- A N A L Y T I C S -
Fig 1. & 7.
Nasreen Mohamedi’s work plays with the notion of absence, accident, and imperfection within the paradigm of geometry. “Metaphysics and utopia are [for Mohamedi] best translated into a more personal poetics: optical-perceptual mechanism and the lure of light; the unconscious and its dram of winged ascent; troubled subjectivity pitched to transcendent thought. A vision of utopia that transcends the embodiment of the scopic prison, a dissolution of the boundaries that circumscribe the ‘self’. A pure rationality that is therefore also disembodied, a “measure of the infinite in a finite-infinite continuum [i.e. the graph]”. She begins with the same Cartesian perspectivalism, overlaying the entire work with a graph that situates it specifically in a postmodern geometry, then through the confusion and obliteration of dimensionality, solidity, and objectivity, she directs the viewer beyond the represented to the ineffable of an ontology which representation cannot fill, replicate, or represent: a fullness of being that is the desire, jouissance, of the postmodern subject--t o be full and present, yet unfixed and operative (however, as a solitary subject) within the dynamic morphogenesis of space/time/matter. The sublime, but the paradox of its experience on the edge of ego, and therefore always collapsed back upon the semantics of its expression, on the frail geometries that seem almost to whimper out of existence. Fig 2. & 13.
Working entirely within the Euclidian geometries of Cartesian perspectivalism, Agnes Denes reinscribes subjectivity in the utopic vision of complete and perfect adherence to geometric regularity that, like the Universalists, is the positive ideological presupposition of the postmodern scopic regime: each figure could be easily indexed in their position on a table without error or uncertainty: the dream image of the panoptic. Her utopian configurations are a direct response to the social ills of Western modernity, but are configured through the very
optical system of the culture she takes issue with. Her large-scale installations also utilize the same utopic geometry, so either as a concept of the individual within society or our environment at large, Denes work remains within the logical set of possibilities prefigured by Cartesian Perspectivalism. In a sense, her work appears to be the socially-progressive dream of the western scopic regime, but as such remains literally confined to its own highly polarized spaces, bordered by the ‘real world’ and its reluctance to acknowledge the impossibility of such a rigid universalized order. A postmodern response to the Christian Universalist image of a rationally organized, geo-centric universe. Fig 3.
This drawing was created as a response to the issue of boundary and territory in Denes work. As a paradigm of both culture and subjecthood, geometry also takes on the enterprise of Utopia (Greek: “non place”) and can be analyzed through its artistic renderings as such. Fig 4. & 5.
A study of the dissolution of form reflecting on the arch of Mohamedi’s career which entailed a gradual and steady paring down of both medium and form. My Home Is Not Imaginary: four invisible quadrants, the imposition of an imaginary and arbitrary restriction, I used a common spatial trope for houses, plots of land, gardens, etc. It is so easy and familiar to begin from a rectangle, so I wanted to do so without there really being one there, just present as a force guiding the rest of the piece. Parallel lines at 60 degrees: unity, direction, one side of a strong equilateral, their rhythm is a random invention, they relate to each other through their distance which is also their binding.
Connecting lines: bringing the piece together, finding bonds between the random elements that comprise its foundation, undulating over and beneath the parallels giving them shape and relation but not consistency or certainty. Accidental spaces are left among them, accidental unities and divisions, they come together to resist structural or geometric certainty. There are two systems interacting, the connecting lines act to close the form of the parallels, which are open, their lack of a border is meant to suggest that outside of their frame they are infinite. The connecting lines draw the parallels into a composition that can then be questioned, observed, or rejected on its own merits, but the incoherence is meant to prevent closure or categorization “this line is certainly above this one, relates to that one, etc.” This drawing is meant to suggest shape while never becoming one. It is meant to frustrate your desire to see it as an object by insisting that if you hunt through its web of lines you can discover what it is, or that it is some thing. It has the appearance of becoming but leads nowhere except back onto itself, its relation to itself. It is reflexive and wants you to look at it reflexively. Fig 6.
Symbolic Architectures // Lines for Disparate Thoughts: This is a collage of spatial symbolism. It borrows from drafting and schematics for its language, but is entirely self contained. Each line, tangent, and angle corresponds to another point in the drawing, it is built to be self-coherent and so invites the viewer to discover it as an object, or a non object. Through the interplay of line and negative/positive space, it is meant to resist obvious dimensionality, and instead asks to be imagined as an endless possibility of real objects, living spaces, tools, or ideas fully formed or maybe coming into being.
These drawings (also fig 5.) begin with the question of how we are compelled to spatialize artworks, how we project our “existential” space into the canvass. But I hope that by hijacking our sense of geometry and spatial symbol, that these pieces can surprise their viewers with a kind of reversal: in which the spatial logic of the drawing reacts with the world outside of it, altering the dynamics of border and distance that surround us, or at the very least, making the viewer aware of their subconscious projection of space onto the drawing. Fig 8.
Foucault recognized the proto-positivist configuration of utopic geometry in the perfect regularity of the Panopticon: “The Panopticon must be understood as a generalizable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men. No doubt Bentham presents it as a particular institution, closed in upon itself. Utopias, perfectly closed in upon themselves, are common enough … it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form … It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organization, of disposition of centres and channels of power” Fig 9. through 12.
This set of images is a brief visual study of the role of geometry within the scopic regime of Western culture and postmodern subject--a question of geometry as it is understood and deployed in culture at large, but also how it is internalized in the postmodern subject, subconsciously or otherwise. “In a way, the modern concept of perspective is schizophrenic, because it has two incompatible aspects. On the one hand, perspective is thought to be a rather formal, rigorously defined branch of mathematics--or, to be precise, an offshoot of Euclidean and Cartesian geometry . . . The second perspective, on the other hand, has long
escaped these shackles. It means a great deal, from subjectivity to eternity, and it is to be found virtually everywhere, from philosophy texts to political speeches … It is “our” perspective, the one we think about, and the one that describes how we view the world and constitute ourselves as viewing subjects.” - James Elkins The Poetics of Perspective Fig 14.
Read aloud to Not Home (Pink Booklet): I am looking back at my home, the one I grew up in, the home I internalized, the psychic home, the one I won’t ever return to. I am looking for myself in empty rooms, in dreams, and I haven’t found anything, anyone, I am not at home, this is not my home and I’m not sure that I have one. Instead I’ve found an Absent Center (Fig 14.), I’ve discovered that something is missing. In the tripart assembly of my fictional life I am left with the vision of two eyes and an incredible sense of emptiness, an absence of something not removed, but never seen, holding the whole thing together. This triptych is about vision (Fig 14.), about the optics of two eyes making sense of a haphazard and unpredictable world. The lines attempt to systematize the irrational splatter, to copy and cope with a complexity that in the end, always overwhelms them. Ultimately they function only to conceal, to assimilate and erase, but that’s all they were capable of to begin with. Fig 15.
I have come to believe that in order to understand A Perfect Mirror I need to witness, first hand, a sample of Vantablack, which would also be its ideal surface:
“Vantablack is the darkest substance known to humankind. As applied to a surface, it represents a visual paradigm that in short: anchors the visible by its total absence. By absorbing nearly 100% of visible light, it is unlikely that an empirically darker substance, should one ever be developed, would even appear to be different from Vantablack under even extraordinary viewing situations. The substance is a technological and historical marker of the possible and applied visualization of absence, and as an unprecedented example of the void, may suffice in its un/perception and contemplation a foundation-like basis for an expanded conceptualization of loss, absence, emptiness, darkness, in/visibility, and the VOID. A product developed by the military-industrial complex of Empire, Vantablack is ripe with a confluence of anthropological, historical, and ecological meanings which, like the visible world that appears around it, can only be understood in its presence, in the un/perception of its absolute darkness.” -- Journal Entry from Oct 26 on “Vantablack”
To be read out loud while playing: https://vimeo.com/146016358 I am ready to get rid of my body, I am not home. Lacan believes the body image, it’s borders, are discovered only asymptotically, as limits, approached in the experience of one’s life. The Gestalt is invisible, he says, elusive, an extension of the interior being into the dark waters of a vast ocean, a vast life, a vast world. Lacan believes the body is real, that it can be run up against like a sandbar beneath the waves, but he’s wrong. The body isn’t there, it never has been, and that’s why we’ve never seen it: there is only desire, a hysterical and sometimes frantic need to pretend we have felt something real beneath the surface of impressions, within the matrix of sensation, in what is nonetheless a vast and ineluctable emptiness. I want to create a perfect mirror. I would paint it black, or better, it
should reflect nothing, so that looking into it one could observe the only true reflection of themselves and the world beyond them. A complete VOID, a darkness without character, A Perfect Mirror. What is at stake? In finally ridding ourselves of The Body, we can finally rid ourselves, truly, of the Cartesian divide, the binarism of the interior that is the basis of alienation. We will unleash the whole centrifuge of positivist identity and in its place we will discover, breathless, the infinite vacuity in our heart of darkness, and then maybe finally we’ll find a way to live honestly.