Some Thoughts on Process

[Nostalgia] can be generally defined as a state of inarticulate contempt for the present and fear of the future, in concert with a yearning for order, constancy, safety, and community—qualities that were last enjoyed in childhood and are retroactively imagined as gracing the whole of the time before one’s birth. – Luc Sante [Low Life, xi]

Our discussions around art and music, as interpreted through Deleuze and, frankly, our own tastes and intuitions, left me thinking quite a bit about the conditions under which these things are created, their effects on the finished piece itself, and whether or not this has any impact on the ability of the material to generate affects in the receiver. Basically, does the manner in which a thing is created, or the medium used to achieve it’s finished form,  limit or delimit the piece’s ability to have an impact on the thoughts, emotions or senses of a listener, reader or viewer outside of representing the zeitgeist in which the artist’s experience were translated to a particular medium? The clear answer is yes, as we have discussed, the finished work with which the receiver interacts exists as representation of the creator’s affective relationship with the world captured by the medium of choice at the time it was made, and as such, we can say that the physical process of creating the work is central to it’s manifestation. It is however, at this point of completion, exhibition, and so on, when the work stands on it’s own, creating new percepts and affects in the receiver, that my question is raised. With new processes and technologies available to achieve what may once have required an elaborate manual process, It seems that increasingly works are judged not only on technique, aesthetic or social qualities, but also, perhaps subconsciously, through a filter of worth based on nostalgia. There’s a distinction I feel it’s important to make here,  I don’t mean to attack an appreciation for handmade textiles and artworks, or analog methods of music production (for example), my point is only that I hope we are not limiting our ability to affect and be affected by an expanding milieu of aesthetic inspirations that I fear are often taken for granted.

An example of process as the medium: Julia Dault – Untitled 20 (1:00pm-5:00pm, February 5th 2012) Formica, Plexiglass, everlast boxing wraps and string

“Dault manipulates materials to reflect the subjectivity of the artist through labor. The piece is dependent on the conditions of a space, the strength of the artist at the time of execution and the uncontrollable accidents determined by the materials. The title points to specific details of production” – Wall text. Currently on view at the 2012 New Museum Triennial

I’ve been lead to consider these questions through countless conversations that circle around topics of worth, or value in a work as determined by the creator’s use (or lack thereof) of certain tools, technologies and mediums. It seems the important thing to examine when judging a work, is not whether we (the receivers) consider the process used to achieve it as worthy, but whether this process is a reflection of  the artists intent and affective relationship with his or her world. If that relationship is best expressed through 120mm slide photography, or instagram, pen and pencil, or Illustrator, is only relevant to the viewer in the sense that our own concept of what constitutes a particular thing will determine our ability to enter into an affective relationship with it. I’m starting to feel that other judgements leveled on process are only to serve the ego of the viewer, validating the work in the sense that it tools some understanding, time and skill that the rest of us don’t have.  I also share the nostalgic sentiment of many (I  shoot a great deal 120 and 35mm film and own more handmade books than I’d care to admit), and I’m guilty of leveling these same judgments regularly, but my point is not that one is better than the other. My point is only that all mediums, forms and processes are equally relevant in their ability to represent the precepts and affects of the creator, and generate new ones in the receiver. Intent and energy (Qi) will be reflected or preserved in the works regardless of medium or process.

(Click tape to listen)

Mark Aubert hand edits audio loops on cassette tape and builds them into stunning compositions. Release are available on Cassette and MP3.

I write this not as a criticism against analog methods, or to validate the digital reproduction of analog aesthetics, but more so as an effort to contextualize and articulate my thoughts on the subject of worth as related to a work of art based on process and hopefully expand my own willingness to enter into affective relationships with a larger milieu through reflection.

*expect updates and please comment*


Sante, Luc. Low Life. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1991.


2 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Process”

  1. Kyle Beechey Says:

    The aspect of Deleuze that I find most fascinating, at the moment, lies in the privileging of “becoming over being”. It is something that I am currently exploring in my own work. The whole notion of production and creation as being a creative act in itself. The final form as being secondary to the journey the artist takes to get there or as integral to the final product.
    I am interested in your direction and pursuit of these ideas as well, but I am unclear. I guess I want to know more. What exactly do you mean by “…we can say that the physical process of creating the work is central to its manifestation”? Are you implying that the artists relationship to a certain medium will dictate the outcome of their projects/work? Have you explored work where artists have destain towards the medium they are working in? That could be worth examining, I don’t know if any such information is possible to find.
    I also find one of your final quotes troubling,
    “My point is only that all mediums, forms and processes are equally relevant in their ability to represent the precepts and affects of the creator, and generate new ones in the receiver.”
    Is your point that all mediums are created equal in terms of power? Is that not a more personal decision in the viewer and creator?
    My intent is not to undercut with these questions, I am generally interested in the issues raised.


  2. immanentterrain2 Says:

    I might be misunderstanding your point, but I think I disagree with your emphasis on the artist’s intention vis a vis their chosen medium. On practical, purely informational grounds, it’s easy to imagine—and I’d think it’s probably most often the case—a viewer being affected by a worthwhile, forward-thinking, subversive use of some tool/medium/technology without any awareness of the artist’s intention. Because how could you ever know? Does a good artist always (ever?) even know their intention? And if they’d claim to, how often do they share it with the audience? (And beyond the artist, doesn’t the viewer’s affective relationship with the art often also bundle into the curator’s intent? With the intent of the gallerist? And all that bundled with the viewer’s own particular critical eye, searching within a certain milieu that is familiar to them, which itself is a sort of intention? [I think you do acknowledge this point, saying “at this point of completion, exhibition, and so on, when the work stands on it’s own, creating new percepts and affects in the receiver…”]). It seems to me that Deleuze values art as engaging some virtual, qualitative space (liberated from the artist) so that active viewer’s might develop their own unique spin on the thing, taking it new and unexpected (even unexpectable) directions. Something in line with that quotation from Felix Gonzalez-Torres: “I need the viewer, I need the public interaction. Without a public these works are nothing, nothing. I need the public to complete the work. I ask the public to help me, to take responsibility, to become part of my work, to join in.” So for an artwork to become something new—sure, the intent is preserved in some way, thanks to the specific material choices, etc.—we have to look beyond intention into a wider frame of assemblage. [Again, this might be a failed/misdirected commentary on your post, particularly how nostalgia comes into play, but I just chafed at the word “intent,” which conjures up a pre-planned idea, since Deleuze seems to be getting at, instead, an asubjective element emerging through a work, not preceding it.]

    -Duncan Cooper

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