First discursion


That which dwells near its origin departs”

This quote from Holderlin’s The Journey was placed by Martin Heidegger at the end of his origin of the work of art, its use here as a beginning situates the following writing as a sequence of discursions that depart from an encounter with an artwork.

In the first moment of an encounter with an artwork, a between is formed; something that stands between the subject and an artwork, this between provides no comprehension of the artwork which stands to the other side and in this between neither the subject nor the artwork exist as clearly delineated things, instead they could be thought of as hybrid and contingent processes, that diverge and tangle over time.

second discursion

“a huge furiously crossed out something” Charles Simic.
Heidegger talks about the task of bringing “beings to word and appearance”, if one of the tasks of this discursion is too bring an interpretative space to appearance, then it must be acknowledged that there is a fundamental contradiction at work. In the ‘performance’ of an interpretation, what is being performed will stand in the way of what is being seen. These thoughts and reflections will cast a veil across the artwork. In this moment of writing the artwork is ‘used’ as fuel to generate another entity, which will in turn grow in your mind, the imaginative space of you the reader. To look upon something is to create another thing, this is Heidegger’s hermeneutic circle. What is being interpreted is only known because of its absence, its diminishing visibility between these few words.

Third discursion

 During an act, or process, of interpretation its relation to what is being interpreted changes. As noted earlier the space of interpretation can gain its own agency and volition. The space of writing, or of reflection assumes its own peculiar and specific gravity, it becomes a ‘body’ in its own right, and it can assume a position of phantom authorship in relation to the material or matter under interpretation.

Fourth discursion

Interpretation and criticism as a slow, patient and gradual realisation of an idea, a plotting out, a playing out, and extended bringing to being of something. This something could be an ‘idea’, a set of social relations or a methodology to be worked out in another situation. But how does this process of bringing to being, “bringing to word or appearances” work, is there a methodology that could be placed in words and applied across different situations? Is there a method to bringing an idea to light? Or is the calling forth of an intuition a theatre of chance and happy accident? Vilem Flusser in his “Into the Universe of Technical Images” talks about how programmable media are designed to make the improbable happen, to hasten the movement from intuition to embodiment. For Flusser the realisation of ideas becomes an almost designed process, rooted in the black box of the camera, the computer, the network society. But perhaps the finding, the dragging out, the digging up, of an idea is more like taking soundings, a plumbing of depths, discovering how deep the water is, a marking out of the maximum dimensions of the invisible by touch, of charting the volume and mass of the idea.

Fifth discursion

the world is comfortable with the rhetoric of collaboration, but not with its actual concrete practice. in an arts education setting, the typical studio will be full of drawing easels, made for one eye and one hand. the size of the paper sheet, made to fit the scale of the upright easel, is suited to the single gaze. most rooms and buildings only have chairs designed for single occupants and nearly all doorways are only capable of admitting one person at a time, the very architecture pushes us apart, its fixtures and fittings split us into solitudes. a piece of furniture to accomodate collaboration is rare, usually the only space designed for a group of people, supposedly working on a common agenda is the meeting or board room, but even here the single expansive table is so large that individuals are physically out of reach when they sit on opposite sides. in this atmosphere how is it possible to foster an air of collaboration or collective agency, when even the physical fabric itself is an obstacle.

Sixth discursion

ventriloquism is a performance in which a trick is played, but it is a trick you knowingly accept. what is at issue in the ventriloquist’s act is the performance of a specific skill; how much do their lips move and are we able to ‘believe’ that the puppet is alive. The acceptance of a trick, of a manipulative act on the sense and cognition of the viewer is important in many forms of entertainment or stage-craft. But in all of these staged situations it is known that a trick is being performed, the viewer accepts the contract of the stage with its sub-clause of manipulation. in most performances, theatrical or otherwise, the key element is technical skill, the virtuosity of the performer and their ability to captivate the viewer, to generate an emotional or aesthetic experience. unlike the magician, or the ventriloquist whose obvious trickery is part of the pleasure of their practice; theatre, cinema and most forms of performance (except those of a Brechtian leaning) seek to hide their illusion, the strategic manipulation of space, time and the viewing subject. this is a politics, a construction of the subject, in which free agency is negated or at least put on hold before the seductiveness of aesthetic pleasure.
how much can we choose what gives us pleasure, an innocent and maybe pointless question, but when asked from inside a consumer society it reveals the limits of agency and will. when we experience aesthetic pleasure we become the ventriloquist’s dummy, unknowing of whose grammar is animating us.

Seventh discursion

The moment of interpretation, the space of reflection moves and the encounter extends beyond the confines of an actual physical proximity to the work. The live duration of interpretation continues as the event itself moves past in time, not into the site of forgetting, or into an archival space of documentation. To maintain the act of interpretation involves none of these sites. Interpretation continues to develop as the event rolls around in the spoil of un-witnessed events, the sparks of its passage into other spaces and times become legible as a second-hand communication, through the telling and re-telling of other conversations and discussions, relayed back to this site of interpretation through voice. The work has shifted momentarily into a video document, a recording capable of being repeatedly unwound as a technical spectacle, but the telling of this particular event is still different, it does not rest in seeing a projection of the workings of the black box of the camera. The vocal telling, is instead projection of the biological black box of the mind.