Archive for B. Paris

Julie Mehretu’s Intensive Cartographies

Posted in Art, Deleuze with tags , , , , on May 15, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Approximately eight by eleven feet, Julie Mehretu’s three separate pieces of her Stadia series seem to emanate, each from a slightly different center, with international flags and corporate logos traveling with packs of gestural lines and marks upon almost invisible renderings of stadium architecture. (see Figures) One can easily understand the metaphor of a stadium as a place where people gather to experience emotional and chaotic spectacles of struggle, often with winners and losers.

Stadia I Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia II Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia III Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Julie Mehretu, an Ethiopian born visual artist, was raised Michigan. While in college she briefly took leave of Kalamazoo College to study batik dying in Senegal which ignited her interest in becoming a professional artist. She had always been gifted at drawing, but it was when she enrolled in the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design where she developed her style. (Chua, 27) Given her history one can begin to understand the motivation behind the scintillating tracings of trajectory which have become the focal point of her work.

Julie Mehretu once said of her work in an interview with Laurie Firstenberg in 2002 that her abstract marks on canvases stand for a language for characters—also depicted by marks—that retain a sense of agency. She implies that these marks stand for people and things as they are in a process of becoming with their environment. Mehretu thinks of her work as charting the experience and development of these characters, both living and inanimate. To bring her characters into contexts of time and space he began to include architectural plans and historical drawings to create a metaphoric, intensive view of time. (Firstenberg, p. 93)

Mehretu’s multilayered line drawings compiled of prints, acrylic and ink, produce a sense of how complex landscapes or architectures comprised of multivalent combinations of actors and actions happening simultaneously at multiple sites might be understood both intellectually and affectively. As one spends time with her work, one derives an expansive sense of the time present in making Mehretu’s work as well as the time the artist intends to present through the work. Her canvasses integrate dynamic flows between multiple existences resulting in evocations of potential along with tensions lying unresolved in two dimensions. Mehretu incorporates iconic detritus that serves to give a frame of popular consumer culture, such as distorted logos, graffiti and comic book graphics recalling both the past and the present. (Chua, 26) One can also note numerous echoes of fine art in her work as it is imbued with a history of both traditional Nihonga conventions of Japanese painting and Duchamp’s painting of movement, as well as the abstracted affects of Kandinsky.

Mehretu’s use of visual elements seems very similar to Deleuze’s appraisal of Nietzsche’s use of aphorism in his essay Nomadic Thought. Much as Nietzsche’s work inserts a frame to draw attention to all that lies beyond it, her work reaches beyond this frame and beyond the frame that would be the border of the work to draw on the viewer’s experience that is evoked as one interprets her work. When Deleuze speaks of Nietzsche conjuring the intensive by using aphorisms of and symbolic names of those who mean something in relation to the history of thought, Mehretu does also with visual evocations of styles from aesthetic history. Mehretu’s work can also be related to Deleuze’s intensive as it employs an actualization of suspended virtual potential both in the world and in the work, though remains virtual in possible re-interpretations existing in minds of viewers.

Mehretu’s work could be understood to explain through visual means that space equates to time and movement. In her work, every site is a meshwork or rhizome of actors’ movements, preferring potential and flow to stability. Mehretu’s paintings could be viewed in terms of Deleuze’s crystallized time-image—a form of temporality that accounts for time that splits the present into two trajectories, “one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time consists of this split, and it is … time, that we see in the crystal.”(Deleuze, Cinema II, 81)

In 2005 art essayist Lawerence Chua said of her work “At the heart of Julie Mehretu’s paintings is a question about the ways in which we construct and live in the world. Perhaps that is what makes the work so radical: its willingness to unravel the conventionally given answers about the violent environment we inhabit today.”(Chua, 26) Here one can understand Mehretu to problematize humanity’s interaction with themselves and with their world in a push to re-evaluate how we live, which in Deleuzian thought is one of the most important undertakings with which an artist can engage.

B.Paris

Chua, Lawerence. “Julie Mehretu.” Bomb. New Art Publications, Inc. Vol. 91, Spring 2005.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Masumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time Image. University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

Firstenberg, Lauri. “Towards Abstraction: Indeterminacy and the Internationalisation of Julie Mehretu’s Painting.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry. University of Chicago Press. Issue 14, Autumn/Winter, 2006.

Tomkins, Calvin. “Big Art, Big Money.” The New Yorker,  Volume 86.6. Conde Nast, March 2010.

Advertisements

Print/Out MoMA–Field Report

Posted in Art Exhibits, Relational Aesthetics with tags , , , on May 14, 2012 by immanentterrain2

In the last few decades global and cultural boundaries have been in a process of flux aided by newer technologies accelerating communication to allow widespread access to nearly every corner of the globe. Many would argue this technology of the present was at least in some degree facilitated by the advent of print technologies allowing exchange of ideas across increasingly larger spaces. MoMA’s Print/Out exhibition was intended to provide a glimpse into the genealogy of artistic and societal practices related to print over the last few decades. (Cherix, 14/15) Overall the exhibit varied dramatically in style and quality, though some quieter pieces were remarkable, such as the delicate prints of Xu Bing and Guillermo Kuitica. The exhibit open from February 19 until May 14, 2012 was nearly exclusively comprised of MoMA’s extensive collection of prints and books and featured printed works from major artists, such as Rirkrit Tiravanija and Ai Weiwei.

Thinking back to our class discussion of Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Claire Bishop’s response in “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,” it fits to remember Rirkrit Tiravanija and his installations cooking for patrons. Narrowly defined, his art is based on interaction and exchange among participants. Bourriaud defines relational aesthetics as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” (113) In a sense this could include all artists, but of specific interest to Bourriaud’s treatise were artists who use the gallery setting in creative ways to explore new artistic concepts in the early to mid 90s.

In Untitled 2008–2011: The map of the land of feeling, Tiravanija presents his first endeavor in print–a cartography of events in his life and work over 20 years–exposed through prints of his passport as major narrative device along with other materials and images indicate trajectories of time through manipulating the space of the visual field. (Cherix, 90) His prints engage the viewer to explore the map of his travels, emotions and ideas.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Map of Land and Feeling, 2008

This project is perhaps at first glance conceptually less provocative than his project cooking for people. However, once one engages with the work, it could be argued that it is more visually interesting, coherent and allows the author more agency over the message. The latter of the list is of course directly opposes the idea behind relational aesthetics—the point of relational art is that meaning is generated by viewers are physically interacting with the work. Tiravanjia’s print arguably engages the viewer’s intellect and imagination in an exploration of the intensive as it imparts ideas of a qualitative journey.  Though it lies within the realm of traditional visual art, the work is still interactive, in a sense, as it allows an exchange between artist and viewer or perhaps even among viewers as they discuss the work.

Through this work, we see systems of signs evocative of linguistic systems but many are not an actual signs of symbols from any system in particular. A viewer recognizes maps of cities superimposed with maze-like structures as well as psychogeographical maps specifically copied directly from those of the Situationists, along with symbolic shapes of cooking pots and pans that would become part of Tiravanija’s work. One is drawn in by the idea of linearity and causality, as the image bending around the corner of two walls seems to unravel in time. One can detect a journey through the permutations of the passport, but is left to the viewer to determine the nature of this journey.

Though perhaps more visually and mentally engaging than the cooking project, it does not necessarily facilitate the types of tensions Claire Bishop calls for in “Antagonism in relational Aesthetics” when she asks “if relational art produces human relations, then the next logical question to ask is what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why?” (65) Though perhaps he exempt from answering this question, as these prints are not necessarily an example of relational art—bodies physically interacting with each other and the work to derive meaning are not necessarily the intent. These works are also, as previously stated, shown within a traditional art setting. Regardless, it is clear that the Tiravanija print communicates something interesting, a possible mapping of relations through time in space, or exactly what Deleuze would call an intensive cartography as it is a qualitative reckoning of trajectories in space.

One artist’s work in Print/Out that does incorporate interesting flows of tension is that Ai Weiwei and his printed art books. Before Weiwei’s well-known career as an artist and political activist, he was an underground publisher. Upon his arrival in China in the early 90s after years in the United States, he encountered an almost unanimous plea from his artist friends and colleagues for printed information and images of contemporary art of the world—information suppressed by the authoritarian government. (Cherix, 22)

Ai Weiwei, Black Cover Book, 1997

In 1994 Weiwei published three thousand copies  of The Black Cover Book, a catalog of important and now iconic works from twentieth-century including Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, as well as translations of existing art-historical and critical texts, as well as artists’ submissions and essays.These books made their way throughout China via underground distribution channels. The books and their dissemination underscored the presence of a large underground artists’ network in China. (Cherix, 51)

In the case of Weiwei and his work, Bishop’s question “if relational art produces human relations, then the next logical question to ask is what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why?” is answered succinctly. His work in these books displayed at MoMA’s Print/Out exhibition disseminated information—visual, technical and conceptual–generating conversations between artists who might be prohibited from interacting one another otherwise while also increasing awareness of world wide artistic practices within that milieu. This departs from the charges narcissism leveled against artists of relational aesthetics as these books served to unite artists in a place where this type of subversive networking was prohibited. It was in fact allowing new types of freedom in artistic practices, at the very least.

B. Paris

Bishop, Claire. “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics.” October. No. 110, 2004.

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les presses du réel, 2002.

Cherix, Christophe.  Print/Out. Museum of Modern Art. 2012.

Of Actor-Networks and Virtual Assemblages

Posted in Bergson, Deleuze, Philosophy and Science, Process Ontology with tags , , , on April 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

In Reassembling the Social Bruno Latour, a sociologist of science, explains Actor-Network Theory which seeks to understand constitutive relationships between actors, both animate and inanimate, and the generative potential of those interactions. He writes “…network does not designate a thing out there that would have roughly the shape of interconnected points, much like a telephone, a freeway, or a sewage ‘network’… It qualifies its objectivity, that is, the ability of each actor to make other actors engage in unexpected relations.” (Latour, 129)

Latour’s social science includes some appropriations of Deleuzian thought.In his introduction to Reassembling the Social, he proposes to reinvent or redefine sociology not as the ‘science of the social’ but as the ‘tracing of associations’. The social in Latour’s estimation does not imply a thing among things, “like a black sheep among white sheep, but a type of connection between things that are generally understood as social”. (Latour, 5) The study of the social does not emphasize actors simply co-existing with other actors as much as processes of interactions. Deleuzian notions of the intensive, the virtual and even the ‘will to power’ covered in Deleuze’s monographs on Hume, Leibniz and Nietzsche, as well as A Thousand Plateaus, along with other readings for class encouraged me to attempt to understand Actor-Network Theory in terms of Deleuzian thought and/or vice versa. During the course of the semester, I have been trying to slowly tease out three related questions concerning these thinkers: 1) in what ways are the theories put forth by these two philosophers similar; 2) what exactly sets them apart? 3) What is the significance of this relationship?

As Latour discusses the nature of facts in a larger project of build upon thought common to the social sciences and discover new controversies as to what the universe is comprised of, he proposes a four-part process that should allow the unveiling of the construction of what he calls “scientific facts”– the last item of which is of interest in this discussion: it is now possible to determine the processes allowing for plural realities as well as those leading to stability, whereas before scientific facts were understood in a linear, hierarchical way. Virtual assemblages in Latour’s thinking are comprised of objects, ideas and beings aggregated relationships in a body of potential. (Latour, 119)

Here Latour understands the virtual and the idea of the assemblage in the same way Deleuze would, and though not lacking in ontological importance, Latour’s assemblage is more concerned with tracking and noting permutations of ontic qualities within an an assemblage than Deleuze. Latour goes on to say: “An entity gains in reality if it is associated with many others that are viewed as collaborating with it. It loses reality if, on the contrary, it has to shed associates or collaborators—animate and/or inanimate.” (Latour, 257) In my mind this fits with Deleuze’s idea of  a diverse assemblage of animate and inanimate relationships of a body’s existence. I understand this as the double articulation that Deleuze would claim is inherent to the reality of entities.

In A Thousand Plateaus—“10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals”, the authors describe the first articulation as a process that combines substances into forms—a type of self production or regulation of becomings imposed on substances. This articulation is “the plane of content“. The second articulation provides overcoding, unification and heirarchization” in the “plane of expression” which refers to the agency, potential and attributes that the new aggregated object expresses.

Central to Latour’s theory is the notion that the part and whole are always one in the same body, instead of existing and functioning as separate bodies, as classical sociology dictates. This theory echoes Bergson’s idea of the part’s relationship to the whole. “It is…the performance of the movements which follow in the movements which precede, a performance whereby the part virtually contains the whole, as when each note of a tune learned by heart seems to lean over the next to watch its execution.” (Bergson, 94) This understanding of the part and the whole central Latour’s work is prefigured by the sociological theories of  Gabriel Tarde, who Deleuze and Guattari refer to in the “Micropolitics and Segmentarity” of A Thousand Plateaus—

 [while] Durkheim’s preferred objects of study were the great collective representations, which are generally binary, resonant, and overcoded. Tarde countered that collective representations presuppose exactly what needs explaining, namely “the similarity of millions of people. That is why Tarde was interested in the world of detail, or of the infinitesimal: the little imitations, oppositions, and inventions constituting an entire realm of subrepresentative matter… at a deeper level, it has to do not with an individual but with a flow or a wave. What, according to Tarde, is a flow? It is belief or desire (the two aspects of every [social] assemblage); a flow is always of belief and desire. Beliefs and desires are the basis of every society, because they are flows and as such are ‘quantifiable’; they are veritable Social Quantities, whereas sensations are qualitative and representations are simple resultants. (Deleuze and Guattari, 218-219)

Latour’s ideas of actor networks do not only appear similar to particular notions of process, virtual and actual in the work of Deleuze, Bergson and Tarde, but also of Gilbert Simondon and his notion of working beyond ideas of the real and the possible. In addition, Simondon’s introduction to  of On the Mode of Existence of Technical Object proposes a study to promote awareness of the importance of technology and technological objects as mediators between man and nature, which is similar to Latour’s focus in Actor-Network Theory. Simondon further declares  in the essay that culture incorrectly ignores technics as an essential component of human understanding and reality by donning a “mask of facile humanism to bind us to a reality full of human striving and rich in natural forces.” (Simondon, 1)

However, Latour emphasizes that these unexpected relationships between bodies or “actors” are useful for the development of a social science that could be derived between the interaction of actors. He wants these processes to be understood in some way, at least to persist in describing what is happening in any given instant. His goal is to actualize the virtual while not denying the existence of this potential. “It is a if [he] is saying to actors: ‘We won’t try to discipline you, to make you fit into our categories; we will let you deploy your own worlds, and only later will we ask you to explain how you came about settling them’.” (Latour, 23) He asks qualitative questions to actualize the virtuality of an actor’s experience. While respecting the ontological potential, Latour’s intent is clearly epistemological, or to quantify qualitative relations.

This is where I understand the philosophy of these two thinkers to depart and where the significance lies.  Deleuze’s philosophy is unquestionably ontological. In his mind, everything is a process—much like in Latour’s theory, but he is not interested in documenting this process or understanding the specific levels of flows of potential within a body. He is interested in the idea that these potentials exist unseen, indiscernible, containing and contributing to endless possibility. Though he realizes the actual must exist at points, his interest is in the process of change—not in what can be described but in what remains indescribable.

B. Paris

References:

Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Zone. 1990.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. 1987

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press. 2007.

Simondon, Gilbert. “Genesis of the Individual”. in Interpretations. ed. Crary and Kwinter. 1992.

Simondon, Gilbert. On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. trans. Ninian Mellaphy. 1980.

Reorientation of Time and Space: A Study of Narrative, Painting and Film

Posted in Art and Philosophy, Bergson, Deleuze, Film, Subjectivity with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Deleuze’s interest in the relationship between time and space resonates through his work. Recent course readings have coalesced around ideas of rhythm and milieu along with the dynamic relationships they allow, setting groundwork, in a sense, for his treatise on the spatiotemporal, relating time to movement and image in film in Cinema I and Cinema II.  The texts have engaged my interest in a study of  how relationships of time and space have been employed artistically across various forms of media to evoke deterritorializing, intensive effects serving as a push toward a reorientation of values.

Kafka’s work serves as a Deleuzian model of print narrative as plots twist into and out of themselves creating intensive narrative connected to its own dissolution. Kafka’s use of temporality can be understood as a component of minor literature that deterritorializes the reader.

The short story A Country Doctor melds ideas of temporality and space in a way that divorces the reader from previously held valuations of such ideas. It is easily illustrated in a synopsis of the work in which entities are unreliably referred to by pronouns as the narrative oscillates between past and present. The country doctor is awakened to attend to a patient he does not know, on horses that mysteriously appear in his stable, likely at the price of his maid’s safety. He is whisked from the scene of the maid’s peril to the sick man’s bedside. Time and space mutate simultaneously. With little use of narrative transition, the doctor is transferred from place to place, but always needs to be somewhere else.

Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor 2007/21 min. Yamamura Animation

Kafka creates a world of components which appear recognizable, yet work outside our experience, so that all understanding of their familiar characteristics and uses will not help us decipher their new relationships and values. If our seemingly stable and autonomous universe can possibly serve as  foundation for such a reality and can be extended and transformed in such a manner, its stability becomes problematic—the disturbing potential once acknowledged can no longer be dismissed.

Moving from spatiotemporal constructions generated by texts on the page to two-dimensional images, Francis Bacon’s work is exemplar of blurred time and space—streaked with smears, globs and scratches—indicative of a passage of time in a painted version of a photographic frame, suggestive the progression of time as the work itself was created. The works are intentionally finished complete with accidents and imperfections. Bacon’s work, as the work of those such as Cezanne and Braque nearly a century before, is an abstraction echoing the daily visual encounter with the world, with enough aberration to haunt our idea of reality and cause an affective deterritorialization.

In Study of a Baboon, a work housed in MoMA’s permanent collection, Bacon’s intense brushstrokes, wiped out and repainted at the focal point, evoke a moment in a seemingly furious movement or transition frozen for an eternity. Combined with the dry-brushed crossed lines, the image could be understood to include a cage, but one is unable to discern whether the figure is inside or outside of it. If inside, does it imply the spectator inside as well?

  Study of a Baboon, 1953. Francis Bacon

The image is familiar, yet foreign. The spectator learns from the title of the painting that the image could be interpreted as a baboon. The face of the baboon figure turns towards the spectator from a place of visual indiscernability and screams.  The viewer is once again implicated by this image frozen in time, causing an identification with feelings of intensive space and time, as well as deterritorialization.

As the discussion transitions from the still image of paint and canvas to the moving image of film, Tarkovsky stands out as one who takes seriously the relationship between time and image. Temporal deterritorialization could be said to be the main tenet of Tarkovsky’s cinema. His use of long takes, surreal settings and plot that typically resembles a type of science fiction engages the spectator in a sometimes excruciating and often futile attempt to follow or create a narrative. Any meaning that could be drawn from the work, comes not neatly in understanding ordered plot elements, but after reflecting on the film as a whole, both in form and in content.

This is true of Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker. The film follows the journey of three men: the stalker leads a writer and a scientist through the Zone, a hazy post-apocalyptic landscape, in search of the Room, a place the stalker has never seen but supposedly lies hidden in the deep tangled passages within the Zone. The Room is rumored to have the power to fulfill entrants’ innermost desires. Their quest ends as they finally arrive at the entrance to the Room. The three stand outside the entrance in an extended shot but never enter. The stalker, the writer and the professor are transferred, in a single cut, back in the bar where the journey began.

Stalker 1979/160 min. Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s trademark long take combined with his artistic choices to present time in a specific way through cuts creates a unique temporal deterritorialization. In combination with the setting that bears earthly resemblance, spectators identify with and are simultaneous alienated from the work. In many ways Stalker also imparts affects similar to those feelings imparted by Kafka’s novels and Bacon’s paintings. Deleuze would likely agree that Tarkovsky’s treatment of space and time in Stalker suggests an alternative way of viewing a film. It allows spectators to circumvent conventional understanding of what film structure and narrative should be—it causes the viewer to question their own view of reality and to look at the world in new way.  Tarkovsky’s treatment of time and space is indicative Deleuze’s summary of Bergson’s idea of time and subjectivity in Cinema II: “Time is not the interior in us, but just the opposite, it is the interiority in which we are, in which we move, live and change.” (Deleuze, 82)

–B. Paris

References:

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time-Image. University of Minniesota Press. 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles. Logic of Sensation. University of Minniesota Press. 2002

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature”. Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 30. 1986.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Affect Percept Concept”. What is Philosophy?. Columbia University Press. 1994

Kafka, Franz. “The Country Doctor”. A Metamorphosis and Other Stories. 1993

Tarkovsky, Andrei. Stalker. 1979