrand: By way of hyper-tech’s skewed rationale even the Japanese concept of Kaizen, continuous self-improvement is drawn into focus. But there is more to life (and art) than continuous self-improvement. The illumination of the enigmatic substituted for and replaced by “Nintendo's" pseudo-mystery. Will matured virtual reality systems render us, the collective “we," more attuned to the actual reality? Or, will it pull us further away from the actual and into the virtual. (re: McLuhan, Baudrillard and various others.) Virtual reality systems may very well be the penultimate techne distancing, therefore disengaging, humanity from nature.
Claire: Understood as Aura…while comprehended as that “something” that radiates from ancient archetypal luminosity…Sudden illumination resulting from the unconscious co-relation between “numbers” and the quantity of “things” in the world…The sheer numberlessness of things, synchronicities, intervals, events, etc…vs. the function of number in tabulating these things. (Even in the Kabbalah, God is a number…72)
Amos: Primal Images and their degree of variation (see Kubler's The Shape of Time) and permutation: Thus at what shifting point does a primal image decay or lapse into the pedestrian or the stereotypical? The permitted deviance from the primal image as an internal ratio (or number relationship) that is observable outside and independent of the aesthetic issue of proportion, significance, beauty, et al…Ergo: Primal Images and their relationship to a unitory reality (unus mundus), providing hints or shards of an infinitely larger schema of psychic and material reality. Hence, the threshold of perception evolves into the key to a range of possible primal images and their bounded permutations.
Ergo: To draw out the transcendental realm of the unus mundus in fragments that implicate the whole… a metonymy of sorts. Resulting in the failure of the over-defined image as being bereft of (and denied) the power of the fragmentary shard, part, hint, element, etc., Such that the over-defined image becomes a pseudo whole, a useless substitute for the ambiguity—which, in its partial state reveals the actual nature of the totality…(the idea of the religious relic comes to mind as an example).
Bertrand: Considering the invited “free flexibility” of interpretation—such that, the polyvalent meaning and associations are un-fixed, transient, open…Ergo: the co-relation of the fluidity of meaning and the stability of the ambiguous image.
Now consider Claude Levi-Strauss: “Every myth confronts a problem, and it deals with it by showing that it is analogous to other problems, or else it deals with several problems simultaneously and shows that they are analogous to one another. No real object ever corresponds to this set of images, which mirror each other. More exactly, the object draws its substance from the invariant properties that mythic thought manages to identify when it sets a number of statements side by side.”
Amos: As Art's variable roles are played out between the “constitutive” and “contextual” values associated with a given image or object. Since Art stakes no claim to “intrinsic value neutrality”—quite the contrary, any work of authentic Art is perforce committed to a specific value set up against competing methods of image making…in addition to the spirit of Agon driving a “deliberate misreading” of both the past and present; there is the unavoidable clash among the practitioners vying for dominance. There is simply no equivalent to the concept—as in science—of consensually derived evidence grounding the common means of procedure, governing rules and protocols of evidence and proof (re: Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend).
Art operates outside and independent of the principle of proof—consensus as to the value of an individual work of Art evolves post-facto, after it has entered the culture. No codified rules of procedure screen its admittance. Instead rules emerge from its admittance into the world.
Bertrand: While assuming the continuing resurgent relevance of the neo-Kantian perspective: therefore fusing the rational with the empirical, integrating the biological with the mystical, the tangible with the a priori given(s)…the collective “we” with the subjective “I” enfolds the crux of knowing. The interplay fluxing to and fro betwixt inner and outer “realities”…Moral with cosmological, private with collective, egocentric with the self-sacrificial...All within a single overarching aegis of being. Let the differences flow, permit the conflicts, the contentious counter-points abide…in any case the dialogical oppositions invested and entrenched in their respective antipodes prevail.
Claire: From Neil Postman's Technopoly: Chief among the assumptions of a technopoly is..."that the primary, if not the only goal of human labor and thought is efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgement; that in fact human judgement cannot be trusted because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value, and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”
Amos: …When the contemporary culture as a whole totally yields to its cherished demon, Hyper-technology, it also confronts every moral and aesthetic standard, criterion, value, and virtue associated with the “unique” hand-made image/object.
From Jacques Maritain: “The artist is faced with an immense and desert sea…sans mats, sans mats, ni fertiles ilots, and the mirror he holds up to it is no bigger than his own heart. He is bound to go hunting a new analog-ate a new typically different participation in beauty; and this new participation in beauty will involve and require a new ways of making — either a new adaptation of the fundamental and perennial rules, or the use of rules not hitherto employed, which are simply new, and which at first disconcert…”
One issue at play here is whether or not Maritain’s formulation is rendered quaintly superfluous, even null and void by the interjection of Hyper-tech's ways and means…that is, the “rules” have not just changed, but the parameters, the very context within which rules have previously changed has evaporated…gone up in coiling drafts of sentimental mist…This is a fundamental phase-shift in the character of the “rules” themselves, due to the structure of what is now possible. Further: It’s not just change per se, it’s the rate of the rate (ad infinitum) of change…It’s the rapidity, discontinuous frequency and radicality of changing “rules”.
Bertrand: Making Art—no matter what the rules and context—remains a fusing of implicit and explicit operations, a combinative of historical debts, unanticipated quirks of insight, and patterns of stochastic cooling…and then, for the less fortunate, a trailing off into repetition, self-mimicry and caricature. Then, if the artist is graced or lucky, the cycle begins again...perhaps after a maddening interval.
Claire: Now, returning to the Neo-Luddites and their doctrinaire Technophobia…hence dismissing the computer and its allied hyper-technologies as blithely malevolent at best, or woefully arrogant, perhaps conspiratorial, at worst. Are we (that collective “we”) to succumb to Von Neumann’s assertion that any and all technological possibilities are irresistible to humanity? Thus inviting the heresy that the faculties of the imagination are ipso facto enhanced by (hence dependent upon) the mere presence of hyper-technologies…Does it come down to Nintendo-Zombies vs. Radical Reactionaries? Is an equipoise balancing the two possible? Or are we perpetually caught in a blind crossfire exchanged by their respective enclaves? If this is the case, the Technophiles win, hands down.
Commencing with the likes of Simon and Newell, Minsky and his MIT ilk see AI systems as inexorably moving toward and then beyond the status of sentient creatures…beyond the “emotive limitations" of Homo Sapiens.
Amos: Art’s life-blood does, or does not, reside in a relation to the state of technology at any given—swiftly changing—point in time…This is central among the key questions. Re: The intimidatingly authoritative character of “scientific” statements in general…their recasting of dogma, from a narrative form to a differential equation or one of its equivalents…Is this the necessary riddle without a sufficient answer?
Bertrand: There is in addition the operating assumption that Art inadvertently elevates hyper-tech…The very fact(oid) that when a critical mass of artists who deem to employ its spectrum of apparatuses for what appears to be their own ends, providing a certain credence (perhaps aura) to their dominant presence in the world…And its underside, its unacknowledged agenda, of annihilating or, at minimum, trivializing other non high-tech methods and means for making images and objects aspiring to the status of Art…It takes the edge off your game…It shifts the essential responsibility of the Kunstler to the availability of, access to, or outright possession of these techno-devices…A corollary evolves here: the more primitive and basic your tools and methods employed as an artist, the more potential autonomy you can exercise…likewise the more your tools and methods are “plugged” into the hyper-tech infrastructure, the less autonomous you are…It reduces to the aesthetic value resident in the concept of autonomy. The next corollary: Hyper-Tech is cut off from the ancestral circle of all previous (passive) mediums…Its discontinuity is more than a mere matter of the absence of the hand-eye-axis signature, with its 35,000—50,000 years of continuity…It is the novel combination of discontinuity and the absence of autonomy which determines the scope of influence.
Amos: Intricacy and Synchronicity: Consider the patience of a spider. It waits at the epicenter of its own architecture; it remains unswervingly still, frozen, appearing inanimate…yet it is strikingly alert, super fine-tuned to identify and then discriminate among the kinds, types, and degree of vibration alerting it to a range of probable causes…then it decides to act or remain still…and if it is prodded to move, what kind of maneuver shall it be?…Is it a tactical move governed by deliberate retreat or is it alarmed escape; or one directed by strategies for capturing prey. If so, then a judgement as to what type of prey has arrived, and thus what designated tactic among its repertoire to unleash.
Ergo: The above is a central analogy for how Art is made.
Claire: Both the spider and the artist possess a crypto-excess a disguised extravagance, biding time which paradoxically optimizes functional waiting, patience and spatiotemporal cunning. Both strategies and tactics are however, essentially atemporal…punctuated by swift intrusions—tempus fugit—and magnified by distortions of duration. Try this, try that, finally something suddenly works…or, conversely, you’re jettisoned from the entire schema, your games’s edge evaporates, then it’s consumed, then unloaded into a private vomitorium…you’re out. Or, the prey (the muse’s idea with your name on it) is secured, only the details are left to craft—what to dissect and recombine, which material to engage, what rationics to embody—then on to which niche in history to question…and lastly, how to puncture the vibrating membrane enveloping rarity’s constricted circle.
Amos: In addition there is also the balance or ratio, between periods of crisis and passages of tranquility…Each is essential to making Art…perpetual tranquility or constant crisis however may produce saints or neurotic demons, respectively, but will fail to produce artists…It is the oscillation, periodicity—the “mood swings”—of these extremes from which Art is squeezed.
Claire: From a technophobic perspective, this is exactly the point…Shall Art join the totalitarian technocracy, shall it provide it with prestige, with validation, by way of its aura…Is there any choice?…aside, that is, from a neo-Luddite's blatantly reactionary stance.
Amos: Picasso’s famous remark: “a green parrot is also a green salad and a green parrot.”…Characterizes the simultaneous double-take as it blends both opposing interpretations and/or is “read” as oscillating between them. This emergence through an articulation of unresolvable conflicts reflects a universal condition inherent in the experience itself. “Art for Man’s Sake”, Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel lecture, diagnosed the sources of those fears which lead to organized suppression of the freedom of artistic expression. Such fears originate, he argued, from the awareness that the beautiful (or significant) can communicate the condensed essence of experience on a more universal basis than any other known modes of communication, in spite of the virtual nonexistence of anything that would resemble general universal rules for artistic practice.
Therefore a seemingly inevitable connectedness, and intentionality, determine the specific identity of a given configuration’s force (of meaning) without revealing the etiology of the significance conveyed. This is another core issue in the ambiguity-memory axis. Such that, something captures the conscious grasp of the viewer without a substantial hint as to its source—although that source is part and parcel of the experience itself. Degrees, or hierarchies, of complexity can therefore imply while informing the viewer of the categorical status of the image. Yet an image's emotive power will elude explicit definition or explanation. The practically infinite variables dominating the equation as to what is possibly what...such that no single, definitive, subordinate conclusion is probable.
Bertrand: P.F. Strawson makes a distinction between meaning and criteria. He demonstrates that a logically adequate relation need not be a relation of identity. If so, crying, for instance, could be a logically adequate criterion for the ascription of pain, without supposing that “pain” means the same thing as crying. Strawson provides an example of this distinction by the nature of a card game…“If one is playing a game of cards, the distinctive markings of a certain card constitute a logically adequate criterion for calling it, say, the Queen of Hearts; but in calling it this, in the context of the game, one is ascribing to it properties over and above the possession of these markings. The predicate gets it's meaning from the whole structure of the game.”
Claire: It is apparently a not so simple matter of intuition preceding acknowledged order, or logical justification. The hunch, the flash of insight or inspiration arrives prior to any possible rationale for its epiphanic presence (usually arriving as a whole, or totality). The logic of a hunch then develops into a post-facto rational justification. However, entering into, or deconstructing the constitution of the hunch itself, implies a pre-existing order, or formal template from which a specific unique result emerges.
According to Ernst Kris...“Some of the greatest scientific discoveries are attributed to chance by the discoverers themselves, just as Newton’s observation of a falling apple is alleged to have been the source of his discovery of the law of gravitation. A closer analysis of such cases, which play a considerable part in typical biographies of scientists…has shown, proved beyond all doubt that what appears to be chance is in fact an observation impregnated with previous preconscious experiences...The making of the observation is in itself a part of the preconscious process.”
Bertrand: But what is chance? What is luck? What is being at the right place at the right time? Is it synchrony, fortuitous happenstance, coincidence, randomness or unanticipated angelic intervention?
Claire: L.F. Mucciolo's Scientific Reduction and the Mind-Body Problem:
“Just as thermodynamics was micro-reduced to mechanics, psychology is in principle micro-reducible to neurology. A gas has a certain temperature; the gas itself has a decomposition into molecules, and those molecules have a certain property, namely, a mean kinetic energy. Similarly, a person undergoing some psychological state, for example, remembering, has a decomposition into organs, tissues, cells, etc., and some of these parts (neurons) taken together have a neural property which is identical with the psychological state. In the case of remembering there is now reason to believe that it is identical with the engagement of a neural hologram.”
Assuming the above description—as one possible working hypothesis—to be sufficiently accurate…What would a “neural hologram” of an ambiguity consist of? (Mind-Body problem indeed)…The sticky issue of an isomorphic correspondence between a mental (psychic) state and the chemical-cellular embodiment of that state as the source of the recollected recall of that state (or sensation) sums up the relationship interrelating the existential, or ineffable, experience of the ambiguous image versus's its physiological and dissectible manifestation(s). This is the prime juncture where scientific reductions to physical phenomena and aesthetic experience paradoxically merge while in conflict.
Amos: If all is reducible to synaptical arrangements distributed in, as yet, incomprehensibly complex ways, then the aesthetic discourse concerning the relationship between memory and ambiguity (and the formal qualities manifesting it) are quixotic, to say the least. But here the twain parts.
The specific, individuated, subjective experiences of an ambiguous image (triggered by memory or a templatic match-up, or otherwise) comprises an instance of momentary transcendence, perhaps evanescence, that even if reducible to a chemical-synaptic complex, is experiential despite the scientific explanation of its mechanism. It stands alone, isolated and independent, within the phenomenalism of the viewer’s experience. No recourse to the hypothetical conjecture of scientific description alters, reduces or redirects the nature of the singular experience itself.
Bertrand: It is the experiential, axiological, and aesthetic aspects and attributes of the ambiguity-memory nexus that is the central concern of the reigning discourse. “How does meaning come to the image? Where does its meaning end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?” (see Roland Barthes', Rhetoric of the Image)…“It is probable, as a matter of fact, that among the metabolas (or figures of substitution of one signifier for another) it is metonymy which furnishes the image with the greatest number of its connotators; and that among the parataxes (or syntagmatic figures), it is the asyndeton which predominates.”
Here we engage the role of dystaxia as a form of ambiguity determined by the splicing of memory intersected by intervals of arbitrary, or irrelevant signifiers. For one obvious example: Take a photograph from your family album, cut it into, say, seven strips, intersperse the strips with intervals of anything at all. What have you begotten? An alternating event-interval composition in which the personally remembered is fragmented, scattered and inter-composed with the alien, the random, the antithetical. How does this effect the character of the original memory evoked by the unspliced family snap-shot?
This type of ambiguity distinguishes itself by territories, or areas, of instant recognition enveloped, thus integrated, with areas of free floating signifiers. By means of alternating the acknowledged, the recollected, and the familiar with the peculiar, or the uncanny—the event-interval format thus fuses the intimate with the distanced image.
Amos: Distinguishing a curiosity from a mystery by way of Aristotle: Proportion is an equality of ratios. The more fundamental the variation, the greater the degree of variation. Further, George Lakoff: “Rampant indeterminacy occurs where references can be changed throughout the language while the truth-conditional meaning is preserved.”
The articulation of imagistic forms fuses the unpredictable and the non-arbitrary, maneuvering into the range of critical ambiguity; saturating supra-reference forms which rests upon no single reference.
Bertrand: To paraphrase Spinoza: Reality and perfection are the same thing…Hence inter-referential enfolding. Thus the indexical is therefore the direct appropriation of what is, what is directed at the quiddidity of things. Thus when it refers to itself as a separate domain of meaning. While it collapses (enfolds) into its own referential conventions and detaches from a direct apprehension of the world's environs.
Hence: The inter-referential enfolding supplied by a privately validated motif index which generates the permutations of form…as if from existing as a private alchemy. I.e. from the dross of subjective particulars to the platinum of inter-subjective meaning.
Amos: From Paul Valéry: “One can always sense the strangeness of a thing once it ceases to play any part; when we do not try to find something resembling it and we concentrate on its basic stuff, its intrinsicality.”
Bertrand: Ergo, Paratactic's: Paratactical structure, herein understood as it is manifest in a work of art…as it is read into the formal disposition of the work…Contiguous and not continuous…Resulting in the “message” in staccato. Therefore the summoning and unfolding rhythm of meanings, the cross-hatching of maps, defines the nature of a particular image.
Amos: Consider Plato’s Anamnesis as a characteristic of certain forms (configurations, shapes) in their power to invoke a recollection, to expose a memory…Thus building an associational vortex in the repertoire of privately derived forms and their methods.
Claire: Now consider Art’s recycling of forms and their problematics…As Hegel abundantly and repeatedly proved, the history of philosophy is the history of drastic and shameless innovative interpretations of ancient propositions…While Art can be comprehended as the history of endless interpretations and re-introductions of ancient forms. Thus transforming and transvaluating a variety of types and categories of things into something convincingly novel—the “novelty” being manifest in the interpretation…for example combining the perversely repellent with the sumptuously beautiful.
Re: Dystaxia and the Free Floating Signifier…Dystaxia occurs when the signs of a message are no longer simply juxtaposed, when the logical linearity is disturbed. Quoting Barthes: “A notable form of dystaxia is found when the parts of one sign are separated by other signs along the chain of the message…the sign split into fractional parts, its signified is shared out amongst several signifiers, distant from one another and not comprehensible on their own.”
By contrast, Heidegger’s: “Imaginings that are visible inclusions of the alien in the sight of the familiar”…Hence to conjure visages which combine, chimera-like, previously unconnected shards of meaning into new significance: Collage, montage, the jump-cut, the cut-up, the exquisite corpse, the broken text.
Bertrand: Joyce via Daedalus: The password of serious aesthetic pursuit: “Silence, Exile, and Cunning” vs. the doctrine of Art as an instrument of social action…that is the eternal clash between the interiority of the ironist and the exteriority of the do-gooder…The aesthetic task is imposed upon the artist by the epoch, and this represents a kind of exercised freedom within strict limits.
Claire: Entertain Kant’s claim that reason demands free will, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God; although reason could not prove them and we will never know whether what reason demands is in fact the case…Kant’s Summum Bonum consists in the conjunction of perfect virtue and perfect happiness…Thus Baudelaire’s counter-statement “…the mummery and acrobatics of art”…Re: The acrobatic element in the solitude of making…Thus the autocatalytic chain response or astipia resident in the resonance of associations released by an aesthetically grasped apprehension of form.
Amos: Re: The significance of the image…from Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Soccer War: “The custom of facial scarification dates from when the southern tribes of Ghana conquered the northern ones and sold them to the whites as slaves, so that the northerners disfigured their foreheads, cheeks and noses to make themselves unsalable goods. In the Nankani language the words for ugly and free mean the same thing.”
Claire: From a pullulating existential myopia: The immanence of nothingness as an existential surround, thus concluding in a riotous proliferation. Thus the apercus, grasped as the filaments of experience while delimiting the extentions of forms. It is a question of form defeating function; over and above questions regarding a metaphysics of origins and presence (Etios)…Re: A regulative matrix for the manifold of anti-conventions, exemplified by the arbitrary codes of a collagist: not like comparing apples with oranges, but like comparing apples with roller skates. Concluding in the irregulative principle of connection leading the viewer to paradoxically expect disruption.
Amos: Consider the deontological dimension within the making of Art: To what source, origin, omega, final-cause or historical destiny is the work-of-Art made in the name of? What axiological duties and/or obligations constrain while defining the intrinsic terms for it's making?
Claire: Now consider Prolepsis...The function and role of the proleptic vision (skill, command, gift) in Art as one which anticipates the future development of the “line”, or formal reasoning in its incipient or nascent phase…Thus the origins of Art residing in the rituals of propitiation, sacrifice and submission…While The Oracular summoned the future, the Proleptic provided the formats, the templates, into which the oracular “calls” are cast. Thus, the function of the seer is inherited by the visual artist…and the function of the oracle is assumed by the poetic and narrative artist. To hypothesize is to imagine is to predict…Ergo, Art vis-a-vie the role of prophecy...Jump-cut to the intersection with the Conceptualist enterprise. For example in the case of Dennis Oppenheim, the hierarchical place and function of the parallel dialogue of exposition as to what’s-what in the actual work. It plays a significantly larger role than in most similar bodies of work. It is as if it is a proleptic extension of the body-of-work itself…while its polemical extension is quite novel—even within the logocentric confines of Conceptualism.
Bertrand: Distinction in the episteme: Science could be said to strive to eliminate enigmas, whereas Art strives for reinstituting the fresh power of enigma. Ergo: to simultaneously dwell upon itself (its own consciousness concerning its construct) and upon a given life-context...Resulting in an indexical impress of a view in the world.
Amos: Concerning the Indissoluble unity at the spatial level; at the spatial reading of a pictorial surface: Enigma is herein defined as something which exceeds what we know (or can comprehend) about it—although we can somehow grasp the insight that there is more than we can know. Such is the force of an articulated enigma.
Claire: Consider the concept that eliminates the work (the work of Art itself) from the loop which includes (and terminates) in the viewer's nervous system—and its cognitive realm… while secondarily, within the ceremony of the viewing—or the old chestnut: In the “social conditions” surrounding a viewing…In addition to: the issue of repeated or frequent viewings—and what that inculcates. Hence the entire issue of familiarity.
Amos: Now, contra esthetic judgement's ambiguity, consider the significance of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle when establishing a distinct type of ambiguity…to know the location, you cannot know the velocity…to know the velocity, you cannot know the location…hence the perturbations resulting from the process of observation itself…while point of view(s)...the paradox resulting in the velocity in a point of view and a corresponding phenomenon viewed: Ergo: the pell-mell, desperate fragility of any exclusionary point-of-view, scientific or esthetic.
Accordingly, the correlation between ambiguity emerging from the limits of complexity…of therefore exceeding the threshold of clarity, generating a sublime chaos which nonetheless conveys the “state” or “meaning” or the “emotion” of any chaotic fluctuating phenomena…this is the domain of Art and not science. Now recall the role of ambiguity in science which is by definition, eliminated, or, at the very minimum, tolerated as an interim condition preceding a new clarity, or new construction (or formulation) out of the ruins of uncertainty…Whereas in Art it may in fact be the source of novel revelation and unique information.
Claire: Tracing Thomas Sebeok, the relationship between a noise-signal ratio and the creation of an ambiguity…Such that it can be reduced to a rationic imbalance in favor of noise over signal. If an ambiguous experience can be described as deriving from a sense-enhancing visual device embedded in the structural nature of the image received, then the encoding of the “message” received from the image is perforce engaged in the conversion of noise into unanticipated signal. The penumbra, the double shadow, a distorted reflection, blurred vision, the fulcrum or torque of reversed intent…all account for interpretation(s) within the context of inexactitude, fuzzy logic, proximity, indeterminacy, and their ilk.
Once more, Sebeok: “Receivers interpret messages as an amalgam of two separate but inextricably blended inputs: the physical triggering sign, or signal, itself, but as unavoidably shaped by context. The latter plays a cardinal role, yet the concept has eluded definition; too, it is generally unknown how destinations take account of context. In semiotics, the term is used both broadly and loosely to encompass preceding messages (anaphoric presuppositions) and probably succeeding messages (cataphoric implacatures), environmental and semantic noise, all filtered by short and long-term memory, genetic and cultural.”
Amos: No such constraint that precludes choice…the recall, recollection, memory et al. of an image lost or forgotten…and then suddenly and unmistakably drawn into conscious awareness in the presence of a visual configuration…Though the visual configuration may not resemble the memory reinstated…Nonetheless the co-relation is not one of isomorphic congruity but of a proximate templatic match, necessarily individuated in each specific case.
Henri Bergson: “In fact, there is no perception which is not full of memories.”
Bertrand: Consequently the function of resonance in the image-memory link...As it inter-relates the forgotten, and the threshold between recollection and the question of what is, in effect, the image-entity in full view. “Resonance” is herein understood as a sort of associative contagion resulting in multiple yet simultaneous “readings” or interpretation(s) of the “condition” confronting us.
Amos: Resonance may trigger a clairvoyance, an anticipation, which doubles back into the province of diaphanous layers of the recalled. This co-mingling of the remembered and anticipated provides the image received—in each separate viewing—with a reshuffled order of reference. Thus one type of ambiguity is associated with this perpetual oscillation, melding private visually induced memory with an eccentric eschatology. Hence, history is the shockwave of eschatology.
Claire: Therefor, the indefinitely prolonged emergence regarding the viewer’s receiving a “fixed” meaning, or value, or significance (usually after frequently repeated viewings) initiating yet another strata of interpretation which either conflicts with the previous multiplicity (or cacophony), or resolves the image into an irreducible focus; while the previous resonance remains within the grasp of recall.
Amos: Any “arbitrary” association, chance connection, serendipity, random-link, et al, operates within envelops of coherence. Beyond these thresholds meaningless chaos holds absolute sway. Beyond such a threshold’s pale, a cunning trick, magical fusion, lucky find, a fortuitous pattern, et al. are convincingly exposed, demystified, or rationally dissected…But what constitutes the nature of this inter-zone? When is transgression an irreversible palpable fact and when is it an unavoidable ordeal? There are no planned epiphanies, and ecstasy’s rueful menu is fickle.
Arbitrary association cuts-the-mustard as a reigning type of ambiguity…[Empson, of course, enters these remarks at this juncture, such that the very concept of ambiguity is transferred from literary to visual modalities. The gestalt/memory axis becomes pivotal. Configuration and recall shift into the heart of the equation.]
Fantasy, fantasizing and all its dreamy La-La-land variants are the bane, the curse, the oyster-in-the-eye, as well as an escape from the rigors of authentic thinking-through the problematic, or the paradoxical phenomena, immediately at hand.
Claire: Like a hog’s head of real fire, the ceremony anointing a real life-passage is homologous with the transition itself…hence the doxological value of aligning a ceremonial homology, conquered by, or assimilated with, or severely tailored by the experience of the passage itself. ding an zisch.
For example, the venerable sleight-of-the-spirit’s-hand in Roman Catholicism's elixir of transubstantiation…Its intimate connection may be obvious, perhaps even trite, but what of the aesthetic function of such transferences—i.e., the appropriation and subsequent isolation of an object (pebble, relic, body fragment, urinal, snow-shovel, canned artist’s shit, fat and felt, etc.) such that some abracadabra is synchronized with a revivified emergence of the literal/actual substance of the original, the initial form, to be acknowledged as (and sustained by) both the thing itself and the icon of that identical thing simultaneously. Blood and wine, urinal and fountain, flesh and bread, a griffin’s face in a gnarled root…Hence, the theological origins of the idea of appropriation. Propter Hoc, consider the priest raising his hands, holding the host between specified digits as it becomes both bread and flesh…bread is no longer an analogy for the body, it is both body and bread. By the act of appropriated isolation, Marcel Duchamp turns a receptacle for one liquid into a source of another…ergo: the notion of the idea of transubstantiation being transmuted into the secular aesthetic. Whatever way you slice it, it remains an ontological high-wire act.
Bertrand: In the postmodern ethos originality is no measure of merit…This is a coy, flat-out ruse. The issue of originality remains straining at full tilt, still fixedly central to postmodern, deconstructionists and even nihilistic “significance”…It is a simple taken-for-granted verity that the locus of originality is—in postmodern discourse —transferred and shifted to the new problematics of appropriation. Thus originality is recycled as a measure of merit within appropriationist terms. I.e. how novel is an appropriationist strategy or tactical approach? Let’s take immediate leave of this blatant pretense...Since it is akin to lapsing into moral indignation; while self- consciously embracing a postmodernist's attitude toward the “original”.
Amos: Gregory Bateson: “The major problems in the world are a result of the difference between the way Nature works and the way man thinks.”
By reason of the axis of meaning and metaphor vis-à-vis a theory of ambiguous forms or shapes…the modus operandi of both metaphor and ambiguous forms…while the difference between them is that of mere simile. The obvious point is that both metaphor and ambiguous form possess double, triple, or any number of satisfactory meanings simultaneously...In any case what is the difference?
Bertrand: By extension: an Aposiopesis analogy applies to yet another class of ambiguous forms…in which, the viewer tends to complete the incompletion resident in the form or shape, thus filling in the gaps…commingling one’s subjective index with arch-templates.
Claire: By extension: Antiphrasis…the substitution of one sign for another concluding in a coterminous presence of two or more signifieds within the same image or shape.
Amos: Breyten Breytenbach: “…There is something to be said for fucking up. In fact, fucking up, if you aspire to be an artist, may be the great creative principle: getting broken, broken wide open, and then delving among the shards. Moving on.”
Moving to what? If its “object” of attention is itself, i.e., consciousness per se (a la Descartes), then what is the medium(s) providing tooth for self-reflexivity? The efficacy of memory comes into play here: no memory, no identity…no identity, no self-reflection…no self-reflection, no consciousness.
These four constituent elements—memory, identity, self-refection, consciousness—appear to congeal in a rarified aesthetic experience. This, that and the other thing of experience is virtually excluded from any given abstract formulation—experience—at least as it is articulated strictly within terms of logical or differential description.
Thence, Liebnitz, on certainty: “A method of solution is perfect if we can foresee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our end.”
Claire: A received feeling, at once disturbing and gratifying, is the targeted intent. At its extreme, a pantextualism—a synoptic expanse—floods the sensorium with a maximum diversity of reference. As if the duck/rabbit’s either/or oscillations were subject to kaleidoscopic interpretation, multiplying a mere this-or-that conversion into a ricocheting plethora of cross-association. Where this infers that, which, in its turn, opens up practically endless transpositions of possible meanings.
Re: Evoking the range of Reason and Understanding: Descartes' idea that conception is one thing and imagination is distinctly another thing...To illustrate the idea, Descartes employs the analogy of a regular 1000-sided polygon, i.e., a chiliagon…which is indistinguishable, argues Descartes, in one's imagination from a regular 999-sided figure (or a 999agon)…Hence, to the naked eye, both appear to be circles…no difference is perceived between the two, both appear identical...While in conception they are distinct.
Saul Bellow: “A work of art, Nabokov argued, detaches you from the world of common travail and leads you into another World altogether. It carries you into the realm of aesthetic bliss. Can there be anything more desirable than aesthetic bliss?”
Amos: Science, at its best—abnormal science in Kuhn’ s terms—is a specific type of knowledge, a separate sort of knowing; it is admittedly not wisdom…Weak science—in Kuhn’s terms: normal scientific practice — confuses itself with wisdom. Thereby leading to considerable grief.
Therefore, the practice of “normal” science is governed by a presumptuous naïve positivism…What is the equivalent governing principle in the practice of “normal” art “production”? Whatever, a “failure” to replicate in science is on par with a “failure” to innovate in art.
From classical epistemology's haunt, four distinct theories of perception obtain…1) Causal, in which perception is of and caused by externally existing objects stimulating sense organs; 2) Generative, in which perceptions are caused by the mind and exist only insofar as the mind is having them; 3) Selective, where perceptions are those complexes of sensa in which the mind unconsciously or consciously selects and orders and thus directly shapes cognition; and 4) Representative, in which objects are independent of and separate from the ideas acquired from perception. Thus our ideas concerning objects represent, correspond to, copy, or provide a map or diagram of the external world.
Bertrand: To parcel is to divide, and to divide is to cut, to partition and to sequentialize…As a pictorial or sculptural tactic, it indicates another division between an event and an interval…and another subsequent event…Thus employing the principle of multiple foci, wherein separate parts co-exist by way of some "magical" equipoise and simply either a temporal narrative structure, or a decidedly non-temporal structure which exposes and brings attention to variance within the governing structure itself.
Claire: Gazing back into the origins of such parceling devices: Reflect on the temporal-narrative-unfolding exemplified in the 15th century by Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi in Florence, at the Uffizi in Florence Wherein a specific story, or myth, unfolds from left to right within arched panels divided by architectural appointments...to, a full century later, by Giulio Romano’s Sala di Cavalli at the Palazzo del Te in Mantua, where the divisions convey a variation on the same, or similar, images (the horse in this case) in a non-narrative, atemporal, simultaneous setting…thus, by the 16th century, both versions of partition are in place. However, it is not until the introduction of photography in the mid-19th century that such pictorial divisions are based in real time sequences, where the event-interval unfolding is embedded in actual, empirical temporal distinctions, typified by the time-lapse work of Edward Muybridge and E. J. Marey. Here the juxtaposition and the function of adjacent images indicates unraveling parallel events in the real world. The segments within the overall image derive from recorded observations of a moving phenomenon in seriatim, over calculated durations.
Amos: The key and common ingredient in such a various range is the function of the interaction among and between the sections, parts, segments, etc. In more recent examples of its utilization we witness every variation addressing the theme…for Warhol and Ryman, etc. for instance, the repetition of a similar image, where (to employ one of Wittgenstein’s more recallable notions)—where the “family resemblances” shared by each distinct part provide a potent rationale for their assembly…to Baldesarri, Scarpitta and Sale, where a mixing and matching of codes interrelates the sections within an overall implied frame…to Bartlett, Judd and Boltanski, where the grid, open and raw, or filled with an implied narrative, justifies the schemata…to Sonneman and Coplans, etc. where an observational time shift, left to right or its reverse, or top to bottom or its reverse, determines its use…to Dibbits, Van Elk and Cragg, where a kind of phenomenological viewing premise is operating over some protracted span of time…It could also be argued that any installation format is, by definition, involved with sequentialization of one type or another.
Bertrand: With the slightest twist on the concept, one could maintain that all parceling strategies represent the application of set theory (whether knowingly or in blithe ignorance)…wherein one way or another all are engaged in establishing a correlative parity which co-exists between the parts…Finally, it comes down to the matter of internal ratios, of rationics, whether they are expressed rationally in a strict ascending scale such as 1:1, 1:2, 2:1, 2:2, ad infinitum, or a Fibonacci series, such as 1:3, 2:4, 4:11, 5:18…ad infinitum…or, characteristic of the current time, expressed non-rationally with mixed codes which apparently having nothing to do with arithmetic supports.
Amos: The origins of the commonly held conceptions of aesthetics are found in Baumgarten’s Aesthetica (circa 1750), in which it is defined as a logic of the imagination, a science of the “dark ideas” known by the senses, supplementing Logic. Hence the “science” of “clear and distinct” ideas known by the mind. Although this definition, with its contest between dark and clear ideas, is largely considered hopelessly quaint; it nonetheless succeeded in developing a body of criticism concerning “taste”. By limiting the application of aesthetic analysis exclusively to Art, and by defining it in so normatively narrow a fashion, Baumgarten’s conception of the aesthetic did however generate an original formalist sensibility, culminating in Croce’s notion of the work of Art as an intuitional symbol of feeling. It was Kant himself who first objected to Baumgarten’s employment of the term, and re-introduced it in accordance with its Greek etymology, i.e., perception by the senses, and that which addresses the conditions of sensuous perception. A third independent meaning, at once more narrow and more wide than Baumgarten and Kant, was introduced by Schiller in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (circa 1795). It is narrower because it refers not to perception in general but to one distinct mode of it in particular. It is wider because the field of operation is not confined to Art. This mode of perception can assert itself in response to anything whatsoever. Art is thus a special case within the general field, though it is peculiarly and specifically designed “to call forth” this response. Schiller’s meaning is wider in another way too. It implies that aesthetic perception involves the whole personality. Sense-activity it certainly is, but its distinctiveness lies in the brief harmony of all the functions of the mind, feeling and thinking both, plus the fusion of both with transition states. Schiller further defined it as a state of “precarious but infinitely fruitful equipoise," and as the way things dispose themselves when they are causes, etc. Schopenhauer goes on to develop Schiller’s conception further as the aesthetic in the World’s will, where it is one way among others of being related to things. What results from an aesthetic encounter, so defined, is knowledge, not mere pleasurable sensation. It is at once a detailed and intensely clear grasp by way of intuitive knowledge of the object/process nexus in its stark uniqueness.
Claire: Consider the character of ultimate immediacy. I.e., That intuition provides access to an apprehension of immediacy; no analysis (independent of intuition) allows access to such a feeling…Time encompassed by a sense of the now...
Thou, by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know
Times’s thievish progress to eternity.
When does the presence of a problematic prove to be enabling, i.e., to make the work possible?…Can we assert that the degree of the problematic is equal to the self-consciousness of an Agonistic spirit dwelling in the artist?
Now consider the potential complexity of marks on a surface…accordingly, an elegiac, melancholic undercurrent programming or determining the surface’s undulations…moving onto the unconscious. Such that an emotive mental-state of the artist converts suffering or loss (private or collective) into a pictorial surface characterized by indeterminate co-relations evidenced in the transition from one pictorial zone to another.
Amos: Zone to another? Paraphrasing Bateson’s famous question: What happens to a chameleon when it is placed upon a mirror? Does it remain the same color? Does it change to its opposite color reflected in the mirror? Or, does it continually cycle endlessly through all its possible combinations, constantly reacting to the changes reflected?
Moving onto the role of Deus ex machina in the visual-plastic arts considered as an improbable solution to an apparently unresolved passage (or otherwise)…As an example, the Surrealists spring to mind. Action, the act…Between memory and the identification of an ambiguity, a chasm opens…e.g., this reminds me of that, or I remember this by seeing that, or this distances me from any identification of whatever it is.
Bertrand: Consider a change in emphasis and onto a periphrasis. Thus, Heidegger’s in-der-Welt-sein (being in the world) as it impacts on the ambiguities in one’s memory…the facets of past and present in being in the World…while inevitably leaving a melancholy echo.
Amos: The apodeictic message in the half-recollected…Ambiguous forms with architectonic clarity nonetheless…Followed by polyphonic unity in structural variety. Thus, the image’s archetypal locus of attention…thus releasing a rampage of associations, dislocations and hyper-references.
To be resolved: An image at once arrested and fleeting, a final pictorial paradox…indeterminacy in depiction, in articulation…an arrested and fleeting vitality…the impress/imprint of transience…melancholic without being morbid…in frail transit to a satisfying enigma.
Claire: From enigma to Entelechy: assuming its classic definition as the actuality of something as opposed to its mere potentiality…Leibniz for instance employs entelechy to the active principle present in all created substances which renders them complete, self-sufficient and therefore transforming strictly as a cause of internal action or teleonomy.
Bertrand: Thus the Protoaesthetic, prehuman manifestations of artistic expression, and zoo-semiotic studies ranging from the elaborately decorated nests of Bower birds, bird song of all stripes, the color combinations of insects, and even the “paintings” of chimpanzees…as they intersect with the tactical role of sex and territory, reproduction, and survival. Therefore diminishing, if not entirely eliminating, ambiguous signals or formal constructs independent of survival requirements. Hence, the ambiguous image (or signal) appears to evolve beyond the constraints of species or individual survival--except when ambiguity is understood as a camouflage technique, as when a butterfly appears to the predator as a leaf.
Amos: Art, therefore, is species-specific…Homo Ludens is the category best defining the function of art as culturally linked to survival and play simultaneously; although with differing ratios of survival and play dictated by the epoch within their making. E.g., the cave paintings of the paleolithic and neolithic were clearly integrated with the varying constellations of ritual...enhancing the tribe’s survival. It is the interface of serious (or problematic) play with the universal necessity of making art...thereby constituting its autogenic wellsprings.
Claire: Hence Daniel Dennett’s reductionist view of the mind (i.e., the mind brain’s inseparable connection)
reduces all consciousness to the brain’s activity (alone, exclusively)...Versus the anti-reductionist view in which the subjective is epiphenomenal vis-à-vis both consciousness and the brain’s activities. How does this affect our ongoing explication of memory and ambiguity--is it, or is it not, a simple matter reducible to synoptical chemistry and neural networks?
Dennett: “The challenge is to construct a theory of mental states, using the data that scientific method permits. Such a theory will have to be constructed from the third-person point of view, since all science is constructed from that perspective.” He refers to his strategy as “Heterophenomenology”…in which this hetero-procedure relies implicitly on our first-person understanding of consciousness, while pretending to do or proceed without it.
Bertrand: Now extending the explication of the envelope of memory as flexible and continually changing while, determined by an ontology of usefulness in the present. Thus: the shift of memory’s emphasis regarding ambiguity of place, terms, and relative importance to the conditions defining the present.
Amos: Now regard the viewer’s impercipience as a measure of the image’s ambiguity...as it tantalizes the memory’s data-bank. Thus, memory can never (seemingly never) escape present time, such that the past can never be recaptured independent of the present’s specific context of recall.
Claire: Ellipsis and complexity combine to access an experience of the present as it is defined in terms of accumulated, even randomly assembled, memories—in this sense there exists no direct access to the memory (let us say of a specific image from childhood) until its relevance to the present’s requirements are met by its recall.
Now moving onto the articulation of image's which simultaneously evoke a hint of dread and a sense of wonderment; a combination of such mixed associations produces a sort of alchemy of formal integration, separate from and, perhaps, prior to memories derived from private response.
Bertrand: With regard to Memory and Eternal Return: Nietzsche and the “end” of metaphysics: and the “overcoming” of metaphysics…His influence upon both Husserl’s and Heidegger’s methods for restating and reformulating the status of temporality.
Moving along to Memory and the “intensity of the moment”...the accumulated intervals of intensities shaping the moment. Hence separating the present from the moment of intensity associated with a specific memory. Ergo: Memory is inseparable from identity.
Amos: Eternal recurrence, Nietzsche’s “highest thought," and its effective role in shaping memory—in addition to its role and effect upon the ambiguous, i.e., here we are again, only it’s different...while inseparable from repeating cycles of recurrence. The Manichean implications abound within this inescapable, inevitable recurrence. This is the crux: it comes around, dissolves, returns somewhat altered (though recognizable as implicitly related to the original) and reinstates itself as if congruent with the intensity of the present.
On to the non-recuperative aspect of (a) memory and the degrees of longing, regret, and even resentment affixed to it…thus eternal recurrence. The memory returns, as well as events similar enough to it, reenacted in the intensity of the present instant…Ergo: eternal return is never an exact replica of the previous return…hence, the ambiguity of the yet, but not quite…presque vu?
Claire: Hence the quagmire of criss-cross associations recasting specific personalized memories which are manifested, embodied, while invested in an external image.
Amos: What have we here? Is it that the decay, or entropy, of temporal objects remembered as discrete entities in time, grounding the subjective basis of personal identity through establishing a recollection of the vanishing temporal phenomenon. In effect, reconstruction of them (the vanishing temporal objects) within the precincts of subject-internal memory, constitutes identity? If so, is the origin of imagined objects, delusions, hallucinations, and their ilk, separate from the constitution of temporal-external objects?
Claire: “It is a tale...
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Within the context of despair, agony, loss, fury and conflict that encapsulates much of contemporary thought regarding the world’s precarious condition. That seductive appeal of nihilism as an endgame strategy is no surprise. No one wants to be caught harboring pollyannaish expectations in light of the overbearing evidence. Here we are face-to-face with a very probable end of this round of evolutionary development, one in which the Earth throws off its most recent infection—and that happens to be us.
Albert Camus’ Caligula (a play that begins with death, and after tasting death, Caligula declares the absurdity of human existence)…he says: “But I am not mad; in fact I have never been so reasonable. All of a sudden I simply felt a need for the impossible…Things as they are don’t seem satisfactory to me…I didn’t know it before. Now I know. This world, as it is made, is not bearable. Hence, I need the moon, or happiness, or immortality, something which perhaps is crazy, but which is not of this world.”
A bit further Caligula remarks: “Men die, and they are not happy.”
On the other hand consider Schopenhauer: “Happiness…always lies in the future, or else in the past, and the present may be compared to a small dark cloud which the wind drives over the sunny plain; before and behind it all is bright, only it itself always casts a shadow. The present is therefore always insufficient; but the future is uncertain, and the past irrevocable…continual illusion and delusion, and also the nature of life throughout, presents itself to us intended and calculated to awaken the conviction that nothing at all is worth our striving, our efforts and struggles, that all good things are vanity, the world and its ends bankrupt, and life a business which does not cover its expenses; so that our will may turn away from it.”
Amos: To sum up: Current art practise is confronted with a daunting array of nihilistic (at a minimum, despairingly pessimistic) attitudes which undermine, subvert or cower any position espousing the possibility of resisting anti-chiliastic doom. This is the crux of such a confrontation: whether to collapse into a swamp of dissolute surrender to the "inevitable" spiral of apocalyptic decline; or to resist it, risking futility, mocking dismissal, blatant ridicule, and the cynic’s slurs of being hopelessly naïve.
“Only in broken speech is the form of disfluency consonant with the chaos of the world’s content.”
To be continued...
2000 / 2008 / Extended and revised 2015 / New York City / Rome / East Hampton / Los Angeles