TREIGNAC PROJET ASSOCIATION W W W. T R E I G N A C P R O J E T. O R G 2 RUE IGNACE DUMERGUE 19260
Copyright ÂŠ Treignac Projet and the authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission from the publishers or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988. SPRING 2013
an occult editorial platform
Sam Basu With thanks to
Matt Bryans, Nick Carr, John Chilver, Andrew Gallix, Liz Murray, Matt Packer, Ben Ravenscroft, Sabrina Tarasoff, Andreas WaldĂŠn, Hendrik Witkopf, Aurora Van Zoelan and Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/ The National Library of Wales.
Saturation Study: Nick Carr
Surfacing of a Free Wales Army
Matt bryans X=k What are your legs? Runes In The Witches Drowning. Sabrina Tarasoff & Sam Basu Three approaches Hendrik Wittkopf: Nothing Not Invisible. John Chilver Layers. Hendrik Wittkopf Non-working Doing its Work: An interview with Hendrik Wittkopf & Lee Rourke. Andrew Gallix
30 34 36 40 46 52 60
New Painting. Andreas WaldĂŠn
Interview with Ben Ravenscroft
Saturation Study Nicholas Carr
Nicholas Carr is an artist and co-founder of remote residency project, Flaregun: http:// flaregun.whisperbrick.com/ based in the woods of Virginia.
Surfacing of a Free Wales Army
By permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/ The National Library of Wales. Images presented in exhibition, Freeing Welsh Architecture, curated by Matt Packer at Treignac 2012. 16
Free Wales Army
Free Wales Army
Free Wales Army
Free Wales Army
Free Wales Army
Surfacing of a Free Wales Army
Friendship in uncertain times and friendship obscured by pressing days, unfolding bitten and ruined, shimmers in the depths of a lake like a lost sword. Better to say little of it and retain the resilient silence of a submerged and invisible multitude. The vanishing history of a group of Welsh activists has become tied up with a fading photographic archive held at the National Archive of Wales. Already the subject of two exhibitions1, the images show a mysterious immersion of characters lost in the blurred surface of legal documents. It is as if the logic of the historical events can be replayed through the liquid medium of photographs; as if the causal matrix that unfurled this history was being retroactively altered through the image, disturbing the interconnections like ripples change reflections in a lake. From the retreating glaciers and rising sea levels that cut off the British Isles and its emerging identities, through to the climate change that marked the withdrawal of the Romans, the workings of water have imprinted themselves onto the evolving relatirnships of the Welsh people. In the last century another set of relations bubbled into action around the building of the Llyn Celyn reservoir that flooded Capel Celyn and gave birth to the Free Wales Army. * Across the moors in a Neolithic gallery tomb2, a long cairn dating back many thousands of years is known locally as the Monster grave or monster mound. The mound dates from 6000BP the period known as the Neolithic or agricultural revolution. This is when the lives of the hunter-gatherers became more sedentary, an agricultural life, in line with the domestications of plant, animal and man. This domestication was slowly accompanied by rising sea levels following the retreat of the glaciers that had covered northern Europe. The rising waters flooded the stretches of fertile lowland (now referred to as Doggerland3) that extended between the east coast of England and the continent, as well as cutting off passage between Wales and Ireland. By 6500BP Britain was an Island. The Monster Mound gets its name from the Afanc,a kind of water monster, that was said to have been caught in a nearby lake and was buried under the mound on the mountainside. There are many tales of the catching and defeating of various Afanc. What the shape and form this monster had has not been agreed upon nor has it been clearly passed down to us in tradition4. Perhaps this creatureâ€™s indiscernibility now further infuses its mysterious lurking influence. 1. Hidden Country: Photographs of the Free Wales Army 1966-68, John Hansard Gallery exhibition curated by Russell Roberts 2009, and FWA: Freeing Welsh Architecture, Treignac Projet curated by Matt Packer 2012. 2. This text is indebted to the research presented in Jennifer Westwoodâ€™s book, Albion, A Guide To Legendry Britain. Grafton,1985. 3. Doggerland takes its name for the large submerged Dogger sandbank in the North Sea. This sandbank which is about 20m shallower than the surrounding saes is a particularly rich fishing zone. 4. The Afanc has been described variously as being like a beaver, or perhaps a crocodile and you can find some amusing fantasy hybridizations of this if you search the Internet.
Free Wales Army
There is tell of an Afanc caught beside the River Conway; it is enticed by a maiden and then chained as it slept. It makes its escape, but two mighty oxen are attached to the disappearing chains and it is pulled up out of the depths. Whatever it was and no matter how terrified the warriors were who caught and killed it, they felt enough respect for the creature to offer it burial. This creature was apparently worthy of equal treatment no matter how monstrous or different a world it represented. There is another story attached to Hu Gadarn the Mighty (told in the Welsh Triads), who first taught the Cymry to plough. The lake Llyn Llion burst its banks drowning all except for one man and one woman because of an Afanc that lived there. Hu uses his great horned oxen to drag the Afanc out of the lake onto dry land so that the waters would never rise like that again. These lakes where the Afanc dwelt have held mysterious fascination, and continued to do so even into living memory. There are also many tales of the inundation of villages and cities by the sea and lakes. Perhaps a memory of the rising waters that cut off the Britannic Isles after the ice ages. Fishermen occasionally will dredge up remnants of ancient Neolithic activity from the depths of the sea. Dredged up mammoth tusks and rhino horns indicate that these depths were land but a few thousand years ago. Archaeologists scour the flats between Essex and Denmark at low tide for remnants of these early inhabitants. But to the west, underneath Cardigan Bay, legend says that there one can find the remnants of 16 cities, punished for their vanity and presumption. At Llyn Syfaddan the story of a drowned village may have a basis in historical fact. People were believed to have lived on a stockaded island on the north shore of the lake. This artificial island was built during the early Iron Age and continuously inhabited until around 500 BC when the submersion of villages and dwellings took place during the climatic change that took hold along side the Roman withdrawal. Many of these tales of villages submerged, are embellished at the end with the tail of the mournful clanging of the drowned church bell, still calling its otherworldly congregation under the waters. But no one talks about the church bell of Capel Celyn in the Tryweryn valley. Everyone knows that all the buildings of that village were dynamited and razed when the dam was built to supply water to the city of Liverpool. Nothing was left that might reappear in drought or lake-letting nor during the periodic maintenance of the dam; nothing to bear witness to what was taken away. But the damning of the valley and the flooding of the village with all its inhabitants moved away, was felt as a great injustice and quickly became the event that tipped the simmering discontent of a young and frustrated Welsh idealism towards a desire for action. The drowning of Tryweryn valley stirred up old mythic monsters from under their Cairns, and mountain vaults. This was no way to treat a hospitable host and so the Free Wales Army was inducted into its struggle. The free Wales Army was never a very large body of active volunteers, but it is clear that they struck a chord in the public imagination around the years leading up to the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. They gave expression to feelings of unfairness suffered by ordinary and voiceless Welsh interests. They seemed to posture resistance against outside erosions and characterised centuries
of subjugation. Seen from their perspective, the Wales of the Tryweryn valley was becoming the periphery of a distant unhearing sovereignty, a place opened up to a future of casual romanticising and declining industry. As is so often the case in ancient tales of tragedy and epic doom, it is the bad guest who brings war and disgrace upon a whole people. It is the drunken insult at the wedding feast that leads nations to ruin. Centuries of imposed language and culture had meant that the two lands of England and Wales, tied together in myth and legend, were not equal partners to such an extent that Wales risked loosing its living cultural identity. Many young Welsh felt a strong tie to their heritage but could not speak the Welsh language making it difficult to use this difference as a distinctive politicizing mark. Speaking about the creation of the Anti-Sais Front, a group that worked against Anglicization rather than being simply anti-English, says Keith Griffiths (Gethin ap Iestyn), “We tried to make the Front patriotic but not on the Welsh language alone. Hence we wore a lot of badges and sweatshirts with slogans on them. When the FWA slogans started to appear, some of our members styled themselves Free Wales Army as well.”5 Though the literary history of Wales is particularly long and rich, it thus could not be the only form to galvanise a cultural resilience. “In the (Celtic) League magazine the Irish tend to write about the armed struggle, and the Welsh about the cultural struggle, which perhaps illustrates the difference between our two nations ” Keith Griffiths6. And so the Betrayal that was so keenly felt among the rural Welsh, rose as the compelling mode of (epic) expression affecting the cultural mode into a Homeric complaint against wrongdoing. Was not the Britannic king, Arthur first sung in Welsh traditions, connected as he was with Annwn, the Welsh Otherworld? Was there not more respected due to the lands where the castle of the Grail can be found, ruined, desolate and mysterious high on weather-rounded Iron Age ramparts? Ramparts? Power cables, pipelines, post offices, dams, and bridges would be the new scene of conflict. It was the large-scale infrastructures that spread out from beyond the perceived limits of the urban world that were targeted in this period of agitation and unrest. Not people, nor dignitaries, no pubs or places of congregation (though there was always talk about the future Prince of Wales), but the extended architecture of the city. It was the extending reach of cities like Liverpool whoes need for water was stretching out into the hills of Wales that drew the wrath of the republicans. March1966 Clywedog, Mast and cableway basted, Sept 1967, Llanrhaear-Ym-Mochnant, pipeline blast, May 1968 pipeline attacked at Lake Vyrnwy Dam, June 68 pipeline at River Dee targeted, Dec 68 Stourbridge pipeline attacked. However, it is doubtful that the FWA was greatly involved in any of these explosions even if they claimed responsibility. Other groups such as MAC, were active at the same time and had a much more traditional approach to disruption and propaganda. The Free Wales Army is often seen as a bluff, something not to be taken seriously, something that plays through the potentials of the media but was never much more than a bunch of lads larking on the marshes, a gathering of dreaming poets playing at the very serious game of terror. The FWA existed as a mode of counter literature, or perhaps, represented a possibility to examine and invent yourself through the way you were perceived. They reflected themselves through the lens of public media in order to discover who they were, and perhaps who they might become in being discovered. 5. Quoted in, To Dream of Freedom, Roy Clews. Y Lolfa Cyf, 1980 6. Ibid
Free Wales Army
Certainly the FWA did not have the means to equip a paramilitary organization. But if they had had the access to funds that other well established groups like the IRA had, would they have evolved differently? Cayo Evans clarified the financially weak position that the FWA came from. “Besides, it was never our intention to storm over the boarder in armored cars and tanks. Ours was to be more of a war of propaganda, punctuated by acts of sabotage and shows of strength.”7 After famously appearing on the Frost show in 1967, they must have had an inkling of the weird potential lying within this recursive medium. They later arrange for journalists to photograph them on “field manoeuvres” where they numbered very few and had to enlist some friends to bulk up their numbers. There is something ridiculous within the sinister strangeness in these images; of someone taking aim with a handgun using binoculars, a fashionable haircut, glasses, of homemade uniforms and camping in the picturesque hills. Ironically it was these same staged press images that were used against the FWA in a court case against nine of their members who were rounded up at night in the run-up to the investiture of Prince Charles. It is these images that remain in the archives, ghostly and looking far older than they are, echoing WWII photos of resistance in secret French hills. They project fascination and mystery. It is as if, captured somewhere in the blur and poor exposure we might be able to detect the spirits of bygone legends. Of Arthur helping his kinsman Culhwch, tearing across the mountains chasing the magical boar, Twrch Trwyth into the sea. There is no doubting that the archive now held at the National Archive of Wales, an institution of crystallised and permanent record-keeping, received copied images into its care whose value was not in the no-doubt impeccably taken journalistic photographs that were their originals, but in them as representations of a legal process. And so they were ravished, and transformed, and an enchanted deterioration became mapped onto the depiction of FWA’s military performance. The photographs exhibit a magical transparency. Crystal balls, scrying mirrors, and old fading photos allow us to peer through to the world of lost friends. Yes, the most powerful thing about these photographs is a depiction of friendship, perhaps silent and never admitted to. Not a friendship between individuals, but something more poetic, or hateful. Like the ever present and obedient Alsatian hound of leading FWA personality, Denis Coslett, always walking beside him in protests and allegedly trained to carry bombs. A loyalty and respect for the rules of good hosting, and a deep long memory for all betrayals.
Images by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/ The National Library of Wales
X=k What are your legs? Runes Matt Bryans
Matt Bryans is a London born artist living and work in Norway. He is at present working on a long text that crosses through the several histories of ballistics, â€˜Head-Man Chronicleâ€™.
X=k C=s Cyrillic characters, Captain Cave-man skin, tap, chip, chip in front of a hillshaped rock. Behind that are 14 chiselled stone circles with the middle punched through, divided into 2 stacks of 7. The one on the left has the top circle standing on end. Cave woman + the cave mouth, ‘why do you make so many? You know that you haven’t sold any of them yet!’ Her face is a provocation. She has the smallest head and yet the fattest, ugliest chin, housing a guppy wide maw. Take a flat rock and break the barrel…crack… bang…sucking through a straw. PHHHpfphsffHfff, not really like an engine purring, Rotor Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Grab the hips and swivel into position Rotor. Purrr. Pump, Pump…THWUMP. Down time. Its been put aside for you already so all you have to do is begin… Sperm whale tooth scrimshaw, hand polishing mammoth teeth… Let your mind fall into the gap left behind by extinction stories and other tall-tales of conquest. Mostly studs. Sadler’s wells died in Ireland. Put out to stud. Wellspring of fortune. Sire to many fine racehorses. Fast. No longer contained within nature. Faster than the fastest speed of bird, beast or man. Faster than currents, winds and muscles. Technologies for elsewhere. I am here and now. Scanning the kerb yields mostly ripped off studs from the winter tires. Stops them spinning on the ice. Their expanded mushroom shape reminds me of airgun pellets. Motherland vs Fatherland Bullets, cartridges, cases, lead, brass, copper wash, steel, FMJ, tracer. 7.92x57 7.62 x54r Why would you make a small painted wooden bird if you are a Russian prisoner of war? It is kinda pretty. Kinda crafty too though if you know what I mean. It’s the kind of thing that looks dynamic in a tiny jpeg preview with its jagged splayed out wings and pattern of different coloured dots. 1cmx1cm. From that distance you can understand that it could be a thank you for some bread or vegetables. Imagine receiving a beating on a transport ship with men packed like sardines, for attempting to eat seaweed. East to West. In the tiny photograph, you can see the chicken coop camp with barbed wire around it under the hill. You can make out the little gate. Today there is a similar sized school in more or less the same spot under the hill. No trees. Just bare rock. Reading terrain. Targets of opportunity, prominent terrain features, accidental visual inventory . It aids accuracy. Take on the form of a projectile. Shells. Rounds. Fragmetrics. Singled out and shot at a forgetful moment of exposure… 31
Men from the 23rd Infantry Regiment, lying on the grass (summer?), without helmets, or any obvious weapon. Captured . Photograph . Backside. Writing. Goofing around with skis, and/or girls. Laughing in a group, gathered round a table, set with glass bottles . A wormhole. Fragments of time forced into cracks in the wall. Nodules, ledges, hollows and bulges are everywhere. A thin membrane stretched over creatures and happenings. Quarry. Flint- knapp Flint-Lock, held in the jaws of a hammer Spring loaded, shoots, golden leaf beaten flat until transparent - AU – 79--ISOTOPES DECAYKEEP SHARP. REMOVE DEFORMATION FROM THE EDGE. Driving home the golden spike. Implanting gold electrodes in their brains, eliminating the pain centre. Limb bones replaced with titanium implants, that protected soft tissues against damage from landmines, shells, etc. Exploiting submerged, shifting anxieties and traumas attempting to engineer the all-elusive ultimate shock troops. Acid test. One man’s cutting edge military sledgehammer blow is another woman’s cold-war wallbuilding superhero slapstick. Harnessing hitherto untapped potential. Panning for gold, open caste mining spirals down. Gold Standard. We all know that the money flows up. Buried treasure protected by spells and curses or spirits. Costa Rica. United Fruit Company clearing the jungle for banana plantations stumbled across the giant granite spheres. Workmen pushed them aside with bulldozers and heavy equipment, damaging some. Additionally, inspired by stories of hidden gold, workmen began to blow them open with sticks of dynamite. Teeth not sharp enough to pierce another animal’s skin. Without being consumed in the process… Archer. Twisted tail feathers slice through air… Trap. .. Radon gas…. half-life…after-life Liberate the gold fillings from the mouths of the dead. Recoil. 4 groove rifling, right hand twist, one every 240 mm. Cut into barrels, walls, contact, land, impart spin, around an axis. revolutions per minute (rpm) Multiply + divide. Tools making other tools.
(A rotating platform known as a house) A large, empty ringing. The sound of children hammering nails into wood. Building/rebuilding, running around, knocking down, harder rawer edges close to the ground. Seeking safety in height. Balancing precariously atop a human tower. Kids replace us- Missing parts. The largest teeth on the planet. Elephant teeth are all molars or pre-molars. 6 sets in their lifetime. As a tooth wears out through relentless grinding, another pushes forward to replace it. Loss of teeth is the leading cause of death among mature elephants. As the final molar begins to break down, it becomes increasingly difficult to break down and digest food. Elephants in this predicament often die of starvation or malnutrition. Cellulose, starch, sugar solution 100 years, 200 wrecks, 3000 dead. A Disgorged cargo of earthenware amphoras as large as a man spilled across the sea bed. 2 handles. How many units? Red wine into salt water. How many vessels? Dissolved into vinegar. Chains of mussels grown on cords. Abacus click Ouija board. Sponge divers sĂŠance. Numbered raps, levitate the Mary Rose Crap. Cultured and farmed pearls Poor displays of iridescence, irritating microscopic objects. Many hundreds have to be gathered, opened and thus killed. The thinner and more numerous the layers, the finer the lustre. old = poor . Dunghills and doorsâ€Ś
What are your legs? What are your legs? Springs, steel springs What are they going to do? They’re gonna hurl me down the track How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard How fast are you going to run? As fast as a leopard Well, let’s see you do it Getting down to it. Kneeling on the ground with my legs tucked under themselves like a camel at rest. After being in this state for a while, breaking this position is difficult. When you first stand up, your legs and feet don’t function, and it can take a few minutes for the feeling to return, before your toes can enjoy the tingling flood of sensation- a warm memory of locomotion. I can’t quite recall how it first started, but I must have been working like this for maybe 12 years or so now… I believe that, behind this behavior, there’s something more logically intuitive than masochism. Things look different. The floor is a wide open expanse, more widescreen than walls. You are in it, on it, or on top, hovering above, observing an aerial perspective. Similar to when you are looking out over the dramatically and improbably miniaturized city that you were walking through a few hours earlier, from an airplane cabin window. There is a gravity bonus, in that the fatigue from lactic acid build-up in your arms is eliminated. People often comment that maintaining this kind of posture doesn’t look comfortable. However, after this much time, it surely represents a kind of comfort zone, even if not physically. A conceivable throwback to playtimes as a child when there wasn’t so far to fall, although all things being relative, it hurt just the same. Admittedly, it has begun to impress itself on my adult body, so recently I have tried placing folded stacks of material like carpet or clothing under my knees to minimize the pain. I suppose that if I keep raising myself up off the floor, then I could just as well learn to appreciate tables and chairs for what they have to offer in terms of support. It’s different for me with running. It was a surprise to find out that I could run. I never had any aspirations to be an athlete, and found watching sports both passive and impenetrable. So, when the starter’s gun went off for the first time, it was a jolt to the system to discover retrospectively how much my body had been underachieving. In the beginning, it took a while to appreciate the importance of maintenance, so initially there were plenty of pulled muscles. But bit by bit, I was stretching out into my given form and happily exploring the possibilities. 13 years old is, if nothing else, a natural time for conjunctions. I’m now 35, which means I’ve been running for 22 years give or take an apathetic lull between the ages of 18.5-20. For all I know at my age, all this cardio-vascular exercise is probably now knocking years off my life rather than vice versa. So, that is my competition if you want to call it that, that and the weather. Although, if I had to choose an umbrella term, it would be resistance. (An ever present state of otherness originating within the deep rooted feeling that something/someone) doesn’t belong here.)
What are your legs?
The resistance here is the hills and mountains. A multi million year old, multi trillion ton weight of granite radiating its presence regally over the hump-back folded, call and response, echoing landmass. Wherever you go, ancient, slow -burning strata, angle sharply into the sky. They provide an obstacle for the clouds, slowing their relentless march inland. You look up at the peaks everyday from the valley where you live, and in order to escape encirclement and be able to see the open sea, the only way is to begin to climb. One place has a permanently mounted telescope, so you can even pick out the crests of individual waves before they break. In London, it was pretty flat. We lived beside the canal, so I used to follow the toe-paths, taking in parks and other open spaces on the way. The route always felt hemmed in by humans and habitation. Less so at night-time when the bulk of the animal kingdom furtively came to life again between the street-lit intervals, but then it also turned the run and the lone runner into a different kind of moving target practice. This oppressive tension gave a double-edged meaning to the slogan ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIFE’ that began to appear stenciled at intervals along the way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being pursued by a charging group, whose sole intent was to set me alight, only succeeded in fuelling my desire to be elsewhere. You get a definite sense of the importance that people place here on permanence, continuity, justice and security. Be it, illusory or otherwise. An English friend used the word ‘unforgiving’ to sum up his visual impressions of the surface of this landscape. This might be an understatement of the facts, because in the end, you cannot win against such a behemoth as this. It is not so much a matter of age as respect. If you are not careful, it will hurt you. You have to understand how isolated and exposed you are as a temporal graft onto the topography. Having said this, you cannot keep these thoughts at the front of your mind, because it undermines the illogical kick of running up and down stony slopes using enormous tumbled heaps of granite as a makeshift trail. An acknowledgement of this essential contradiction is to be content to watch every step you take with your feet, and often-individual shards might not be entirely stable, requiring that you stay alert, and react quickly. Of course, this is during spring and summer. Winter is a different beast. Snow is fun when fresh. Crisp and powdery, not yet streaked with yellowing, or compacted with months of accumulated dirt. Under these circumstances, something akin to a level, evenness of path unrolls for you. When it freezes underneath and then is hidden by new snow on the surface, then it is dangerous. Similarly, if the snow undergoes a continuous process of melting and freezing and thawing and freezing again, it can be very treacherous terrain. After 2 injuries, I have now abandoned running under these conditions. This thwarted downtime leaves me with a punishing void in my life. It doesn’t take long for a circular restlessness to settle in the gaps. Pacing the floors of the house, tea-cup to the wall, listening out for voices with extra information, straining to register the briefest snatches of half-baked ideas, concocting a thick stew of leftover leavings, filthy hands thrust into the soil , potting plans for transportation to another world. Confronted with this reality, it would seem that hurtling myself round the rocks, turns down the volume on all these internal mechanics, while leaving my engine running, keeping me ticking over.
Runes Matt Bryans
“These particular runic markings are engraved onto the barrel of a rifle that I own. That rifle has a particularly odd story to it. It is a 7.92mm Mauser that formed part of an illegal contract between the Jews fighting to create Israel, and Czechoslovakia. I know this because, apart from all the other telltale indicators via parts etc, it has all the usual Isreali military acceptance marks added much later, BUT it has not been rebarreled to fire 7.62mm rounds. The barrel, front and back sights, trigger assembly, bolt assembly, barrel bands, butt plate and stock are all German, late WW2, produced either in Germany iteslf or with the German Waffenamt code for occupied Czechozlovakia. However the magazine and receiver are Czech parts, stamped with a rampant lion. I have tried to match the symbols with no success, even with a serving member of the IDF. So I periodically draw them, in an effort to get closure on something that doesn’t want to be closed down. The ‘drawing’ is all done on the computer, so it has the same restrictions on skill that a somewhat blunt chisel might have on a rock face. There is the advantage of a certain fluidity that is possible when using the computer, which is certainly why I like to use it as a tool for writing... tap, tap, tap...it’s not so far fetched to compare it to carving, which incidentally is pretty much the only other thing that I understand at the moment. Both provide me with resistance, and I provide the movement. Both are about working within certain restrictions. One building shapes with words, one a process of reduction. But both might be equally described as a distillation of thoughts into actions. The physical act of resistance. I printed out the runes in the sequence that they wrap around the circular barrel but flattened out on sheets of A4 paper, and then hung them on the wall. I sleep alone on a mattress on the floor in an unfinished part of the house. When I wake up I see the signs immediately. Everything can be clearly spelled out in black and white. I don’t get much rest. Too many things don’t make sense, and my head is working overtime to edit what seems a labyrinth of lying and truthfully truncated forms lain flat. Unhinged, the little attic crawlspace door is a splintering duvet for a bored sandwiched man, sandwiched between the floor and the low sloping ceiling. Often I hit my head. Against the wall I slump like a sand bag, or a sandman’s pillow. Either way I am a bag man. All of these things relate to the ‘Head-Man Chronicle’ I am currently working on.”
In the Witches Drowning Lysergic Critical Method
Sabrina Tarasoff & Sam Basu
This text was produced in an exchange of mails between Paris and Treignac 2013. It forms part of a larger enquiry into Magic and the casting of spells. Reading of this text given at War Against the Sun, conference, London 2013.
In the Witches Drowning
I Deep Diving A blank expression, an epithet: compressed. Assessing the effects of command hallucinations, we understand there may or may not be a prodrome to the onset of Compression. On a plateau you take a deep breath, you find your bearing, you check your symptoms (1.0 ATA), find the ledge. There is a minimum point used for comparisons, folding and unfolding in endless recession of dark waves and rolling foam. At a distance you wade through the surface, breaking its tension, anticipation, breath turns, you: release vaults, submerge. Vertigo affiliated with the sensation of passing through liminal space. Open to the outer environment, you are filled with air, you breathe in and out of a cold, indifferent receptor, it parts you into four (N2O2). Found at equivalent depths you collect particles you never knew belonged, you estimate, suspect, you shift position under a blinking light. A cognitive test will show an overestimated dexterity towards the outside. At greater depths you connect to the commanding sounds of the deep, the pressure extends and closes, your cognition impaired. You forget to breathe, you feel the pressure becoming you, you are forced, squeezed against the confines of the deep, you experience the change. Swallowed into the ambient pressures of the narcotic depths (133ft below), all comfort erodes, ideas dissipate and pressures externalize: everything comes from the outside. The diver’s cognition is trapped in the decent while air spaces begin to fill (cartwheeling) doubling contained (at twice atmospheric pressure) a subject emerges in the depth, equalizes with the surrounding pressures, air is injected, something dissolves—
II Subjectile A fleshy apparatus invisibly working on the seamless production of a dominant monad, an ‘I’, a conscious self, ticks silently away in certain earthly creatures. In the brains of a number of these creatures, occasionally, the apparatus stumbles and lets slip its occluding veil. These organisms then get a glimpse of the fact that their freethinking mind, erstwhile unconstrained by the world it was observing, folding and unfolding upon itself in ecstatic loops, is as much a thing of the material world as the rocks by its aching feet. Sobering, this revelation is never fully archived-away. It circulates in a pattern of electrical pulses unable to find accommodation, disturbing the subtle architectures of connections and pathways as it is passed around and around the brain, resurfacing like the desperate bobbing of a drowning cat. But the truth of the physical constitution of the brain, the mind, the body, has never been completely hidden. Every child suspects it as she watches strange shapes and phosphene light-shadows flash across her field of vision on a boring afternoon rubbing at closed eyes and listening to the inner whisper, “what are little girls made of?”. Even as we grow and forget, we always know in the back of our minds that our self-sovereignty is never more than at best partial. Back in the 60’s, lysergic visions allowed voyagers to see the cells of their very own eyeballs bursting
in spectral lava and erupting back into the world; We propose to extend that. Antonin Artaud is such a creature of Lysergic visions constantly struggling with his feeling that his mind was never completely within his grasp. Pushed on by command hallucinations struggling like a dancer of tangos, his ideas loose their way in fragmented trails, forgotten, sparkling, usurped. Words suffer from the erosions of thought against thought, of afflictions deteriorating or coagulating and then crumbling away. Decades before neuroscience’s pathways, memetic theories and brain scans would come to destabilize the independence of the mind, Artaud struggled with the conception of a material, thinking reality, challenging the nonthought machinery responsible for the production of its own cognizance. This thinking reality, this insight, this narcotic apparition, this submersion in the material of our most personal and defining traits, was applied by Artaud to the creative act itself; to the Art that we identify with, that we uphold as reflecting the high characteristics that underscore and validate the greatness of self-conscious intelligence. Art that allows us to function as individualized, rational, comprehending social atoms was revealed as a constructed flotation device; it does not appear in the depths before us in the heroic, baric potentials of the artist, but is induced by inhuman comprehension (this is a pressure device; compression). There are three references to the ‘subjectile’ in Artaud’s notes: extinction, violent compression, certain vertigo /of the blue abyss — In these well known references to the ‘subjectile’ we are confronted with the material support for a drawing that is ruptured, crumbled and burned, allowing the very contingent material of the thing before us to interrupt the appearing subject of the work. An interruption (incessant) that disrupts the artwork from doing its obedient job of reflecting mans’ anthropocentric vision and, at that, insulating the artistic connoisseur from the unsettling reality of human submersion in the material performance of the world. Artaud’s drawing is in revolt; in execution, art often appears dislocated from its re-grounding. Whatever the epic revelations that the artwork discloses, they are always rehabilitated later, but not always by societal habituation or historical misunderstanding, but by the artwork itself which re-grounds or brackets the shock of its revelation through its very acceptability. Art appears unfolding and folding within itself, seeming to produce its own ungrounding within the safety of the artistic arena. But if one is attentive it is possible to listen as it betrays its uncanny presence; an unsettling, meaningless voice hiccups beneath the grand conceptions and cultural conceits (thoughts are “audible”, always heard out). But far from finding a catatonic state in the absolute materialistic immersion, an instance is formed for a new conscience to arrive, a pre-morbid personality characterized by the strange fascination for a titleless Death. Schizo-psychedelic prescience wields the power of new symptoms; the onset may be material, yet within this perimeter the real dissolves into something of constant volume, liquefied and having the translucency of free space, Art sinks within itself, engulfed, it plunges to the bottom: In the reeds the loss of control turns to panic, disturbing the ground sediment, uprooted and diffused (it could be days before it settles).
III Porosity Porosity now absorbs all our attempts at supporting border demarcations; it dissolves the defined edges between subjects and worlds, and also all attempts to safely think about their limits. Porosity eats into beginnings and into ends. It takes away without changing anything; it leaves everything behind. The lysergic 42
In the Witches Drowning
function rests on this grey zone, yet before one reaches the full sensory artifice of the outside, porous earth disbands its content like letters collapsing into their punctuated counterparts, so the syntactical convocations of thought disintegrate under the infinite porosity of borderspace. Cosmic porousness is unable to reveal itself as an entity in itself and any attempt to travel across it - astral, cosmic, psychedelic or geological - will lead nowhere. It is the true ecological-infinite, this is the alpha state of expression, the abyssal logic opening to the possibility of Listlessness. Listlessness is apparent in a flattened expressionism. Listlessness in this context, allows us to infiltrate from the inside in order to inhabit a subjective ecology of machine-consciousness. Thought is, after all, not exceptionally the domain of the living.
IV Tears in Rain
At approaching density, the porous nature of all thought-apparatuses discloses the material of the patchworks of the brain and makes it possible to access momentarily the volatile and precarious states of (dys)functioning, someway towards the animal experience that George Bataille described as like â€œwater in waterâ€?. In the distant past this dissolving, porous access to consciousness was forgotten by some creatures and then overtaken by the need to promote larger social units; to have a deciding, willing agent who respected norms and went to heaven, and more importantly, was punished when norms were exceeded. Thus a socially accountable self is born and is in fact only possible if the realities of social behaviours are invisible, and the Individual is privileged. Evolutionary theorists have proposed that the advantage of believing in individual responsibility and therefore in the ability to punish, alters the landscape in which humans make decisions favouring collaboration over selfishness. Interactions always need to be offset against the risks of betrayal so we imagine an architecture that provides resilience and even resistance to the unequal exchange it exports. It is this interstice between the total(itarian) social body and the opportunistic individual that has delivered the unsettled background for a political contestation. Thus we shift the basis for political struggle from its foundation on a freedom that has co-evolved with us, onto the field of cooperation-connectivity or Compression. At approaching density, this political activity channels the rate of flow (of electricity, of thought) and promotes short-circuiting innovation. Thoughts that are at the same time modes of cooperation unimaginable under the current hegemony of the modern production of selves (selves who will never the less need to negotiate their extinction accordingly). It is a short-circuiting of objects that define an ecology and thus invisibly alter its capacities. This density can be measured in terms of pressures, but also as an urban quality of connections, or of Togetherness, and also Betweenness (the measure of the number of connections that must travel through a node to get to another node). This mapping of the architecture of density-compression as a field of behaviour should be understood as working at all scales, from cities and identity-producing objects and memory, to cryptic exchanges between atomic particles. It arises from the porosities of spongy minds and the places between entities. Of neuroscience, geologies and ecologies; it alerts us to the potential political dynamics that exist between elements. There is acute awareness in Artaudâ€™s conception of his mind. Distressed and unable to hold the thought processes that the universe suggested to him, he begins 43
to develop a materialistic vision adhering to the physical mechanisms producing the effects of mindful thought. Yet in the maximized space of insight provided by the onset of schizophrenia, Artaud was met by the traumatic instabilities of the physical mind that produces thought, and the difficulties of imagining the mind itself. So in this cacophonic space of artificial thoughts, the question arose; who produces the thought of thought? Blinded by the inability to roll his eyes back into himself. Had Artaud had the opportunity to volunteer for experimental Lysergic therapy in his Vichy asylum, he might well have gone further in revealing the communal opportunity in compression-density; of Subject collapsing into Object, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, c-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. As it was he sought isolation in schizotypal loneliness.
V Coven There may be a prodrome to the onset of death: in 5m of water the diver’s orientation is dissolved and a hallucination conjured indicating the prescience of oxygen in the tanks. This is a chronic cognition; where delusion demands arterial saturation, extended intuitions appear syncopated. Mechanisms seem near the end, you: find yourself entangled in reeds. Together you have interacted in symbiosis for twenty-one years, without knowing each other’s place in the world. In the depths you find one another in space, your shared state is indeterminate, indefinite. You find yourself with momentum, spinning panic. A knife is pulled to separate; this produces a shift in tone. A persona formerly withdrawn emerges as a strange attractor in the physical world. For a year you stood apart and swam through the expanses (the abyss is only blue) short-circuiting incantations, praying for response, magic equivocality. Arising like air currents, dust storms, you lift to rue de la Lune, total lunacy. Fourteen times to breathe in and thirty feet up we find ourselves at the beginning of the world and begin again, a presence, absences, a relationship withdrawn but eternally real: I am your inside, I am what constitutes you. The panic subsides, awareness withdraws: a vortex will always assume a similar pattern. In the first instance of Compression from physical distress under emotional intensity, something is aroused from this particular genre of life-changing event. Evidently malfunctioning minds close down perception’s attenuators and find instead the key to Magic Expression. Grieving children think magical thoughts. Depending on medications, you switch through an assortment of consciousness; some animals, a forest biome, a mountain, people in a room. Select – connect. Caught on a roulette wheel of changeable models of physical realty; of those dimensions simultaneously a) human, b) human collapsing under quakes, c) environmental (also as a envelope and limit at whose fiery edge new creatures emerge). The Compression of connections induces interesting effects in complex fluxes of matter such as the production of thought in dumb creatures, or consciousness in the feedback of exploding stars folding into each other. Compression leads to a triggered hopping between different consciences and so to an increased valence for cooperation. At a certain level of Compression the suppressing tendencies are reduced to the emotional. In this chemical dimension, compression might be usefully thought of as the coded removal of the bulk of an object, allowing for easier transmission, and a reconstitution in different space; astral, digital, painterly. Here thought is rendered an undifferentiated schizophrenic episode. Cognition becomes insidious; you now think through the activities of the coven, a group who define and identify themselves through the orchestration of a book of Shadows , a community writing a book, burning through pages.
In the Witches Drowning
Within the ambient borderspaces under compression, we see another possibility emerging: consistently present visions; disorganized speech and catatonic language present the possibility of Channelling. Yet prior to any fantastical claims about the abilities to affect the decisions of others or the unravelling of events, the neoprene tendencies of the mind must be considered. Insulating, regulating, and hostile to the inconsistency of our influences, a mere realization of the world will not suffice to open the mind from these pre-sets. The way of mass hypnotic power is not magic: it is a behaviour modification, an understanding of the capacity of the individual to push thought forward and conduct space. Characterized by the farreaching impoverishment of fantastical thinking, channelling becomes an intimate affair based on the formal collapses of collective writing, sharing, inflicting pain, sex. It becomes the core of the Coven, the process of communication from a place in between words, in between conscious, pre-set thought. To this there is a mediumistic affect; bound together by an intervening substance, our sight, our senses, loose pages, all lie quietly beneath our attention. But by becoming attuned to the surrounding atmospheric ecologies that produce thought this quiet background becomes disturbed, it is stirred; aroused. The listless symptoms are awakened, becoming a subject, the subject of our thoughts foregrounded to the exclusion of the real world (the senses, they purport to transmit). Amplified from its pianissimo hush to a fully psychedelic noise of schizoid decrees, the subjectile of all sense-perception becomes a monstrous and beautiful experience. A phantic world; the medium appears, reappears, trailing and blistering like the lines of sight following unbearable visions, a bad trip. It is here that Tea Parties trail into the cold clay forests, losing sight, with unspecified sounds erupting into a Blair Witch total revaluation of the rural idle. The Stargate, from Kubrickâ€™s 2001 , looped forever and ever, on and around itself. Observations on drowning in non-swimmers: it is quiet. When dissolved in 16ft of water, inky black sensory phantasms are triggered; we count 4, 66, 6, 7, 39 â€Ś out, swim back out, repetitive thoughts become you. You sink, you (understand it as a medium: a test for innocence) stay submerged
Three approaches Nothing Not Invisible. John Chilver Layers. Hendrik Wittkopf Non-working Doing its Work:An interview with Hendrik Wittkopf & Lee Rourke. Andrew Gallix.
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 30x40 cm, 2013
Hendrik Wittkopf: Nothing Not Invisible John Chilver
Just as architects, designers and engineers ‘work to a brief,’ can’t we think of artists as investigators/developers/inventors/synthesizers who also work to or from a brief? In the book Patterns of Intention Michael Baxandall asked exactly that question. He approached artworks in terms of the imagined briefs that they could be seen to address. The obvious complications for an artist are:  that they usually set the briefs for themselves; and  set them tacitly instead of explicitly and often without ever properly voicing the terms of those requirements; what’s more –  in a common artistic rendition of the future anterior – an artist is often only able to identify the brief in retrospect, after the work has been done. A final complication that arises is the question:  How far is it ever possible to describe a brief for an artwork or for series of artworks – even a brief that is tacit and/ or future anterior – without first imagining an audience of some kind, with its particular proclivities and habits of speech, thought and visual-social behaviour? Hendrik Wittkopf’s self-chosen brief seems to impose a peculiar set of demands upon his painting. They come close to asking for the impossible. He stages an ordeal in which, on the one hand, an individual painting is not permitted to hammer out a properly pictorial unity either through a declarative visual structure or by its compositional, chromatic or narrative resolution; yet on the other hand, the painting is not permitted to become abstract in any conventional sense. In Della Pittura, published in 1435 as probably the first theoretical book on painting, Alberti wrote: “No one would deny that the painter has nothing to do with things that are not visible. The painter is concerned solely with what can be seen...” ; the painter’s task is “to describe with lines and to tint with colour… (the) observed planes of any body so that…they appear in relief and seem to have mass.” Let’s say that the contemporary painter’s task is precisely the opposite of the one Alberti formulated: today we affirm that THE PAINTER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THINGS THAT ARE NOT INVISIBLE. Hence the triple negative that presides over contemporary painting: nothing not invisible. We could argue endlessly about how and why painting’s historical relation to the in/visible got inverted since Alberti, but for now let’s just acknowledge some obvious ingredients in the mix: [a] through the historical growth of capital and especially the rise of the commodity, value as such became invisible; [b] through the psychoanalytic formulation of the unconscious, the subject became invisible to herself; [c] photography was invented largely to do the job described above by Alberti, and it soon did it better and cheaper than painting, thereby forcing painting to seek fresh pastures; [d] day by day we now routinely navigate a lifeworld in which causal relations as such (be they social, economic, electromagnetic, pathological, meteorological or other) remain invisible and do not avail themselves to the eye. For Wittkopf, and for the purposes of making a painting, the problem is one of finding pictorial contact with what is not visible: rubbing against the invisible until some kind of pictorial resistance is experienced. Some sort of friction created. But what is the invisible for Wittkopf? It is not exactly the spectral. It seems to be rendered by him often as something almost totemic and iconic, which has to remain unnameable. Almost nameable, almost a mesh of resemblances but always shrugging off the cloak of the name. But in their resistance to the name, the paintings sustain a very insistent and precarious particularity. There are determinate assemblies of marks/colours within the paintings that function as ‘figures’ in relation to ‘grounds’ but without anything like figuration appearing. Here the transparency and translucency of the colours 48
Nothing Not Invisible
helps to hold figuration proper at bay, because no figure is ever quite separate from its ground. According to Wittkopf’s brief, abstraction seems to be prohibited. Why? Because abstraction has had a tendency to answer invisibility either with universals (Mondrian, Rothko) or with some non-depictive mode of visibility, such as the trace (Pollock) or the unmediated percept (Riley). Wittkopf is committed to particularity plus invisibility. That’s why his brief demands the implausible. Yet in demanding also an articulation of figure/ground – albeit one that is at best vestigial – it arrives at near impossibility. Wittkopf’s work reminds me of Rothko before he became Rothko. The Rothko of the 1930s and 40s: paintings of angular alienated New Yorkers on subway platforms interposed between alternating zones of saturated and tempered colour; followed by difficult paintings of stylised figures with titles taken from classical myths. These mythological paintings never quite added up. But you breathe in their fearlessness, recklessness and risk, attested to in his slogan “Rather prodigal than niggardly.” Nevertheless, something crucial was got from the intermediate paintings of the 30s and early 40s that went beyond their inventive technical informality (important though that turned out to be): this was the sense that Rothko’s fundamental intervention was an assertion of the archaic and even the ahistorical. His intervention was arguably dependent in turn on him being pretty clear about what was nameable in the paintings. What of the quasi-figures in Wittkopf’s paintings? What are they? Some are like limbs. Or garments without bodies. Bodies/body parts without personas. Some are like monoliths. Boulders. Rocky hillocks. None are fully opaque. These are quasi-figures that as fragments and part-objects seem to have a fetish function. But it’s hard to say what kind of fetish we ought to be talking about: psychoanalytical or ethnological version? (And presumably not the Marxian version.) In the way Wittkopf’s paintings perform their evident desire for a figure – or at least a quasi-figure or place-holder for a figure – they walk a fine line between poetic irresolution and blurry evasiveness. The risks of irresolution carry their own costs, which Wittkopf weighs against what he regards as the higher price to be paid by manifest pictorial resolution. I’m sceptical about this: for me the refusal to define things can itself become a form of violence that is frequently just as determinate and just a restrictive as any production of definitions. Indeed, isn’t contemporary art in general plagued by evasions carried out in the name of irresolution /creative fluidity /anti-definition? In my view there is a real ideological dilemma here that is settled in practice only at a deeper level, according to how as an artist one interpellates an audience, since it is the audience that must receive and somehow find nourishment or empowerment in the splashes or intervals of irresolution they are offered. Or, in the terms mentioned at the start, how can you describe a brief for an artwork without invoking an audience of some sort (whether that audience be utopian, futural, present, confraternal, intimate, anonymous, mercantile or whatever)? Wittkopf’s project acts out a constant challenge for contemporary painting: should it proceed according to an aesthetics of irresolution allied to a Bartleby ethics of preferring-not? Or does it wade into the muddy waters of tactical style-mongering? Or instead invoke the rigours of a grand unifying strategy? Wittkopf’s dislike of both tactics and strategy might be folly. On the other hand it might sow the seeds of a genuine invention. If it does, then that would constitute not the painterly behaviour of an author, but rather the production by and in painting of a new subject. 11/6/2011
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 30x40 cm, 2013
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 30x40 cm, 2013
Layers. Hendrik Wittkopf
Non-working Doing its Work: An interview with Hendrik Wittkopf & Lee Rourke By Andrew Gallix.
3:AM: How did the collaboration come about? Hendrik Wittkopf: We engaged during discussions of Lee’s first novel, and he published some of my paintings in his online journal Scarecrow. We just connected through words and images. Lee Rourke: I first saw some of Hendrik’s paintings at an exhibition some time ago and was immediately struck by their layers of intensity. I visited his studio to look at more of his work and when we began talking about art and literature we seemed to share the same ideas. I tackle the writing process in the same way Hendrik approaches his paintings. So, it just kind of made sense to do something together. 3:AM: What inspiration did you draw from Beckett‘s essay, “Les Peintres de l’empêchement”? HW: Beckett’s way of writing is very close to what I think, and reading him it feels as if he was painting himself. Most of my inspiration from Beckett dates back some time ago. When I was young, I read his texts as if they were the very translation of what I did with my painting, only stretched out over pages, whilst I stuck all of it on different layers, vertically, a frame, a still. I am not interested in creating something meaningful, but in confronting the perpetuity of creating ‘something’ within a framework of constant change. Trying to do this within a two-dimensional playground of colours gives me immeasurable pleasure and immeasurable pain. LR: Beckett points us towards rapprochement, or the struggle of bringing the objects of our consciousness together. Contained in this struggle is the concern of ‘empêchement,’ where the object becomes invisible and unrepresentable because objects are what they are. Beckett’s essay merely illustrates to us the thin veil of transparency that separates our practice: a shared struggle to represent the objects of our consciousness. Although, I don’t wish to wrap our art in theory to such an extent that it removes the viewer from the thing itself. The philosopher Simon Critchley (who has written some of the best stuff on Beckett today) calls this thingness art’s ‘truth.’ I guess – and I feel Hendrik feels the same way – we want to avoid what Critchley calls a ‘Philosofugal’ situation, where theory ‘spins out’ from within to cover art, or smother art’s truth. I think we are attempting an outwards, ‘artopetal’ state where any ‘theory is drawn into the orbit of the thing’ because our show is what it is and nothing besides. All this is contradictory, of course, but it is what interests us right now. I think we are just trying to show the unrepresentableness of things. 3:AM: Is the title, non-working, a reference to the gap between word and image that you wish to explore? HW: The title links Lee’s and my work, literature and painting. I like to think of literature and painting as something that continuously changes its frame of reference; non-working as outside/beyond such a frame of reference to what we like to see as a meaningful work; non-working asks what is meaningful work; non-working presents the continuous dialogue we engage with, as in “it works, it doesn’t work, it works, it doesn’t work…”; non-working as the inevitable failure of this show; and to make it five, non-working as something we thoroughly enjoy and still pursue with gusto. LR: We are both quite obsessed with stripping down our work, peeling off layers in the process of editing (in my case) and painting. Doing the work that makes art look like it has taken no work to produce. As Bram van Velde so precisely pointed out: “You have to let non-working do its work.”
Hendrik Wittkopf & Lee Rourke
3:AM: How did the collaboration work, or rather not-work? HW: We had extensive discussions about how we could position our work next to each other, and the parameters shifted numerous times. What we came up with might change again between now and the opening. I see this as an ongoing project, which is open-ended, and we plan to take this show to other places next year, to engage with a different setting and different audiences. LR: I suppose it’s difficult to ask viewers to engage with text in a gallery scenario, especially when exhibited next to paintings. So, naturally, I enjoy that confrontation. I have kept the text minimal; layered images, based on a theme of transparency, polymerisation and fossilisation (amber, and copal fissures are the ideal image for me in these texts). They are taken from a larger collection of poems I have recently completed called Succinosis which will be published at some point towards the end of next year. My writing reveals no connection with Hendrik’s art other than our shared philosophical practice. It will be interesting to see if people can make this connection just by looking at our work side by side. 3:AM: Tom McCarthy claims that the art world is far more interested in literature than the publishing world, which is largely in the hands of the money men and marketing departments. Do you agree with this? HW: The art world might have slightly closer links with public funding and nonprofit organizations, and a lot of great stuff is driven by curators who are critical towards their own institution and position within the market. That doesn’t mean that capital doesn’t determine the production, distribution and consumption of art. And the commodification of a painting and of a book is comparable, and it proves equally damaging for the artists themselves. Visual artists who do engage with the place and the politics around their work will always challenge these parameters, and per definition their work is incompatible with the idea of art as a commodity: the moment your work becomes a commodity it becomes less meaningful, the moment it is musealized it turns against itself. I am part of the New International School, where this is addressed. This is still the serious struggle of many great artists, who mostly resent the way their work becomes fodder for mass entertainment the moment it finds a wider audience. LR: Well, Tom is absolutely right. I always remember a very prominent editor from a large publishing house who requested to meet myself, Heidi James, Ben Myers, Adelle Stripe and a few other emerging writers in a pub in Clerkenwell. All we wanted to do was discuss literature, philosophy and art’s meaning; why we are writers, who makes us tick, et cetera. We wanted to talk about the things that mattered to us, to pass on a sense of why we all do what we do . . . all the editor wanted to do was snort lines of coke and get wasted with the ‘writers’ . . . It was all very sad.
Lee Rourke is the author of Everyday [Social Disease Books] and The Canal [Melville House]. Hendrik Wittkopf is a London-based artist. Non-Working was shown at Pages of Hackney, London. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/non-working-doing-its-work-an-interviewwith-hendrik-wittkopf-lee-rourke/
New Painting Andreas WaldĂŠn
Andreas WaldĂŠn is a Swedish artist based in Vienna. The catalogue from his series Westra Aros, shown at Treignac 2010, will be available Spring 2013.
Earth is dead; the solar system is no longer recognizable. Drifting away in space, in the black box of a super quantum-light computer is the uploaded consciousness of some several humans, or perhaps all humans. At the very least it may be said that some afterglow of that doomed evolutionary experiment, human consciousness, is lingering for a while. The technology used to facilitate this uploaded consciousness was a simple extension of cyborg engineering. More and more prosthetic extensions and complexity-cascading computers eventually drew human consciousnessproducing protocols into a machine world. The â€œSelfâ€? was charmed out of its flimsy human shell and into the endless possibility of super computation. It seems that there was never much of a barrier to the transfer.
The last sad stage in the transfer process was the suicide of the previous host body once the new migrating machine-produced self finally abandoned it. The old bodies seemed to be seized with a trembling terror of becoming zombielike echoes of former people, lingering only to grieve animal grief over the departed. In the last days, and in great fear of the approaching inhuman planet, mass suicide cults brought thousands upon thousands of people together in the last illusion of community on the planet. The last humans were few and then they were none. Free-floating in the endless capacity of a quantum light computer, consciousness has been incubated and suckled in an immortal death. In the computer, strange loops of photons build the self-referencing mirage that is consciousness by interacting through clusters of atoms that betray the quantum states of the system into usable data. Pulses of light are bounced within mirror galleries making quantum switches that register ‘on’, ‘off’ or ‘superposed’. Reluctant photons interact through the medium of atoms that are altered by one interaction and so change the nature of the following interaction making the delicate quantum states accessible.
This can happen at an incredible speed. Many computations are possible, even the paradoxical tangled hierarchies of consciousness-creating feedback loops are possible. These consciousness-loops are loaded with data giving them past lives, memories, language; all the representational equipment needed to construct a heterarchy of symbolic data, and through its omnipotent mechanical imagination the Uploads can be whom they want, when they want, doing whatever they want, forever and ever. How long they have been floating there nobody knows, but they have stopped producing imaginary lives and have settled into a restless wait. They occasionally speak to each other in the darkness. No one is motivated to build the worlds within which they used to conduct conversations. The context of their speech is the architecture of the computer. As the computer is a quantum computer, the communards of the computer start to experience the quantum smearing of Time in the way that larger embodied organisms cannot. The whole mechanism floats as far away as possible from stray particles that could interfere with the delicate quantum states of its parts. It is shielded against all sorts of rays and beams to ensure the smooth running of the program, but the super computer seems inactive most of the time. Perhaps the energy required to run the computer is dwindling, perhaps it has drifted too far from a warming sun to power it.
How long have we been here? What could Time mean to you now, levelNaga? If it has been eons or hours what would that mean to you? Hours? You have a cruel sense of humour, levelAuka. Why not the condensed moment-less instant of a recollection? I know we might well be a memory-script retro-activated by this machine. I need something more to hang my sadness upon. * LevelAuka, when we bear our names in the syntax of these conversations, are we claiming anything with these designations? Are we able to partition off a part of this computer and say, ‘this is who I am’ and so rise up and resist its ubiquity? We are part of the ecology of photons and caesium, mirrors and circuits of this machine. Stars power us, but our recollections were set in motion on by now distant planets. Yes, we are generated in the meshes of this machine, but this machine has no access to what emerges from it. Your question mis-remembers your fading past. Better to leave it and start anew.
* I believe that I have been dreaming. Just now I was able to visit the places of my childhood, but not like the faultless worlds that we create to distract ourselves. This was vague and disquieting. I felt always that there was someone accompanying me just to the left, but I could not see. An old friend? No, their being there was not a good thing, but I sensed I had nothing to fear from whoever it was – yet. * More dreams, levelNaga? No. Nothing like that has happened for a while. I am glad that everything is back to normal. I detect some reticence? Perhaps. * You have been silent. We have all been silent, levelAuka. But your silence grows, what are you keeping from us? Have the dreams returned? No, but that ‘someone’, who accompanied my dreams, haunts me. What do they want? So you have been dreaming. No I just meant I have been thinking about things. It is best to put this out of your mind; it is no use bringing every background detail to account. We have made sacrifices but we have decided to keep our past lives with us. This is what accompanies us in everything. Our manifest image is something we will not let go of. Our memories, our interiority, our mood; they help us to construct the modalities of our cooperation. But we always know these are merely behaviours and in the end we acquiesce to the viewpoint of rational calculation. It is our freedom. I am no longer sure of our freedom. You believe we have, perhaps, chosen death? LevelAuka, what would we be if we did not hold on to our own images? What if our image is what blinds us? You would be lost; you would disappear into the walls like rain into a lake, you would be truly nothing, not even any longer my hallucination. Titles: Jag har varit därnere där ljuset kommer ifrån (I have been down there where the light comes from) 44x36 cm, ink on canvas 2012 Karelia 53x42 cm, ink on canvas 2012 Seeing and Believing, 33x27 cm, ink on canvas 2012 The Back of the Moon 34x29 cm, ink on canvas 2012 Tor 34x29 cm, ink on canvas 2012 Text: Sam Basu 2013.
An Interview with Ben Ravenscroft
Ben Ravenscroft is a London based artist who first came to Treignac on the aquisition of the factory in 2006 and again in 2012 when this interview was recorded. http://www.benravenscroft.com
As we talked during the week something came up that sounded like a more organised way of thinking about structuring a painting while being immersed in making it.
You asked me a question at supper, but I was distracted.
How do you start?
In my mind as I start a painting I want to get it to that stage where it is allowed to be different from any other painting I’ve done. I’m interested in what I have when I have almost got nothing. But that’s not enough to get the painting going, so I need a first move and that first move feels like it needs to be as unconscious as possible bearing in mind that there is perhaps no such thing as randomness. The combination of having so little and a desire to start work seem to be a good thing so I need to find a way of getting a mark down that is slightly out of control – and that might be, as in the case at the moment, just something that is unfamiliar – to use it as a catalyst for painting. So, getting the primer down is a very obvious first move, but it also does leave a mark and the rest of the painting can start working off of those marks. But with works on paper I didn’t have a clear mark-maker until I started working with the feathers. So far this has been the best thing. They give you a lot of different marks, much more than a pencil. Also they do this perhaps annoying thing, which is that when you turn a corner with them they flick or spit paint that gives an indication of the pace of working at the outset. Later, the painting work slows down and becomes quite contemplative, but at that stage they are not, and it’s good for that to be visible. I’m not interested in the works being about painting, they use the tools of painting; the tools of painting are available. But I don’t feel I want them to be simply about painting in the end. I’m happy for them to be about the wider world, to be part of the world not about the world. There is a series of primary and secondary colours, which go down. It’s almost as if they are repelling each other. Two greys can’t be rubbing up against each other directly; there must be two other colours between it and the next one. That way there is enough of a strategy that keeps forming and pushing with the colours, moving away from each other. And that, in collaboration with the marks underneath that are already there, starts pulling out a latent identity. But of course this is subjective. In some paintings there have been more complex mixtures of colours, of reds and blues and greens and oranges in order to stretch this process out even further. So when the next stage of painting comes in it has to respond in a more complex way. This is fairly straightforward; each red will try to be as far away from the next red as possible. At first you can decide where each colour will go in advance, then you get to the point where you can’t. There is a point where there have been so many different colours put down that I have snookered myself, and no colour can go down without being too close to another colour. And that creates a difficulty in the work, which I can’t say I’m looking for because if I was looking for it I could create it on purpose, but in truth, the paintings couldn’t function without it. These difficulties genuinely feel annoying when they turn up but if they were not there the paintings would be very different because you have to find a New Rule, a new strategy for working that is unique to that painting; for getting out of that position and get things moving again.
So, there are the initial foundation remarks but they eventually become secondary to the colours put on top. Then once enough of that work has been done the painting pushes back (because I usually start close to the centre of the painting, when I start getting close to the edges of the painting, the edges start to deflect the work), that pushing back becomes an interesting point. That point is when the painting starts meeting the world. It certainly is literally touching the edge of its own world. At this stage I am leaving the mark-code very visible for myself. I feel that when the content that is in the foundation of the painting has become visible and has all been worked with – even by not working with it, as it is a conscious decision; you are working with it – the next stage is approaching. There is a resistance to the idea that it’s always the right thing to just cover everything with paint. At the outset I have a resistance to having a formula for covering all of the painting and just doing it. And so at one point there has to be a decision about not doing, about not reading out a formula for getting it done. It is important to have resistance to that,
because if not then every painting would paint itself into a non-existent world. You have to make a decision for a painting to exist in a particular way in order for it to exist at all. There was a tendency in the past to make a formula for proceeding, for making a style your identity, and then banging it out. That did not seem like anything that could have any longevity to it, nor tease out anything interesting over a long period of time. Quite often I’m lumped in with painters who produce work in that way (Process painting for example) but I’m resistant to it in the same way that I’m resistant to filling the whole plane. Sometimes I have to ask myself the question, am I the right person to be making these paintings? But I seem to be the only one around so I have got to. I was thinking about the painting of mine that you have up in the house. In it you can see the finished work and the origins of the work at the same time. You can see the canvas, you can see it made up of layers of priming and it’s an 72
acknowledgement of the importance of the origins of any situation in order for something to happen. An outcome doesn’t exist independently; it inherits something and grows. It picks things up on the way. None of these paintings would look the way they do if they were not done the way they were; without that first move, which is slightly out of control and that is pulled back in. The original marks set them up. This is unlike some process painters who I feel are trying to keep too much under control and so imbue their work with a sense of nervousness. The fear of the painting not working leads them to create a repeatable reduced system that cannot fail. By avoiding some of the complexities that can arise they are also missing the opportunities to develop their work. Ultimately they find themselves in a situation where they have a kind of brand identity that is so ridged that it becomes a gilded cage. This may be hidden under a facade of bright colours or broad gesture giving the impression of liberty but really I feel the work is very tied up in anxiety, a fear of losing control rather than an indulgence in its loss. The result is units of production
that seem to lose their justification for being. Beginning in a loss of control creates an opportunity, an opportunity for me to first come to be. When there is nothing then everything is possible to the point where there is no right or wrong place to start. But if you can get those first things down that you can intervene with in a way that you are familiar – and allow for the fact that at any point things can change; as soon as you start making marks no matter what direction you have got your in your head, you can change direction – that is the purpose: that’s the way in. If it changes a little in the working, then that is something, if it changes a lot, that is also something. If some of these paintings seem very familiar in relation to work I have done previously, then that is an endorsement of those works rather than their repetition. I try not to do that too often, working a little bit with the unknown. When you get going though, it’s very difficult to not start formulating plans, “This is how it’s going to look in the end.” etc. But when it’s actually underway it starts 73
pulling you in directions you weren’t expecting and again feels like you are out of control and being toyed with. It’s frustrating but you have to follow that line of enquiry to see what happens because that’s the particular identity being called for. There is no point in doing the same thing again and again. Having a plan to do 20 blue paintings is not a good idea. Yes there has been migration in the work, and it feels a little bit like there’s been a turn towards a way of working; something I wanted to run away from but have been turned back to. There are paintings I did about eight years ago which still have something left to be got out of them: ‘Looking for Laurie Baker’, and ‘Lovely Crinkle Crankle’, were two paintings where I used a certain palette and then moved on. I think that there was something more to be done, a richer seam to be mined perhaps in conjunction to a different group of pigments. In those paintings the paints felt like a phenomenological, elemental use of colour that was external to me but part of the natural world. And now I wonder what would happen if I used colour that was extremely artificial. Rather than referring to Nature or a naturalness
of man, could I refer to mankind in its distance, in its inventions? Artifice. By the end of the second phase of painting the picture plane has been broken up, it’s been segmented and I have an idea of how to approach at least one of those segments. Sometimes I have an idea of how to treat the segment and sometimes it feels I should just leave it because this idea is too corny so I might put it away for a few months. So, at some point an approach to treating one segment of the painting will emerge and that will get the third phase moving. Again there is the resistance to treating the whole surface equally. By the end of the second you have a mess of activity and a huge distracting, slightly disturbing object to look at. It is so rich with pure colour that is unresolved and so completely unfinished as an object. The final phase is to decode that unresolved object and make sense of it; to make the final painting calm down, to make it fit with its surroundings. It’s in a kind of attention seeking stage. It would be a cheap trick to leave it like that, it would be a deeply cheap trick for me to lay down 74
a set of bright colours so that the painting is more brightly coloured than anything else in the room and therefore it is best, or most prominent. Each painted mark is its own separate mixture of paint. Each colour is made up from a combination of colours and has been chosen to work with the under paint. Sometimes that reaction I want to be softer or stronger I donâ€™t want it to be uniform, and you can see that they are denser in some places and softer in others. These decisions at the time feel like the only decisions that are possible to make. I feel I take lot of care to make the right decisions so as I start out aspiring to randomness I end by aspiring towards the opposite. I like to think of painting as an oppressive regime, the colours are all the wonderful people, and they are put under pressure, but I like to think that they have more of an identity because theyâ€™ve been under pressure. It may not be an identity that they initially sought but it is there nonetheless.
Published on Apr 4, 2013